Saturday, June 16, 2012

labor of lululove

it's been nearly one month since the birth of our second child, louisa mae briggle.  i keep meaning to sit down and write out the story of her birth, but haven't been able to find the time until now.  imagine that.  and i'm sure i'll get part way through this and have to put it down for another day...  but i'm learning as the mother of two children to pace myself.  it will all get done eventually. And actually it is mostly Adam's fault that this is posted so late...he keeps doing work rather than helping with this blog!

the day i went into labor with lulu, i was out at the denton community market.  i was 6 days "overdue" at this point, and though i was happy as a clam being pregnant forever (i'm so good at it!  and i get to eat as many donuts as i want!), i was getting annoyed by all the people asking me (good naturedly, i'm sure) when the baby was going to get here, and how long i'm going to be pregnant, and haven't i had my baby yet, and and and...  seriously, people.  enough.  plus, it's getting hot here in texas and i wanted to hold my baby in my arms before passing out from heat stroke.  it's not easy having a 9-lb heater strapped to your belly all day long when temps are already in the 90's.

but back up:  i really think my labor started a few days before this, as i had been uncomfortable with back pains (lulu was "sunny side up") and having some bloody show.  i had a feeling i wasn't going to last the weekend, even though i still felt (mostly) calm and comfortable.  (with my labor with gracie  i got huge and squishy and hormonal several weeks before, and was a sloppy mess, and i was mostly expecting that to happen with lulu too, since that's all i knew about what labor was like...)  and this baby that i had been carrying so high for so long had been steadily dropping with strong braxton-hicks contractions ever since the end of april.  my body was readying itself.

so the day i went into labor, i was at the community market, trying to keep myself occupied, knowing that soon enough i'll be homebound with a sore body and a newborn.  that afternoon i went home for a nice, long nap -- i was up for several hours the night before, feeling uncomfortable and antsy.  i ended up at the birth center at about midnight on Friday, the night before i actually went into labor, because i just wasn't sure if it was labor or not, but something didn't feel "right" to me.  after an hour or so on the non-stress-test monitor, the midwife sent me home.  so it was a long night, but an exciting one!  Adam came with me that night after picking up Barb to stay with Gracie while she slept. Of course, that was the one night in the last several months Adam had decided to go out for a few drinks with a friend. He was relieved Lulu decided to give him another day to recover.
anyway, naptime on Saturday, then got up and made a nice, easy, healthy dinner of baked tofu, rice, and steamed broccoli.  i sat down for some ice cream for dessert, and felt a HUGE contraction that just had a different quality to it than the ones i'd been having prior to this.

i went to the bathroom and noticed some pink (blood?  amniotic fluid?) in my panties, so i called the midwife again to check in with her.  i didn't want her to drive all the way to denton to check me since i had kept her up the night before with my false labor, and it was the weekend after all...  so i told her i'd keep her posted.  then i went outside to walk up and down the street.

i could feel my neighbors' watchful eyes as i waddled around, pausing every 2-3 minutes to have a contraction.  cal came out of his house to see if i needed anything.  i could tell that pearl was watching me from her window.  i just needed to keep moving to see if i could get this labor started. by 7:30 or so i was ready to do this thing, so i called my mom who was out babysitting and asked her to come over to watch gracie.  Barb was able to borrow a convertible car from a friend. then i asked cal to come over to hang out with gracie while we took off and gracie waited for her.  i packed up a few things, and adam drove me to innana where we waited for jean the midwife to come and check me out.

she arrived around 8:00 pm and i followed her in.  she checked to see if my water broke (it hadn't), then did an internal exam and found i was already 6 cm dilated.  "so, what do we do now?" i asked.

"i'm admitting you, and i'm calling betty to come deliver your baby tonight!"

i was stunned.  half believing, half unbelieving...  i still felt so good, so healthy, and so patient.  was my baby REALLY coming right now?  why was this so different than with gracie?  weren't my contractions going to stop or something?  they weren't that bad, after all.  doesn't my water need to break first?  it did last time i did this.  but, okay, if you say so...

i sent adam home to get my big pilates ball, the same one i labored on with gracie.  and to get me an ice tea from whataburger -- i felt like i was going to need the hydration and the caffeine to keep me going.  meanwhile, i settled in -- got the computer all set up so i could listen to my yoga music on pandora, changed into my labor gown, put my juice boxes in the freezer...  just...  nesting, i guess.

