On the morning of Thursday, May 8th I took the boys for a hike organized by our homeschooling playgroup at Peebles Island State Park. Both boys enjoyed the hike, but Riley (being not yet two) didn't quite understand the point of walking along the trail with everyone else, so I spent half of the time chasing and redirecting him and the other half with him on my back in a carrier. I wasn't due until the following week (the 16th) and didn't really expect the baby for possibly another week or so after that, so I enjoyed our outing and despite a few jokes from fellow hikers about having the baby on the trail, thought nothing would come of it. That afternoon and evening I had another bout of worry about the impending birth and how unprepared I felt. I worked some more on getting the freezer stocked, organized the baby's things (again! hehe), and mowed the lawn (both front and back). Andy and my father had spent the two previous weekends installing the kids' new swingset and in doing so had found some ticks... That was the only reason I mowed that lawn. I'm not generally one to care about how it looks but I didn't want to have to worry about stripping the kids and looking for ticks each night! In any case, the lawn got mowed and I slept like a rock. (In between hourly bathroom runs at least!)
Friday morning (the 9th) Jeanne (DS1's bio-dad's mother) picked up Gabe to spend the day and night at their house. She had been ill and hadn't seen him in a few weeks. Once he had gone, Riley and I headed out to Walmart to kill some time before my midwife appointment at 10:15. I wasn't feeling any more contractions than normal this morning, but I felt weaker and the baby felt heavier between my legs. In hindsight, the baby had most likely dropped, but at the time I just attributed it to doing too much the previous day. I finished shopping, grabbed a few things to eat (junk - poptarts and cereal bars, but I was starving and knew we wouldn't be home for awhile), and made my way back to the van. It was too early to go to the appointment so we hung out there in the parking lot for a little while, eating and playing.
At my appointment, everything was well and the midwife wished me luck and said she'd see me in another week. I actually joked that I felt great and that I wouldn't be surprised if this little one stayed put for a few more weeks yet! Little did she (or I) know...
That afternoon I was grateful for the quiet house and napped with Riley. When he woke up and was fed, changed and playing in the living room, I crashed out on the couch again and dozed away the rest of the time until Andy got home. He said that he was glad I spent the day resting, but I was just so frustrated with myself for having all that time to get things done (because Gabe was at the Laiacona's) and doing NOTHING with it. I was grumpy and disappointed and on top of that I kept obsessing over some stupid comment a nurse made at my appointment about my weight gain. Plus my stomach/intestines felt like crap. I hadn't had a BM in a couple of days and felt a bit ill because of it. We had some prune juice in the fridge (yuck!) so I drank a glass of that and took Riley up to put him to bed.
The room was hot and stuffy and Riley was nursing like crazy. I had my laptop on the bed in front of me but couldn't really focus on much of what I was reading because of the cramps I had started getting. They didn't feel like contractions, it was more just that I reaaallly needed to get to the toilet. It was sooo uncomfortable. Guess that prune juice was working... I gave Riley a minute warning to finish up. A minute (or so) later he stood up, hugged and kissed me, and let me lay him down in his crib with his blanket, dummy, and what he calls his "boo-boo bear". I said good-night to him and left.
I spent a bunch of time on the toilet.. my body was cleaning itself out and yet I still didn't connect the dots and realize this could be labor, even though it's the exact same way that my labor with Riley started. One real contraction later and I suddenly realized... I still had my laptop with me, so I sent an instant message to Andy and told him that I was having contractions that *hurt*. This was 8pm.
I went downstairs and put my head on the back of his shoulder and told him I wasn't joking. At the time though, I still half thought it was just crappy intestinal issues and that they'd go away. Oh how I hoped they'd go away! I don't know if I cried or if I just felt like crying, but I wasn't ready for this and I wanted to beg someone, anyone, to give me just a little more time. My labors are fast and furious and I was scared. I don't know why I was scared, I wasn't with Riley... but maybe the memories of his birth were too clear in my head still. His birth was wonderful, truly, but the intensity is something I hoped I wouldn't have to deal with again. I was hoping for a slightly longer, more mangable labor. Maybe contractions starting out at 5-6 minutes apart, so I could psyche myself up and prepare a bit for the next one. To be able to get used to the idea that THIS was it. As soon as this labor started though, I knew there wasn't much chance of that.
