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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Emmeline Laura, a birth story

This post is one that I have anticipated writing for many, many months...years. Putting into words the details of my first birth was part of healing from an extremely traumatic and trying experience, and although it's been nearly 5 years since then, I have awaited writing out another birth story with such apprehension, for fear that I would be writing out another similar story.  This birth could not have been more different. While I know that just like each child, each birth is entirely unique, I almost didn't want to believe anyone when they said this one could be, would probably be, completely different. That I could have the healing birth story I so desired.

Before I begin with the day of her arrival, I feel that I also need to write for a moment about where we were in our lives that brought us to the point of having our rainbow baby. As many of you know, I had a miscarriage on 1/3/14. It took me by surprise, but it's also one of the things that happens in life and you move forward, carrying it with you as you go. There's no other way. But, a year passed, and we were not pregnant again, not sure we were ready. Life tossed some punches at us during that year as well, and it seemed best to just wait it out a little longer. In April 2015, I found out quite by surprise that we were going to be parents again. It was the start of a tumultuous but very rewarding pregnancy, because in the end, we have you, our sweet Rainbow Baby. After every storm, there is a rainbow of hope, and here you are.

Emmeline Laura, here is your birth story.

Your estimated due date was 1.1.16. New Year's Day. A fitting day for a birthday; a day of "rebirth" every year, when everyone chooses to start anew and try to reshape themselves into better versions of who they were the year before. We prepared for a holiday arrival, spending much of December anticipating that you might come early, and we wanted to be ready. We wanted everything set for Norah as well, so that the impact it might have on her at the holidays would be as smooth as possible. However, week after week went by, and I found myself still pregnant on your due date. I went to see the midwife each week, and each week she was encouraged and reminded me that I would in fact, not be pregnant forever.

Taken around noon on your birthday, 1/8/16

I went in for a non-stress test on what turned out to be your birthday, 1.8.16, to monitor your movements and to see if there was any reason you were in distress. For half an hour, the monitor picked up every slight movement of yours, tracked your heart rate, and checked for any contractions. I wasn't having any, and you were moving and bouncing around wonderfully. The ultrasound tech pretty much assured me that we would not be meeting you that day, and sent us home to keep waiting. I was really pretty disappointed, but your Daddy and I went out to breakfast and then came home to spend more time with your sister while we waited.

I sewed up a few things for you, and made a pillow that afternoon to pass the time. Around dinner time, I needed to clean up the table so we could eat, and we decided to order pizza. I stood up from the table about 7:15 PM, and felt a weird flip-flop sensation, and I thought it was possible that was my water breaking, but I wasn't sure. I went to the bathroom and nothing seemed to be up, so I grabbed the vacuum and got to work cleaning up the fuzz from the pillow making along with all the dog hair! It was as I vacuumed that I realized it was probably my water that had broken after all, and went to check it out; it was! I nervously told your dad he should order that pizza if he wanted, because we were going to have to get moving pretty soon as it seemed you wanted to be born that day after all! After saying it out loud, I realized my heart was pounding with anxious anticipation...I knew I was ready to meet you, but wasn't sure I was ready to go through birth. 

Tiny headbands I made for you on your birthday 

He left to get pizza about 7:35, and my contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart at first. I called triage to let them know, and started to time things to see how it was progressing. By the time Daddy got home about 25 minutes later, labor was definitely in full swing. I was contracting every 2-3 minutes for about a minute long each time. Triage finally called me back about 8:30 PM and I decided we should head in. I had been on my hands and knees alone in the bathroom for about 10 minutes, and definitely needed all my focus to get through each one.  Looking back now, I think I was starting to hit transition before we left the house. I was getting hot and irritated by having any clothes on, and I definitely didn't want to wear a coat or shoes, even though it was a January night outside. We had the car packed up already from earlier in the day, so we grabbed the last essentials and headed out the door. I had a moment of almost feeling tearful when we told Norah we were finally leaving to go to the hospital to meet you; her sweet face lit up and she was so very excited!

