THE BIRTH OF EVANGELINE IDELLA

Wednesday, May 2, 2012



Two months old.
02.28.2012  2:57 P.M.


Wednesday, April 4th, 8:45 P.M.

You're now two months, 1 week, 1 hour, 5 minutes old, and fast asleep. I've been sitting and thinking of the glorious event that brought you into this world for an hour now. I'll write a sentence, erase it, pause to scribble down thoughts, decide to scratch everything and start all over, and steal a glance at you in between. I watch you as you smile, hoping you're having sweet dreams. I hear you sigh and coo and grumble. There are no words to describe your birth or to explain how it has impacted me. I really haven't felt ready to give an account of it until tonight.

During the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I tried not to think too much about your upcoming and inevitable birth. Not because I was afraid of labor, but because my heart was swarming with so many complex emotions. I wasn't sure if I was ready to end this stage of our relationship and begin a new one. I loved sharing my body with you, so much so that I mourned the loss of that person inside of me after you were born. It was hard for me to connect the dots, to fathom that you, this beautiful little person, was what had been living inside of me for nine months. After two months, I still find myself placing my hand on my belly as I brush my teeth at night, thinking that a loud noise like the blender is scaring you and waiting to feel you jump, or feeling a split second of worry when you kick your little feet off my belly. As much as I loved being pregnant, I was still so ready to see you, to hear your cry, to feel your little hands wrap themselves around my finger, to meet the little girl I had already fallen for.

I'll start this story on the morning of February 1st. It was a Wednesday. I'm not sure how long I drifted in and out of sleep, oblivious to my body beginning the process of bringing you into the world. I remember arriving at that place between sleep and wake, recognizing slight cramps, but not feeling them enough for it to register as labor and wake me up. At last I allowed my eyes to open and my mind to process what had been happening. I rolled over and looked at the clock - 8:03 A.M. I lay there for a few minutes until I felt another. They were similar to the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having for weeks, but a bit more uncomfortable. There was no definite beginning or end or pattern to them, so I brushed it off as nothing, possibly false labor. About the time I had arrived at the conclusion that I surely wasn't in labor, your Papa rolled over, cracked his eyelids open, and gave me a sleepy smile. I smiled in return and said, "I think I might be having contractions." It took a moment for it to register, but when it did, his face lit up. We lay there as he asked question after question, both of us trying to decide whether we thought this was it. In the end, we decided to get up and go about our day as usual, but get all of our things ready to go just in case.

I had intended on packing our bags weeks before, but put it off, telling myself I had plenty of time. After breakfast, we started slowly gathering the things we would need. I remember telling your Papa to leave things like the toothbrush out and we could gather all of that stuff when we were sure I was in labor. In my mind, I was convinced we wouldn't be doing that for a few more days, but he gave me an unsure look and packed those things when I wasn't looking, hoping that today was the day he would be meeting his daughter. I wouldn't allow myself to get excited for fear of disappointment, but I could tell he was bursting at the seams. I don't remember when we started timing them, but eventually we came to the conclusion that they were about 10 minutes apart, but weren't getting any stronger. I called Melanie, one of the midwives, around noon to give her a heads up. She didn't seem to think it was labor, but said it could be a possibility and to call her if they continued or became closer together. (Later she told me that out of all of their patients, I was the last one they expected to get a call from.) After that, I was almost convinced that this wasn't the real thing, so I told your Papa I was going to go grocery shopping once he left for work, just in case you came sometime in the next few days. He gave me a worried look and told me he wasn't okay with me going alone. I thought it was no big deal and said I would call him if something happened, but he still gave me an exasperated look and said, "I wish you wouldn't."

