The Story of Her Birth, Part 2

For the first part of this story, read here.

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I woke up around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning with some contractions that almost immediately felt pretty strong, so I started timing them with an app while I got up and started to get things together for the hospital, just in case.  I was already mostly packed, but there are always the last minute things you need to get, so I was doing that.  Since it was 1:30 in the morning I didn’t want to wake anyone up unless I was pretty sure that I was actually in labor, and I was assuming that even if I were in labor I had several hours ahead of me. The contractions were incredibly intense.

By 2:00 the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and over a minute long and really painful.  So I went to wake up John, and as I walked down the hall to get him I remember sort of shivering and thinking that it felt the way transition felt with Will. But surely it couldn’t be that yet, right? John got up, started a pot of coffee, and jumped in the shower.  I called our friend Carrie (who was going to come watch Will) and our doula (both of whom said they would get here in 20-30 minutes).

Pretty soon after I made those calls (I think while John was in the shower) the contractions got crazy.  Like actually out of control insane.  I think I have blocked out most of this part of the labor, because they would come and I would just involuntarily scream at the top of my lungs.  It’s hard to describe, but it was just qualitatively a different kind of pain than I have ever experienced or can even imagine experiencing. A little after 2 I could tell that the contractions were pushing the baby down. (With Will I never felt an urge to push, and I had to physically, consciously push him out, and it was horrible.  With this labor it was like my body was squeezing the baby out whether or not I wanted it to.) Around this point I yelled at John to call our midwife at the hospital because I knew I wouldn’t be able to use the phone. I don’t know if he had time to make the call, because right around then I could feel the baby nearly crowning and things got intense really fast.

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Right around then Kate, our doula, got to our house. It was 2:25 a.m. (I wasn’t paying attention to the time at this point, but later as we were trying to piece together the story she told us that’s when she arrived).  As soon as she came in the door she said, “Ok, let’s get you to the hospital.” And I told her I could feel the baby’s head coming out and there was no way I could get in a car, let alone drive to the hospital (even though it was only 5 minutes away). So she very calmly but firmly said, “Ok, Laurie, go get in the bathtub.  John, call 911.”

I obeyed and knelt in the tub. I grabbed a towel that was hanging next to the tub and set it underneath me in case the baby fell out.  I didn’t want her to get hurt. John called the paramedics.  Our friend Carrie showed up soon after I got in the tub, which was beautiful because around then Will started to cry, so she was with him. (The bathroom and his room share a wall, so he could hear everything.)  Kate sat next to me and called the midwife at the hospital to have some support on the other end of the phone.  I remember her saying, “I don’t do this! I don’t deliver babies!” while also telling me to try to slow my breathing to slow the baby, which I tried but couldn’t really do.  At some point during all of this my water broke.

Looking back it feels like such a blur. I remember being so relieved that I was actually in labor and giving birth (because I was so over pregnancy at that point). And also being ecstatic that it was happening at home (see previous post). And also being terrified that it was happening at home. But I think mostly my body just took over and every part of me was just so consumed by the contractions that were just coming on, one after the other.

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An ambulance and a fire truck showed up but they went to the wrong house, so John ran outside, showed them where our house was, and then sprinted back inside (I was oblivious to all of this).  By the time he came back in I could feel the baby’s head crowning. I held her head with my hands and tried to push back a little to slow her down. John straddled the tub and Kate told him to get ready to catch the baby. And with one contraction my body pushed her out, all at once. John caught her and Kate told him to hand her to me.  Kate looked and announced that it was a girl! And so there I was, kneeling in our bathtub, covered in blood, holding my little vernix-covered girl, shaking with pain/elation/adrenaline/shock/etc. It was 2:38 in the morning, just a little over an hour after labor started.

I’m not sure how long it was before the paramedics came inside, maybe two minutes? A female paramedic came into the bathroom and suctioned her out (I think) and clamped her cord.  She let John cut it. They wrapped the baby up in one of those crinkly survival blankets that kind of looks like aluminum foil and someone took her for maybe two minutes while I was getting out of the bathtub.  (Pictures of the paramedics’ baby delivery kit below. The remnants of it were still in our bathroom when we got home from the hospital, so I took a few pictures.) Someone (or maybe me) grabbed a beach towel from our shelves and wrapped me up from the waist down, and I walked out to a stretcher that was waiting outside the door.  At this point I could hear Will inside screaming, “Mommy, Mommy!” and it was one of the hardest things in the world not to run back inside to him.  But anyway, they got me in the ambulance and handed Margaret back to me, and we went to the hospital.  The paramedics wanted to hook me up to an IV and I managed to decline it. I just lay there (still in shock, and still in quite a bit of pain because I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet). But I was cradling this tiny little person and everything else sort of disappeared.

