It has been nearly 6 weeks since our baby was born, and I have yet to post an image of her here on my blog! But that is for good reason, and I am actually pretty pleased that I have refrained from posting away, haha. I have had the camera out a number of times this month (you didn't doubt that I have been photographing her, did you?!?) but have spent all of my "free time" beyond that just taking care of the little one and enjoying every minute of it. I feel like I have experienced every moment fully and completely, from the incredible natural birth experience, the first moments with her, Mark and I discovering her together, the first days at home, nursing her, the night hours of wakefulness she has had at times (that is mostly a thing of the past now though, and that’s a-ok with me, but I did savor it while it lasted). Every. Single. Moment. has been experienced and has been wonderful. Feels like perfect timing and I don't feel like it is rushing by me; I can't express in words how content that makes me feel. So you see . . . all this lack of sharing everything is because I have been busy just “being” and experiencing. But I am ready to start setting some time aside now for sharing what we have been experiencing, and maybe relieving it a little myself as I look at the pictures. That’s what pictures do for us, right? I love looking at the images of her birth for that very reason. I have made a slideshow video of the images (link below) and then have journaled a very, very long blog post about it. I suppose only some of you mamas will read the long novel :) but enjoy it if you do; if you don't, well enjoy just the video . . . it tells a great story. We had a wonderful water birth . . . fast, easy and a great experience all around. And a beautiful little baby girl!
[vimeo width="900" height="506"]http://vimeo.com/64772355[/vimeo]
We had a wonderful natural birth experience. For those of you who know me, you know that I enjoy being pregnant and although I am anxious to hold my new baby, I am always a little sad to not be pregnant anymore. It is just such an amazing experience to feel everything that comes with growing a baby. The hiccups, the kicks, listening to her heartbeat with our stethoscope, playing games with her to encourage her to kick us back if we give her a poke or small jab . . . it was wonderful. And then came the having to get up every two hours in the night to pee, and not being able to sleep comfortably there at the end . . . and the "end" was starting to look more promising with each day. And alas the "nesting" began in March and so I knew the end must be near . . . although she was due to arrive around April 10th. My other two babies came on their due date (one was exactly on and one was two days past). And they came pretty quickly, especially my 2nd one which was just less than a two hour labor from start to finish, with her arriving about 50 minutes after I arrived at the hospital at 7cm dilated. And with each of them, I was 4cm dilated for two weeks prior to their arrival. Soooo . . . I expected nothing different with this third pregnancy, although in the back of my mind, I reminded myself that it has been ten years since my body has done this and it maaayyyy have forgotten how to. But alas . . . it remembered. Kinda.
Fast forward to Wednesday, March 13th . . . 36 weeks pregnant and 36-week appointment with my midwife. A quick check and she looks at me with wide, excited eyes and tells me that I am 4-5 cm dilated and that baby has "dropped" (which I could already tell the day before) and is engaged in my pelvis, head very low. I am surprised (I had been 1cm the week before, and about 80% effaced, so I expected to be maybe a 2-3 . . . but almost 5???) Sounds like my hope of a speedy labor like my previous one is going to be fulfilled, yes?!? I feel positive and encouraged because: - these Braxton Hicks contractions (the irregular, non-painful ones that come and go throughout the end of a pregnancy) must be doing something - my body does remember how to labor like before (woohoo!) - we are going to be having a baby soon, but I want to keep her in a there a bit longer since she is still early
So home I go, happy to be halfway dilated and feeling great and "normal", or as normal as you can be when you are as big as a house, haha. Call my husband the minute I leave the midwife’s office and tell him. He is pretty surprised to hear all this; this is our first baby together and suddenly it is becoming very real that we are going to get to meet her soon! I have plans to go with my sister to the Jack and Jules consignment sale this evening to make some final baby purchases, so she and I continue with our plans. My Braxton-Hicks contractions continue on as we shop and all is well. I even pick up two very tiny newborn/preemie gowns just in case Anneliese does arrive early and is small; everything we have bought for her to come home in and wear will fit a 7-8 lb. baby.
