The Birth of Magdalena Clare

I realized that I hadn’t written this story out yet, so I figured I should do so before the details become hazier. I’m doing better than with Lucy’s though, which I didn’t write until she was about publish until she was one, so I’m improving. If birth stories aren’t your thing, then you can leave now, no hard feelings!

Magdalena's Birth Story

Unlike Lucy’s birth, Magdalena was neither fast, nor early, nor surprising. Add to that the fact that we didn’t have a truly accurate due date, so by the time I hit 37 weeks (according to the sonogram), I thought we were closing in on go time. 37 weeks rolled by, 38, and then 39. I was incredulous. Aren’t all subsequent births supposed to be earlier and faster and easier? Wait, doesn’t the stork just drop them off at that point?

Anyway, I was a little peeved and had to assume that a) my due date was off  and b) this baby was going to be full term plus some and/or c) I would be pregnant forever. I did all the things pregnant ladies are advised to when they want to bring on labor and…nothing. I did have lots of “false” labor, though. That was a lovely experience that entailed being awoken at 3 or 4 AM with contractions that felt more intense than Braxton-Hicks, and timing them up to 7 minutes apart for about 2 hours, only to have them die away the moment I bit into a cracker or sipped some water. So frustrating. So sleep depriving.

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Oh hey there, full term belly!

I had basically resigned myself when we hit 40 weeks. The midwives weren’t worried at all; everything was normal and great (except my attitude). I’d had two sonograms at 38ish weeks because I was still only measuring 34 weeks, but the baby was fine and the sonographer estimated she was a bit over 7 lbs.

40 weeks and 3 days! Taken 3 days before Lena was born.

40 weeks and 3 days! Taken 3 days before Lena was born.

On Sunday morning, July 13th, I woke up barely thinking, “Maybe today will be the day!” since I’d thought that too many mornings in a row to count. It was the World Cup final and we had plans to watch it at a friends’ house. Tom was also gearing up for his last week directing a computer summer camp at school. We went to 10:30 Mass as usual, and I was struck by the second reading:

“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.” (Romans 8:22)

Oh! Labor pains. Groaning. I can take a hint. Sure enough, as Mass progressed, I made a mental note that I was having mild contractions every 12 minutes or so. Nothing crazy, but they were enough to notice, and they were definitely coming regularly. We took it easy throughout the afternoon, and gradually the contractions were about 9 or so minutes apart, but still just moderate at best, and short. We didn’t go to our friends’ since we weren’t really sure what would happen; for all I knew, I could suddenly go into hard labor and progress in the space of an hour (which was what I fully expected given my history). We watched the Cup from home, ate dinner, put Lucy to bed, and went on my last waddly walk around the neighborhood.

At this point, probably around 8:30 PM, the contractions were finally getting moderately intense and spaced more like 7 minutes apart, so we decided to relax for a bit and watch something. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was on, which was perfect. In the middle of watching, though, we suddenly remembered that we needed to clean and readjust the infant car seat, so we took a little break from HP and got that done. I ate almost an entire sleeve of Nutella filled cookies, milking every last minute out of the “pregnancy craving” excuse.

Finally around 11, we decided that things weren’t moving super quickly and we had better try to sleep. I was just flummoxed– why wasn’t this labor rushing at light-speed, as Lucy’s had? Why was it so normal? Should we call the midwives? Wait? What if it all the sudden speeded up? I tried to sleep, but kept getting up to go to the bathroom, check our birth center bags, work through a contraction, etc.. An hour later, I realized that the contractions were more intense, and about 4-5 minutes apart. I texted Kim, the midwife, and let her know what was happening. She said to try and sleep but keep her posted, since her drive to the birth center was an hour. Around 1:15 AM, I told her that they were continuing in intensity so she said she was leaving for the birth center, and we could leave within an hour or so, since my parents were only about 12-15 minutes away.

Poor Tom had just gotten into a deep sleep, and I had to rouse him and start getting our things in the car. We drove the blessedly empty and quiet streets and arrived at the birth center about 12 minutes later. It was so strange getting there in the middle of the night. It was also amazing to drive there while not in transition; I think I only had to breathe through a total of two or three contractions the whole ride. It was a million times better than the drive there for Lucy.

The birth center was dark and quiet when we arrived around 2:20 AM, but smelled like some lovely essential oil they had going in the waiting room. The birth assistant was in the office waiting for us, and she brought us back to our room since Kim was sleeping. Kim came out a few minutes later and asked if I wanted to be checked. I did, and she asked me to guess how dilated I was. I said 6, based on how long I’d been having contractions and all the millions of Braxtons I’d had. Shockingly, I was only a 3! She asked if I wanted my membranes stripped (which sounds really horrid, but honestly feels like nothing when you’re already contracting). Then everyone left us to rest in the large bed. Tom immediately fell asleep, and I was able to get a few 10 minute stretches in, working through the contractions every 3 minutes or so.

