Hello. Wow...it has been two weeks since I have made a peep in this space. Guess what? Life is even busier than it was with one child. Big surprise, eh? Some days are better than others, and I've had some hilarious moments caring for my boys. So far I haven't left the house with my shirt on wrong-side-out, but I'm pretty sure that day will come. I promise to write a little post about it when it happens.
Luckily, we've had some stellar visitors to keep us fed and in good humor when the going gets tough. And the weather has been outstanding for walks and breaths of fresh air. Gotta love fall.
Below is Roman's birth story. It took me weeks to write it all out (it's a doozy length-wise), however, I'm so glad I took the time to reflect on one of my most joyful experiences. Birth is magical.
I hope to say hello again soon. In the meantime, take good care.
Dearest Roman Elias,
You’ve been out in the world a month now. In that short time you have stolen our hearts and taught us that we are indeed fully capable of creating enough love in our family for two little ones. Welcome, sweet Romy. We are so very grateful we get to call you our baby boy. This is the story of how you arrived.
My due date was September 8th, which also happened to be our 5th wedding anniversary. Despite going into labor on my due date with Felix, September 8th passed quietly. We were okay with not sharing the date we celebrate our anniversary. As Dustin pointed out, it isn’t super romantic to host a rowdy birthday party every year on one’s wedding anniversary. Excellent point. :-) Dustin’s parents (known to Felix as Gigi and Papa) arrived on the evening of the 8th. Always a bit of a worrier, I was concerned having them here before I went into labor would put pressure on me, or should I go more than ten days past my due date, cause them to miss meeting the baby altogether. Of course in retrospect I am thrilled I was way off base on both counts -- it was lovely and extremely helpful to have them here. Turns out, it was also perfect timing.
The day following my due date was a Sunday, and while running errands with Gigi and Felix, I was almost positive my water broke in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble. Thankfully, it did not. However, signs that things were moving in the right direction were definitely apparent. I felt cautiously excited, but continued with business as usual the rest of the day.
Early Monday morning (4am) I was awakened by a slammer of a contraction, followed by two or three more. I started timing after the first one and found them to be coming about six minutes apart. I remember thinking, okay here we go. BUT…after those few evenly-spaced contractions, everything went haywire and I began contracting ten, fifteen, and thirty minutes apart. At this point all I could do was get out of bed and eat a bowl of cereal whilst sitting on my birth ball. The inconsistent contractions continued all day Monday. By Monday night I was tired and becoming quite emotional. The damn internet didn't make me feel better, either. After searching, I discovered I was experiencing prodromal labor, which could last anywhere from a day to a week. A WEEK?!!? I certainly did not feel up for managing such intense, yet inconsistent contractions (and the sleeplessness) for a week.
Everything finally became more consistent Monday night around midnight, but not in a happy-making way -- I had contractions every thirty minutes all night long. It was rough; I cried.
Tuesday morning arrived and I promptly called my midwife practice to discuss the situation. Because, trust me, this was beginning to feel like a situation. The midwife I spoke with was wonderful and asked that I come in so she could check me. The cervical check brought some good news – I was dilated to 5 centimeters! Yep, just walking around the world halfway to full dilation. No big deal. The next bit of news was also encouraging. Meg, one of my midwives, said that I was completely ready for active labor, but I was so tired that my uterus was unable to start contracting at a regular pace. According to Meg, all I needed was some “therapeutic rest”, or as she explained, sleep brought on by my taking Ambien. She predicted that four to six hours of rest would likely move me into active labor.
Usually I’m not keen on taking meds, especially meds that make people drive cars and eat hoagies without remembering they have done such things, but in this case, I was all for it. I desperately wanted rest AND active labor. In that order. After a wonderful pep talk from Meg, Dustin and I left to get my prescription filled and then home to follow Meg’s instructions to create a cave-like atmosphere in our bedroom.
After having a couple of cups of miso (all I could eat during prodromal labor) and clearing everyone out of our house, I took one Ambien and settled in for a good long sleep. But -- guess what happened? I woke up ninety minutes later. Yep, no more sleep for me…I was wide awake...and I wasn’t having regular contractions, either. BOO. The house was still quiet, so I lazed around in our bed for another couple of hours before calling to ask Dustin to please come home. I think what I said was, I am really tired of being by myself, please come home soon. That was 6pm, and I must have known something was about to happen, because by the time everyone arrived home at 6:30, I was in active labor. Hallelujah!
I stayed in our bedroom and timed contractions with Dustin for the next two hours. I phone my wonderful Doula, Betsy. Dustin brought me coconut water and lead the charge in getting Felix bathed and put to bed on time. At my request Dustin phoned the midwife at 9pm to check in. By this time my contractions were consistently five minutes apart and I was managing them by bracing myself on the Learning Tower (Dustin’s idea – and a very good one, indeed). The midwife on duty, Susan, chatted with Dustin for a minute and then asked to talk to me so she could listen as I had a contraction, at which point she said, Okay, it sounds like you should probably come on in. We left the house around 10pm. It should be mentioned that I had two or three zinger contractions between my bedroom and the car parked out front. It should also be mentioned that the look on my dear mother-in-law’s face as she watched me make that walk is forever etched into my mind. She was extremely sweet and helpful, but it was obvious she did not like seeing me experience such intensity (aka pain) and wasn't quite sure how to cope with witnessing me in the midst of labor. She admitted later that she was also transported back to her experience laboring naturally with each of her two children over thirty years ago.
