December 24, 2012

Wren's Birth Story

At this time last year I was snuggling a sweet little newborn - fresh from heaven. As Wren has turned one now, I suppose it is as good a time as any to share her birth story.

It was such a special experience for us as a family. We decided to have a home birth for a number of reasons - the biggest of which being that while Ellie's birth experience was powerful, it also felt a lot like a battle. Having an unmedicated birth in the hospital system was difficult and I was constantly having to fight hospital protocol and the doctor's preferences in order to have the birth I knew was right for me and my baby. With the second baby I had more confidence in my ability to birth and stronger feelings about being allowed to labor and deliver in whatever way was most comfortable. I felt strongly that approaching my birth in this way would bring about the best results for myself and my child. So we went with a home birth midwife the second time around and it was the best choice we could have made! Finally I had a care provider who trusted me and my body, who was personally invested in us and took the time to develop a real relationship with my family. She trusted my ability to bring forth my baby, and she was trained to be the guardian over that process - to be there in case anything went wrong. Our prenatal visits were all at home and each time she came I felt calm, healthy, and reassured about my ability to bring our baby into the world.

Ellie was born six days past her EDD, so while I had a lot of anxiety in the week before Wren's birth (feeling that every day could be THE day), by the time December 21st came and went I was done with the mental battle and feeling more patient - ready to wait for her however long it might take. I assumed she'd be a few days over, just like her sister. On December 22nd I took Ellie to our favorite spot in Ft. Tryon Park and watched her run and play in the sunshine on a surprisingly warm day for that time of year. I was feeling very nostalgic, knowing that it could possibly be the last time she and I would be together as just she and I. Knowing that our world would change in the coming days. We walked home for nap time and I had an appointment with Cara, the midwife, that afternoon.

I had been having a lot of warm-up contractions during Wren's pregnancy - something I didn't experience at all the first time around. While Cara was attempting to measure my stomach, I had another one. They were pretty frequent (especially with all the walking I did, and running after Ellie) but not at all painful and I had started not to notice them as much anymore. The midwife left around 4:30 and my friend Leslie came over. At some point during my time chatting with Leslie, I became aware that these warm-up contractions were coming more frequently. I mentally took note of it, but somehow didn't think it was a possibility that I was in labor until I found myself having a hard time paying attention to what Leslie was saying during these waves. I would be conversing with her and would just stop to blow out a little air and say, "wow, these are starting to feel real." I suppose it was around 5:40pm when I turned to her and said, "I think I could be in labor."

Well, Leslie immediately freaked out. Not in a bad way. She was just so excited to be in the room with a woman going into labor. She started saying, "What should I do? Do you want me to go home? Should I stay?" I laughed and told her to stick around until Joe got home. Knowing he was on the subway, I didn't want to be left alone with Ellie. You never know how quickly labor can change, after all. And I thought it would be fun to pass the time with such a good friend. So I called Joe as he was just getting off the train, told him I was in labor and that he should skip the errands he was planning on running in our neighborhood. He arrived home right at 6pm and Leslie took off, promising to return my library book and wishing me luck with the delivery.

At 6:15 I called Cara (who had just arrived home to the lower east side) and she was surprised to be hearing from me so soon after seeing me. I told her it wasn't intense yet, but that I was definitely in early labor. She said to keep her updated. I called my friend Bea as well, who was going to be present as the doula. She had just arrived at the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and was a bit worried about how to see the Christmas train show and still arrive in time for the birth.

Knowing that I was in early labor, I thought that we'd have time to make dinner and get Ellie in bed before things really kicked into gear. I had flexibly planned that she would be in our apartment when Wren was born and since this was an evening labor, I thought she could sleep in her bed and wake up to a new baby sister in the morning. However, true to my baby birthing history, things picked up rather quickly and I found myself completely bothered by her presence. She could tell something was up and was pretty clingy. I remember leaning over the dresser to breathe through a contraction and Ellie wrapping herself around my leg. "This is not going to work," I told Joe. So he called our friend Iris to come get her.

The moment that Iris left with my firstborn, labor with the second child kicked into a higher gear. It was only 6:45, but I was already calling Cara back to check in again. I wasn't overwhelmed by pain and felt strangely calm (very different from Ellie's labor), but the contractions were easily 3-4 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds to a minute. Cara listened on the other end of the phone while I had a couple contractions. While I wasn't yet vocalizing through them, she said she would start to make her way toward us. I felt reassured and while Joe readied the birthing pool in the living room, I headed to the bathroom to take a soak in the tub.

There were candles burning and it was such a nice familiar atmosphere. There were many sleepless nights when I was pregnant with Wren that I would escape to that nice deep bathtub to relax. The warm water calmed my nerves and I felt a lot of peace focusing on the candlelight and breathing deeply. Joe started up the I-tunes "birth mix" - a collection of soft music that we had fallen asleep to for a couple months leading up to the birth. Everything was so familiar, so quiet and so calm that I felt very much relaxed and free of fear. Joe came into the bathroom occasionally to check on me and he gave me a priesthood blessing. (mormon speak for a prayer offered while hands are placed on a person's head) It was soothing and I felt full of strength and confidence, ready for the work that lay ahead.

