Thursday, April 4, 2013

Enchanted & Wild, just like my heart said it's gonna be...

This post is about the birth of Ivy Jayne, Zao's Sister. As today is her half-birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to share my memories of her coming into the world. This post does contain photographs of her birth, or what network television would refer to as "partial nudity." Gah! what!? Ye have been warned! ;)
Wednesday October third, a day shy of forty weeks gestation, I awoke around 1 a.m., as was my custom the past few weeks prior, to use the bathroom and eat enough of a snack to lull the raging belly beast so that I could sleep for a few more hours. I remember having a sense, as soon as I woke up that morning, that something was different in my body. After I had eaten and laid back down, instead of returning to sleep, I began to feel very rhythmic aching in my pelvis. Not cramping, and not a tightening of my abdomen, just the beginning of a pattern that would continue throughout the day.

I laid there in the bed, happiness and surprise starting to grow. I'm going to have my baby...sometime soon! I returned to the bathroom two or three times, and these trips caused my feelings to amplify, because loose stools can sometimes signify that birthing isn't terribly far away. I never fell back asleep. Instead I thought of the few things I needed and wanted to do around the house (wash the few dishes in the sink, a load of laundry, etc), and planned a few things to do with Zao, like take him to the park and watch one of his favorite movies with him. Things that would help pass the time and make the day special for both him and me. I decided then that I wasn't going to mention these waves to Zao's Daddy, at least not yet. I didn't want to distract him from the normalcy of his work day, and I definitely didn't need him home at that time.

The guys eventually awoke, and our day started. By 9 o'clock, Zao and I were in the car headed to the water and ice store to have our water jugs filled (we were completely out of water) with plans to head to the park afterwards, since the two destinations were just around the corner from each other.

We arrived at Water & Ice only to find that it didn't open until 9:30, so around the corner we went to play at the park. He ran and zoomed around, with me waddling behind, still feeling the rhythmic waves and starting to feel ever so cranky. I remember having a text conversation with a friend, also, about where to buy fondant and its accoutrement for a birthday cake she was wanting to make. I didn't mention the waves to her, either. ;-) Just another day, right? It was fun, in a way, keeping the best secret ever all to myself.

9:30 came and we headed back to the water store, only to find the doors still locked. We waited and waited and waited for what seemed like forever (a whole fifteen minutes), probably because we were thirsty and at this point without water even in the car. (I want to explain here that we have a running credit/tab at this particular store, and I had no cash in pocket with me to buy water elsewhere, which is why we didn't just stop somewhere else for hydration.)

After deciding to drive back home for quarters to put in the outside dispensor, we returned to the water store to find it finally open, and our bottles were then filled by the proprietor. I had another wave or two while this was happening, and I remember the owner asking me, “So when are you due again?” Pressure building, relax...”Oh, anytime in the next couple of weeks.” bwahahaha!

In hindsight, Zao's Daddy tells me I should have informed the owner that, “well, I'm actually in early labor right now!” just to freak him out a little. ;) but, but...shouldn't you be rushing to the hospital...?! That would've been a fun conversation! haha! 

I decided to take Zao back to the park to play, as I was feeling a little guilty that our earlier trip had been so short, and guilty that I had been so cranky during the whole water escapade. We played at the park for another half hour or so, until I could tell that he was getting tired and hot from the sun. By that time I was more than ready to be home and relaxing myself.

We ate a snack or lunch and soon Zao fell asleep on the couch and I moved him to the bed in his room so that I could sit down and watch a movie and hopefully relax. I checked Facebook and my email, sat down to a movie, but couldn't get into it. I was distracted. I started thinking at this time, but didn't yet act on it, that maybe I should call my midwife and give her a heads-up that I'd been having regular, though non-progressive contractions all day. I thought about it, but just kept on doing odds and ends around the house. And probably checked facebook for the hundredth time! I felt like Ricky Bobby in that I didn't know what to do with my hands, or any part of myself.

When Zao woke up, I put Cars 2 on for him to watch, and got him a drink and snack. The familiar sounds from his movie actually relaxed and centered me more than anything that I had tried up to that point. I felt comfortable and home and safe. Life was continuing normally around me.

