I did it! (And I’ll never do it again!)

After Marta gave birth to Nico, I think I had a post up for you all in two days. This time around, when it was me doing the evacuate-baby-from-body work, it’s taken me close to two weeks. Apologies for the delay, but it was A LOT of work. And the recovery has been a little slower than I thought it would be.

But for those of you who have been waiting, here’s how it all unfolded:

Two weeks ago today, as you might remember, I was quite large. I could no longer see my feet and walking was uncomfortable. I wasn’t sleeping much anymore because I’d started having night contractions that woke me up every hour or so. I was sometimes nauseous and all the times uncomfortable. I wanted this baby to come! Here I am with Walkie the Walker:

img_1498

I happened to have my weekly OB checkup that day so I asked my doctor, a super smart and sweet woman named Dr. Perales, to strip my membranes. For those of you who don’t know what this procedure is, it’s basically when the doctor goes into your cervix and, with a finger, loosens the amniotic sac from the sides of the uterus. It’s a procedure that can stimulate labor, if your body is already ready to go into labor.

And apparently mine was. As soon as we left the doctor’s office I started cramping, and by 5 pm that afternoon I was having somewhat regular contractions. As it turns out they were actually really regular contractions, but I’d been having so many contractions on and off for the weeks leading up to this that I kept thinking I was imagining things. It took texting back and forth with my doula and her saying that, yes, it sounded like I was in labor and she was heading over, for me to actually believe it was all for real.

And I was pretty darn excited. Finally! I was going to have this baby.

Needless to say, I hadn’t realized how much more work was to be done before this baby was going to be had.

For whatever reason, at home, I only wanted to listen to the song “I Believe in You” by Don Williams. I have NO idea why, but that song came to mind and I suddenly needed to hear it. So for like an hour I sort of swayed around my bedroom, sitting down when I had contractions, and listening to that song on repeat.

Meanwhile, Marta was taking Nico to stay at our friends house and my doula, Vanessa, was on her way over.

By the time Vanessa had arrived and Marta was back and had our stuff packed up, my contractions had gotten more intense. Vanessa said it was probably time to head to the hospital and I had switched from Don Williams to my hypnobirth tracks.

Hynobirthing, for those of you unfamiliar with this newest strategy in trying to make labor less, well, laborish, is a program that basically teaches you to self-hypnotize and, in your hypnotic, to convince yourself that the pain you’re feeling is not actually pain. As kooky as that sounds, it’s actually pretty effective. For most of the twelve subsequent hours of laboring (12!), I was able to keep the pain manageable and to actually not scream and writhe with each contraction simply by listening to those hypnobirth tracts. Here I am in my somewhat Zen state:

img_9752

Of course, as you can see in this photo, I also had outside help.

Vanessa the doula (who also took pictures for us during the birth) brought along her homemade essential oils, which she would shove under my nose with each contraction. I was doubtful of this strategy when she first told me about it but I have to say it was quite effective. I’d have my eyes closed and the smells were pleasant enough and strong enough that at times I could almost convince myself I was in a lush forest somewhere and not half naked in a hospital preparing to push a seven pound baby out of my body.

Vanessa would also touch my forehead with each contraction, which was remarkably soothing. And on my other side was Marta, who held my hand and reminded me to breath. I hadn’t realized I’d need someone to remind me to breath, but I did. And each time she reminded me, I would concentrate again on my breathe, which actually helped quite a lot.

Of course, by about four in the morning, we were all a bit tired, no matter how successful our pain-coping strategies were.

img_9755

At this point, I was between eight and nine centimeters dilated, but hadn’t “progressed” (as they say in the birthing world) in a while. This meant that I had “stalled” (again birthing talk) in the “transition” period of labor, which is supposedly the most painful. It’s the period in which your body is transitioning from contractions meant to push the baby down toward the birth canal and your body actually beginning to push the baby out of the canal.

For some reason, I decided that the reason I had stalled was because my hypnobirth CDs were working too well. I wasn’t actually feeling the true pain of the contractions, which was keeping me from progressing. I have no idea why I decided this or why, really, I decided to give up a very helpful technique right about the time when things were about to get crazy painful. Because it was also around that same time Dr. Perales suggested she break my water, which can help labor progress. So I gave up my hypnobirth CDs and she broke my water and then all of the sudden I was in ALOT of pain.