They came in and checked on me a few times, and by 3:45 AM, I really needed a change of pace. The bed was not working anymore. I asked to get into the tub, so they filled it up and I got in. Tom was sitting on the ball by the tub to try and help, but the poor guy kept nodding off so I made him get more sleep, since he really didn’t need to do much at that point. I was just sort of floating, half-sleeping/half-resting, between the every-intensifying contractions. I could tell at this point that things were moving right along, because a) I was wondering why on earth I needed to be going through this and b) was vocalizing pretty loudly during contractions. For some reason, that seems to be the best way for me to deal with the pain– it obviously doesn’t numb or lessen it like meds, but it definitely gives some release. Tom had come back to help me at this point, since he probably couldn’t sleep through my noisy coping mechanisms, and I told him he needed to get the midwives in because I wanted to push. My back was killing, so I figured it was time.

So I started pushing at 4:40 AM, staying on my hands and knees in the tub. I practically pulled Tom’s arm out of the socket as I was using his hand for support/leverage. But it was effective! The baby came out at 5:01 exactly, after about 20 minutes of pushing. Tom thought the pushing was harder or more painful for me than with Lucy, but I don’t really think so, and I was definitely more efficient the second time around. Being on hands and knees was also far easier for me. They helped me sit up, and handed up the baby, who wasn’t crying or anything, just kind of blinking in utter confusion. She was fat and squishy and had no vernix at all, since she was so well cooked. Tom finally got to cut the cord, since everything with this birth was so much slower and calmer.

We got out of the tub and dried off little Magdalena, who had finally squawked a few times. We took guesses on her weight, and I think I guessed something like 7 lb. 6 oz, but she was a whopping 7-14! I could not believe I’d pushed out a baby who was an entire pound heavier than her sister and yet it felt so much easier, and I didn’t tear at all (my biggest fear going into the second birth). Based on her size and the placenta, the midwives estimated that she was actually probably exactly 40 weeks, not the almost-41 weeks were given based on our first sono.

The baby kinda sorta nursed a little, but essentially passed out, and then so did Tom and I for about 3 hours straight (though we had thought to text/email family to let them know and Tom sent a few emails to his camp counselors to run things in his absence). We were pretty exhausted since we hadn’t really slept in 48 hours, and we couldn’t wait to get home. Magdalena got all her vitals/measurements, we got zero pictures except that grainy one below (bad second-timers!), she tried to nurse again, and then we packed up and went home around 11.

Getting measured!

Getting measured!

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Right after we got home.

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Lucy had just woken up from her morning nap when we got home, and was really confused about the baby in the car seat. We tried to get her to look at her and say something but she mostly stared blankly and stood still until we kind of pushed her forward to inspect the baby. She warmed up a few hours later, and of course by the next day, “BAY-by!” had been in her life forever and she showered her with “mahs,” by lovingly head-banging her every time she saw her.20140717-124929-46169044.jpg

And that was that. A textbook labor and birth that was actually more like a first than a second, which just went to show me that I should have no expectations, ever. I definitely have more compassion for women that go post-term and have long, drawn-out labors. And once again, I was so, so grateful for my midwives and our birth center. It was an ideal birth, so calm and quiet and dark in the room, and everyone’s presence was peaceful and non-intrusive. Tom was a real hero, helping and encouraging me even though we would both rather be sleeping.

Happy Birthday, Magdalena Clare! Can’t believe this was almost SEVEN months ago!!

Musings of a Crazy 9-Months-Pregnant Lady

I apologize for the long, long silence on here. We’ve spent the last week thinking that the baby would arrive. Iactually thought that baby would arrive before last week, so as you can imagine, I’m starting to get antsy/impatient/overwhelmed/despairing, etc.. Lucy Agnes just had to come two weeks early with very little warning, thereby setting an impossible standard for all future siblings to follow. And this one hasn’t. We also probably have the “official” due date wrong by about a week, but since I’d been following that thewhole time, I’m having a hard time switching my brain over. Either way, I’m definitely past term, and am either 39 weeks today, or 40 weeks on Tuesday, depending on the due date of choice. Ugh.

Forget those in-front-of-the-mirror bump pics. I'm too lazy, so here you go.

Forget those in-front-of-the-mirror bump pics. I’m too lazy, so here you go. 

I know, I know, most women go a full 40.5 to 41 or even 42, yes, yes, yes. BUT, the timing is just very precarious here. Tom had last week and this week off, and we really wanted baby to come early last week, so he would have time off to be home and help. The week after this, he has another week of camp to run, and then a little time off, and then is off to California for his brother’s wedding. And then he comes back and BAM, we’re moving. So… hmm. No control, that is what we have here in this situation. I’ve had at least 3 “false alarms” where I had contractions for a few hours, only to have them die away at the bite of a cracker or some other nonsense. That never happened with Lucy, she was all, “Oh, real contractions, water breaks, and here I am a few hours later!” so again, I’m trying to adjust to this very different experience.