In the car, things got serious pretty quickly. We put on some music from the playlist I had made, and we listened to
Jack Johnson for most of the drive. I remember thinking at several points that I couldn't understand why the contractions seemed to peak at the beginning, rather than start gradually and build up, but they were starting out strong and sharp, and then dulled down.  In hindsight, I think this was definitely transition. I was hanging on the handle above my seat, and I kept saying "I can't believe how much these HURT!". Daddy said lightheartedly "maybe try swearing, sometimes that helps!", so I did, but it sure didn't take away the painful sensations! Your dad was trying to be helpful and calming, and tried reaching for my hand, but I shook him off and said "I don't want anything touching me!". I also unbuckled my seat belt and told him not to get in an accident.  At this point, he said "should I start speeding now?"...I think even he could tell things were going more quickly than either of us expected. 

By the time we arrived at the hospital about 9:30, I was contracting nearly every minute, and HARD. As it was late evening on a Friday, the valet service was accessible only after going inside first, which took a few minutes to figure out. I stood outside leaning over a wheelchair for a few contractions, then inside the double doors. It took us several minutes to get through the lobby, and I think I freaked out a few people, but we made it up to triage.  We had to wait for a few contractions before they got a room for us, so I stood leaning forward against the wall.  As soon as I walked in the first room, the clerk heard me and watched me and said "Oh, those were awfully close together. Let's actually go back into this other room" and walked us back to the first room in the hall. I realized as we walked in this was the room babies are born in; the baby warming table was set up, and I thought "there is no way they think this is happening that fast...I'm not having a baby in triage!".  They told me to get a gown on, and I wanted none of it. I tossed my clothes off (they must have been strewn about the room, I did not care!) and they had to basically put a gown on me, which I ended up ripping off again. They monitored the heartbeat for a little bit, but before I knew it my body was starting to get "pushy" at the peak of contractions. One nurse asked if I was pushing, and I said "I think so, I'm not trying to!" and one nurse asked if my plan was to go without medications; I said "that's the plan".  It is a good thing, because there would not have been time for an epidural anyway!  The triage midwife arrived and said she'd check me; I was 8.5 CM already, about 2 hours after my water broke! She said she would catch my baby if needed right there in triage, but they were trying to get a room set for me first. At one point Matt noticed some blood on the floor, and the tension in his voice was palpable as he called a nurse over to see. She said it was totally normal, but I can only imagine from his experience that the fear of witnessing me lose so much blood again was very real. After that point, he seemed to be somewhere behind me for the rest of the birth...I only recall seeing his face a few times, but I knew he was there.  I think he was truly afraid of watching another horrible thing happen, and just stayed where he could let the midwives be in charge and tell both of us what was happening. 

The midwife on call, Anne Rosa, arrived shortly, and said they were ready to get me down to a delivery room. I tried to just bust out of triage, but they reminded me I needed to be in a gown. I literally rolled my eyes, and said "Fine, but make it quick!" while they tossed a gown on me. They asked if I wanted to walk or take a wheelchair. I couldn't imagine sitting, but they said it was a long walk, so we went for the wheelchair. They moved us very quickly down the hall, and Anne asked if I was still wanting to be in the tub, as she saw that in my chart. I said I did and they planned to run it when we got to the room, because I had no idea how much longer I would be in labor, and I knew from Norah's birth that I would never have gotten through without being in the tub. However, as soon as we got to our room, 9E-16, I pulled off my gown again and tossed it across the room (found it behind the couch the next day!) and hopped onto the bed. I was pushing on my own with every contraction at this point, and I heard one nurse say "don't push" and I panicked! But Anne checked me again and said there was the tiniest lip of cervix and she held it out of the way.  Then, there were nurses trying to draw blood and start an IV in each arm at the same time.  It was a little crazy for a few minutes, but soon everyone had done what they needed, and I told Matt I needed a pony tail because I could not stand my hair on my neck anymore. He got a hair tie and did it for me, and he apologize so sweetly because he said he gave me the "worst ponytail ever". Like I cared!  Needless to say, there was no time for the tub. 

Just a few minutes old, bright eyed, calm and alert in Daddy's arms

I was facing the back of the bed, on my knees, and pushing that way for a few minutes, but Anne said she thought we should try side lying. As I turned around, for some reason I realized I didn't remember the midwife or RN's names, so I asked them and kept saying "sorry I didn't ask before!". They all laughed, given that I had been pretty busy from the moment we checked in.

