Friday, September 4, 2009

Rose's Birth Story

"Birth is not an emergency. It is an emergence."
- Unknown

The night before Rose was born I was sitting at our computer finishing writing a blog post when I turned to Jon, who was sitting on the couch doing homework, and said, "Man, it feels like this little girl is trying to push her way out of me!" For the last few minutes she had been pushing her feet against my ribs and it felt like she was wiggling her head in a semi-circle around my pelvis. It was a very strange sensation and she kept hitting nerves in my legs that would make my hip spasm. Jon just laughed and said "maybe she is" and we both left it at that, secretly hoping that he was right but not feeling optimistic because I hadn't been having very many contractions that night. We finally went to bed around 10:30 PM and didn't even bother to clean up the front room and dining room like we normally had been doing before bed, because we figured that she wasn't going to come that night and that we would just clean up in the morning.

I slept really well that night, I didn't even wake up to go to the bathroom, until I woke up at about 4:30 AM with several strong contractions. They were interesting contractions because even though they were fairly strong and uncomfortable, after each one I would get a wave of pure pleasure sensation that rushed through my whole body and made me feel wonderful. For a few minutes I just laid in bed and "rode" the sensation-- focusing on making it through the strong contraction and then relishing in the feeling of pleasure and relaxation that followed. This didn't last very long and soon my legs really started to hurt and I got up to go sit on the toilet. The contractions didn't go away when I stood up, in fact they increased in intensity, and so I realized that this must be the real thing and that I was in labor.

I have to admit that as I sat on the toilet and tried to relax through the strong contractions that I got really scared. These contractions were really strong, stronger than I ever remember having with Asher, and I was having a hard time relaxing through them. I still thought that I had at least 7 or 8 more hours of labor ahead of me (if things went similar to Asher's labor and birth) and started doubting whether I was strong enough to make it through. I sat on the toilet with my hips spread as far apart as I could get and with each contraction pushed my hands into the femoral nerve in my hips to help ease my leg pain. I sat like this, still trying to calm my fears and fill my mind with positive thoughts and affirmations, for about 10-15 minutes until Jon knocked on the door to see if I was alright. I told him that I was but that I thought I was in labor. He just got the biggest smile on his face and in my head I thought "Why are you smiling, this isn't fun."

After getting off the toilet I went downstairs and glanced at the clock which said it was 5:00 AM. I could hear that Jon was already in the shower (I tell you that boy was EXCITED!) but my contractions were getting stronger and I was having a hard time dealing with them by myself so I barged into the bathroom and told Jon "I need you, get out now." So he ran upstairs and got dressed and I put on my bathrobe and my mother shower bracelet-- which really helped me to feel stronger and to think positive thoughts.

Even though the contractions were strong they were REALLY erratic. Jon and I tried timing them but they didn't have any sort of pattern to them. I would get 2 or 3 really strong contraction that were only a minute apart, but then I would get several weak contractions that were about 5 to 10 minutes apart. I was also having pretty intense pain in my legs that didn't go away in between contractions. When we called the midwife (just a little after 5 am) she told us that it sounded like the baby's head was not in the best position and that was probably why my contraction pattern was irregular and why I was getting leg pain. She told me to use the "polar bear position" (laying with your head on the ground and your pelvis up in the air) and to lean over the bed or a birth ball to help open up my pelvis and let the baby move her head into a better position. She said that usually when the baby is in a less than optimal position labor doesn't progress as quickly because the contractions don't dilate the cervix as well. She told us that she would start getting ready and that we should call her in about an hour to let her know how things were progressing.

For the next hour I spent most of my time leaning over the changing table or the couch swaying my hips, in the "polar bear" position on the floor, or leaning over the birth ball. I also found myself talking and singing to the baby a lot. I would tell her "move, baby move" and even made up a little song that went something like "I love you baby, baby come to me, come to me and I'll set you free." Not the most brilliant lyrics ever written but singing to her helped me relax in between the contractions and to feel safe. After awhile the contractions got so strong that I couldn't handle them by myself and needed Jon to squeeze both my hips together as hard as he could. In fact, I found that I couldn't relax through them at all (which I had been able to do with Asher) and the only way I could make it through them was to have Jon squeeze my hips and for me to bellow "HARDER, SQUEEZE HARDER" at him. It was the combination of him pushing back against the contraction and me being able to bellow out some of the intensity that allowed me to emerge on the other side of the contraction still somewhat in control and calm.