On a less pessimistic note, we have been doing some fun things to fill the time we have at home before the craziness. We took Lucy to a little local zoo last Sunday, which she enjoyed (though the rocks on the path were maybe a bit more interesting than any of the live animals for her).

Bottle feeding baby goats and lambs

Bottle feeding baby goats and lambs

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In the Budgie aviary, feeding the little guys

In the Budgie aviary, feeding the little guys

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Lucy celebrated her Baptism day with a cookie cake, or “ke-ca cock” (I know. We tried to correct the pronunciation several times).

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We’ve kept up with the World Cup, and cheered on our national team up to the bitter end.

Cutest fan

We also went on an epic Ikea shopping trip yesterday and got so many things for the new house. Tom was duly overwhelmed by the maze/trap that Ikea is.

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And in general, we have been going on lots of long walks, splashing around in the baby pool, and trying valiantly not to think about labor and despair that it will never happen/happen when the timing is poor. This baby has his/her own timing, that is for certain!

 

 

Back from the Dead!

Well, after the previous cheery post about recovering from illness without OTC meds, I proceeded to come down with the worst sinus infection of my life. Let’s just say pregnancy has a way of magnifying even normal illnesses, and draaaagging them out, because the ole immune system is non-existent. All the garlic, cod liver oil, vitamin C/D/A, etc all go…to the baby! So I was miserable for another entire week, popping many a Tylenol and then eventually a prescription steroid nasal spray. I made it through, and still managed not to need antibiotics, though I was tempted. Very tempted. I just know it would’ve made the whole lowered immune system thing much worse in the end.

Also, as I began to emerge from the foggy cave filled with endless tissues (I cannot tell you HOW MANY BOXES I went through) and pounding headaches/toothaches, the weather became so amazing. We had a great day last Saturday visiting the family farm of one of Tom’s students. The grandparents own an amazing 90 acre plot with not one, but two homes on it, several ponds, a huge pool, and just endless fun for kids, or babies who think they’re one of the big kids. Lucy had a blast between the two dogs, the gravel driveway, and the sopping wet pool toys (though she strongly refused to go in), and her first ice cream popsicle. I took zero pictures, because if I wasn’t frantically running after Miss I-Don’t-Care-If-I-Never-See-You-Again, I was furiously blowing my nose. But it was gorgeous and sunny and fun. And on the way home, we got this double stroller!

 

It was $50, and the family used it once. In Disneyland. It’s normally $170 new, soooo we hit the jackpot. Thank you, Craigslist.

In other exciting news, we are officially done house hunting!! Praise the Lord. And thank you for all the prayers. We are closing on a house today and will move into it at the beginning of August. At which point we will have TWO children. It has just recently, as in the last two days, hit us that this baby could be born within 3 weeks. Now, I’m not quite sure, because I’m measuring two weeks behind, but that may just mean baby’s smaller. Also, baby is stubbornly stuck in the right posterior position, which means the body is facing outwards instead of towards my back. That explains why I feel the strangest, most surprising/weird movements in there, and not kicks. I’m doing whatever I can to get the child to turn like a corkscrew, because posterior labors are labors from hell, and are more likely to end in interventions. Turn, baby!

And now some photographic evidence of the big sister herself, whose new favorite word is no, pronounced, “naw-oh!” in perfect whiny pitch. Heaven help us.

The most patriotic of babies

The most patriotic of babies

Filling up the pool

Filling up the pool

Step 1: Scream "naw-oh!!" as parents try to put you in pool Step 2: Acquiesce to sit on step of pool, only after Papa has filled with .25 inches of warm tap water Step 3: Realize water is fun. Proceed to get in, splash, and play for next 1.5 hours.

Step 1: Scream “naw-oh!!” as parents try to put you in pool
Step 2: Acquiesce to sit on step of pool, only after Papa has filled with .25 inches of warm tap water
Step 3: Realize water is fun. Proceed to get in, splash, and play for next 1.5 hours.

Everyone needs a foam sticker on the cheek

Everyone needs a foam sticker on the cheek

 

Two under Two: Reflections on the Sneaky Culture of Death

Sneaky Culture of Death

By now, the idea that we are expecting a tiny addition to our family has begun to sink in fully. The shock of it all was pretty real for about the first three or four weeks upon finding out. And with that finding out, so many thoughts bounced around my brain. Besides the ones that had to do with practical aspects (ohmygosh…two under two? Life shall be crazy. I will never sleep again. Lucy will never learn to sleep on her own. The new baby will be a terrible sleeper like Lucy was. I will somehow need to grow a third arm just to get through each day. I will probably never shower or wear non-pj clothing again. How will we leave the house, and return, in one piece?) there were deeper thoughts that required far more wrestling to fully reckon with.

