Tag Archives: babies

Another birth story

Arriveparexpress

Vintage postcard, circa 1910; art by Katharine Gassaway

Our littlest man has arrived! The express was late, as usual, but came in at a rush at the end.

The nice thing about having a pregnancy go past the due date is that they don’t turn you back at the hospital door. With our first two babies, it was all we could do to convince the staff that I was actually in labor.

With this baby, I walked around the birthing room shortly after I arrived. It had many windows looking out onto a wooded area – a long vista of green leaves. I touched the coverlet on the bed gingerly.

“I don’t want to get anything dirty,” I said. “What if they send me home?” My doula and my husband reacted according to their personalities. My doula, who is practical, motherly, and wonderful, laughed; my husband (who is also practical and wonderful, if not motherly) thought I was nuts.

I’d spent a great deal of time during the third trimester trying NOT to dread labor. Natural birth is beautiful and also really painful. As the day approaches, the latter aspect looms large in my mind.

And good grief, anything can happen during labor. There are no guarantees whatever.

(Add to all this that I am a naturally anxious person. “Is there anything,” my husband said to me today, “That doesn’t give you anxiety?” I don’t know. I’d have to think about it.)

Eleven days after my due date, after a night of unsteady contractions, I sat on our porch, contemplating labor gloomily. If I was going to offer up my sufferings for others, a more painful labor would be better, right? More pain, more help.

“Lord,” I said sadly (I had been praying a rosary during the contractions), “I am a coward. I do care about the people for whom I am offering up this labor. But I really, really don’t want so much pain!”

But then I remembered something – a short time before, I had finished a Marian consecration. That’s when you dedicate yourself to Mary, the mother of God. The particular consecration I used had the consecrated one (that meant me) dedicate their interior and exterior goods to Mary, to dispose of as she wishes. So the matter, it seemed to me, was out of my hands. I turned it over to her, and it felt like a weight off of my shoulders. (Is suffering easier when you permit it – as in, “Suffer the little children to come to me”? I don’t know, but it was so much easier to give it over, and not have my will involved in it one way or another.)

We set off for the birth center, my husband and I. I was glad we were going in his car, because it’s a standard shift car with a relatively powerful engine and my husband drives, how do you say – assertively. His passengers with tender stomachs or nerves tend to have a hard time. I was glad because I hoped all the jerks would push me into steady labor.

“Be still.” This was the theme of the third trimester, and became the theme of the labor. The midwives at the birth center had started me on a regimen of herbs at 36 weeks, knowing that I usually go beyond my due date, in the hopes that the herbs’ actions would prevent my being late. So I felt hopeful that this time, I might have an on-time labor, and got very excited when I started having contractions. Only they stopped, then started, then stopped, then started, then stopped.

It could have been the herbs, or it could have been simply the way this labor was meant to be, but I suspect it was because the baby was posterior – that is, he was facing my front, which is a sub-optimal position for labor. I tried baby-turning exercises, I tried being active, but nothing helped for long.

One day, during the third trimester, my sister told me about how she felt God speaking to her about something.

“I felt as though God was saying that I didn’t need to be fighting all the time, that I wasn’t the only bulwark between my children and a crazy world. He seemed to tell me that he would do the fighting for me.”

This gave me to think about my own case. I felt like I was fighting so hard to get the labor going, but in vain – also fighting to be brave.

My lovely doula gave me emotional support even through this time. She got many texts from me to the tune of, “I don’t know what is going on! Everything starts and stops!” She texted me a Bible verse: “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.”

I wrote back that my sister had said something very similar to me.

“That is your word, then,” she texted back.

She was right. I needed to let go of my anxiety, it was true, but even physically the invitation to be still applied. I noticed a pattern. When I lay still, my contractions got stronger. When I got up and moved, they stopped. This was the opposite of what I had heard over and over about childbirth – everyone always says to keep moving to facilitate labor.

On the morning we went in to the birth center, the contractions still were few and far between. I was getting restless – my other labors had all been straightforward; the contractions began, and proceeded in a relatively orderly fashion until the birth. I texted our doula for our last birth, Elizabeth, and she suggested that I try the Miles Circuit.

