Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Story of a Birth

And to think you were the midwife at my birth,
setting me at my mother's breasts!
When I left the womb, you cradled me;
Since the moment of birth, you've been my God.

Psalm 22:9-1o, The Message

In the spirit of full disclosure: if you're not into hearing about labor and birth, you may not want to read this very long birth story I wrote the week after Atticus was born. :)

Part of me wonders if I would be better off waiting to process this experience for a bit longer before trying to get it all down on paper.
Then I remember the smell of my sweet baby boy on the day he was born, and that it had receded and hidden in the rolls under his neck by the next day. And by the day after that, it was gone altogether.
I think that may be what happens to the memories of the day itself if I wait too long. They’re too intense, too shrouded in hormones and pain. When I watch the video, I can remember the feelings of each stage, and I know that will soon pass. I know this because, when I tried to revisit the feeling of intense contractions prior to my delivery, there was nothing there. Occasionally, if I’d have a Braxton Hicks contraction that was on the stronger side, my body would remember… “Ah… yes, that feels familiar. There will be more of those. Stronger…”
So—my birth story. My little man’s due date was Feb. 10th, and though I was feeling like he should come any minute all last week, I wasn’t hopeful that he would, as both of the girls were five days past their due dates and I wasn’t 100% sure that his true date shouldn’t have been the 17th. So, I told myself he should be coming by the 22nd. I also thought he felt heavy and big compared to my previous pregnancies (both girls were 21 ¼’’ and 8 lb. 6 oz. and 8 lb. 5 oz. respectively.) But I told myself that every woman thinks her baby feels heavy a few days before delivery, because there’s no such thing as a “light” baby sitting in your pelvis, on your bladder, etc.
On Sunday, the 8th, we skipped church. I was convinced I couldn’t sit through a sermon, and emotionally, I didn’t want to deal with all the “You still haven’t had that baby!?” and “When’s your due date, again?” comments. Truthfully, it was the comments more than the sitting… Our little family took what would be our last outing as a band of four, heading to Ikea to pick up a set of beds we’d been considering for the girls. It occurred to me to grab the camera, thinking this could very well be our last outing as a family of four, but since we were going shopping, it sort of felt silly. I now wish I had gone with my gut. Ikea is a bit of a drive from our house, so even sitting in my seat in the van was naggingly uncomfortable. We arrived at the store walked around, found the beds, mattresses, slats, checked out, got a frozen yogurt cone, and returned home. The idea of assembling the beds was overwhelming. The chore, all told, looked something like this: we had to rearrange the guest room, empty Annabella’s room, making room for Penelope to move in, then reassemble her bed in the guest room. Finally, we would assemble two youth beds, make them, and make the bed in the guest room. After a roadtrip/shopping trip like we’d had that day, I definitely wanted to pass, but we decided to muscle through. And am I ever glad we did.
Jake stayed up late Sunday night. He’s in graduate school full-time, in addition to working his full-time job, so there are many late nights of studying. He came to bed a few minutes after 1:00 a.m. I rolled over and asked him why he stayed up so late, and said that I sure hoped, for his sake, I didn’t go into labor overnight.
The contractions started and I looked at the clock at 2:18. I tried to rest though them, but they were just quite uncomfortable. I got up, and I decided since I couldn’t sleep, I would do some laundry, and finish cleaning up a few things in the kitchen. (Talk about nesting…) I took laundry to and from the basement, folded it, brought more upstairs, glancing contentedly at the newly-made guestroom bed, very happy that that undertaking was behind me.
I tried to get back in bed, but the discomfort of contractions made me get up just a few minutes later. They got regular, then got sporadic, then regular again. I believe I called my mother around 4:30, and let her know that I thought her grandson would be arriving later that morning. I took a bath, but couldn’t sit comfortably. I took a shower and sang a while… the contractions slowed down, and I tried to rest again, to no avail. I called my midwife and let her know I was in labor, but I thought things were progressing slowly.
I woke Jake around 5:30. (I had tried to let him sleep as long as possible). The contractions were stronger and I thought I could use help timing them. He timed for an hour while I swayed in the bathtub. We called to let the midwife know that things were getting stronger, though the contractions were still about 4 minutes apart. She asked if I wanted her to come, and I said no, she should wait and rest. (She had returned from a delivery at 12:30 that same night.) Fifteen minutes later I told Jake he needed to call her back and tell her to come now. She had a 45 minute drive ahead of her, and I could tell it was getting serious.
