It is raining outside and we have a fire going. Baby Teo is asleep on my lap where he has been for most of the last 4 days. I don’t know how it is with most people, but for me I found that after Mika’s birth, I played the whole thing over on repeat in my mind for days and days afterwards. Teo’s birth story is quite different from Mika’s, but with his too I’ve found myself playing it out over and over. In the quiet days in hospital after the birth, just Ivan and I and a sleeping baby, we talked it out – sharing our experience of the same event with each other. I love reading birth stories, especially positive ones, and the day before I was scheduled to be induced – I found myself frantically googling for positive induction birth stories. And now I feel like I need to put my story out there: to remember it for myself, but also for anyone who might find themselves in a similar position.
(As with most birth stories, this post probably contains TMI – so read ahead at your own risk).
I never wanted to end up in hospital. But at 24 weeks baby was at about 3-4 weeks behind in growth and my midwife passed me on to a perinatologist and before I knew that is just where I found myself: 3x a week for NSTs, ultrasounds and doctor visits. Sometimes the tests were good, other times they were questionable. Some weeks I felt confident, and then we would have another growth scan that showed baby’s long bones lagging about 5 weeks behind where growth should have been – and a huge difference in the growth of the head/belly/long bone ratio. Down’s Syndrome and Dwarfism were terms being thrown around a lot, as well as many other potential reasons as to why baby was having ‘restricted growth’. And as my pregnancy progressed it became somewhat decided that the best idea would be to induce baby no later, but also no earlier than 39 weeks. Which was October 29th.
The idea of being induced bothered me a lot. It felt very rude to try and kick this baby out of it’s cozy womb before it was ready. But the doctors presented a very good case for inducing (telling me i’m increasing my risk of still birth by going to ‘full term’ is a very effective way to get my attention) and so it was scheduled. Trust me when I say that I did not make this decision lightly. But it is one thing to feel like everything must be OK and to trust my ‘gut feeling’ and another thing to have doctor’s saying that they very strongly recommend following their advice and that they aren’t making these decisions lightly. And so in the week leading up to the 29th, I decided to trust in everything that was unfolding. I wanted to wonder ‘would it have turned out the same if we were in NZ?’ but instead I decided to trust the universe for bringing us to Seattle and hope that perhaps this all unfolded as it did for the reason of bringing us a healthy baby in the right care.
October 29th: Ivan starts paternity leave and we have the whole day to spend as a family of 3.
830am: Drop Mika at her Spanish school.
9am: Out for breakfast with Ivan to our favorite brunch spot. Ivan has egg’s benedict, I have coffee and a croissant.
1030am: Notice we have a flat tire as we leave the cafe.
Noon: Pick up Mika from school.
2pm: Finish getting tires replaced.
3pm-6pm: We take Mika and her friend to their swim class. I swim laps and it feels so good. A lady asks me when I’m due and I tell her I’ll be having the baby this evening. She looks startled and says I look too small to have a baby this evening. I smile and nod.
7pm: We have vegan pizza and salad at our friend’s house. Her well-meaning out-of-town relative starts telling me that I shouldn’t get induced. A bit late for opinions like that…
7:30pm: Ivan and I leave Mika at our friend’s house and head for home. It’s hard to say goodbye to Mika. She has already told me that she is very sad she can’t be there when baby is born. She wanted to hold my hand. We had initially planned a home birth and she was going to be present – so this is very different than we had initially talked about with her.
Ivan and I slowly pack a bag, do some last minute straightening of things around the house and head into the car. It’s hard to describe the thoughts and feelings we are having, but i’m sure one can imagine.
830pm: We arrive at the hospital and check in. It’s quiet and dark – the exact reason I wanted to make an evening appointment. I feel like babies are supposed to arrive in the early hours of the morning or the late hours of the night.
We’re taken straight to my delivery room. It’s room number 2 and my nurse Amy is there to greet us. She is everything I could have hoped for. Much older than me, so I feel like she has good experience. Cuts straight to the point, no bullshit, but also very kind. I was so nervous about which nurse we would get, as we had planned to have no-one else there except Ivan and I and the nurse. The doc would only be showing up intermittently to check my cervix and then to deliver the baby. We were really lucky to get Amy.
She shows us around the room, asks me a bunch of questions (what was my last labour like, how do i handle pain, what was our birth plan etc etc) and then starts monitoring baby and sets up my IV.
The resident doctor arrives and she is also lovely. Thank goodness. She checks my cervix and everyone is pleasantly surprised to discover that I am already 3cm dilated and 50% effaced. This means that most of the other methods of induction we had talked about are rather pointless and in their opinion we should just start the pitocin. This makes me cringe and I ask a billion questions about how intense my contractions will be, what the likelihood of me begging for an epidural is, how long labour might last etc etc. Basically i just want to know if they have seen women have a straight forward, no emergency c-section, no-epidural, less than 10 hour labour after being put on pitocin. The doc and nurse assure me that they have and I take their word for it.