adam came back and made a few phone calls: the birth photographer  (who also doubles as a doula -- she did such a great job with these pictures because as a doula, she was never invasive or pushy, but always held the sacred space for me), my parents, a few friends, etc.  then we waited...

i wanted to MOVE during this labor.  with gracie, i wanted to rest and sit still a lot.  a lot like my pregnancy with her too, now that i think about it.  but with lulu, i felt like i had to keep moving or my labor would stop. (who knows if it would have or not -- but i didn't want to sit still.  just like during my pregnancy with her, too.)  i labored on my yoga mat.  i labored on my pilates ball.  i leaned on adam.  i walked.  i held onto one of the posts on the bed and squatted.  and it was such a lighthearted atmosphere, too!  at some point the birth assistant showed up, so it was just us four girls (betty the midwife, heidi the photographer, katie the assistant, and me) just chatting away.  i'd be in the middle of a sentence, then i'd have a contraction, pause, and then pick up where i left off.  it was so funny!  i had to have complete silence and focus, and be left alone with gracie's labor, but with this one i was social and active, and wanted to snuggle with my husband.  completely different!  there are pictures of adam in the background, and i asked him what that expression was in his body:  he looked nervous, or like he was concentrating or something.  he answered, honestly, that he was just bored.  funny to say, but he said it was like a girls night out in there or something, and that he didn't really have much to do until the very end.  which is true, i guess.  how funny! Yes, indeed, Adam felt a bit out of place and also useless...there were so many experienced women there to do all the work so he just hung out, occassionally texting people with updates.

at some point i got into the bathtub.  i always thought i wanted a water birth for my children -- with gracie i just never looked into it, because having a baby at home in a foreign country seemed crazy enough.  with lulu, i was looking into buying or renting a birth tub (originally we planned another home birth but i changed my mind a month or two before), but then when i decided to deliver at the birth center, i thought maybe i'd just use their big, gorgeous bathtub there.  my contractions were getting stronger and closer together (or at least, that's what it felt like), so i thought if i got in the tub, that would help ease the pain a bit.

it did help.  a lot.  i immediately relaxed, and i could tell that i was going to deliver soon because the conversation slowed way down, and the room got quieter and more intense.  after maybe 20 minutes (??) in the tub, i had to pee -- AGAIN.  but didn't want to do it in the tub if i was going to deliver my baby in there. so, once again, i got up to pee.  and at that point my contractions became so intense that i couldn't get myself back in the tub if i wanted to.

it was at this point that i started to get scared.  because, and sorry to keep bringing this up, it was so different than what i was expecting based on what happened with gracie.  with gracie's birth, i had visualized every moment of her birth.  i meditated on it daily, and talked to "spruitje" about what to do when it was time to be born.  and spruitje followed the script exactly.  so when things were touch and go with her birth, and everyone else was afraid spruitje wasn't coming fast enough (or at all), i wasn't worried -- i knew it was going to be okay, because i had already played it out over and over again in my mind.  but as hard as i tried with lulu, i could NOT picture what was going to happen.  believe me, i tried.  i even sat in the labor suite a few weeks before she was born, trying to map it out in my head, with no success.  i guess i was just going to have to go along for the ride when the time came.

so when my contractions came hard and fast, and it was getting close to the time to push, i started to get scared.  my sweet husband was so helpful, though -- i'd lean on him during a contraction, and he'd tell me how strong i was and what a good job i was doing already.  betty checked me and though i was only at 8.5 cm, she told me i could start to gently push if i wanted, to ease my cervix open, which i was more than happy to do.  up until now, i was just going along with it all -- now i actually had something to do. Adam could actually feel the baby drop lower during these contractions (or at least he thought he could)...which started to come one on top of the other.

around midnight Adam called my mom and gracie, and they came over right away to witness the birth of the newest briggle.  before things really got going, i looked right at gracie and told her that if she didn't want to be there, she didn't have to be -- she could go play video games on my phone in the other room, or she could go back home and wait for lulu and we'd be home in a couple of hours.  gracie and i had spent the last several months preparing her for her presence in the labor suite -- i told her about what was going to happen, and some of the things she would see.  i showed her some pictures of mamas giving birth naturally.  i told her that she never has to do anything that makes her feel uncomfortable, but that if she felt okay, she was welcome to stay in the room when lulu is coming out of my body.  and armed with that information, my big, brave, curious girl wanted to stay, and i was in no state of mind to kick her out.