When Zao's Daddy came home, sometime around 4pm, I was on the phone with my midwife, finally telling her about these regular but non-progressive waves. My husband's delight was exactly what I needed at that time, and it turned my entire day around – I felt stupid for not telling him from the first. “Really?! We're going to meet our baby!” He was all smiles and happiness, and made me laugh from that point on.

We had been invited to a friend's house for dinner that night, and we debated off and on for awhile about whether to go as planned. As the next few hours passed, we decided it was wisest to stay home. All afternoon I had been stopping whatever I was doing to get through each wave, most of the time dropping to the floor onto my hands and knees, and breathing through them, “oooh, let it happen.” “Let it happen...” was my phrase of choice during labor. It helped me to relax and surrender, to welcome and open.

Around 6pm our midwife's assistant, Rose, who is also a friend and a dear part of our birth team, stopped by our house to drop off her birth pool and its accourtement. She watched me through a contraction, and we both acknowledged that they were growing more intense than they had sounded earlier when we spoke on the phone. As she left for the class she had to teach that evening, she put in her official vote for baby being a girl (we had no idea who's birthday was soon to come, having not done any ultrasounds). Rose departed with a sense of “see you soon.”

Zao's Daddy went and picked up food from our favorite Chinese restaurant, and then began what I think of as the sweetest part of my labor – truly from that point until the time I was holding my baby in my arms was such a sweet and intimate time of my life – I treasure my memories of that evening very dearly.

Sitting around our table, eating, smiling at Zao enjoying his eggroll, I ate, seated on the birth ball, and stopped everything, eyes closed, as a contraction would build, just going inward until it passed and then I could continue the conversation.

We sat in the living room, tossing around the idea of watching a few episodes of Arrested Development, when I just started to weep. The emotional side bubbled up and overflowed; it was sinking in that I was truly and really in labor, and really and truly going to have this baby!

“Is it okay if I just cry?” I asked Zao's Daddy. “And pray?” He naturally said, “of course!” and I did. I wept and prayed; I remember being so thankful that the time was here, and I felt like my whole spirit was vibrating and swelling with the knowledge and the joy that the time had come. I have never felt so consumed with thankfullness. That emotion swept over me stronger than any contraction, and I just surrendered to it as I prayed. Surrendered to the process and the journey. Zao's Daddy prayed, too, and that time was just so beautiful.

We watched a little tv, but I couldn't really focus; I cannot recount to you details of what we watched. I think I mostly walked around the house and laid my torso over the bed, feet still on the floor, during contractions. Around 9pm we decided to stick with Zao's usual nighttime, pre-bed routine, as I was starting to feel anxious that he go to sleep and not have his “normal” terribly disrupted.
watching Arrested Development, and in labor. my beautiful henna-blessing was done the week before by my dear friend Shireen <3

I shut myself in our bedroom to be alone while my husband was putting Zao to bed, and before long Zao was sleeping.

And I labored. I tried listening to the Hypnobabies tracks, but I couldn't get my brain in the game. I didn't feel like I even necessarily needed to be listening to the tracks, rather I was listening out of obligation, from a place of “I should be doing this, this makes everything better.” That is never a good motivation for me, it only serves to make me uptight and anxious. So I gave up and continued to go on doing what I had been doing, as it was working, until it wasn't enough. 

Zao's Daddy suggested setting up and filling the birth pool, reminding me how much I had loved that and how much it helped me relax with Zao's birth. I agreed, and while he was in the bedroom setting all of that up, I ran myself a bath in our tiny apartment-sized tub. Being in the water was bliss. Stress fled and I relaxed and labored. This was another beautiful moment in time for me. So beautiful - the memory always brings tears to my eyes. I remember specifically laying on my side in the tub at one point, and when a contraction came, I began to sing to my baby. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered that "an open mouth and open hands equals open bottom." I opened my hands and got on all fours, and sang a Nickel Creek song “I wish you out of the woods/and into a picture with me...” to my baby. Sweet, blissful, loving moment that I will never forget. That song was often in my head the last few weeks of pregnancy; I would wake up with it running around in my head, and listened to it frequently. It was the baby's song, and it blessed me, too.