“What is that?” I asked Allison.

“I don’t know,” she said, taking out her smart phone. “I’ll look it up.”

It turns out that it is a series of positions meant to help a posterior baby to turn, so that labor can progress. A posterior baby can cause a labor to stall, and mine seemed to be repeatedly stalling.

Allison showed me how to lie still.

“It says you stay like this for thirty minutes,” she said.

“Ok,” I said. Suddenly, I felt very very shy. I knew we were all here for my labor, and whatnot, but it felt awful all of a sudden being the center of attention.

“Would you mind, um, going away for a little while?” It sounded so rude!

Allison had perfect aplomb. “Sure!” she said. “I’ll just be in the other room.”

The moment she left I regretted asking her to go – now I was too alone! I hoped the thirty minutes would go by fast. They did, and the contractions increased. Being still was working! Allison came back and showed me how to do second step in the circuit.

After she got me settled for the third part, she asked, “Would you like to listen to some music?”

“Sure,” I said. “What have you got?”

“Here is a song that someone sent me recently,” she said. “I think you will like it. It is done by a couple who lives near here – they sang it in a silo, and it is really beautiful.”

The song was “It Is Well With My Soul.” Just hearing the name put my anxiety and fear in perspective. I knew the story of that song – it was written by a man as he traveled by sea to meet his grieving wife, who had just been in a shipwreck with their four daughters, who did not survive. By contrast my problems were small.

The song is beautiful in itself, and it is rendered so beautifully. (You can listen to it (and see it being sung) here.) I listened with my eyes closed, holding back tears. The contractions stopped for the duration of the song. It seemed to last a very long time, this island of peace during the labor. Be still.

Then, without warning, just the song finished, labor suddenly ramped into high gear. Until that point (before the period of peace during the song) the contractions had been pretty respectable – that is to say, they hurt a good deal, and required internal focus on my part. But this part – transition – is the hard part. It is the time when one feels crazed with pain. Anyway that’s what it feels like to me.

Allison and the midwife and nurse helped me through it patiently. I felt – I suppose this sounds strange – like a stricken animal. Maybe it is the sensation of helplessness that seems animal-like. I remember clearly the people and things around me from that time, but pain, and yes, fear, dominated.

The prenatal exercise video I used referred to contractions as “lovely labor surges.” Oh for the love of Pete. A contraction by any other name still feels fairly horrendous – especially during transition, where the contraction pain seems non-stop.

One part of my brain tried to manage talking and moving, while another large part of my brain kept broadcasting PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN. My mind cast about desperately for relief, but came up with nothing.

“If I died,” one part of my brain said, “the pain would stop. One good knock on the head would do it.” I went over, mentally, all the objects in the room, to see if anything was hard enough, while easy to swing, to do me in.

“It’s no use,” another part of my brain said – “Nobody here’s going to be willing to knock you on the head.” Even at that moment, yet another part of my brain had the energy to be aghast at my thoughts.

“I can’t do it!” I said to Allison.

“Aha!” she replied, “You told me yourself that when you said that, the baby would be born soon, and he will.”

At that very hardest time of the labor, Allison started to pray over me, something she had not done, at least not out loud, before. And also, about at this time, the following happened:

Prior to labor beginning, quite some time before, I had asked Our Lady, my guardian angel, and St. Therese to be with me. I envisioned Our Lady on my left, my guardian angel on my right, and St. Therese with her hand on my shoulder, during the contraction pains. I had been praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary as my labor began. While praying the rosary, you meditate on scenes from the life of Christ. I often find it difficult to pay attention during the rosary on a good day, so you can imagine how it was during labor. I never got past the first Mystery, the Agony in the Garden – so during the contractions I had my mental eyes focused forward, on an image of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. During transition, I focused my mind again – Our Lady on my left, my guardian angel on my right, and St. Therese behind me. I looked ahead, in my mind, to see Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, but to my surprise I did not see him. I saw the risen Christ, beautiful and confident.