Friday. March 16th. Regular day at home, editing some photo sessions on the computer, have a bunch more Braxton-Hicks contractions that are starting to seem more regular, so I begin timing them. 10 minutes here, 12 minutes there, about a minute in duration. No pain. Carry on about my day. But I do check in with my midwife since I am starting to anticipate that the weekend might hold some exciting activities for us :) at this point. She strongly suggests that I come in for a labor check, so after picking Halle up from school I drive over to her office at St. Mary's Midwifery Center. Repeat the check from Wednesday, repeat her looking at me with excited, wide eyes and this time saying "7". What?!? 7? Today? That's almost transition stage, isn't it? Why no pain? Okay, wait . . . awesome, no pain!! And this is where the labor experience changes from what I have experienced before. And this is a good example of why to have your bags bagged at least a month before your baby is due! (Fact: I had tossed my bag in the back of the van on Wednesday after my 5cm check-up, so I was ready whenever baby was ready to arrive; so while I was at my labor-check appointment today, I had my 10-year-old daugher and my bag in tow.)
When you are 7cm and have had a very speedy labor previously, apparently it is very likely that if your water should break at home, you will likely not make it to the birthing center in time and could very well have the baby en route. So for that reason, my midwife and her medical director at St. Mary's direct me over to the birthing center to check in for a 24-hour observation. Let me be honest . . . at this point, I am thinking 24-hour observation means that in 24 hours we will be holding a baby . . . I mean, who doesn't have a baby within hours of being 7cm? (Answer: apparently me!) And if no baby and no pain, maybe I could be in denial that I was 7cm and I could go home and take it easy for the weekend, yes?
But I digress . . . So, after my labor check, I am starting to see some slight signs of labor (I'll spare you the details) and am feeling a twinge of an oh-so-familiar slight backache every few minutes, just like my previous labor. So, phone call is made to my husband at work to tell him to head on over to the birthing center instead of going home from work, and I drive over to the nearest fast-food restaurant I can find to order up a "last meal" since I haven’t eaten in a while and know that I'll be hungry and will need some energy for birth (popsicles aren’t gonna cut it!), and then I meet up with Halle's dad to drop her off with him since he is in the area. And I will admit here that I am starting to feel maybe just a little nervous as I am feeling a bit of a backache, like I said, in regular intervals, even while I am standing in line with my daughter at Burger King waiting for a small cheeseburger. It is nothing unbearable, but definitely something familiar and labor-signaling, and not something that I want to have increasing in intensity or duration while I drive back. I arrive back at the birthing center, park the van, unload my bag and check in at the desk for my 24-hour observation and await my hubby's arrival. Our birth photographer, Jamie Weiss, is en route also, because at 7cm this will likely happen soon, right? And still no contractions and pain, so to speak . . . maybe this will happen soon and pain-free . . . fingers crossed! Mark arrives and up to the third floor we go; it is about 5:30pm at this time. Upon entering our room, I see that they already have the birth pool set up in the room and are filling it. My midwife, Libbi, had called them earlier to let them know I was coming to check in for observation, so they were anticipating my arrival and apparently the arrival of baby Anneliese as well . . . aren't we all??? Although, I am still wanting to keep her in there as long as possible to give her a bit more time to develop and grow. Braxton-Hicks-like contractions (I say "like" because they didn't hurt at all) continue some, backache continues for a bit and then Anneliese does this crazy little baby-dance in there and shakes it up more than usual, which entertains my pregnancy-loving self and suddenly the backache is no more; I imagine that she turned herself into a position that was no longer putting her head's pressure on my back. And suddenly things slowed down and eventually stopped. She was snug as a bug in there and comfy, and little did I know that my 24-hour observation was about to be prolonged. By days.