I wish you out of the woods
And into a picture with me

I wish you over the moon
Come out of the question and be
If this is gonna run 'round in my head
I might as well be dreaming
Run 'round in my head
I roller coaster for you
Time out of mind must be heavenly
It's all enchanted and wild
Just like my heart said it was gonna be

Soon the birth pool was ready. I got out of the bathroom tub, and Zao's Daddy wrapped me in his big terrycloth robe; we talked about how it seemed like the contractions had slowed down. I decided not to get into the birth pool just yet. I was drowsy from the bath, so I tried laying in the bed, hoping to doze between contractions, and I did for a few of them. But laying down was just not comfortable for me overall, so that was short-lived. I eventually sat on the birth ball, still wearing my husband's robe, and leaning my torso over onto the bed.

Before long, he fell asleep, and I was glad – he had worked all day and I wanted him to get rest while he could, too. It's funny to me that I can't remember exactly what time this was; funny because I can't remember even though I was constantly looking at the clock in our bedroom, and starting to wonder and worry when the baby was going to be born, or at least when I'd be able to tell I “was close.” In my finite mind, it didn't seem that the contractions were doing anything. I hadn't had any bloody show or mucous whatsoever, and my water hadn't cervix was probably Fort Knox. As far as I could tell, this could go on forever. (These were my thoughts, anyway! My body was doing everything perfectly.)

So my husband slept, and I labored. I kept returning to the toilet, then going back to the birth ball at the bed. Back and forth. At one point there was some bloody show, just a little, which was a great relief to see, and my excitement grew again – my body was working, I was dilating, woohoo! I knew it, I knew it! 

Back and forth again, between toilet and the birth ball, now draped in a bath towel just in case there was more bloody show. In my mind the toilet was more effective because that was where I had seen the bloody show, but in reality it was getting more and more uncomfortable for me to sit there.

I opened my bible to some Psalms in my bible at some point, seeking some comfort, and happened upon Psalm 16:

Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge...
Every good thing I have comes from you... 
I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. 
I know the LORD is always with me. 
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 
No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice! 
My body rests in safety.

Those words seemed especially meaningful to me, and I was very joyful, and resting in the knowledge that I was safe, physically, emotionally.

Soon I reached a point where being alone was no longer peaceful or welcome, but instead became lonely. I woke Zao's Daddy, and told him I needed his company and his help. He was instantly awake and at my side. It was also at this time that I turned the clock in the bedroom around so that I wouldn't be able to track time as it passed. We both estimate that it was somewhere around midnight, though.

He added more hot water to the birth pool, and I climbed in. For the duration of labor until the baby was born, I stayed in basically the same position: on my knees with arms up and leaning forward on the side of the pool. There were a few times I would stretch my legs out behind me during a contraction, being in a kind of plank position, and that for some reason was very comfortable, too.
in the pool, my excellent husband-doula by my side

I wondered aloud if we should call our midwife, but again I was worried about her being here “too soon.” (oh how I laugh about that now!) I decided to try listening to the Hynobabies tracks again. Zao's Daddy turned it on to play out loud in the room; I don't remember which track, and I didn't really care. It seemed to me at the time that I wasn't going into hypnosis (I never used the finger-drop technique as practiced), but I was able to relax much, much deeper with the contractions while the tracks were playing. In hindsight, I think I did enter hypnosis. Here and there I would suddenly become cognizant of what was being said on the track, and boy those words had power to relax me! One track or another was playing for the rest of the labor and birth.

Looking back, I know that contractions were becoming more intense and uncomfortable though they didn't seem so at the time. The truth is, if they weren't increasing in intensity, I wouldn't have needed to increase my comfort-measures to counter them! But in the moment, I was just in the moment. I was so focused on relaxing and releasing during each one that I didn't really recognize that they were changing. And I was so comfortable in between them, so alert and normal, that it did seem that they could go on forever. I laugh now, because I was only a few hours away from holding my baby! I had no idea how close I was to the end, the new beginning. :)

Not knowing “where I was” in labor is what motivated me to have Zao's Daddy call our midwife, Stephanie. Finally, at 1:30 am, I had him make the call, actually I believe he sent her a text! Emotionally I needed her there. I knew that just by listening to me, she would know how far I had progressed and I needed that reassurance. (Side bar: my cervix was never checked, not once during pregnancy or during labor.) 

