Birth of The Blessing

I was awakened by a very painful contraction late one night two weeks ago. I pressed the Indiglo button on my watch. 12:30. “Was that a real contraction?” I wondered, “or did it seem so painful because I am so tired?” I had been having contractions for days and days that never quite turned into labor so I wasn’t about to get excited about this one.

I laid there in the dark waiting for the next contraction before I would decide whether I should get up or go back to sleep. I didn’t have to wait long. The next contraction came on strong and hard and I knew that this was probably the real deal. But I waited for one more, just to be sure. The third one did not disappoint.

Rolling out of bed I said to The Man, “I am having some good contractions. I’ll call you when it gets serious.” He grunted and rolled over knowing that he didn’t have much longer to sleep.

I decided to text my midwife and let her know we would be needing her in a few hours.  “Sorry to wake you, ” I wrote, “but I am pretty sure I am in the beginning of labor. Was 4cm this afternoon. Contrax are about 8 min apart and nice painful ones. Will call you when it gets interesting.” Then I sat on the couch and decided to knit. I figured that when I could no longer knit through the contractions, I’d wake up The Man and get serious.

I knit through four contractions.  The fifth one found me closing my eyes and moaning softly as I tried to relax. I set my knitting aside. Two more contractions like that and The Man was out of bed.

After checking on me, The Man went into the bathroom and started cleaning the bathtub. I heard the water running as he filled it and I started making my way to the bathroom, stopping twice to breathe through contractions. Then the shivers started. By the time I got to the bathroom (and, folks, my house is very small, it wasn’t a long walk), the contractions were right on top of each other. By the time I crawled into the blissfully hot water, there was no break between them.

As if in a dream, I heard The Man say something about calling the midwife and my mom. I gasped that he needed to wake the big kids, too. I was thinking that I couldn’t keep this up much longer, and assumed I still had hours to go – I had only just begun, after all! I heard The Man whispering a prayer, “Oh, God. Please slow it down.” And then out loud, “This is going really fast!”

“Don’t say that to me,” I panted, “It’s not helpful!”

And then the contractions stopped. I knew this meant I was complete. Pushing was next. I looked up and there were my four big kids, all crowded in the doorway, sleepy eyed and pajama clad. The Man sat on the toilet looking intense and confident.

“It’s almost time to push,” I said, as I relaxed in the water, waiting for the next phase to begin.

And then it began. I panted through the first pushing contraction, thinking somewhere in the back of my mind that I needed to wait for the midwife and for my mom. After the contraction subsided, sanity returned and I realized how silly this was. I have had two planned unassisted births! I can do this! So, with the next contraction I pushed.

Three pushes later and out she came! A teeny, tiny baby emerged from my body and I lifted her out of the water onto my chest. It was 3:01. She blinked in the light and serenely took it all in. She was beautiful in an unexpected way. I knew instantly that she had Down syndrome. I looked at The Man as he looked at her. He didn’t see it, yet. I looked back at her. This was not what I had pictured, not what I had expected. But I was okay with it. I knew it would be alright.

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After a short time, I felt it was time for the placenta to be birthed. The Dancing Queen cut the umbilical cord and The Bookworm wrapped the baby in a towel and took her in the living room. The Man helped me finish the process and got me out of the tub and into bed. There I had my new baby handed back to me and I looked at her again. She was so very tiny! My first six babies averaged 9 pounds, but this little squish was only 7lbs, 6oz!

My mom and the midwife both arrived about this time. Baby was checked out and given a clean bill of health. My mom put a movie on for the kids (who, at 4 am were very awake and excited) and I just stared at this tiny little girl in my arms.

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The first two days with her were lovely, I stayed in bed and we had skin-to-skin time round the clock. She had some trouble nursing, but as we worked on it, she improved with each feeding. The kids all adored her and lined up for their turn to hold her. The Man and I slowly adjusted to the idea of parenting a child with Down syndrome, focusing on the great blessing that she is and will be.

And so, my Encore Baby, The Blessing, entered this world, changing our lives far more than we ever expected. She is an amazing blessing and quite an exciting addition to our family.

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But the story continues. I’ll write about what happened next tomorrow.

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My Grand Finale

I have been putting off writing my birth story because it went down so, well, differently than I wanted. But, perhaps if I put it in words, maybe I can process it better. As you all know, I was planning an unassisted birth in my bathtub with just my husband and kids with me. I imagined it would be very much like the last two births, which were easy, heavenly and quick.

