Sib’s birth

The Birth of Sibs, Part 3

{part 2}

Right before we left the room, N asked our doula, “Do I need to start timing the contractions now?”

“I think we’re beyond that point”, she smiled knowingly.

We set out again to walk the halls as the techs moved into our room to connect and fill the tub.  Walking felt good and I pushed through each contraction, willing my mind away from the pain and focusing on putting one step in front of the other.  I hung onto N’s arm and let him guide me.  Just like with the last two, when things get serious, I close my eyes or focus on the ground and triy not to make eye contact with anyone.

I still, however, had to endure the hallway comments, such as the nurses calling out, “oh she’s not smiling anymore, things are getting serious!”  And hospital visitors watching us and making remarks to each other about their own birth experiences.  I, much to my dismay, was feeling some pretty intense pain in my back and asked N to apply counter pressure during each contraction. This helped immensely, for a while.

After what felt like forever, though I think it was only an hour at most, I asked if we could go back to the room.  The tub was ready and I felt relief that I could finally experience it, another box checked.  N turned on my labor playlist and I felt myself being overcome with emotion; another labor milestone I personally look for.  I cried more with relief than pain.  Relief that we were finally here.  Relief we were at the point of no return.  Relief that after months of wait, I was going to meet my baby soon.

The songs helped me too, up until a certain point.  I let my emotions be swept away and focused on the lyrics.  I thought about my Nanow and how we would be naming this baby after her.  I wondered if they had already met in Heaven before her little soul was sent down to earth, as time is not time there.  And there is always a point where birthing begins to feel spiritual, where you feel connected to the generations before you, when you feel the most connected to yourself as a woman.

It was around 2pm and my contractions were coming very frequently and with much pain.  Every time one would begin, my lower back would begin to throb.  Then I would feel the pain radiate as the contraction wrapped around to the front.  It felt as if her head was stuck directly on my lower backbone and with each contraction, it would send fiery hot nerve pain up and down my spine in protest.  Rather than feeling the elecutionary contractions in my uterus, all I could feel were my bones being pried apart from the inside. It was completely reminiscent of MG’s birth and I began to lose my focus.  I no longer had to tell N when each contraction was beginning, he just seemed to know and would apply strong pressure in the spot I had showed him earlier.  Later I brought it up and he said he knew when they started because he could physically see the questionable bone in my back push out at the start of each one.

The counter pressure was now only mildly helping and I feared how much longer this could last.  I began getting really vocal, saying all the transitional things like, “I can’t do this anymore.”  N and Julie just winked at each other, knowing that all the signs were pointing to the end.  Julie suggested I get checked again, as I was audibly doubting how close I was to the finish line.

I got really mouthy during this labor, more so than my other two.  I am very rarely raw and unguarded in my feelings but there is something about intense pain that takes away the filter.

This labor, due only to the fiery heat of the back labor, made me doubt myself and my abilites to finish it.  I wanted everyone in the room to know how badly I was suffering and though I was vocal, I didn’t have a way of vocalizing this: I was scared this labor was going to stall and I would be stuck here, in this burning, nervy, painful place for hours more.

Fully dilated, fully effaced somewhere around 3pm.  That’s what the nurse discovered when she checked me.  This should have been an encouragement, but all I could think was, “It’s going to be three hours still until I can push her out.”   N and Julie tried to encourage me as they pointed out the warmer being moved into our room and Dr. B coming in, gloved up, ready to deliver.  As much as the signs were all there, I still truly believed we had hours left to go.  Even though I had begin pushing, just a bit, in the tub, I didn’t have a strong urge yet.  I also feared that this baby, giving me back labor like MG, was also posterior like her and would take her precious time coming out.

Still, to everyone’s prodding, I moved to the bed around 3:15pm.  Unsure of what to do, but knowing I HAD to get that baby off my tailbone, I began pushing in a few different positions.  Finally, we found one that everyone cheered on, so I used their encouragement as a sign to stay there for the duration.

