I have a 6 year old, as of today.
This was the 6th morning that I stood in my kitchen, whisking together eggs, flour, sugar, milk, and all the other pancake necessities, on November 29th. Birthday pancakes. A tradition we started with Jocelyn and continue with each of our daughter's birthdays. It's sort of now become expected of me, and I don't mind it one bit.
My mind is blown just thinking at how fast the time has gone. I haven't actually written Jocelyn's birth story down, and I think it's about time. I realized just how much of her -and really my- birth story has escaped my memory as I was re-telling the tale this morning to her. She was so cute staring up at me, sitting cross legged on the kitchen floor while I flipped cakes, doe eyed and smiling listening to me tell it. But I stumbled through it, piecing things back together as they started coming back. It's funny the way memory works, or maybe it's just my memory. How I can remember things like they just happened, still hear them, smell them and taste them. Yet others will forever remain fuzzy no matter how many people tell me the details. Both of my births are like that. I have extremely vivid images of certain moments, and the others are just gone like they never happened even though I know intellectually they did. It's in these instances when I so regret not having a photographer at my births. I am thankful for the pictures that I do have. They are my treasures.
November 28th, 2010 - Sometime around 11:30pm
I could have sworn that I heard my water break as I snuggled into my blankets that night. I closed my eyes, my face turned away from the small tv I left on with my favorite show at the time (That 70's Show). I was just about to drift off to the background noise when I heard and felt a muffled 'pop'. Immediately feeling like I was about to wet my bed, I did my best not to as I scooted off my bed and made my way to the bathroom. I remember thinking, "that's my water, I just know it". However it wasn't a huge gush, and I was able to somehow hold it until I arrived at the toilet, but only just so. If I were to have taken a deep breath I'm sure that wouldn't have been the case. So then I thought "well maybe that's just my bladder finally giving up on me." I mean, I was pretty huge.
When I was almost 100% sure that whatever it was, was coming from my uterus and not my bladder, I decided to call Ben. Who by the way is her father and my husband as of December 12, 2012. I remember calling him while sitting on my porcelain throne waiting for 'it' to stop, but was persistently trickling out. I think I called about 6-10 times before he picked up. Poor guy was so tired when he finally did answer I was greeted with a very groggy "hello?".
Me: "Ummm, I think my water just broke."
Me: "Yea. I'm pretty sure my water broke."
Him: "Well....are you sure?"
Me: "I'm pretty sure."
Him: "Well, why don't we wait a little bit just to be sure."
Me: "No, I'm thinking you should probably head this way."
After some convincing that it was time, he hopped in his Honda Civic and was at my door within the hour. In the meantime, I alerted my mom who was frantically getting things together; snacks, Gatorade, waters, etc. I, feeling pretty good at this point and contraction free decided to go ahead and take a shower and shave my legs and things, because well...you know. Feeling fresh and clean I started getting dressed and ready when the contractions started to hit me. They started pretty slow and cramp like. I remember thinking that it didn't feel too bad, just like I was having some intense period cramps. This was going to be a breeze.
Boy was I wrong. I don't think my 18 year old brain could have wrapped it's mind around the gravity of the situation quite yet. My plan was to labor at home for as long as I could, with my partner's and my mother's help. After reading the book "Birthing From Within" I knew for certain that I didn't want to have any interventions and I was going to try and go all natural. I got on my birth ball, turned the lights down and got to work. Ben read his labor partner book while I continued to labor.
Somewhere between 2 and 2:30am, my contractions were becoming very intense and I decided that I needed to head to the hospital. I remember that long cold, painful walk to the passenger side of the car. This is where things start to become fuzzy and where I entered what they call labor land. Labor land is this fun place your mind takes you where all you can see, feel, think, and breathe, is contractions. Nothing matters in your immediate surroundings other than the enormous task you have been given; getting this baby out, and fast. Since I was still leaking fluids, I think Ben offered his coat as a sacrifice for me to sit on in the car. It was about a 15-ish minute drive to the hospital. While exiting my neighborhood on the snow packed streets, we came upon a couple of deer crossing the road. Probably wouldn't have been so scary if we weren't already stressed from the impending birth and the fact that we were trying to slow down on ice, in a Honda Civic, while working against the gravity of the hill we were on. Luckily, the deer survived.