Your Papa decided to call his supervisor to see whether he thought he should go into work. His wife had just had a baby, so he asked her what we should do. Her reply was, "If she's in labor, she'll know it!" I guess that statement doesn't ring true for everyone. In the end, he told Papa to stay home. When you're an adult, I'll share what happened next, but for now, let's just say your Papa and I got my labor moving. My contractions were 10 minutes apart and at 2:00 P.M. they started coming 5 minutes apart. We still hadn't finished packing the bag, so we ran around the house and gathered all the last minute things. By 3:00 P.M. they were 2-3 minutes apart and getting stronger, so I called the midwives' on call phone again. We were told to make our way to the birthing center, but for some reason, it still hadn't registered that we were going to be meeting you in just a few hours. I thought she just wanted me to come in so that she could check and see if I was dilated. I got off the phone and told your Papa to load up the car 'just in case.' As he was putting our things into the Jeep our neighbor came out and asked him if we were going camping. He laughed and said, "No, I think we might be having a baby." We pulled out of the driveway around 3:45 P.M., oblivious to the fact that we would be returning as a family of three.

In all of the excitement neither of us had eaten much, so we decided to stop and get a hamburger at Blake's. We live about 30 minutes away from the birthing center, and by the time we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant my contractions were coming 1-2 minutes apart, sometimes two on top of each other. We circled around the building and I cursed the place for not having a drive-thru. We parked and I waited as your Papa ran inside to order our food. I started to get a little hot, so I opened the door of the Jeep and dangled my feet over the side of the seat. It felt like it was taking forever. So many things crossed my mind, including the desire to storm into the building and tell Papa that I didn't need food this bad. Let's go. Now. This is when I knew I was in labor. I was going crazy sitting in the car. I needed to move, so I got in and out of the car a few times, then walked inside to use the bathroom, just to have something to do. Our food was ready when I came out, so we hurried to the car and made our way to the birthing center just a few minutes away.

I was excited to find out that our midwife would be Abigail and our birth assistant Lauren. Lauren had been our birth, breastfeeding, and newborn care class instructor. Both Papa and I had been hoping all along that the stars would align and the dates would match up so that both Abigail and Lauren would be the ones on call when I went into labor. (They are both among some of the most inspiring women I've met. One day, when you're old enough to remember, I hope you're able to meet them.) We arrived around 4:30 P.M. and were told there was another mama in labor, so there was only one room open. What room I would be in was the least of my concerns, but it was actually the one I had wanted so it worked out well. I had been GBS positive at 32 weeks, so there was a time constraint. We had to try to get antibiotics in our systems four hours before you were born. We all hurried into the birthing room and I laid down on the bed so the midwife could check my progress. Before I found out I was GBS positive, my plan was to not be checked at all. A lot of women have a strong desire to know how far they've progressed, but I didn't want the number of centimeters dilated to discourage or distract me. However, we needed to know how far I was in labor to have an idea of how soon you would be coming. I told myself that I would be happy if I were at 3 centimeters. I was hoping for more, but wanted to set my expectations low in case I still had a long labor ahead of me. It took the midwife a minutes to find my cervix, but when she did she said, "Oh wow, you're at seven centimeters." I sort of panicked, met your Papa's eyes from across the room, and we both just laughed like that was the most ridiculous thing we'd heard. I was so overwhelmed with excitement I almost started crying. I asked if she was sure and she said, "Yep, seven or eight."

Obviously, we were staying, so your Papa went out to the car to get our things and call friends and family while they put my IV in and started the antibiotics. As soon as the IV had drained, they asked me to get into the tub. Sometimes the warm water will make labor slow down, and even if I didn't make it four hours, we wanted the antibiotics in your system as long as possible. I stepped into the water and instantly felt myself relax. I didn't think I had been tense before, but when the warm water washed over my belly, it felt like my body was breathing a sigh of relief. (As a side note: I really don't know how anyone can give birth naturally out of the water.) I sat at the bottom of the tub with my legs tucked underneath me, coming up onto my knees to sway with every contraction, holding onto the side of the tub. In between contractions your Papa and I would talk and joke with each other. At one point I remember saying I felt drunk. Everyone laughed and Lauren said it was love hormones. Eventually I asked him to turn on some music and our conversation began to slowly drift away. This is when I began losing track of time. From the time I stepped into the tub to the time you were born seemed so much shorter than it actually was. As I would close my eyes and breathe, I began to move further inward where all my thoughts were quieted. The whole world began to fall away. It was a place I had never been. As I was sinking back down into the warm water after a contraction, I felt a pop and a gush of water. For a second, I wasn't sure what had happened, then I looked up at your Papa and told him my water had broken. I believe this was sometime around 6:30 P.M. He left the room and went to find Abigail, who was tending to the other woman in labor.

