Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Birth of Lillian Grace


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This, my third pregnancy, was in many ways my easiest yet. Through most of it I craved salads. I exercised, and all in all I felt pretty good (for being pregnant). At 37 weeks exactly I woke up to a significantly lowered belly and had mild contractions all day long. When the contractions kept going for a few days I was convinced that my baby would make an appearance soon. Boy was I wrong! Contractions came on almost every evening. Sometimes they would build in intensity and begin to form a rhythm and pattern. Sometimes they were unpredictable, but always they would stop. I'd wake up the next morning a little disappointed that labor had not begun. At 41 weeks I began to get nervous. A chat with my midwife, Norma, alleviated my fears and helped me to be at ease with my baby coming when she/he was ready. As 42 weeks approached I began waking up most mornings with a very crampy feeling that would last an hour or so and sometimes be accompanied by contractions. At night I would dream that I was in labor. I suspected that these were more than just dreams, but the contractions, dream and real, kept ending. Then at 42 weeks and 3 days the 'dream' contractions seemed even more real than usual. I eventually woke up and was too crampy feeling to go back to sleep. Contractions were coming at evenly spaced intervals and they began to get closer, longer, and stronger. I didn't want to get Stephan's hopes up, so I began timing them on my own. Once everyone was up I told him that I thought today was the day.

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Around 8 am I called my mom to come over, and I gave Norma and my doula, Jenny, a heads up that today really might be it. They both live a good distance from us, so I didn't want to wait too long. I continued to labor for a little over an hour, and contractions started coming closer to 4 minutes apart. I called Norma and Jenny, and they both headed over. By late morning everyone was here. My mom was the first to arrive followed by Norma and Jenny with a few of her kids (she was still nursing her youngest, and her oldest two came to help care for him). The following few hours were pretty uneventful and...dare I say it...fun. We got the kids settled in with movies and toys, and my mom ran out to get lunch for everyone. Of course, I was laboring through it all, but we sat around chatting and laughing in between. I don’t remember being hungry when I labored with Levi or Sophia, but this time I was famished. I ate and ate and ate. In between eating, laboring, and chatting I played some with Sophia. These photos of us laughing together are some of my favorites from the day.

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At some point in the morning Norma asked if I wanted her to check my progress. I don’t get checked at all during my pregnancies, and I’m never certain during labor if I want to know or not. Curiosity got the best of me, though. I let her check, and we were all surprised that I was already 6 cm. Honestly, it just hadn’t seemed painful enough for me to be that far along. Shortly afterward the contractions picked up in intensity, and the birthing pool began to sound wonderful. I asked Stephan to start filling it up, and I impatiently waited and labored until it was finally full enough and warm enough. Aahhh. Instant relief.


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There’s nothing like water to ease labor pains, but this time the water eased it a little too much. My contractions lightened up and nearly came to a halt. Norma suggested a change in position, so I got on my knees and leaned on the edge of the pool. The contractions picked up again. I was still chatting and smiling during the breaks. The afternoon went on, and I accepted that this baby was in no hurry to get here. Close to 4 pm Jenny suggested that I get out of the water to see if gravity and movement might help baby along. Within seconds I was having extremely intense contractions. They started coming back to back. Ten or fifteen minutes later I felt like I needed to get back in the water. The intensity was too much for me to bear while standing and walking around, so I climbed back in. This birth was very different from my previous two.* It wasn't very painful until the end which is a blessing, but at the time I felt thrown off by that. I went into this birth prepared to ease into a birthing groove as contractions got stronger, but the pain was sporadic. I couldn't establish a rhythm which made me uneasy. When the pain did intensify with such suddenness, I felt lost without the rhythm that I thought I would already have.

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The contractions were strong and very close together, but they were, at least, more manageable in the water. After only a short time, I began to feel the urge to push. I was stunned. Transition with my other two had lasted hours not minutes! It didn’t seem possible that I could already be at that point. I looked up at Norma all wide eyed and dumbfounded and said, “I feel like I need to poop!” Glamorous….I know. It is a bit of an awful joke that that is indeed what the need to push sometimes feels like. Norma looked a bit surprised, and said she wanted to check me first. Sure enough the baby’s head was at the perineum and ready to come out. Truth be told, I don't remember when exactly my water broke. It may have been a moment or two before this or maybe it was a moment or two after. Either way, things only sped up from here. Someone put a warm towel around my shoulders, and I am convinced that that towel was crucial to this birth. I held on to it with each contraction and felt like it was the one thing still grounding me to this earth. It’s funny how something so simple can become so important during labor.

