One week. It’s been one week since Zoe came into our world and forever changed this family of three—make that four. My pregnancy was filled with both uncertainty and joy, of expectation and apprehension. Apprehension and uncertainty because of the loss I experienced at 11 weeks in 2001. I felt betrayed by my body and deeply saddened. After five months of trying for another baby, we found ourselves pregnant in late May. The summer was spent with first trimester worries of another loss; it was hard to relax into the idea that we were indeed pregnant again.
The summer passed, and I found the midwifery practice that suited my needs. My midwives and I gelled nicely, I felt confident I could trust them. More importantly, I began to trust myself again. School began and the pregnancy progressed quickly. I sometimes had to remind myself I was pregnant. The long work days and second shift at home as mommy to Violet and wife to Mike left little room to daydream about the child within me. My special times with Zoe came at night, right before bed. I imagined a peaceful, quick birth. I imagined her swimming in the dark within me, growing healthy and strong.
December came and I found myself very, very pregnant. I wondered how in the world I would be able to teach during the month of January, where would the stamina come from? We made plans to move from our apartment to a rental house friends of ours were remodeling. The finish date of the house kept getting pushed back. Sometime in the beginning of December we found out that the house wouldn’t be ready until February 1—my due date was February 14. Oy. We were pushing it.
Understandably, my blood pressure began to rise. I felt my heart beating faster and harder than it ever had, I just couldn’t relax. So much to be done. My midwives recommended quitting work. Out of the question. In mid-January they expressed concern over my blood pressure and put me on a tea to lower it. I resisted the tea; I honestly didn’t think it would work and didn’t want to feel drugged at work. Finally, moving day came on January 31—it was also the day of my home visit from my midwives. My blood pressure was above the 140’s—too high to deliver at home. No official diagnosis was made at that point. I got strict orders to drink the tea and was instructed to get my blood drawn the next day to rule out pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), which can lead to pre-eclampsia.
I got my blood drawn the next day, Saturday. My blood pressure was below the 140’s but just barely. On the home front, I was busy unpacking and getting the house ready for the birth. On Sunday my mother-in-law threw me a surprise baby shower which touched me deeply. I was also looking forward to the blessingway my best friend Jenny was throwing for me the following Friday. By Monday night I knew I would have the house ready for the birth the next day and felt so relieved. Tuesday was busy; I crashed around 2 for a nap. Woke up to the phone ringing around 5. It was my midwife, Constance. My labs were back. Levels were high. We needed to induce now if we wanted to have this baby at home.
It’s funny. I put it out to the universe that I just needed to make it until Tuesday in order to get the house ready for the baby and there it was, Tuesday night, and the baby was coming the next day. I called Jenny to tell her the blessingway had to be cancelled. She was excited about the baby but sorely disappointed about the blessingway. Me, too. She said she was coming over that night to bring me a surprise. Mike and I work frantically getting the house ready. I was sweating, my body ached. Jenny and her husband showed up with tulips and a beautiful goddess necklace for me as well as a picture Jenny created with the wonderful quote that had become my mantra throughout the pregnancy when I was worried about the labor and birth: Know you were made for this and your baby was made for this, that you are a strong woman. Revel in yourself, in your body, and your birth.
We were up at 6:30. I woke Violet up with kisses, told her she was going to be a big sister today. Knowing that she would only be my baby for a little while longer, I held her as she grumbled about being awake so early. I had woken up in a funk; too little sleep mixed with apprehension about being induced with castor oil later in the day. Somehow it just didn’t sit right with me. I knew it was what we had to do if we were going to have Zoe at home, but it still made me uncertain.
We got to Violet’s daycare and she was the first one there. Oh, she was tired. She clung to me. I started to tear up and held her tight. We made a bed for her on the floor. Heather, her daycare provider, was sweet and supportive. She wished us well and told us she’d take good care of our girl.
On the drive to Olympia, Mike and I talked about what we would do if I had to go to the hospital.. My biggest concern was that if I had to have a C-section, I wanted Mike with Zoe at all times. I felt torn with what-ifs. What if I had to transfer to the hospital if my blood pressure spiked—would I be able to labor without drugs? Would I want to? I mean, if I were at the hospital part of me wanted to just get it over with and have a hospital experience, complete with drugs. Kind of a “when in Rome” mentality. Honestly, the thought pissed me off.
