Sunday, September 28, 2014

Guest Mama: Gwendolyn's Birth

I'm so excited to share on this blog the very first story of a natural home birth! My guest mama writer is Mikah, who previously wrote Adelaide's story. After overcoming a difficult first birth to son Harvey Danger and then successfully giving birth to Adelaide Kay via unmedicated VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian), Mikah took things under her own control even further and decided to deliver her third little one, Gwendolyn Dare, with a midwife and doula in her own home. I have to admit that the idea of giving birth at home is divine--what I wouldn't give to be in my own sheets, pattering barefoot slowly through my own kitchen, rummaging through my own fridge, and not in a hospital following the births of my children! I haven't made that leap though, and as we are thinking we are likely done having children, I will just have to relish the stories of my home-birthing friends. Without further ado, please read the story of Gwendolyn Dare's birth, told in the words of mama Mikah.
The Birth of Gwendolyn Dare
I am holding on to my beautiful water-born baby as I am trying to find the words to describe her entrance into this world. Because she was born in the water and because of my love of fairy tales, I have decided to call her my little mermaid.

I woke up with a very uncomfortable contraction around 5:15AM on Thursday, September 4th. I lay there for a few minutes and decided to get up and have something to eat just in case this was it. I ate and rocked back and forth on my ball for a few minutes. Contractions were coming, but were very irregular. I went outside and walked our long driveway. My husband Jarrod woke up and we talked about what was happening. He wanted to stay home to get things ready. I insisted that he went to work. I was so unsure that this was the day because of the irregularity of my contractions. After he left, I went back up stairs to lie down, and I fell asleep for about an hour.

My children, Harvey and Adelaide, woke up. We had breakfast and got dressed. I was still contracting irregularly. The contractions were intense enough that I would have to stop talking during them. My babes had a hard time understanding why I wasn’t answering them at times.

I phoned my midwife Dawn around 8AM to tell her what was happening and see where she was doing clinic that day. She was in Oklahoma City, which is two hours from me.  We decided to give the breast pump a try to see if we could get the contractions to organize themselves. I turned on a movie for us to watch while I used the pump. It seems that soon after is when my contractions did start to even out to around 10-15 minutes apart. However, between taking care of two toddlers and the tidying up I was doing, I was not timing them and focusing on them as I should. I changed our sheets, swept, vacuumed, changed diapers, and prepared lunch as I normally would, leaning on the furniture and swaying my hips during contractions.

I talked to Jarrod and told him I was still unsure. We decided that he could leave work after lunchtime, and that I should call him to let him know. At 2PM I wrestled the kids up the stairs for nap time. Contractions were so strong at this point and about seven minutes apart.  I was able to lay Adelaide down, but did not even attempt to get Harvey down for a nap. I needed my husband. At 2:45PM, I called Jarrod to come home and called to update Dawn. I told Dawn I would call her in an hour to update.

Jarrod found me lying in bed with Harvey.  When he got there, I think I realized that I had been holding my body back. As soon as Jarrod got home, I was able to relax and labor the way I prefer. Having him home freed me to focus on the work my body was doing. I turned on some music and got on my ball. I inhaled essential oils and eventually got in the shower to let the hot water run on my back. While in the shower, Jarrod set up the birth pool with the help of Harvey, who was so fascinated and excited about “the baby being pulled from the water.” I was in the shower when I noticed just how fast things were moving, contractions rolling in at 5 minutes apart and so strong. It had only been 45 minutes, but at 3:30 I called my birth team and said that I needed them to head this way.  They were still in OKC at the time.

I dressed and got back on my ball. Jarrod joined me upstairs as I leaned on the bed, swayed on the ball, and held his hand through contractions. Jarrod told me he needed to finish getting the pool ready. He helped me down the stairs. My dad came home, concerned about the pain I was in. I again sat on my ball and leaned on the chair. Jarrod had a hard time with the pool. The pump we borrowed would not work right, hoses leaked, he forgot the liner, and the hot water ran out. He was problem-solving this while stopping to hold onto me during contractions, which were about three minutes apart now.  My sweet three-year-old son held my hands during a few contractions and offered me a drink of chocolate milk. The milk was not what I wanted, but I was amazed at his perception that mommy needed to just hold someone’s hand.  Then I threw up; I knew I was getting close, probably in transition. I really began to focus on the words of the music in the background. I can remember, “Take the World, but give me Jesus.” As contractions rolled and crashed in, I took comfort in those words and surrendered to what my body was doing.

