Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When two became three, reposted.

Somehow, due to the ridiculousness of Blogger, I deleted Alice's birth story from the blog. I didn't even realize that it had gone into my draft folder and that I was deleting the only copy when I was trying to clean up a bit yesterday. Then at 1:30 am a bolt of realization hit me and I was so upset when I knew just what I had done. It would have been gone completely had I not remembered that my mom has been a long-term subscriber to the blog and the posts get emailed to her account-and she never, and I mean never deletes emails. So help me in order to get back to sleep, I hacked into my mom's email account and found Alice's birth story. My mom saved the day! (Mom, I know you are on vacation. Sorry to break into your email before you are even off the plane, but thanks for your habit of ignoring old emails! Most people I know delete them and if you had done that Alice's birth story would have been lost. You are the best.)

Originally posted on October 29, 2011

The Tuesday before Alice was born was a dreary day. Dark, Rainy and cold. It had pretty much been like that for the entire week actually. Or perhaps it just felt that way. I had spent the week doing nothing because I had lost my mucus plug the week before (a big sign your body is getting ready for birth) and I really didn't want to go into labor when I was at the gym or the grocery store or god forbid on the subway. So I was just hanging around the apartment trying not to drive myself crazy waiting for labor to begin. But really, on this particular Tuesday it was all I could think about. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, on and off, and was experiencing a big increase in them that day. At one point, I was standing at the window watching the rain and a very clear voice in my head whispered the words, "Tonight I am going to meet my daughter." When Tim came home he was greeted by a very quiet and thoughtful wife.

As the evening came on my Braxton Hicks contractions kept coming and I began unofficially timing them after dinner when Tim and I were on the couch watching television. Around midnight they had more of an edge to them and were becoming regular 8-10 minutes apart, so I decided to get up and walk around to see if they would stop (as BH tend to do, but real contractions don't). I hadn't said anything to Tim because I didn't want to get his hopes up. As I mentioned I had lost my mucus plug the week before, had a ton of BH contractions, and really thought that Alice would be born that night-which she wasn't. So we had already had a bit of a dry run where we blew up the birthing pool and got all excited for nothing. But he did notice that something about me was different when I began wandering around the apartment and occasionally stopping to do squats. I told him that I was just getting some exercise since I had not been to the gym since the week before. It was around midnight and knowing that early labor can take forever, I wanted to keep it to myself so perhaps at least one of us could get some sleep that night. He looked at me suspiciously but said nothing and we went to bed. After laying down for about 20 minutes or so I had to get up and go to the bathroom. Like really go to the bathroom. Ok, I'll just say it. I had the shits and was in the bathroom for about a half hour still having contractions while everything that was once in my system cleared the F out. Once again, Tim noticed that something was different. I also noticed something was different and knew for certain that we were going to meet our daughter this night. Tim called out to ask me if I was ok and I came back into bedroom answering yes, I was ok but I was without a doubt in labor.

Tim blowing up the pool during our 'dry run'.

Flashback to New Years Eve. I knew I was pregnant. But it was still days before my period was due so I decided to wait until the morning when the pregnancy hormone is more concentrated to take a pregnancy test. So I woke up at 7 am and peed on an early detection stick. There was a shadow of a line and with butterflies in my stomach I woke Tim up and told him I was pregnant. Flash forward 9 months to what had just become midnight on Wednesday September 7th. I had those same butterflies in my stomach and Tim certainly had the same look on his face as he had the morning of the New Year. It can only be described as a very excited Oh Shit face. He got up and hugged me and then I called our midwife Ellen to give her the heads up. Labor is a very slow process, the exact opposite of what Hollywood has made it, so Ellen and I talked about what I was feeling and she said to call her back when I needed to. At this point my contractions were getting a little stronger and about 6 minutes apart. I laid back down in bed, listened to a book on tape, and rested as Tim pretended to read between my contractions. I was laying on my side and would rock my hips through each one while focusing on the book I was listening to.

