Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Birth of Lucia Grace

I want to start off by saying that my husband is the most amazing man in the world. When I labor with him and bring a baby into the world with him I realize all over again why I love this man. He was my rock and strength during the fast 6 hours of labor of this baby and I am in total awe of him.

Labor began at 5:30 Thursday morning. I had been having some strong contractions in the middle of the night when I would get up to go to the bathroom. I didn't really think anything of them, just though maybe I ate something that wasn't agreeing with me. Then, at 5:30 I could not fall back asleep. I decided to go downstairs because I felt that I needed to pace with the contractions. I was trying to time them in my head and thought they were only lasting 30 seconds, but later realized that they were about 1 minute in length and about 3-5 minutes apart. My husband came down at 6 am and knew that labor had begun, but I was still in denial. He kept asking if we should call the midwife, but I wanted to wait, thinking that once I went to the bathroom I would be fine. I did go to the bathroom and the contractions only increased in strength. I was still able to walk during them, but they were so intense that I had to stop talking during one. So at 6:30 we decided to call the midwife, who had quite a drive ahead of her. After we called the midwife we called our doula, the amazing Stephanie Dank, and my mother.

Our daughter slept in and my husband actually ended up waking her around 8 am. By that point the contractions were very intense. I decided to start singing a tune each time I got a contraction. I'm not sure why, but it really helped to start off high, then get lower as the contraction ended. Z really liked that I was "singing to baby turtle" and wanted to help sing too. Our doula came around 9. Shortly before she arrived I decided I needed to be in our bedroom. I was grateful that it was cloudy and overcast outside, I really need dark when I labor. Z unplugged the clock in our room and Joe was about to plug it back in but I told him to leave it unplugged. So after Steph arrived I was not aware of time passing, just the intensity of labor.

Our priest came in and prayed for us and blessed me with the most heavenly smelling oil. It was wonderful to catch whiffs of it as I worked through the contractions. I ended up needing a lot of back pressure, so Joe and Steph took turns applying pressure during my contractions. I know that they were pushing as hard as the could, and I would always tell them it wasn't hard enough. My poor husband's arms were incredibly sore the next day...and he is in shape, so that tells you how hard I needed pressure!

I had some incredible moments of rest in between the contractions. Some moments I felt I was actually able to feel a contraction come on and tell my body, "Please, just wait a little bit...I just need to lay here for a time" and the contraction would subside. That rest was the sweetest rest I had gotten in months.

I got up to use the restroom a couple of times and my doula noticed that I seemed to handle the contractions a little better sitting on the toliet. We decided to move into the bathroom and I went through transition on the toliet. I remember feeling pressure and knowing it wasn't the baby but being very confused about what was happening. I yelled "Somethings coming out of me!" and then I felt my water break. That's when things got very real and it was evident this baby was going to come soon.

I soon felt the urge to push, but remember telling myself that it was way to early to do so, considering the midwife wasn't there yet. As I was sitting on the toliet I began to feel my body bearing down, even though I wasn't consciously pushing. Then I had a couple of contractions where I felt like I couldn't handle what was happening. I remember violently shaking my hands out in front of me. My doula could tell I was struggling and suggested that if I was fighting the urge to push that I should pretend to blow out a candle. That calmed me down a bit, but I still felt the need to push. The midwife's apprentice suggested that it was time to move back into the bedroom unless I wanted to have the baby on the toliet.