I was also very tired.

And I decided I’d had enough. I could no longer remember why I wanted to have a “natural” birth without the use of an epidural (in fact even now I can’t really remember my reasoning: I think it had to do with some sort of challenge or the idea that I would be able to feel more joy when the baby actually arrived). And suddenly the only thing I wanted was an epidural. I demanded that Vanessa or Marta go order me one and they did, though I was told I would have to wait cause the woman next door was getting hers.

And in waiting, someone (Marta or Vanessa or maybe the nurse) convinced me to get checked one more time to see if I had progressed. Because the reason I wanted the epidural was because at that point I was convinced that I would NEVER progress and that I was stay like that, in pain at nine centimeters, for the rest of my life. Some part of my brain realized that was unlikely, though. So I agreed to be checked one more time. Which meant that when the anesthesiologist arrived to do the epidural, we told him we’d decided to wait until I got checked again. He was loud and rude and hurried and responded by saying, “Well can you at least fill out the paperwork now so it will be done when we come back?”

I immediately hated him and decided he would never come near my body.

And just like that the question of the epidural was resolved. I would not have one because the anesthesiologist was the devil incarnate. And so we told him to leave and we went back to my pain with somewhat more resolve than before. Luckily a few minutes later Dr. Perales came in and said I was at 9.5 centimeters with just a “lip” left (no idea what that means) and then a half hour later the nurse checked me again and said, “You’re ready to have a baby!” which meant I was at 10 centimeters, which meant I was ready to push, which meant I wanted to cry (but was in so much pain I couldn’t quite muster the tears).

Within minutes the whole room changed. Nurses were bringing in equipment to help with the birth and they were rearranging the bed to get me into a better position to push and it was like, well, like things were actually happening. It was only when the nurse said, “Ok, let’s start pushing and I’ll call Dr. Perales once it’s time,” that I realized that pushing might also be something of a painful affair.

I blame TV and movies for this, but I really thought that you just pushed once or twice and the baby came out. I mean, I knew that the contractions were long and painful, but I had somehow convinced myself that the pushing part was a quick sort of pain, the birth amounting to a few screams and tada! a baby.

That is so not the case.

I pushed for, I think, an hour. And in that hour it dawned on me that this was, in fact, the most painful part of the whole affair. Even my hynpobirth CDs couldn’t save me. At one point the woman on the CDs was saying “and now your baby slips out of you like on a slide” and I wanted to hit her. What actually saved me in the end was Dr. Perales. First she used some sort of towel or rag and had us each pull on one end when it was time to push. This was, if you think of it, kind of like playing tug of war, but in a much less carefree way than we did in elementary school. Also I think I pooped at one point while we were pulling (and I was pushing). But it was effective in that it showed me how I had to push to get the god damn (I mean sweet, darling) baby out of me.

When tug-of-war stopped working as well, Dr. Perales brought over a mirror so I could see the baby come out. I had rejected this option at first cause it seemed a little too hippy-dippy for me, but I can’t tell you how helpful it was. Because without the mirror, basically I just felt A LOT of pressure and pain and, basically, my insides being split apart, and no sense when it would end. In fact at one point I decided I was going to tell everyone that I couldn’t do it anymore and that I wanted a C-section.

But with the mirror, I could see her little head as it inched its way down and, eventually, out. Which gave me hope. And hope can be a rare beast in a laboring and delivery room.

But, friends, let me tell you, she did finally came out, first her head and with another push her shoulders. And that was probably one of the most blissful moments of my life. I am going to cry just thinking of it now. Because up until that point I think I was convinced that I had an alien growing inside me. No matter how much I knew she was a real baby, I couldn’t really believe she was real until she was out and crying and being placed in my arms. Also in that same moment all the intense pain I felt was suddenly relieved, so there was relief mixed with joy mixed with surprise mixed with exhaustion and it really was fucking incredible. It’s that feeling, I think, that makes women have multiple babies.

img_9756

img_9758

img_9759

After I had her in my arms, I said “Oh my god” about ten million times and Marta was right there beside me and I think maybe we cried or maybe not, but either way, it was a beautiful moment.