Day Two. Saturday. March 16th. In a nutshell . . . wake up, go outside for a walk to get some fresh air, get dressed and ready for my day. Eagerly await a check from my midwife and am awaiting my 24-hours to close so that I can head home until it is time to come back (wishful thinking!) Still awaiting a baby. :) And still feeling completely normal and non-laborish. Midwife confirms that yes, still at 7cm but baby is extremely low (just "right there" to quote her). At this time we discuss what to do. They are not going to let me go home because the possibility of having the baby in the car (if we wait until labor pains start at home) is very realistic. So we can (A) break my water (and possibly be administered Pitocin to bring on contractions if they start on their own) and wait for labor to begin and have a baby, or (B) wait until baby is "term" at 37 weeks, which is 4 days from now, unless Anneliese makes her grand arrival on her own accord. I have already considered all of this and know exactly what is best for my baby and what I feel is best for me. I know that I am going to have a natural birth experience and that I do not want or need Pitocin, and that closer to term is best for my baby. What I really want is to be able to just head home and take it easy there, but 30 minutes from the center is too far for comfort they think, so I am going anywhere without leaving with a baby. So, we settle in for the weekend. Now, mind you, I feel like I am in a hotel and not a hospital: I wear my own clothes, can leave my room, hang out with my kids when they came to see me, get out and walk to the cafeteria with Mark or go outside to get some fresh air. We make the best of it. Mark even gets his pay-per-view UFC fight and we watch it online on his laptop, as we snuggle up on the couch in my room, with a birth pool in between us and the computer instead of a coffee table . . . funny sight to imagine (I have a picture of it somewhere to put in her baby book.) During all of this, the nursing staff here is the best and little do I know how very well I will be getting to know them. And my nurses are starting to be surprised with this 7cm-dilated mama who just wasn't having a baby, huh? "Still no baby?" becomes their greeting to me when they leave their shift and then come back the next day or a few days later for their next shift, haha. So Saturday comes and goes.
Day Three. Sunday. March 17th. St. Patrick's Day! The kids even purchase and bring to me a festive little onesie, just in case she arrives today. By this day, I start to get a little stir crazy, but am also still feeling very grateful that I am (A) still feeling no pain, although now I am beginning to look forward to labor because I know it will end this "hotel stay", (B) allowed to do what is best for my baby and wait until she is term, even if it means just hanging out here. Each day that she is in the womb is another day for her to be as close to term; term is 37-40 weeks of pregnancy, which decreases the likelihood of a baby needing any special nursery care. We won't be making it to 40 weeks, but 37 is Wednesday so that becomes my goal; I am starting to really hope that she comes on her own accord as close to Wednesday as possible. I am planning a natural birth and no drugs, and I am very against Pitocin so don’t want to have to talk about the P-word if Wednesday rolls around and breaking my water doesn’t start something.
Day Four. Monday. March 18th. You see the pattern here??? Sun rises. Sun sets. Still no baby. But alas, Wednesday is nearing!
Day Five. Tuesday. March 19th. 3:45(ish)a.m. something in the morning, get up to use the bathroom and alas, is that a tightening in my tummy that I feel?!? More Braxton-Hicks, or is this real . . . whatever it is, there is another one 10 minutes later. And 10 more minutes. Let Becky (my nurse) know and she monitors them and baby's reaction to them. We are great! So contract away and go back to sleep. I know my body will wake me if it is indeed Labor Day. Make a short video on my iPhone of me awake experiencing these contractions and Mark getting his last good night’s sleep.
6:10a.m. Bathroom break (again). Can't sleep, so hang out in the rocking chair for a bit, enjoying the quiet of the morning while Mark is still asleep on his roll-out bed, and the sun is just thinking about coming up. Reflecting on everything that has been going on. Realize that by this time tomorrow I will be waking up to have my baby, if she doesn’t arrive on her last day to do this on her own (fingers are still crossed that my body and baby can coordinate things to happen on their own). Reply to an email (on my phone) from my mom. And low and behold . . . my water breaks! Woohoo!!! I am one happy pregnant mama at this point.
Wake Mark. Call midwife. Fill birth pool. Call photographer. Annndddd we wait. No pain, no regular contractions, so to speak (they have kinda dwindled away that this point, or at least I’m not feeling them even though they say I am having them). Feeling pretty good, actually. Take a shower, get dressed in my cute gown that I bought to labor in. The morning consists of walking the halls (to help labor progress), using a breast pump to help naturally stimulate the uterus to contract, eating some light foods since I am hungry and want to be sure I have some energy (and since it is a natural birth, this is permissible, woohoo), taking a rest here and there to pass the time and rest up. I write in my pregnancy journal, Mark does some things on his laptop. Pretty uneventful labor at this point, but we are enjoying it nonetheless. And we are excited because now we KNOW that Anneliese is coming today!