Stephanie arrived about ten minutes later, and I immediately relaxed in my emotions when she came in the room to say hi. I remember saying to her (it could have been then, or later, I honestly don't recall specificly when), “I'm having my baby!” and she replied, “Yes, soon!”
smiling and chatting with my midwife

She went about setting up her tray and other things like that, and I continued to labor. Our friend Jen arrived a few minutes later. Jen is also a midwife, but was in attendance at my request as a friend, and to take pictures of the birth. Sometime soon after her arrival, Jen noticed that our special "birthday candle" wasn't lit, and she asked if she could go ahead and light it for me. “Yes, but I just don't want it to burn down too much,” I replied, thinking baby's arrival was still a ways off. Jen grinned and told me it wasn't going to burn long. And so the flame was lit, and all the well-wishes and good vibes of my loving, beautiful friends and the births of their babies came into the room for this last leg of my baby's birth.
This candle was passed on to me at my blessingway; it had been present at the birth of so many of my friend's babies! I was so blessed and honored to have it at Ivy's birth. Also you can see the stones surrounding it, written with more wishes for the birth, and my note to myself in the background, which reads: "my job is to simply RELAX and allow my baby's birth to happen."

Rose arrived/returned not long after; she was the lender of the birth pool, Stephanie's student midwife, and is a doula-extraordinaire. (She and Stephanie were both present for Zao's birth as well.) My birth team was in place. I remember laughing to Zao's Daddy, “Ok, now we can have the baby!” It was a joke, but emotionally there was a deeper release for me having them assembled around me. 

There were some sweet, fun moments, where I laughed and talked with the midwives between contractions, like it was just another day in the life, having my baby. I laughed that “I can't believe I'h having my baby, on my due date!” After all my efforts to keep that date secret and remind everyone that it's a "guess date" and "babies come when they are ready," here I was having my baby on my EDD! Ridiculously ironic. 

It wasn't long at all, even to me in the moment, before the contractions really changed. Before, Zao's Daddy had been sitting near me on the edge of our bed, holding my hand until I released his, through every contraction, saying the words I needed to hear, pouring water down my back, being the best birth partner I could've asked for. I couldn't have done it without his support. He was truly amazing, and of course says he didn't do anything!
But then the contractions got more difficult, and I heard my own noises change. I heard it more than felt it. It was this one particular contraction that alerted me (the birth team already knew, I'm sure) that baby was close. The wave hit, and I had to vocalize a lot more than before. (I had groaned through all of them, or moaned, from the beginning, but never yelled or even hollered.) But suddenly, I had to roar. It was a need and there was no stopping it from bubbling out. Zao's Daddy, as he did through all other contractions, tried to remind me to relax, and I put my hand up to shush him. I needed to make these sounds, and just as I had earlier needed his support, suddenly I needed to go inside myself and roar. I think I was starting to push, then, but at the moment I thought it was probably transition, because the contractions kept coming. “Oh why did we decide to have another baby?” I said to Zao's Daddy. He said beautiful, truthful things about wanting another person to love, and that the pain was only for the moment, soon I'd be holding our baby. :) He said the things I needed to hear. He is quite simply the best ever!!

I remember feeling like I couldn't handle them anymore, they were so intense, they were so painful. I felt confused and literally caught in the wave. Stephanie said at one point, “Trust what you are feeling.” It hit me suddenly, “I think I feel pushing...” and she told me to trust it, and go with that feeling. The urge to push wasn't really an urge like it had been with Zao. I had been waiting for that feeling, and it never came. This was unspecific power surging in my body; with Zao, pushing had been a very specific reverse-throwing-up feeling. "Throwing down," as Rose calls it. ;)

So I gripped the side of the pool and pushed with the next contraction. Doing so caused the chaotic feeling to leave, and I became focused once again on working with my body as it performed this miracle.  
What I remember at this point, like everything else, may not be chronologically correct. I pushed with my contractions as they came. Oh, it was hard work! I don't know how long I pushed, time-wise, but it wasn't very long. I did hit the point, as so many birthing mothers do, where I said, "oh I can't do this, I don't want to do this," but enter my beautiful support team, Zao's Daddy and my midwives, telling me that I already was doing it, and that I was so close. So close! Zao's Daddy says that at one point I apologized for being "so loud," but the roaring must have been all in my head and my emotions; he says I never got very loud, certainly didn't yell. I remember looking at Stephanie and Rose and telling them that this part hurt. The rest was not painful. I am pretty sure the baby was crowning or super close to crowning at that point. Stephanie remarked that it looked like baby was being born in the caul (with bag of waters intact)! That both excited and irritated me, because my birth-junkie mind thought how awesome and amazing that would be, but I remembered hating the feeling of pushing with waters intact when birthing Zao. I wished they would break as much as I wished they'd stay intact! 