Namely, I was afraid that people would judge me for having two babies in so short a time-span. Guess what? That did not happen. Every person so far, from close friends to extended family to strangers on the street, has only expressed congratulatory sentiments at our news. Why did I think I would get raised eyebrows or secret judgmental thoughts? Probably because that’s how I was judging myself, and others in my situation, in a way. I have come to realize that everyone else simply sees that there is a reason to rejoice: new life, a sibling for Lucy who will (hopefully) be her best friend throughout life. I haven’t needed to make any of the excuses I was coming up with in my head: “Well, it was a big surprise” (even though it was). “Hopefully the next ones will be more spaced out…” (even though I do hope that!). There is never a reason why one should feel the need to make an excuse or apology for the occurrence of new life.

The point is, this was a way in which I’d unwittingly allowed the sneaky Culture of Death to invade my thought process:  yes, children are a blessing, but we should probably be very responsible and space them out at least two years by using NFP, and somehow we’re failures and freaks if we don’t. This, coming from someone who has always wanted to be a mom to a large family and loves babies. I just always assumed (and hardly realized I was doing it) that it would be more on “our” terms, more deliberate.

We had the same sort of thought process when we were praying about whether or not to wait on getting pregnant right after we got married. Thanks to NFP, we knew that there was an extremely high chance of returning from our honeymoon with a living souvenir. We knew that there were no truly serious reasons (financially, physically, emotionally or otherwise) to wait, but we both felt the pull of the world, and the whispering in our ears, “But don’t you just want to have some time together? Who wants to just get pregnant immediately?”  We recognized that this voice and its message had a hollow ring. It belonged to the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and so we decided the “we want time to get used to being married” argument wasn’t a serious reason for us. It might be for some people, and I cannot judge that at all. But for us, it was just selfishness. We decided to be open to the possibility of a honeymoon baby, if God willed it, and … He did.

In much the same way, my getting used to the idea of this surprise second pregnancy so soon involved throwing off a mindset that isn’t rooted in true selflessness. Part of me assumed that “normal” child-spacing is about two years, since that seems to be the pattern in many families (and I’m talking about NFP-using, non-contracepting families). Believe me, we were doing the whole exclusive breastfeeding thing, but not every woman’s body is the same. Imagine that! I was charting, but post-partum charting is a whole different animal, and I truly didn’t see any forewarning signs. So really, it was again God’s will that this child was conceived. There was no “failure” about it, even if it turned out I had made an error in charting (I still don’t know). There are no “child-spacing norms” we need to conform to, other than the ones that God has laid out for our particular marriage. An NFP manual or doctor can’t dictate that; only a prayerful consideration of our current state in life and trusting in God can.

As always, marriage and parenthood continue to teach lessons about humility and dying to self. I was humbled to realize that I had always considered closely spaced children as something…well, not beneath me, but just not something I’d ever personally do. That mentality isn’t fully open to life. And dying to self, well, see my list above. I know it is just dripping with optimism about life with two babies. But really, I have no doubt that God will teach me some very intense lessons about myself and the degree of trust I need to place in Him to make it through the days. Even if He doesn’t grant me the gift of a third arm.

 

 

 

Babymoon

Tom and I escaped for a day and a half on Monday to the Shenandoah Valley. It was our second (hopefully NOT annual) babymoon. Just to be clear, for anyone who may be confused, a babymoon is simply a little getaway trip a couple takes shortly before the birth of their child, akin to a honeymoon. I laughed at us, because our babymoon during Lucy’s pregnancy occurred two months after our honeymoon, and then we still had seven more months of what I now consider a “babymoon” (i.e. life together, without a baby).

Thus, this second babymoon was truly more a respite from real life and the demands of a one year old tyrant cutie. We snagged a Living Social deal for an overnight stay at a historic bed and breakfast in the small town of Berryville, VA. The whole Shenandoah Valley area is rich in history, and this B&B was no exception, having been owned by Harry Byrd, Sr., and host to many famous people (Einstein, the Kennedys, Nixon, Churchill, and more). The manor was gorgeous and the grounds were too.

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The Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase

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We went on a couple walks while we were there but didn’t really get any pictures, so I’ m borrowing one from their website to show the amazing front porch:

We were so happy to take a leisurely drive into the country, stopping along the way for some shopping at the blissfully empty Leesburg Outlets, some little country towns, and a lovely vineyard for wine tasting:

Sadly, our best attempt at a selfie in front of Breaux Vineyards

Sadly, our best attempt at a selfie in front of Breaux Vineyards

Then we drove into Winchester and stopped at the house where Stonewall Jackson made his headquarters in the Civil War:

Tom helps the docent carry flowers up to the house

Tom helps the docent carry flowers up to the house

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We walked around the pedestrian mall for a bit in Old Town Winchester, enjoying amazing sunny skies and perfect spring weather. The next morning we headed out to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. I wanted to show Tom their impressive gardens, which my best friend had used in her wedding photos a few years ago. It was a bit drizzly, but not enough to deter us from exploring. The place is unbelievable. Just a little sampling…

Tom's model shot in the crabapple covered Peach Allé

Tom’s model shot in the crabapple covered Peach Allé

Baby and I in the Peach Allé

Baby and I in the Peach Allé

The Pink House

The Pink House

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Grand Allé

Grand Allé

Beware of the Geese

Beware of the Geese

Chinese Gardens

Chinese Gardens

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Water Gardens

Water Gardens

Then we went to a local noon mass, grabbed lunch, and used the voucher that came with our B&B deal for a wine tasting at another vineyard.