I decided I didn't want to be in the tub when Bea and Cara arrived (also I was worried about slowing the labor down by getting into the water so early) so I got out and tried to labor a bit in the girls' bedroom. It was at this point that I felt worried that the midwife had not yet arrived. Joe called her again and she said she was right outside our apartment, just finding a parking space. I instantly felt relieved knowing how close she was and continued pacing around the room, stopping to lean against something when a contraction came along. It was probably around 7:30 when Cara came into the room, sitting down in a chair near to where I was standing. She watched me have a contraction and then gently asked how I was doing. I told her I was doing well, feeling excited and maybe a little nervous that I had called her too soon. It was a strange position to be in because I was aware of how close the contractions were, but I didn't have the fear or urgency I experienced during Ellie's birth. In fact, between waves I could come completely out of the birthing head space and talk just like normal. I was lighthearted and felt that maybe this meant delivery was not as close as I had once thought. Cara reassured me that labor with the second child is very different from that with the first and that many women find it easier to relax and joke around between contractions with their second child.

At the tail end of one of the contractions I remember saying, "Bea had better hurry up if she wants to see a baby born tonight." She arrived around 8pm and Cara went to move her car (I guess she had been parked in a loading zone or something). I tried to labor in a couple different positions in the girls' room, but found that I really just wanted to get back in the bathtub. So Bea and Joe helped me in and I got right back into my most comfortable pattern.

Between contractions I looked like this:

And during contractions I looked like this:

And so it went for about an hour, I guess. At some point while I was in the tub I started to move into transition. The birth experience becomes a lot less detailed here for me. I don't remember times or benchmarks. I do remember catching occasional lyrics drifting in from the living room:

Don't hang on. Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky

All I can do is keep breathing

I remember it being very quiet. Not only were the people attending me at this time quiet and peaceful, but I myself was very much focused inward. I didn't feel the need to communicate the pain to everyone the way I did when Ellie was born. I just went deeper and deeper within myself. At some point while Cara was gone I was surprised to feel a real downward motion. At the end of a pretty intense contraction I almost felt like pushing. This was surprising to me and I remember thinking, "I don't feel like dying yet, so it can't possibly be time for the baby to come." Cara came back and Bea told her what I had said about feeling an urge to push. Cara was skeptical that I could really be so close, but after watching and listening through another contraction I heard her say to Joe and Bea, "Yeah, she is close." Then there was some movement as she left the bathroom and returned with her instruments in order to be ready for delivery.

I didn't say anything to anyone during this time. I just stayed deep within my own thoughts and relaxed as much as I could. I welcomed the contractions and saw each one as progress. And I continually rehearsed in my mind the birthing affirmations I had written for myself a few days before. Bea was pouring warm water down my back and snapping the occasional photo. I remember thinking that I might try moving to the birthing tub, but decided to just stay put. There was a series of of four or five intense contractions and I thought to myself, "I don't know if I can do this much longer." (I was making a fair amount of noise during those last waves) Somehow I thought I might still have hours to go and worried that I would lose my composure if I had to endure many more contractions at that level of intensity.

It's at this point that I came out of my trance and looked Cara in the eyes. "I don't want to be here anymore," I said/whined.  "I don't know where I want to be, just not here." She looked back at me and said calmly and casually, "Well, stand up and see where you want to go." I stood up and immediately my water broke. I had a split second to register the surprise when suddenly I was pushing. Joe had been helping me up out of the tub and now I reached around his neck and hung my body weight against him as I pushed with the contraction. I was shocked that it was already time to push this baby out. I couldn't believe how quickly it was happening. It was 9:14 at this point. During the contractions I would literally hang from Joe (poor man had quite a back ache from it) and push as my feet came off the bottom of the tub.

I should mention at this point that I was making a lot of noise during contractions. But I wasn't worried about it. I guess I was conscious about how much I was yelling in Joe's ear, but with each yell I felt like I was expressing the power that it takes to get this baby out.

I asked Bea to keep pouring water down my back as it helped relieve the burning sensation. Suddenly after one contraction the burning wasn't nearly as bad. "Oh no," I said, "she went back in didn't she?" Cara and Bea both sounded surprised by my statement. No, they said. She hadn't gone back in. Her head was out. This was hard for me to comprehend, because with Ellie her whole self came out after 45 min of pushing. I cried a little bit and said, "You mean I still have to push out her body?" The women were very reassuring, however and said that with the next contraction it would be easy to push out her body. I could vaguely feel her head between my thighs and it was a strange sensation indeed. The next contraction came and out came Wren! 