Fast forward . . . to the afternoon. Time to get this show on the road! I have begun, at this point, to want to plead with my body to feel some pain and to BRING IT! My prayer is answered at 2:23pm when, while sitting on the birthing ball and encouraging her to engage even more (or to just fall out, at this point, haha), I stand up and there is a painful contraction. And another one five minutes later. And then, four minutes later, one that brings me to my knees and that Mark helps me through by applying pressure to my back to relieve the pain there. I let the pain have me for the duration of the contraction; I don’t let it keep me. I try to “listen” to the pain and pressure to feel the progression and know what my body is needing to do, humming quietly through them and focusing on them and their purpose. My labor playlist on my iPhone helps me have something to turn into and use to help me cope. We repeat this routine (on my knees on the floor, bent over the bed, Mark coaching me through the pain) every two minutes for the next 4 contractions, during which time I progress to 9cm and know that it is time to get into the pool. I want it for pain relief at this point and because I can feel that she is going to be here very soon. In I go, at 2:43. The warm water is a huge relief and I can almost literally feel it absorb some of the pain; it is like a buffer. Things still hurt, and pressure is increasing, but the intensity seems to be absorbed and distributed throughout the pool and not just in my body. It is amazing! Contractions every two minutes until 2:54, when my body tells me it is TIME to push. And I am eager to work with my body to push my baby out and meet her . . . two contractions and pushes and suddenly at 3:00, she is here and in my arms, and I can just feel her warm little body. Mark and I spend a few minutes just meeting her, feeling her, and seeing her. She feels so little snuggled up on my chest, and I feel her newness but yet I feel like I’ve already always known how she feels. I have always loved her. It is a perfect moment.
We stay skin-to-skin and snuggle, cuddle and nurse for an hour. She smells so good; I just breathe her in. And she is so alert and watches us as we watch her. And her hair . . . oh, her hair . . . golden blonde hair. I am in love! We relish this time together, the three of us, before it is time to have her weighed, measured and checked and before her brother and sisters will be here to meet her. Our little girl, Anneliese Brynn, is a healthy 6 lbs. 3 oz. and 19 inches long, born at 36 weeks and 6 days. Her big sisters and brother arrive soon to meet her and eagerly greet her with big smiles on their faces, in awe of her tiny little hands and feet.
The following day, we take Anneliese home and so begins life with 4 kids. :) And that brings me to now, 6 weeks later, just enjoying her sweet little blonde head, her little body in my arms when I nurse her, her attentiveness when I talk to her as she is just about to show us her first smile.
And with all that (ALL THAT . . . but I just couldn't leave out some of it; it was the whole journey and experience that made it her Birth Story), I leave you with this video of the photo story of her birth. Sabrina Lafon of Sabrina Lafon Photography documented our birth and did an amazing job capturing it exactly as I remember it from my point of view; it is perfect.
I’m glad she came on her own, and so quickly and naturally, but my word did that girl make us wait it out!!! All of us . . . me, her daddy, the nurses and midwives. In hindsight, though, I am glad that we were there. Had we been at home and headed out at the first labor discomfort or pain, it would have been a very different birth experience (with no birth pool, no photographer . . . gasp(!), and possibily the back of the mini-van.) I can't think of a better place to have labored and birthed Anneliese than St. Mary's Birthing Center (also called the Women's Pavilion at Tennova Regional). My midwives, Libbi Martino and Manola McCain, are the best! Kudos to them and to the staff for being so patient while my baby was ever-so-slowly thinking about making her arrival; I feel like they genuinely had my baby's best interest's at heart and allowed my body to continue to grow her and shelter her until she was ready to come out in her's and God's timing. This water birth was amazing! This birth experience was different and better than my previous two, which were natural but in a bed, semi-reclined . . . not the most conducive way to experience a natural birth; this one was MY birth experience, my body having my baby. I loved it! Perfect.