Friday, May 8, 2015

If you missed part one of the birth story, click here.

born 04/10/2015 at 3:47 A.M.
7 pounds + 10.5 ounces • 20 inches long
made in Brooklyn • grown in Missouri • born in New Mexico

I leaned over the bed and put my hand on Papa's shoulder. I paused, trying to think of how to wake him without sending him into a panic. 'Babe, I need you to wake up.' I shook him a bit. He didn't respond. I changed my tone. 'I'm having contractions. I need you to get up.' He looked at me bleary-eyed and whispered, 'Just give me a minute. I need a minute.' I recognized that the news of a baby joining us tonight was probably a bit overwhelming to wake up to, and though I wanted to yell, 'We don't have a minute!,' I walked into the other room to give him some space. A few minutes later he joined me in the kitchen. I was pacing, trying to stay calm, but there had been no warning. I'd woken up in the midst of an unpredictable coastal storm. The contractions had blown in when I had least expected them and were quickly reaching hurricane proportions. I told your Papa to call the midwife and pack a bag (I don't, for the life of me, know why we can never manage to pack a bag until I'm already in labor.), even though all I wanted to do was stay. I hadn't been able to ease into these active labor contractions. I had gotten no warm up time. What I wanted with everything inside of me was to just be still and try to focus, but I knew if I let myself slip away we wouldn't make it to the birth center.

Papa called the birth center and tried to answer some questions from Melanie. He finally handed the phone to me and I just said, 'I don't know how close the contractions are coming. I just know my body is telling me that I need to get to you.' We hung up and that was that. I stumbled from room to room, trying to gather what we might need and failing to accomplish anything. I finally just started shouting out items to your Papa, then I remembered I had made a list. My list making tendencies are usually an annoyance to anyone involved, but I think this list prevented you from being born in the car. We gathered just a handful of items and threw them into the nearest backpack. Papa walked into your sister's room in a hurry and she immediately sat up in bed with her eyes still closed and hands outreached like she was walking through the dark, wobbled side to side, hit her head on the wall, then flopped back down, still asleep. It was like a scene from a movie. He was laughing so hard he had to leave the room. He told me what had happened and I laughed until tears came to my eyes and I couldn't stand up. He went back in, a bit quieter this time, and shook her awake. 'We have to get up and go bye bye. Mama's going to have the baby,' he whispered. Of course, she was immediately awake, asking fourteen questions a second, ready to conquer the world. 'The baby's coming?!' she said excitedly.

As soon as we had everything ready, I hit the stairs and waddled as fast as I could to the car. Papa and Ev met me there, her exclaiming, 'Look at the moon, Mama! It's beautiful.' I paused and smiled. Indeed it was. It was a half moon - the light reflected off the hood of the Jeep as we drove. I was trying not to sound panicked as I told your Papa to try to get there as fast as possible. He turned on the hazard lights and blew through stop lights flashing his lights and honking. The man is good under pressure, I'll give him that. What was normally a thirty minute drive ended up taking twelve or so. I'm not going to lie, I had kind of always wanted to do that like they do in the movies and I smiled to myself a bit when that thought entered my mind. Your sister was yelling from the backseat, 'Slow down, Papa! This is dangerous!' and 'Red means STOP, Papa!' We looked at each other and laughed from the front seat, then tried to explain that this was an emergency and you can break the rules in an emergency. I also tried my best to talk her through what lay ahead. I told her she would need to be brave and she was, even when I wasn't. I don't even remember most of the drive or how many stop lights we actually ran. As we drove, the contractions became like clockwork and I started to shake. I tried my best to come to a place of acceptance for what might lie ahead.

When we arrived at the birth center, no one wasted any time. I undressed quickly - clothes left scattered on the floor. I told Melanie I wanted in the tub as soon as possible, then laid down so she could check my progress - eight centimeters. If my water had broken at any point, you'd have been born in the car. Just as I had with Ev, I told myself I'd be happy if I were at five, but unlike before, eight did not come as a relief. I knew what was coming this time and it was coming sooner than I was prepared for - immeasurable joy, but one of the most overwhelming challenges I'd have the privilege to surmount along with it. In that moment, I asked myself what I needed. I need in the water. I need Alex there with me. I need peace, calm, quiet. I need to find that place within myself that lets me be here, but not really be here. It was so easy to find that place with Ev. There were just three people in the room most of the time, sometimes just your Papa because there was another lady in labor. This time there was the midwife, the nurse, your Papa, your sister, someone to watch your sister, and a birth photographer. I was very in tune with what my body was doing, but also with what was happening in the room. I could hear every whisper and sense every step and shuffle. With Ev, my labor had progressed throughout the day, giving me the time to accept the changes gradually. This time, I had woken up at eight centimeters.