After that things get a little blurry. I left the tub, and walked to my bedroom, where I knelt on the floor, leaning on my bed. I stayed here, swaying back and forth, until my son was born. I know what happened during this time, it’s just that my sense of timing is gone. My girls woke up. The contractions came, one after another, more and more powerful, and I moaned and “vocalized” into my bed’s mattress. My midwife, Kate, and her apprentice, Keisha, showed up. Jake and Keisha rubbed my back. Annabella came into the room, and informed Jake she didn’t like the noises I was making and was going downstairs. My midwife said, “You’re making this look easy, sweetie. But I know it isn’t.”—words that made me want to cry and hug her and thank her for understanding. She asked me if I wanted her to check me and I declined. She readied the birth kit. When I thought it couldn’t get any harder and I didn’t know if I could continue, I told myself that I was doing it, I was the only one who could do it, that I was doing it for my son, that I would get to kiss those precious cheeks soon. Then I mentioned that I would like her to check me, but I didn’t want to have to move from my kneeling position, and she said that wasn’t a problem, and quickly informed me, “You’re 10. Just listen to your body and push whenever you’re ready.” … at this point, my body had started to inch toward pushing, but hadn’t done so with gusto, so I had allowed myself to hope for 8 ½ centimeters, thinking I could handle another 1 ½ ahead of me. It was such a relief to know the dilation was done… and I told myself that I would get to meet that beautiful child in fifteen minutes. You can do this for fifteen more minutes.
At this point, Jake brought Ananbella into the room to watch her brother come into the world, and my contractions seemed to ease a tiny bit. I waited for them to come, and I pushed with them. The room was silent. Occasionally, my midwife and her apprentice would exchange an indiscernible, reverent whisper. Jake told me, later, that the energy in the room was electric…that it has been at that point of labor with all our children… The sun was shining, lighting the room through our sheer curtains, but my eyes were mostly shut. I asked Kate if she could see the baby’s head, as I could feel his width descending, but she said not quite yet. Then I told her he was coming, and I felt the force of tides come together and force the baby downward with each pushing contraction. I felt his head at the edge of me, and, pushing slowly, trying to hold back a little, brought out his head. My guess, though I wasn’t counting, is that this took about five or six contractions. Slow, peaceful contractions, without the distraction of counting or holding my breath.
Then I felt my midwife take his head, trying to turn it. As I was pushing, I felt her tug on the baby, and realized she was trying to bring him out, but was unable. I asked her “What do you want me to do?” “I need to get in a runners stance, one leg up. “ So, I quickly went from kneeling on both knees, to kneeling on one, with one leg up, ready to push off… I drew every bit of strength I could muster, and with one final push/grunt/yell, out he came. (The video has been copied and given to the student midwife, as it was, apparently, a text book example of what should be done to manage a shoulder dystocia.)
Kate handed me my baby, and I collapsed backward into her arms, shaking a little. She held and hugged me, and I didn’t want to move, until my knees felt too weak to hold me. So I crawled into my bed with my baby boy in my arms and Annabella beside me, investigating him.
I delivered the placenta, Atticus Stonewall Joy had his first checkup. We took guesses on his weight, and Kate’s , “Between 10 lb. 4oz. and 10 lb. 8 oz.” took the prize; he was 10 lb. 6 oz. and 22 inches long. My precious midwives made me the most delicious tea, full of cream, honey, and healing herbs. I ate eggs that my friend Maria prepared. (She graciously videotaped/helped with the girls.) My exam showed no signs of trauma to my body, which was amazing considering the dystocia and the baby’s size; I was so grateful for pushing upright, on my own timetable. The midwives were gracious and encouraging, folding up their dirty aprons and cleaning up my room. Penelope didn’t know exactly how she felt about the new baby, and eyed him suspiciously as he nursed. Jake held his son and proudly smiled. We spent the day in restful wonder after everyone left and that evening , I queried Annabella, “So, what did you think about Atticus’ birth?” “I think your bottom had to open up very big for the baby to come out.” “But were you scared or anything?” Indignently and matter-of-factly she replied, “No, Mommy. Why would I be scared?” as she rolled her eyes. I guess the youtube videos and birth-enacting we did prepared her pretty well.
And that was that. Simple and uncomplicated. Very, very NORMAL feeling. I wouldn’t say anticlimactic, but having him born at home, in my room, on a Monday morning at 8:28 a.m… the whole birth flowed with our lives, with our everyday. We welcomed him warmly on a cold, February morning, in the room where he now sleeps beside me, to the place where he will learn what love is, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.


