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.


davi said...

That was a beautiful story Susanna. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

Jessa said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Susanna. That was beautiful. I don't know if I am brave enough to give birth at home. I might consider it if we had another... :) Congratulations again. Love ya.

carole said...

This is such a beautiful story. Well done, Susanna! We are planning a home birth in December. :) Yes, we're having a birth baby before our adoption baby comes.

Susanna Joy said...

Carole-- That's Soooo exciting! Congratulations!! How far along are you? How are you feeling? Have a wonderful experience with your midwife! Does she come to you, or do you go to her?

IKP said...

Sue, I am so glad I finally took the time to read and take this are an amazing woman! and I am thankful to know you. Thank you for sharing....

Renee said...

You have a gift with word. And with little ones =) Beautiful.

Jesse, Jess, Corban, and Malorie said...

Thanks for the comment! Life with 2 kids is an adjustment but a wonderful one! I just wish I didn't have to go back to work last week- working from home with an infant not on any kind of schedule is quite difficult! I read Atticus's birth story before Malorie was born and just LOVED it!! I just never got around to commenting on it- you inspired me to write Malorie's birth story- funny how quickly we forget all the little details- love and miss you- hope life with 3 is treating you well- I love all these little blessings being born!!

boatbaby said...

Susanna - We were all just talking about you, I did a google search - and here you are! Congratulations on the birth of your son and your second daughter. Annabella is simply beautiful and I am sure as full of life as ever. Please drop by my blog (should be able to click through my name I think) and see how Zach has grown and drop me an email to catch up.
All the best to you and your beautiful family.

Stephanie B said...

Wow - Sue, that was amazing. It almost makes me want to go naturally with my next one. ALMOST...

I think the penpal idea is fantastic. Lauren loves getting mail. We'll try and send something off soon.

Congrats on Jake's commission.