I had tested GBS positive and debated on whether to accept the antibiotics or not during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. As soon as I settled into the water, Melanie asked me if I wanted to get the IV going. I made a split second decision based on my gut feeling and said no. It would have taken 30 minutes or so for the antibiotics to drain and I felt like I'd be in transition by then. After that point, I lost my ability to remember things in the order in which they happened. I remember asking your Papa to pray. As I rode through a contraction, his hand in mine, he asked God to comfort me and bring you to us safely. I remember rocking back and forth as I hummed 'Amazing Grace' and the sound filled the quiet room. As we were waiting for Allie to arrive to be with Ev, I remember being convinced she wasn't going to make it. I looked up to see Ev standing alone at the end of the tub and that saddened me. I hugged her, told her that Allie might not be here in time, and asked her to be brave. Allie did make it eventually and it brought me comfort to see her in the arms of someone talking her through it all, telling her I was okay. In the midst of pushing, I remember growling, shaking my head back and forth, and simply saying, 'I'm mad.' Once again, I had to let go of my own expectations and accept that this was harder than I had thought it would be. At one point, I went Ina May Gaskin and started chanting, 'They're rushes. They don't hurt. They're just rushes.' In my head, I was thinking, 'She's full of it!' but tried to convince myself nonetheless. You think you'll be embarrassed in situations like that, but labor takes over and you're just not.

As I labored I got this wild thought in my head about how neat it would be if you were born with the amniotic sac still intact. Melanie offered several times to break my water, promising it would move things along a bit quicker, but I declined - at first. I came to a point where I wasn't dealing with the contractions well - a point of desperation - and I asked for nitrous oxide. I remember hearing your Papa's words behind me, 'Are you sure?!' It sounded like the most ludicrous thing anyone could have said in that moment. Of course I was sure! This wasn't an epidural. I wasn't asking for a way out. I would still be here every step of the way, physically and mentally. I just needed some relief. Looking back, I appreciate his efforts at being my birth advocate like I had asked him to be during my pregnancy. I heard them wheel the tank in and felt them place the mouthpiece in my hand. I began to rhythmically inhale and exhale. Suddenly I felt light headed and nauseous. My face was numb. I threw the tube aside and said, 'I don't know if I like that.' Melanie suggested only using it during a contraction. I tried that and it seemed to help a bit, but it still wasn't the relief I was looking for. I continued using it through each contraction mostly because it gave me something to do. As I closed my eyes and focused on each inhale and exhale, it felt like I had a bit of control over something, like I was no longer just holding on while the pain ripped through me. As I approached transition, this didn't help as much and I just had to surrender. It seems like that's the goal of labor - to bring you on a journey that you try your best to embrace, but can't fully surrender to until you're at the very end. As soon as you overcome the feelings of desperation and vow to accept what's happening, it's over. In an instant you move from the most miserable moment of your life to the most joyful.

After I found that the gas wasn't helping like I had hoped, I asked Melanie to break my water. She did and it relieved so much pressure, I literally breathed a sigh of relief. I reached down to see where you were and was finally able to feel your head, full of hair. That was the boost that I needed. I was ready. With the next contraction, I started pushing. With each contraction, I tried again, attempting to bring you closer to meeting us. This went on for what felt like hours, but was realistically just one, maybe less. A contraction came and went without any effort from me and she encouraged me to push with them. 'I'm so tired,' I declared. I just wanted to rest through one, then I would get back to business. The contractions were coming on top of each other. There were no breaks in between, no time to rest afterwards, so I could only rest during. Like a rollercoaster, each contraction would build like the tick, tick of the ride to the top, then I'd fall over the crest, gripping the sides of the tub, yelling all the way, then back up the rail we'd go to do it all over again. Finally you were there. The pain from your head pushing forward was excruciating. There is so much energy that goes into the separation of mother and child. It all came to a peak at the end and just when I thought I might not be able to push any more, my body took over. Like a jolt of electricity, I involuntarily pushed down harder and longer than I'd been able to do all along and you made your way into the world all at once, head and shoulders and all the rest in the same push. As soon as you were out I heard a gasp from the end of the tub and shouts of, 'Good job, Mama!' I was so glad your sister was a part of this.


You were brought out of the water at 3:47 and met us with a hearty cry, head full of unruly hair, and your hands tucked under your chin (which is what had made pushing so much harder this time around). You gave a few more cries, then settled into me like you knew this was where you were meant to be, like you were relieved that it was all over and a spot on my chest was your prize, like you knew this was the end and the beginning all at the same time. When I finally had you in my arms, all I could do was laugh - and I kept laughing an elated, awe-filled laugh. I'm sure I sounded like I had lost it. I brought you close and exclaimed, 'I don't even care what you are!' Of course, I held you up to see shortly after. I moved the umbilical cord to the side and screamed in delight. 'A boy?! It's a boy!' I had taken to unintentionally thinking of you as Noble during the last few weeks of my pregnancy, so it didn't take me entirely by surprise. We sat in the tub admiring you for some time. The first thing I noticed were your long fingers and toes. I felt your umbilical cord pulsating and we waited for it to stop before Papa reached around and cut it. Eventually I passed you to Papa, climbed out of the tub, and made my way to the bed. There we sat as a family of four. I nursed you as soon as I could and was relieved when you latched on effortlessly. While I was stitched up, your Papa held you and Ev sat beside him, admiring you under the dim lights.

There are few memories in my life that will be remembered in all their minute details - the day I moved into my first apartment in college, the crisp August air that blew as I held your Papa's hand and walked down the aisle, and the weight of each of my children as they were pulled from the water and laid on my chest for the first time, sticky and new and perfect.

photos by Jackie Paolucci


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