Our 8:30 am appt. with Constance went well. I had a NST and baby looked great. My blood pressure was below 140 (the tea was working). I expressed my concern about castor oil to Constance and she told me her trick: you drink the castor oil in a pint of ice cream and 1 cup of milk. That way the oil binds to the fat in the ice cream and you actually digest it instead of having it settle in the intestines where it can cause severe cramping. She stripped my membranes and gave me strict orders for the day: Castor oil milkshake, a hot shower, a long walk and then sex. We were to call her four hours after the first dose if nothing happened. Obviously, she wanted to know sooner if things were happening.
We left the appointment and did a few last-minute errands including picking up the tub on the way home.. Mike left to do some shopping, I layed down for a nap. I woke when he got home and he prepared the milkshake that would jumpstart my labor. I chose Ben and Jerry’s Coffee ice cream as the base. Oh it tasted bad. Had to add some chocolate (everything is better with chocolate!) sauce to the concoction. Mike left to set up the tub and I forced myself to polish off the shake in 10 minutes. Dutifully, I took a long, hot shower. At this point I began to feel slightly nauseated. We went for a walk around the block and I had some good, though not unusual, contractions. A quick stop to pee and we went around the block again. All of the sudden, I had to go to the bathroom again. I barely made it to the bathroom—although the castor oil wasn’t settling in my intestines, it still is a laxative. I had no cramps, but my bowels were definitely clear by the time I was finished. Next on the list was sex. I certainly didn’t feel like having sex, but we had our orders.
So it was 1:56 by then. Mike was going pee and I had a good contraction. I was laying on the futon feeling very relaxed. I felt a pop! pop! and thought I had been kicked by Zoe. Warm water flowed between my legs and I yelled to Mike, “My water just broke!” He asked if I was sure and I frantically said, “I’m getting the bed wet! Hurry! I need something!” He was literally in the middle of peeing and couldn’t do anything. I wrapped a blanket around my body and got up to go to the toilet. The fluid was clear.
What a surprise! We both giggled and laughed and Mike kissed me, “We’re having a baby today!” We called the midwife and Mike began to fill the tub. I wasn’t having hard contractions, but they were regular at 5 minutes apart. It was going so well.
But then I realized I hadn’t felt the baby move. Constance wanted me to call her in an hour if I hadn’t felt her move. She told me to drink juice and lay down. Nothing. I went inside myself and sent a message to Zoe to please wake up so that I would know she was okay. She still wasn’t moving. I tried not to panic, knowing that panicking wasn’t going to help anything. Finally, at the hour mark, she moved for me. At first it was just a flutter, then a strong kick. I think she was gearing up to come into the world. Constance called and I told her things were picking up, that she should get her sooner rather than later if she needed to do give me IV antibiotics (I had Group B strep with this pregnancy). She said she would be there in an hour.
I was in a great pattern. Contractions felt good when I was standing. I moved my pelvis round and round with the tightening, alternating between standing and sitting on my birth ball. The midwives arrived at 4:30, Jenny arrived soon after. Constance and Kimberly (the assistant) puttered around getting set up while I contracted. Jenny tried to put music on, but nothing sounded good to me. I was being drawn deeper and deeper into myself, the contractions were coming fast and strong and I felt wonderful. I was powerful, I was doing this.
Constance checked me after they set up my IV for the antibiotics. She said I was nearly complete! This was incredible! Overjoyed, I got into the tub. Had I missed transition? Was it really going to be this easy? I didn’t let myself believe that this was really it; I knew that there had to be more to it than what I was feeling.
Sure enough, the next time Constance checked me she said that I still had an anterior lip and that my cervix was contracting to an 8 at the peak. “It’s not like you’ve gone backwards, this is just what your cervix is doing. It’s normal but you still need to dilate a bit more in order to push.” Now that pissed me off. I was antsy to move on, I was trying to control things. Constance had me take a walk. When she said I had to walk for a ½ hour I thought I would cry. That seemed like an eternity. I was very, very grumpy.
Mike and I set out into the winter cold to walk our baby into the world. I was able to focus my energy on each contraction much better when I was walking, even though I wasn’t happy about doing it. Half way around the block, I had to pee really badly. I was wearing one of those huge pads and didn’t think I had much to pee, so I just went for it. I over estimated the power of the pad and underestimated the amount of pee. I was soaking wet and cold when we got back to the house. Everyone laughed (including me) and Constance remarked on how I’d do anything to get out of walking. I took a shower and changed clothes and went back out into the world. Jenny came with us this time. She was trying to think light conversation but it just irritated me, although I found her attempts very sweet. In all fairness, no one could really please me at this point.
