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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reflecting

I can't believe she is a month old already. I posted our birth story on Facebook the week after she was born, but I wanted to post it here, too. Mostly for my own personal journaling reference. I want the girls to have it to look back on some day.
If you recently gave birth (or maybe not so recently), but never had a chance to write down your birth story, I think you should. I found it extremely therapeutic and a joy -
a reminder of what our bodies are capable of -
and a what a beautiful miracle birth...and life...are.

For two weeks we were on labor-watch. For two weeks I was having fairly consistent contractions. Though you are my second baby, I never went through the beginning stages of labor before. I never had the opportunity to labor in the comfort of my own nest. Wanting to make sure I made it to the hospital in time to get my antibiotic treatments in time for your arrival, and not knowing what it was “supposed” to feel like when I made the decision to go to the hospital, I had a couple false alarms. Not that I wasn’t contracting, because I was. Not that those contractions weren’t consistent, because they were. Days worth of contractions 3-5 minutes apart. But there was no need to rush to the hospital, because you would come on your own time - in typical Taurus fashion.

Then came Thursday, May 12 (Uncle Jonathan’s birthday). I was hoping you would have your very own birthday. We successfully passed Pap Pap’s special day without interruption. We passed your original due date, Mother’s Day, without much excitement, either. Then Thursday came around and I was having contractions every 3 minutes. They were so steady, and lasted for at least a minute each that I decided I would head to the hospital to make sure I “got in my two doses of antibiotics.” I got to the hospital, and sure enough I was contracting. Consistently. You were handling it well. I was 3 centimeters dilated, but only about 50-60% effaced. My body had some work to do yet. I could either stay in the hospital, have my water broken, or I could go home to see what happened. I chose the second option. So off we went, back to the nest to see what happened. The contractions petered out when I went to bed, thankfully, because I was exhausted and I don’t think I could manage all the hard work of labor in that condition.


The next day I woke to more contractions, a desire to clean the house, and an appointment with the midwife. Grandma was here, thinking you were coming the night before. She massaged my legs, and feet…as only a mother would. Relaxed and rejuvenated from a good night’s rest, Daddy and I headed to the Midwife around 3:00. Judy (who delivered your big sister) was on duty, and though I had just been “checked” at the hospital the night before, after feeling your size, she suggested she try to sweep my membranes to see if it would help induce labor. Ready to be “un-pregnant”, I thought it would be a good way to help things along “naturally” – as I was trying really hard not to have a medical induction this time around. The procedure was short, but it sure was uncomfortable.


As soon as we left the office I had really bad menstrual like cramps. I figured it was from the sweep. We picked Grandma up and had dinner at Jones – the best place to go for burgers and fries, Ever. We bought Dr. Physick’s Black Cherry Soda Pop at Liberty Plaza, walked around the park until I decided the cramps were too uncomfortable to walk any more. We went home. I wanted to put the curtains up in your room, so Daddy and Grandma helped me build all the pieces…but never actually hung them because we were missing the toggle bolts.


Uncomfortable from the “membrane sweep cramps”, I decided, at around 11:00 pm, it was time for bed. It wasn’t until I was lying down that I realized the “cramps” were coming every 5 minutes apart…with a contraction. When up and about I was just uncomfortable and achy every couple minutes, I didn’t really notice the contraction part until in bed. I didn’t say anything to Daddy, though. He was already sleeping, anyway, and I knew we were both going to need our rest. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. I rested. In a dreamy state, I would be jostled every five minutes with a contraction…then I would drift….and be jostled again. A couple hours went by and I decided to wake Daddy and ask him to time the contractions. Sure enough, they were rhythmic (like usual) and lasted about 90 seconds each. I decided to take a shower to make sure they wouldn’t diminish. In the shower each lasted for a shorter duration, but they came more frequently, and I realized they didn’t hurt as badly, so I stayed in there for a while. It was so incredibly peaceful to have you there with me, in the candle lit bathroom, with the water running, in the stillness and quietness of the middle of the night. It was so peaceful.


When I got out of the shower I walked around for a little while with the candles flickering. I decided I should try to rest since I would need my energy to get through labor and push you out into the world. I lyed down with Daddy and we cuddled for a little while. Then you started flopping around like a fish out of water and I knew I had to get up. I told him you were trying to do something and needed my help. I stood up and swayed my hips. I walked around. I squatted gently. You quieted. It is incredible to me how our bodies are designed to work together for this amazing process. You wiggling your way down the birth canal…my intuition directing my body’s movement to help comfort you and strengthen me.


