Birth Story: Joseph Terence

Childbirth. Sometimes the world fades away and it's just you, working, laboring, literally. And then sometimes it takes a village. 

When Joseph was born it was all hands on deck. There I was with my feet in the stirrups and nurses pushing on my back, more nurses assisting my doctor, bright lights, people moving frantically about the room, lots of talking, and me screaming that "I need this to be over!" 

But let me back up and tell you how I got into this position. 

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birth story: beatrix margaret

Why another birth story? People are always sharing birth stories. How much variation can there be? A woman goes into labor, there is some agony and travail, and then, there's a new baby. That's the story more or less, so why should I share this one?

All great life events change us. I am a different person than the one I was in high school, and the one I was in college. Meeting Alex and becoming his wife has changed me, becoming a mother and all the stuff we went through during Johnny's first year of life has changed me.  Life is not stagnant, it is constant flux and motion. And the never-ending circus ride of it all has me changing, growing, maybe even transforming, over and over and over. 

When our daughter entered the world she changed me again, and she changed our family forever. We will never be the same because of her. That's what I want to share with you - yet another transformation.

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Waking up from a contraction at 1:30 in the morning was not enough to get me excited. I had had a couple contractions almost every night for the past week and they all went no where and amounted to nothing. Over the next half hour a couple more contractions woke me up again and piqued my interest a little, but I was trying not to get my hopes up. Several minutes later another contraction came and something weird happened that I can only describe as feeling like a water balloon being squeezed. And then I felt a trickle. Now I was wide awake! I went to the bathroom without waking Alex, and the next thing I knew there was a puddle on the floor. My waters! I woke up Alex to get a second opinion, we called the midwife, and then started timing contractions waiting for them to pick up. 

During the next couple hours we timed contractions.  We were on the phone a few times with the midwife and my doula. I tried to eat a bowl of cereal but was too nervous. I took a shower. We brushed our teeth. Alex packed a few last minute things in our bag. We called my parents and they came over. Johnny slept through everything (silver lining of having a child with a hearing loss). By the time my parents arrived contractions were three to four minutes apart. My mom was getting nervous and thought we should get going. So we did. 

It was around 4:30 in the morning. We saw hardly any other cars as we drove to the hospital.  We got all green lights. There was no comfortable way to handle contractions in the car so I was thankful for a quick drive. 

The parking garage at the hospital was under construction and we couldn't figure out how to get from parking into the hospital, even though I had been on a tour just a few week before and they went over this very thing in great detail. We were wandering around, walking was becoming more and more difficult, I was beginning to think I might die, then a staff person from food services was exiting through a locked door and let us in. She even brought me a wheel chair. What a life saver! I was too distracted to bless her at the time, but I will say it now. God bless you, dear hospital employee! 

We got into triage and my midwife was there all scrubbed up. I was so grateful that she didn't insist on a urine sample because the thought of sitting on the toilet was unbearable. They strapped on the monitors and checked that my waters had indeed ruptured. I felt like we had been at the hospital for hours (though it had only been a few minutes) before my midwife finally checked me. 

"Do you want to know?" she asked.

I hesitated. Being stalled out at 3 cm with Johnny had been incredibly frustrating. Maybe I didn't want to know. But then my type A personality kicked in. 

"Yes"

"6..." with her hand still down there "...no wait, 7 cm."

Alex and I looked at each other and smiled. Things were already going better than last time. 

Everything from here on out is kind of a blur, and I think it's because I was transitioning. My midwife kept asking how my room was coming along, contractions were becoming pretty intense. Then our doula arrived and instantly went to work on my lower back.

LADIES: if you haven't used a doula before, I highly recommend one. Our doula was

amazing

. She knew exactly what to do to help me through contractions, leaving Alex totally free to hold my hands and just be emotional support for me. It sounds cliche, but I seriously don't think we could have done it without her. Get thyself a doula! 

A quick wheel chair ride brought me to my room, where I labored leaning over the bed while I waited for the tub to be filled. My doula waved some lavender essential oils in front of my face to help me relax and told me to sway my hips, because I was locking my knees and my legs were starting to shake. I had to sit on the toilet before getting in the tub, I don't even remember why, probably to empty my bladder. It was horrible and I hated it. But my reward was that when I was done I got to get in that big old tub filled with warm water.

The water felt amazing. I was actually able to relax. The contractions even eased up a bit. I was afraid labor was slowing down and that I would have to get out of the beautiful water. But then a big contraction came, and with it came pressure and this feeling like everything in my body was shooting down. The midwife asked me if I felt kind of pushy on that one. I said yes, and she said she could hear it in my voice. 

"Just listen to your body, if you feel like pushing, go ahead."

This was weird for me. I thought I needed permission to push. I thought there would be more of an official pushing start time. I thought she would check me and say "fully dilated, now you can start pushing."  But everyone was listening to me, and I was listening to my body. 

Do you ever picture your birth happening the way it might happen in a TV show? I'm thinking of birth scenes from Parenthood. There's a nice song playing in the background. You see pain on the mother's face but all you hear is the nice song, and before the song is over the baby is out. During this birth it was silent. I remember noticing how incredibly silent it was. Until a contraction came, then the room was filled with the sound of me pushing. It was one of those low, primal groans that I had read about but never pictured myself making. 