We did side lying for a few minutes, but I just didn't feel like I had any leverage, and my leg with the sciatic pain was not comfortable that way at all.  Then, on the monitor, you started to have dips in your heart rate. They put oxygen on me, and said you were doing ok, but they wanted to get you out quickly. I got scared for a moment, worried I wouldn't be able to get you out fast enough and I would end up in the OR again. The midwife said she thought you had a cord around your neck but you were doing OK between contractions, and she felt you were very close to being born. She had me flip into a reclined sit position, as this would be the fastest way to get you out. (Totally against what the physical therapist recommended for my sciatic pain, but at that moment we had to do it).

As much as you think you remember what birth feels like, I was still somewhat surprised at just how incredibly intense and painful moments of it can be! I didn't remember actually being aware of the feeling of Norah's head moving down through my pelvis, but I could distinctly tell where the edges of your head were as you moved down. I kept saying "I can't do this! I don't want to do this!".  Anne helped calmly guide me in what to do, and even though it goes against what the mind tells you, pushing through the pain is the only thing that brought me closer to meeting you.  Less than 20 minutes after getting in our delivery room, you were born at 10:20 PM. You had one loop of cord around your neck, and as soon as your head was born, Anne unwrapped it, and then your hand and arm came out along with your shoulder as the rest of you was born into my hands. I pulled you up to me, and I kissed your head and started to cry, so very thankful that you were here, safely, and the physical intensity of birth was over in that instant. Your cord was wrapped all around your body, but you were pink and crying and totally perfect right away. We let you lie on my chest for a few minutes, and your dad cut your cord once it stopped pulsating.

Your very first photo, just moments old. 

Your Apgar scores were 9 and 9, and you weighed 9.19 lbs, 21.5"...exactly the same stats as your sister! While Daddy followed you around the room, Anne got busy trying to get the placenta out right away this time. Pitocin in my thigh, and within 5 minutes or so, we had it out, without any issues like last time. No retained parts, no hemorrhage, no OR. I was actually interested in looking at it, when Anne checked it over, and it is such an amazing thing to see an entire organ my body created, solely to sustain your life.  I was so relieved, and so thankful for the way your birthday unfolded, all on its own. I kept thanking all the nurses for being so amazing, as I really felt they helped me bring you here safely. I was just incredulous at how fast it all went.  I high-fived Anne as she was leaving for the next birth, and was just so impressed with how calm and supportive she was during such an intense birth.  Our L&D nurse, Tiffany, stayed with us for 2 hours, helping get the rest of the things we needed checked off (since we didn't have time for most of it when we came in!).  We had such a great, easy going, supportive team with us, and I couldn't have asked for a more redeeming birth experience.

Daddy singing your first song to you ; Too Ra Loo Ra

Your stats
Swaddled and snug, your fresh red cheeks are so kissable! 

In the weeks that have passed since your birth, I have replayed it so many times. I still can't believe it happened so fast, after we waited so very long to meet you.  Nothing about your birth could have gone any better, and I truly feel so proud of myself for bringing you into this world.  Birth is the most transformative process I have ever experienced, and now that I have two completely different ones to compare, I know the feeling of triumph when you have an entirely empowering and exhilarating (albeit intense and kind of terrifyingly fast) birth. The intensity of birth emotion is a high wave to ride anyway, and I have been beyond grateful in this postpartum phase that I feel like such a different person than I did in the early weeks after Norah's birth. I'm physically stronger, have more energy, and coming out of a non-traumatic birth vs. the kind of situation I had with Norah has made a world of difference in my ability to be truly present as a mama.

You have your hands in your mouth all the time, and you found your thumb right away. I'm sure you were sucking them on the inside too! 

Hanging out in the morning waiting to meet your sister, grandparents and aunt Tryn and uncle Liam

I have so many thoughts on the "fourth trimester" and postpartum phase, especially as this is likely my last time to experience the newness of a baby of my own, but I will save those thoughts for another post, or this one will be 10 pages long.

Emmeline Laura, I love you with a whole new place in my heart that burst open the moment you landed earthside. You will forever be my last "baby", but please revel with me in your newness and let this next few months pass as slowly as possible while I soak up all there is to you, right now, the tiniest you'll ever be.

Meeting your big sister for the first time. She is so in love with you! 

Love always,