Three births under my belt and I can confidently say, my body does not handle the pushing phase very efficiently.  Either I carry my babies high until the bitter end or they like to stay in unfavorable positions until they come out, or I am anatomically not built for this, or ???  This time it took about 45 minutes to finally feel that overwhelming relief of having her pulled from my body.  But those 45 minutes were agonizing.  The team around me did their best to encourage me, noting when they saw hair and what color it was.  As the home stretch approached, they would say things like, “just one more good push’, as I struggled to hold her in position in between contractions.

But 3:56pm, the magical hour of her entrance arrived, and she was out. They pressed her to my chest; the wet-limbed, warm bodied reward for all the work. The last major box was checked.  The first thing N and I said, “she looks like Bea.” Immediately followed by, “I never want to do that again.  I’m never doing that again.” The first thing the nurses said, “that’s not a 6 pound baby”.  Indeed, she came out all cheeks and wrist rolls and having swallowed some fluid on her way out, she initially struggled to catch her breath.  After her cord stopped pulsing, and they cut us apart after our 10 months of growing together, they took her away to suction her and eventually weighed her in at over nine pounds.  When they called out her birth weight, I pumped my fist in the air and cheered.  I knew all that pain was worth more than 6 pounds of gain.

Meanwhile, back at home, mom told the girls the baby had finally been born and they gave a victory yell, hopping in the car as soon as possible to come see us.  They arrived by 5:30pm and we did, indeed, get our first dinner as a family.

I don’t know if there’s a moment I’ve ever felt more content than watching my girls meet each other for the first time, answering their many questions and knowing the worst was behind me.

They asked us her name and it caught in my throat for a second.  I found I really cared about their opinion and hoped it would meet their approval.  I also knew once we told them, there was no going back.  It would make it more official than ever and after carrying a deep secret for 10 months, I desperately wanted to savor the moment

And just like that we became a family of 5, and all I could think was all this and Heaven too.

{the end}

-smk

The Birth of Sibs, Part 2

{Part 1}

All along, I had been holding onto a small seed of doubt that this might not happen on Monday, May 23, but this was the last confirmation I needed.  We got home, I repacked my hospital bag, set my alarm, and went to bed, desperately praying for a good night’s sleep.

The night started off to a good start, but somewhere in the middle, Bea woke up and I, too,  was up for the remainder.  Once again, MG’s birth came flashing back to me, where I spent the night before in the hospital and nary a wink of sleep.  This of course set me up for a very long day of labor, barely able to stay on top of my fatigue.  I knew this time around that it would be important to rest, even if I couldn’t sleep, whenever possible and conserve energy.

All too early our alarms went off.  I showered while N made us a simple breakfast and spent some time in prayer.  My mom got up to see us off and I felt myself bobbing around in a full spectrum of emotions, the heaviest one being fear.  I dreaded the labor and spent the entire car ride focusing on changing my mental state.

My meditation seemed to work.  By the time we arrived, I felt ready, albeit a bit apprehensive.  N was fulfilling his duty as my encouraging support.  He kept me focused on the positive, reminding me why we were doing this and that we had already crossed something scary off our list–the hour drive to the hospital. He was right, we no longer needed to worry about that one.

There is something comforting I find about hospitals that I’ve come to appreciate more deeply each time.  Unbounded by time or holidays, they’re always there for you.  There’s always someone waiting by the phone for your call, just like they don’t turn you away no matter how inconsequential your problem seems.  They will be there for you at the darkest corner of 3am or the most normal hour of 11am.  For the most sacred hours of bringing my babies into the world, I like hospitals.  They are sterile and medicinal minded, but in a way I find comforting.

We parked in the garage and calmly walked up to the fourth floor to sign the paperwork.  This was definitely not how I had spent the last nine months envisioning the start of labor, but it sure beat doing those things with contractions.

Finally, arm-banded and with our luggage trailing behind us, we were taken directly to our room (another bonus–we skipped right over triage).  In it, I saw the tub waiting for us and I felt a sense of peace in the preparation of a “planned” labor.

We met our  attending nurse.  She was young, kind, had three girls with gorgeous names, and all three by natural birth.  Fate smiled upon us.