Harvey helping out during a contraction
 My friend Adrea and her daughter Bailey arrived at about 5PM. I could not talk or even look up to acknowledge them. Adrea sat quietly, offering help where she could, and praying for me. Bailey helped keep the kids occupied in the next room. The pressure began to build up and by 5:30 I could not sit down during contractions. Adrea and Jarrod were boiling three pots of water at a time to fill up the pool.  At 6PM I told Jarrod that I was close and to call the midwife to see if they were lost. Because of construction, they were still about 20 minutes out. My mom arrived at around this time as well.

So, in the living room of the house I grew up in and the house Jarrod and I were married, I got into the pool ready to bring my baby into the world. The water felt so amazing. I do not talk during labor but I was able to look at Jarrod and say, “This feels wonderful.” The warmth helped soothe my back labor and the water made it easier to move and change positions, which is normally incredibly difficult for me this far into labor. They continued to bring in hot water from the stove at my request. I was able to lean back to rest and quickly move to my knees during a contraction. Jarrod knelt just on the outside of the pool and I would put my head to his and hold his hands to ground myself. To help relieve the pain, I began to follow my body’s urge to push. I kept looking at the clock knowing that soon the midwife and doula would be here.

Around 6:20PM the midwife Dawn and her doula assistant Brandy arrived with smiles and set to work. Dawn told me I was doing great and that she would check me if I wanted. Brandy quickly came in to check the baby’s heart rate. Baby sounded great and was very low; I could tell by were she held the Doppler. Dawn came in to check me at my request. I was at 9 ½, very soft, my water was still intact, with baby’s head at a 1+ station. Dawn told me to do what I felt was best. I told her it was more comfortable to push. I stayed leaning back for a few minutes to prepare myself, then moved to my knees and leaned over the side of the pool and on Jarrod. I began to push, gently because honestly my body was doing most of the work.

My water broke and it was clear. After that, things went so fast. I continued to lean head to head with Jarrod and pushed. It was so gentle and controlled that Jarrod had to ask if I was pushing. I told him it hurt and then I felt the ring of fire, so amazing. It was then that I put a little more effort into my pushing. Dawn said she heard me moan and rushed in. I said, “The baby is coming!” and out came the head. Jarrod went around to catch the baby and I had to ask if they were ready before pushing out the body. I quickly turned around and grabbed baby. We were all so happy. I looked up and my parents were beaming and in ran both Harvey and Adelaide.

A warm towel was quickly thrown over us. Brandy sucked out the baby’s mouth. I then got to look and see what little person we had been given. A little girl, with long black hair, born at 6:37PM and her name is Gwendolyn, my little mermaid. She was born just 17 minutes after the birth team arrived, beautifully and gently. I was amazed at her, especially her hair, and we talked about how different she looked. I relaxed there in the water as we waited for the cord to quit pulsing and to deliver the placenta. I let her do the breast crawl and begin nursing, which she took to right away.

Gwendolyn, eyes open

I have normally ended my birth stories here, but I must add to this because the care and attention I received from Dawn and Brandy was wonderful. I wish every woman was treated with such respect during and after birth. Delivering in the water was very protective of my modesty, which I did not think was possible during birth.

