It's that wonderful time of year - birth story time! Thanks for joining us as we celebrate the arrival of our fifth little one!
This has been an amazing pregnancy - beyond anything that I could have ever imagined. By the grace of God, I have been drug-free and non-hyperemetic, which is more than I ever dreamed was possible. It's been challenging with constant nausea, but staying out of hyperemesis has been an answer to prayer. (I'll be posting the big summary post about that very soon - look for it!)
And now for our birth story!
You'd think that by now I would be over it, but I'm afraid not.
As the end of each pregnancy draws near, I am inevitably haunted by the same thing - an intense fear of childbirth. Most women seem to be able to work through this fear so that they're able to get into the mindset of, "I can't wait to go into labor so that I can meet my baby!" I, on the other hand, inevitably stall before that point - "Hmm. I'd like to meet this baby, but that would mean... childbirth. So, um, thanks, but I think I'll just stay pregnant forever."
Thankfully biology doesn't wait for me to be ready, or else we'd still be awaiting the birth of our second child. But it is an emotional challenge each time.
Several months ago, I was drawn to II Corinthians 4:17-18, and that has been my memory verse ever since. Here it is in a newer translation:
"For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."Though the original context is talking about the Christian life as a whole, it is very applicable to childbirth - the attempt to keep one's mind fixed on the end goal (a precious baby whose soul will live forever) rather than present troubles (childbirth!).
I can't say that I ever moved into the realm of, "Yay, childbirth!" - but I did gain some measure of peace as our due date approached.
|Leading a field trip about three days before D-Day.|
The Birth Story:
A week or two ago, I got it into my head that baby's birth-date would be Wednesday, November 19th. While I knew that it was silly to count on something like that, I did have it as mental background noise.
Thus, when I woke up on the morning of Tuesday, November 11th with classic pre-labor symptoms - blood-tinged cervical fluid and an upset stomach - I was a bit shocked. More than a week earlier than I had expected! I had to make some fast mental adjustments - today was going to be the day.
We did school lessons as usual, and continued with our normal schedule. At 2:00 p.m. I tried to take a nap, but as soon as I laid down, contractions became painful enough to keep me from sleeping. Eventually I gave up and got up.
In the late afternoon, things were a bit crazy. Contractions were getting more painful, but we had a ton left to do for the day, so we did our best to crank through our to-do list in a hurry. DH ran errands (library, shops, etc.) and I made an early dinner (pancakes!), and then we rushed the children into the bath to get things settled for the night as quickly as we could.
This was the first time I'd ever had to deal with ordinary life (children, schedules, meals, etc.) while in labor. Previously, my labors had all (except the first, when I had no other children to care for) been in the middle of the night, so I'd always had the freedom to labor without dealing with piles of "to-do" items. This was quite a switch!
Our midwife had a postpartum visit to make in our area, so she asked it she could stop by to set up her kit and check on me. We were very glad to see her - but as soon as she arrived (at about 7:30 p.m.), my contractions nearly stopped. (Embarrassing.) She's used to "performance anxiety," though, so she opted to stick around and wait to see how things would go. Eventually, we made the decision to let everyone try to go to sleep (our midwife camped out on the couch) and see how things would go from there.
It was a difficult night for everyone. The five-year-old (our baby with special needs) decided to get up in the wee hours and throw a two-hour party in his crib. The two-year-old was upset at being out of his normal crib (he's still in our room) and woke several times crying. It wasn't a particularly restful night for anyone.
I, of course, didn't go to sleep at all! I stayed in the bedroom, just laboring in the dark. In some ways, it was rather nice. I like laboring alone.
But in other ways, I was starting to get seriously confused.
In the past, my labors have always been strictly linear. That is, whether they were slow or fast, they always moved in the predictable labor curve of contractions that get more intense and closer together until the baby is born.
This labor was not behaving in that way at all. Some of the contractions were nasty, but some were not. And the timing was all over the place - anywhere from five to 20 minutes apart. Sometimes they would get me up out of bed, where I would try to labor on the toilet or in a semi-kneeling position for a while - and then I'd get tired, go back to bed, and the contractions would space out while I drowsed for a bit. Then I'd get up and do it all over again.