Check out that view...

Check out that view…

Our last stop on the way home was to join some Trappist monks for their afternoon prayers at Holy Cross Abbey.

They have many cats...here was one. Photo taken for Lucy's enjoyment.

They have many cats…here was one. Photo taken for Lucy’s enjoyment.

As fate would have it, Lucy came down with a head cold right before we left, but she still greatly enjoyed her little stay-cation with Nana and Papa, who put up with her runny nose and unexpected nighttime waking. We brought them two bottles of wine from the vineyards for their pains enjoyment of Lucy! We came back quite refreshed and are ready to get back to our big old to-do list. Send up a prayer to St. Joseph for us if you have a moment, so that we find a place to live soon!

Lucy Agnes’ Birth Story

Tomorrow Lucy turns ONE! I’m still in disbelief. But I thought I would post her birth story, since I’ve had it written out since shortly after she was born but before the blog was. If you don’t like hearing about things involved in labor and birth or are squeamish then skip away! I know I love birth stories, and many do, which is why approx 260 women have posted their stories in Grace’s link-up (so go there if you want more!). 

Lucy’s Birth

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The Fastest First Labor, ever.

Lucy's Birth Story

It’s hard to say when labor “began.” I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for about two weeks, but they were random and not painful, so I didn’t pay too much attention to them. At 36 weeks, I had started taking an herbal supplement to help prepare my body and ripen the cervix, so that, in my midwife’s words, it would make my cervix “less of an unripe banana, and easier to peel.” Right. Well, apparently, those little supplements did their job! At 37 weeks and 6 days, on the morning of April 11th, I began to experience my first “real” feeling contractions. The night before, we had walked around our cute local main street, gotten ice cream, and stopped in at adoration at our parish. I hadn’t really felt anything that night other than the tiredness and severely swollen feet that had been my constant companions, a la Mrs. Bennett, for the past couple weeks.

I woke a few times between 4:30 and 5:30 and noticed maybe two or three cramp like contractions. They were definitely different than all my previous Braxton-Hicks, so I knew something was afoot. They were also more uncomfortable but not truly painful. I was sort of incredulous in that early morning waking– was this it? Was it real? Would she come today?

I told Tom around 6:15 that I’d been up for awhile with a few contractions, and that I would text my co-teacher. I knew I couldn’t teach through these contractions (which really should’ve clued me in to what was happening) but I told her it might be a false alarm, so I’d let her know if I would come in later (hah). Meanwhile, my poor substitute had only had two days of shadowing me and figuring out what the heck was going on with my classes. I was supposed to work up until April 19 and slowly let her take over my teaching over ten days. This baby had other plans and Tamara was thrown into the fire, but did beautifully and relieved my many worries on that front.

I went to the bathroom shortly after texting my co-teacher, and there was some bloody show. I knew that was another sign that labor was truly beginning. But, still, I just couldn’t believe it was happening, particularly since we’d been told over and over at our birth classes that first time labor was often very, very long, and usually occurred after the due date. I went back to the bedroom to tell Tom and felt a little gush of water; nothing crazy, just a little bit, but I knew it was amniotic fluid and told Tom that “some of my water had broken.”

We decided that since the contractions weren’t too intense, Tom would go to school and wait to hear from me. He didn’t have afternoon classes, so he could come home at 1 if labor was progressing, and we could take a walk, watch a movie, and relax (hah, again!). My contractions were very bearable, but I noticed them. They were probably about 7-8 minutes apart, but didn’t last long. Maybe 30 seconds. I sent Tom off at about 7:20, and made plans to go to Whole Foods and buy coconut water and baby wipes/diapers, make home-made Labor-Ade to sip in labor, and clean up the apartment a bit.

Well, about an hour after Tom left, and I had finished emailing the day’s lesson plans to my sub and alerting the school that I was maybe in labor, the contractions started really picking up. I needed to breathe through them consciously and stop what I was doing to focus. I knew I should eat, though i had very little appetite, so I had a bowl of plain yogurt. I texted Tom to update and let him know the contractions were getting more painful and closer together. I was sort of loosely timing them and they were probably now about 5-6 minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds. I found an app online and tried to use it to time them, but found it extremely cumbersome to try and lug the Macbook around whilst trying to relax during each contraction, and sometimes I’d be too far from the computer and totally miss timing one or two, so I didn’t have a great picture of the progression of the contractions.

