Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Birth story

I think I’d mentioned that I had about 3 weeks of on-again-off-again labor, right? And also that I was about 42 weeks pregnant by the time my baby arrived? The plan was to break my water on the evening of July 13 to try to get things started, which was not ideal, and I had a really hard time making that decision. I was nervous to do so, since once we did it, I’d pretty much be on the clock to have this baby. So the night that I actually went into labor—the kind of labor that produces a baby—it really is no wonder that Paul didn’t believe me and told me several times to leave him alone and go to sleep. Seriously, I can’t blame him. But boy was I mad at him then. We had watched a movie (I wish I could remember which one), during which I was ignoring contractions. Sort of reverse psychology with myself. Anyway, once the movie was over and we were trying to go to sleep, I just couldn’t ignore the pain anymore, and I asked Paul to time the contractions for me, as I wear contacts during the day and glasses at night, so in order to see the clock across the room, I have to put my glasses on, and it just didn’t make sense to me to do that every four minutes. EVERY FOUR MINUTES??? Contractions are really coming every four minutes? Geeze, I had no idea that I’d so successfully started labor by ignoring contractions!
12:00 AM So, Paul was timing these for me and then nearly falling asleep between contractions, and so every time I had another one and then had to wake him up, yes, he was getting a bit annoyed with me. At one point I said something like, “Paul, you need to STEP UP. I’m in labor here.” Then I asked him to please call my midwife and get things going. I think he still didn’t believe me even at this point, but whatever. He made the call and the birth team started on their way. Then I got out of bed and started a bath for myself, and Paul finally realized that this was the real deal. Then he totally did “step up.”
1:00-1:30 AM My wonderful midwife (this was her third time with us) showed up and seemed to be pleased that I appeared to actually be in labor this time. She sat in the bathroom with me while I labored in the tub by candlelight. It was so peaceful, and I was so glad to be laboring at night while the kids slept. I stayed in the water for as long as I was comfortable and then got out and labored in the bedroom, switching often between the bed and the floor. I really wanted my body to be stretched out, even standing, but I felt too weak to hold this pose for very long. I had thrown up several times and was so tired that I had to be very careful not to lose my strength.
2:30 AM The pain was so intense. I think this was my most intense labor ever, probably because it was so quick. I felt like I could just not get on top of things. At this point, I realized (as a woman must do at some point during labor) that I needed to let go. Labor is this incredible experience where three very strong forces—the woman’s body, the woman herself, and the baby—are in action and need to be cooperating in order to bring about good results. In order to have a successful labor, the woman must give in. She must surrender to labor. It’s so hard, because she feels like her body is trying to destroy her. It’s so difficult to feel those waves rising around and to just surrender to them, almost feeling like they’re going to consume and drown you. But once the laboring woman gives in to the experience, the intensity, it’s almost like her body invites her back in for a little more of the control. It’s so hard to explain. Once you give up control, you get a little of it back, and then all three forces are synchronized. The body squeezes another “God-help-me” contraction and the baby moves down into the birth canal, and then mama feels that urge to puuuuushshshsh, then hold that baby right where she is to wait for her body to start the next play. It’s an unbelievable well-oiled machine, a beautiful and perfect picture of nature at her best.
3:00 AM At this time, I first felt the urge to push. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I was. I knew we were near the end. I kept shaking my head and crying, “Come on, baby, come on out. We want to meet you.” Shortly after first feeling the urge, I tried to stand up. I could feel my baby sliding ever lower, and the sensation was just so intense. I then asked Paul to sit on the stool that we’d brought into the room so that I could sit on his lap, facing the same direction and sort of creating a birthing stool with his legs. It’s the position that we used to birth Judah, and it worked very well then, as he was born after only a couple of pushes once I sat on Paul’s lap. This time was taking a little longer than Judah’s birth did, and poor Paul had to endure sitting under a laboring woman for way too long. What a trooper. We made a great team, and it was awesome for me to have his support, both emotional and actual physical support. Each contraction produced bigger and stronger pushes, and the entire birthing team assured me that it would not be long at all until I held my baby. I started to then touch her head as she crowned, or actually the bag of waters, as the sack didn’t break until about a minute before she was born. I had to hold her head there through three contractions in order to ease her out, so as not to tear. That was agonizing but necessary and very much worth it!
3:35 My water broke, and with the next contraction, out came baby’s head. I got my hands down there, ready to catch the rest of her. Just a minute later, out slithered her little body. I caught her myself and wrapped her up in my arms, which means that I was the first one to see whether baby was a boy or a girl. The light was so dim that I didn’t believe it—“It’s a GIIIIIRRRRLLLLL!!!” Not that I would have minded a boy, but I was so surprised and happy to have another girl.
Just a little while later, Paul brought the kids in to meet their new baby sister. What a strange experience it must have been to go to bed one night and then wake up with a new sibling. Judah wasn’t very interested until the next day, but Charlie was having a blast studying the baby, holding her, and hanging out with the birthing team. Among all the many reasons, this is probably my favorite reason for having a home birth—being all together in our own home for the entire experience and having that immediate bonding time.
Well, that’s about it. We had a pretty short babymoon, considering we moved two and a half weeks later and Paul had to work his last week on Capitol Hill! But she has nursed like a champ from the very beginning and is already sleeping through most nights. So for me, the transition from 2 to 3 has been a bit easier than from 1 to 2.
Just for you, I’m posting some pics from Baby Penny’s baptism which took place in our home parish in Virginia before we left, while she was only days old. It was so special to have her baptized by the same priest that baptized me into the Church just months earlier, and, in fact, with the same godmother.

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