During the next contraction I felt something move, shift, or break, which was the waters breaking, and I did feel some release and less resistance when pushing. That was gloriously welcome. I did some more pushing with contractions; Stephanie told me to reach down, and I reached down and felt the very topmost crown of baby's head. I felt for the head off and on, quite a bit more than I did during Zao's birth, and I am glad, it is such an amazing, rejuvenating, centering thing to do! Just incredible! 

Pushing this baby out was very different than pushing with Zao; although it hurt as baby was moving down and through, it felt satisfying and productive. I could feel that my pushes were productive, and that made me feel very powerful. At one point I remember hearing Stephanie say something about slowing or easing down, and "Be careful of your bottom." I probably should have, but it felt as though everything was at its apex, emotionally and physically, and I kind of blasted the baby out at that point. Instinctively I shifted from pushing against and leaning on the side of the birth pool to being on my hands and knees, still in the birth pool.

I was on hands and knees when I pushed out the head completely, and the body slithered out, and this beautiful, intoxicating release flooded me as I reached down and pulled my baby up from between my legs, out of the water, and everything was warm and euphoric. It is awesome, in the truest, purest sense of the word, to hold the life that you grew within your body as it comes out of your body! It is nirvana, if anything is. It transcends the physical. A holy, sacred moment where time seems to have stopped.

I immediately looked between my baby's legs, and exclaimed to Zao's Daddy, "It's Ivy! It's a girl!" She cried just once, short, punctuated cries as if to say, "Hey! I'm confused!" yet as soon as she saw my face and heard my voice, she was quiet and so very, very alert.
I smothered her face with kisses. :)
Ivy Jayne was born at 3:11 am on October fourth, not even two hours after the midwives had arrived. :) She is named Ivy for my paternal grandma Iva (which just doesn't work with our last name, unfortunately), and Jayne is the combination of our middle names Jade and Wayne.

And then there was the careful, messy business of me getting out of the pool and into the bed, and birthing the placenta, and having my vagina checked for tears. Ivy never left my arms until long after the cord had stopped pulsing, subsequently been cut, and I had introduced her to the breast. And even then she first went to her daddy. The midwifery mode of care, for both mommy and for baby, is unmatched and excellent. I am passionately in love with it!

No sooner was the placenta being cleaned up and being checked out than into the room walks a freshly woken Zao. He had slept through the entire birth. What to do with him during the birth of the baby had been a big concern for me while I was pregnant; we wanted him to be present, but weren't sure how we would keep him out of the midwife's gear while having a baby... Yet we didn't make any concrete plans for him, because Zao's Daddy and I both felt strongly that we needed to just take it as it came, and go with the flow. Going with the flow was the theme of Ivy's pregnancy, and really her birth, too. We are glad we trusted our instincts! It worked out perfectly.

You can see Zao's happy little smirk. He loves his sister, and has been such a great big brother, from the very beginning!

first time at the breast, the cord is still intact and uncut, though you can see it's almost stopped pulsing completely at this point. Ivy was more interested in gazing at me than nursing, for quite awhile. my sweet girl! she still loves to sit and look at me and chat :)
Eventually she was weighed and measured and checked out by the midwife, and found to be absolutely perfect at six pounds, eleven ounces - almost two pounds smaller than Zao at birth!

Ivy's birth was the most magical and amazing experience of my life thus far. It was a labor exactly as I had hoped for: I had times alone, times alone with my husband, and then the company of caring women I trust implicitly and love dearly. There were times I felt raw and primal, and also times I felt sacred and holy. Birth is the meeting of the sacred and the simple, where the holy and the common collide in one woman's breath and groaning, exultation and release. A soul coming fully earth-side for the first time, as its mother's body performs the absolute miraculous, stretching and spreading for life to come forth out of life. I felt all of that during Ivy's birth: sacred and awesome, masquerading and hidden by the commonality of everyday.

It was enchanted, and it was wild, just as the song said it would be. 
Ivy Jayne

1 comment:

  1. My dear friend, I still remember you telling me [most of] this sweet story via phone. What a beautiful, special birth! You have capture it so beautifully! <3