A birth story six months after it happened? Sounds just about right! It's difficult to even begin to compose the words that will do such a life changing moment justice. My head is still swirling with all the events that led up to meeting my Mini Maiden!
Let's see... I guess I should start with a short recollection of my first labor and birth of Bitty Princess.
I had been seeing a great obstetrician that two of my other sisters were simultaneously seeing, as we were all pregnant at the same time. If you're going to be a whale-like, sweaty, half-crippled version of your former self; some solidarity is definitely the way to go. Oh, I meant a glowing vision of beauty. Ya, that's it!
I planned on welcoming Bitty Princess into the world at our local birth care center and got to do just that! I was 40 weeks and 4 days when I finally went in to labor! I was pumped because I knew I did not want to be induced, which was scheduled in four more days. An answered prayer for sure! I checked in and labored for "x" amount of hours. The doc ended up breaking my water at some point which tuned us in to the fact that meconium was present in my water. I was so scared it would cause issues with my girl's health, but thankfully that didn't up being the case. I was given an epidural at some point in the process; too early, I think now. I still remember touching my leg and thinking I was feeling a pillow, not flesh. Freaky feeling! Pitocin was administered to ramp up my contractions and get the show on the road. As is often the cycle, the pitocin created harsh contractions that my little one did not like. Her heart rate began to drop, so they slowed the drug down, and gave me an oxygen mask to wear... which was super awesome and helpful when trying to labor and push by the way. I think the only thing I hated more than the mask was the blood pressure cuff that was seemingly amputating my arm one fantastic squeeze at a time. Scratch that; the gnawing hunger that was eating my body from the inside out was the winner. Like running a marathon with no fuel since they don't allow you to eat. Not cool.
I finally got to the pushing stage and did so for about an hour and a half. The doc informed me that since she wasn't progressing down the birth canal properly, a cesarian could very well be promptly in my future. I was devastated as my vision of this day clearly did not involve major abdominal surgery. I agreed to using the vacuum to assist my girl into the world. I thought I had been pushing with all my strength, but with the looming threat of a c-section, I found a little more oomph. With the help of the vacuum, my Bitty Princess finally graced us with her presence. I was so relieved. She was a vision! A head full of blonde hair, blue eyes, pink skin, and a cone head of course! The birth facility is to be praised for the fact that they give you that wonderful "golden hour" with your baby to be skin to skin and nurse for the first time. During this time, I was also having major repairs done down south. Thank goodness for a good surgeon as the blood loss was extensive. Had he not worked so fast, I would have had to have a blood transfusion. My recovery was filled with a very attractive donut butt pillow, the complexion of a vampire (minus the sparkles), and serious anemia! We stayed at the hospital a couple of days before returning home to start our new adventure as parents. The end. Not so short I guess. Onward!
When I found out I was pregnant with another blessing, I dove into the maddening, obsessive research that is your life for the next 9... just kidding.... more like 10 months. I watched documentaries, read books, articles, blogs, and of course chatted with other women about their birth stories. I decided that I wanted to strive for a different experience. My research led me to midwifery care for my pregnancy and delivery. I had never heard anyone say they used midwives as of late, and definitely not in my area. Of course now I know that there are many women that take advantage of this model of care. The hospital just seems to be the standard of care for birthing at this time. I came to understand and reflect on the truth that women's bodies are designed to birth. We are not sick or in need of critical medical attention. (There are of course situations where major medical intervention is clearly warranted.)
I yearned to have a medical professional who was truly interested in me, not just as a patient, but a potential friend and a fellow sister in Christ. I wanted more than a rushed 10 minute appointment after having sat in the waiting room for over an hour each time. While I still hold my past OB on a pedestal of awesomeness, you can only get to know someone so well in such a short appointment. More than anything, I just wanted options! I wanted to be able to labor in water, and to possibly even birth in it. I wanted to walk around untethered to an IV. I sure as heck didn't want that blood pressure cuff again! I wanted to hold my baby after she came Earthside for as long as I wanted without feeling pressured or bothered by the mad rush that is the poor nurse/doctor/hospital schedule.
I knew I was one of the many low risk pregnancies and had more options available to me; so in my 20-22 week range of pregnancy, Romeo and I met with two of the local midwives. These beautiful, Godly women exuded knowledge and confidence as they explained what their services included and the theory behind why they do what they do. I decided, with the encouragement of Romeo to take the leap and switch providers. It was very daunting to do that. So many fears flooded my mind. Obstetric care was all I knew. I had picked the brain of a friend who had used the midwives for her first birth, which was comforting. It was one of those decisions which made logical sense for me and my circumstances, but all of the engrained societal notions about birth were always in the back of my mind. I really feel we are taught to fear birth. Every movie and TV show very comically, or dramatically showcases the event. I asked the Lord for a peace with this decision and He granted it. Now the birth!