After I delivered the placenta, Dawn and Brandy helped me out of the pool and got me on the couch. Her daddy and family held Gwendolyn while they checked on me. I had no need for stitches and I told Dawn she was my hero for telling me this! I just rested on the couch while baby doll nursed and was held skin-to-skin. Every 15 minutes I was given an herbal remedy to ease after-birth pains and my blood pressure and temperature were checked. Dawn and Brandy cleaned up the pool and my parents cooked dinner. All of her measurements were done right there close.  Then Dawn sat with me and wrote out her birth certificate info and did her footprints. They helped me to go to the bathroom and got me ready for dinner. Brandy also went upstairs to prepare my bed and bathroom. When I went to bed that night, everything was so neatly set up and easily accessible. I think she might have even wiped our toilet down. Brandy also delivered my placenta for encapsulation. They stayed for several hours cleaning and caring for baby and me. The next day, Dawn came back to our house to check on us.
Open-mouthed kisses with sister Adelaide

The Danger loves his newest little family member
 I have spent the last week trying to breathe in every bit of Gwendolyn’s newness. Her birth was perfect. Giving birth is hard work and requires everything you have, and eventually you have to surrender yourself to the amazing creation you are.

**Mikah chose to utilize services from Moments of Bliss Midwifery.**

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Boy's First Official Race

The proud mommy

The pep talk from Pop
The gun fires
 (notice Grammy pushing George and Van in the blue double stroller to the right!)

The little brothers

The big finish

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pop Quiz

Which of these things has happened in the last week?

a. Van spat up a dead fly.
b. Silas wore the same outfit two days in a row, unwashed in between.
c. George enjoyed a sucker at 9:30 one morning.
d. I ate a big piece of chocolate cake whilst watching "American Ninja Warrior" until 1AM during a night of single mommyhood.

Okay, fine, you got me. They're all true. In my defense, Silas asked to wear his t-shirt and shorts to sleep in, and the next morning as I was frantically getting ready for work I saw him already dressed and thought, "Yippee! One less thing to do!" Four hours later it randomly hit me that it was all the same clothes. As far as George, we were on day four without daddy, I was on the phone dealing with strange and unsettling extended-family medical circumstances, and it seemed a great way to keep him quiet for a couple of minutes. As far as Van, there's no telling. I'd like to think the boy is a master at killing flies in mid-air. Most likely, however, he just found a dead one on a windowsill. I have since detailed my windowsills.

I'm a little scattered at times, but I still can rock this mommyhood thing. Just ask these guys!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One Hand Tied

Last week in the news, one of the primary topics (sadly) was the hacking and leakage of nude photos of several female celebrities, most notably Jennifer Lawrence. Images that were taken by these women and were intended for private, personal use were hacked from their cell phones and put on the internet for a world of Peeping Toms to see. Apple has reported that the leakage was not due to a vulnerability of iCloud, but the images were taken from online storage devices that I can't begin to explain. See BJ's blog if you're interested in that techy kind of stuff.

Much of the response to this exploitation seems reasonable to me: a large number of individuals see this as a breach of moral conduct on the part of the hackers, believe that the hackers should pay for their crimes (yes, I said crimes), and do not place blame upon those whose photos were stolen. There is a subset of society, however, that immediately lashed out at Lawrence and others, blaming them for their role in the 'scandal' and admonishing them to do better next time. I won't even link to these latter articles because I don't want to draw further attention to them.

The complexity of problems within this culture is too large in breadth to expand upon here, but much of it boils down to one very large dysfunction: the sexualization and objectification of women. It is undoubtedly one of the largest problems that our society has created, and it is also one of society's biggest stumbling blocks in terms of social progress. If women are not viewed as more than what they can do for men sexually, then this country is essentially operating with one arm tied behind its back. We will never succeed and reach our potential as a collective unit if one half of us is limited by the other--generally speaking, as I am fully aware that there are decent, active men working to silence the idiots amongst us.

Why is this country so uncomfortable with the idea of women having sexual rights? The 'blame the victim' mentality held by so many people, including many women, is as damaging a notion to the women's rights movement as has ever existed. Doesn't a woman have the right to wear the clothes she wants without being held responsible for how it makes a man feel? Doesn't a woman have a right to have a drink too many and not get sexually taken advantage of? Isn't it unfair that a woman gets raped by a turned-on male who says he couldn't help himself because she was 'asking for it' by the way she looked or the way she flirted with him? Doesn't it suck that a woman can get raped by a man and, when she tries to press charges against him, the fact that she was drunk is a strike against HER? And here, with the Jennifer Lawrence situation, isn't it scary that a woman can take nude photos in the context of a private relationship, have those photos unethically hacked, and then we turn to her and chide her for not being more responsible, for not having stronger passwords or for having a nude photo of herself in the first place? Imagine this for a moment: replace the words "Jennifer Lawrence" with "small business" and replace " nude photos" with "financial statements." If a hacker got into iCloud and accessed the financials of a business, then blackmailed that business and made their account information available for all to see, that would be a legal issue. What in the world is the difference? Is it because Jennifer Lawrence is a person and not a business? Or is it because the nature of what was leaked is not as important as money---it's only the body of a woman?

