August 11, 2006

The Birth of Sadie Grace

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I was having what shall henceforth be referred to as "contractions." We were rushing out the door to the hospital. We were all really anticipating a lot of "pain" in our planned natural labor. This shall henceforth be referred to as the "age of innocence" or "we had no idea the hot flaming hell into which we were haplessly marching." No, no, it wasn't that bad; I'm just being melodramatic because I enjoy it.

We got to Andrea's house and Dan and I lumbered in (well Dan didn't lumber but I lumbered enough for us both) to drop off Benny for a day of fun with Katrina. According to Andrea's report, Benny went straight upstairs, called, "OH THERE YOU ARE KATRINA!" into her bed, and then encouraged her to get up and come play. Andrea *said* that they were happy and good all day -- I hope that was true and that she didn't secretly have a miserable time, because I SO appreciate her taking Benny -- it was such a relief to know he'd be having fun and not pining or worrying or whatever.

I had told Mary the Midwife I'd be there at 7:30 and we had a bit of time, so we drove through McDonald's to get coffee. Thus fortified, we went on to the hospital. Dan dropped me off at the door and I lumbered upstairs while he parked the car and carried the million cameras and also the odd nightie and sock. Upstairs Mary checked my cervix. It was still 4-5 cm and really soft. She listened to the baby's heartbeat for 20 minutes with the Doppler while I laid on the bed having contractions 5 minutes apart. There were no audible decels, which means that the uterus was not squeezing the baby's heart apart, which is good. Mary then suggested that we walk around and try to get the contractions stronger and closer, etc.

So then for a few hours Dan and I walked the halls of the labor and delivery floor. At regular intervals I would squanch down and hold onto the rail while a "contraction" caused me a lot of "pain." Ho ho ho, how I would soon look back with fondness on those gentle tickles, and the halcyon times of hall walking and rail-holding. Dan was being extremely droll and making me laugh during my contractions, and we were chattering and laughing and generally having a grand old time. Every 20

minutes or so they'd listen to the baby and my blood pressure. At around 10:30 I asked to get checked again and I was still 5 cm, very stretchy, very effaced. Contractions now three minutes apart. At this time we used the breast pump to get the contractions stronger. They got stronger.

At some time after 11:00, Blair the Midwife (who had taken over from Mary) asked me if I wanted to have my membranes ruptured (break my water etc) and we all talked about it and she said she thought things would go really fast if we did this, so Dan and I decided it was a fine idea, and I laid down on the bed.  A minute later I was swimming in about 8 gallons of clear, delightful sparkling amniotic fluid.  I stood up, put my pants back on, and noticed instantly that the contractions had gotten a whole lot more interesting.  By interesting, I mean that I was starting to feel like hollering. 

Blair gave me the option of gettign in the hot tub or sitting on the birthing ball.  I decided to try the ball for a while, so Dan sat in a chair and I sat in front of him on the ball, and periodically I clawed him to death while moaning and hollering and then between contractions we would laugh at how strong they were getting and how much it was hurting me and how the giant gashes I was inflicting on Dan's arms and legs would heal someday.  I think that at one point I asked Blair to please repair my membranes and replace my amniotic fluid and we all chuckled happily at that funny thought and then I had another contraction and clawed Dan's ears off.  What I remember most during the part on the ball was that the relief between contractions was so extreme and lovely. 

At some point during my tenure on the birthing ball, I stopped being all "HA HA! WHEE!" about things and started to point out that I was being sawed open by trolls and did anyone want to look into that or WERE THEY ALL GOING TO JUST SIT AROUND CHEERFULLY IGNORING THE ARMY OF TROLLS WITH THEIR RUSTY TORSO SAWS?!?! And Blair asked if I wanted to get in the tub and I did. So I yanked off my pants and got in. The tub is big and round and has jets. I hooked my elbows over the side and sort of floated my giant body out behind me and when a contraction came I would scream and yell and get on my knees and stuff and afterward I'd just float out.

So, my membranes were ruptured at 11:30, and at 12:20 the baby was born, and in between there is all kind of confusing. There was the ball part, where I stopped having a sense of humor. There was the tub part.