I changed into the hospital gown, she began placing the IV, and I went through the motions of answering more questions and signing more paperwork.  In between procedures, I closed my eyes and tried to rest as much as possible.  I feared it would be, much like MG’s labor, a long day.  To keep things lighthearted, N asked everyone to place bets on what time the baby would be born.  I happened to choose the latest time of 7pm.  I couldn’t have been more thankful to ultimately be wrong!

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I held onto a sense of peace but felt anxiety nibbling away at me.  When I looked in the mirror, I saw flat eyes staring back at me.  It felt strange to think this was supposed to be one of the happiest days of our lives, but in order to get there, I had to go through some of the worst pain of my life.  On top of that, this pregnancy had been consistently plagued by anxiety and fears.  I related to what a friend confided in me when she said very poignantly, “I felt a growing fear with each pregnancy.  Why would God allow me to have three healthy babies?”

After acquainting myself with so many friends’ losses this year, it felt unfair that this was my story, not theirs.  I also didn’t precede this pregnancy with a miscarriage.  In my sometimes, “give and take” relationship with God, I felt I hadn’t paid my due yet, therefore not guaranteeing a good end to this story.  I’m all too quick to categorize these things: I have bad morning sickness but an easy breastfeeding relationship; I had a hard labor with MG, but an easy one to follow; I have big babies, but easy newborns. It all boils down to a justice scales view of God I fall back on sometimes and it always comes out at the biggest intersections of my life.

Right at 9am, my doctor entered the room.  I was so relived to see her, knowing she would be the one bringing my baby into the world.  Even though we planned it this way, it was another prayer answered and another box checked.

She checked me at 3cm and was able to stretch that to 4,  But she was discouraged to find I was only 40% effaced and my cervix was still pretty high.  In fact, she said something like, “Well surely you haven’t regressed since your appointment?!  You did go walking this weekend, right?”  There they went again with the walking thing.   I knew it would be a battle to completely efface but I needed the baby to drop down and help me out.  I hoped that when Dr. B broke my water, this would be the encouragement she needed.

Just a few minutes after 9am, my water was manually broken and labor officially began. Thankfully the fluid was nice and clear but they still wanted me to stay about twenty more minutes in the bed to be monitored before I could start moving around. It was just beginning and I was already annoyed with all the questions and their belts around me and their fingers on me.  The nurse again encouraged me by saying, “since you’re handling this so well, I know you will be a good candidate for natural birth.”

I found the frequent monitoring bothersome but comforting.  I didn’t like watching the clock all morning, especially believing it would be a long day, and wondering if the passing hours would leave me with a sense of failure.  But at the same time, it was nice to know my baby was safe and was responding well to the interventions.  I’d spent the last nine months wondering when, how, IF we would make it here and now here we were.  Another (huge) box to check.

As soon as my twenty minutes were up, it was time to get moving.  My doula and I had been in communication for the past 24 hours and she told me to text her as soon as I wanted or needed her there.  Before I summoned her, I decided I wanted things to pick up first. Though it is usually not true, I often imagine others’ impatience with me and knew that if she came too soon, I would be putting too much pressure on myself to meet time limits. So donning my fashionable hospital garments, N and I set out on our final mission to truly walk that baby out.

The maternity ward was shaped like a football and mercifully bigger than the hospital hallways I’d spent doing the same for MG.  Still, I felt annoyed and somewhat conscientious that there were workers on our floor laying carpet (I’m sure the feelings were mutual) and it only took a few laps before the nurses we regularly passed began commentating our progress (another annoyance of mine, but one that, admittedly, cannot be avoided).

In the wee hours of the morning, I had told N he had two jobs for the day: support me and communicate to our families.  He excelled at both.  (not easy to do both during the final hours either).  He kept me distracted and engaged as we walked and looked for any signs of encouragement he could offer such as,  “Your belly is already looking smaller.”

After an hour of walking, we were summoned back to the room to be monitored.  This time I bounced on the medicine ball during my twenty minutes, hoping to keep her on the clock.  The blue belt didn’t pick up any contractions during this time and the nurse asked me if I had felt any.  I admitted that I was feeling a bit crampy, but didn’t have anything definitive I could give her.  She assured me this was okay, for now at least, and once again I was thankful we had chosen this hospital to have our final two births in, as my first experience with this felt entirely different, in a negative way.