As time went on, contractions got more intense, sometimes requiring vocalization, but the puzzling non-linear pattern continued.
Additionally, I was really, really tired. I hadn't slept since the night before, and my main desire was not to have a baby but to go to sleep.
Every few hours, our midwife would pop in to check on me and ask if I needed her. Each time, my answer was a confused, "Um... I don't know." It just wasn't clear either way.
Around 5:30 a.m., contractions were intense enough that I thought I'd better have our midwife call out the rest of the birth team so that they wouldn't miss the birth. And then...
I fell asleep.
Completely and entirely. Labor stopped, and I was out cold until sometime shortly after 7:00 a.m., when I awoke to found the world in sunlight again.
I immediately felt more cheerful. And also slightly silly.
Here I had made our sweet midwife spend the entire night at our home waiting for a baby who was obviously not coming any time soon. And considering that there were no forthcoming contractions, I felt even sillier.
Shortly thereafter, our midwife came in to see us and chat about what was going on. She also offered to do a cervical check to see where we were at the moment. While both of us are against routine cervical checks, I immediately saw the sense in this and said, "Yes! Let's do it!" As she said, cervical checks can't tell you where you're going, but they can tell you where you've been.
A quick check revealed the fact that after something like 17 hours of labor, we were at a whopping...
Seventeen hours of labor in a multip should not produce a measly two centimeters. (Especially since I had previously checked my dilation and knew that we'd been at a minimum two centimeters for several weeks. In other words, we'd gone nowhere. Slowly.)
Additionally, our midwife said that baby's head was so high in the pelvis as to be non-palpable. Also not good.
My immediate question was "Are we looking at a malpresentation?" - having baby in a non-optimal position can cause wonky labor patterns, and that would also account for lack of descent.
Her immediate reply was "Yup." Based on heart tones and the lack of descent, her guess was that baby had slipped from LOA (left occiput anterior) back to LOP (left occiput posterior), where he had been a few weeks ago. Babies in the OP position have a nasty habit of not wanting to come out, and my weird labor was almost certainly a result of that.
Next, we talked about a game plan. Our midwife said, "You think you're okay, because you've had an hour or so of sleep. But you're not okay. You're sleep-deprived. And if you're going to face doing labor all over again from the beginning, then you need some sleep."
We made a quick plan, and I followed it. Our midwife left to give us some time, and I immediately followed her suggestions - a snack (cottage cheese and a banana), a bath, taking a Unisom, and crashing on the bed to get some sleep. (Still no contractions.)
I was also careful to lay on my left side (stretching over as far onto my stomach as I could) in order to facilitate baby swinging back from LOP into LOA. (The fact that I had been lying on my right side the entire night had most likely confirmed baby in his unfavorable LOP position.)
I immediately fell asleep and slept for something like 60-90 minutes. It was lovely.
I would have slept (much!) longer, but at that point, I was awakened by a contraction. A sudden contraction, and a mean one. I immediately knew by the feeling (even half-asleep) that baby had swung out of LOP into LOA, and that we were now where we needed to be.
However, I was still tired, so I tried to keep sleeping. Nope. These contractions meant business. Even that first contraction had required vocalization.
But I was still so tired, so I tried to ignore them. "La, la, la, I can't heeaaar you." etc.
During the third contraction, my water broke.
It was just a small gush, maybe two to four ounces of fluid - not a huge amount. Thus, I wasn't really sure if my water had indeed broken. However, I immediately swung out of bed and headed for the bathroom to avoid getting the bed soaked - just in case.
I immediately sat down and tried to figure out if my water had broken or if I was just imagining things. Immediately, another contraction started.
And that's when things got crazy.
The contraction began, and I knew instantly that I was in trouble.
Oh, no! I'm feeling pushy! I need to call my midwife RIGHT NOW!
But my body made it immediately clear that I was not going to be calling anyone, because within five seconds I had shot to my feet and was screaming my head off at the wall in front of me. (My normal reaction to the pushing feeling.) This wasn't just "feeling pushy" - this was PUSHING TIME RIGHT NOW, and this baby was coming.
