So I'm writing this as I remember it. I guess that's always the case with birth stories, since a birthing mother is not likely attuned to every last detail at the time of birth. But it's been more than 5 months, and I'm feeling a bit unsure of myself as I document the beautiful birth of my fourth child. That's part of it, I suppose. I never wrote a birth story for any of my daughters, and while I know it isn't too late, I feel a bit guilty to be starting here. But I'll have to start somewhere.
I was so blessed to be cared for by a wonderful midwifery practice during my pregnancy with Jude. I felt respected in a way I never had before in a pregnancy. Pam and Louise were gentle, sweet, funny, knowledgeable, and at times a bit bawdy. If God blesses us with more children, I can't imagine having them without the help of my midwives. But the problem with midwives is that they never hesitate to remind you of the promises you've made, to yourself and your baby. I had promised that I would let labor come about naturally, and that I would wait for God to decide when Jude would be born. But when my due date of January 29th came and went without a whisper of waters breaking, even though I knew the truth about due dates, I was...well, bummed. Adelaide was born on her due date, and I had been having contractions for so many weeks, I thought he was bound to be born "in time." I am not a patient person, but Jesse, my midwives, and my beautiful doula Maggie all reminded me that babies are born when they are ready, so I waited. I walked, jumped, squatted, massaged, and waited.
The days leading up to and following my due date I went to bed with serious contractions almost every night. I would go through the same conundrum each time. "I know I should get my rest, but this is exciting!" "I need to call my mom and let her know she needs to get the girls, and she's going to bed any minute...let me just time a few more contractions...oh shoot, now she's already in bed." "I don't want to call Maggie and alarm her if this is nothing, but she lives an hour from the hospital, so she needs to know soon..." You get the picture. Every night, for about a week. Then, on the night of February 1st, I finally told Jesse that it was the real thing. My contractions were about 10 minutes apart, and starting to get painful. I was nervous about getting all of the pieces in place in time, and I really didn't want to be in hard labor for our 45 minute car ride to the hospital like I was with Adelaide. So I made all the calls, and we got the go-ahead from Pam to head in to the hospital. (By the way, all of this hoopla is just one of the reasons I hope to be able to have a homebirth some day!) On the way there, I felt my contractions slowing down, but I didn't want to say anything. However, after making my entire birth team (including my poor mother, who is the CEO of her company and couldn't take off from work the next day) get up and drive from their beds in the middle of the night, it was determined that I was, in fact, a doofus, and I was not, in fact, in labor. No one called me a doofus, let me make that clear. But seeing as this was my fourth baby, and I should really know what labor feels like by know, a doofus is precisely what I felt like.
Over the next few days, something bad happened in our house. We started to get sick. The girls had colds, fevers, runny noses, and coughs, and I knew Jesse and I weren't far behind. I washed my hands like a crazy woman, rested as much as I could, and tried to resist kissing my sweet little Adelaide (that didn't work), but I caught the bug. So, when my mom took off on Friday the 3rd, (if you're counting, this is now 5 days past my EDD) and offered to watch the girls while we walked to try to bring on labor, I was already starting to feel pretty icky. But we dropped them, with a meticulously packed suitcase and an apology for the little bug they were bringing along. We went to the mall, because it was February, so where else could we walk? And Jesse held my hand lovingly as I waddled from Macy's to Nordstrom to the food court and back again. It was only when we were driving home, trying to figure out what to do next to get this baby out, that it occurred to me that my skin was on fire and my head was going to explode. I had a cough, a cold, and a pretty bad fever. And I needed a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke. Immediately.
After our organic, gourmet meal of McDonald's, I took some Tylenol...which, in hindsight, was still in my system when Jude was finally born, so maybe this wasn't a natural birth after all. At this point the details get a bit fuzzy, but I imagine that it went something like, "Oh yes, these are real contractions now. Let's call Maggie and the midwives." And the next thing I remember, we were in the big, beautiful hospital room, and I was watching my lovely midwife Pam knitting something with lots of tiny knitting needles. Her project was green. I think it may have been a mitten.
The next few hours were lovely and pleasant...which is precisely why all of the nurses at the nurses station guessed that I would be sent home, because I didn't "look uncomfortable." They were right, of course, but I was happy to walk the halls of the hospital with my husband and doula, carrying on a conversation about something other than birth, and listening to the woman down the hall express herself at a rather high volume while pushing out her own sweet miracle. Every once in a while I would stop and squat, hoping that my water would miraculously break and the baby would be born painlessly in a matter of minutes. I have no real memory of how many centimeters I was dilated, or how often my contractions were coming. I just remember feeling like I was sure I was really in labor this time. The one thing that hung in my mind was the laboring Jacuzzi that waited just across the hall from my room. I wanted to be in that tub, to feel the warm water take away my pain and ease my mind and ready me for birth. I asked Pam when I would be able to get in the tub. Apparently, the warm water, while it takes away a lot of the pain and pressure of labor, also slows labor down after a while, so Pam wanted to make sure I didn't get in until I really needed it. So, through the wee hours of the morning, I walked, squatted, peed, and occasionally got monitored. Around 7:30 in the morning, Pam decided it would move things along to break my water. She was right.