It was about this time I sent a text to my doula saying, “we need you now”.  If things didn’t pick up soon, I would need some ideas and if they did, I wanted her to be here.

Up until her arrival, I had been snacking a little and drinking a lot.  Around 10:30, I remember thinking food no longer sounded good and also thinking that was a good sign.  She got there about 11:00 and I told N to go get some lunch from the cafeteria, not knowing when he would have the opportunity to do it again.

When Julie arrived, we chatted for a bit, getting caught up on the details up to that point.  I told her I had just starting bleeding a bit and hoped that was a good sign things were progressing.  I’d also felt two noticeable contractions since eleven and hoped they would pick up speed.  Secretly, N and I had one more box we wanted to check: to be able to eat dinner as a family with (all of) our girls.  I reasoned that if Sibby came by 3pm, this wish could potentially become a reality.

While N disappeared, Julie and I walked some more at a quick clip.  It was only a few football rounds before I admitted I was feeling contractions.  To my surprise, she began timing them and registered them every 3-4 minutes.  I was greatly encouraged.  When she asked me to describe them, I said unfortunately, they are mostly in my back, but remembering how Bea’s contractions started that way but moved to the front before they became painful, I hoped this labor would follow suit.

Somewhere around noon, we all reconvened in the room as I was monitored again.  They were able to catch a few contractions on the blue belt, but not to the intensity I seemed to be feeling them.  The nurse reassured me that this didn’t matter, as she would at least have something to tell the doctor, and progress is progress.

Things began to shift soon after.  I had to breathe through the contractions that were coming and began leaning on N for support.  Noticing things were picking up speed, I asked if they could start getting the tub ready so I could get in when I needed to.  They agreed but asked if they could check me first.  The sweet nurse tried really hard to frame it in a positive, “well you are four to five centimeters, BUT you are about 80% effaced.  When the doctor first checked you this morning she could barely find your cervix but now you are very soft and low.”  N visibly grimaced at this news (discouraged that I had only dilated maybe one more centimeter since 9am) and I let it go in one ear and out the other.  Things were getting serious for me, pain wise, and I was starting to tune everyone out.  My doula added in, “that’s great!  As soon as you are fully effaced, it will go really quickly from there.”

Right before we left the room, N asked our doula, “Do I need to start timing the contractions now?”

“I think we’re beyond that point”, she smiled knowingly.

To be continued…

-smk

{part 3}

 

The Birth of Sibs

Writing the stories of how my babies came to be are among my favorite.  I held on to this one for a while; both due to the craziness of our current circumstances but also because I needed some time to marinate it until it felt just right.  I wrote the bones of it shortly after she was born, but over snippets of stolen nap times, added flesh to it, plumping it up where need be and polishing away the gristle.  Once again, I felt its justice best served by breaking it up into three, sizable parts.  I’ll be sharing them in succession this week until the story is complete.

So without further ado, part one:

—————————————————————————————————————————-

What I knew to be true of giving birth, based upon my two-fold experience: it happens in the middle of the night when the rest of the world is sleeping.  It is going to the hospital under a cover of darkness, waking up family members to keep vigil.  It is pushing out four strong limbs and a set of lungs as you round the darkest corner of the night, witnessing the first bath as the sun begins to rise, trumpeting the birth announcement as the rest of the world is blinking awake.

Not this time, not this baby.

As soon as your belly begins to grow with the promise of life, a lot of people offer sweeping remarks about the third child.  The third child is the hardest, it is the easiest, it is playing zone defense, it is a bit like drowning, it is nothing like having four, it is as easy as having four, it is one too many children, it is not enough children. The one I heard the most often is the third is your wildcard.  There are no guarantees with the third they said, not for a faster or easier birth, nor even a shorter labor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t happen either.