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We got to the hospital, they whisked us through the ER and into one of the L&D rooms where the midwife who would have attended the birth delivered the placenta and then stitched me up. The stitching was by far the worst part of everything. I had a 2nd degree laceration and I don’t know how many stitches she put in, but it seemed to take an hour.  But while the midwife was stitching I held little Margaret and John and Kate sat on either side of me and we all started talking about the birth, telling Lisa the details and just laughing about how crazy it all was.

After that, Kate left, and John and I were alone in the room (picture below– the room was BEAUTIFUL) for a long time, just talking and gazing at our little girl and just re-telling our parts of the birth story over and over in complete amazement. We both just couldn’t believe what had just happened. I kept little Margaret on my chest for hours.  She had started nursing quite well while I was being stitched, and she kept at it. The two of us watched the pink sunrise outside our window (picture below) and existed in the golden newness and joy of our precious, tiny girl.

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And that is the story of how little Margaret entered the world. It was amazing, and essentially my dream come true. The quickness of the birth left me more torn than I probably would have been otherwise, and I was upset about that for a few weeks afterwards, but I’m all healed up now and just thankful beyond measure that she was safe and healthy. And even now, almost 3 months later, I cannot believe that I have a daughter. A little girl. Who is now bright-eyed and smiles at us with these radiant smiles and is just too sweet and darling for words. And on her birth certificate, the location of birth says: home.

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The Story of Her Birth, Part 1

(A quick note– I wrote this weeks and weeks ago but have been so reluctant about posting about the birth for some reason.  But here we go.)

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I should be taking a nap.  Or folding laundry. Or vacuuming the floors.  Or organizing the 3-drawer dresser that now is supposed to hold clothes and diapers for 2 children. Or cleaning up the table from lunch. Or lots of other things. Mostly, I should be taking a nap.

But I wanted to write out Margaret’s birth story, because it was pretty amazing and I wanted to share it. I’m also hesitant about sharing it because I think we live in a culture of idolatry of birth stories: who had the most natural labor, who birthed at home, who birthed the biggest baby without tearing and was running a half marathon two weeks later, who gave birth in the gentle waters of the Caribbean while swimming with dolphins, etc. So I’m not sharing this to say, “Wow, look how awesome my birth was.” Because it was beautiful, but it was also hard.

Our doula, when we were preparing for Will’s birth, told me that there might be points during labor where I felt like I was dying.  And she said, in a way you are dying.  Your old self is dying and you are being reborn as a mother. She’s not a Christian (as far as I know), but she said that. And I found that to be so true with Will, and true again with this little one.

And as I have been recovering from this birth with a 2nd degree laceration in a place of the body you really don’t want lacerated, I’ve been thinking about the story of Jacob, and how he wrestled with God and was broken but victorious. How the mysterious man/God “did not prevail against Jacob” but “touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him” (Gen. 32:25).  And Jacob clung fiercely to the man/God until he received a blessing. So Jacob walked away in the morning blessed but “limping because of his hip.”

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And I think birth is like that. This massive encounter between us and God, in which we fight tooth and nail and are pushed beyond every limit, beyond our capacity for pain, but we hang in there, we keep fighting, and we leave the wrestling match broken and transformed and yet blessed.  And I think the three tend to go together, the brokenness, the transformation, and the being blessed.

So I’m sharing this story not as a story of “Look how amazing I am” (because this birth literally just happened to me) but as a story of how I went through a labor and emerged from it broken and stitched up and limping and somehow a mother of a daughter.

So the birth… This story really begins a few years ago, circa 2010, when I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born.  I knew then that I wanted a home birth.  No hospitals for me, thank you very much.  I would be like Ricki Lake! I would be one of those amazing, strong women who pushes babies out in their very own bathtubs! I told John this plan, and he immediately said, “Absolutely not.” Those were his exact words.

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But we were awhile away from having kids, so we kind of dropped the whole thing. When we got pregnant with #1 I read all the books about birthing, home birth, natural birth, etc., and was convinced by Ina May that I would NOT be able to give birth in a hospital. After a few conversations (and after personally reading Spiritual Midwifery from cover to cover) John was on board with home birth.  To make a long story short, we met with the most amazing midwife, loved her, and then hit the brick wall of our insurance company who said they would not pay anything toward a home birth.  So we found a lovely family practice doctor who still delivers babies, and I drove a few towns over for all my appointments with her. And she was amazing.