So, again, why is this country so uncomfortable with the idea of women having sexual rights? I think it's because, in acknowledging those rights, society has to embrace the notion that women are individuals with faces, aspirations, and personalities--and sacrifice the deeply, long-held notions that women are just faceless bodies, just hot commodities to compare or disparage, just bitches when they're angry and hos when they're participants in sexual activities, just punching bags when others are angry. When we as a society can learn that a woman has a voice and right when it comes to her own decisions and her own body, and that her body is for herself to share with whomever she chooses, then a huge number of problems in this country will begin to subside. We will see less violence against women. We will see less pornography. We'll see more women contributing with their full potential, in whatever way they feel most enriched, and we will see more fulfilling sexual relationships. We will see more legal action when women are sexually exploited, and we will see less blaming the victim when sexual assaults do take place. We will see a return to the normalization of breastfeeding in public, because people will reject the notion that breasts are purely sexual objects and thus won't be disgusted and uncomfortable with the idea of using boobs to feed babies. We will essentially see a country operating with no hands behind its back, with all of its brains and talents being used to drive us full-throttle into the betterment of life for us all. Be you female or male, use your voices, and use them for good.You may be surprised to find out just how loud and strong they are.

Sesame Street approves!

For a similar past musing, check it.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My Three Sons

My three kids and I can't go anywhere in public without some smiling stranger saying to me, "Wow! You really have your hands full!" I hear it at least once every single day. I never mind hearing it. Typically my boys are quite well-behaved as the stranger makes this remark, so I know it's meant as a genuine salute, if you will, and not a passive-aggressive jab at my lack of parenting skills or rowdy crowd. My favorite is always when I only have two boys with me and BJ has the other somewhere else, and a stranger still makes that comment. "Hahahaha!" I roar. "Two kids is nothing! You should see the baby/middle child/oldest brother (insert child that is not present)!" As I told the lady who commented at security in Boston Logan Airport the other day as I was making my way through with Van, if I only have one kid with me, I practically feel like I have none at all. My hat's off to parents whose children outnumber mine, because I know from experience that you're rocking it!

There is never a shortage of funny moments in our home these days. There is also never a shortage of wrestling children, kid-centered outings, crayons underfoot, spit-up on the burp cloth, Eggo waffles in the toaster, coloring pages taped to hard surfaces for display (taped haphazardly by the artists themselves), costume-wearing, and toad/bug touching. Brotherly love and cooperation are often found, but sometimes are conspicuously replaced by threats of bodily harm when an errant hand crosses a couch cushion line. This physical kind of love and display between the boys is something I am beginning to get used to. As a girl who grew up with a sister and a fairly gentle brother, the idea of wrestling just for fun initially appalled me. I fretted, watched closely (okay, hovered), and often broke up the 'fighting' because I was uncomfortable with it. Now I realize that it's kind of just nature's way. My two little bears are allowed to roll and play, within reason, as long as life and limb aren't at stake. I would also add 'valuables' to the at-stake list, but who am I kidding? Anything pretty worth displaying in this house has either been rounded up into boxes, broken, or never bought in the first place because--let's face it--I'm a mother of three young wrestling boys. Pollyanna's Aunt Polly would have a conniption at my house.

Images can pretty much sum it up from here. I love this life. Admittedly, it's often best participated in with a glass of wine in hand. Just kidding. A cup of coffee is usually sufficient.