I came into this pregnancy with a few pre-conceived notions: I will be sick the entire first trimester, I will have a girl (because that’s just what I do), she will come a bit early.  Part of this early assumption was based on hope and part of it was based on reason.  I knew the due date the doctor assigned me didn’t match my own calculated date.  In fact, I thought it was almost a week off.  I was sure that even if I went past my own due date, surely I wouldn’t go past the doctor’s.

Well, you win some, you lose some.

Adding to this confusion, on April 1, I started having some pre-term labor symptoms that in the end turned out to be fine, but came back with a vengeance the following week.  Everything I read told me that I would give birth early because of this.  My doctor even seemed confused that I would have these signs without any serious consequences. I also started having Braxton Hicks contractions regularly that month, something I did not experience in my other two pregnancies.

All of this put me on high alert and I watched my body for the slightest sign that I was on the verge of labor.  Adding to this, I chose to keep the same OBGYN as the one I used for Bea’s birth, even though three years prior, we had moved north.  This added an extra element of suspense because I was now an hour away from my hospital.  And it made laboring at home nearly impossible, contingency plans extremely important, and false labor an extra annoying experience.

Needless to say, I packed my bags early just in case and waited, watching diligently.

One of the reasons I had previously chosen my doctor for Bea’s birth was that I had gone overdue with MG.  For her birth, I was somewhat forced into an induction due to my late pregnancy (I was 12 days late with her but they wanted to induce me starting the day I was late. It was a battle to make it to twelve as I didn’t have any medical reason to be induced other than being late).  I also really wanted to go natural for the birth so when I inquired about a more natural induction (breaking my water vs. pitocin), they agreed, but only if I met their benchmarks.  During the entire process I felt scrutinized and under the gun.  So when I became pregnant with Bea, I switched to a new doctor and a new hospital who would let me go up to two weeks late and would be more on board with a natural induction, should the situation call for it.  Thankfully, Bea came on time, on her own, so I didn’t need to utilize those offerings, but little did I know and never did I expect that I would be making these decisions for my third.

As May approached, I breathed a sigh of relief that we had made it safely to full term and I just knew she would come any day.  I started to retain fluid and swell, a lovely symptom I also had not experienced in my other two pregnancies.  The entire last three weeks of pregnancy, the ones where you are supposed to prep everything and nesting energy kicks in, I pretty much did the bare minimum and laid around as much as possible.  I wasn’t first-trimester-miserable, but I was pretty darn miserable.

 

Every morning, I woke up thinking today could be the day!  But then as evening approached, I found myself dreading the idea of labor as I thought about what it entailed and made plans for who I would need to call to care for the girls as each day prescribed a different set of circumstances.  (thank you to the friends both here and near the hospital who enthusiastically offered to help day or night until the grandparents could step in!)

Slowly, my May 18 due date crept up and that brought a new sense of anxiety as May 18 is Bea’s birthday and I desperately didn’t want the girls to share the day.  I was also hopeful that their birthdays would be at least a week apart, but at the same time, when it came down to it, I was just ready to be done, so I felt both tugs at my heart and carried around this tension until the end.

On May 17, I went in to see my doctor for a routine visit (at this point I was in her office once a week).  Since I was two days from being overdue, they scheduled me for a non-stress test and ultrasound to check fluid levels.  (Ironically, I had also gone through the same motions with Bea exactly three years prior and my water broke that very night).  Not only did the fluid levels looks good, they looked too good.  They were on the highest end of average, rather than the normal decreasing as labor approached.  My doctor explained that this extra fluid caused the baby to float around pretty high and not drop down to become engaged.  I was 3cm dilated but barely effaced because she wasn’t putting enough pressure on my cervix to soften it.  Two other discouraging things came out of the ultrasound: she was completely posterior (I delivered MG posterior and the back labor was incredibly painful) and they measured her at 6lbs 13ozs (this made me nervous because my other two girls were at least 2lbs heavier and this baby was already 5 days late, by my watch).

This news sent me reeling emotionally for a few hours.  My mom had been in town already for a few days to help with the girls and was planning to stay the duration of birth and beyond.  This ultrasound wasn’t a magic eight ball for labor but it did concern me that the answers all seemed to point to the negative.