And then the doctor was sewing me up and Marta and I were talking about names (we decided on Manuela and then later we switched to Frida, which is her name now: Frida!) and then I felt high as a kite (there is a rush of hormones after giving birth that totally blisses you out) and Marta was dead as a tornado-battled kite because we had, you know, been up all night. So she slept and I held the baby named Manuela but later to be named Frida and I was really and truly so very content.

And I still am! More in the coming days/weeks about my new life as a nursing stay-at-home mom 🙂

But for now, here she is. Little Frida, who will be two weeks old tomorrow:

img_1687

And here she is holding hands with her big sister, who she adores:

img_1701

And here she is asleep on my chest while I write this blog post:

img_1702-1

The Countdown Begins

This idea of a due date is funny. I realized at some point that I was sort of thinking of it like a timer. Like I’m a soup that just needs to boil for a certain number of minutes. A cake that has to bake until the timer rings. And then–poof–I’m done. Or rather, she’s done.

But it doesn’t actually work like that, as you might imagine. Instead babies can come whenever. I thought this one was coming about a week ago when I woke up in the middle of the night with regular contractions. I was so excited, but also caught so unaware, that I immediately got up and finished writing cover letters for academic jobs I’m applying to this year.

About halfway through a second cover letter, I suddenly realized the contractions had stopped. And then for several days there were no more contractions, no more move toward the BIG DAY. Just me and my big ol belly and waddle walk.

Then last night, I got excited again. I started having contractions in the car. Marta and I had just arranged a babysitter and were planning to go see a movie. We’ve tried to do this a couple times in the past and something related to my pregnancy always interrupts us (see previous post about my painful pelvic-expanding disorder). So when I got my first contraction I started cracking up. “I think my body is going to spoil our date again,” I told Marta.

But, of course, I was wrong, which was actually good this time. We went to see Hell or High Water, the Jeff Bridges’ movie set in West Texas. The baby kicked and my belly contracted throughout the movie, but nothing regular or painful. Marta and I got to actually spend some time alone (they call this a babymoon in the pregnancy literature) and I got to laugh at Marta trying to understand West Texas accents on the screen. All in all a good night–and probably a little less trying than a night of labor.

Today we have a baby shower to attend, my first and only shower, and I’m also glad that the baby has decided to wait until we get to that event. After that, though, I’m fine if she comes. I’m almost at 39 weeks now. I wrote to someone that I feel like a melon on toothpicks, and it’s true. The other day at the gym a woman in the locker room told me that my belly was “super cute” and, though I appreciated her compliment, I was sure at first that she was talking to someone else. I mean, I like my belly. It’s actually pretty fun to have this new appendage, but cute is not a word I would use for it. More like large and in charge.

As for my pelvic expanding disorder, I’ve been getting better. I go to a see a chiropractor one a week, a physical therapist once a week, and then several times a week I go to this special pool and walk around with a bunch of old people. I still use a walker to get around some, but I can also walk without it, which is good. Nico is convinced that all pregnant people need walkers and I’m trying to disabuse her of that fact.

She is also very excited for this baby to come. We helped her pack her overnight bag just in case she has to go stay with someone when the birth begins (if my dear ol’ mom can’t get her in time) and after her bag was all packed, she started asking none stop if Timotea was coming now. What about now? What about now?

It’s hard to explain to her that we just don’t know when her little sister is coming. At her daycare, they are all about planning one’s days and about scheduling and Nico’s really into that right now. She likes to play pretend classroom with us, a game in which she’s the teacher and we are her students, and a lot of that involves her standing up by this chalkboard we bought her and talking to us about “the calendar.”

According to my calendar, I am due on Oct. 25. It’d be nice if we just knew the baby was coming that day and could plan accordingly. But it’s also kind of nice to realize that she could come at any moment. That her unpredictability in being born is pretty in keeping with the unpredictability of childrearing in general. There are, after all, so few things in life that are unscheduled these days.

All of which is to say, I’m trying to enjoy the waiting game. And I’ll be back soon, hopefully with some big news.