So they start me on the lowest dose of pitocin at 10pm and i ask ivan to put A Perfect Storm on the laptop. We cuddle up (sorta), with no real idea of what the next 24 hours is gonna look like. Although I do ask the doc if she expects me to be able to sleep before baby is born and she says ‘no way, not unless you get an epidural’. So that is…reassuring?
Almost right away I start feeling contractions. They aren’t super strong, sort of like mild period cramps, but they are consistent. Maybe every 4-5 minutes. We pause the movie and skype with my mum and dad in NZ until my contractions start getting stronger.
I get up to go toilet and my water breaks! It feels so weird, but I am so excited because I have never had the feeling of waters breaking and it is pretty weird. So for the rest of labour it kinda feels like I’m peeing myself, which feels strangely nice.
Pretty soon I’m feeling contractions every 2-3 minutes and they get strong enough that I need to close my eyes during each one and I can’t really focus on a movie, or the crossword book I’d brought. I ask Ivan to plug in our mini speaker and play the Goldmund album I’d found a few days earlier. It’s beautiful but also pretty weird. And we play it on repeat for the next 6 hours.
By 2am the contractions are very very intense and close together. It’s now been about 4 hours of contractions and I’m exhausted. My nurse has been by my side for the last hour or so watching me. (I handle contractions by having NO-ONE touch me, closing my eyes and being completely silent). I start wondering how long I’m going to be able to handle this for. I’m so tired and there is no recovery time between contractions. Amy notices that things are getting hard for me and asks if I want to be checked. I ask what good it will do to check me and she says that it will just give me an idea of where I’m at. I think to myself that if I’m less than 6cm then maybe I will need an epidural.
The doc comes in to check me and I’m 7cm and 100% effaced. Great news I suppose but I ask how much longer it’s going to be. Amy says that nothing will happen until I feel the need to push and then I’ll need to be checked again to make sure that I’m at 10cm. I spend the next hour barely hanging on. I think I moan a bit through some contractions and it makes me lose focus and I start to get scared. Amy is so great, she helps me breathe and relax through some contractions with strong reassuring words and tells me that I will be able to do this. With every contraction I am praying that I feel a need to push. And finally by about 4am I feel it. It starts off as a mild need to push, so I tell Amy and she calls the doctor. It very quickly becomes a STRONG need to push and the doc isn’t there yet and Amy is telling me to NOT PUSH. Which is pretty much the hardest thing ever. So she makes me breathe breathe breathe through each contraction and the doc finally arrives and checks me and confirms I am 10cm but now she must call in a million doctors who were on standby for this birth and so I cannot push until they arrive. The room fills up, the lights turn on, I change position and finally I can push. I push with everything I have left.
After about 3 or 4 pushes, I can feel the head starting to come out and they tell me to push as hard as I can with the next contraction. And so I do, and I feel the head coming out and I start to cry out with pain and then as the contraction ends, instead of the head slipping back in a bit, or coming right out, it just STAYS THERE. The widest part of baby’s head stuck in my vagina and I’m not allowed to push and the pain is so intense that I scream a sort of sound that I have never heard myself make. And I say ‘i have to keep pushing or i will die!’ and the nurse says i can push if i can and so i push with EVERYTHING and i tell myself that if i don’t feel this whole baby come out with this push then i will probably not be able to go on. And so finally, after only 10 minutes of pushing and at the end of my biggest push ever, I feel this tiny-but-not-so-tiny-feeling baby come slithering out and there is silence for a moment and my heart stops and then i hear crying and ivan shouts ‘we have a boy!!’ with so much happiness that i close my eyes and say the shortest but most grateful prayer and then there is a tiny PERFECT looking baby being passed to me through my legs.
Ivan cuts the cord and i hold him for a moment and then they take him from me for a few minutes so all the doctors can check him over.
It’s not long before he is passed back to me because of COURSE he is perfect. He weighs 5 pounds, 10 ounces and he is 49cm long and he is just so perfect looking and ivan and i know this but we keep asking ‘so is he OK?’ and they nod vaguely and say ‘yep, he seems great’ but we have been put through so much over the last two months that this seems so surreal but the doctors leave the room so we turn our attention to this tiny little gift from god who is lying on my chest and drinking like his life depends on it.
And we call him Mateo which means ‘gift from god’ and we will call him Teo,mostly.
And it takes a while for me to fully experience the gratitude i feel to the universe. The moment is overwhelming and wonderful and it isn’t until a bit later when i am in the recovery room and there is a moment when i am alone with Teo and i start to cry and cry and cry because, LIFE. Words can’t even describe.
