January 21, 2015

A New Birth Story: Kristin Elizabeth

Well...my darling little girl just received her 2 month immunizations a couple days ago. I cannot believe it has already been two months since she came into this world. Two months since we took another step forward on our path as parents, on our path of healing. Two months since I have been a mama of TWO beautiful children. Two months since my world was once again changed forever.

I almost can't remember what my life was like before Kristin. I mean...I remember...it just seems so, so long ago. And now that she's here I struggle to find the time to write. She's a wonderfully marvelous nighttime sleeper. Sleeps through the night, only stirring 2-3 times asking for a snack. A little side nursing (or sitting-in-bed nursing) and she's off to sleep again. Like I said, wonderfully marvelous. I'm spoiled.

But she's a terrible napper (according to my hopes and expectations ;-) ... She's probably perfectly normal). Twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there. And she must be held or in the carrier. Aw, sweet girl. This must be her way of telling me to slow down and enjoy her baby days.

Nevertheless, I'm finding ways to pull together her birth story. So important to me to document her big day. I never want to forget it...

Looking back, I can now see that I had been in mild labor for about a week before Kristin was actually born. If you recall, I was worrying about whether or not I was mentally and emotionally prepared for the birth of my second child. After finishing that post I thought I was in a great space. I was prepared. Bring on the water breaking, the intense contractions, the transition...all of it. Bring. It. On.

That night--less than a week away from my due date--I woke in the middle of the night to a gradual tightening just below my belly button. My heart beat prominently in my chest and I became slightly lightheaded. Huh. Was I just imagining that? Ok, relax Beth. We'll see if this happens again in another 15 minutes or so. Maybe tonight will be the night!

Not even 15 minutes later, my lower abdomen began to tighten once again. Oh my goodness! I didn't imagine it! Recalling my education from our Bradley classes and the words of advice from my midwife, I did my best to allow my body to rest. Let those contractions come, but try to sleep. After about an hour I was no longer able to relax.

David....David.....David. I think this is it. As he mumbled approval through his grogginess, worry once again flooded my brain. I don't know if Chickadee is properly positioned! What if he/she was spinning around, wrapping the cord around his/her neck?? Why do I feel so lightheaded with every contraction?

Frustratingly, all that worry didn't do me any good. After another half hour the contractions were practically non-existent. False alarm.  

I woke up Saturday morning discouraged. How could I still be carrying this baby? According to all the measurements Chickadee was measuring at least two weeks big. Samuel was born 12 days early and he never measured "2 weeks ahead" on the oh-so-accurate fundal height scale. New worries flooded my brain. Would my body go into labor before my Chickadee was too big to deliver naturally? Would I have to be induced? Why isn't my baby deciding to enter the world yet?? Is there something wrong?

Before long I was totally consumed by worry, so much so that I could think of nothing else. I worried that Chickadee hadn't yet dropped. I worried that labor complications would arise if baby came after the due date. I worried that my worry was somehow blocking labor from starting. I continued to hear the assurances of others that everything was going to be just fine, that waiting for labor to start is a normally anxious time. 

A few more days passed without a single sign of labor. I increased my squatting time to "as much as possible" throughout the day. When I wasn't squatting or walking I was sitting on our exercise ball, praying that labor would just start already! I prayed for patience. I prayed for peace of mind. I prayed for the grace to let go of control, for the grace to place my trust back in God the way I had with Samuel. When I wasn't praying I was doing my best to keep busy. Keep distracted. I finished projects. Ran errands. Sunday afternoon I decided it made sense to do one final deep clean of the house. My grandma--the highly experienced mother of 10--recommended getting down on my hands and knees to scrub the floor if I wanted labor to kick in. Couldn't hurt to try!

I had just finished scrubbing the kitchen Sunday afternoon when I felt it. Once again that feeling of tightening. But this time I had to stop and lean on the counter, waiting until the tension passed. This was a serious contraction. Finally. Finally, this had to be it. Excitement once again rushed through my body and mind. I tried to stay calm. After all, adrenaline is the sure-fire way to slow any progress of labor.

