Birth Day.

19 01 2011

I introduce to you Esther Pearl.

About 30 hours old.

She is perfect in every way.

She was born on December 27, around 12:30 in the afternoon. In a birth tub in our living room.

Her birth story goes a little something like this:

A week or so before my “due date,” which was December 12, and a date I tried very hard to not take seriously AT ALL, my Braxton-Hicks contractions were getting more and more regular and rhythmic. Each night, they’d start up and sometimes come every 7 minutes, and sometimes every 3 minutes. They sort of fooled me a few times, but I wasn’t really buying it. I had a fear during this pregnancy that I would never spontaneously go into labor. See, I wasn’t allowed to with Adelaide. My CNMs (Certified Nurse Midwives, who are hospital midwives in this state,) decided there was an urgent need to induce my labor a day before my due date, so I was hooked up to Pitocin for all 24 hours of my labor. The medical community robbed me of a lot of innate confidence that I had previously held that my body would know how to have a baby, and part of my reason for planning this home birth was to restore some of that.

So for the last three weeks or so of this pregnancy, I was in labor. I went about my days as best I could, working around contractions, and spent the evenings half-timing half-not caring about the contractions, and not sleeping at all. The contractions were never, ever painful. Just taxing. I was exhausted.

Finally, on the Sunday I reached my 42 week mark, with a foot or more of snow on the ground (which NEVER happens around here, mind you,) I decided it was good and time for baby to come out. I wanted to be patient, and trust that babies come when they are ready, but I was getting too tired. AND, there was some reason to believe that something was actually stalling my labor, causing it to putter out each time my body tried to get it going. The baby was in a less-than-perfect position, at times being completely posterior, and perhaps with a head that wasn’t tilted just right. I did exercises to attempt to move her, which helped a little. She turned to the side some for me. And I went to the chiropractor every day of that last week, in hopes of aligning my pelvis, to align her, so that when labor started, it would continue. But on that Sunday, after 24 hours of really regular (painless) contractions, I was wiped out. I needed her to be here.

So a tablespoon of castor oil and some very particular doses of herbs and homeopathics came into play that Sunday evening, around 8:30 or so. And the contractions came, and came, and came. They got closer together, more intense, but never painful. But when I lied down to rest, they’d stop, so I’d take more herbs. And then walk. When I got in the tub to relax, they’d stop. So I’d take more herbs, and walk some more. As long as I was walking, moving, swaying, rocking on the birth ball, dancing on the toilet, the contractions would happen. But I had to work to keep them going. I laughed with my husband, chatted with my friends. I had a rather good time, and was convinced that it wasn’t working because it didn’t hurt. I’d feel a contraction come on, and I’d lean on Eric’s shoulders, and I’d hum and rock my feet back and forth, and envision my cervix opening, opening, opening, and I take a deep breath, and it’d be over. And I’d laugh some more.

Sometime when the sun was up, I was ten centimeters dilated. What? How did that happen? Where was the painful, screaming, I-Can’t-Do-This-Anymore labor that was supposed to tell me I was almost ready to give birth?

So, I started feeling slight urges to push, so I did. But something didn’t feel right about it. I never got to feel that urge with Adelaide, because by the time pushing happened, they’d pumped me full of epidural anesthesia so I’d stop complaining about how horrible the Pitocin was, and the CNM told me when to push and for how long, and I had to trust her that it was working. But this time, I knew my body would lead me in the process. Or, it was supposed to anyway. But I got nervous. I felt the urge, but when I pushed, it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel effective. I tried and tried and got a little scared. Maybe I couldn’t do it, afterall. I tried for about 45 minutes, and I desperately needed a break. Someone in the room told me to take one. Breath through the next few contractions. Try to relax. Part of my cervix had come back, and I was trying to push against a lip. This happens to us, you know. The sphincter that is the cervix will open when we are relaxed and at peace, and can close right up if we are scared or threatened. I was certainly feeling scared and threatened by my own idea that I was doing something wrong and would end up being transferred to the hospital.

So I took my break and got into the tub in the hopes of relaxing. I got on hands and knees and rested my head on the edge of the tub. And the next contraction that came was amazing. It overwhelmed me with the urge to push. THAT’S what it’s supposed to feel like! I couldn’t stop my body from pushing, no matter how hard I tried. So I pushed. I went with it. And about 10 minutes later, there was a little head ready to emerge. (I pushed for over two hours with Adelaide- thanks to the epidural. So to push for just a few minutes and already have a baby ready to come out blew my mind.) Another push, and a head was born. And then I waited for the next contraction… and it didn’t come. I waited, with this little head hanging out of me, and waited, and waited. I reached down and felt her soft little head, and thought, “Huh. There’s a head alright. Right there between my legs. Huh.” It was actually really about a minute, but it felt like much longer. Not because it was painful or anything. It was just… alarming? Shouldn’t the rest of the baby come out soon? Finally, the next contraction came, and I pushed, and there was some resistance, and then I felt that I was being helped and she was being pulled a little. (I later learned that she had a little bit of shoulder dystocia and needed a little tug.) And then her warm little body slid out, and I heard her squawk at me from behind. I carefully turned around and lifted my leg over the cord, and looked at my baby for the first time, who Eric was holding just above the water’s surface. I took my baby into my arms, and Eric hugged me from behind and we were giddy and amazed and we loved her. We forgot to check if she was a boy or girl, and it was several minutes before we thought to look. (I was certain she was a he, throughout most of my pregnancy. It was a little shocking to see that she wasn’t a he. But a good thing, since we’d long ago landed on a girl’s name, but never did land on a boy’s name!)

After a few minutes of snuggling in the pool, I was helped into the bedroom, all the while holding Esther Pearl as firmly as I could against my chest, and once in bed, her placenta was born. It was placed into a plastic bag and tucked next to us, as she was still attached to it. We would not cut her cord until we were certain that the placenta had finished its job of delivering oxygen and blood to her. I offered her a nipple, and she accepted with vigor. We snuggled and cooed at each other. Maybe an hour (?) or two (?) after her birth, Eric cut her cord, and we weighed her (8 lbs!) and put her first little cloth diaper on her, and wrapped her up in a warm soft blanket, and we rested together.

About 20 minutes after the birth.

She is now three weeks old, and weighs 10 pounds (!!!) and is alert and happy and, well, fairly “easy.” She is never not in someone arms. I wear her in a sling or wrap most of the day (which has been a little bit of a challenge, finding just the right one with just the right fit, to accommodate my weak back.) She sleeps next to me in our bed, as Adelaide did for her first 2 and a half years of her life, and nurses a lot. Adelaide adores her, and comes into the bedroom every morning to hold the baby right away. She loves holding her baby. She sings to her and tickles her toes. And soon, Esther Pearl will smile at her and let her know that she’s watching everything her big sister does.