There was a tense moment or two, right before birth, when the baby’s heart rate slowed; but the midwife and doula helped me to move, and his heart rate went back up. Within a few minutes he was born.

* * *

Halleluia, we had made it!

Every time we have a new baby, I marvel at their tiny beautiful hands, and tiny perfect feet, and sweet little heads. And the nurses always say,

“Good heavens! Look at the size of those feet! Look at his little biceps! Look how long this baby is!!”

Of course I only see my own babies at birth, so they all look tiny to me. The nurses see all kinds of babies, and it always feels so odd to hear the nurses exclaim at how huge our babies are. This little one, like all his brothers, was over ten pounds. He’s not fat – he’s not even big-boned; he’s just big.

We rested all afternoon in the quiet.

We had gone to the birth center in the morning – baby was born in the early afternoon, and we went home in the evening. My wonderful, glorious in-laws had been taking care of our other boys (and of all of us for the whole month prior! I told you they were wonderful.) We came home with a new little baby, of course, fast asleep in his car seat.

“You look great!” my in-laws said.

“I feel great,” I replied.

And I did. It wasn’t until a day or two later that I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. But that pain is a good sort of pain somehow – or at any rate nothing can dampen the glorious fact that labor is over with. And our new baby is the most beautifulest baby in the world, as I often tell him, with the possible exception of his brothers, when they were babies.

 

 

 

 

Baby bulletin

Meet my alarm clock

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Our baby has discovered his feet, and it is super cute to watch him grab them. He is getting better at rolling over and holding up his head, and he has added a new sound to his repertoire. In addition to the hungry, sleepy, etc. cries, he now does a sort of good-natured grousing, as if to say, “What’s it take for a baby to get a little attention around here??”

Shaken, not stirred

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, (really – ask any mother you know) that many sleepy babies like to be joggled, jostled, or otherwise lulled by motion into sleep. In our house mommy can often be seen doing weird little dances with baby to achieve this end.

Ninja baby

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Silent? Yes. Hidden? Yes. Assassin? Well – he can counter a bad mood with lethal force. Q.E.D.

Here at last!

Newbaby

Here’s a fast sketch of our little bundle of boy, who arrived – at last! – two weeks ago, almost two weeks after his due date.

He’s a gorgeous baby – I know, I would think so, but really it’s true. I look at his little form and marvel – the greatest artist on earth might be able to paint, or sculpt, such a beautiful baby, but never create one out of living clay.

Little man is doing well and so are we, all the more so because he’s here!

Birth stories!

As we prepare for little chick, I’ve been going over past labors and remembering things I forgot. Here are our birth stories. (If you are a man, you can run screaming if you like, I won’t be offended. If you are a woman, you may be saying “Yippety-skippety, birth stories! and if so, read on.)

Nurserybabies

My husband went into the nursery looking for our baby. He passed a long line of tiny babies mewling quietly, then came upon an outsize bassinet containing our baby who, to go with his size, had a deep, robust squall.

Macrosomia

When we found we were expecting our first baby, I didn’t know anything about giving birth. A friend of ours said, “Oh! You must try the birth center! You can’t get an epidural, but you can have a very natural birth in a homey setting.”

I had heard that an epidural is when an anaesthesiologist, in a bid to prevent future pain, pokes a very large needle in one’s spine. I hadn’t been excited about that idea anyway, so I decided to give the birth center a try.

When I walked in, flute-y, tribal music was playing – the kind you hear at interpretive centers in national parks. The walls had primitive art, and the waiting area was quiet, and full of colorful pillows. I was hooked. For the next several months I learned all about natural birth, and learned some of the philosophies of Ina May Gaskin and other midwives. I looked forward to a peaceful, unmedicated birth, such as generations of women had, if not exactly enjoyed, at least won through successfully.

A small bump appeared on the horizon a few weeks before the baby was due. Two young midwives faced me sheepishly in the office – I think they’d come in a pair for moral support – to tell me that since our baby was measuring so big, maybe I’d be better off going to the hospital for an induction, a couple of weeks early, so that the baby would not be TOO big.