Within a second or two, I knew that my midwife wasn't going to make it.
Oh, no! Joe's going to have to catch the baby!
Small problem. I was in the back bathroom, and my husband was nowhere around (thinking that I was sleeping). Despite the fact that I was screaming like a mad woman, our house is a good sound-deadener. I was on my own.
Thus, those thirty seconds went something like this:
Need the midwife! (Nope.) Need my husband! (Nope.) Oh shoot, I need a towel - I'm going to have to do this on my own!
But even the towel rack, two feet away, was completely beyond my capacity to reach.
Thankfully, my husband did actually end up hearing me, and he burst into the bathroom just as baby was born.
"Is the baby coming? Oh, there's the head!"
He leaped for me as I hit the ground in some sort of half-kneeling position, and he caught baby and handed her to me - after taking the time to notice that baby was, indeed, our first girl!
So there we were - sitting happily shell-shocked on the bathroom floor, surrounded by a pool of every birthing fluid known to man.
What better way to spend a Wednesday morning?
Within a minute or two, Joe was on the phone with our midwife. "Guess what? Diana's sitting here holding our brand new baby girl!"
The really funny thing was that Joe had told our midwife a few hours earlier that he had planned to call her with those very words - as a joke! Thus, when he called her, her first response was something along the lines of, "Are you kidding me?"
Our midwife immediately shot out onto the freeway to get to us, all the while making sure that we were okay and didn't need to call emergency. (We were completely fine - no hemorrhage, and baby was born already snuffling and fussing about for food. No issues there!)
A few minutes after the birth, the placenta followed - completely effortlessly and painlessly.
Our doula made it to our house first, followed shortly by our midwife. They immediately checked us out and began helping us get cleaned up and settled in bed.
We have absolutely no labor or birth pictures (or video), but here are some postpartum pictures!
Our 8yo got to cut the cord for the first time:
Newborn exam! Baby was 8 lbs. 8 oz. (fitting in nicely with our last baby, who was 9 lbs. 9 oz.):
Pictures with the birth team!
Placenta exam picture!
And a proud papa with his first solo catch (he's caught all of our babies, but never by himself!):
Some postpartum pictures:
|Waiting for baby's birthday cake! (Mint chip!)|
|Love that newborn stare!|
There is part of me that would have loved to see what would have happened if this had truly been a solo birth - not for the experience itself, but simply for the incredible comedic potential of the moment. To have my husband walk into the bathroom and find me calmly nursing an infant - ah! That would have been truly a great moment. All it would have needed was a great one-liner to go with it, and we would have had a moment to remember.
However, DH was great as a baby-catcher, and it will remain one of our best family memories forever.
I've always wondered what it would be like to have an unassisted birth. Now I know, and I hope it doesn't happen too often! But to all you dedicated unassisted birthers out there - I take my hat off to you. You are an amazingly strong group of women!
An interesting question that I have posed to myself is - how would this birth have gone in the hospital? It's an interesting thought, because it could have gone several different ways. We could have had an unassisted hospital birth... or a cesarean... or a car baby... or an unassisted at-home birth. It could have gone in many different directions.
But, as C.S. Lewis says, no one is ever told the story of "what might have been."
|Finally old enough to hold a sibling on his own!|
|Holding baby sister with mama about 0.5 inches away!|
This pregnancy has been an incredible growing experience. It's been difficult, but it's also been wonderful. The Lord is growing our family at the same time that He is growing us - and it's wonderful both to watch and to experience.
This pregnancy has been a pregnancy of firsts.
This was our first non-hyperemetic pregnancy.
This was our first pregnancy welcoming a GIRL into our brood.
This was our first intentionally unplanned pregnancy.
This was our first 100% on-land labor and birth.
This was our first (accidentally) unassisted birth.
We can't wait to see what God is going to do with our family from here!
Welcoming baby Margaret (Greta) Fern
Born November 12, 2014
Eight pounds, eight ounces
We are blessed.