We had downloaded an app on the iPad to time my contractions and I would tell Tim at the beginning and end of each one and he would hit the start and stop buttons. The app would record the length of and between each contraction. It was great to have the actual times to tell Ellen and super great to have a job for Tim to do. I can only imagine what he was going through during my labor but I know it had to be tough for him. Tim is such a kind, empathetic person and had been amazing through my pregnancy. He was supportive and sympathetic and really interested in what I was learning and would share with him. I am so thankful that he was involved, and happy to be involved-but I knew early on that I would need to go through labor with myself, by myself. I had been telling Tim for the past 9 months that I did not want him fussing over me when I was in labor as he tries to do when I am sick. He is thoughtful and considerate and these wonderful qualities are totally wasted on me when I am not feeling well. I just internalize and power through and can't bear being fussed over. The poor man had to fight every kind instinct in his body so he wouldn't get bawled out by an angry pregnant lady. We had been having discussions for months about how he would have to try to leave me alone (difficult for him) so I could focus and how I would have to try to ask him for help and support when I needed it (difficult for me).

After about half an hour I got up to go to the bathroom again, only this time to throw up. In spite of these super exciting bathroom trips, things were really going well. I mean I hate having the shits and I hate throwing up, but honestly I felt great. During my pregnancy I had really been trying to shed the fear I had surrounding labor and delivery. For whatever reason (Hollywood's version, horrific birth stories people tell you, self doubt, etc), there is a lot of anxiety and tension in our society about giving birth and I really wanted to get my mind straight before having Alice. I wanted to be excited about meeting my child, not fearful of something going wrong or anxious about the pain I was going through. And beforehand, you really don't know how you will feel. You never know how you will react when things get primal. It is difficult to plan for the unknown in terms of coping techniques and whatnot and personally I think the best prep I did was killing the fear I had about giving birth. I can honestly say that fear was probably the only emotion I did not feel at all the day Alice was born.

At this point my contractions were stronger and closer together. I laid down in the bathroom for a while but eventually had to turn off my Audiobook and pace around the apartment. We decided that it would be a good time to re-arrange the furniture in the bedroom so we could fit the birthing pool and start getting it filled up. As Tim was setting up I called Ellen again to update her. It was around 3:30 am and sometime in the past hour things had gotten to the point where I had focus on breathing through the contractions. I was moaning/ chanting these OOOooo sounds to remind myself to visualize what was happening during the contractions. I was concentrating on my body changing and opening. When I was on the phone with Ellen I had to set it down during the contractions so I could work through them. They were around 3 minutes apart and we agreed that once the pool filled up I could get in and see how things felt. I had progressed really quickly and intensely but getting in the birthing pool too early can slow things down, so if that happened I should get back out and keep moving around. She talked to Tim and told him to call her back when the sound of my moans changed. She told him he would hear it in my voice as I transitioned into active labor and she would come over.

It is so difficult to move when you are 9 months pregnant and being weightless and able to move around quickly and with ease in the water was the best thing ever. In my eyes everything was happening in 3 minute intervals. The time between contractions was painless and I was able to snap back into my normal self and talk to Tim like nothing unusual was happening. He was sitting on the edge of our bed in the dim bedroom and giving me sips of water. I was on my knees with my arms out of the tub holding his hand, rocking my hips, moaning my OOOooo's and visualizing my body giving way for Alice. I remember having such moments of peace after each contraction and being so thankful that we were at home, together, and alone. There were no interruptions, absolute quiet, and I had no inhibitions about what I was doing or the noises I was making. After a short while I had one contraction in particular that sent a bolt of energy directly up my spine and I knew Tim had heard it in my voice. Without a word he got up and called Ellen to come over.

Me, in labor.