I decided that now going out anywhere was impossible; the contractions were not slowing down during my activity, and stopping to breathe and relax every few minutes wouldn’t have worked in the car and the store. So, next I tried making my Labor-Ade. This required juicing 5 lemons and measuring out some honey and a few other ingredients to boil on the stove. Lets just say it took me a very long time to get that recipe made, since I had to continually stop, bend over and get through a contraction. It was probably about 9:30 or 10 at this point.

I used the birth ball a little to rock and drape myself over during contractions, as well as leaning into the wall and swaying. These things helped a little. I decided a shower would be nice, and maybe slow things down. The water did feel good, but I had several more contractions in the shower, so I knew my plan was pointless. I dressed in the stretchiest, comfiest clothes I could find, and let Tom know via text that I was getting more uncomfortable quickly. I put on Pride and Prejudice with the idea of distracting myself, but the movie quickly became background noise; I couldn’t focus on it whatsoever. I tried the heating pad to relieve some pain, as well as different positions on the bed. I knew at this point that labor would not slow down, but continue to progress, and I was getting a little panicky at being alone and being approximately 50 minutes away from the birth center. I threw a few more last minute things in the diaper bag and the birth center bag. I discovered the camera battery was dead, and failed in my attempt to charge it.

Around 11:00 I decided I couldn’t do it anymore, and my feeble attempts to time contractions showed that they were about 4 minutes apart and lasting almost 50 seconds. They were becoming much more intense, and required a lot of moaning and moving around for me to calmly endure them. At around 11:30 I had had it, and sent an all caps text to Tom saying I needed help, come home now. I had realized an hour previously I should probably call the midwives at the birth center, but every time I tried to dial I would get a contraction and give up.

Tom finished the class he was in the middle of teaching and left the school around 12:30. I was definitely in transition and becoming much less able to endure the contractions. They were very strong at this point, and I thought of women who had Pitocin-induced contractions, which are way more intense, and couldn’t fathom how they survived. Tom called me on his way home, probably after I texted him again in panic, and he stayed on the phone with me as I went through a few more contractions. He finally walked in the door at about 1:15, and tried to make me a smoothie which I refused. Poor guy. He was trying to call the birth center, get changed out of his suit, make a smoothie, and put pressure on my hips all at the same time. He realized I was in, or almost past, transition and that we needed to get to the birth center quickly. We left around 1:30, praying there’d be no traffic on the several major highways we had to use to get there.

That car ride was the worst of my life. I was in the front seat, so I couldn’t really stretch out, and it was torture. I wonder what people in nearby cars thought– I must have been a sight! Gripping the hook above the door and curling over my huge belly, while moaning and sometimes screaming. Tom was awesome– he drove as fast as he could and used his right hand to apply pressure on my back/hips, while reminding me to relax between contractions and drink water. He also reminded me through each contraction that it would come to a peak and then die down…that was really helpful, since in the moment it feels everlasting. He also told me it was ok to scream and that actually helped a lot too.

When we were about 10 minutes away, we hit the only traffic of the drive, due to construction. It was so incredibly frustrating, especially since there was absolutely no shoulder because of the jersey barriers, and everyone was at a dead stop, waiting to inch forward. I thought I would surely give birth right there on the road. There was incredible pressure on my pelvis, because the baby had already descended all the way down to the cervix. The pressure of holding her head in made it feel like my lower back was going to break. Contractions were about 1.5-2 minutes apart, and lasted a minute. We were also so close to the birth center, it probably would’ve been faster to get out and walk.

After about 20 minutes of this, we finally made it past the construction and into the parking lot of the birth center. As I walked in, I remember thinking I was one of “those” women, who goes into labor In the middle of the day and has to walk into the birth center waiting room filled with moms waiting for their afternoon appointment. At each of my own appointments I had wondered if I would ever see a laboring mom walk in, but never had, and now I was that mom. However, at this point, I didn’t care; I was just so glad we had made it in time. The midwives and staff were expecting me and immediately walked me back to the Lotus Room, which I had chosen a few months earlier to birth in. All 4 of the room in the birth center were absolutely gorgeous, with huge beds, fireplaces, lovely furniture, and a huge birthing tub. I had chosen the Lotus Room because it had soft  pink colors in the decorating scheme, and a beautiful round birthing tub in the middle of the room, not too deep for my petite self.

The midwives were immediately soothing and solicitous; not once did we feel pressured or put-upon. Kelly, the head midwife that day, asked if I wanted to be checked. It was the moment of truth! I had a slight fear that I would only be 5 or 6 cm. dilated, but as soon as she checked me, Kelly announced that she could see the head! I think I asked if I was 10 cm, to which she laughed and said, “Honey, you’re complete!” Wow. I was still in shock. It was happening!