around 12:30 a.m. i got onto the bed and began to push.  and ROAR. At first Amber lay on her back, but that hurt and she began to feel dizzy but she could hardly move the contractions were happening so consistantly. i roared this child right on out of me, and i think it was the noise more than the sight that concerned (and scared) gracie.  betty told me i could lay on my side if i wanted (i hadn't thought about that as an option!), and though i'm not sure why she recommended that, it definitely worked -- after only 8 minutes of pushing (!!!), louisa came flying into the world, arms outstretched and eyes wide open! This was a very scary few minutes for both Amber and Adam. Amber said she was scared and had a look of panic in her eyes. Adam again felt hopeless- all he could do was help hold up Amber's exhausted left leg in between pushes. He got her a cold towel for her head, which seemed to help a bit, and he told her that she was only scared because she figured having done this once before it would be a piece of cake. But that is not the case - labor is always a big ordeal....that doesn't mean anything is wrong.
betty let me discover for myself if lulu was a boy or a girl -- which took an extra push because the umbilical cord was a bit short and was getting in the way of what i could see.  imagine my surprise and delight, when the child i thought was a boy turned out to be a girl -- AGAIN!  Yeah, and Adam was craning his neck trying to get a look at the seemed like forever before anyone said whether lulu was a boy or a girl. she took to my breast immediately and surprised me with her powerful latch.  she wasn't cross-eyed like how gracie was moments after birth, and she lifted her head over and over again looking for my breast. she also even grabbed a hold of the midwife's stethoscope (or some instrument with a cord on it). she did, unfortunately, take a big ol' swallow of amniotic fluid on her way out, which betty had to suction out of her over and over again using a big, noisy, painful sounding machine that gave louisa a sore throat for a few days, but other than that, she was here and healthy and pink and perfect.

gracie finally got up on the bed and held my hand tight tight tight while i got stitches for a small tear.  (every time i ever got up on an exam table at the "lulu doctors" throughout my pregnancy, gracie was always right there, holding my hand and staying close.)  i think it was a relief for her to finally be able to do something.  she was so sweet and tender, and i was so glad to have her there with me.  and i think she was glad to have something to do. Adam and Gracie walked over to the Wal-Green's next door to buy some snacks and supplies while Amber rested and the midwives finished up tests on lulu and paperwork. When Adam returned, Amber and Barb said that Lulu really liked the name "Louisa Mae." That had not been Adam's top choice - and feeling utterly drained this made him cranky. But it just took some sleep and a couple of days of saying the name out loud for him to warm up to it.

after a couple of hours, we were free to go, and we were all so exhausted from staying up all night that we were anxious to get home.  i felt surprisingly GREAT after just pushing out a 9-lb baby.  i was able to navigate the steps down to the car just fine, and other than feeling dirty and tired, i was GOOD.  i came home to take a nice long shower, eat something, and then went straight to bed.  louisa was so excited to be here in the world, though, that she stayed up for a solid 12 hours before she finally napped!  at 1:00 pm my mom brought her into my bedroom with me, and when i snuggled her close, she just went right to sleep.

we've been enjoying getting to know louisa mae.  she seems to be a very intense child, who is frustrated that she has to be a baby -- everything is just out of reach and just out of focus for her, but each day she seems to get more and more interactive and social.  It also helps that we started giving her probiotics...her tummy was having a tough time adjusting to life on the outside, which had made her kind of a fussy little baby. Each day now she is getting happier and more comfortable in and curious about the world. we also had quite a bit of a challenge getting her to breastfeed, but a trip to the chiropractor (really?!  that's what the midwives suggested and it definitely helped!) and a lactation consultant fixed that up just fine. Actually, 'a bit of a challenge' is a huge understatement. The darn kid would simply not do it...Adam was past the breaking point and ready to just do bottles. But Amber showed amazing resilience and perserverance...she is such an incredible woman. I can't believe how strong she is...after watching her give birth to two big girls I am now twice convinced that she has a deeper well of power and strength within her than I can even imagine. 

Louisa is very snuggly and sweet, and very social, and doesn't want to be left alone for too long -- she gets lonely and bored!  and gracie has been an amazing big sister -- she likes to play with louisa (she was the first one to really get her to smile and laugh!) and pick out her clothes, especially her jammies.  we are over the moon.  how blessed are we to have TWO amazing, healthy, gorgeous little girls?  someone pinch me!

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