We got to the hospital, and somehow the walk/trip into triage from the car isn't something I remember but I got there all the same. I remember feeling like the contractions were blending into one, just a constant non stop pain. And that irrefutable feeling to poop. I know now that those are pretty clear signs of transition and a baby will most likely be born very very soon, but I didn't know that then. I'm not exactly sure how I convinced the triage nurse to let me try and poop but I did. All I wanted to do was be in a small space, by myself, in my own clothes and maybe poop, or maybe push a baby out. Either way, I would have been happy. But triage felt like an eternity, and to compound the issue, my triage nurse wasn't the warmest person. One of those things that I do remember pretty vividly was grabbing Ben by the shirt and crying and begging for it to stop and pleading with him that I just couldn't do this anymore. His teary gaze met mine, and I had never seen him look so upset and helpless.
In the midst of all of what seemed like hours of chaos, but I'm sure was only like 30 minutes to an hour, I was already derailing from my birth plan. That made me feel so helpless. I know now after having two of these, that birth plans are a sweet idea, just not totally rooted in reality most of the time. Birth is it's own beautiful creature. Looking back with perfect vision, I shouldn't have taken that offer of that intravenous drug that would just "take the edge off". It ended up making me feel quite dizzy, sick, and well..drugged. I wasn't sure if it was really helping the pain, or just making me not care as much. It soon wore off, and I was back at square one. I think the nurse was all too happy to give this to me to make me be quieter. Another pretty vivid memory was her brushing my concerns to the side and making me feel like I was overreacting to the pain I was in. Yet another hit to the ego and I wasn't even in my birthing space.
Once I was able to get a room, I believe I was right about 7-8 cms. The drug they gave me wasn't doing anything really that helpful and I was in a world of pain I had not properly prepared for. I'm pretty sure there is nothing you can really do to prepare for something like birth when it's your first time. The only thing that prepares you for birth is BIRTH. I was definitely more emotional and mentally equipped the second time around, resulting in a beautiful home birth. But I thank my hospital expierence for prepping me for it. You can't have the positive without the negative. I love my baby Jocelyn, and I wouldn't trade her or my expierence having her for anything though.
It didn't take much convincing for me to go ahead with the epidural, me being in the mental state that I was in. Ben was so loving and supportive and just wanted what was best for me in the situation. Anything that I chose he would have been behind me 100% on. Now that I am always on the outside looking in at births, seeing an epidural being administered and actually having one is extremely different. And for obvious reasons. However there was an insane amount of fear that coursed through my body while I was listening to the anesthesiologist talk to me about what it was, what he was going to do, and what could potentially go wrong. The fact that I signed a waiver stating that I couldn't sue the hospital if I accidentally became paralyzed afterwards or something equally as awful, tells you something about the state I was in. It wasn't like I was 24 hours deep in the throes of natural labor, like some of the incredible women I've witnessed. I needed the relief, and I was only about 4 hours in and on the edge of birthing a baby.
I could tell the nurses were getting impatient with me, and so was the doctor. Somewhere in the middle of all of this they decided to put an internal monitor on my baby. Internal monitors are little wires that go just under the skin of the baby's scalp as to give a better representation of the baby's status. I'm not sure it was completely necessary, but as a first time mom, who am I to question it if they say it's for my baby's well being?