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Norma quickly gave a few instructions on how she wanted me to breathe this baby out instead of push. With each contraction I grabbed the towel, locked eyes with Jenny, and desperately tried to follow her breathing with my own. Actually, I guess I'd really have to put Jenny above the towel on a critical to this birth scale. She brings a sense of calm and a confidence that I have come to rely on. She has been a godsend in each of my homebirths. At a moment when I felt a bit panicky and began to pray for God to please be with me, she looked at me and said with calm conviction, "He's already here." And, He was...guiding all of it perfectly.

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After a couple of contractions, the baby crowned but then slipped back into the birth canal. At that point Norma suggested that I push just until I felt a burning sensation and then stop. I must admit that that burning sensation, also known as the ring of fire, caught me totally off guard. With Sophia, pushing just felt like intense relief. That was not the case this time. I felt the ring of fire, and I wanted to run away! Instead, I pushed gently two or three times and then reached down to feel my baby’s head. There is nothing to compare to that first touch. It reminds me of what joy is waiting at the finish line and gives me the strength to keep going. This time I looked up at Norma and excitedly said, “Is that hair?!!!” Sophia had been practically bald, so it was such a different experience to feel a head full of hair. I was thrilled and so excited to meet my new baby. One more contraction and baby was out...4:35 p.m.. Stephan said she looked like a dolphin shooting into the water. It was surreal to watch my sweet baby lock eyes with me right as she came into the world. The memory of that gaze is forever tucked away in my heart now....to be pulled out at moments of stress in, oh, about 15 years. (Here’s the part where things got a bit hairy. It all ends well, though.) That wonderful gaze continued as Norma was lifting baby out of the water, but just as she came to the surface her cord snapped. The blood looked like a firecracker setting off in the water. Norma has fast and steady hands, though. The second the cord broke, she grabbed the baby’s end of it. Then she handed the baby to me, and I continued to pinch the cord shut while Norma found the other end and pinched it. She called for clamps and helped me out of the water where she could more easily and safely clamp both ends of the cord. The whole while my sweet baby calmly stared into my eyes. Everything was settled in just a matter of seconds, and baby and I were checked over and wrapped up in warm blankets. Norma was checking the baby at the end of the bed when I realized that I hadn't even looked to see if we had a boy or a girl. I asked, and when I heard the words “It’s a girl” I squealed and giggled. So much joy!

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Because of the cord breaking, it was imperative that the placenta come out quickly. After my last birth the placenta took a long time to come out, so Norma began preparing herbs to help it along this time. I wanted to give nursing a chance to kick start some contractions, but my beautiful baby wanted nothing to do with it. She was content just to stare into my eyes, so we called Sophia in to help. I love to hear Stephan tell this part of the story. Neither one of us will ever forget Sophia’s excitement over the prospect of helping mommy. Of course, some of that excitement might have been due to the fact that she hadn’t nursed since that morning. She came running in on her short little legs, bounded up on the bed, and latched on. The placenta was delivered shortly after that and no herbs were needed which was quite the relief for me. I was a little nervous about taking herbs that were strong enough to detach a placenta! All was well. The placenta was whole and there was no sign of hemorrhaging on my part. Lillian never knew anything had happened. She was perfectly pink, healthy, happy, and alert. She and I snuggled into bed as everyone filed in to meet and greet. And, once Lillian figured out that she could nurse and still look at me she was happy to do so….for the next 24 hours. Seriously, she didn’t sleep that whole first night. She just nursed and looked at me all through the night and most of the next day. I didn’t mind, though. She was a beautiful sight to behold.

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We called her 'Baby' for a couple of days before deciding on Lillian Grace. Truth be told we were convinced that she was a boy, and the only name we had picked out was a boy name. Throughout the pregnancy we both felt like I was carrying a boy. Everyone, strangers included, guessed it was a boy, and to top it off her heart rate fell into the boy range at all but one of her last check ups. Boy, were we wrong! I'll never forget the feeling of giddiness that came over me when I found out she was a she. After 9 months of wondering and anticipating it is so much fun to be surprised in the end.

Welcome to the world, little Lillian! We're thrilled that you're here!

*You can read Levi's emergency c-section birth story here and Sophia's homebirth here.

6 comments:

  1. Proud of you! You're amazing!!

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  2. Oh ... this made me tear up. So beautiful. I'm so happy for you and all your family.

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  3. Thank you for sharing. SO beautiful! You are amazing!

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  4. Congrats! What a lovely story!

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  5. Beautiful Beautiful story! Thank you for sharing!!
    All three are just perfect little ones ;)

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I'm so glad you're here!