As we walked to the bedroom I heard someone say, "They are here now....your midwife is here". I didn't even wait for her to come up. I just got on my hands and knees on the bed and started pushing. At some point someone suggested that we put the birthing ball on the bed so that I could lay on it for support. So I kneeled on the birth ball and in between pushes I was able to lay on it and rest. Our doula asked my mom to come up with my daughter. Joe and I had decided we wanted her to be present for the birth, so she could see her sister or brother come into this world. She seemed to be doing well, though my mom told me later at one point she looked like she was really scared. But then later I heard her ask if she could go to her room. She sounded bored :)

As I pushed I could feel my baby getting closer and closer. It was incredible. Our midwife suggested I reach down and feel the head. That was very motivating to me, because I could feel how close she really was. And I felt her hair! I remember saying out loud how happy I was she had so much hair, that all the heartburn was worth it. Then I remember feeling really happy in between pushes. I said, "Oh Baby Turtle, I can't wait to meet you!". This was something that our daughter said to my belly almost everyday. It just kept repeating in my head, over and over. After a half-hour of pushing, Baby Turtle was born at 11:33 a.m, September 23rd, 2010. Since I was on my hands and knees I couldn't see her right away. I heard a little cry, but she was mostly quiet. And no one had said whether she was a boy or a girl yet! Joe caught her and held her briefly, then passed her up to me. Then I asked, "Did anyone look to see if Turtle is a boy or a girl?" as I opened up the towel. I remember thinking, "Where's the penis?" as I looked at her then said, "A girl!" We were shocked. We all thought Turtle was a boy, except for Azalia. The whole pregnancy she called Turtle a girl. She was right!

Joe was able to cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. The scissors were a little dull, so our midwife actually got sprayed with blood as he cut it! Then we nursed for a long time while I had some contractions. About a half-hour after Lucia was born I pushed out the placenta. Then the midwife helped us into our herbal bath. It was heavenly! Lucia really enjoyed it too. She was so alert and calm the whole time. As I soaked in the bath they weighed and measured her and checked her heart rate. All of this took place right beside the tub so that Lucia was never out of my presence. That was so comforting. After our bath Joe, Lucia and I were tucked into bed. My mom had already taken Z out of the house for a day of fun. Our doula had made us the most amazing zucchini fritters. I didn't eat a whole lot during the labor, so I was starving, and this was just what I needed. After everyone left, we took the most glorious nap together, then woke up and decided to go to the emergency room. I had a 2nd degree tear that needed to be sutured. Our midwife said it needed to be done, but not right away, so we napped first.

The emergency room was an interesting experience. We were treated very nicely by all the nurses, but the doctor was a total jerk and tried to intimidate me. He wanted me to give him our midwife's name, but I refused. He got a phone call and left the room. I turned to my husband and said, "If he comes back in here I'm asking for a different doctor. There is no way I'm letting this man touch me". When he did return he came back with our chosen back up doctor, who did an amazing job stitching me up! I was so grateful.

We came home to a house full of family and food. Z gave me the biggest hug when we walked in. There were cinnamon rolls baking in the oven, baked lovingly by my sister. Z's birthday was the following day and we had promised her cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Our families didn't stay for very long so that we could rest. Joe put Z to bed, then our friend and doula, Steph, returned with a celebration drink for us, wheat beer, to help my milk come in. We reflected on the birth together and Steph shared some things that really stuck out to her. It was cool to get her perspective on it all. After she left, Joe, Lucia and I all snuggled into bed together. As I lay there trying to fall asleep I remember thinking how crazy it was that we had a baby!

The home birth experience was incredible. I can't even begin to describe how wonderful it was to labor in my own home. Z's birth was natural, but in a hospital and there were many things that happened that I did not have any control over. This birth was different. Joe and I were able to be together and move about the house as we desired. I did what my body told me to do, without being questioned by nursing staff or doctors. And besides the emergency room and the pediatrician, I did not leave the house until yesterday. I know that home birth is not for everyone, but I wish that every mother could experience an empowering birth, a birth that makes them feel like their bodies were made for just this purpose, to bring a life into the world.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Braxton Hicks and Feeling Like a Whale

We are officially 37 weeks pregnant. This baby could come literally anytime now. That exhilarates, yet terrifies me. We are "prepared". We have clothes, we have our bed, my breasts are ready to start producing milk (TMI?). Diapers are washed and folded, waiting for a tiny little person to fill them. The house is a mess, but I'm getting little nesting urges that will take care of that. I had the most unnatural desire to dust all the walls in my house today. I have yet to do it, but I want it done. Pregnancy is funny.