Abigail came into the room to check on us. She asked me if I felt any pressure and I answered no. At some point I had another contraction and remember saying, "Oh, this is different." Everything I had been feeling with each contraction was magnified now that my water had broken and you had moved down. Almost immediately after I had answered no, I began to feel the pressure she had asked about. As I entered transition, I began to panic a little. I had figured out the rhythm and what worked to distract myself from the pain before now, but they began to come one on top of the other, strong enough to catch my breathe in my chest and cause me to focus more on my breathing. I wasn't sure what to do anymore, so I just let go. It all became a blur around this time. I remember saying I was nauseous at one point, so Lauren went to get a trash can, but I never threw up. I began getting very hot, so we opened the windows and let the cool night air in. Abigail asked if I felt a head yet. I had been so focused on each contraction that I didn't know. I reached down to check and found that you were about an inch away from crowning. Shortly after this point I decided I couldn't squat or sit on your Papa's knees anymore. I leaned back against your Papa and placed my legs up onto the side of the birthing tub. I was oblivious to how long or how many pushes it took to get you out, but I know it wasn't many.

I could feel the pressure gathering, becoming stronger with every contraction, when one was noticeably different. It took my breathe away and caused me to gasp for air, tap, tap, tapping the side of the birthing tub with my hand and pulling myself up slightly out of the water with my arms until the feeling subsided. This was the scariest time for me. I felt like my body was wildly out of control, like I was just a bystander watching and feeling something happen that I had no part in. The pressure would come suddenly, like a jolt of electricity, and in waves, the peak being the place I felt the most pressure.


I began to become vocal, not screaming - it was more controlled than that, just making noise, letting the energy and power escape. A lot of women had told me that pushing felt good for them, but I didn't like this out of control feeling. I held back when the pressure would come, holding my breathe, trying not to let the force behind it overcome me. In between I remember saying, "These breaks are wonderful," and telling your Papa how good of Dad he would be, that you were almost here, anything that would encourage me and keep my mind off the next wave. At some point I was also trying to think of a way out, even asking the women at my birth over and over again what I could do. I don't remember how many times I asked the same question, but your Papa says it was many. I only remember asking for help once, and Lauren said, "Push with it, honey. It will make this go by faster." I didn't want to push. It hurt when I pushed, and I said so, but I was ready for this to be over. I wanted to meet you.

I hardly had to push at all to feel you making progress. Like I said, my body was doing most of it all on it's own without my permission. In my mind I pushed four, maybe five times and you were out, but I don't know how accurate that is. Pushing wasn't anything at all like I thought it would be. People talk about miserably pushing for hours with seemingly no progress. When you watch hospital births on TV people are all yelling, 'push, push, push.' No one yelled or instructed me when to push. I just did it, and it was glorious and beautiful. Because I wasn't numb, I could feel where you were with every push. I experienced your journey with you. During a break in a contraction, I remember hearing 'Hey Jude' playing from the iPod. That was the first time I had really noticed the music since my water had broken. Abigail asked if we were going to name you Jude. I laughed and said no, that you were going to be our Evangeline. She said good because the other woman in labor was having a boy and naming him Jude, and that would be strange to have two born in one night. Papa said he hated The Beatles, and I laughed and said, "I know, but I love them." The Beatles will forever remind me of you now.

During one of the next contractions, your head started to crown. Someone said something about how much hair you had and I reached down to touch your soft head. I got wildly excited. You were so close. I don't think I brought my hand away until you were born. I tried my hardest to take my time pushing so that I wouldn't tear, but my body didn't have any plans to take its time. I remember there being one contraction in between you crowning for the first time and being born where you came so close then retreated back into me. I felt the pressure building again with the next contraction and knew this would be the one. I let my body get you as far as it could on it's own, then I bore down as hard as I could, as long as I could until I felt a snapping sensation, like a rubber band. This took all of my strength, more than I could have ever imagined having. Your head was out, but I knew by the sharp pain and burning I was feeling that I had torn. I rubbed your head full of hair and heard the midwife tell me to push your shoulders out whenever I was ready.

