Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Julie's Birth Story

For three weeks leading up to Julie's due date I often felt like I was in early labor.  I would have consistent contractions for hours and then they would just stop.  Last Thursday night I had some consistent contractions before bed and I was hopeful Julie would be born soon.  I fell asleep but the strength of the contractions woke me up at around 2:00 am.  I felt like I was in labor.  My contractions actually felt good.  It felt good to be in labor.  I had a feeling today was the day.  I called the midwives and Laura was the midwife on call.  She asked me a bunch of questions that I had anticipated, about my water breaking and such.  But one question that she asked me that caught me off guard was, "Are you moaning?"  Huh?  Moaning?  I was definitely not moaning.  We decided I would call her back in about 30 minutes to give her more information on the timing and strength of the contractions since I hadn't even thought to keep track of them.  Jeremy and I had recently installed this handy dandy app on my new iPod that helped keep track of contractions.  We excitedly timed and analyzed the contractions.  I called Laura back and reported that they were 5 minutes apart and moderately strong.  We determined that I would call back when I felt they were getting stronger.  I spent the wee hours of the morning breathing through contractions and obsessively recording them on the iPod.  I called back at about 5:00 am and said I felt like it was time.  They were getting stronger and closer together.  I called my birthing assistants.  The assistant on call was Mary Beth.  We called our friend Elizabeth to come watch the boys who were still sleeping.  We all met at BirthCare in Alexandria, VA,  about an hour later.  On the car ride there, we stopped by McDonald's for breakfast.  It had kind of become a tradition.  My contractions were definitely uncomfortable at this point.

And then we got to the birth center a n d  e v  e  r  y  t  h  i  n  g      s     t     o     p     p     e     d.

I don't know why.  Maybe it was because the sun came up and I hate laboring in bright light.  Maybe it was the pressure to perform since I had woken everyone up in the middle of the night.  Looking back I think I should have ditched the iPod.  It was stressing me out.  Or maybe I was just sick of being pregnant and willed those contractions to happen.  In any case, I left BirthCare about three hours later with no baby.  At first I felt *really* stupid.  I woke up my midwife, my birth assistant, the midwifery student (I will hereafter refer to them collectively as "the midwives"), my husband, the babysitter and my mom and made them leave their nice warm beds so that I could chill in the BirthCare bed in Old Town Alexandria.  Giving birth is a lot of pressure.  Pun intended - couldn't resist.  The midwives were so nice about it though, and told me funny stories about similar situations that made me feel so much better and I left feeling guiltless.  But Tennyson was really disappointed when we got back home without baby Julie.  

Which brings us to the next part of the story:  
A Two-Bedroom Row House + 2 Adults + 2 Sick Kids + 1 Woman in Labor = CHAOS.

At this point I ditched the iPod.  I took a nap.  I ate.  I took a bath.  I cursed the bath because there wasn't enough hot water.  I cursed my two bedroom row house.  I stepped over toys and other random household items that the kids were pulling out.  My attitude was now, "Labor, meh."  Everyone kind of ignored me.  I mean, they didn't neglect me, but I definitely wasn't on stage anymore. When I'd have a contraction I would just stop what I was doing and "breath."  But over time I did start noticing that things were starting to hurt.  Like really hurt.  It did not feel good to be in labor any more.  But my contractions were really far apart and sporadic.  I remember at one point I was laying on Tennyson's bed watching Tait play on the floor and I had a pretty strong contraction.  I started moaning through it.  I looked down at Tait and he laid down on his blanket and started moaning too.  How can you not laugh at that?  It was so cute.

I decided to take a nap.  We put Tait down for a nap and let Tennyson watch "Shaun the Sheep" on Netflix.  And Jeremy and I took a nice nap.  I don't remember even having contractions during that nap.  But when I woke up a few hours later I stood up and *bam* - painful contraction.  That's when things started getting serious.  I don't even know what I was doing.  I just roamed the house in my moo moo, moaning and groaning through random contractions.  It's all a blur of whining kids, crying, talking, etc.  I remember loving my fireplace mantel.  It was the perfect place to deal with the contractions, which now were uber painful and really frequent.  At one point I was dealing with a contraction at the fireplace mantel and Tennyson said, "Mommy you're scaring me.  You sound like a ghost."  From then on I tried to use silly sounds so as not to scare the children.  I thought about Laura's question, "Are you moaning?" and realized I was progressing way past moaning.  So I started barking commands.  "We need to go now.  We need to call Elizabeth back.  Call the midwives and tell them we're coming.  This is getting serious.  We have to go now!"  I was in some serious pain and letting the more dramatic Suzy manifest herself.  

