Birth is a sacred time. I believe it should be hallowed, reverenced, prepared for. As I alluded to in this post, I spent the weeks leading up to Chiara’s birth preparing emotionally and spiritually. I wasn’t surprised when my due date came and went, and had a feeling that she would be born on Tuesday. I told my midwife this at my appointment the Thursday before and she exclaimed “Alright! That’s my day! Let’s do it!” and we gave each other a high 10. When my water broke around 9:00PM on Monday April 4th, I was excited our baby was coming! As is procedure I called the midwives to let them know, they suggested I come in, but as I wasn’t having any contractions I suggested I wait and hour and let things start happening. Tom and I busied ourselves gathering our stuff. (Tom was SO excited!) An hour and a half later I checked back to inform them that I was still not contracting. We agreed that I’d come in, and just make sure the baby was doing okay. Caroline Hulet came over to sleep with the boys, and we headed to Northwest Hospital. Fetal monitoring showed that the baby was doing great, but the light meconium staining in the amniotic fluid resulted in our having to spend the night at the hospital. The midwife was sure that things would get moving soon and that the need for inducing or augmenting labor wouldn’t be necessary. Though she informed us that if I didn’t go into labor on my own, they would start me on pitocin in the morning. I spent a long sleepless night anxiously wishing my body into labor. I had heard that pitocin contractions were so much more painful than natural contractions and that you just didn’t get induced without an epidural because the pain was so much more intense. I worried about my hopes for an unmedicated birth. Determined to get things moving Tom and I set off to walk the halls of the hospital the next morning. (One administrator who saw us on our rounds later told me, she originally saw me from the back and thought I was a visitor, and then when she saw I was pregnant got concerned I was trying to run away!) Our speed walks were unsuccessful so around 8:00AM they started the pitocin. They fed it in super slowly (too gradually it turns out due to a miscommunication) so I didn’t start to experience painful contractions until around 12:30. We filled the morning, chatting, walking the halls, and generally trying to pass time. My mom arrived around 10:00. (Caroline took the boys to her house in the morning, and then my Dad and Dantz picked them up around 10:00 and cared for them the rest of the day.) The waiting game was hard on me. I was genuinely eager for hard contractions! (I also had a headache from uncomfortable hospital pillows and sleepless night.)
Due to the pitocin, the baby had to be constantly monitored, which meant that every 15 minutes the two nurses (Becky and Maggie) had to adjust the bands to get them to pick up baby’s heartbeat. I suppose the fact that I couldn’t sit still didn’t help! I kept hoping that walking the halls would speed things up. Finally, around 2:15 active labor started. I was so relieved, this is what I had prepared for! This time around the birthing ball was my best friend, with my arms resting on the end of the bed I circled on the ball while Tom rubbed my lower back. Together we worked our way through the contractions. It was very much a united front, Tom was there rubbing my back, massaging my neck, and lending support through all two hours of active labor. Because of the need for monitoring the jets on the jacuzzi weren’t an option this time- which was too bad, since I had really appreciated that approach with Anders. I got up and walked from time to time but the contractions hurt so much more when I was standing that while it felt like it lent more “progress” it didn’t feel worth it. Not to mention laboring in the hall, with so many people looking on, was awkward. I feel the need to be very focused when I’m in active labor. Breathing and relaxing through the contractions is what allows me to cope/relax into the contraction. And having so many people in the room through the entirety of the labor wasn’t ideal. But with my eyes closed and music playing I was able to focus inward, and be one with the baby and Tom.
I was very aware of transition, and fortunately, because I identified it, was able to encourage myself through it, saying “I got this, I got this, I got this.” But I found myself suddenly annoyed by the two nurses who were never more than five feet away, watching and adjusting the fetal monitors. I suddenly couldn’t stand how strongly they smelled of purel, nor did I care for Toms un-showered un-deodorized state. I grew annoyed that things were taking so long.