I was so overwhelmed by what was happening I had to chant to myself, 'whenever I'm ready, whenever I'm ready, whenever I'm ready' to remind myself that I had control over this. I waited for the next contraction, gave one last push, and you slipped out at 7:35 P.M. Abigail untangled you from the umbilical cord, brought you up out of the water, and put you on my chest, wet and sticky with vernix. Your Papa sat behind us whispering in my ear, telling me how good I had done and talking about how beautiful you were. He was right. You were absolutely beautiful and perfect in every way. I remember rubbing your head and asking you to cry. You gave us one big cry and and I laughed and said good job with tears in my eyes, then you settled in and just looked at us with your big blue eyes like you had known us forever. I was too overwhelmed to actually cry. I just kept saying, "Oh gosh," and "I love you," over and over in a shaky, awestruck voice.

Minutes after you were born.
When I got over the initial shock of what just happened I praised you over and over and told you that you had done so well. I exclaimed, "She's so cute!" and I heard your Papa laugh behind me. I kissed you on the forehead and surveyed every part of you that I could see. Although it wouldn't have even mattered at that moment, I checked and made sure you were a girl. I don't know how long we sat in the birthing pool, but I know a smile never left my face. I never wanted this to end. I wanted to sit and marvel in this moment that we became a family of three forever.


Our first family picture, taken before we loaded you into the car to bring you home.
Eventually the umbilical cord stopped pulsating. Your Papa reached around and cut it as I watched. I delivered the placenta, which I had completely forgotten about. I'm sure a look of panic crossed my face when I was told I would need to push it out. I was completely exhausted and sure I wouldn't be able to push any more or even get out of the tub when the time came, but I did. After I birthed the placenta the water began filling with blood. They were worried that I was losing too much, too fast, which usually happens with fast labors. So I handed you over to Papa, they wrapped you in a blanket and took a few pictures, then I carefully stepped out of the tub and was helped over to the bed. I sat on the edge of the bed with a towel over my shoulders, wet, bloody, and shaking, not from cold, but from adrenaline. I pulled my legs up onto the bed and leaned against the headboard while someone massaged my stomach, trying to get my uterus to contract and stop the bleeding. It wasn't working fast enough so they told me I would need a shot of Pitocin. I still can't believe that after approaching your birth so bravely, I reacted the way I did when they brought out that tiny needle. Thinking about more pain and more contractions made me panic a little. You were out and this was supposed to be over. I shook my head and said I couldn't do it. Your Papa got my attention and told me to look at him, not at the needle. I looked into his eyes and when it was over I admitted that it wasn't so bad.


Our midwife, Abigail, weighing you.

Papa changing your first diaper.
Once they had the bleeding under control, Abigail checked me for tears and repaired the damage. I had two small tears, but nothing as bad as you would think might happen when you think about the physics of it all. There was more pain and more needles, but I was strong and sat through it without another complaint. The after care was definitely more bothersome and scary for me than any part of birth. I had the birth of my dreams, but if I could have changed something, I would have wanted more time with you during all of this - and I would have liked to have had more pictures. Your Papa was holding you and admiring you, which was better than a nursery in a hospital, but it felt strange having gone through that miraculous journey and having no baby in my arms for so long. When my stitches were in, Lauren told me I needed to try to pee. I grimaced at the thought of walking to the bathroom and dealing with the stinging pain I had heard about, but when she offered the alternative, I hustled to the toilet faster than you can say 'catheter.' It wasn't so bad, obviously - I made it through it. I'm not sure whether I nursed you for the first time before this or after, but I remember feeling completely lost. It was the most unnatural feeling, natural thing I've ever done. That was the beginning of a long and painful (physically, but mostly emotionally) road of breastfeeding, but I'll share that journey with you another time.