We stayed in the hospital for another night and mika came to see her baby brother and OH MY HEART. More docs came to check out baby and really they say he looks great. It is very confusing because the docs who were worried about him in my womb are not the same docs who are now checking him out (obstetricians vs pediatricians i suppose) and so these docs can’t possibly know what the last 2 months have been like for us. And so they say that as far as they can tell with any given child, baby Teo looks great. And of course we could know more if we want to do genetic testing or something, but now why would we? We can also just take each day as it comes.
And that is just what we are doing.
Teo, welcome to this world. We already love you more than you could know.
I cried for an entire week when I found out I was pregnant with M. But the initial shock soon gave way to near-unbearable sickness which after 6 months gave way to impossible excitement, delight and awe at the human body and nature and somehow my general memory of being pregnant for the first time is that it was INCREDIBLE.
And then she was overdue and the days were killing me because i just wanted to meet her. And then she was born and we started breastfeeding and all of a sudden my life as I had known it was over. It felt like it was without warning and it felt like no-one had told me this would happen and I remember having brief moments of thinking I would NEVER be my own person ever again. The days were LONG.
And then she was 1 and a half and I started to feel like myself again and our lives felt complete. I couldn’t imagine a life without her. And she stopped needing me as much and it felt pretty OK until it was time to stop breastfeeding and I cried and I cried and I worried that we would lose our closeness and that our special time together was completely over. But of course our time together just changed and now I watch her with pride as she makes her own smoothies and constantly reminds me ‘mama I can do it’. And when she comes into our room at night holding her tiny pink rabbit nightlight and crawls between us, I pull her as close to me as I can and the smell of her breath and the sound of her breathing and her sleepy smiles fill me with a similar delight that I experienced with breastfeeding and I realise that these things don’t necessarily go away, they just change, constantly, and that part of being a parent is that we quickly learn how fleeting these moments really are. The days are sometimes still long, but after 3 and a half we are very aware just how short the years are.
I never really look back and wish we were still in an old phase. I loved breastfeeding and then I hated it and then I cried when it had to end and now it has given way to so much more. I loved baby mika but now i love 3 and a half year old mika so much more and every day that she grows I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But that doesn’t make it easy – especially when the changes feel so large and significant or when they are marked by something like the end of breastfeeding or the start of preschool or, the real reason for this post, the arrival of a new family member.
Every day I am asked by someone ‘how are you feeling?.’ And for these past few weeks if you have asked me this question, you could have caught me in any one of the millions of feelings that I have been feeling because i have been feeling ALL.THE.THINGS. But as my best friend who always says the right thing says, as long as i am feeling all the things, then that’s just how it should be. I could write paragraphs about the sadness, paragraphs about the excitement, paragraphs about the sense of loss or the anticipation for what is to come.
And as each feeling arises, I sit with it and I try (and fail) and try (and fail) and try to not judge myself, or resist the feeling or change the feeling. And really only by sitting with it am I really experiencing it all. In a few days everything will change and I will never have this moment back again. Uncertainty, fear, sadness, excitement – all the unknowns of today will become known. I am usually addicted to these moments. I relish them. It’s why I would never want to know the gender of my baby before they are born. It’s these moments before starting something new, these moments where anything seems possible that feel so magical to me.
So despite all the concerns and potential outcomes right now; despite how much I cry because this is the end of our family of three and how excited I am because this is the start of our family of four; I will keep trying to experience every feeling as it arises and I will savour these last few days as the days of magical unknown.
The days of 80 degree heat are gone (when did Fahrenheit become normal for me?) and instead it is sort of just perfect. Some days it rains and rains and some days the sun shines brightly, but never hotter than 70, and that is actually just how I like it right now. I love it when I can’t take a sunny day for granted, or when the evening air is cold enough to really snuggle under duvets. (I also love it when the air is warm enough that I can sit outside in shorts til midnight, which DID happen this summer. So it seems Seattle is just perfect for me.)
M is at spanish school 3 mornings a week and we have been going swimming together twice a week in the afternoons. She has already moved up a level in her swim class and it amazes me how kids go from not being able to do something to being able to do it so well that you can’t remember what it was like beforehand. Things like walking and talking and getting themselves dressed. But also things like riding a scooter or a bike or learning how to swim. And I guess we’re always improving and growing in some ways, but it just starts out being such huge improvements and then gets harder to notice as we get older maybe. Anyway, it’s very exciting to watch her jumping and wriggling and kicking and floating and playing games in the water that remind me of when I was a kid and my brother and i would just play for hours in our cheap backyard pool.
And I have not been sleeping very well but I don’t feel surprised by this. I’ve gained a measly 11 pounds during this pregnancy – which no-one has really commented on at all, so I suppose it’s not an issue – but I definitely don’t feel like I’m waddling around as much as last pregnancy. At our last scan (last week) they predicted that baby weighed only 4 pounds, and at about the same time with M they predicted she weighed 7 pounds. I feel a little nervous, but hopefully baby will do some extra fast growing over the next week or so.