Last night, while sitting on the potty right before bed:

P: "Mommy, you got any cookies?"

Me: "No, baby."

P: "... You got any posipos?" (popsicles)

Me: "No."

P: "You got canny?" (candy)

Me: {chuckling} "No."

P: "You got any.....gum?" {sligh grin}

Me: "No, sweetie."

P: "Mommy.... I dust teasing you. I dust teasing you, Mommy."

...Can't believe she'll be two in two weeks.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cozy February

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A winter, a silent season, and a son

Atticus Stonewall Joy joined our family at 8:24 am on Monday, February 9. He is a beautiful, healthy, ruddy baby, and I can't get enough of his newborn smell. Our home delivery was smooth and short. I wouldn't have changed a thing. We are blessed beyond measure. Meet our precious son:

We all guessed his weight. The midwife estimated between 10 lb. 4 oz. and 10 lb. 8 oz. The moment of truth: 10 lb. 6 oz. Oh, and 22'' long.

As I'm on this couple weeks of resting and "babymoon," and hours and hours of nursing our little man-child, no doubt, I'll try to get up some pictures of our holidays and the little ones posted here. I realize it's been a crazy-long blog sabatical. Thank you all for your love and warm wishes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Lately, the girls have been becoming better friends and playmates, something that is heartwarming to watch to say the least. Part of me would keep them this age forever...

My mother visited over the weekend of Halloween, and the kids had a wonderful time. Penelope has approached me several times asking "Nana? I-nno." Translation: "Where is Nana? I don't know." Thankfully, she's been easily consoled. The girls have been reinacting trick-or-treating at home for the weeks since. Annabella was not simply a pirate; she was a Pirate Princess. And Penelope was a little Native American. It was adorable. I'll just go ahead and say it, even though they're my kids. As a sidenote, Annabella has been fascinated to hear the news of the Somali pirates because we had all but told her that pirates lived "long ago." She pulled out her sword last night, wondering if maybe she should go help fight the bad guys who've been taking the ships.

Penelope is becoming much more talkative, and more understandable. She's fascinated by all ainmals, and still loves her baby dolls. She is also a phone enthusiast, and she enjoys saying "A,B's." Oh, and she loves her incentives for going potty like a big girl (ie: M&M's).
Annabella is enjoying writing and spelling words--specifically the names of her loved ones on various artwork she creates. She had an extra-wonderful day at ballet this week--it was Princess Week. She went to class in costume and was greeted by her teacher all dressed up. She loved wearing her tutu and wings from Grammy.
Jake is diligently plugging away at an exhausting semester. Being a fulltime employee/grad student/daddy/hubby has been a bit more taxing than he anticipated. Only two-and-a-half weeks to go till a whole happy holiday month off.
And I am growing! We're 28 weeks into this babymaking endeavor, and this little man is getting large enough to make me uncomfortable. I have a feeling these next two months are going to fly by with the distractions of the holidays. And that's fine. I don't anticipate those last couple weeks will go quite as quickly, but I think that will be good. I feel like I've hardly had time to completely digest that this little boy is coming. I can only imagine the more children one has, the pregnancies must just race by faster and faster, hardly giving you time to sit down and drink enough water...
It's naptime around here, so I'm going to tuck in some tired troops. Enjoy a quick glimpse...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Right Now, and Before

I suppose there are many things that make me love October. The contrast of the sunbursts of yellow, red and orange leaves against the sky make it seem a cool, electric blue. Chilly air that gives you a start when you inhale and makes you glad you pulled that sweater out of your closet. The first pumpkin pie and warm soup of autumn. Even the mountains of leaves you raked being ruined by little jumping bodies is a much-anticipated event, and I have to say Michigan does not disappoint on any of these fronts. It's a truly beautiful time of year here, and we're loving it.

We've been hiking as much as Jake's schedule will allow, and I've enjoyed taking the girls to the pumpkin patch and dwarf apple orchard--yes, an orchard where even 16-month old Penelope can pick her own apples from miniature trees. Genius.

My play went well and was a lot of fun to be a part of, though I definitely underestimated the commitment of time. Regardless, it was a wonderful experience.

I'm 23 1/2 weeks pregnant, and it's difficult to believe this pregnancy is more than halfway over. My anticipation is growing and growing to meet this little man whose kicks and turns wake me up in the middle of the night.

Enjoy a little look at our month. And if you're wondering what the last photo is... well, that's one for the history books. It's Penelope flushing the toilet after her first successful use of the potty. I'm just hoping it wasn't a fluke.


Monday, September 22, 2008


Our family has jumped headfirst into the busiest season of our lives so far. Simultaneously, Jake has started his graduate program, Annabella has started taking weekly ballet instruction and attending a homeschool Enrichment Day here in town. Thankfully, wee Penelope is still too small to have any extracurricular pursuits of any kind, but that will change soon, I realize. I am seeing very clearly why families have to strategize about limiting outside involvements in the interest of, well, the family itself. My MOPS year starts this week as well, so things here are... lively. Speaking of strategizing, we concluded our little family needed some time just the four of us (well...technically five), so Jake took the day off on Friday, we rented a cabin out on the western coast of Michigan, and explored Lake Michigan for the first time. It was a wonderful, refreshing weekend for all of us. Here's a little sample of our days.