Spiderman trying to figure out how to drink water with no mouth hole

I call this artfully-arranged exhibit "Superheros in Motion: An Exploration in Colored Wax"
First time on the beach! Plum Island Beach, Massachusetts
Not too shabby for a four-year-old boy, if I do say so myself.
Bustin' a move, as he is often wont to do
There is no feat too great.
Museum day with Daddy

About the turkey kielbasa he stated, "That be so big! It's longer than my life!"

Weekend with cousins in Dallas, ages 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0

Piled on Grammy

Eleventh anniversary dinner at Mutt's Hog Dogs with Van--like I said, one child is practically no child!

Sometimes even Pop needs a breather when dealing with this crowd.
Blurry image, but captures the excited mauling of Van in the airport as he and I arrived home from Massachusetts

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Up, Up, and Away!

Van Owen with his characteristic burp cloth/bib. If he spits up while swinging, we just root for it to happen on the backward motion!
A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law Susan and I were preparing to take the boys to get their portraits done at JCPenney. Silas and George were each specific about hats they wanted to wear and favorite toys they wanted to be photographed with, so we went in with practically a wheelbarrow of goods. When Susan asked what props we should use with Van, we both paused to think about what he had grown attachments to. Just as I was about to say that his Glo-Worm is his favorite toy, Susan jokingly pointed out that he could pose with his most familiar object of all...the burp cloth. The thought of Van wearing a grin and cozying up to his spit-up shield is hilarious for me to envision, but the lady speaks the truth. That kid is no stranger to burp cloths, which in our house are actually receiving blankets because ain't no burp cloth big enough to cover his messes.

The travails of Van's spitting up are well-documented. While BJ and I are perfectly aware that bigger problems are to be had in the world, we can't exactly say that this spitting-up business has been a walk in the park. We're talking two loads of laundry a day just to maintain a pathway in and out of the laundry room, lest the piles accumulate so high as to block the swinging door. Even his two older brothers calmly inform us, with no surprise or freaking out, of upchucks as they occur, with the exception being the time that George was the recipient of such tidings into his open, wailing mouth.  Van has ruined our favorite clothes, splashed floors in every establishment that we have patronized, and kept us on a first-name basis with Paul and Regina at Freeman's Carpet Cleaning. Despite our best efforts, carpet is hard to clean now that Van is eating so many bright colors.

Following is the record of the downward slope of Van's weight percentage through the first seven months of his life:

Date: Weight Percentage:
Day of birth, December 17: 95%
January 6: 82%
February 17: 74%
March 10: 61%
April 18: 45%
May 19: 37%
June 18: 27%
July 18: 21%
August 22: 32%

Artistic interpretation of Van's recent climb
Those numbers stink. The last line is what we're focusing on now though, and it says it all: something is finally working and he isn't losing ground anymore! We've increased his oatmeal in the morning (at his demand), and we put olive oil in many of his veggies and coconut oil in many of his fruits. A friend shared a recipe for pancakes that consist of a banana and two eggs in a food processor, then fried up on a skillet like pancake batter. He loves them and needs no teeth to consume whole baby-handfuls at a time, which is good because the little stinker still doesn't have any teeth. Spitting up can still be frequent, as many as 25 times a day or so, but nothing like before we met our good friend Zantac. It also invariably happens after breastfeeding, which supports our pediatrician's theory that solid foods will stay down better.

So I thought I would share our good news. On Friday, BJ and I took Van in for his umpteenth weight check, and this time there were practically whoops of joy when our favorite nurse declared a jump of 11 whole percentage points in the span of one month's time! We were thrilled to be heading in the right direction for the first time. What's also great is that we left that appointment within ten minutes, rather than our usual letdown of seeing that percentages have dropped and then waiting for Dr. Harmon to come in because the nurse is concerned, and then spending another 20 minutes talking with Dr. Harmon about something new to try. All in all, a thrilling day at the office of Betty Harmon!