It was about this point that I really started to get scared and to doubt that I was going to be able to make it through to the end. I was really discouraged by the thought that because the baby was still in a less than optimal position that these contractions weren't doing much to help me progress. I remember leaning over the birth ball and telling myself, "I could handle this if I only knew that each contraction was doing what it is suppose to" and wanting to cry and give up. It was then that I asked Jon if he would give me a blessing that everything would be alright. In between contractions I knelt in the polar bear position and he put his hands on my head and gave me one of the most amazing and beautiful blessings I've ever received. I wish I could remember everything that was said, but I do remember the amazing peace I felt. I also remember that in the blessing I was told that Heavenly Father was aware of me, that everything would be alright, that I was not alone, and that He had sent angels to be with me and my baby.

It wasn't long after the blessing, probably around 6:30 AM, that I felt the baby move down and the pain in my legs eased up and knew that she had moved into a better position. Up until this point my contractions had still been erratic and inconsistent, but once she moved her head into position they started to take on a more consistent pattern. We talked with the midwife again and told her that things seemed to become more consistent and that I had had a little bleeding when I sat on the toilet. She said that this was a good sign as it meant that my cervix was dilating and she said that she would be there as soon as she could. She also said that it was okay for me to get in the birth pool if I wanted (which I did!) as long as I got out if my contractions slowed down or stopped.

Somehow, in the midst of squeezing my hips through every contraction and talking with the midwife, my amazing husband managed to get the birth pool all blown up and filled with water. Actually at one point I remember he was having a hard time getting the liner on the pool and asked me if I could come help him. I remember thinking he was totally crazy to be asking me to do anything at that point and gave him a look of death. But in the end I did end up holding the edge of the liner for second while he got it pulled on.

Basically... Jon was amazing. He was there for me with his strong arms and his loving touch through almost every contraction. He didn't once get flustered or upset by my constant command of "SQUEEZE HARDER", even though sometimes I could feel his arms shaking. There are only two times I remember having to go through a contraction alone-- because he was running the pump for the pool and didn't hear me call for him. And during one of those contractions I know for certain that I wasn't alone. Right at the peak of one of my hardest and longest contractions, when Jon wasn't able to be there for me, I looked down at my hand and felt that someone was holding it. I knew at that moment that what Jon said in the blessing was true, God was aware of me and there were angels with me.

Jon helped me get into my sports bra (for Asher's birth I didn't wear one and later regretted it because then I couldn't show the pictures to anyone) and into the tub. The water was really hot because it wasn't all the way full yet, but I didn't want to wait any longer to get in. The hot water was amazing and relaxed my body all over. In fact, I almost didn't feel the first two contractions I had in the water because I was so relaxed. By this time it was about 7:00 in the morning and Asher was still asleep upstairs. We had two friends who had offered to come get Asher and watch him while I was in labor, but Jon had tried calling both of them and neither one of them answered their phones. I think that one of our angels must have been upstairs keeping Asher asleep because the last few mornings he had been waking up around 6:15 AM, but even with all the commotion Jon and I were making Asher miraculously stayed asleep until about 7:10 AM.

When Asher woke up Jon brought him down and he was super excited about there being a swimming pool in the middle of our living room. He kept trying to get into it and when he finally realized that he wasn't going to be able to he took to hammering it with his hammer. He was really sweet to me and gave me several adorable love pats and kisses in between my contractions.

I really only had 5 or 6 contractions in the birth pool before I felt like I needed to start pushing. I called for Jon, who had just put Asher into his high chair and gotten him a bowl of rice crispies, and he came over and held my hands while I squatted. Jon called the midwife and I remember hearing "Um... Heather (midwife's name) are you close because she is pushing." He was so incredibly calm and didn't seem panicked or worried in the least bit, and he told me later that he wasn't because he knew that I could do it and knew that everything was going to be alright. He told me "That is what your body is made to do... and it did it... what was there to be scared about." Yeah... I think I married the world's most AMAZING man. The midwife was still about 20 minutes away and Jon kept her on the phone as I held his hands and gave some more big pushes. I felt my water break in a little "poof"and then two pushes later I felt her head crowning. I reached down and felt her head pushing against my hand, (Jon reached down and felt her too) and then on the next contraction I gave one really big push and her head flowed out of me. Up until now I had been so engulfed in the sensations of birth-- the intensity of the contractions and the all encompassing urge to push-- that the fact that my baby was coming right then and there, without the midwife, hadn't really penetrated my psyche. But once her head was out I realized what was happening and had a couple seconds of anxiety. I know that since babies don't breathe until they take their first breath of air and because they are still attached to the placenta, that it is okay for them to be underwater but in the excitement of the moment I forgot that and started to worry about her head being in the water. I tried giving several pushes, but without a contraction my efforts were pretty much useless. The midwife was still on the phone and was able to reassure me that everything was fine and that I just needed to be patient and that the rest of the body would come out on the next contraction.