The first thing that happened during the tub part was that the trolls with torso saws called in the mudmonsters with their back axes. I alerted everyone to the back axes by screaming loudly that there were axes in my back. Blair told me to use both hands and pull up on my uterus during the contractions, to turn the baby down into the canal because the axes were caused by the angle of the baby against me. I did this as much as I could and it did help, up to a point, if you know what I mean. It helped up to the point that I had to holler at everyone that I couldn't do it anymore and had to just die instead.

The second thing that happened in the tub was that I became extremely ASHAMED of all the hollering I was doing. Blair assured me that opening up my mouth/throat/lungs was helping me open up my cervix/etc and that it as all fine and that the whole wing was cleared out and we were alone and I could holler if I wanted. I was hollering shameful things like that I couldn't DO IT anymore and that it was HURTING me and that it was a BAD IDEA and that I had to IMMEDIATELY DIE. Stuff like that. I was imagining in my head a polite herd of very spiritually centered women outside the door, tut-tutting and shaking their heads as if, "Ah, the Netzer woman. In there screaming her head off over a little labor. What next, complaints about the color of the bed sheets?" I also imagined a string of first-time-pregnant people waiting for their six week checkups and whatnot, turning pale and running for the door because I was doing such a dreadful job representing the whole "natural childbirth" concept. The fact that I still had an imagination means that I was still in the tub.

The third thing that happened was that the fear started. The fear got its fist around my throat every time I felt a contraction start to happen. I would say something repetitive like, "OH NO. IT'S COMING. HELP ME." Then I would feel myself getting pulled down, swallowed, chewed, digested, and regurgitated by this AWFUL terrible fear. The fear was that the baby couldn't come out. I began to see the absolute fact that you cannot push a giant human baby out a hole the size of a quarter without tearing huge holes in yourself and dying. It didn't make any kind of physical, logical sense
to me that the baby could actually come out. Which meant that the contractions would go on forever and I would lose my mind and that would be the end of me. This realization was very debilitating and it was only the fact that I could look up through the sweltering fog of death and see my same good husband, and also the fact that Blair the Midwife is such a SUPREMELY SKILLED PSYCHIATRIST that got me through that dark place.

Blair had noticed that the temperature in the tub was a little cold for the baby to be born in. Plus, while I had realized that bearing down did in fact feel better than just letting the monster ride me without fighting back, I wasn't pushing correctly or consistently while in the tub. Blair checked my cervix and thought she could help me with what was left if I could get into the bed. So I staggered out of the tub, peeled off my wet shirt, and fell onto the bed. Naked. Meaning, I had no clothes on. At this moment, all the women on television that I have ever made fun of for lying there naked screaming their heads off (Can't you put a shirt on? What's all the bellowing for, princess? Etc) gained the collective right to flick me on the forehead. The truth that these women know, and now I know too, is that at that point in the process, you don't KNOW you're naked, you don't KNOW you're bellowing, you are a writhing mess of purely visceral reaction. NICE, EH? So. I laid there. Nurse Nancy was beside me on the bed, by my head. Dan was standing next to me on the other side. Blair was down where the action was, helping my cervix to get out of the way. And I was supposed to push.

Pushing, when you can feel everything, is quite the experience. At first, I didn't do it right at all. When I thought I was pushing, I wasn't, and when I didn't realize I was pushing, I was. It was very confusing. I'd call out, "IS THAT GOOD????" and Blair would say, "OK honey, now you need to push." Or I'd call out, "I CAN'T DO THIS THE BABY IS KILLING ME I AM DYING IT IS ALL OVER" and Blair would say, "Good push, honey! Just like that!" It was perplexing. I think that when I finally figured out how to push it took like 3 pushes and the baby was crowning. When I say the baby was crowning I mean the head was coming out. An experience reminiscent of the Johnny Cash song, "Burning Ring of Fire." At this point in the delivery I got a "no going back" feeling which was simultaneously motivating and terrifying. I felt positive that pushing the baby out WOULD kill me, but also realized that I had to push it out, so I became motivated to die quickly. At this time I'd like to say that Nurse Nancy and Midwife Blair are beautiful, sensible, sweet angels from the spires of nirvana itself, and that my husband is an absolute STAR. They were all very very kind to me and very calm and helpful and did not let me despair totally.

