Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Birth of Nadia Charlotte

[This is a birth story, so words like dilation and placenta will be bandied about. Since apparently not everyone has dinner conversations about eating your own placenta, if this sort of thing makes you all queasy or shifty eyed, you have been forewarned.]

Nadia Charlotte

Born January 18, 2016 at 10:35am
6lb 5oz, 20 inches
37.5 weeks and no idea I was about to have a baby
was sure this baby wouldn't come early. All my wishful "early baby" thinking with Adalyn came to nothing, so this time I was determined to have realistic expectations. At 37.5 weeks I had made very few preparations, but Sunday night as I watched Downton Abbey, I started crocheting a hat I had been planning for baby's coming home outfit. I went to bed thinking, “Tomorrow I ought to start packing the hospital bag and think some more about birth.”

My stomach wasn't feeling great when I went to bed, which wasn't too unusual these days, and I woke from contractions several times during the night. This also wasn't unusual, although these contractions did seem a bit more painful than before. I didn't think anything about it until close to 5 am, when I realized I was having some semi-regular contractions.

I still didn't think it was labor, but out of curiosity I started keeping an eye on the clock. They were ranging from 8-12 minutes apart, but they were starting to feel deeper and more in the back, which was the main difference I remembered from real labor contractions vs. the months of braxton hicks. I lay in bed debating whether to wake Kevin. After barely making it to the hospital last time, I knew I shouldn't delay too long, but I wasn't feeling any urgency.

A bit before 6am I woke up Kevin and said, “I'm having some contractions...”
He sprang up. “Should we go to the hospital?”
“Well...I don't know yet...but maybe we should pack some things?”
He hurriedly packed our hospital bag and woke my mom, who was coming with us, while I lay in bed trying to determine if this was really labor. I had a few stronger contractions interspersed with weaker ones. Juliana came in about this time, confused and a little disturbed to see our light on and us packing up.

About 6:20 I decided we'd better go to the hospital, just in case. This time it was a peaceful drive. Kevin asked if I wanted music, but I just wanted to sit in silence and think about the possibility of labor. Contractions were around 6-8 minutes apart and still varying in intensity. I was halfway certain we'd end up getting sent home, mostly because I was so sure the baby wouldn't come this early.

I had to pause for a couple of contractions as we made our way through the parking garage and waited to register. During contractions I thought, “Okay, maybe this is the real thing,” but in between I didn't feel like I was in labor.
Settled in at triage; Kevin trying out his camera
I was settled into a triage bed for monitoring and was 5cm dilated when checked around 7 am. I settled back in the bed to rest as much as possible in case this really was labor. I kept thinking about the things I had still been planning to accomplish. I hadn't really gotten around to thinking about labor or preparing for baby, and I really wanted to get her hat finished!

I decided to give the girls a quick call since we left home just as they were waking up. Adalyn listened to me say hi, but she wouldn't say anything to me. I told Juliana we were at the hospital.
“Is the baby coming?” She asked.
“I'm not sure,” I said, “We're going to see.”
“Oh. Are you having a nice time there?”
I laughed. “Yeah, I guess so. I just wanted to say hi for a minute.”
“Oh. Well I could talk for longer!”

Contractions calmed down a little for a while, a number of wimpy ones interspersed with a few stronger ones. After a while they settled into about 5 minutes apart. I was still comfortable lying back on the bed, gripping the bed rails and breathing through the stronger contractions. Kevin sat by my side and mom offered me water and juice, but mostly I just wanted to lie there and be quiet and try to mentally prepare for labor.

When I was checked a little after 8 am, I was 6cm dilated. “You are definitely progressing,” the midwife said, “So we'll get you checked into a room.” While I was starting to feel like it was real labor, this was the confirmation I needed that we really would be having our baby today.

The L&D was completely full, so we waited while a room was cleaned for us to move into. I spent a few minutes talking to mom and Kevin about my labor desires and our plans for after the baby was born, since that was one of the things we hadn't gotten around to yet.

The contractions were getting too intense for lying down. I sat on the edge of the bed, leaning into Kevin and breathing through the contractions, the hymn words going through my head: “Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” I imagined pushing the baby down with my breath which helped me feel I was working with the contractions instead of just waiting them out.

We were able to move into a room at about 9am, and I was eager to get in the water. I started in the shower but quickly decided to try a bath instead. The bathroom had a fabulous, deep birthing tub and as I sunk into the water, I immediately felt soothed by the water. I sat up and gripped the hand-holds during contractions and sank back to relax in between.