There is really no stranger feeling in this world than to look down and see that you have a baby half in and half out of you. It is a point all women reach at some point when they give birth, but with Asher's birth I wasn't as aware of it as I was this time. This time I had a few minutes to look down at the head I was holding in my hands and appreciate what an amazing thing I was a part of. I realized that for those few minutes my baby was in between heaven and earth and that I was a wide open portal between them. It was an amazing feeling and one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

With my next contraction I felt the rest of her body flow out of me and I reached down into the water and pulled her up into my arms. She was really alert and peaceful. She didn't cry at all, she just looked up at me for a few moments with big eyes and then closed them again and nestled into my arms. The midwife asked us about her coloring, reflexes and appearance and said from what she could tell over the phone that she sounded healthy and strong-- which she verified when she got there a few minutes later. Jon came over and put his arms around me and we both just stared at our amazing little girl. She was so peaceful and even started to snore a little! Then we started to hear a sweet little "mama? mama?" coming from the high chair and Jon went and brought Asher over to meet his little sister. He was entranced by her and kept telling us "baby, baby" and Jon helped him lean over and give her a little kiss. It was such a sweet moment.

I can't even begin to explain the feeling that filled that room as we huddled there together as a family for the first time. There really are no other words but "sacred" and "holy" to describe how it felt. Even though we weren't planning on having Asher there for the birth I am really glad that he was, because I know that he felt and understood the intense amount of love and peace that filled our house for those few minutes. And I know that we could all feel the presence of the angels who were watching over us. It has actually been hard for me to share this birth experience with others because it was so sacred and beautiful, and my words never come close to being able to describe what it felt like or what it meant to me.

Only about 5 or 6 minutes after the baby was born my friend Elizabeth, who we had called to come pick up Asher, came in the back door. I was still in the pool and Jon and Asher were huddled around the baby when we looked up and saw her tiptoeing into the room. She was shocked to see a baby in my arms and almost immediately started to cry. She told me afterward that, "the feeling in the room was incredible" and that she was honored to be a part of our special moment. She hadn't meant to intrude, she was just there to get Asher, but we ended up being really grateful that she came because we had planned on having Jon's mom at the birth but she was still an hour away when the baby was born. It was nice to have Elizabeth there to take pictures, run the video camera, and keep Asher entertained until my mother-in-law arrived. Jon's cousin Mindy, who was the other person we had called to come get Asher, also arrived before the midwife did and was shocked to find that I had already had the baby. She offered to take Asher but we were enjoying having him there so she left but came back later with a huge platter of french toast, juice and fruit.

The midwife arrived about 10 minutes after the baby was born and helped to deliver the placenta and get me and the baby all cleaned up. We got out of the pool and Jon and the midwife got me get dressed and settled onto the couch (with plenty of liners and pads under me) with my baby. She started to nurse right away and I was surprised by how hungry she was! I think Jon must pass on the "good eating" gene in this family because both of my kids have been able to tuck it away like pros right from the start! I was also surprised at how good I felt after this birth compared to Asher's. After Asher's birth I was really tired (I pushed for over an hour) and remember thinking "I don't want to do that again", but this time I felt like I could ride a bike to the moon and back. My body felt strong, my mind felt strong, and my spirit felt stronger than it ever had.

Even though things didn't go quite like we expected, Rose's birth was so amazing that I wouldn't change one thing about how it turned out. Her birth has brought Jon and I closer together and has made us stronger partners and parents. Every once in awhile we look at each other and we get big grins on our face remembering how together, here in our house, with no one to witness it except Asher, we delivered our own precious little girl into the world. Rose's birth has also given me so much more confidence in myself and in my body. I am simply awestruck by the amazing power my body has and when I look at myself in the mirror I think, "Wow, this is a body that has created, birthed and fed two other human beings". I understand now, more than I ever have before, how important it is to respect, honor and love my body. I've also felt more confidence in myself as a woman and as a mother. I feel like if I can deliver my own baby then there isn't anything in the world that I can't do with God's help. During her birth I got a brief glimpse into eternity and realized who I am and what I am capable of... and that has made me a different woman. I am so honored to be the mother to this beautiful little girl. She is has an amazing spirit and I so excited to get to know her better. But I do have the feeling that she is going to be keeping me on my toes for the rest of her life!

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