Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the tag “home birth”

And Baby Makes Five

Fourteen days ago this enchanting imp made her grand entrance: 

 

She built up the suspense with two days of painless “warmup” (more frequent than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been experiencing for months, but definitely not yet active labor) during which I optimistically visualized dilation occurring and stockpiled sleep and food like the apocalypse was looming.

My first labor was a day and a half. My second was half a day. Both natural births, neither of them abnormally difficult, but both involved a sleepless night and more than two hours of pushing. I was hoping for shorter and easier, of course, but preparing for endless.

I began bedtime with Owlet and Platypup pretty certain labor was almost upon us but still able to read to them and sing a few songs. Then singing during contractions became more challenging so I put on some music and sat at the edge of Platypup’s bottom bunk until he fell asleep. I kissed an engrossedly reading Owlet goodnight in her top bunk and headed out to the living room. It was a little after 8pm.

I pulled out a favorite book I was rereading (Destiny’s Song, by Audrey Faye) in anticipation of tackling its newly released sequel during the nursing marathon that is the newborn period. Contractions were closer together and no longer ignorable, but I was still able to read through them awhile, and then read between them until I finished the book around 9pm.

Next I entered what I think of as the “restless” period. Contractions were… Bothersome? Not painful exactly, but just… irritating, and I wasn’t able to settle into a groove of coping with positioning or visualization or anything the way I remember doing in my first births. I stood, I walked, I sat, I leaned, I squatted, I crawled, I reclined on my side, I used the birth ball and Thor and the back of the chair. I even did a few half sun salutations — mostly to ease my mood a bit.

I stopped being able to simply draw long slow ujjayi breaths through contractions and began to make low, quiet moaning sounds. Thor had been keeping an eye on the clock and asked a couple of times whether I thought we should call our midwife yet. I was grumpy, completely unsure whether this was even active labor yet, and each time said I didn’t know. Then I threw up, a common sign of labor well underway. Thor went ahead and made the call.

Soon after, my water broke a bit. Fictional births almost universally cast this as the first sign of labor, and for a small percentage of laboring moms it is. But not for me! With Owlet, the midwife broke the bag of waters manually late in first stage to help a long slow labor accelerate, and with Platypup, it leaked a bit toward the end of the first stage and then exploded suddenly on my midwife mid-second stage. In other words, for me, any amount of water breaking = baby coming.

And the tornado hit. So fiercely that I felt I had no coping skills at all. I anchored to my breath and held onto its well-practiced steady undulation for dear life as contractions seemed to overlap, with any brief potential break in the action obliterated by an impatient babe who seemed to be attempting to tunnel out. Her every movement seemed to pummel the same spots that bore the brunt of each contraction. With each contraction I filled my core with deep, resonant sound that could almost but not quite drown out the pain. I had dropped to hands and knees when I felt my water beginning to break (I was actually able to warn Thor in time for him to slip a waterproof pad underneath first) and that is where I stayed, all ability to move having vanished.

In the time it took our midwife to drive from the next town over, I went from waffling on whether it was time to call to unquestionable certainty that she should already have arrived.

The midwife agreed. She opened the front door at around 10:30 and immediately called the second midwife based on my voice alone. Then she came into the room, checked the baby’s heart rate, got the rest of her equipment into the house, and at my request checked my dilation.

I was completely dilated other than a small lip.

A couple of contractions later my body begin to push on its own. A few more and I could tell the baby’s head was already crowning. Thor got ready to catch with our midwife’s assistance and as her face emerged they were both surprised to see the caul still around it. I was able to stop actively pushing and just breathe instead (a feat that was frankly impossible in prior births) to ease her out gently. Moments later she slipped free into Thor’s waiting hands.

It was 11:08pm. A mere three hours after I’d put our two children to bed, we now had three!

I held our new daughter sitting back on my heels after she had been passed up to me and was able to change positions without needing major support. Getting comfortable was another matter, but the last two times I basically became jelly instantly post-birth. I was glad to feel I still had strength left.

Our second midwife arrived minutes later. After the initial postpartum activities (checking us both out, cleaning multiple meconium explosions, inspecting the placenta, pushing super hard on my belly to help the uterus shrink — the usual) Thor went to bring in the big kids.

Owlet was instantly awake. Platypup would not be roused right away so Thor brought Owlet in first and went back to try again.

Owlet came in all wide-eyed and hushedly excited:

  

Platypup stumbled blearily into the room, spotted on the floor the white and black couch cushions we designated as the ones that must stay on the couch (the others can be played with), and apparently his sense of order was offended, because he immediately attempted to rectify the situation (fortunately without putting them directly in a pool of blood) without so much as glancing around for the baby. I managed to draw Thor’s attention in time for him to rescue the pillow in question. Then we reminded Platypup there was a new baby sister to meet!

    

Eventually we all migrated to bed together: Baby “Cria” in the middle, Thor and I on either side of her, Owlet and Platypup on either side of us. We sang to Cria for the first time; Platypup asked for Rainbow Connection and Owlet requested Onawa’s Waltz. Sleep was fragmented, Platypup kept me far too warm, and my escapes for water/bathroom breaks were acrobatic feats, but our first night as a family of five is already etched in the rosy hues reserved for memories most beloved. One sweet, cozy, crowded family.

   

  

  

  
 

  
First outing: going to sushi to celebrate our two week old!

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Origins of an Owlet

This morning, for the first time since that deliriously joyful day, Owlet got to see where she was born. It was actually the first time I’d been there since having her, though truthfully I didn’t even realize it at first.

Not that we couldn’t have visited anytime. Our mom’s group meets at the birth center, so it’s a very short walk through a charmingly overgrown courtyard from the rocking-chair convention of a classroom space to the little cottage-style building housing two birth rooms and a common area. Somehow the hustle out of and back into the car had always engulfed all but the briefest flickering memories of her birth, but today our usual meeting spot was busy, so they had us meet in that common area instead — basically a living room with a small kitchenette and access to both birth rooms.

Before we left at the end of the morning, I picked her up in my arms and we poked our noses into that sacred space. I showed her the end of the bed, where Daddy had been sitting when she was born, and told her I’d been right in front of him on a birth stool, gesturing to the approximate spot where she had come “earthside.” She listened solemnly in her Owlet way as I tried to imprint the depths of this moment, our return to the site of her first breath. We gazed at the quilted bedspread and homey flowered sheets that are captured in our first photos of tiny, wrinkly, red-faced infant Owlet. Were there any shadowed roots of recognition stirring in her toddler mind?

I love that my daughter’s first conscious exposure to birth was at home. Nothing else, not even her own birth center birth, is going to resonate as “normal” to her the way her brother’s home birth will. I actually wonder if she’ll feel a little slighted that she wasn’t born at home, too, but I’m pretty sure her abiding love for our home birth midwife is going to eclipse all else. Seriously, Owlet will pretend to call her on the phone, or knock a spoon against her high chair tray and say it’s our midwife, at the door, coming to measure our bellies.

I am honored to be a link in the chain of women reclaiming childbirth. My mother birthed both my sister and I naturally, in a hospital setting. I had my daughter at a birth center and my son at home. Both my mom and I grew up steeped in the myth of sudden water-breaks followed by overwhelming contractions leading inevitably to epidurals and therefore had to spend our pregnancies rewiring our brains in preparation for real birth. But the culture is shifting, especially in this little corner of the world. If Owlet chooses to bear children and wants to follow in our footsteps (and, given her worship of our midwife, this seems likely), she will be lucky enough to ride the growing wave of strong-willed, clear-eyed, mama-bear pregnant women successfully giving birth wherever and however they see fit.

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