No sooner had I come down the stairs and told Andy I wasn't joking, I was struck by another contraction. Couldn't talk, couldn't breathe... I reminded myself of what I told myself over and over again during Riley's labor, which was to just breathe. I didn't have to do anything else, my body would do the work, all I had to do was keep breathing, in and out, in and out, and soon the contraction would be over. And it was. But for so little time... I was so hot and sweaty, almost feverish feeling really. I spent the next few contractions moving back and forth from the downstairs toilet (still had crampy, awful diarrhea) to the kitchen table, where I'd lay my head on the table and Andy would put cold washcloths on my arms and neck. I heard him say something about gathering towels together and all I could think of was that I was sick, not in labor and that we didn't need towels, I just needed my stupid bowels to stop being a pain! Of course I knew that it was labor though, even if I couldn't admit it to myself yet...
During a break between contractions Andy took the opportunity of asking if he could take one last set of belly photos. We hadn't taken as many this pregnancy as we meant to and we'd regret it if we never got pictures of me right at the end... I was annoyed, but he was right and so I said yes. He was able to take about two shots before another contraction hit and I told him to put it away.
I tried to lay on the couch, but was still feeling hot, so I took my sweatpants off and laid there through one contraction. Ouch, laying there was not helping! I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I think I told Andy to go start the tub. I can't remember the timeline exactly, but I remember being worried about it waking Riley up so it can't have been too much later yet. I got in the tub when it was half filled, asked Andy to turn the lights off (the hallway light was enough), and turned the temperature up. I wanted it hotter. I wanted to feel that sensation that you feel on your skin and through your body when you first step into a hot bath. This was very helpful to me in my last labor, the hot water and the ice cold washcloths that Andy laid on my skin... The differences in temperature gave me something to focus on besides the pain of the contractions. For now though, I was alone, waiting for that tub to fill up and bring the relief that I so desperately needed. I think Andy was in the other room, setting up the bed with plastic sheets and things. For the moment I was okay... I lay on my side in that too-small tub and rested my head on the edge. I buried my face in my arms and breathed through the contractions, faster and faster as they peaked, and slower as they died away. I willed myself not to panic, not to let them overwhelm me. I imagined them as waves or hills, where all I had to do was get to the top and then coast down easily on the other side. But soon the hills were going on forever and the road down was bumpy and the spaces in between were barely long enough to catch my breath let alone regroup and gather strength for the next hill.
I needed my husband there with me. The water wasn't helping like it had before and I wanted nothing more than a break. Just a few minutes, please, to rest... Instead they came faster. I stood up, put my arms around Andy's neck and hung from him there in that tiny bathroom. I clung to him, desperate for his touch and his words in my ear. He felt so strong and I felt so weak... I was angry with myself for not handling this labor well. I tried the tub again and was barely able to get myself into it before I had to jump up and into his arms again. Nothing was working and there was panic in my stomach. It had only just begun, how could I do this for hours longer? Riley's labor was fast, but this one might not be, it could be all night... I could feel something hard and smooth inside, which I imagined might be the head but it seemed so soon.
I thought vaguely that we should call Kerry (a very good friend that had been present for the birth of my second son)... I had wanted her here, I knew her support and confidence would help Andy and I both and I knew she would be disappointed at missing the birth, but in the heat of the moment it just felt like too much. I'm not sure how to put it into words though... Too much what? It would've only taken Andy 30 seconds to call so not certainly not time. Maybe it was the too-small bathroom making me feel slightly claustrophobic. There wasn't enough room physically and there wasn't enough space in my head to think about another person being there, as much as I love her presence. It felt like a dance between Andy and I and this new person kicking and squirming away in the middle as we swayed back and forth.