My effort to remain calm was to no avail. Contractions subsided after an hour and half of sweeping and vacuuming. Gaaahhhh! I was going to lose my mind. I was SO tired of these on-again off-again shenanigans.

Two days later I met my midwife, Donna, for my 40 week check up. She patiently addressed all my worries, assuring me that baby was occiput anterior (not posterior like I was fearing), and that baby was at least a little bit engaged. She also addressed my fear of delivering a giant baby; Donna guessed Chickadee would be around 8 lbs. 2 oz. Nothing to worry about. Plus, I have a "very nice pelvis, made for delivering babies." She laid out a plan for what might happen if I did not go into labor before my 41 week check up, assuring me that everything is and will continue to be just fine. Her one last "prescription" was to allow myself to give up control, starting with being present in these final days of just David and me. She gave me a hug before I left the office. I really hoped I wouldn't see her next week!
That night, I invited David to happy hour on the Harbor. We grabbed a quiet table by the windows, ordered a couple delicious tasting plates and a beer for David. We talked. We savored. and I let go. Somehow everything was going to be ok.

The next day I ran some more errands. Groceries, returns, and the fabric & craft store. I made lamb stew and biscuits for dinner, one of my all-time favorite winter meals. Life was good. I was calm, happy and at peace with whenever and however my baby was going to enter the world. David and I were both prepared for him to go to work tomorrow...my due date. After all, Chickadee did not seem in a hurry to enter the world any time soon.

We crawled into bed around 10:30. I hoped for an improvement from previous nights' sleep--that is, I hoped for fewer trips to the bathroom. I knew that was wishful thinking, but a girl could always hope.

11:55 - first wake-up call. I rolled my giant belly over and slid out of bed. Sleepily turned on the lights to the bathroom. Pop pop...pop.

Oh. My. Goodness!!! I know that sign. That was my water. That was my water breaking. Holy cow. Practically midnight, practically 00:00 on Chickadee's due date my water has broken!!!! Ok. What to do. I need to try and get some sleep. Who knows how long it will take for labor to progress, so sleep is good. Ok. I can do that. First tell David. Then sleep. Or do I call my photographer? My mom? Do I contact people now then sleep? Yes, I think I should do that.

My brain was racing with excitement. Finally this was really it. Finally I was in labor. I walked back over to the bed, a rubbed David's shoulder to wake him.

"Honey, don't be alarmed...but my water just broke."

"Ok, that's good." He remained in bed, eyes wanting to stay closed, knowing that we had some time before needing to take action. David's logic got the better of him, however. He decided it would be prudent to lay some towels on my side of the bed just in case the trickle became a flood.  

Meanwhile, I decided to call my mom and photographer who were both going to meet us at the hospital whenever we got there. Just a heads up...it's time!!!!!!

Phone calls complete, I crawled back in bed hoping to get some sleep before contractions really took over. Relaaaaaaax, Beth. I know you're excited but you need to get some rest.

Not five minutes later, I felt Chickadee's head turn and drop, followed by a HUGE gush of fluid. (Thank goodness for David's logic and those towels!) Um....yeah. I'm not going to get any sleep. I let David know and made my way to the shower. If I had to wait for contractions to start I was going to at least be somewhere I could better manage the mess.

I learned from my labor with Samuel that I really wanted to take a shower before heading to the hospital. A shower, and maybe even putting my hair and face together. I had no idea when the next opportunity to do so would be. Shower now, no worries later. Meanwhile, David set off to wrap things up in the house, packed some snacks and ensuring we had everything packed for the hospital, and ensured we had everything packed for the hospital.

Within minutes of stepping into the shower, I felt the first contraction. Mild. I had to pause and breathe through it. But mild nonetheless. A few minutes later, another contraction. Wow. Ok. That was close. Breathe. You can get through this. Another few minutes, another contraction. These are pretty regular and close together already. I swear labor just started. This is strange...