It's hard to believe how quickly this pregnancy has gone. It's also hard to believe that it has been a year since we became pregnant with Seraphim and just as quickly lost him. The loss of that little one has been heavy on my heart these past few days. Just one year after we lost him we are preparing to welcome another little one into the world. It's beautiful and heartbreaking.

Z is growing excited for Turtle's arrival. With her excitement, however, comes defiance and independence. She knows that life is going to change. She can sense it in the air, see it in the house, in our faces. As excited as she is, she's fighting this change with all the strength her 3 year old body can muster. To say it's been trying is an understatement. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us! All of us need patience.

And so, we wait. As I grow larger and larger by the second, we wait. With each "practice" contraction my body is slowly preparing itself for labor and the birth of our sweet Baby Turtle. Come soon! But not too soon.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Coming Soon

It's been a while since I've taken the time to reflect and write something for our blog. We had initially set out to blog once a week for better or worse, for richer for poorer. Eh, forget it. We had the best intentions, though.

I wanted to write to spill my guts a little. I'm afraid. I think I've had two pretty severe panic attacks this year and even when they're not severe, they hit me like an almost paralysis.

Almost every time I go to confession, our priest encourages me with the phrase "don't worry about nothin'." How simple it is. "Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest". If I'm a Christian why do I feel so damned worried all the time? Who's watching me (besides Christ), what's after me, that could destroy my life?

I'm pinned down like a butterfly on display by these fears. They make me anxious, they make me tired and confused. They keep me from saying what I need to say to family, neighbors and friends. I'm isolated by fear. I'm owned by it.

Our priest did a healing service for me a couple weeks ago and it brought me to tears. There's something about having oil smeared all over you, right after ancient songs and prayers and the laying on of hands. I haven't had even a minor attack since then, and it's my belief that I am healed, maybe not completely, but healed nonetheless by Christ through His servant.

I'm still weary, though, and the frustrating anxieties and fears keep coming back. Maybe the question I should ask isn't "why is this happening" but rather "what to do in the face of it". The fears will come, the doubts, the struggles, the what ifs, the panicky, heart racing, oh-my-God-I-thought-I-was-going-to-die scenarios. We all struggle, but there is help, there is healing.

On another note, we will be having a baby in about three weeks. Lord knows when this will actually happen. It's come to my attention that in the midst of all the health problems and preparing for the baby and chasing our daughter around and trying to find some peace and quiet that I've failed to prepare myself spiritually and emotionally for this child. The other day I swore I heard an almost audible voice saying "make room in your heart and your life for baby Turtle (our nickname for the little one)". We've made room in our home. We've made room in our budget, our schedules, our. . .blog, but have we made room in our hearts, in our lives for this new life? How do you prepare for something like this? What did I do last time? Maybe the answer is that this baby will get what he or she gets. Maybe the answer is to let my ugliness hang out, to stop being pretentious and fake. We pray every Sunday after Holy Communion for "love unfeigned". I really mean it now. God, give me extra love in my heart for everyone.

We also pray every day for those we love: our family, friends, acquaintances, even enemies. We pray for those who have departed this life. I can't help but reflect again on the life and death of our last baby, Seraphim, as I prepare myself for our newest addition. Maybe there's a part of my heart that has still not let go of the miscarriage, has still not healed enough to love fully. Maybe it's this feeling of death creeping around every corner that contributes to my fear and uptightness. Whatever it is, help me, Lord, to come to terms with it, to confront it and see it for what it is.

So, here we stand on the cusp of more change than we ever bargained for, wearied and dazed. And ready to take life by the horns and make it run like a faithful steed (or at least not to knock us off every time it bucks). By the grace of God, to that end we go.