At my next prenatal appointment, however, I saw one of the older midwives, a lady with long white and grey curly hair. She said, in so many words, “Harumph!” and also “Pshaw!” and gave me to understand that I should have no trouble giving birth to a big baby.

Not long after, the exciting day arrived. In the evening, I felt a litle contraction, and held my husband’s hand, and felt very brave. Then, nothing. So I went to bed. At midnight labor hit like a freight train. I tried to stand up, but fell on all fours on the ground. I knew that first labors could be from 12-24 hours long, or even more. There was no way I could take 12 hours of this! My husband suggested that I call the midwife. I did, and the conversation was something like this:

MIDWIFE: Are you feeling much pain?
ME: ….Geh!…Gah!….
MIDWIFE: You’ve just started labor. How about if you take a warm shower?
ME: …Erg!…Argh!…

I timed contractions for the next three hours, gripping my husband’s hand so hard with each one that I’m amazed I didn’t break anything. Once I’d hit the magical mark of 1 hour of 1 minute contractions spaced 5 minutes apart, I said, “Let’s go!” At the hospital – we went there because I was sure I could not do without pain relief – the nurse said, “Can I give you something for the pain?” I said “YES!” But our midwife got up close to me and looked me in the eye, and said, “You can do this.” So I said, “OK!” I was beyond the point of being able to think very clearly for myself; but also they’d told me upon coming in that I was almost to the end of transition – the most intense portion of labor – so I knew the birth was not far off.

I wasn’t a brilliant student in school, but I was basically a straight-A student. What this means is that I did everything my teachers told me to do. At the birth center they told us to “employ vocalizations” during labor, and so, being a good student (oh my poor husband!) I employed vocalizations. Mine sounded more like those of a shot putter than of a gentle suffering lady.

When little man was born, they told us his weight – 10 pounds, 4 ounces. I hadn’t been aware that they made babies that big – but evidently they, or more pertinently, we do.

The midwife whom I saw for the first postpartum visit was the one with long white and grey hair, who had assured me that I could have a big baby. She peered over her glasses at me.

“I see from your chart that your labor was – ahem –  ‘Fast and furious.'”

I smiled wanly. I hadn’t planned it that way!

Macrosomia plus

Fast-forward two and a half years. It was October 1, the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. Our baby was late, according to the ultrasound due date (but not late according to my charting due date) so our obstetrician was getting antsy. I was afraid that my fears about the impending labor were holding me back, so I asked St. Therese’s intercession – “Help me to be brave during labor!” I took a long, long walk, then went home to bed. The next morning, after breakfast, I felt a steady abdominal pressure. The pressure kept coming, in a very rhythmic fashion. A lightbulb went on – this might be labor! I called my husband and our doula.

The pressure turned into pain, so I started to time the contractions. Soon they were getting painful enough to occupy all my attention, and I sat at the foot of the bed. Presently, what to my preoccupied eyes should appear, but my toddler toddling into the bedroom, bearing the largest kitchen knife in our house. How on earth he got hold of it remains a mystery. Thankfully, he just handed the knife diffidently to me, and went off to play. I set the knife down beside me on the bed, too afraid of impending contractions to budge, and thought of my poor husband. As if coming home to a wife in labor wasn’t bad enough, what was he going to think of the surreal scene of a wife in labor, armed, apparently, with a huge knife??

Our doula came and looked at my written record of contraction times. We decided, since the first labor had gone so fast, to go on to the hospital even though the contractions hadn’t established a steady pattern. As my husband helped me into our van, I heard our doula say, “I think she has two or three hours more to go.” I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t think that’s so…”

The hospital staff apparently were not keen on having a baby born in registration. I was behind them on this 100%.

The hospital staff apparently were not keen on a baby’s being born in the registration department. I was behind them on this 100%.

We got to the hospital and into registration. There was some delay in finding my chart. I sat with my eyes closed, when suddenly there was a terrific explosion!  The waters broke spectacularly. All I could think of was that I had ruined their lovely reception chair, and I kept saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Things suddenly began to move very fast. I was bundled into a wheelchair and raced down hallways. I had my eyes closed the entire time, and felt every bump in the floors along the way. We got to a labor and delivery room that seemed to be packed with people. There was just enough time to sit down on the bed. “Wait for the doctor!” they told me. Just as the on-call obstetrician was coming in the door, my obstetrician shoved his way past him into the room, and the baby was born. He – the obstetrician – was not happy with me. I had turned down an induction in favor of this hurried kerfluffle.