I heard Grandma get up to use the bathroom. I peeked my head out the door: “Mom….I’m in labor.” I told her. Not, I think I’m in labor. Not, I might be in labor. I knew that you were on your way and today would be Your Birthday. She was excited and asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I told her I was going to wait a little while but I would be in soon to wake her up when it was time to go. It would ever-so-soon be time.

I went back into our bedroom with Daddy. Our house still. Quiet. I remember being so peaceful and so serene and loving you. Loving the peace. Loving the space. It felt surreal. Dreamlike. Before long I decided it was time to be at the hospital. I wanted to make sure I got my two doses of antibiotics in….but I really didn’t want to leave my space. My haven. My quiet, peaceful nest.


We left around 4:00 am to get to the hospital and the streets were dead. Even more dead than usual. I don’t remember passing a single moving car---or taxi. I do remember not wanting Daddy to hit any bumps while I was in the middle of a contraction…but also knew that was an impossible task in the city. Daddy dropped us off at the hospital entrance and the guard let us in. I had a contraction in the hallway. I had a contraction in the elevator. I had a contraction while trying to sign-in at the desk. I went to a triage room and waited patiently for the midwife to come in. You had to be monitored to make sure you were handling the contractions well. Like all the other tests before, you were handling them like a trooper…and as soon as our time on the “strip” was up Daddy asked that I be allowed to walk around, making it easier for me to get through the contractions. ( As you will learn, and may already know, there is no other man who has your back the way Daddy does….he is your biggest ally and advocate, and I couldn’t have gotten through this day without him by my side. ) I was getting through the contractions and praying they were helping my body progress. When the midwife came in to check me, I was 7 cm dilated and thrilled to think I could be meeting you in just a few hours. Knowing second labors usually go faster, and knowing it usually doesn’t take too long to get from 8-10 cm I was worried I wouldn’t get my antibiotic treatments in time for your arrival. But I was taking it one contraction at a time---that’s really all I could focus on.


The labor and delivery floor was packed; there weren’t any beds available. I told the nurse I really want to deliver in the Birthing Suite, anyway….she said that was a possibility but there weren’t any nurses to staff the suite. My midwife told my triage nurse outside our door, that I would need to be moved over and she was going to have to follow me. Betsy was glad to assist and I was glad to have her there.


We quickly got settled into the birthing suite and I immediately wanted to be on my birthing ball. It made the contractions hurt less and it felt good to squat, supported. I continued this way for about an hour when I was checked again – 8 cm.


I decided to move to the shower to help things along, but quickly learned it wasn’t warm enough for me and the mobility I had in the shower just didn’t allow my body to move the way it needed to.


I returned to my birthing ball post. Grandma in front of me, holding my hands and gently reminding me to breathe. Daddy behind me, rubbing my back – massaging the back labor – with lavandar essence - a scent that is forever linked to labor for me. My body tired (as I had been up almost 24 hours by now) I decided to lay down on my left side to strengthen the contractions by also rest my body. Somehow I managed to drift in and out of this strange twilight sleep while dealing with the contractions and breathing you down. Grandma and Daddy took turns rubbing my back and legs, gently sweeping the pain away….softly reminding all the muscles in my body to relax. I could not have done this without their help. They were my boulders of strength. It is amazing how labor can give your body just enough of a break when it knows you need one. My body needed rest, and I was replenished for a little while longer. Soon, my back labor, intensified – it has always been pretty excruciating.


The changing of the guard happened around 7 am. Kate was our new nurse and Maria the new midwife on duty. I was really hoping Diane was going to catch you – and, to be honest, I think she whole heartedly thought she would be doing it, too. But, it was not meant to be. Maria checked me and I was still at 8 cm. After all that hard work, I was still at 8 cm? News I found a little defeating. The contractions were piling up…every three minutes…lasting at least a minute and a half each. My back labor was unbearable. And I still had 2 cm left to go. I started to think about the epidural.


My water had not yet broken. They hooked up the second dose of antibiotics. As soon as the second doses last drip, they broke my water. Hiccup number 2 – there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. This I had not researched. This I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew it wasn’t good.


I was still in transition, laboring hard…and fast…another hour went by. I was giving up. I was losing control. Losing control of my focus. Losing control of the contractions. The pain was taking over and I felt so helpless and vulnerable. I wanted the epidural. We agreed to have Maria check me. If I hadn’t progressed I would be given an epidural.