The midwife and nurse checked in occasionally but mostly they just let me labor in peace, which was what I needed. Kevin rubbed my back and mom brought me cold washcloths. They reminded me to breathe slowly and stay loose. The contractions were getting more intense and were 2-3 minutes apart, but I could still handle them well. I breathed loudly through each one, occasionally moaning but mostly staying pretty quiet. I was very inward focused. If I focused hard on breathing then the pain was quite manageable. In between contractions, I was still able to think clearly, very different from the exhausted stupor I felt as I got toward the end of my first labor.

Sometime around 10:20, I started having trouble breathing through contractions, and I realized I was feeling a little pushy. The nurse asked if I'd like to be checked but I said I'd wait a little longer. I didn't feel quite ready to push.

I was reminded of my labor with Juliana, when I felt the urge to push long before I was ready. I didn't recognize it at the time; I just knew that everything felt too hard to handle. Its hard not to feel a little panicky when your body starts to take over and feel beyond your control, but this time I reminded myself that I knew what was going on, and when I was ready, I'd be able to push.

After just a couple more contractions I said the nurse had better check me. “Oh yeah, you're complete!” The midwife asked if I wanted to get out of the bath, and I decided I'd better do it now if I was going to. Between contractions I got out of the tub and made my way to the edge of the bed.

“What position would you like for pushing?” the midwife asked. “You can stand by the bed, or you can lie down or kneel on the bed if you'd like...” “I'm not sure,” I said, “Maybe I'll just see how it goes.”

As the next contraction started, my water broke forcefully and I felt baby rushing through the birth canal. I wasn't consciously pushing but my body was bearing down on its own. I felt the impossible pressure of her head as she was crowning – then the head was out. I instinctively reached down and grabbed her head and then her body as it slid out a few seconds later. I felt the deep relief that comes with birthing a baby – plus surprise that she had come out so suddenly. The midwife dove down to grab the baby as well, so fortunately there was no danger of me dropping her. I always thought it would be cool to catch my own baby, though, so that was pretty fun!

“I thought she would come quickly once the water broke, but I didn't think it would be that quickly!” The midwife exclaimed.

I held the baby awkwardly between my legs as the midwife helped me bring her up to my belly. After a brief silence, baby started to wail loudly. I managed to get onto the bed where I could hold baby on my chest.
A few minutes after birth, still covered in a healthy coat of vernix
I kept her on my chest and waited for the placenta, which came shortly after. The midwife examined it, showed me the unusual cord attachment, and considerately asked if I wanted to keep it (I didn't, fyi). She discovered I had a second degree tear, something I was hoping to avoid, but the 30 second delivery meant there wasn't much of a chance to control the speed. That part felt like Adalyn's birth! Apparently I no longer push babies out; when they're ready they just barrel out on their own.

The nurses took the baby to the other side of the room to check her out while the midwife put in a few stitches. This really is my least favorite part of labor. You are so ready to be done and not have someone poking around at you. Also the afterbirth pains were starting up and by baby three, it almost feels like you're still in labor.

I heard them call out the baby's weight – 6lb 5oz. She was the smallest of my girls and almost identical to my size at birth. I was also born 2.5 weeks early.
The stitching was finished about the same time as baby's check up. Baby came back to snuggle on my chest where she nursed off and on while Kevin and I settled on her name: Nadia Charlotte. After a couple of hours I realized Kevin might want a chance to hold her too!

It was pretty much my ideal labor. Juliana's birth was 15.5 hours - not bad for a first labor I guess, but I found it difficult, overwhelming, and exhausting. Adalyn's birth was less than 2 hours and quite exciting - it happened so quickly I hardly even had time to process it. Nadia's birth was 5.5 hours and very peaceful. We had plenty of time to settle in at the hospital, and the only part that was rushed was her actual emergence. The labor was never unmanageable and I really felt in the zone, able to focus completely and breathe through the difficult contractions all the way to the end.
Later that afternoon, the girls came to visit, excited to see meet their new baby sister. Juliana was especially enamored – Adalyn was a little more interested in exploring the hospital room. They both gave lots of kisses and Adalyn practiced saying “Nadia, Nadia, Nadia” while playing hide and seek behind the curtain.

“So,” Juliana asked once again, “Did you have a good time today?”
“Yes,” I told her. “I guess I did.”
It wasn't the cute owl hat I had planned, but I did finish a hat for Nadia's homecoming!

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