When it was time to push, I did it the good old fashioned way; on my back. I used to think this was a horrible position, now I think it's actually pretty great if you are choosing it and it's comfortable. But to be forced to be on your back because you were told that's your only choice now that you have had a catheter shoved into your spine by the world's longest needle to stop you from feeling not only pain but everything from the belly down...isn't fun. I ended up pushing for more than 2 hours, in front of my mom, Ben, and a few nurses that didn't quite give me the warm fuzzies. With the dead weight of my legs in their grasp, he and my mom helped me push. Cramming my legs as far back as they would go I worked, breathed, and listened to them count to 10 over and over and over again. It was exhausting...for everyone.
I remember at one point Ben trying to be supportive and coach me through the pushing phase saying, "See that clock over there? Just push and aim to shoot her out right at that clock."
The nurse looked worried and confused saying, "Um, it doesn't quite work that way."
My doctor came in and I believe it was in their best interest that she was there to speed things along. The words "cut" and "forceps" were introduced and before I knew it I felt my body jolt by the near 8 pound baby sliding out of me in a hurry. One of the best parts of my birth was the fact that she was handed right to me after being born. I needed that. Even though I felt like I was holding a bomb, and I didn't quite know what I was supposed to do. An overwhelming feeling of confusion, and extreme exhaustion flooded over me. Going from nearly a year of pregnancy, and just over 9.5 hours of labor including more than 2 hours of pushing to now in an instant holding an extremely fragile human being, was quite an overwhelming expierence. I always thought that the moment I met her would be this magical moment, and well in a way it definitely was. I remember looking up and seeing tears welling up in Ben's eyes, gazing at her and I with such love. My mom of course bawling and frantically snapping the camera like I had requested of her. (Thank you mama.) People were asking me all kinds of questions I couldn't comprehend, and my body was agape on an uncomfortable bed and spotlighted for the world to see. Even though I didn't have tears of joy like I thought I would, I couldn't stop looking at her and examining her. It felt so instinctual, and at the same time so foreign. In the same breath all I wanted to do was pass her off to someone else as those intense hormonal shakes started setting in on top of my already numb and depleted body. I didn't want to drop her.
The cord was of course cut within moments of birth, and the placenta was rushed along as well. I remember them taking her to be washed and weighed while my 4th degree tear was stitched back together. The rest of what followed isn't apart of my memory. I believe I fell asleep next to a hospital jug of water and bags of snacks, waking up to be carted off to my recovery room. Most of my birth plan was set on fire, but a few pieces remained; she slept in my room next to me in her little bassinet, (but really for the most part on mine or Ben's chest), and I got to try and breastfeed her with their awesome help. She was quite healthy for the most part, aside from her high bilirubin levels resulting in weeks of jaundice. Which we cared for by the help of what we called, her little baby tanning bed. That was quite the journey as well.
Despite all the bumps in the road, I couldn't deny her perfection. She was all I could have ever asked for and more. An intense love for her quickly developed in those first few hours after I came to and most of the grogginess wore off. Another memory burned in my brain is the humiliating adult diapers and the tremendous pain I felt from the episiotomy. Those weeks of recovery were quite possibly the worst weeks of my life. On top of having a newborn that kept me sleepless; all my waking hours were spent in pain, sitting, standing, and laying down. Formula was introduced at the hospital and my breastfeeding journey came to an end fairly soon after we arrived back home. Any breastfeeding I did do was supplemented and was almost purely for sentimental reasons, which I am glad I did anyway.
The birth of Jocelyn was an extremely transformative moment for me, but not as much as the past 6 years have been. She's become one of my very best friends, and truly one of the two brightest stars in my sky. Mothering her and Elise is truly my greatest accomplishment. I love that I have this expierence to shed a light on the path that I knew I wanted to strive for the next time. Each of their births are so incredible, and though this was life altering my homebirth was one of the most empowering moments of my life. I can't wait to reflect and write on Elise's birth in February. She will be 3 and I can't hardly believe it. Her birth sparked my love for not just birth but for homebirth and for empowering birth choices! Thank you to those that have actually read this long winded story of mine, I hope you enjoy these non-professional images my sweet mother captured for us...