Back to the house and I was in a different place mentally. Things were getting much more intense. I tried the tub. I found some relief but was reaching my scary place—that place where I was during my labor with Violet, the place where I got stuck for 10 hours. My contractions were double-peaking and coming long and hard. I felt the fear from my first labor creep in and undermine my confidence, I was fighting the work of the contractions. Constance saw this and gently told me I had to face the pain in order to get through it. “HOW?” I yelled. “I want to, but HOW? Tell me how and I’ll do it!!” I yelled. With the next set of contractions, I stayed on top and growled my way through them. I was a tiger, I was a wolf. I was both terrified and powerful. It seemed like an eternity, but in reality, transition had lasted about a half hour. Constance suggested I get out, go to the bathroom and then she would check my cervix. I got up and made my way to the bathroom.
I knew one thing: I was NOT going to labor on the toilet. I stood by the washing machine and said very loudly, “I am NOT going to have another contraction on that damn toilet!!” After the next contraction, I made my way over to the coffee table near the futon. Constance wanted me to lie on my left side. “Constance, I am NOT going to lie down.” She gently said, “Alright, I’ll try and check you while you are standing up.”
PUSH!!!!!! That was all my body could do. I was leaning over the coffee table and pushing. “You had better move this coffee table or I am going to have her on it! She is coming, I can feel her head.” This was a total shock to everyone. Frantically, they threw chux pads on the ground and got ready for the delivery. Mike got into position to catch Zoe and Constance instructed him on how to help my perineum stretch. I felt him pour olive oil and support my tissues. They told me to feel her head. Honestly, I wasn’t really interested; I just wanted to focus on pushing. Jenny got behind me and held me up as I squatted down.
Zoe was coming fast, I could tell. Her head approached my perineum and I felt the fire of my tissues stretching. Little push, breathe. Little push, breathe. Head was out. I heard Constance say there was a loose cord around the neck. Something wasn’t right, though. Constance said she needed to be born quickly and I pushed with all I had. Zoe came out seconds later. She wasn’t breathing, wasn’t even interested in breathing. They tried putting her on my chest but I knew that wasn’t working. Quickly, they took her away from me and began to work on her on the floor. Constance yelled that she needed a heartbeat; Kimberly fumbled with the oxygen tank. Her inexperience seemed to frustrate Constance. Someone was bagging Zoe. Kimberly started chest compressions. They had a heartbeat. No breathing yet.
“Call the paramedics!” Constance yelled at Jenny. Mike was helping all he could. I sat on the edge of the futon, forgotten. I wondered if I was bleeding too much (I wasn’t). The room buzzed and I watched them work on my baby as if I was watching a movie. I kept saying, “I love you Zoe. It’s time to breathe, sweet girl. Come on, Zoe. Join mama and daddy. We love you, Zoe…” At the time, I never doubted she would be okay. My heart knew she was a keeper. Not to undermine the efforts of all involved—they were amazing—but I knew the way a mother knows about these things.
Then she sort of squeaked. I could tell her lungs were fluid-filled, but she was trying to breathing. She was joining us. She was a keeper. When she was stable enough, they brought her to me and I held my wee one close, rubbing her chest and encouraging her to keep working that fluid out. The paramedics arrived and assessed the situation. I felt a pressure and knew I needed to deliver the placenta. “Hey fellas, can you guys go over there while I deliver my placenta, please?” I laughed at how funny that sounded. Out the placenta came—
All was well. Zoe was breathing and I was doing fine. We wrapped Zoe in heating pads and blankets to warm her tiny body. When no one was looking, I saw Mike lean over and cry tears of relief, of fear, of joy. The events after the birth were very hard on him. He was amazing. He was so helpful and kept it together during the time when they needed him to.
The rest of the night is blurry—phone calls, a warm bed, and a beautiful baby. The name we had picked out, Zoe Jane, didn’t seem to fit her, Mike said. “She’s a Star. Zoe Star.” Star is my middle name, I was touched.
And so it goes, that is the story of how my second beautiful daughter came into this world.
Welcome Zoe Star!
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[B][I]~Ang~ Mom to 2 sport-head crazy girls: Rainey and Breeze and my little lost love- @18 weeks with gestational age of 7 weeks