I didn’t have long to mull over my shock, though, as the pounding pressure on my pelvis took over. I asked if I could sit on the toilet, as that position felt the best. They said I could, but told me not to bear down. I came out a few minutes later, and the assistant were filling the birthing tub. They asked if I wanted to et in, and that water sounded great to me. I got in, and almost immediately announced that I needed to push. My body wanted nothing else but to push that baby out, now! Kelly said, “Yes, you do!” And yelled out the door to Kim, the other midwife, and the two assistants to come quickly.

It was probably about 2:45 when I got in the tub. I began to push with the contractions on all fours in the tub, but found it more comfortable to sit/squat while leaning back on the tub. Tom was behind me to hold up my arms and encourage me. One of the assistants listened to Lucy’s heart every so often, and they monitored my heart rate and temperature too. Another assistant kept giving me water, which was awesome, and wiped my forehead with a cool washcloth. The whole team was amazing. The best thing was that between each contraction, everyone was so quiet, allowing me to lean back and almost sleep in the painless interludes. This was very refreshing, since pushing was much harder work than I’d anticipated. I mean, you can’t really practice pushing a baby out, not until you’re actually doing it. It did feel better to push through each contraction. The midwives said I could reach down and feel the baby’s head, which I did, and it felt so strange! Squishy and wrinkly. They tried holding a mirror for me to see what was happening, but I wasn’t wearing contacts so I could mostly just see a blob. Kim traded places with Tom so he could watch and encourage me from the other side of the tub.

After about 30 or 40 minutes of pushing, the baby’s head was getting closer to coming out. I knew this because of the notorious “ring of fire” feeling. That was particularly horrendous, and the midwives said, “Push through the burn!” Ungh! Worst words I ever heard! All I wanted to do was make it stop, t making it stop required pushing the head all he way out. The head was taking its time, coming out and receding, over and over for about 20 minutes. Tom said this was the most frustrating part to watch. Finally, the burning and pressure was too much, and I was motivated enough to push through it as hard as I could. Kelly told Tom to get closer so he could catch the baby, but as I pushed her head out, her entire body came shooting out like a rocket! No time for Tom to catch, Kelly swooped in and caught the baby in the water and brought her up to my chest. She was screaming (I don’t blame her!) and her huge, deep blue eyes were wide open. Her chubby body was covered in vernix, a sign she was a little early, and I laughed because Tom had such an aversion to the idea of vernix all through the pregnancy. My first thought was that she looked exactly like her father, and that she seemed big!

In the next few minutes, as we wrapped a blanket around squalling Lucy, the midwives asked if Tom wanted to cut the cord after it finished pulsing. It was crazy to see her umbilical cord with blood still pumping through it! At that point, they helped me try to stand, and as I did the placenta started to come out. So, once again, Kelly had to intervene and cut the cord herself, so they could get the placenta out safely. I then was helped out of the tub, and onto the bed to look at newborn Lucy.

She had stopped crying and was looking around intensely. She was very pink and had lots of fat around her face. We also noticed she had very pretty reddish blonde hair. We all took bets on her weight, and I thought she was about 7. She turned out to be 6 lbs. 14 oz., so I was close! I immediately decided all future babies must come two weeks early, because pushing out 6-14 was good enough. I was SO glad she didn’t go full term and get any heavier!!

Weighing Lucy in the cool midwife weighing thingy

Weighing Lucy in the cool midwife weighing thingy

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I actually felt pretty good, all things considered. The midwives kept telling us how impressed they were with my pain tolerance, and wished all their moms could be like me. I hadn’t eaten anything since my 8:00 AM yogurt, so I wolfed down the rest of our forgotten smoothie, and Tom ordered burgers and fries to be delivered (appropriate, since those were my biggest preggo craving). Then the assistants helped us get Lucy latched on to nurse, and she did so… Great on the left side, not so great on the right. She fell asleep shortly after being diapered and swaddled by Dad.

We realized we hadn’t had a minute to let anyone in our families know we were heading to the birth center, so Tom quickly sent out a few emails and texts to our family and close friends. The midwives were meanwhile discussing what to do about the tears I had I incurred while pushing the little chunker out. They weren’t sure they could stitch it up there, so they called in Peggy, the head midwife, who inspected them and said they were second-degree tears and she felt confident stitching me up. So we all walked down the hall to the little room with an operating chair and better lights. Tom held sleeping Lucy and the other midwives chatted with us while Peggy stitched away. She was very thorough and careful, and took her time. The surgery took about an hour, and Peggy kept warning me it would hurt, but they used a lot of Lidocaine to numb it, and it honestly didn’t hurt much, not compared to what I’d just done.

Our food had arrived, so we ate that and Lucy woke up to nurse again, and then screamed for no apparent reason. The assistant expertly checked her diaper and had guessed correctly- she had pooped her first meconium. Lovely. The midwives gave us a rundown on what to do and expect the next three days, we dressed Lucy and me, took a few family photos, and they told us we could go! We arranged with my parents to stop by and let them meet Lucy, and they kindly went to the grocery store and bought us a ton of necessities, since we weren’t 100% ready for her arrival.