I sat back down in the tub and was handed the slimiest, slipperiest little bundle. It was over. It had only taken three contractions. Six minutes from the time my water broke until she was born. I was ecstatic.
I don't remember what I noticed first about her - her giant cheeks or head full of hair. She was beautiful and I was so very happy to meet her. I felt so proud of myself and excited to share my sweet little one with the loving people crowded into that tiny bathroom in NYC.
I was hesitant to deliver the placenta, but was losing a fair amount of blood so after trying to convince me a number of times, Cara pretty much forced me to deliver it and get to bed where she could assess my condition. I came close to losing consciousness on the way to bed, but came right back when my head hit the pillow. Then Wren was brought to me (Joe had been taking care of her in the other room while I rinsed off and got into bed) and we spent the next long while bonding as a family. I nursed her, cuddled her and looked in disbelief at the perfect baby who had been born within the walls of our own home. Cara gave me a stitch or two, did the newborn exam and cleaned up her supplies while Bea cooked us dinner.

I had called the midwife at 6:15 in the evening, delivered a baby at 9:20 and by 10:45 the three of us were tucked into bed - fed and happily resting as Bea and Cara slipped out the front door. It was absolutely everything I could have hoped for. The childbirth of my dreams. And I am so glad that we thought to ask questions, to pray and ponder and make a decision that felt right for our family. After having this home birth experience I could never imagine going back to the hospital, unless there was a medical necessity. Joe and I both feel that this was a transforming experience for our family and we are so very happy with the way it turned out.
Joe and I are always happy to discuss our home birth experience, so if you've got any questions, leave them in the comments or ask me in person. I'd be glad to tell you more. Thanks for reading, friends. And the happiest of birthdays to my sweet little Wren. Photos of her one year old shin-dig as well as Christmas goings on to post here soon!

Can you tell December is a little busy for us?

December 18, 2012

Ellie turns 3

Oh my sweet girl - you are three years old now! It hasn't come as much of a surprise, you've seemed closer to three than two for most of the year. Older, more verbal, more mature than many people would expect a two year old to be. Three definitely fits you. But it's difficult for me to reconcile the girl you are today with the tiny baby who turned me into a mother just three short years ago.

Time is a tricky thing. Perhaps it's not as linear as we think. In some ways it feels I have been your mother forever. And yet the years move by quickly and you grow and change at an astounding rate. You are precocious - intelligent and witty and definitely headstrong. You have a caring heart and are quick to notice when someone's feelings are hurt. I often find myself lost in your deep brown eyes, so full of wonder and curiosity. Your eyes go on forever and I don't know if you realize the power of your stare. There are times I can see into your heart and sense that you are searching mine with your pure, unfaltering gaze.

We have our power struggles to be sure. You love to make messes and find yourself conveniently tired when it's time to clean up. You have a bit of a television addiction. I'll take the blame for this one, but not too much blame. I doubt it will hurt your long term development. In fact, I don't know that you'd be using the word "hypothesis" had you not spent so much time with your best friend, PBS. You sneak out of bed constantly to ask for a better hug and kiss, to insist that you must go to the bathroom - we know you are playing tricks on us. And you know that we are desperate to get you to lay there quietly without waking your sister.

Ellie, you are simply all of the best things in the world walking around in one tiny body. You are happiness and enthusiasm and unadulterated joy. I marvel at you, shake my head at you, try my best to love you and teach you. I hope you will read this one day and know how very much I loved your two year old self and how my love for you continues to grow just as quickly as you do.

P.S. I'm not the only one who loves you, by the way. Today I spied your dad coming home with you from the Science Center. He was wearing your tiara and carried you on his shoulders all the way up the stairs. That man will do anything to see you smile.

And for history's sake, here are some photos of the birthday celebration:

We brought cupcakes to Ellie's preschool.
Talk about a proud parent moment.
Is there anything cuter than preschoolers covered in icing?
Joe and Wren snuggling just might compare.

This year Ellie's birthday theme was PINK. She wanted a pink cake with pink candles so we just went for it. She helped me make the pale pink frosting, then she wore her outrageously pink sequined pants and Joe and I hung pink streamers in the dining room the night before. It was a lot of pink for my taste, but I think she really liked it.
We even had a virtual birthday party with Ellie's BFF June-bug and Bea and Olive.
That's why she's sitting on the dining room table in the middle of the living room.
Happily our first ever cyber party was a smashing success!
Reading a card from Great-Grandma.
Ellie treasures the cards people send her and has been known to take them to preschool.
She usually shows the card to her teacher and then stows it safely in her cubby during class.
Also, Grandma Hardie, I hope you notice the socks you sent.
She insisted on wearing them right way and changed into all three pairs throughout the day!
She is stunned into silence as she realizes she is the owner of her very own train set!
Happy Birthday to my darling three year old girl.
Just for fun, take a look at how much she has grown.

December 6, 2012

A little reaction...

Looks like someone is allergic to amoxicillin.
That would have been good to know before we used it to treat her ear infection.
And yes, it is head to toe. Poor baby.
Ellie is really curious as to how her sister became "polka dotted."
Even the spots won't keep her down, though. Wren is a girl on the move.
Six independent steps and counting...
I think we've got ourselves a walker!
For my next post - another bit on medication, but no hives in that story.