Fast forward to 40 weeks and 6 days. Yes...pregnant even LONGER than my first go 'round. Say it isn't so! I had experienced braxton hicks contractions like crazy this time. Everything is different after that first pregnancy, some good, some bad. I experienced a night with contractions that would wake me up, but were not consistent and I could fall asleep in between them. Then basically nothing happened the next day until the evening. Romeo and I were buzzing around town with Bitty Princess when I told him I thought we should go home. HOME! Not the hospital. Happy dance. I hesitantly called Grammy telling her I didn't know if this was going to be anything, but to be on the alert! The details and timing are getting more fuzzy as time runs on. That's why I think it's so crucial to document such major events... even if I'm not good at doing so! I labored at home through what I thought were pretty intense contractions for hours. The midwives were eventually put on notice, and Pop and Grammy came to add support. I sent out a text to the sisters telling them I think it might be "go time." I received back awesome pictures of excited faces! Two sisters were together at target... naturally!
At every check up toward the end of my pregnancy, the midwife told me that Mini Maiden was head down, which is fantastic, but she was not dropping down into the birth canal as is preferable. I chalked it up to it being a consecutive pregnancy in which it is more common for baby to wait to drop, even sometimes until you are in labor! In order to help her along, I did stretches and tried weird positions that are pretty humorous for a giant pregnant lady. I had also continued to see my chiropractor.
I labored in to the night. The contractions were intense to say the least. I tried so hard to focus on everything I had read and learned this go 'round. I tried to "sing" a low pitched note with each contraction instead of a high pitched scream like is tempting to do. As I read in my research during pregnancy, keeping the jaw loose, the mouth open, and the noises at a low tone, results in the birth passage way to relax and encourages it to enlarge. It was really helpful to bury my face in a pillow as I "sang." It muffled my noise and some how made me feel more in control. I tried to be mindful of my hands and keep them soft and open as each wave came and went. The contractions came, one on top of the other for what felt like (and quite possibly was) hours. I was only checked for dilation and positioning of the baby twice (which is AMAZING), once per my request, and was told both times that my Mini Maiden was STILL not coming down. HOW?! You're literally being squeezed and pushed out of your home, baby!
My wonderful chiropractor was gracious enough to make a house call and tried her hand at convincing baby to get in the right position. No immediate luck, but I appreciated the effort and care immensly. At some point I told someone to let my sisters know if they wanted to come hang out downstairs they were welcome to. And of course, being the amazing women they are, they all came swiftly to be a part of the event. One by one they trickled in and out to check on me.
Eventually, the midwives left me to "rest" which felt like such a cruel joke. Every contraction ended with just enough time to breathe one or two breaths and then another started. It was suggested that a dose of benedryl might help me relax, but I wasn't overly thrilled with that idea.
Grammy noted I consistently laid on my left side and suggested I turn over to my right. Almost immediately my body started to feel different. I had been successful for the most part in my attempt to keep my body relaxed through each contraction, but now had lost the ability to do so. My hands curled into tight fists and I doubled over my giant belly, knees pulled in tight. Romeo, who was by my side at the moment knew something was different for me. He went to alert the midwives of the new development, only to be told they had JUST left to grab a quick nap at their homes. I wasn't progressing quickly in their book, and it was the perfect time to recharge.
Grammy came up and tried to understand what was changing. I did my best to relay what felt different and she suggested a warm bath. I still don't really know how I made it into our bathtub (I guess with Romeo and Grammy basically lifting me). The water felt nice, but no relief for this new kind of contraction was to be found. I think that is when the three of us determined that it may be my body trying to push. Most women say "When it's time to push, YOU'LL KNOW" but having had the epidural last time, I had little reference as to what the stages of labor truly felt like.
With my midwives alerted, but not yet back, I think Romeo and Grammy thought they may be delivering a baby! In all honesty, I wasn't completely overwhelmed or scared of that scenario. I was with my husband: my supporter, my protector; as well as a woman who has given birth naturally to four humans, in addition to being present at 15 grandchild births. If that doesn't bring some knowledge to you, I don't know what does! And there is of course the fact that I just wanted her OUT! There comes a point where it doesn't matter who is or is not present, the child must come out! I quickly grew tired of the bath, and decided to get out. Romeo and Grammy once again lifted baby and me to a standing position. As I was being dried off, something happened that I had never experienced thus far in my life: my water broke! Much to Romeo's sweetly handled dismay, it basically broke all over him. HAHA! I was so relieved and excited to feel that sensation. It provided a small distraction and brought with it the hope that the birth was very near! For me specifically, it meant that Mini Maiden had FINALLY dropped down. Hurray!