Friends, enjoy your Tuesday. May you eat, drink, and be merry--and may all that you eat and drink not come back up for all to see. But if it does, may you be like Van and still be merry. If you'd bestow the same positive thoughts for our youngest son, we'd be tickled. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guest Mama: Jane's Birth

I have a dear college friend named Brooke, who now lives a few hours south of me. Everyone needs a Brooke in their lives; she's cool as a cucumber, witty, a great listener, and she's feisty as all get-out. She's one of those types of friends that I haven't seen in a long time, but I know if I needed her she would be right there. I feel in a sense as though our lives are still in parallel, that she's doing the same things as me, gets me, and is living up life, even though we are doing it just out of sight of each other. When Brooke agreed to share the birth story of her first child Jane, I was thrilled. In reading it, I saw that Brooke and I had some things in common during our labor experience, particularly the use of self-talk to get us through. Brooke and I unabashedly spoke aloud to ourselves throughout active labor, and I also spoke aloud to Van a whole lot, negotiating with him, reminding him that I loved him, and asking him to help me so that I could help him. Please enjoy Brooke's story, told in her own clever words, of the birth of beautiful Jane, born on May 8, 2010:

I knew from early on I would want to have a natural birthing experience. The first time I ever thought about it was in high school during a clinical rotation class observing three different women as they were given their epidurals; I almost passed out each time. Why in the mess would anyone purposely put a needle that big into her body?! I think the thing that sealed the deal was my college pastor who had four babies, induced, unmedicated because she believed her body was made to work that way. I thought that sounded pretty good. God made it to work, and I figured there’s no need to interfere with the design. When I actually did become pregnant, I read books about the history of childbirth and natural birthing methods, and I searched for birth stories and research to support my decision. My husband Steve and I attended a 12-week-long Bradley method class to learn techniques to get me through labor. I did all the exercises to get the baby positioned properly and to get my muscles strong so I could do the work of birthing. It was commonplace for my husband to find me on all fours or in a modified yoga child’s pose. Most people who knew my plan thought I was crazy, and two of them, who happened to be men, even went so far as to say that it couldn’t be done. Well, game on, sirs.

My pregnancy was pretty uneventful other than feeling just disgusting for the first half of it. My due
date was a Wednesday, May 12th, and I was convinced I would not have a child until well after that. Both my mother and mother-in-law had babies two weeks late, so I was bound to have the same fate. I think I let my doctor check me one time at 36 weeks. Of course, I was, like, a centimeter. After that I didn’t want to know. I wanted as little intervention as possible, and I didn’t want to be thinking about how much or how little I was dilated. I didn’t want her offering opinions on when she thought I would go into labor. I pretty much tried to pretend the whole thing wasn’t going to happen to keep my body relaxed and allow it to do what it needed to do to get the child out as quickly and efficiently as possible.

May 6th, a Thursday, was my last day at work. I was looking forward to spending the next week or so doing some things around our new house, sleeping in, and just generally relaxing before the baby came. First thing the next morning, I had a doctor’s appointment; I did not get to sleep in. “You want me to check you?” she asked. “Not if you don’t have to. I’m fairly certain nothing is going to happen for a while. See you next week!” I had had contractions periodically throughout the pregnancy but nothing consistent or that made me think I might be in labor. I happened to be going in to work to complete some paperwork and attend a lunch party of some sort before meeting my sister in the afternoon. Sitting at the computer my back was hurting, but that happens when you sit for a couple of hours doing computer work, right? I met up with my sister. We had a cookie and a soda. I’m sure we talked about my appointment and my plans for the next several days and planned on meeting again the next week some time. I remember telling her I was tired and thought I’d just go home and take a nap. Why not? I’m not working, hubby’s at guys night out, and I’ve got plenty of time the next few days to do the things on my list: clean, pack a bag, make sure the laundry is done, watch a movie, etc. I chatted on the phone with a friend and discussed my day, my back pain, fatigue and the nap I was about to take. Little did I know, she was formulating the theory that I was probably in labor but, thank goodness, said nothing to me about it because that would have ruined my nap!

I slept from 5pm till 7pm and woke up with the vague sensation that I had cramps. “How strange,” I thought to myself. “Why on earth do I have cramps? And why is my underwear damp? I haven’t had any issues with bladder leakage. Surely, I’m not in labor. That’s crazy. But just in case, maybe I better pack that hospital bag. Oh crap. Some of the things I need are in the laundry. Better run a load. Why are those cramps coming back? I thought I got rid of them.” I continued this internal dialogue for a bit continuing to assure myself that this couldn’t be labor because it wasn’t even my due date yet but working on the premise that it could be labor so I should probably be at least a little prepared. You’d think with all the planning I put into the preparation for labor, I’d be more…um…prepared.

