a birth story

(part 1) …Actually, there was one room open (I noticed when we walked in) but they were leaving it vacant incase someone came in ready to push.

A nurse, Ivy, took my vitals and then we were asked to wait in the lobby. “But tell us if your water breaks or you feel the need to push.”

At first it wasn’t too bad. The contractions were still regular but bearable. I think the worst part was I couldn’t make it to the public bathroom without having to stop at least once, so I’d be walking down the hallway and boom! had to sink to the ground, clinging to the wall. Oh and a really friendly security guard thought maybe I’d like to chat it up with her. “um, I’m trying to have a baby here!”

A few minutes after we got there I realized it was almost dinner time so I suggested Hannah, Rachel and Madeline go to Subway, get themselves dinner and bring back something for Jeremy who was getting hungry. (Madeline, who is reading over my shoulder, wants me to inform you that she shared a drink with Jeremy.) The thought of food sounded terrible to me, but I was downing all the water and apple juice I could. Hence all the trips to the bathroom.

An hour after being there Ivy came again to check my vitals. Things felt a little more intense but I knew we weren’t to ‘baby time’ yet.

Soon after, however, things really got going. I moved from laying on the lobby bench to kneeling next to it. I was holding Jeremy’s hand and he and Hannah and Madeline were rubbing my back. A little longer and each contraction felt like too much. I cried each time I could feel them starting, because didn’t I just finish the last one?! I wanted to tell them I thought I was close, it felt like the agony right before Luke, but I was so afraid I’d be wrong. I didn’t think I could bear it if they checked me then told me I wasn’t close and sent me back to the lobby. I remember a loud group of people driving me crazy. I was breathing loud, crying, moaning – clearly in labor. I really wanted to ask them if they, “could please shut up or go elsewhere?!” but I decided not too.

I had “Be Still My Soul” playing in my head. As hard as this was, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that this baby, be it boy or girl, was everything I had prayed for the past year and a half. Also, I WASN’T BEING INDUCED! Visions of women giving birth for centuries passed through my mind, and I ultimately found myself reaching out to Christ for the strength I didn’t have myself. It was a really spiritual experience.

Somehow we made it to the next hour and HALLELUJAH when Ivy came to check my vitals again she noticed a huge change in my labor, brought the midwife (someone I hadn’t met and I can’t remember her name! How terrible is that.) out and it was decided I deserved the ‘reserved’ room. We got to the room at 6pm (man that was a long walk! In reality it was like 50 feet) and immediately checked me. 9.5cm and 100% effaced. I could start pushing if I wanted, but I didn’t feel ready. They asked if I wanted to use the tub and without even knowing what I was saying, I said, “yesssss!” Jeremy was completely shocked because I’ve always been dead set against a water birth. We know nothing about water births, haven’t researched them at all because the idea of being hot and wet just doesn’t appeal to me. But in that moment I wanted it. Perhaps related to my ocean relaxation? I don’t know. I looked over at Hannah and Rachel about then and they were both crying happy tears. This was really happening! Madeline got a little overwhelmed in the chaos of getting into the room, the tub being filled and delivery equipment being whisked around, but she quickly got involved in what was happening, started talking to the nurses and asking what everything was. Her curiosity overcame any nerves. She was in her element.

It took twenty minutes to fill up the tub, and they needed to listen to baby’s heartbeat for twenty minutes. So for twenty lonnnnggg minutes I laid in that terrible bed on my back with my legs spread wide for everyone to see. And I seriously didn’t care. I was uncomfortable but didn’t want to move, probably because nothing seemed better than kneeling in the tub. I focused on the sound of the water filling the tub. Jeremy and Hannah were on either side of me, holding my hands and rubbing my legs.

Finally the tub was full and I could get in. Immediate relief washed over me. It was a very welcome change. The contractions continued on, though. We weren’t through yet. A few more contractions and I felt a pop. My water had broken! On it’s own! I shouted, “My water just broke!” and soon after, “I’m ready to push!” before I knew it the midwife was in my face explaining to us how a water birth works. (ha!) I told her I wanted Jeremy to help catch the baby, and, under the circumstances, she agreed to let him feel the baby with her as it was being born. But she was going to help. I think I would have said the same thing in her shoes.

Leaning over the side of the tub while on my knees, I started to push, but felt like nothing was happening. (except, TMI, I was very aware of pooping. It happens! Jeremy later told me I pooped in his hand. And he still wants to be with me. True love people! True love.) I was holding Madeline’s hand, and I think squeezing Hannah’s knee? I remember Hannah rubbing my shoulders and being near. (I later found out those two barely made it back from a trip to the bathroom!) Everyone was telling me to push harder and I felt like the baby’s head was just too big. But then, *scream* the head was out. Vocalizing can be a helpful tool ;) One more push and baby was out at 6:30pm. I love that feeling. Not only are you done having a baby, all the pressure is gone.

Jeremy shouted, “It’s a boy!” and I remember thinking, “Oh yeah we don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl! It’s a boy!” The midwife told us to double check, she didn’t know how he could have seen that since I was just pulling baby out of the water, but sure enough it was a boy. A beautiful, rosy, button-nosed, chubby cheeked boy. Clark was in my arms. Jeremy explained that as baby was coming out he deliberately felt to know if it was a boy or a girl haha. He couldn’t wait any longer.