And then everyone kind of pulled back, unlike earlier when everyone was touching me, applying counter pressure and massage, holding my hands, stroking my forehead. Without any direction or any spoken word, everyone stopped. This was work I had to do on my own. In between pushes my doula put cold wash clothes on my neck and forehead, and Alex gave me sips of water, the only assistance I had during this time. I heard the midwife ask a nurse to re-tape the plastic around her sleeve. I saw her leaning over the opposite side of the tub, just waiting. My doula told me to keep my voice low. I saw Alex sneak away to take off his t-shirt and then put his zipper hoodie back on and I knew it was because he was getting ready to do skin to skin. I just kept working.

It felt like I had been pushing for hours, (I learned later it was only 20 minutes total.) I remember just wanting someone to sit on my belly to push the baby out. I asked the midwife when it would be over. She checked me again, (the only other time) and said the baby's head was about 2 inches from being born. Knowing the end was near helped a lot and motivated my pushing. I don't remember how many pushes it took, but finally her head crowned. It was the worst feeling in the world, but then her head came out and I felt like I was in heaven. I thought I was done. "Keep pushing!" "I can't..." "Yes you can!" So I did. Another contraction came, and she was born. Lifted out of the water and onto my chest. I heard myself saying "Thank you Jesus!" because our baby was here, but mostly because I was done pushing. 

But she was here! On my chest, kind of purple, becoming pink, covered in vernix, and then she started crying and it hit me that she was here, and I have a daughter. 

Beatrix Margaret, born after 6 (only 6!!) hours of labor. 8 lbs 15 oz, 21 inches long. She's beautiful and healthy, and latched on to nurse right away and then snuggled like the best snuggler. 

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Even though this delivery went way better (and waaaay faster) than Johnny's, I still felt a little traumatized afterwards. Pushing had been really hard. I kept having flashbacks of what that pain was like. I had a lot of "I will never do this again" kind of thoughts. Several hours after she was born, and I had eaten something, and had regained a little strength from all my blood loss, I grabbed my phone and pulled up the classical playlist I had made for laboring, but that we had not used. I played one of my favorite choral pieces, a setting of Ave Maria by Franz Biebl, and the three of us, Alex, Trixie, and myself sat and listened. I thought about the birth and how it brought me my daughter.  I thought about the Mother of our Lord, she was a mother, just like me. My mind and spirit began to heal. And I like that that song was the first piece of music Trixie heard, this side of the womb.

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pre-birth story: due dates are the worst

Due dates are the worst. They shouldn't give due dates. They should give due-weeks. A whole 7 day window during which your baby might come. And they should make it week 41, so that the likelihood of your baby coming after your due-week is very small. But no, the very first thing they do when you go in for a pregnancy confirmation is pull out that little wheel and figure out your due date. 40 weeks after your last period. Then for the next 9 months people are asking you, "when are you due?" And you keep saying "October 7". Because that's the due date. Then October 7 comes and goes without anything happening and all of a sudden you go from being a pregnant lady to being a crazy pregnant lady who thinks there is something majorly wrong with her and fears she will remain pregnant forever!

Johnny was born 2 days before his due date, so naturally I thought there was no way this baby girl would be late. I felt like I was carrying really low and my mother's instinct told me that yes, this baby would come early. But the "due date" came and went and nothing. happened. And each day after that stretched on and on and felt like it was 70 hours long. I tried to keep busy, finish up Alex's sweater (done!) and not go crazy.

That is a handsome man in a handsome handmade sweater.

Each day that passed with no baby I took a few minutes to write down what we did that day. I don't why, but doing this each night helped me feel better.

Due Date:

Johnny locked himself in the bathroom. I ended up getting the door unlocked with a screw driver. But I thought it would have made a great story if I had had to call the fire department and then went into labor while they were here.

Due Date Plus 1:

It would have been a good day to go into labor because I put on make up today to go to my midwife appointment. Then I would have looked nice in any new baby pictures. After the appointment we met Alex at school for lunch. That night I felt so tired and a little sick and was hoping something would happen. But apart from 1 or 2 random contractions, no action.

Due Date Plus 2:

Johnny and I spent the morning with

some good friends

which helped to distract and pass the time.  After Alex got home we walked to the adoration chapel at our church to say some prayers. It's about 8 blocks round trip. I decided that I will walk to the chapel every day until the baby comes. Then when we got home a friend of ours delivered a bunch of McFlurries to our house. Word had gotten out that I was craving a McFlurry.

Today I realized that with each day that passes with no labor I am going to need more emotional support. It's really draining and frustrating to be waiting for a baby, even though I know it's perfectly normal to go a few days past the due date. Thinking about Johnny meeting his baby sister makes me feel better. 

Due Date Plus 3:

I went to Ikea with a girlfriend, got a $1 frozen yogurt, and walked all over that store. We also walked to mass tonight. Johnny was strangely very well behaved. I was feeling pretty bummed that all the walking didn't seem to be doing anything, until...

In the wee small hours of

Due Date Plus 4:

My water broke!

Birth story coming soon!!

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