Kate paged Maria. She didn’t come. (it was a VERY busy, FULL day in the delivery unit). I labored more. Out of control. Trying so hard to regain composure. Cursing. Hurting. Giving up. Kate paged Maria again. She didn’t come. But the contractions did. You did. With each one I felt you moving down. I felt the urge to push and I did…not hard…not to push you out…but I grunted and pushed and brought you down. I knew I wasn’t going to have to get the epidural. I knew you were well on your way. I knew you would be here. Soon.


Kate paged Maria a third time. This time she came. As soon as she entered the room she knew she wouldn’t have to check me. She knew, by the sounds I was making, that it was time for you to be born. But she checked me anyway and sure enough I was 10 cm and you were well on your way. I wanted to push you out squatting. But somehow Maria scared me out of that and suggested it would be safest for you if I were lying on the table (later I found out this was because she needed more control of the delivery so you wouldn’t breathe in the meconium). I was in no mood or mindset to argue, even though I really didn’t want to be lying on my aching back, pushing you out with my feet in stirrups. I felt vulnerable. I felt out of control. I felt like an animal in some white room with lots of bright lights giving birth. It sure didn’t feel like my tranquil nighttime nest. So far away was the quietness of our bedroom with the candlelight flickering.


And there I was pushing you out into the world. I knew you were big. I felt you. Maria coaxed me “You have to push your baby out…” and I remember both wanting to scream at her and punch her….I was trying to get my baby out. No one wanted me to get my baby out more than I wanted me to get my baby out. No one was more ready to be done than I was. And I pushed you the only way I knew how….it worked to bring your sister into this world. And it worked to bring you into this world, too. With each contraction and each urge to push, I beared down. Though coaxed to push more, I waited for my body to tell me to push. I reached down and felt your head…your sweet little head. I knew I was so close. Push. Two steps forward, one step back. Little by little I was helping you and you were helping me. I pleaded to be stretched because I sensed your size. I was not stretched. It burned. Ring of fire. I knew. I knew you were coming. I knew you would be here so soon. I knew to wait a minute to settle into the burning feeling before pushing again….Push. Puuush. I, in the faintness of reality, “heard” Maria ask for backup. Something about your shoulders. Push. Push. Puuuush. Sounds faded. I was blinded by the lights. Bearing down with my body and my voice to get you out. Push. Puuush. I felt so out of control but knew it was only a matter of time before I could hold you. Push. Push. Puuush. Sense of relief. You slipped out. No need for backup. I got your head out. I got your shoulders out. No tears. At most, twenty minutes. There you were. Blue. Not moving. Not making any noise. No cries. Big. But I pushed you out. The nurses rushed you over to the little bassinet. You were not on my chest. There was no reward for all that hard work. I felt empty.


“Why is she blue??” “Is she okay?” “What’s going on??” “Why isn’t she crying?” “Is she okay??” One of the nurses came over to reassure me that you were okay. You were supposed to be blue because you hadn’t taken a breath yet. They wanted to make sure there was no meconium before you were allowed to breathe, but you were perfectly fine. A couple minutes later I heard you cry. Oh the sweet sound of your crying voice. On the other side of the room, away from my safe arms….I wanted to reassure you. I wanted to tell you Mommy was here and you were okay. I wanted you to know how much I loved you. I wanted to pet you and hold your hand. I wanted to whisper in your ear and sing a lullaby while you were being poked and prodded. I know it was only a couple minutes, but it felt like an eternity. I was delivering our placenta while you were so far away. I just wanted you on my chest. Close to my heart. Feeling my breath. Cuddled close and warm.


Before long that’s just where you were. I was so relieved to have you in my arms. We had been together, after all, for 10 months. I was not used to being without you and you were not used to being without me. And we found each other’s arms. And you settled in. Comforted by my voice. My smell. My warmth. And we met. And I fell in love.


After all said and done, it happened so fast. Two weeks of waiting, wondering, and pondering “when?” and before I knew it you were “here.” I look at you and am amazed that your whole little body fit inside mine. I am amazed by our ability to work together. I am amazed at my body for bringing you into this world – all 10 lb 2 oz of you. With no pain medicine, no epidural, no tears…I brought you into this world the best way I know how---with encouragement….with support….with love.


Happy Birthday, little Lillian, with Love. Always.

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