Thankfully, one of my health providers hadn't gone home, but instead was just a few minutes away at a store. She rushed back and checked on my progress. I was lying in bed once more. She was the epitome of professional. She quickly and skillfully checked on baby. She said something to the effect of "Hold on, we don't want you to have this baby just yet." to which I quickly replied "WHY NOT?!" We were trying to hold out for the head midwife who was rushing back and simultaneously praying not to get a speeding ticket. She was called by the midwife attending me and I was put on speaker phone to give her an audible understanding of where I was at in labor. I find it so fascinating and wonderful that a midwife can be so skilled at attending women in labor and delivery that she can tell, with decent accuracy, how far a woman is in the process. Very cool!
I was asked if I wanted to deliver in the birth pool we had set up or "on land." I dreaded getting up once more, but I wanted to give birth in the water so badly. Up again, and in to the water. At some point the first midwife arrived and felt for progress. I was surrounded by encouragement and instruction. I tried to intently listen to every word the midwife spoke. She directed me to sing those low notes instead of indulging in the unproductive screams that so badly wanted to eek out. Several pushes later, Mini Maiden was in between worlds, as they say. Her transition was warm and buoyant as was her home for the last nine (*cough* ten) months. A final push later, and she was put into my arms and suctioned. What an indescribable feeling! I had anticipating crying as I imagined that moment in my head all through pregnancy; but I didn't cry. Instead I just kind of sat there in the pool astounded and not quite able to process the miracle that had just unfolded. It's my tendency in life, to keep it all together until the situation is stable, and then let it all loose. I suppose there are much worse ways to deal with stressful situations. haha! I don't ever really remember bawling, just sort of feeling wrapped up in the moment. Surreal is the word for it I guess. Almost like you're watching it happen to someone else. I was helped out of the pool, and laid down for the cord cutting and repairs. All the while I held my girl close under a towel. We all laughed when we saw how short her cord was. No wonder you had a hard time dropping down, little girl! We waited for the cord to stop pulsing, and then Grammy did the honor of cutting it. It is SO not Romeo's deal. And I'm just fine with that. Having a conscious husband sounds much better to me. haha!
As MM (Mini Maiden) and I laid together, we took each other in. Every detail of her face was and of course is so precious to me. There just aren't words that do this discovery of one another justice. She knows my voice, and my heart beat, but really nothing else of me. I know her body movements and the connection that we've formed. To really study the other is such a joy and privilege. She just laid there content to be close to me, flesh to flesh, my voice washing over her as I told her how happy I was that she was finally here, and how beautiful she was to me. After everything medical was taken care of, we indulged in the dance of nursing together. It really is like a dance. A partnership. Lots of learning. Lots of growing to understand the others movements and sounds. She latched right away and was right at home. There is something so holy about this connection between mother and child, I think. A vessel and a life grown in it and out through it. God's designs and thoughtfulness are clearly displayed in the life sustaining act of nursing. While it would be false to say it comes naturally, it is the most natural of things. I love the primal bond between mother and child in this respect. It is Creator-designed and untainted. I will forever be grateful for this part of my journey as a mother.
After this time (the wee hours of the morning), my beautiful midwives buzzed around taking care of all of their medical duties. The head provider handled MM with the utmost care and respect. I have never in my life seen a medical caretaker connect with a newborn in this way. She snuggled her, smooched her, spoke with her about various things, and most incredibly, prayed over her. She gave her the official first bath in our bathroom sink. It was calm and lovely. Eventually MM was dressed in a sleeper and made her debut to her adoring fans, including her Pop. This man may truly have had the most difficult emotional job of us all. A lot of sounds were heard and I'm sure updates didn't come quickly enough for him! Despite that, I am so blessed and grateful he wanted to be nearby.
There is no proper place to write some things. Partially because I genuinely don't know when they happened, and partially because they deserve a little paragraph of their own. The privilege of being surrounded by my sisters in the moment I brought life into this world is something I will never forget as long as I live. These warriors of women...these essential oil hand massage givers. These lovers of me and our family...these Godly vessels of encouragement...these prayer covering, laying of hands humans. I just can't. No words.
I didn't know if I wanted many people "in the room" with me, but God had it all worked out. I was already so blessed to have my husband and mom by my side, and to add the bond of sisterhood to it was just the icing on the cake. The midwives joked that they didn't have to do anything during the birth because my support system was so vast and strong.
Bitty Princess slept through the entire labor and delivery across the hall in her room. Praise the Lord for box fans and good sleepers! She met her new sister the next morning. It was a beautiful thing to witness. Bitty Princess has loved and cared greatly for her since that day.
To sum it up: Amazing. Beautiful. Wonderful. Painful. Worth it.