(It’s taken me awhile to figure out how I want to approach this birth story…because originally, this wasn’t supposed to be the birth story of just one baby. I’ve wanted to have twins my entire life, and for months before Fjord was conceived, I had this knowing that I would. That knowing continued to strengthen when I discovered I was pregnant in March of 2020, and in May, I found that I was carrying twins, but one had died. The knowing had been about boy/girl twins, and I felt that the baby that had died was the girl twin, so we gave her the name that I had been carrying in my heart for months: Aylwen Jael. We named the surviving twin the name I had for him: Fjord Jeremiah, and it was confirmed several weeks later that he was indeed a boy. I wrote extensively on Instagram about my journey with having a vanishing twin under the hashtag #fjordandaylwen. Though that journey was obviously interwoven with my pregnancy with Fjord, this post will mostly focus just on his birth.)
November 17th, 2020 was a big milestone in this pregnancy as I had made it to 37 weeks gestation! That meant that I was now officially legal for having another homebirth in Colorado, and I was so thankful! By that point, I had had both my other boys (Caedmon at 37 weeks plus six hours, and Cedar at 36 weeks and two days in CA) and I was curious to see if this little guy would follow his brothers’ “come several weeks early” trend. (Interestingly, my girls have come significantly later: Genoa was born on her due date, Avila was the day before her due date, and Saoirse was born at 39 weeks and two days.) But we passed by that milestone with nothing much happening…
At around two in the morning on Friday, November 20th, I woke up to do what pregnant women do multiple times a night: head to the bathroom. Before sitting down, I had a gush of fluid that I knew wasn’t urine, and I wondered if it was my water breaking (something that had never happened to me before transition: in fact, two of my babies were born en caul). I texted my midwife, Jessica (yes, at two in the morning…one of the many reasons I love having homebirths!), and we determined that it probably was just a lot of discharge so I tried to get back to sleep.
That sleeping part ended up not really happening as once I laid down, I started having pretty hard minute-plus contractions, that varied between 6-10 minutes apart. After several hours of that, the contractions spread out to every half hour or so, but were still really painful. When the kids woke up for the morning, Aaron told me to rest as I hadn’t been able to sleep much that night.
At around 10:45 in the morning, I got up to try to get some breakfast. The contractions were still only coming every half hour or so. I was pretty discouraged because when they’re that far apart, I had no idea if this was the real thing, or my body was just getting set up for weeks of prodromal labor like I had with my girls.
After I got up, I had a lot of discharge again, and thought that it smelled like I remembered amniotic fluid smelling. My midwife was doing a morning of prenatals and home visits, but I talked to her and we decided that I should come into the office around noon and she would test to make sure that my water hadn’t broken.
About fifteen minutes later, I had some bloody show and my contractions moved to every 3-5 minutes apart. I texted my midwife to see if she could come to our house instead, and she said that she had to run home to get all of her birth stuff, but that she would be here as soon as possible.
At that point it was getting obvious very quickly that this was definitely the real thing! Unlike any of my previous five labors, where all I wanted to do was lay down to try to rest through contractions, this time I could NOT stop moving. I paced fast circles around our bedroom, moaning loudly through the contractions that were coming every two or three minutes. Aaron realized as well that this was the real thing so he stopped work (he works from home) and got the kids set up watching a show in our family room, and then headed upstairs to our bedroom. I was pretty out of it by this point (I go very into myself in active labor) and I assumed that he told the kids that the baby was coming, but apparently he didn’t and they thought that all the noise coming from our bedroom was me watching a movie with lots of yelling!
After Aaron came up to our room, he got our bed set up with the liner I had ready and as part of my walking I got out the birth kit and a bunch of towels. I was already feeling pretty pushy, but I was determined not to let my body start pushing until the midwife got there!