I slid to the other side of the tub and leaned back, Jeremy by one shoulder and Madeline the other, with our sweet baby boy cradled against my chest. I remember consciously trying to savor the last few minutes connected to him. He was perfect. It was a boy!

Jeremy cut the cord and took Clark from me for a few minutes of father-son skin to skin. I climbed out of the tub and onto the bed to deliver the placenta. A water birth perk I never considered: after being in the warm tub I didn’t get cold and shake like after Luke.  The midwife let Madeline put some gloves on and examine the placenta :) She loved that.

As I was moving from the tub to the bed, Madeline exclaimed,”I can’t believe I have two brothers!” I don’t think it was a disappointment, she was just amazed that we knew the gender and it was a boy! We all were still taking it in. It was so refreshing to say, “him” and “Clark” instead of “it” and “the baby”.

After the placenta was out they started the uterine massages. Why do they hurt so much!?? Plus the cramps afterwards. Man! Not fun.

Clark was back on my chest and we started nursing. He shares his big brother’s love of milk. These boys know how to eat! As I was nursing, Madeline offered to feed me the tray of food that had been brought in. She fed me bites of cantaloupe and ice cream, even refilling my apple juice and holding the straw for me.  She was really proud of herself for being there to help. I’m so glad she came. It was something I wanted for a long time. In fact, way back in Palmyra I had already started thinking I wanted her there.  We talked about it with her at the beginning of this pregnancy and she ended up deciding she didn’t want to come.

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At about 38 weeks I found myself sad she wouldn’t be there, but I didn’t want to push her into anything and I kept my mouth shut. Not two days later she brought it up and said she wanted to come with us! We talked often about what to expect (mommy not acting normal, not able to help her with anything, making loud noises, the baby coming out messy and crying). We even watched a couple birth videos. She was certainly as prepared as she could be, still I knew she could have a hard time during the real thing.

It ended up being such a beautiful experience for all of us. The nurses called Madeline my “little doula” which was really fitting. From the time the contractions started she was quick to come to my aid and silently rubbed my back until it had passed. She was very aware of when they started and stopped, worked to keep me hydrated and was just so respectful of everything that was happening. I’m really grateful she was there.  What a extraordinary little girl she is.

Jeremy texted a picture of Clark to our family but didn’t say whether it was a boy or girl. We wanted to wait until Luke had met his sibling, and Jeremy enjoyed torturing them for a couple hours.

Soon, Jeremy, BLESS HIM, went to pick up Luke. It was only about 8 o’clock, Luke was still awake and I desperately wanted to have my whole family together for a few minutes that night.

Luke came in, pretty tired, and after taking a look at Clark said, “Where’s the other baby? The girl baby?”  “Haha… just one baby. It’s a brother! Like you wanted!”

When the boys got back we busted out the macadamia nut clusters to celebrate and Ivy came in to weigh Clark. She asked for our guesses. I said, “nine and a half pounds.” and he was 9 lbs 7.9 oz. You can’t get much closer than that!

Other than the fact that I certainly didn’t love laboring in the lobby, and I would have loved more windows in the delivery and recovery rooms, our experience at the birth center was really wonderful. Exactly what I’d hoped for and dreamed of. The nurses were so wonderful. Ivy, during delivery, and then Lois (who loved that we named him Clark, because Clark Kent and Lois Lane :) ) Everyone worked so hard at the birth center to help us leave as soon as possible. They made all the tests and paperwork happen as fast as they could, respecting that we just wanted to be home. We ended up getting home about 20 hours after giving birth. Such a blessing! I love to be home.

I realize not all births are so straightforward, that there are real medical issues and doctors are certainly here for a reason. I share our story, however, because I wish someone had shared theirs with me when I was expecting Madeline. I wish someone had stood in my corner and said,”If you want to have a natural birth you go for it!!  You should be informed of what’s happening and you should, unless emergency demands, be allowed to choose what’s right for you. Midwives don’t practice witchcraft and if you aren’t strapped on your back to a bed you probably won’t need an episiotomy.” Please, whoever you are, don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself and claim the birth (or job, or life) you want. You do you. Alright I’m done.

The kids were, and are, absolutely smitten and obsessed with their new baby brother. The first couple days home were filled with lots of ”I love Clark!” outbursts, and, ”We have the most perfect baby.”   A few days home from the hospital, Luke got out of bed for a drink and upon discovering neither Jeremy or I was holding him, asked, “Mom where’s Clark!?” Slightly annoyed that he was out of bed, I responded, ”I lost him…” “WHAT????!!” He was so upset and in two seconds tears were welling up in his eyes. I quickly explained that we had not lost Clark, he was laying on the chair right behind him :)

If I didn’t have to go through pregnancy I think I’d have five more babies. Giving birth is a sacred and beautiful gift I love and do not take for granted. It’s the most natural thing in the world and yet it’s miraculous. I’m completely overwhelmed to think how two tiny pieces of us came together to form a microscopic life, and that little life grew inside me until he was ready to take his first breath.

Life is absolutely amazing. I think I say this a lot, but it’s full of magic. Whether it’s watching the wind blow through a tree, music that sets your soul on fire, the satisfaction of a clean house, making cookies as a family, witnessing your children’s love of learning, listening to your husband read aloud or bringing a baby into this world: magic is all around.

God is so very good, and I am eternally grateful.

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