So I gave birth in a hospital but it was beautiful and I survived and I didn’t get MRSA and life moved on. With the second pregnancy I once again looked into the possibility of a home birth, petitioned our insurance company for one, and they granted it. But we also knew that it might be hard to get them to reimburse us all the money, and for a variety of other reasons (including the fact that the hospital here was renovated this year and each room comes with its own tub, see picture below) we decided to stick with the midwives at the OB practice and give birth in the hospital. It was a really hard decision to make, and I was pretty much torn over it every single day.

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I really wanted to give birth in that beautiful tub in the hospital.  And spend 2 days recovering without a toddler climbing on top of me. But I mostly really, really wanted to have this baby at home. So I daydreamed of going into labor and giving birth in our bathtub, or on the side of the road on the way to the hospital.  Glamorous things like that. I would read stories of precipitous births on random people’s blogs and think wistfully how lucky those women were.

So my due date came and went, and I was getting massively impatient.  So impatient that I even bought a bottle of castor oil and was very close to throwing caution to the wind and trying that method. On Friday, 3 days after she was due, I took Will on a walk for about 2 hours, and that night we went to dinner at Ithaca Brewing Co. with some friends and I ate a beautiful amazing hamburger and drank half a beer.  Came home and went to bed, preparing for yet another night of feeling like an elephant and dreading another day of pregnant existence. And then…

(Read here for Part II)

And Finally, Here She Is

DSC_1420 DSC_1436Little Margaret Joy was born two weeks ago, after about an hour and fifteen minutes of labor, in our bathtub. The short version of the story: by the time I realized I was actually in labor things progressed so quickly that we didn’t make it to the hospital.  John caught her, and our doula was with us as well. The paramedics got there within minutes, and MJ and I rode in the ambulance to the hospital. The pain was unimaginably insane but it was also one of the most incredible and glorious experiences ever.  Hopefully a longer version of the story to come at some point….

37 Weeks and the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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37 weeks.  Massive nesting continues.  I have literally crossed off a list of about 20 project-y type things that have been lingering on my to-do list for months.  And gotten rid of 2 more bags of books, several more bags of clothes, and several more bags of things for Goodwill.  I’m emphasizing the word “more” because I already got rid of so much stuff a few weeks ago, so the fact that there was more of everything to go feels really satisfying. This second wave of purging was inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Amazing, lovely, wonderful little book. I highly recommend it.  I found that there seemed to be a symbiotic relationship, somehow, between getting rid of physical objects and also having the energy to accomplish onerous, project-y tasks that have seemed impossible until now.  Or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s not -15 degrees every day.  Or that I’m not working now.  At any rate, I have been super productive and our house is free of junk and the book is lovely and I highly recommend it– we have more open, free, clean spaces in our tiny apartment now than we did 4 years ago in the same space with no children. (Oh, and most of this second wave of cleaning stuff out was made possible by the most AMAZING HUSBAND IN THE WORLD, who single handedly put together a massive IKEA dresser, cleaned out a bunch of his own personal stuff, hung pictures for me, and basically did hours and hours of cleaning/organizing/etc. with/for me last week.)

So, pregnancy stuff:

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Weight gain: 25 pounds

Cravings: Just ice, but it has to have sort of a crinkly texture, and I can only find the right kind in a few locations in town.  And weirdly, chamomile tea with a splash of half and half. And this kale salad. I literally can eat an entire bunch of kale in one sitting if it’s made this way.  I’ve been making it with just salt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, a very scant number of raisins, and lots of crushed red pepper flakes. A foodie friend of mine brought the most amazing kale salad to a potluck awhile back, and she said the secret to kale salads is to massage the greens for awhile once you have them chopped.  Maybe everyone already knows that, but it was a revelation to me, and it makes the salad much easier to eat!

Other stuff: John has been gone all week, so it’s just been my huge pregnant self and the crazy toddler.  I may or may not have curled up in the fetal position for about an hour and  a half this morning while Will watched Daniel Tiger. But otherwise we’ve been making it ok.  The worst pregnancy thing right now is that I’ve been sleeping pretty badly, waking up around 3 or 4 and just being wide awake for hours, sometimes all the way until morning. I drink chamomile tea, use lavender essential oil, take calming baths before bed, have calming bedtime rituals and everything.  Nothing seems to work. Otherwise, I’m doing pretty well.  At least being up at night with a baby won’t be a shock to the system?!

And some pictures of random things: a tiny, rose pink shirt I found at the consignment store and fell in love with, in case it’s a girl; peonies finally in bloom; and a Matisse print from IKEA!  (We went there when we were in Maryland two weekends ago to buy a dresser for John, and I also finally got this!)