But at 37 weeks, my blood pressure started a slow, but steady creep into scary-land. I was watching for other signs of pre-eclampsia, but they never came. When the blood pressure got too high for comfort, we decided we had better go to the hospital to get it checked out. I was 38 wks, 5 days at this point.

At the hospital, we were so blessed to have doctors and nurses who respected what we were trying to do and were very supportive of our positions. But, after an ultrasound revealed that Baby’s heart was enlarged, we realized that we were not going home to have the birth we had planned. They were concerned about how baby would function once born. My blood pressure stayed in the stratosphere, but the added concern of the baby’s health was just too much for me. After 24 hours of observation, we decided to induce labor.

At midnight on the day I turned 39 wks, they started the pitocin drip. I was already dilated to 3, but baby was high (station -2). Eighteen hours later, I was still not getting much more than the braxton hicks I had been having for weeks previous. I was starving, tired and so stressed out. The Man intervened and insisted they let me eat, so they stopped the pit and served me dinner. I had a little nap and then we started again, this time I asked them to break my water first, hoping that would bring on the real labor I had been waiting for.

By the time my labor started, two hours later, I was so beat. I was emotionally drained from the strain, worried about the baby, fearful of a hospital birth, and I hadn’t seen my kids in days (oh! I missed them so, so much). The contractions on the pit were far worse than any labor I have ever experienced and it was taking so long! I have never had a labor take longer than 5 hours, so I was not prepared for this lengthy ordeal. I was dilated to 7cm when I asked for something for the pain.

Now, I have never had to research pain meds, because they aren’t exactly an option in a homebirth setting. I only knew that I didn’t want an epidural. They gave me stadol. And, this is where things get fuzzy. I started to halucinate and The Man tells me that I was saying really crazy things. I would sleep through a few contractions, and then wake and not know where I was. The pain of the contractions wasn’t lessened at all, I just didn’t care very much. I don’t really remember as much of the reality as I do the crazy things my brain was telling me. And then it was time to push.

Because of the stadol, I couldn’t think straight. I was trying to curl up in a fetal position to push her out, and when the doctor tried to get me to assume a better position, I flailed my arms and told her “Don’t touch me!” Finally, The Man laid his chest over mine, pushing me back and holding me down so that I could push. Then, I couldn’t tell when I was supposed to push. I was so confused!

Finally, I heard the doctor say that Baby’s heart rate was dropping and I had to get her out right now. Mama-instinct took over, and I pushed like I have never pushed before, contraction or not. She was the hardest baby to get out, despite being my smallest.

Thankfully, once she was out, my head cleared a bit, and after her birth, I didn’t feel all the horrible effects of the drug. Baby was fine and pink. They laid her on my chest and did all their check-up on her right there. I didn’t tear at all (miracle!), but The Man said the blood was pouring out like a faucet had been turned on! I am thankful for the doctor and her skills that took care of me then.

Post partum was another hurdle. Baby had an echocardiogram (her third – two while in-utero) and they continued to be concerned for her heart. While she was pink and perfect looking, we were still told that the walls of her heart were too thick and that her heart was taking up a large percent of her chest cavity.

Five days after our decision to go the hospital, we were allowed to bring our little Vera home.

On Tuesday, we took her to the Children’s Hospital for yet another echo. I am happy to say that she was given the all-clear. The cardiologist said her heart is perfectly normal and he didn’t know why we were sent there. The Man is kind of ticked that we had all that stress and worry and expense heaped on us when she is totally normal. I am still busy being happy that she is fine.

My blood pressure still has not resolved, however. I am on total bedrest. That seems to be the lingering negative to this whole thing. I am feeling a little robbed of the euphoria that I have had during post-partums of the past. The stress of Baby’s health plus the disappointments of the way it all went down, and waiting for my body to normalize (hoping I don’t have to go back to the hospital) has stolen some of the joy from this time.

This is our sixth and last baby. I never expected after five quick, easy, healthy labors and fast recoveries that I would end my reproductive life like this. For what it was, I couldn’t have asked for better, I suppose. I had my vaginal birth. I didn’t have anything done to me that I didn’t okay. I don’t feel like I got railroaded by the medical system. And, I have to say that I learned so much. I learned that hospitals can be good places to give birth, that it is possible to find doctors who will work with you and respect your (idealistic) goals, and I learned that it really is about getting a healthy baby and a healthy mama. The birth experience is nothing more than an experience, and now, just a memory. My sweet baby is a gift from heaven and I would have endured far more to get her.

Thank you all for your prayers. We are in awe of the army we have sending up prayers on our behalf and so grateful to God for such a favorable outcome to the whole thing.

Now, I must go lay back down. The Man starts to get concerned when I stay upright for too long.