My sweet, very thoughtful doctor, who knew I wanted to go naturally but also knew I had an hour drive to the hospital had offered to induce me starting at 39 weeks to relieve the anxiety of getting to the hospital.  I’d turned her down, truly believing this baby would come on her own, but when she brought it up again at this appointment, I was primed and ready for some intervention.

My hackles instantly went up just talking about an induction, mostly because I was having flashbacks to MG’s birth (laboring all day in the hospital, pushing for three hours, walking away completely exhausted).  But Dr. B said we would only do Pitocin if it were necessary and we could do a low dose at that.  Because I was already three centimeters, I was favorable for the process and wouldn’t need to start with something like Cervadil (last time this required an overnight hospital stay which set me up with very little sleep and I started the day already overtired).

On the other hand, I was already nervous about being overdue (and especially overdue in my book), I didn’t want to keep my mom waiting around forever, I liked the idea of a non-stressful ride to the hospital, the idea of being on the monitors and carefully watched the entire labor, the fact that my doctor would be there and I would almost certainly be guaranteed the use of the tub (something I had wanted to do in the previous two births but had never worked out), and the idea that I would have an end date to focus on rather than continue on in the hopes of going into labor but never really knowing when it would happen.  Plus, I had done this before.  Even though Bea came on her own, her labor started with my water breaking, so this would be my third birth that began in this manner.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I felt like this baby needed the extra help to drop down and become engaged.  And I was more than ready to give it to her.

So Dr. B looked at her calendar while I consulted mine and we chose Monday, May 23, as our day.

In the meantime, I still had very high hopes that this baby would start labor before then.  And I did everything I could to encourage the process.  I walked and walked, did stairs, ate the right foods, saw a chiropractor, went swimming (pridefully painful but was encouraged it would help turn the baby into a more favorable position) and got a pedicure (hopeful that the leg massage would hit the right pressure points).  And still…nothing.  While I was physically large and miserable though, I felt very peaceful about having a set end time and that like it or not, she was coming on Monday.

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I remember one night in particular, my mom had sent N and me out of the house, offering to to put the girls to bed for us.  We set out on a mission to “walk the baby out”.  The one thing that friends and strangers alike had encouraged and seemed to be the most preached piece of advice.

As we walked up and down the stairs all I could think about were my puffy feet and lungs that could never draw a satisfactory pull of oxygen.  It was a rainy, cold May evening and I wore the one fleece I had made work all winter because it was the only coat that still zipped around my belly and also pants that I didn’t have to button.  Walking felt like my penance for still carrying a child beyond when science said it should be allowed.  It was unenjoyable in every way but it was the only way, they said, to get the baby out.  “Have you been walking?” they would ask me sternly.  “Yes” I would answer obediently, though deep down I knew it was doing nothing to move me closer to meeting her.

All the while I felt partially silly that I’d let myself believe she’d come early and partially annoyed because I was overly familiar with the lack of control over anything related to pregnancy.  This is a gift some women are blessed with, but not me.  Not in all 5 pregnancies, not in three births.

Having my mom in town for this last week of pregnancy turned out to be a nice distraction from all the questions that were keeping me up at night.  On our last few nights, she watched the girls while N and I went walking and got to spend a few minutes for just the two of us.  On our last night before induction, having already walked a lot that day, we went to Starbucks and read funny articles aloud on our phones.  It was nice to laugh and it momentarily edged away the anxiety I was feeling over what was to come in the morning.

On our way home from Starbucks, I called the hospital to see if they had enough room for me (it had been a full moon weekend, and I had heard the maternity wings can get crazy around those.  Plus we had to get up at 5:00am to make our 7am induction and I didn’t want to go through the motions only to be sent back home).

I felt an overwhelming sense of relief when they told me not only did they have plenty of room but the specific room I wanted (the ones that would accommodate the tub) were available and I was the only person who had requested the (only) tub.

All along, I had been holding onto a small seed of doubt that this might not happen on Monday, May 23, but this was the last confirmation I needed.  We got home, I repacked my hospital bag, set my alarm, and went to bed, desperately praying for a good night’s sleep.

To be continued…

 

-smk

{part 2}