I have no timeline to reference these events by... Andy asked at one point about how exactly to time contractions and I yelled at him I made him turn the clocks around and promise not to mention the time to me. I didn't want to know how long I had been in labor for, or conversely, how short I had been in labor for (when it felt like it had been going on forever!). At some point I made my way into the bedroom, which was a welcoming change of scenery from the hard tile and whiteness of the bathroom. The bed was made with a shower curtain, sheets, towels and pillows. The floor had another plastic sheet on it and the fan was blowing on the far side of the room. It was dark and cool and perfect. I spent a few contractions trying to find my groove... Kneeling next to the bed didn't work. My belly was so heavy and felt as if it was being dragged to the ground with each contraction. I sat, I squatted, I laid on the bed... Eventually I was back in Andy's arms during the contractions. I felt safe there, even if the pain was no less. I wish I could be one of those women that describes contractions as "squeezes" or "hugs" or "rushes". But to me it was pain. It was purposeful pain and I knew it would end, but no amount of visualizing it as anything else made a difference.
Andy turned the desktop computer on and loaded up iTunes. I hadn't gotten around to making a playlist for birth yet (darn it!) so I told him the first band name that came to mind (The Cranberries) when he asked what I wanted to listen to. After that was Dido, which played until the birth, but I really don't remember hearing it at all while I labored. Perhaps it did help though, subconsciously, because I soon found myself feeling more in control and centered. In between contractions I laid on my side in our bed with my eyes closed, feeling the breeze from the fan on my skin and almost falling asleep. I felt like I was in a trance, for lack of a better word... I remember Andy trying to talk to me and I was annoyed that he was breaking into that moment or two of peace which was so fleeting. I wasn't coherent enough to explain though... women in labor rarely are! During contractions I would jump out of bed (or cry for Andy to help me up) and throw my arms around his neck, breathing and swaying through them. During some I stayed on my side in the bed, forcing myself to be still and let them come and pass without moving or changing position. The contraction itself would often be harder to work through in this way, but I could fall back into that trance so much faster afterward that it was worth it sometimes...
After laboring this way for awhile I realized that I could bear down a little bit while I was standing up and it lessened the pain some. I didn't quite have a pushing "urge" yet so I was hesitant to do that, but any relief was welcome relief so I went with it! I felt inside and felt that hard, smooth lump which made me realize how close we were. A few contractions later the head was right there and I knew it was time. I knelt on the bed and felt that little head at the opening of my vagina. The contractions were real pushing contractions now, the sort that make you want to hold on to something when they rush through your body. I pushed on my hands and knees on the bed, but felt shaky and exhausted and out of touch with what was happening down below. It didn't feel right. I tried laying on my side, which was okay for one contraction but soon that wasn't "right" either. I flipped back over to my hands and knees, pillows piled up under my top half to support myself. I was so tired and cried to Andy that I couldn't do this, it was too hard. I couldn't believe that this child was so close to being in my arms and at the same time there was this impossibly high wall between us that I had to scale... I wasn't scared of the pain of the actual birth, but of the intensity! I felt the head come out further and further with each contraction, but in between it would slip all the way back inside. I held my hand over it, feeling my skin slip to the side and stretch each time as it came closer and closer. It's so hard to put into words the feeling of your child working their way out of your body... I felt that head grow larger in my hand, a wet and and slippery ball, the sac still intact. It was magic really, bearing down and feeling this whole person come into being. I felt the sac burst as my body pushed fiercely one last time and our baby flew out into Andy's waiting hands. Whee! It was 11:15pm after just over three hours of labor.