After a few minutes they announced the baby’s weight from the other side of the room – 11 pounds, 8 ounces. I did not believe the number for one second, but concluded that it was a product of post-labor delirium. As you have probably guessed, it wasn’t.

After that, everything was finished with great speed. The room emptied, and my husband, my doula and I were left looking at each other in bewilderment. That was it? All done? And here I’d been praying to be brave enough to get through labor!

Our “little” baby

Our last baby was eight days late, and oh, I was not being graceful about it in my mind. My wonderful mother-in-law had already been with us for over a week, and STILL the baby hadn’t come, and I was so ready for him to arrive!

On the eighth day, at last, labor started. My husband and I drove to the hospital. We saw snow on the mountain tops – it was a gorgeous morning. There seemed to be nobody else on the floor when we arrived – we’d gone to the hospital right away, hoping to avoid having an accidental homebirth. After about five hours we welcomed our second little blonde baby, this one a mere 10 pounds 2 ounces.

When we were in the recovery room, a kindly black nurse came in and introduced herself. She would be our nurse, she explained, and gave us the number to page if we needed her for anything. Then she walked around the bed to take a look at the baby. At the foot of his bassinet, she froze.

“That child,” she declared flatly, “is huge.”

I am pretty sure our baby was fast asleep while being subject to this scrutiny.

I am pretty sure our baby was fast asleep while being subject to this scrutiny.

She examined him, then turned to me.

“What’s a little girl like you doing having a big baby like that?” She checked me over, tsking over all the things that were not wrong with me, and saying “Girl!” as she went.

“Girl, you gonna have a whole team o’ haters out there hatin’ on you.”

I wasn’t sure whether she referred to the nursing staff, with childbirth battle stories of their own, or to the group of glassy-eyed, shell-shocked looking parents I met the next day, shuffling gingerly into the newborn care class. I guess news gets around fast. She consulted her clipboard.

“‘Are you planning to breastfeed or bottle feed?'” she read. “Breast- or bottlefeed, huh! What this boy needs is a steak. Got to call up Ruth’s Chris and see what they got on the menu.”

“I had a big baby, too,” she went on. “I got to the hospital, screamin’, ‘Get me my epidural! Get me my epidural!’ But they told me it was too late, and he was born natural. I never let him forget it, either. He six foot, now.”

So there you have it. We’ve been very blessed so far. I’m not taking bets on the next birthweight though.

UPDATE: My husband pointed out to me something which I had forgotten, which was that he had steadily maintained that our first child would weigh well over 9 pounds, but that nobody believed him. I think he was properly vindicated.

The Force is strong with this one

Surprisedmom

If you are near an expecting lady, and she gives a small yelp and jump but seems otherwise fine, pay it no mind. She probably just got a swift kick in the midsection. Depending on the expecting lady (hem, hem) the kicking child may be from a paternal line of tall and broad-framed men and women – two of whom were named Scipio Africanus (really and truly) and one of whom earned the nickname “Chewie” on account of his size (and hair – or so I am told.) I don’t know whether this child has got the Force à la Star Wars; he’s definitely got a good bit of the Newtonian kind.

One of my brothers laughed when I told him today about big baby comments I have gotten in the past. The first – “Have you got twins in there?” – he anticipated; I’ve also heard, “What are you carrying? A watermelon?” “That child is a tank!” and a popular favorite, but one I’d never recommend saying to a pregnant woman: “You look like you’re going to pop!”

In true brother fashion, he provided a couple of comebacks for me to use if necessary: “I’m pregnant; what’s your excuse?” and the more esoteric, “Your aspect ratio isn’t so great either.” Although I might be tempted, I won’t use either of those; hopefully I can smile pleasantly and heap coals of fire on heads instead.