So, the head somehow came to the point of erupting, and I had to push slowly and in a more controlled fashion, and then the head was out. KEEP IN MIND I AM FEELING ALL OF THIS. I am feeling a human head coming out of me and then it sticking out while the rest of it is still inside. I CAN FEEL IT ALL. In some far detached quadrant of my intellect I was registering that it was really thumping surreal and a feeling like nothing else on earth. That was the closest I ever came to "embracing the moment" or "owning the experience" or whatever. Then Blair helped me push out the shoulders slowly and
SUDDENLY A BLUE SLIMY BABY WAS ON MY STOMACH AND THE CLOUDS PARTED AND THE ANGELS SANG AND THE SUN POURED THROUGH THE OPENING AND I BECAME ECSTATICALLY HAPPY. Seriously the SECOND she was out, the earth turned upside down and everything that had been hopeless and dire was suddenly beautiful and fresh. Best high ever. No doubt. Then they told me she was a girl. And everything sparkled.

In retrospect the bad part took less than an hour. The *really* bad part took prolly 20 minutes. If I hadn't been psyching myself out constantly, overthinking everything, going insane, if I had let myself just be more physical and let go, it would have been better. But, being me, that wasn't possible, and so that's what happened, and it's fine. Comparing the two birthing experiences I've had, I'd say the natural way with the midwife is INFINITELY superior to the other, first because of the aftermath. If you have a brilliant midwife and a stellar husband to get you through it, it's worth it for what's on the other side. I instantly felt like a million bucks. Sadie was perfect and healthy, and within like 10 minutes she was nursing. She nursed both sides like an absolute CHAMPION. Perfect latch, strong suction, everything just FABULOUS. After she nursed she had her little bath and whatnot, got swaddled and brought to Dad. I took a SHOWER with my Aveda products, washed my hair, washed off all the blood, I mean, I was walking around within like an hour! The next day I was sore but FINE. Four days later, my one little stitch I had on my one little tear (on my old episiotomy scar, and it didn't even bleed) didn't even feel like it was there, and I just had a little muscle soreness left.

The other reason I think the midwife/natural/drugless path was best was that during the labor itself, there was no needle on me, no computer on the contractions, no machine on the baby. I could move, I could walk around. There was no one counting to 10 fifteen hundred times. There was no "PUSH! PUSH! PUSH OR WE'LL GIVE YOU A C SECTION!" There was no "Now you are at 8.5 cm and you have to get to 10 cm and it will take 90 minutes" etc. There was this fluid transition between the stages of labor, based on how I felt and what Blair observed, and she would ask me questions and we made decisions together. There was no instruction, just suggestion. There was no bustle, no bright light, no knife (except the ones the trolls brought) and no constant stream of different people hurrying in and out. IT WAS SO CALM. So totally unstressful. The only stress I had was brought on by my own head, which was unavoidable, and even THAT stress they kept reassuring me was okay, it was all okay, everything was fine... until I actually half believed them. MIDWIVES ARE GREAT. LET IT BE KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE KINGDOM.


So that's the story of Sadie Grace, who came into the world weighing 8 pounds 14 ounces, who is 20 and a half inches long, who has light brown hair and a penetrating gaze, a voracious appetite and a very decisive and purposeful nursing style. She is absolutely an angel, and we can hardly bear to put her down for a second. In fact, right now, I'm going to go get her, even though she's sleeping happily in her swing. Knowing how fast it's going to go, I think both Dan and I are taking care to enjoy every tiny moment of her newborn-ness, sniffing up every delicious inch of her, and giggling
over every ridiculous facial expression... between our beautiful son and our beautiful daughter, we just couldn't be happier with our little family. :) THE END.

Lydia is a homeschooling mother of two little clucking chickens, who rampage around Norfolk, Virginia, flapping their little wings in violin class, karate class, and other adventures.  She keeps a mobile picture blog at "Keep Your Eye on the Kids" and also writes a homeschooling blog at "Little Blue School".  You can read her first birth story here.  This story was written shortly after Sadie's birth.

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