From that contraction onward, I really had to focus on catching my breath between them. It was around 4:30 am when Ellen arrived and Tim had to leave the room to let her in. I'm certain he thought he wasn't doing much but for that brief period he was out of the room, I was lost. My rhythm shook completely and I have never been happier to see him than I was the second he came back in our bedroom. My contractions were 2 minutes apart and radiated through my entire body. I had to shiver each one off afterwards just in time to begin another. Ellen quietly set everything up and joined Tim at the edge of the birthing pool. Between contractions she listened to Alice's heartbeat and took my blood pressure. I had tested positive to group B strep and although I had gone through a treatment earlier that week, I went into labor before we were able to test again. As I progressed, Ellen gave me an IV of antibiotics just incase. I was still in the pool and didn't really know if my water had broken. Around 6 am I had two contractions in a row where I felt the urge to push and asked Ellen to check my dilation before I did anything about it. I was a bit nervous to have her check because although my labor so far had been quick, it was no walk in the park. I had a horror flash of her checking me and saying, 'Ooops, Lauren you are only 2cm! I'm going back home to bed.' But when she checked, sure enough I was 10 cm and it was time to start pushing!

I was really excited to push. I felt like I would be good at it and I was so looking forward to having the whole ordeal over with and meeting Alice in a matter of minutes. I looked at Tim's face and thought that was the last time I would look at him only as my husband, that the next time I looked up that he would also be the father of my child. As fate would have it, things did not go quickly. My contractions stayed around 2 minutes apart and with every one I was giving it all I had. After being in the tub for 2 hours already my knees were getting sore from rocking around and my wrists hurt from leaning forward. We put a towel under my knees to cushion the bottom of the pool. I changed positions to shorten the birth canal and widen my hips. I pushed and really expected something to happen, but it felt like nothing was happening. Ellen was monitoring Alice's heartbeat constantly during this time and quietly giving me helpful suggestions about positions and breathing. After every contraction I would push and be genuinely confused that nothing was changing. I breathed and yelled when I pushed, more out of frustration than pain. Frustration that things were going so slowly. I had a six-pack before I got pregnant! I took care of myself while I was pregnant, eating right and going to the gym! I couldn't believe it was taking so long. I was so exhausted at this point, I had nothing but water since dinner the night before (though I had thrown that up) and I was completely unprepared for this part of labor taking so long. In my mind, this should have been the quick part. I got my hopes up when I reached down and felt something soft but it turned out to be the bag of waters- which had never broken. Ellen was assuring me in her gentle, soothing voice, that Alice's heartbeat was strong with no sign of distress and things were definitely moving, that it wouldn't be much longer. For me, it was forever. With each contraction I was pushing with all my might, using the full strength of every muscle in my body, directing my energy down to give birth to my child. I wanted to hold her. I wanted to make Tim a dad. I wanted this to be over. I knew that it was taking too long, that every minute longer it took Alice's heartbeat was in more danger of dropping. I knew that if that happened we would have to call an ambulance and transfer to the hospital for an emergency C-section. I lost faith in my body and would have ripped myself open with my own hands to help Alice out safely. I was exhausted and frustrated and so confused that this was the part that was taking so long. I didn't know how I could be doing anything differently, more efficiently, or more completely. So I just kept trying, hoping that something would give and the next contraction would be the one that would bring my daughter to me. I imagined every breath I pulled in was one I was passing to her. I was holding Tim's arm and Ellen was softly encouraging me that I was so close, that she was almost here. And then I noticed that they were prepping the room to welcome her. Getting a heating pad ready, towels nearby, the camera, etc and I knew it was almost over with. With the next contraction I pushed with the force of a thousand selves and didn't stop until Alice was out, on her own for the first time in her life.

It was 8:01 am and as the room brightened Alice Parker Jones made her way into the world. My water never broke. She was born in the caul, after 2 hours of pushing, with her right arm up over her left shoulder like she was scratching an itch. She broke her own bag of water with that arm, the arm that had made me push so hard for so long. Ellen helped her out and passed her back under my legs so I could pick her up. Seeing her for the first time as I pulled her up out of the water and onto my chest was unbelievable. After all that frustration and energy, my hands were steady and my heart was absolutely huge. Tim was behind me as I sat back with Alice in my arms and he had poured over with tears. She didn't cry though, she just found our faces and stared right back into our eyes as she took her first breath. To be in the presence of a soul beginning it's life is something I will never have the words for.

Alice Parker Jones
Born September 7th at 8:01am
7lbs 9oz, 19"
(with a stubborn right arm)

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