First Family Photo

First Family Photo

We left the birth center around 9 PM, so all in all we were there for about 6 hours. I was so glad on so many levels that we had birthed at the birth center with midwives. They do home births also, but we went with the birth center because it was more covered by insurance (correction: so we thought), and because it was much bigger and better equipped for birth than was our apartment. Plus, all the mess was contained and cleaned up there, and we returned home to a (mostly) clean apartment.

I can’t praise the midwives enough. They were so supportive and respectful, from my first meeting with them, through the birth, through the last postpartum checkup. They never did anything without asking permission first, and respected and trusted a woman’s body to perform the task God had created it to do.

I can’t say the birth was painless, but it wasn’t ever so overwhelming that I couldn’t get through it, even sans pain meds. It was empowering and reassuring to do it, and know I could. I felt very blessed to have experienced such a rapid labor with my first, since that’s definitely not the norm. I was also so relieved she came two weeks early; I was so uncomfortable and ready to be done teaching on my feet all day.

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Ah, that was fun. It was also good for me to re-read all of it, since I’ll be doing it again in approximately 12 weeks, or 10, if we follow the same pattern (and the correct one, I’d like to throw out to Baby #2). At least I learned several things:

1. Listen to the body in labor. It knows what it’s doing.

2. When contractions start, we better be ready to mobilize within two hours or less this time. I want to go through the crazy part and transition AT the birth center, not the car.

3. Relax. 🙂

 

Countdown to Baby To-Do List

I realized the other day that I have given so very little blog time to the smallest member of our family. Maybe it’s the fate of the second child, but I do feel bad that I haven’t posted more updates or thoughts about this pregnancy. Of course, since it all started off so inconspicuously, I suppose it just continued on that way, mentally. Physically, I’m quite aware of the presence of this little person. I’m getting quite round at 26.5 weeks, and baby is rolling and kicking a lot more these days. I still don’t think he/she is quite as active as Lucy was, but then again, I was hyper-sensitive to everything during that pregnancy. Lucy accompanied me to my last midwife appointment, and got to sit up on the bed with me to listen to baby’s heartbeat. Then she screamed when we had to take the belly measuring tape away from her. She’s still very sweet and motherly with her dolls (as well as anything soft, including pillows, stuffed animals, a pile of clothes, etc…she’s not overly discerning), and she loves to see pictures of babies. So that’s reassuring.

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A favorite activity-- carrying baby dolls in her doll carrier

A favorite activity– carrying baby dolls in her doll carrier

Last night, Tom and I were scrolling through his iPhone pictures and we went all the way back to a year ago when Lucy was born. We couldn’t believe how wrinkled and tiny and puffy she was! And before we know it, we’ll have another wrinkled puffball in our arms. I have lots to do before the end of June or early July (I’m voting for end of June, thank you very much).

* First, there’s the business of figuring out what area we need to move to, and find an apartment. This is made extra complicated by the fact that I REFUSE to be more than 20-30 minutes away from the birth center, and that we will be back to one car in about a month. 😦

*I need to fully master driving the stick shift. That way, if and when I do have the car, I can confidently drive without putting myself and two babies in imminent danger. So that’s a little stressful. Tom’s a super patient instructor, but time is not on our side, which is why I’ve had exactly 3 driving lessons between August and November and then none after that.

*I need to have a very organized system in place before the baby arrives, regarding Lucy and cooking. Lucy requires a lot of attention, so I’ll need to make sure I have plenty of stimulating activities set up for her. Also, lots of ready to eat snacks and meals for when I’m one-handed again. If we do move out before the baby comes, I need to cook and freeze some meals and bread.

*Lucy (are you listening?) needs to not wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning and require nursing to go back to sleep. We’re going to work on this one over spring break when Tom’s home. Yeah, his break sounds amazing; try not to be jealous. Considering she screams like someone is pouring boiling water over her if she is not allowed to nurse, well, we’ll see. I’m hoping she can get used to Daddy putting her back to sleep if she doesn’t even see me in the bed as an option. She’s ok with napping but I still need her to put herself to sleep at naptime without needing to be rocked, because I won’t have arms for that in three months!

*Then there’s all the regular getting ready for newborn stuff that will happen in May and June, like packing birth center bags, setting up the co-sleeper and converting my dresser to a changing table, etc. I’m the least concerned about that stuff, especially since we really have everything already. All of that seemed like a big deal with Lucy, but looking at my list above, well, it’s not.

So that’s our rather impossible sounding list as of now, but I’m sure everything will be fine and work out according to God’s plan. Now I’m off to pack for our little trip this weekend– we’re going to Franciscan for a reunion with my household! I haven’t been back to campus since graduation day in 2010…eek, worst alum ever! And Tom’s never seen the school, so he’ s in for a real treat in the form of Steubenville, Ohio! 🙂