Maybe around 8:00pm, I decided I should call Steve just to tell him how I was feeling and to be prepared to end guys' night early if needed. By this point, the cramps were coming in waves, and nothing I did changed them, not sitting, laying, walking, nothing. I was still calling them cramps because that is exactly what they felt like. I did not time them; there was no stopwatch. Didn’t even occur to me. My level-headed husband said, “Maybe you should go ahead and call the doc, just in case.” “No, I don’t think that’s necessary yet, but I gotta get off the phone, I can’t talk during this cramping.” Um, hello?! You are in labor! I was in complete denial because there were so many things I had wanted to do that I hadn’t done yet.

I did call the doctor eventually (8:30ish), the on-call doc, not mine, and, she told me it maybe sounded like early labor (I may not have been as forthcoming with information as I should have) and to keep tabs on it and let her know of any changes. I remember as I was getting off the phone with her another contraction hit, and I had trouble talking. I phoned Steve (8:45ish) to come home with some food so I could have some energy to get through this. Steve got home around 9:30, packed his own bag and tried to help me as I finished up some laundry, pausing periodically to have a contraction. Nearly every contraction ended with me saying, “That is REALLY uncomfortable,” or “This is a terrible idea,” but I could still do things in between contractions. When I called the doc the next time (10ish), once I finally had accepted this was probably happening, she said, “Yeah, when I got off the phone with you last time, I could hear it in your voice. You better come on in.”

Off we went to the hospital, and let me tell you, worst car ride ever. No traffic--thank goodness-- but the only comfortable position I had been able to find right before we left home was on all fours, hands and knees, so riding buckled in was the worst. It was during this ride that I started my self-talk. I didn’t know that I would do that. All those Bradley method things? Out the window. During every contraction I would talk myself through it saying things like “It’s okay, it’s okay, relax, just relax, it’s okay.” If Steve had said anything to me, I probably would have punched him in the face. I wanted him there, but I didn’t want him to speak or touch me, which is very different than how I thought I would be. I guess I had sort of pictured me being the strong silent type with a very calm presence. I was quite the opposite, in fact. Looking back, I think I had to talk to myself in order to relax into the pain and let my body do the work it needed to do. If I hadn’t been talking, I would have been clenching and slowing everything down.

We got to the hospital about 11:00. I had done pre-registration, but I still had to sign things, and they weighed me. Are you freaking kidding me? Is that really important at this point? I was very clearly in active labor and needed to be in a room. That’s how I felt about it anyway. I got to a room, and my nurse, who looked to be about 15 years old, told me to change into a gown and come back to the bed so she could check me. I don’t know how long I spent in that bathroom, pooping, losing my mucous plug, having contraction after contraction, but she did have to come back several times to tell me she “really needs to check me and get the baby monitor on.” I got in the bed and got to all fours as soon as I could, but I was not prepared for what this young nurse told me after she checked me. 8 centimeters. 8 centimeters! Pretty sure there was an expletive and also relief that I was close and had achieved my goal of laboring at home as long as possible. Some might say too long, I suppose.

After that, things happened. I got an IV put in because I was Group B strep positive so needed the antibiotics. Unfortunately, it didn’t really matter because there wasn’t time for it so the baby got the extra blood draw after the fact anyway. It seems like there were a lot of people around. My sister came at one point but didn’t even get in the door before I said, “It’s not really a good time, but I love you!” I was fairly certain I didn’t want her seeing my bare rump up in the air. I apparently didn’t care about all the other people in the room seeing it for some reason.