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A Few Things

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My mom came to visit for a bit last week and just played with Will, washed dishes, babysat, and generally was a wonderful grandmother!  She sang songs, played and read with him nonstop, and treated us to delicious meals out.  Will is smitten with her. And we are so thankful for all her help.

Will is saying new words every day.  I’ve stopped trying to keep up.  He pronounces flower “fwowee” and it melts my heart. His car/truck/construction site vocabulary is quickly outstripping that of all other categories.  He has a little green dump truck that he takes to bed every night and calls “dump.” Oh the little boy-ness of this little boy.

It’s getting warmer here, finally.  It is a miracle. We finally took the plastic insulating wrap off the windows.  I’m 30 weeks along in pregnancy and have been wanting to write a pregnancy update, but that will have to wait for another day.  The short version: things are going well, except my poor bladder.  And all the excessive weight gain. But other than that.  The baby is kicking around like crazy, and these weeks are going by fast.  Eating lots of almonds and cashews, and salads with soft boiled eggs or sardines or chickpeas on top.  With this salad dressing, when I have enough cashews and energy to make it. Drinking nettle and raspberry leaf tea.  And seltzer water, oh the seltzer water. Trying to remember the cod liver oil but forgetting most days and just taking my gummy prenatal vitamin and hoping that I haven’t completely ruined this small person’s chances in life by drinking a small, tiny, minuscule amount of coffee most mornings since around 20ish weeks.  (It should be ok, right?) Anyway, more soon, including a picture of my enormous self! So stay tuned!

La Grossesse and Other Matters

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Will is entering a stage of sort of incomprehensible, ineffable cuteness.  I just literally do not even know where to begin. This picture sums up quite a lot.  He’s saying new words every day, random ones like “candle” and “steam” and I think he said his first two word sentence today.  We’ve told him that we can’t play in our yard because the lady who lives in a small house behind ours lets her dog poop all over the yard and doesn’t clean it up.  Today Will looked out the window at the yard and wistfully said, “Poo poo, ruff ruff.” (“Ruff ruff” being “dog”– he calls all animals by the sound they make, except for rabbits, which are “hop hop.”) So, basically, my child is a genius.

Anyway, I swore to myself I wouldn’t write a blog post to complain about the weather, but I just have to say that March in the north is worse than all of winter in the south combined.  Every year I forget how terrible March is, how it’s still 10 degrees at night, still in the 30s every single day, and how April actually won’t be that much better.

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We had one day a few weeks ago that was sunny and 50 degrees, and when I got together with a few mom friends this morning (at an indoor gym for little kids, because it’s 34 degrees and raining here), one of the moms and I were talking about how we both felt like we were a different person that day.  She said wistfully, “I was a nice, happy person.” I was too, my friend, I was too. But most of these other days we are mean and sad because the weather here is soul-killing and horrible.  I haven’t told John this yet, but if we live here another year I am moving back in with my parents (in Nashville) right after Christmas and staying until at least mid-April.  (Is that ok, John? I hope it is because it sounds like I’m kidding, but I’m actually not.)

In other news, I ordered a pair of maternity panty hose a few days ago because I’m going to a wedding this weekend and that’s just one of the things you need.  The package arrived and quite charmingly was written in French and English: maternity hose.  Which in French, apparently, is “collants de grossesse.”  I took just enough French to know that “grosse” is the French word for “fat.”  So, basically, pregnancy in France is referred to as fatness. It’s an apt word, at least for me, because something really primal kicks in when I’m pregnant and no matter how much or how little I actually eat my body becomes INSANELY efficient as storing it all as massive amounts of fat. I’m not even going to talk about it. Except that I am hungry ALL THE TIME and I am still gaining more weight than I should be gaining.  But whatever.

I guess I’m ok with being fat if it means growing a tiny human being in my uterus. Except I hate all women who are able to be pregnant and have skinny legs.  Other than that I am just fine and not bitter at all. But if it weren’t for the grossesse and the miserable weather I think Will’s cuteness would actually kill me for joy, so I’ll take being fat and cold if it means getting to live this sweet life with John and my precious baby who says whole sentences about poo poo.

This Happened

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My baby was born on Monday.  William Emeth (the ‘h’ is silent), 7 lbs 7 oz, after 12 hours of labor.  John is basically the best dad ever– he is literally the baby whisperer, somehow a lactation expert (multiple times he’s come over and re-attached the baby for me, shown me a better way to hold him, etc.), and also has changed 99% of the diapers so far.  And is waiting on me hand and foot.  Amazing.  My precious mom has been in town for a few days and has been selflessly washing every dish, doing all the laundry, and giving our little place a thorough scrubbing down.  So thankful and completely in baby heaven.  It might be awhile before I write more, but I just wanted to let everyone know.