Then we had a small miracle:  in DC rush-hour traffic, we made it from Capitol Hill to the birth center in Alexandria in under 30 minutes!  OK, the miracle might have been helped along by Jeremy breaking a few traffic laws (running three stop signs, four stop lights, and speeding the entire way).  Totally impressive.  But still, the ride was miserable and now I know why people plan home births (among other reasons).  I arrived at BirthCare at 5 pm.  It was so different from my arrival that morning.  No salutations.  No talking.  No moo moo.  Just me trying to cope.  I was eight centimeters dilated when we arrived.  Thank goodness.  I wanted to get in the giant tub.  That usually works wonders.  I got in the tub at 5:30.  And then I got out 12 minutes later.  I was way past that whole tub thing.  

At this point I don't think I was what you'd call "coping" very well.  I was not really trying to breath through my contractions.  That is probably because I was in transition.  All the signs were there. I felt like throwing up (which I never actually did surprisingly).  There was no where to hide from the pain.  I did not know what I wanted except for it to be over.  "Why do I do this to myself?"  I wondered.  I went back to the bed.  I was hot.  Then I was cold.  I was on my hands and knees.  Then I laid on my left side.  This whole time the midwives were helping me and coaching me with breathing through each contraction.  But breathing through the pain felt tortuous.  I had been wanting to push way back when I was in the car.  I told them I wanted to push.  I went with my instinct and started bearing down.  It did not take away the pain but it felt right.  And then things happened really fast.  

Ring of fire.  I knew I was close.  Laura said I was fully dilated.  I pushed away.  More ring of fire.  Inside I wondered if she would be born in the caul.  I got my answer just then when my water broke.  I pushed and I remember hearing my mother say, "Oh she's got dark hair Suzy!"  I remember the midwives slowing me down so I wouldn't tear.  I remember pushing out her shoulders.  And then she was mine!  Her slippery, warm body was snuggled in the nook of my left arm.  She was so quiet.  She didn't make one peep.  But she was perfectly fine.  She was exceptionally fine in fact.  Just really peaceful.  She was born at 6 pm, exactly one hour after I arrived at the birth center.

We let the cord finish pulsating and Jeremy cut the cord and said, "You're on your own now kid," which has been his tradition.  The placenta came a few minutes later.  I was so glad the worst was over.  I was so glad she was healthy.  I was so happy to meet her.  She seemed so small to me.  She was the smallest of all my children.  Maybe that is why it only took two pushes to get her out.  But she measured 8 pounds 5 ounces.    She was exceptional.  Within minutes she was already latched and sucking.  Great instincts.    

We named her Julie after my mother whom I love with all of my heart.  Anyone who knows my mother knows that she is patient beyond patience, selfless beyond selflessness and kind beyond all kindness.  I have tried my whole life to emulate her example.  I only hope I can be like her one day.  And I would love for baby Julie to desire the same.  If one human being could be that good, imagine how good God is.

Julie's middle name, Day, is my maternal grandmother's maiden name.  And I think it also adds a certain cheerfulness to Julie.

I feel I have learned a lot having had three unmedicated labors.  I feel baby Julie's birth created a bridge between my experiences with Tennyson and Tait, which seemed so opposite.  I do not think labor was any easier or less painful this time.  But I did understand it better.  The language of labor is pain.  It is a language I do not speak.  But I understand enough to get around.


Hillary said...

Note to self: don't go to Ye Stewart Clan if you don't want to cry. This is like the 3rd time this week you've induced tears.

Holly said...

Suzanne - I'm so glad you wrote this! I really enjoyed reading about Julie's birth! You are amazing, and I'm so glad that everything went so well. Jason really enjoyed the "ring of fire" part :)

sylvia/ticklethepear said...

beautiful all around.

Brooke said...

Suzanne - I loved reading this! My sister actually delivered twice at the same birthing center - and had an experience like yours, where she showed up and suddenly slowed down on the labor. Must be something about Alexandria! Congrats on making it through a natural birth.

Tiana said...

What a great birth story. It makes me excited to give birth again (even though I have 17 weeks to go). Congratulations and WAY TO GO!!

ginger said...

Oh joy; I do love a good birth story...especially when it belongs to such a good woman. You hit the nail on the head with your homebirth comment. With all three of mine I've said something to the effect of, "holy s*** I can't believe people get in the car and drive *any*where while doing this. You couldn't pay me enough to.." Props to you for doing it and for Jeremy's driving skills. We are so happy for you all.

nomadic gnome said...

love this! you are amazing!!! congrats on a beautiful baby girl.

Ro Ro Riot said...

Beautiful! Congratulations!

Katie said...

I loved this. You are so passionate and wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I didn't cry until that last picture of my beautiful sister looking down agt her angel from heaven! So perfect!