Friday, April 16, 2010

Elaina's Birth Story

I've been having some trouble writing this story. When BittyPrincess was born, the story was lovely and straightforward. This one winds a bit, and my writing talents veer heavily towards straightforwardness with an occasional sarcasm curveball (not entirely appropriate applied to this particular birth story). Here, about a week later, I'm still of two minds about the whole thing. It was an amazing, wonderful thing. And it was startlingly different from what I'd expected; not in any hugely dramatic sense, although it certainly was dramatic enough for me. In writing I find myself going back and forth from cataloging to analyzing to attempting to explain a phenomenon (the disconnect a really short labor causes) that I'm not sure can be explained unless it's experienced. Nonetheless, here it is.

The very short version is that Elaina Lokelani was born at 1025am on the twelfth into her dad's and my hands after a looong prelabor and extremely short active labor. She was 8lb 0oz, and was (and is) perfect.

The long version ensues...

A week after my big Easter labor fakeout - in fact, matching to the hour when I gave up on labor that particular day - my water broke. I've done that before, the rupturing before labor thing, so we were in somewhat familiar territory. I answered the kids' myriad questions on the topic ("what does it feel like" - "kind of like peeing yourself, only it isn't pee"; "when is the baby coming?" - "Baby didn't decide yet, but sometime in the next day for sure"; "doesn't baby need that water?" etc etc etc). I let Louisa (midwife) know, we filled the tub partway so it wouldn't take too long when we needed it, and when things weren't really picking up by bedtime (contractions still really irregular and not particularly strong) we all tucked ourselves in to bed.

I slept poorly, of course, contracting only every 30 minutes or so but pretty strongly.

We got up around 7 or 8 am and made coffee. I was still on the every-15-30-minute plan. They were BIG LONG contractions, most of them almost 2 full minutes; Louisa and I think they were a last-ditch effort to turn baby into a better position. Didn't work.

At 9 we had a massive breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and oranges.

At perhaps 9:30 the contractions started coming closer together, but still, 7+ minutes apart. It was starting to get really difficult to cope. Fran, the kids and I walked around making last-minute prep including filling the pool the rest of the way, and Louisa started heading my direction, but in a "we still have some time" kind of a way.

By 10 things hurt like hell and I had definitely turned a corner of some sort, into actual, "ok the baby isn't turning, lets shift to get-it-out mode" kind of labor.

Unlike BittyPrincess' labor, I didn't feel peaceful, I wasn't getting good calming time between contractions, and I needed a good deal of support from Fran. I taught him how to do a hip squeeze; he did it fairly well a couple of times and then got it exactly right once, and I swear I FELT my cervix dilate when he did it. Like that gave my pelvis the little extra space it needed, my cervix got the full effect, and WOOOSH there it went. Honestly, it scared the crud out of me and I wandered around for the next couple of contractions feeling really out of place and trying NOT to replicate that feeling, including waving Fran away even though the hip squeeze/back pressure had really helped things feel less out of control.

Louisa was probably headed semi-frantically in my direction already (well, she was definitely headed my way, but I don't know how frantically). About the only coherent thing I could get out between contractions was some extraordinarily whiny variation on "I have to push. Call Louisa and put her on speakerphone. Getting in the tub."

I got about a literal minute of relief when I got in the pool, which was long enough for Fran to set up that phone call, place cameras in the hands of the children, and come back to the pool as I lost it in a way that I swear, I haven't in any of the other kids' births. I mean, I got to the point where I was slightly out of it for all of them but BittyPrincess, but this where I was holding on to Fran for dear life and sobbing into his arm, answering questions by wailing "it hurts" over and over again; *that* I haven't done before. The kids were totally unprepared for that; they knew it could and would hurt, but I'd been silent or close to it for all my other births and hadn't thought to prepare them for the fact that I might be crying and writhing and losing my shit all over the place.

I don't really know why it was like that. Some combination, I think, of baby malpositioning making things actually more difficult, and a sneaky labor that hit me suddenly and happened in a hurry. It was rough but it was also RIGHT. I wasn't scared that things weren't going to work out; it just hurt, a lot, a lot more than given my previous experiences I felt like it should have.

At any rate, Fran continued to verbally reassure the kids, keep up a conversation with Louisa on the phone, and eventually, to catch the baby.