While in transition, I switched to a deep child’s poise on the bed after learning that I was only measuring at a 6. (This was probably around 3:50) As I lay there in child’s poise, my face resting in the pillow, Tom continually rubbing my back, I realized that I was controlling and preventing the tail end of the contraction from running the full length of my body. As soon as I relaxed into the final part of the contraction, it started running to the very depth of my pelvis and I went from a 6 to complete in 15 minutes. (Which meant the neo-natalogist wasn’t present, as they had hoped.)
I feel the take home lesson from labor this time, was trusting my body’s timing. I was so sick of waiting that I really wanted to push things along and my midwife said several times, “There is no need to rush.” Interestingly, it was my own involvement that resulted in the slowing of labor- even though I felt more control- I was in my own way. My body knows how to labor and I had to trust my maternal instincts and not my logical brain.
I needed someone to coach me through the breathing in the final stages but nobody did. I lost my focus, whimpering at the intense pain of the ring of fire and tissue ripping. I started hyperventilating which caused my arms to go numb. I was in an awkward position for the pushing stage, I didn’t feel very set up or supported like I had with Anders when Mary gave me detailed instruction. I suppose it’s because Michelle knew it wasn’t going to take long. I held Tom’s hand on the left and my Mom’s on the right I gave two or three good pushes and then Michelle had me continue to push between contractions (because Chiara’s heart rate dropped to 50) and with that and two more pushes she was out! Around the third push I reached down and felt the top third of her head. This brought me such intense joy and I couldn’t help exclaim “My baby! Oh, My baby!” After the fourth push I felt Chiara kick inside of me- and I laughed as I said “She just kicked!” One more push and she was out and on my chest. I can’t express the intense joy I felt. My eyes brimmed with tears and my lips spread wide in a smile as I held my sweet tiny little girl. I couldn’t get over how small she seemed, how beautiful she was, how much love I felt for her.
After Chiara was born she stayed skin to skin on my chest for over an hour. The nurses suctioned her, wiped her up, and checked her out without removing her. (Chiara immediately worked her way to my breast and started nursing) Tom stayed at my shoulder, his arms encircling us. I felt such a strong bond between us this time. We were truly in it together. I sensed more joy and confidence from Tom, more assurance and peace that “I had this.” He knew what to do, or what to ask if he didn’t. Despite the flurry of activity from the nurses and midwife after the birth, it felt like it was just the three of us Tom, Chiara and I- wrapped in this warm light of love and unity.
Tom left to get Scotland and Anders (and my Dad and Dantzel) around 5:00. The boys were so excited to see and hold Chiara and were so sweet in the hospital. They enjoyed the celebratory meal of pizza and pop that Grandpa brought. We had bought each a small present (a foam sword and shield to “protect their sister.”) And when asked if he was ready for his present Scotland said “Baby’s the present!” When they were getting ready to go Anders asked “Baby come?” They enjoyed sitting on the bed with me and pushing all the buttons, laughing hysterically as the bed moved in all different directions.
Tom gave Chiara her first bath that evening around 10:00. (New research suggests you wait at least six hours.) I spent the night with Chiara sleeping on my chest- in complete bliss. Finally, my baby had arrived!
Now in pictures:
Brothers/ Grandparents visit:
It’s crazy to think that more than a week has passed since this sweet girl entered our lives. We fall in love with her a little more everyday. She loves to be cuddled close- preferring as much body contact as possible. She’ll often nuzzle her way under my chin, so I can feel her little breath on my neck as she sleeps. She’s a great nurser- patiently working with me to get a good latch. She sleeps well during the day- in the Ergo, swing, or Daddy’s lap. She isn’t keen on sleeping on her back, and so we’ve taken to letting her sleep on our chests in the rocking chair, or in the swing at night. She’s easily soothed, and, so far, seems unperturbed by the loudness and craziness around her. She likes to be wrapped tight, and enjoys her pacifier. For the first few days she mostly opened just the left eye, and even still she’s slow to open her right eye. The boys love to hold her, and are always excited when I invite them to help with her in some way. Despite being an average sized baby, we all still can’t get over how tiny she is (compared with Anders). She has long thin fingers and long thin feet. We adore her!