Once I was in the least comfortable place to labor in the whole universe: A CAR, I’m pretty sure I kept my eyes closed the entire 25 minutes it took to arrive at the front entrance of UNC Women’s Hospital. Dustin’s dad drove us in his cushy rental car, doing a stellar job adjusting the air-conditioning every thirty seconds (at my request), and hitting as few bumps as possible. It was so wonderful to have Dustin with me in the backseat. If his parents had not been here, Dustin would have had to drive us, something we experienced when Felix came into the world, and let’s just say it wasn’t awesome. I needed him there with me. The cushiness of the rental car was a terrific bonus.
Once at the hospital, it took several minutes to make it from the front entrance to the elevators due to, yep, you guessed it, stopping every three minutes to lean against Dustin or a chair during a contraction. Thankfully check-in wasn’t too big of a nuisance and we were triaged by the nicest nurse on the planet. I’m not kidding. Sarah was her name and I will never forget her kindness. Thank you, Sarah with red hair, you were the best, even when I puked on the bed and my water broke on the floor! Betsy arrived almost immediately, and in a matter of minutes I was told by Susan that I was dilated to 6cm and I was being admitted.
Everything became even more intense once I was moved to a room. Betsy pulled out her bag of amazing doula tricks and started setting the space in a beautiful, warm, glowing way. Dustin was by my side the entire time being wonderfully calm and encouraging. I remember thinking around now that I might be experiencing back labor. I mentioned this to Betsy and she brought out the best thing ever -- a warm rice sock that she applied to my lower back as I lay across a birth ball that was sitting on the floor. Unlike most rice socks I’ve seen, it was flat and quite wide which allowed it to lay perfectly across my lower back providing exactly what I needed most: warmth and gentle pressure. Betsy re-warmed it five or six times, and I'm certain it helped me stay calm and relaxed for the next hour or more. The lower back pain finally subsided. Thankfully.
After quite a while on the birth ball, I moved to the shower, which felt great for a short time, but standing up was becoming nearly impossible. With each contraction I would pull myself down into a squat, and after hours of doing this, my legs were turning to jelly. Betsy noticed this and suggested I leave the shower and move to the toilet so I could use the leverage and give my poor legs a rest. She told me to try to sit facing the back of the toilet and warned me that this position would likely be very intense. She then put several towels around the base of the toilet to soften the floor under my feet. Such a small thing, but so helpful.
Okay, so what I did not realize when I agreed to move to the toilet was how intense (read: effective) it really would be (even though Betsy tried to warn me). Holy Hell! I had a total fight or flight response after experiencing the first contraction there. I literally wanted to run. BUT…I could tell that however scary the position was, it was working extremely well to move the baby down…and that was what I really wanted. So I stayed put. I remember both Betsy and Susan becoming very excited by what was happening, especially how I sounded. Dustin sweetly told me later that I sounded very whale-like. The low, deep sounds were exactly what everyone wanted to hear, which was a good thing because I had absolutely no control over how I sounded! No contol at all. This is the point where I knew everything was completely out of my control and there was nowhere to go -- I was doing this and all I could do was surrender to it.
Right now is probably the best time to mention that I was attempting to have a VBAC. With Felix I labored naturally for 24 hours and pushed for three and a half hours before my midwife called the OB to discuss the fact that Felix was likely posterior, and fairly big, and he was not budging. Long story short, he was indeed posterier and stuck – his poor chin was hung on my pelvic bone. After a quick and not so friendly visit from the OB, I was moved to the operating room for a non-emergency cesarean. Not the ideal way I wanted it to go, but hey, he arrived and I healed and we have been big fans of each other ever since. So, yeah, I was trying for a VBAC this time around and really hoping for the natural vaginal birth experience I didn't have with Felix.
Eventually I relocated to lying across the side of the bed with my legs on the floor (geez, my poor legs were so tired at this point). I vomited for the second and last time and attempted to find leverage against the pressure using my dear husband’s arms and hands. Dustin was such a trooper throughout the entire birth -- I get teary writing about it. He did everything I asked of him and was so calm and encouraging the entire time, even when I was hurting him or when I snapped at him to stop touching me.
About now is when I looked at the clock on the wall (I hated that clock, by the way); it read 3:42am. I told myself I was going to have my baby by 5am. It wasn’t a big deal, and I didn’t say it out loud. However, I clearly remember saying it to myself and meaning it. This is also when I started to feel an overwhelming urge to push. I moved to my hands and knees on the bed where during contractions I would bear down. I could hear myself vocalize in a whole new way. Between contractions I drifted away to the most restful place. It still boggles my mind how I was able to access such a restful place in the two minutes between feeling such intense pressure. Definitely not something I thought about; I just went there.
Once I started bearing down I wanted to know exactly what the midwife was doing. Dustin said, she is getting ready; she is setting everything up. Those words made me happy. Very happy. Susan returned to my side moments later and said amazingly helpful and encouraging things as I pushed. Thankfully I only pushed for forty minutes! I can still hear Susan saying Just like that, Leya. You are doing this! That’s it! Your baby is right there, Leya! Once the baby was about to crown, Dustin, Betsy, and Susan let me know what they were seeing and what I was feeling with my hands. We can see the head. Does it have hair? It does! I continued asking questions…Is the head almost out? Is it out yet? Dustin said, I see the baby’s ears. You are so close. The head is almost completely out! With the next push the head was out and Susan asked me to stop pushing so she could maneuver the baby's shoulders. When she told me to push again, I pushed with all I had, and with that final push, the baby was OUT! Our little baby was HERE! It was 4:44am. Susan handed me my sweet baby as Dustin said it’s a boy! I put him on my chest and was in total awe of him and of what I had just done to get him here. I felt so strong. It was unreal. I inspected him all over and told him how much I loved him. Dustin and I both stared at him and talked to him for the next half hour as I delivered the placenta and was repaired by Susan. We talked about his amazing toes and the ways in which he looks like Felix. Susan cheered and congratulated me for accomplishing the natural vaginal birth I had so wanted.
Mama + Daddy