Here is where things get a little fuzzy as the contractions were coming right on top of each other, and everything was a haze of pain. But YAY for midwife records! I think the midwife got here around noon with her assistant, at which point I moved to the bed and let my body start pushing. After about ten minutes of pushing, I felt his head start to move down and my waters very obviously broke, so apparently my previous fluid leakings were just lots of discharge!
This was the first time I had hired a professional birth photographer…something that had been a dream of mine since I first started having kids. I had contacted her when it looked like this was the real thing, but it had moved so incredibly fast that she arrived as I could feel the baby start to crown. Aaron ran downstairs to let her know that it had progressed so quickly, and I’m so thankful that I was able to get pictures and video of that moment and the actual birth.
My previous two babies had been pretty small (Caedmon was 5 lbs., 7 ozs., and Saoirse was 5 lbs., 12 ozs.) and I honestly hadn’t had to work that hard to push their heads out. But even though this baby was still pretty early (I was currently at 37 weeks and three days), I could tell that he was bigger than they were, and I was reminded how crazy painful crowning usually is! I still cringe to myself every time I watch that part of my birth video…
Fjord was born at 12:37 PM, only about an hour and a half after it became obvious that labor was actually starting! When he came out, he was breathing fine from the start, but looked very purpley-grey at first due to being covered with a ton of vernix. My midwife assured me that the purple can be completely normal, especially in a very fast labor, and he was obviously totally fine. He didn’t cry much, but just lay on my chest and watched me and dozed a little. I was a little bit in shock that he was already here…everything went so crazy fast!
I delivered the placenta less than ten minutes after his birth, and in that we were given a precious gift. Oftentimes, with Vanishing Twin Syndrome, after the one twin dies, the body and fetal sac are just absorbed by the mother’s body. In order to protect the living twin, there’s no passing of tissue like there is with a singleton miscarriage. But after I delivered Fjord’s placenta, I noticed a clear bubble on the outside of it that I had never seen on my other baby’s placentas. I asked my midwife what it was, and she confirmed that it was Aylwen’s sac.
Processing the grief of a vanishing twin is very complicated. You have the grief from the lost twin intertwined with the joy of the living twin. And also, because their bodies are usually just absorbed, there’s often never any concrete indication that they were there, that they lived. Since I had dreamed of twins ever since I was a little girl, I sometimes doubted myself…was this all just wishful thinking? So for me, that little sac brought me a lot of healing in my grieving process. Though I won’t be able to hold my seventh baby until I see her in Heaven, concretely seeing a piece of her and a physical indication that, yes indeed, she had existed, was an incredible gift.
After delivering the placenta, the rest of the kids came in to meet Fjord for the first time. They had been anticipating his arrival for months, but since it happened so fast, they were pretty surprised and after meeting him, they headed back downstairs.
Fjord nursed for the first time about twenty minutes after his birth. About fifteen minutes later, I cut his cord and he had his newborn exam. He was 6 lbs., 15 ozs., and 20.5 inches long…significantly bigger than any of my other babies born at elevation (we’re at 7,000 feet elevation, and oftentimes babies carried and born at elevation are healthy, but smaller than normal and that was definitely the case with Caedmon and Saoirse). I attribute part of that to taking chlorophyll religiously throughout his pregnancy as that helps your blood to be able to carry more oxygen, and is a common remedy for women carrying babies at elevation. (Another bonus from chlorophyll that I discovered after the birth was that it majorly helped with my clotting as it’s high in Vitamin K. My postpartum bleeding was significantly less than my other births, and my midwife confirmed that was a result of the chlorophyll supplementation.)
After his exam, Fjord hung out with Daddy while I got cleaned up and the birth team cleared away most of the mess. Then we settled down for Fjord to nurse some more (and more and more!) while I ate the breakfast I had never gotten around to earlier. My amazing midwife briefed me on newborn care, and then everybody left. By mid-afternoon, it was just back to our family again…now a family of eight!
We love our Fjord Jeremiah and are so thankful for his little life!