I asked David to start the contraction app just to see how close things really were. By the time I finished my shower and putting my hair together my contractions were regularly three minutes apart, and a minute to a minute and a half long. But they weren't very intense. Well, they were. But I was able to breathe through them on my own. I didn't need David coaching me through them like I did with Samuel.

David took some time to shower while I finished getting dressed and putting my face together. A slight bit of vanity, perhaps....but we were going to have Chickadee's birth photographed! I wanted to feel beautiful in this vulnerable situation. The contractions were getting more intense now. I had to pause between each step of make-up application. Mascara on the left...pause... breathe... breathe... breathe........ ok. It's letting up. Moving on the my right eye. Awesome. Done. Ok. pause. breathe.... breathe.......

1:15 am - After finishing up my make up I knew we really needed to leave for the hospital. My contractions had increased in intensity and required my complete focus every time one came on. I didn't want to labor too, too long at the hospital, but I also didn't want to have this baby on the side of the road. David confirmed the car was packed. We had snacks. Everything was locked up. It was time. We were ready. This is it.

We were going to go meet our second child. A child for whom we prayed. A child who would not have been part of our lives had Samuel not died. A child who would make us SECOND-FIRST-TIME parents. Standing in our kitchen, we said good-bye to "us" for the second time in our relationship. We said good-bye to being parents of one child in Heaven. Here we go. Let's do this again. But hopefully this time...the outcome will be different.

40 weeks - heading to the hospital!

2:15 am - When we arrived at the hospital, my contractions continued to require all of my attention. I stepped out of the car...pause... breathe... breathe... breeeeeathe... As the contraction lessened I looked up to see our photographer, Chelle, excitedly (and tiredly) waiting for us. It was so good to see her. She had been such a huge source of encouragement leading up to this day, I just knew she would continue to provide that source of calm to the birth of our Chickadee.

After checking in and a few more contractions later I was wheeled up to triage. The longest wheelchair ride ever. Working through contractions in a hard, unforgiving chair driven by unsteady hands...wow. That was the queasiest I felt the entire labor. I finally reached triage and changed into a gown so the nurses could take a quick 20 minute strip of my contractions and Chickadee's vitals.

Soon after getting settled my mom arrived. Having my mom at the birth of our second baby was a huge change from our birth of Samuel. It meant the world to me to have her there. Strange because we don't share many intimate moments...but because this was such an intimate moment, a moment of moving forward, of healing, of getting back on the horse...her involvement was made all the more special. She felt it was important to be at the hospital this time. Just in case. She didn't want me to be alone if something happened again. Knowing that she was there just in case provided both David and me a source of comfort that no matter what, we were supported. Everything was going to be okay.

A nurse took a quick peak at my strip just as another contraction came on. Suddenly, the monitor was removed from my belly and I was instructed to move down the hall to another room.

um, excuse me? I am having serious contractions every two minutes and you want me to walk down the hall?? WHY? Why can't I just finish laboring here?

I didn't have time to get a full explanation before another contraction came on. I recalled walking the halls when laboring with Samuel. Walking progressed labor. And I was totally capable of managing the contractions then. So I should be able to manage them again now. The walk seemed to take forever, but I'm sure it was only a short distance down the hall.

3:34 am - When we walked into the next room The Table (yes, capital T) was being set up. I remember The Table. The Table means baby is almost here. The Table holds all the tools needed for delivery. Did the nurses know something I didn't? I hadn't even hit transition yet. How could we be this close?

We could be this close because two contractions later, I. Was. Pushing. Yes. Pushing. What the heck?? Did I somehow skip or miss my transition? This is not going at all how my previous labor went. I'm supposed to be experienced, and this does not align with my experience! I felt a wave of fear run through my body. I can't push yet, the midwife isn't here! Is everyone ready for this baby? Do we have all the medical equipment we need? Oh my goodness. I don't know if I can't push this baby out. Lord, help me. Give me strength. I glanced over to the photo of Samuel we had brought with us. Lord, give me strength to trust in You.