There were some things that stood out distinctly but there was also a kind of fog in my mind with only one focus, and time was sort of non-existent. I know we got to the hospital about 11pm, Jane was born at 2:28am, and I pushed for an hour and a half so I must have labored on all fours for between 1-2 hours. Steve was awesome. Every time I had a contraction, he did this hip squeeze thing we learned in our class that really helped (I think it was the only thing we used). If he wasn’t doing it right or didn’t do it when I told him to, he heard about it. Through the whole time, I was talking to myself, to Jesus asking for help, which seems odd to me because I’m not generally inclined to call upon the name of the Lord, out loud, in front of people. Every time a contraction would start up, I started to freak out and cry because it hurt so badly, but just as quickly I would talk myself down and let the pain do its work. I just kept reminding myself that if I didn’t relax, it would hurt more and take longer. I think one of the reasons I was able to get through it was the brief reprieve between contractions. Each contraction brought the fear that I wouldn’t get through it, but as the contraction subsided, and I had a few brief moments of relief, I was able to tell myself that I could do it…when I wasn’t saying what a terrible idea it was to do this to myself! Ha!

It took some convincing to get me turned over so the doctor could help deliver the baby. The thought of being on my back terrified me, but Steve was very gentle and said, “Honey, let’s try it and see if it helps.” Poor guy was stuck between what the doctor was saying needed to be done and what his wife was willing to do, but he handled it wonderfully without getting punched in the gut by his adoring wife. As I got positioned to push, it took a couple of attempts to get the position right so I felt like I could push. The doc said, “It’s not too late to have an epidural if you want one.” I can’t even begin to write the number of things that came to my head to say to her. Ultimately, it boiled down to I had come this far, there’s not that much left to do, why would I get one now after I’ve done the hardest part? All of the things I thought came out as an exasperated “No!” I’m just glad I didn’t kick her in the face. Evidently, I am a violent laborer.

So I commenced with pushing. And it was such a relief! It didn’t feel good, but it certainly felt better to be bearing down into the pain than to just be lying there helplessly. The other happy side effect of transition is the slowing of the contractions a bit. It’s like it was built in to help women have the strength to get through the final leg of childbirth. I had more time between contractions so I was able to fully relax, close my eyes, and rest. I’ll be honest, there were times where I even skipped pushing during a contraction because I was just too tired and needed the rest. Finally, it was really time for delivery, the doc returned because she had left at some point during pushing, and things got serious. You could see a head. Someone asked me if I wanted a mirror so I could see. Um, no! Are you crazy? Do you even know what’s going on down there? Steve made a comment he likes to think was funny after he got his first sight of the head. “I think there’s something down there.” He kind of whispered it and pointed a little bit. I’m pretty sure I said, “Not now, honey.” He is certainly a joker, and I appreciate his desire to lighten the mood, but come on, full-on childbirth is not the time.

I remember the doctor saying my name and to listen to her and do exactly what she says. I was so tired I couldn’t even keep my eyes open most of the time. She was trying to keep me from tearing, but I knew from the look on her face that I did as the head came out. After the head was out, it felt like an eternity waiting for that next contraction to get the body out. I’m fairly certain I let loose a “Get it out!” once or twice. I pushed one last time and out came the baby. Steve said “Honey, it’s a little girl!” We hadn’t known the sex of the baby prior to delivery. They put her on my chest, and all I could think was “I’m so glad that’s over.” They took her and weighed her, and I got the second shock of the night. 8 lbs 10 oz! No wonder my belly was so giant! 

I’d be lying if I said I was instantly in love and connected to the baby. In fact, after my sister visited and left, Steve laid down to sleep a bit, and I was holding Jane, I remember thinking, “Who is going to take care of this baby so I can get some sleep?” It dawned on me that I was that person, and I was so mad. I didn’t get to sleep in, fix up the house, go to the movies, or do anything I had planned because she came early. I was just at work yesterday! I was grateful to no longer have heartburn, though. She was really cute, and I did want to take care of her, I just wanted to do it after a full night’s sleep. Ultimately, all was well, and I did and do love my sweet Jane. I wouldn’t change anything about giving birth naturally, but to be fair, I was fortunate to have a fairly short first-time labor of about seven hours and can’t imagine if it had taken longer than that. I would do natural childbirth again, and in fact, already have. And if we have a third, that one will be unmedicated too.