Again, the next few hours are a blur. I remember Maggie putting pressure on my back, in the same way she did when I was laboring with Adelaide, but this time it wasn't what I needed. I know that I kept comparing this birth to the last one, my two natural (besides the Tylenol) births, only 16 months apart, and I kept trying to make them the same, but they weren't. I remember holding my husband's hands, as if they could bring me the relief I longed for. I couldn't let go of him, I just closed my eyes, breathed, and held on through each contraction. I remember trying a lot of different positions, on all fours, leaning against a chair, using the birthing ball...none of them really hit the spot. But then came the amazing moment when Pam said those beautiful words, "Yes, you can get in the tub now." A little background on me, I LOVE baths. I love the warmth, I love the water, and I spend most of the winter taking nightly baths just to soak my cold bones before bed. But this was the best bath I have ever had.
Maggie had packed in her doula bag an electric candle, and that was the only light I needed as I slipped into the large laboring tub and let the relief wash over me. I have since told friends that it was like an epidural. I laid in the water, still clutching Jesse's hands through every contraction, and I vaguely remember my wonderful nurse, midwife, and doula checking in on us every once in a while, but for the most part it was just the two of us. Well, I guess it was just the three of us. After almost an hour in the tub, I started to sweat. I had thought I might want to deliver in the tub, which was not exactly allowed by the hospital, but I had warned my midwives that I might just have to let him slip out while I was in there. However, I got to a point when I just couldn't get cool enough, and the effect of the water had mostly worn off, and just as I had read in so many birth stories, I wanted to be on dry land!
Now, here is when the story loses it's PG rating...but it's also the part that my closest friends think it totally hysterical. I had seen many births where the mother felt the need to be totally unencumbered by their clothing. I had never been that woman; in fact, the thought of being completely naked while giving birth really freaked me out. But here I was, soaking wet and ready to push, and I had to make it back across the hall and into my room. By the time I got there (shielded from sight by my fabulous birthing team) I had neither the time nor the inclination to get semi-dressed again. So, I pushed...naked, except for the beautiful earrings that had been made, along with a birthing necklace, at my baby shower. When Pam broke my water there had been meconium staining, so there was a neonatologist and his team standing by in case Jude had breathing problems. This may sound intrusive, but our second daughter Evangeline spent 3 days in the NICU for fear of a lung infection from breathing meconium, so I was thankful. That is, until they started talking about what they were going to have for lunch. Here I was, 10 centimeters dilated, moments from giving birth to my first son, more exposed than I had ever been in my life, with my amazing birthing team supporting me every second in quiet encouragement, and this doctor was talking about a buffalo chicken wrap! (Maggie filled me in on that specific detail later.) I was so disturbed, I had to quiet them. As I remember, I said kindly but firmly to Jesse, "Tell them to please be quiet. What I am doing here is very important, and it requires an intense amount of focus." What I actually said, according to my husband, was "ShhhmmmmnnbbShhhhnnnhhhuuuummmShhhhhh." But, thankfully, he got the idea, and soon enough the room was quiet once again.
When you read about natural birth, you hear a lot about the different positions that are desirable for birthing. I had talked a lot about this with Pam and Louise leading up to the birth, because I had always birthed on my back, but I wanted to try something different this time. So I tried getting up on my knees, and the two pushes from that angle were nothing short of terrifying to me. Partially because Adelaide had come out in 2 pushes, and I was afraid when Jude didn't just slide right out. It felt like an eternity, getting back on my back where I was comfortable, trying to hold my own legs when I really didn't feel like I had the strength, the thought in the back of my head that this strange neonatologist was seeing me in my birthday suit, but 9 minutes after I had started pushing, all of a sudden there was a warm, wet, beautiful, tiny person laying on top of me. That moment is incredible. Every time, it's like a dream. One moment ago I was experiencing intense pain, and now, in my arms, looking up into my face, is a little life that God has given to me to care for. I think Jesse and I looked at each other. I know we looked at Jude. We may have cried. I know Maggie did (she had been, in fact, for quite some time. And that's why I love my doula.) I had wanted to delay cord clamping, but since he needed to have the meconium sucked out of him before he breathed it in, he was whisked away from me quickly, but unlike any other hospital I've been to, the priority was to have him in my arms as soon as possible for skin-to-skin contact, so I honestly don't even remember him being away from me. I just know that he was back on my chest, his little warm body against mine, and that I held him, and looked at him, and kissed him for a long, long time. He had blue eyes, and Jesse and I were both astonished. I was so thankful to everyone who had stuck with me for that long time, and I was mostly thankful to God for giving me strength that I didn't even understand in order to birth my sweet Jude Nicholas.
I am one of those crazy people who suffers from extreme mommy amnesia. All I can think now, as I have just shirked the duties of laundry and dishes to write this story (which took all day), is that I want to do this again. My poor husband.
|Ready to meet my sweet baby boy.|
|My wonderful, tired husband in the wee hours of the morning.|
|Jude Nicholas Kafka, born February 4, 2012 at 11:37 am, 7 pounds, 15 ounces. |
He was perfect.
|Back in Mommy's arms|
|Totally in love with our sweet baby boy.|
|My midwife Pam and our wonderful nurse, who had had 5 natural births of her own!|
|Me, Jude, Jesse and our sweet friend and wonderful doula Maggie|
|I can never get over those first moments.|
|He was so peaceful and sweet.|
|Looking up at Mama|