I started to vocalize through each contraction using a guttural "moo" recommended by some other natural-birth mamas out there. My "moo" turned out to be more of a sing-song "ooohh" rather than a moo, but it was working. David coached me through each push, encouraging me to sing and reminding me that each push was productive. That my body was once again doing what it was designed to do.

One more contraction later the on-call midwife arrived and I was asked to lay back for a cervical exam. Ohhhh man I hated this position. The pain of the pushing contraction intensified while on my back. Fortunately, just as with Samuel at this point, I was pretty much fully dilated except for a slight lip. I knew I needed to move around to complete the dilation. We tried a few positions. Hands and knees...Scary. I felt insecure. Classic sitting position...almost as uncomfortable as laying on my back. Squatting...productive. Very productive, but overwhelmingly scary and insecure. Finally, with encouragement from Peggy and the nurses I decided to push this baby out laying on my side.

Wow. Chickadee felt SO. LOW. Every push I could feel my baby moving lower and lower. He or she was so. close. And yet I felt hesitation. I knew I needed to push. Chickadee couldn't stay inside forever. But I was nervous, scared, apprehensive about facing my reality. Here I was, bearing through so much pain. Pushing through so much pain...I had to push this baby out...and yet thoughts of Samuel....oh the memories of Samuel. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with confusion, grief...fear. Chickadee was so close. Maybe four more pushes. I know, I know. I have to push....but I don't want to!

I gripped David's hand tighter, burying my face in his arm and "singing" through the next push as best I could, determined to not let my grief get in the way of this birth or potentially harm my baby. At the next break I looked up again at Samuel's photo. I had to trust in God. I had to trust that God was going to give us all the grace we'd need to embrace our Chickadee with open arms.

I took a deep breath and looked at David. I told him how much I loved him, how much I missed Samuel. And I prepared for the next push...

With all the courage I could muster I sang until I felt Chickadee's head crown. And oh, baby did I feel the head crown. And it didn't ease back like I expected. I couldn't push the whole head out in one contraction like I had done with Samuel. So. Much. Burning. I need that next contraction NOW. My midwife encouraged me to try pushing without the contraction to get beyond this stage of labor. But I was afraid that by pushing outside of the contraction the burn would be even worse, so I resorted to what I had practiced: I breathed through the burn until the next contraction came on. Never before had I wanted a contraction so badly as I did in that moment.

Finally, I felt the next wave. With one last focused and deliberate push, I felt my Chickadee's head enter the world. Ooh's and ahh's sounded about the room, remarking on "all that hair!" My heart swelled with pride remembering Samuel's thick head of hair. Oh Samuel. And now this baby. This baby needs my attention and love here and now. My heart was torn in so many directions. I buried my face in David's hand and gave one more push. At 4:19 in the morning my second baby entered the world.

The midwife lifted Chickadee up for me to see. Immediately I exclaimed with great joy, It's a GIRL!!! I had an incredibly strong inclination since before we had even conceived our second baby that we would be having a girl. Somehow God had let me know that our second child would be a daughter, and here she was. Our beautiful, healthy, vocal baby girl.

She rested on my chest as the nurse took her vitals and apgars. I was overwhelmed. Dizzy. My mind was swirling with adrenaline, excitement, relief, and somewhere I know there was grief... Here I was holding my baby. She was warm, alert with eyes WIDE open, trying to take in the world. I just kept holding her. Nothing else to do other than hold her. I looked at David, more in love with him than ever before. We had just birthed our second child. And our second child was healthy.

Welcome to the world, Kristin Elizabeth - you have stolen our hearts. You remind us of your brother, Samuel, yet you are completely your own person. And for that I am so thankful. You are a blessing in my life, one of the greatest gifts I have ever known. Welcome to our family, my little Chickadee. May you always know how much you are loved.   

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