The baby screamed immediately, Andy said "girl" (and maybe something else, but all I heard was girl!) and I flipped myself over the cord and sat down to see. And there she was! Pink, covered in thick vernix, and screaming away. I held her to my chest and tried to get her to nurse but she was just too busy complaining about the world. I think I complained about the music being on... what may have been helpful during labor was making it hard to hear my baby girl! Andy turned that off and took some pictures and video. I meant to have him record the actual birth, but with us not expecting her for another couple of weeks we hadn't really discussed the specifics yet and he didn't want to ask while I was pushing for fear of making me angry (um yeah, apparently I'm a bit grouchy in labor!). Oh well. After a few minutes of oohing and aahing we headed to the bathroom so I could deliver the placenta, which pretty much just fell out onto the toilet as soon as I sat down, oops! I went placenta-fishing with one hand while I held the baby in the other. Placenta went into a plastic bowl, which I put next to us on the edge of the tub. She nursed a little bit there on the toilet, but still didn't seem too interested, so I asked Andy to get the scissors and string so we could cut the cord. I would've waited longer, but the cord was tangled up in towels and I wanted nothing more than to get back in bed with her, sans placenta, and snuggle! The scissors had been in boiling water, but not for quite enough time, so he wiped them down with some alcohol, tied the cord with embroidery floss (from Kerry) that I had braided, and cut it. I felt shaky and a bit cold, so I climbed back into bed (sat on a pile of towels, good thing most of ours are dark red to begin with!) and Andy covered us with blankets. He set to work cleaning up the mess (lots of blood because of my back and forth to the bathroom, but I wasn't worried as it was similar to my other two births) while I snuggled in bed with the baby, eating a bit and drinking some juice. After awhile I took a shower and came back to a nice, clean bed. Love my hubby
I wanted SO badly to call everyone up and spread the news (I did it! I did it!) but we figured the best thing to do would be to wait a few hours (it was already 2am) to make sure my bleeding had slowed down and that everyone was well We did call Andy's parents and let them know, since it was morning in England already. I tried to sleep, but didn't have much luck... How can you sleep after a night like that? It was an amazing birth. Incredibly difficult in so many ways as well... but still so, so amazing.
Riley met his sister when he woke up that next morning at about 6:30. "Baby! Baby! Baby!" was all we could get out of him. He wants to cover her with hugs and kisses, though I think he's a bit jealous as well... Mama is making him share his na-nas! Since Gabe had spent the night at his grandma's house, he didn't get to meet her until he came home at 9am and boy was he surprised! When Jeanne picked him up the day before I had just finished telling her how I wasn't due for another week and then here I was this morning holding his baby sister!
One of the benefits of a homebirth was that we could wait until we were sure of a name before we gave it to her (even if the relatives weren't too thrilled with that, hehe). We spent the next day getting aquainted and then on Sunday, May 11th (Mother's Day) we named her. Welcome to the world, Imogen Terra!
On Friday May 9th 2008 I was working a little late on a server backup unit that had a tape stuck in the drive. I never fixed it but decided instead to head home at 6pm. I found out when I got home that my eldest, Gabe (6), was spending the night with his grandparents. Alyssa, Riley (1) and I had something to eat, relaxed and chatted for a bit, then I got Riley ready for bed. Alyssa took over and spent a short amount of time in his room. At about 8pm she started having contractions. At 8:18pm she IM'd me that she had "been having contractions that hurt tonight... alot.". My immediate reaction was "get the towels ready".
Soon after that she came downstairs, hoping that Riley would finish the nightly ritual of going to sleep by himself. She complained more about the pains, and I put my laptop down, closing the chapter on some network simulation training program I had been playing with. I started looking around for clean towels and began to put a pile together, and at the same time moving things around off the floor, doing a rudimentary tidy-up of the house. A thought struck me that we had not taken pictures of her belly in some time, as our plans of doing so on a regular basis were always something that could be done the next day. Out came the camera and some hastily taken pictures recorded a 39 week old bump protruding from her abdomen. The final picture spoke a thousand words as she turned away, feeling the onset of the next contraction. One thing that is not often mentioned but should be is that a laboring woman has a tendency to clear out her bowels early on in the process. Well she had started this soon after leaving Riley. It took both the upstairs and the downstairs bathroom to cope with the onslaught.
