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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Birth, The Way I Like It

Since I recently bought a one-way ticket to labor and delivery, I thought it would be interesting to write a post about how I like to do birth! This is for you, Carrie.

One: Natural and Untampered With

My first baby was born in a birthing center. I had the most fantastic midwife on the planet. I felt empowered and free. It was fabulous. Except that I had to get in a car and travel to the birthing center – 45 minutes away. Considering that my labor was only 2 hours and 45 min long, it was awful! Which leads me to…

Two: Stay Home

My second baby was born in the comfort of our own home with a (different) midwife in attendance. It was also a fabulous birth. I used a birthing chair, which I really liked and it was quick and lovely. There were two exceptions to this. The first was that we had made arrangements for my daughter to be at a friends house for the birth. I really would have liked her to be there. Also, because of the short delivery the first time, I called everyone at the first contraction, and so we were all together too long. Granted, that baby took only five and a half hours (my longest labor), but still…

Three: Call at the last minute – or Do as much labor alone as I can.

Birth number three was my least favorite. Not because it was bad, or anything went wrong. I just didn’t click with the new midwife. I knew we didn’t click at every appointment, but I didn’t think that mattered much. But, at the birth, it did matter. After she tried to micro-manage my pregnancy (which drove me crazy), it shouldn’t have been a surprise when she wanted too much control over the birth. It was fine, really. I just didn’t like her there. I wished that we hadn’t called her until afterwards, you know, like “Oops, baby came so fast, we didn’t have time to call you!” So,

Four: Unassisted

So far as it is possible, I prefer to go it alone. With babies four and five, I did just that. I invested in some important tools and supplies, read a few good books and found a midwife who gave me the confidence to do it on my own. Every second week of my pregnancy, I checked and charted things like my blood pressure, baby’s heartbeat, my hemoglobin levels and my overall health. Then, at nine months or so, I went to the midwife for a final exam. She checked me out and gave me the green light, plus her numbers in case I needed them. When the time came to deliver a baby, it was intimate and sacred. About a week after, I headed to the midwife for a check up and to have the new baby examined.

Five: Water Birth

When I got in the bath during my fourth labor, I had every intention of getting out before the birth. It was our first unassisted birth, and both the Man and I were not comfortable with the water birth idea at the time. But, when I tried to get out of the tub, I felt baby crowning and knew it was going to be a water birth after all. This led me to a wonderful revalation – water birth is fabulous! It was a happy accident that I will repeat again and again. Please, God, don’t ever make me deliver a baby without the benefit of a large tub of warm water!

Six: Have My Kids in Attendance

This point really could be it’s own post. I have so much to say about it. All of my kids who are over four years old have attended the birth of one or more of their siblings. They were all well prepared during the pregnancy and were all excited partners in the labor and birth. Two of them have cut an umbilical cord. They have examined placentas and weighed new babies. They have heard me scream and yell, have witnessed the great relief of birth, and have reveled in the joy of new life. I feel that it is important for them to become familiar with birth as a normal, natural part of life. It teaches them so much, not the least of which is the value of enduring great pain for an even greater reward. And, having them there has never distracted or bothered me in the least.

It is my hope and prayer that this next baby will be born naturally, in my home, in our large bathtub filled with warm water, intimately attended to by Papa and siblings. That is birth the way I like it.