We have finally accumulated almost everything we need for baby’s arrival. I’ve been high-fiving myself for being the master of craiglist finds after finding a $40 dresser (my budget: $100), a baby bed for $150 (my budget: $300) and a futon/couch for guests (my mum) for $100 (my budget $400). In theory I’ve saved like $500! Totally in theory though..
And wow baby clothes are tiny. And wow M is excited. When she saw the bassinet we bought she asked ‘is baby here?!!’ and so we have been going over the timeline of events for the next few months and it is so cute because I love how she says ‘exciting’ instead of ‘excited’ so she runs around the house going ‘i’m so exciting! i’m so exciting!’
And one last thing: Last night she was really itchy and Ivan had to leave in the middle of the night to go buy her some medicine and so she was cuddling me tightly around my neck to try and stop herself scratching and she sort of drifted in and out of sleep and I started crying! Because her world is about to change and she doesn’t even really know it. And I am not scared about having enough love for another child, but rather I’m scared because this sort of love can make me feel so fragile sometimes. And I start thinking about all the people I love and how they are just out in the world and I can’t protect them or keep an eye on them and so it feels like my heart is out there totally unprotected and it is so open for being hurt. And here I am creating more little vessels who will take my heart into the world and obviously i do not think about this all the time, but right in this moment of holding M tightly and feeling her cheek against mine and hearing her gentle snoring, it all seemed so wonderful and unbearable at the same time.
it is very difficult to trust my instincts when there is a strong medical voice in my ear telling me every single possible worst case scenario. and i know that it is just their job and that it is so marvelous and wonderful that we have the ability to deal with so many potentially bad outcomes. But it is one thing to think ‘oh i will take their advice and listen to what they say, but then at the end of the day i will consider what they say and trust my instincts’ and it is another thing entirely to actually know what those instincts are after hearing only one big medical opinion for so long. are my instincts not to just deliver a healthy baby at any cost? at what point am i making a dumb decision to try and hold onto an experience that i might want? we’ve all seen the business of being born, and doesn’t it feel like the hospitals are not the places for bringing life into this world? they are places for sick people and i do not feel sick and i do not feel as though our baby is sick. will i make our baby sick by letting these doctors worry over every heartbeat and every measurement? or will i be doing the best thing for our baby?
but so it seems that we have ended up in the hospital anyway. and it is hard to know how much to question it/the doctors/the process and how much to trust it. i wonder am i fighting hard enough to keep myself out of this system? and then i wonder should i even be resisting it at all? i wonder if i was in New Zealand instead of America, would things be different?
and i feel stupid for feeling so scared and helpless and worried because there are much more scary and worrisome things that people deal with. and i want to feel confident that everything will be AOK and in order to really connect with this baby i feel like i need to feel 100% confident, but then too much confidence in everything being ok makes it even more confusing for me to trust the doctor’s concerns. if i could be so confident that everything is ok then why let them take control of the situation? so what does that leave me feeling? i have no idea, and it is exhausting.
it is one thing to say that we are designed to birth babies and to trust in the process and it is another thing to be told all the possible bad outcomes for your baby and have to make your own decision in the midst of teams of medical professionals and large hospitals. i want to hear the confident voice with an alternative recommendation. but even that is proving very difficult to find.
one thing is for sure though – by the end of october we will have a baby in our arms and i want to picture a healthy and strong and gorgeous little newborn. please picture that with me.
After 6AM yoga this morning I was sitting at One2One Cafe in Ponsonby burning through the pages of my latest book obsession (Water for Elephants) as fast as I could in the short 30min I had between Yoga and work.
As I was reading I suddenly re-realized how much of a sacrifice children are, especially for the parent that stays at home. The more I think about it the more I appreciate what Pamela does for our wee little baby.
I mean sure I provide financially for the family, but I love my job, so (usually) going to work isn’t a dread at all. Sure I have good days and bad like anyone else, but I am fortunate enough to love what I do for a living.
On the other hand, Pamela put everything she loved doing on hold. Exercising went first throughout the first few months of pregnancy, then work. Then Mika came into this world and exercise slowly came back but full-time work hasn’t and it’ll be on hold for a while. And the longer she stays at home caring for our little girl, the harder it will be to get back to the working world.
(However, Pamela is one of the few people I know that won’t stop doing stuff no matter how sleep deprived she gets. So instead of full-time work, she’s managed to get started with her photography business alongside another new mama (and hair & make-up artist) Julia O’Neil.)
I can see how a sudden change like this can be scary for a new family. Especially if the communication between mama & papa is poor – both could be left feeling like they are missing out on something. It shows me what a product of love and dedication a happy family is and I feel so lucky that we are working hard to make it work. And I feel even luckier that it doesn’t feel like hard work.
Just some thoughts I had this AM.