Again, even though I only pushed for a short time, it felt like I put in a lot more effort than I had for any except my first birth. Like I felt all of the downward motion happening, the structure of my pelvis moving as the baby came steadily down. Which actually isn't all that surprising, considering that the baby emerged into Fran's hands direct OP and with her right hand nestled against her cheek. I've never described to him what most midwives do when babies stick their hands and arms in inconvenient spots like that, but either it's just good common sense to brace the arm and help ease it out or he has more midwife in him than he thinks. She also had her incredibly long (4' or so) cord around her neck twice. I had a feeling that she was going to be born all tangled up like that, and felt rather than saw the cord through turbulent water, where it was easy to untangle before bringing her out into the air.

Fran most definitely did not lose his shit. I am still not sure how he managed to think of quite literally everything that needed doing in those few minutes. I know he did get some prompting from Louisa, but that was a lot to get arranged and still manage to be there to get squeezed/hung onto/pulled/whined at by your wife. And reassure kids. And act more like an actual midwife than just doing the standard "dad catch" (I don't know if it's going to surprise any dads that might read this, but when you "catch" with the midwife's hands there, usually we're doing all the tissue protecting stuff we think is important, and you're doing the baby-contact part that you think is important, and everybody gets to be happy; but there's more to catching a baby than letting it land, however magically and importantly, in your hands).

It's an incredible feeling, bringing your baby to you for the first time, watching her take her first breaths and start to cry. Finding out she's a girl.

Every baby reacts a little differently to those first moments. This baby wasn't surprised, the way some babies are. She wasn't indignant, either. She wanted to complain about it, and did, but in a "wow something big just happened to me!" kind of way.

I sat in the pool simultaneously overjoyed to be holding a baby and in complete disbelief that I was, in fact, actually holding a baby. Going in about 30 minutes from "ok, we're really going to have a baby today!" to a baby left me confused and out of body for a while. 30 minutes SOUNDS like a decent amount of time. But even if you're contracting every 3 minutes (and I wasn't quite that close together) that's just 10 contractions. That's not enough time to get used to the concept. It's not enough time to set up your coping skills. It's not enough time for your body to realize what it, itself, is doing.

When I tell people that we had our baby before the midwife arrived, I almost always get "good thing you're a midwife, then!" back. But it really wasn't that way. In those minutes I was just as overwhelmed by my body as anyone else, and I'm pretty sure there wasn't anything going on in my head at all other than the complete rush of pain and hormones and OMG-this-isn't-really-happening-is-it. There was certainly nothing going on in my head or body that prompted me to be a midwife to myself in any meaningful way. When I felt baby's head emerge I wasn't thinking about mechanics or keeping from tearing or anything other than some washed-out body-deep construct of "CRAP this hurts." I've only caught a handful of posterior-presenting babies and there really was no muscle memory there, and no brainpower to deal with it. There was some part of me that felt her head, didn't make immediate sense of what I felt, didn't get a strong what-to-do signal from my body (it was still trying to catch up), and got overwhelmed and let Fran deal with it.

A few minutes later (I was totally not paying attention to how long; again, confused and disconnected), Louisa showed up. Girliness got to cut the cord. I passed baby off to Fran, birthed a placenta (an event that almost never shows up in birth stories, which is curious; that process isn't exactly fun either but it IS satisfying to be done with it), and got settled into bed.

I checked out fine with a small tear and fairly minimal blood loss. Baby checked out perfect. Boyness wielded the sling scale and she weighed in at 8lb0oz, politely leaving "biggest baby" title to her brother while at the same time soundly outweighing both of her sisters.

Our little photographers got many wonderful - and entirely inappropriate for common public blog consumption - pictures of the entire process. And a few bonus shots of the walls and lamps and peoples' feet. Boyness in particular took some amazing pictures, and I'm very happy about that because BittyPrincess' birth is almost entirely photo-free. Plus it let him hide behind the camera during the process, which is a coping mechanism I've seen dads use when they're overwhelmed, and I think it really worked for him.

We had a couple of names thought up for this baby, but they really didn't feel right for her once she was actually born and we'd met her. The next morning, we named her Elaina Lokelani. The kids favor "Ellie" as a nickname, but haven't really settled into anything other than "baby" yet. Here on the blog, now that her name has been announced, she'll be "Newbie," at least for a while.

I'm totally smitten and so is the rest of the family. The kids can't seem to get enough cuddle time. We have some things to sort out yet; she needs to get on board with latching more comfortably, and with not waking up in the middle of the night ready to visit. But it's totally completely LOVE.