Alyssa began working through the labor pains first believing that she was just dealing with some nasty Braxton-Hicks and that they would soon subside. We tried in vain to get some quick easy-listening music on the computer. Remembering how much she wanted ice-water on her skin for Riley's labor, I filled up the ice-cube tray with fresh water and slid it into the freezer. Eventually we worked our way upstairs and into the bathtub filled with fresh hot water where she labored further while I kept her cooled with cold water washcloths. During the breaks between the contractions, I managed to get a fair amount of preparation done... My cellphone went on charge, I unlocked the front door, began boiling water, unloaded the birth kit that Alyssa had meticulously prepared just recently. Vinyl shower curtains were laid across our bed covered by sheets and towels. The floor between the upstairs bathroom and our bedroom was covered with towels and the waterproof bed covers from Gabe's bed. Fruit drinks went into the fridge ready to keep the mama hydrated and cooled.
The contractions proved to be a more painful challenge to work through than she had hoped for, and I was there for her to lean on literally as she got out of the tub for several of them. I tried to keep an eye on the times of the contractions but was surely scolded for it. Our little Riley in his bedroom nearby must have been in a very deep sleep as we heard nothing from him throughout the whole labor. I talked Alyssa through a number of the contractions and was ordered to hold my tongue through several others. Light massages and rubs also helped, but my failure to pay attention during telepathy classes proved to be a regretful decision as the target area of skin to be touched was always a moving one. Along the way she managed to feel what was believed and in a way hoped to be the head of our unborn infant. Her water had not yet broken. Remember the bathroom trips earlier? Well, my dear wife was not yet done. She had made her first delivery of the night, it was tiny, but I'm still glad it wasn't twins.
At some point we moved to our bedroom for a change of scenery. Not a minute had gone by before the clock in our room was dismissed. My trusty wristwatch continued to clue me in however. Alyssa spent a fair amount of time on her side wishing that she would be given a break at some point to recover between contractions. No such luck I'm afraid. She moved her body through a number of different positions to attain an optimum comfort level, relatively speaking. More boiling of water on each trip downstairs. I hated stairs that day.
Encouraging words and sometimes silence held her through the tough pains which were several minutes apart. The desktop computer upstairs in our room was given permission to play song after song to provide a relaxing atmosphere. iTunes chose to ignore my pleas to play music, but knew better than to mess with the pregnant lady and soon began to churn out the goods. Having been out of the tub for a while, I innocently suggested that I would empty the water out because it had gone cold. (I dare not just empty the water without gaining express permission first, lest my unborn child never know it's father). I also knew better than to say that there was something still floating in the tub, staring me down every time I went in, and that I wanted to show it who was the boss by sending it down the drain. Soon after that I filled it back up with fresh clean hot water at m'lady's request ready for a second dip that never happened.
I told Alyssa that this baby is coming out soon but the only thing that we don't know is whether she was have a May 9th or May 10th birthdate. Sometime before 11pm I saw for the first time what appeared to be the head of our child getting ready to make an entrance into the world, still enclosed in the amniotic sac. The immediately brought back memories of when Riley was born almost 2 years prior, although he came out with his arm held high next to his head. Alyssa continue to labor, listening to her body, feeling our baby still moving inside of her. Still several more contractions went by with the head appearing and disappearing in anticipation.
At 11:15pm with Alyssa on her hands and knees (an excellent position for giving birth), her waters broke and I immediately reached out and received into my hands the youngest child on the planet. And probably the noisiest too! She came out screaming from the first moment, wanting to make sure everyone knew she had been born. Alyssa turned around carefully and lifted her leg over the umbilical cord then sat down to take the newborn from me to be wrapped and held. We both looked together and put to rest our 39 week wait to find out if we were going to have a son or a daughter. We were absolutely delighted to see we now had our first daughter!