Your little head was so tiny that none of the hats we brought would fit you. This was our (unsuccessful) attempt at rolling it up to make it smaller - in case your were wondering what in the world is on your head.
Your Papa helped me into the shower and stood there with me, making sure I wouldn't fall. I was still a little shaky and in a daze, but happy - so happy. That was the biggest high I've ever been on. It was also the fastest shower I think I've ever taken. I was ready to hold you again, to memorize every little thing about you. After the shower, I put some comfy sweatpants and one of your Papa's sand t-shirts on and went out to let you meet our few visitors we had. It was a quick visit, then we were in bed to try to get some rest. Because we didn't get the antibiotics in four hours before you were born, we had to stay at the birthing center for twelve hours for observation, which ended up not being so bad after all. Bringing you home in the morning light just felt right. I didn't get much rest that night . . . or the night after really. I was so exhausted from labor, but there were too many distractions - you were spitting up the bloody water from the birthing tub and were congested and gasping for air sometimes, your Papa had a tummy ache, which we think was food poisoning, and a our birth assistant had to come in every few hours and check our vitals. Plus, I couldn't take my eyes off of you. I spent and still spend so many hours just staring at you. I kiss you on the forehead every morning and night just like I did the first time we met.

The first time we walked through our door with you.
Natural birth was one of the most difficult, painful, and scariest things I've ever done, but at the same time, it was glorious, beautiful, and the fruits of my labor were so worth it that, call me crazy, but I've actually missed labor at times, like I would go through it all again and again just to feel that overwhelming sense of accomplishment and empowerment and flood of emotions when I looked down and saw you entering the world, spinning around under water. I don't ever remember desiring or considering an epidural. Maybe because it wasn't an option, but I like to think it was because of my preparation and determination to do this on my own. I did this for myself and for your Papa, but mostly I did this for you. I was determined to have a natural birth, hoping that it would encourage and inspire you to embrace the journey of childbirth in the same way when you're a woman. I want to help you see birth as a blessing that we as women solely get to experience instead of a curse that needs to be numbed and sterilized. It's a shame for a woman to grow old without ever experiencing the strength and beauty of which her body is capable of.

Your name on the bell tower at the birthing center.
In two months we've learned so much about each other. I'm still learning how to function with you on the outside. I knew love before, but it was different - love happened to me and I happened to love, but with you, we created love from love. Nothing can prepare a woman for that realization or for the changes that happen when you're needed so badly by such a little soul. You're my sunshine every single morning and my moon at night. You are my muse for all I accomplish and create from now on. Each day you teach me something about myself that I didn't know before. Each day your Papa and I marvel over every little thing you do - your beautiful smile, your sweet yawns, the way you rub your face on us when you're getting sleepy. We still find ourselves looking at each other and saying, "She's so cute!" at least five times a day. Seeing the way your Papa is with you, the way he cuddles with you, the way he holds you up in the air and laughs as you make funny faces and grunt, the way he steals a million kisses from you when he gets home from work each day - it's all comforting to me. It makes me realize that I'm not alone in this all consuming, overwhelming love I feel for you. My heart aches at every little cry and tears come to my eyes in the dead of night when no one is around, thinking of the day you'll get your heart broken for the first time or even walk on your own. I can't wait to show you the world and marvel in the way you see it. We're going to have so many amazing adventures together. This will be a long, full life of you and I and your Papa teaching each other how to live in love, little girl.

All the Love in the Universe,
Mama

I love you as the plant that never blooms,
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly,
without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
Pablo Neruda

5 comments:

  1. This is a beautiful story - brings me back to the birth of my son in January. Giving birth to him was the most amazing thing I've ever done and I love reading other birth stories and other peoples experiences. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  2. ohhhh I love birth stories and yours is gorgeous!!! I havent read your blog before but so glad I did! What a precious girl and well done mama on an amazing birth!! enjoy her xx

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  3. You have a beautiful way with words. What a gorgeous story to tell.

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    1. Thank you! I sometimes come back to here to read it over and over. Eighteen months later and I still can't believe it happened and I my body did such an awesome thing.

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