With the music still playing, Alyssa immediately ordered it off. This presented a minor problem - my hands were covered with amniotic fluid, blood and thick vernix. Yet who am I to argue with a mother of a newborn. I pressed the back of my hand against the power button of the computer and let it shut itself down. The next demand was for a towel - easy enough, but this was followed by instructions for photographs. I rushed to the bathroom and furiously began to clean off my hands, but struggled against the magic that is vernix, making a mental note to market the substance as an industrial lubricant. Returning with the camera I began recording the first few moments of her life, noting the date and time. I snapped off a few pictures but tailed off after noticing that my new daughter preferred not to have to deal with flash photography so young in her career. After some time (perhaps 45 minutes or so) she began to understand that her mama's nipple fits perfectly into her mouth and started to feed.
Now I could end here and if you're squeamish you may want to as well, but there's more to being born than traversing the birth canal. The cleanup operation soon sprang into action as Alyssa still had a placenta inside of her and attached to it a very startled crying infant. Alyssa moved to the bathroom as I prepared the boiled scissors and the braided string for tying the umbilical cord. Our attempt to catch the placenta was interrupted by a significant splash as it landed into the toilet (freshly flushed!). Alyssa quickly retrieved it on her third attempt and we deposited it into a container safe in the knowledge that it was no longer delivering blood to our still-attached youngster. The braid was tied around the cord and knotted tightly. Gingerly taking the hot scissors from the pot I cut the cord close to the braid and my little girl was immediately peppered with a slight splash of blood from the cord, which was perfectly okay. We inspected the placenta briefly before putting it to one side to continue the clean-up. Large clots of blood were left on the towels on the bed, so all of the sheets and towels were dumped into the bath and left to soak. I made up our bed again using a second fresh vinyl shower curtain and clean towels so that Alyssa could return to rest with our baby. Once she was back in bed I continued the clean-up of the bathroom (but not before shooting a short murder scene horror skit with our camera), and found her a blanket to put around her as she was now shivering (quite common for women after delivering as their bodies internal temperate gauge resets). The sheets made it into the washing machine. I l moved the clots by hand into the toilet (they had a jelly-like feel).
Later on we made the decision to call my parents in England as it was getting close to daylight time there. I'm not sure how well they slept after the 20 minute phone call ended, but they were definitely glad to be woken.
We didn't have a name for our newest family addition straight away despite having discussed names over the past 9 months. Inquiries from friends and family met with a resolute blank from us both as we were so unsure ourselves of what names we liked and didn't like. We were also having to decide on a boy's first and middle name as well as a girl's.
Two days after birth it was Mother's day in the US. We put ink onto each of the kid's left feet - Green for Gabe, Blue for Riley, Red for the new baby. We created a sheet of paper with their footprints on it and wrote to Alyssa's mother - Happy Mother's Day with love from Gabe, Riley and Imogen. This was what we presented to her as a way of allowing her to be the first to find out. Later that day we had settled on her middle name - Terra. From the Latin to mean Earth. Of course, this meant calling around several relatives three times over, but nobody had a cross word for us over hearing her name!
Shortly after birth
6 days old
Jenna ~ mommy to Sophia Elise (1/06), Oliver Matthew (7/07) and Avery Michael (3/10)
Wading slowly and nervously into this homeschooling thing.
Congratulations and welcome to little Imogen.
Mum to Moo Moo (4) and EJ (2)
I really liked reading your DH's account of the events. Not only is he funny, seems like he really made himself useful.
So, again, congratulations on the adorable baby and the awesome birth.
♥ blogger astrologer mom to three cool kiddos, and trying to figure out this divorce thing-- Blossom and Glow ♥
Sarah , wife to Tyson :, SAHM to three little boys and a baby girl on the way!