There are so many fun and exciting things happening here lately, and I am not always taking the time to post like I should. We took a break from the shopping and baking and wrapping and playing to check in with my doctor for the big 20-week anatomy scan. I’m really at 19 weeks, but they scheduled me a week early since the official 20 week mark falls in the busy holiday week. We were not surprised at all to hear the ultrasound technician say, “It’s a girl!” But that didn’t make it any less exciting.
It’s probably just the timing since this ultrasound is about nine-ish days before mine was in my first pregnancy, but her little profile really does look so different than Jude’s did. This baby wasted no time at all showing us what she was because probably 20 seconds after we started looking in, she did this.
There was lots of other movement, and except for a moment when I had to roll over a bit to make her show us the back of her head and top of her spine, she was really cooperative. I do find myself asking, “Are they sure it’s a girl?” in a way I didn’t with my son. Maybe that’s because you are sort of looking at the absence of something, and not the presence. But she jumped around A LOT during the ultrasound, so I’m feeling pretty sure we have a correct guess here. That first shot was also clear enough, even for my layman eyes, that I think I might have been a bit disappointed if I didn’t want to know the sex of the baby. Her froggy legs jumped around a good bit in that position, and I was thinking I didn’t see anything in between them before the ultrasound tech told us the “official” word.
And all those old wives’ tales about pregnancy? They’ve all been true for me. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I’ve felt so incredibly different with this pregnancy. My nausea first trimester was much more pronounced. My fatigue lasted longer. My face broke out like an adolescent for three straight months which never happened with my son. My boobs ached so intensely from the very beginning that they convinced me to take a pregnancy test a full week before my period was even due. With my last pregnancy, I needed to shop for larger bras about one month before I delivered, most likely just from general water weight. But with this one? New bras by week eight. It’s like anything hormonal is on overdrive with this pregnancy, and though I spent years assuming I’d have two boys for some reason, I’ve been expecting this girl news since about month two. I’ve heard the saying that girls steal their mother’s beauty during pregnancy, and friends, I am here to tell you that’s true. I look at photos of myself during Jude’s pregnancy, and I was glowing – best skin and hair ever. This go-around, I feel tired and frumpy rather than beautiful. Oh well, small price to pay for a new little life.
In spite of our assurance for months that we were having a girl, there has been much discussion on boy names in this house – primarily just because we absolutely could not settle on one. I had a favorite, and Scott did too, but we didn’t see eye-to-eye. We finally found a common ground with another name we both liked and couldn’t find a middle name that worked with it. A girl name though? I think we’ve been settled since before I even took the home pregnancy test. Funny how that works.
So this is real, folks! I’m having a baby, and she looks healthy, and I’m having a GIRL which will be so different in many ways, but also just the same. I’ve got a million other thoughts swirling in my mind about having a daughter, and I hope to write on those in the coming weeks. For now though, just soaking up the good news and being grateful for a healthy baby kicking in my belly. So much love and anticipation makes for a really great holiday season.
Much love to you and your families as well. I’m off to finish up a few crafty Christmas gifts and cook a little in the next few days. And maybe buy something tiny and pink. Have a happy Christmas!
I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I last wrote here. I’m so grateful for the comments and emails of congratulations. And equally grateful to be turning the page to a second trimester without persistent nausea and (mostly) without fatigue. There are good times ahead, I know.
October went so much faster than I expected seeing as though I was alone with my toddler for much of it. I don’t like to say much here or anywhere else online or publicly when the husband is away for business. In all reality, the likelihood of some scary crazyperson reading a mommy blog, determining where I live, and coming to kill me is probably pretty low, but it just feels weird to announce to All of The Internet that I am alone here. Now that he’s back though, I can tell you that he was across the world (literally!) in South Africa for two full weeks as I courageously fought the battle of parenting a toddler while alone and pregnant.
It really isn’t as scary as it sounds, and I just fall in to a rhythm similar to when I have a co-parent, but there is a lot of stuff here that gets lost or left behind in the process. Like the mounds of clean laundry that are folded in my master bedroom and reaching unchartered heights in stacks that need to be put away, and now they have collected dust so long I wonder if they need to be washed again. Or the action of repeatedly squishing the trash to the bottom of the can so I don’t have to walk it out. Or thinking I really should vacuum the stairs or mop the floor but somehow everything takes longer when you can’t say, “Go play with your dad for a minute” and get half an hour of catch up every night before dinner. There are a hundred tasks like that I somehow leave behind when I am going it alone. He’s usually not gone for more than one week at a time, but I found that two weeks and two weekends definitely wore me out a lot more than what I m used to. I’m happy to have some balance restored around here now.
My dogs escaped somehow last week, and they found my neighbor’s pet ducks. I don’t have to tell you the rest of that story to know how it ends. Then the next day, I went for my end-of-first-trimester appointment with my midwife, and there was a long five minutes of searching for the little one’s heartbeat with no results. They sent me for an ultrasound to follow up immediately, and it turns out all is well. Someone didn’t want to be heard on the doptone monitor but looks just fine on the screen. This looks a lot more like a baby now, and I saw that little pitter-patter on the screen with beating heart and lots of movement that eased my worried self. Crisis averted, but it made for a draining day and some really scary moments. My friend Eileen says the baby is in “that Teddy Graham stage,” and I have to agree with that description.
But I got an enormous reward for two weeks of solo hard work. On Saturday, I celebrated the one hundreth anniversary of my sorority chapter with an all-day event that reconnected me with some faces I haven’t seen in ages.
Sororities are different things to different people, and I can confidently say I would not have joined a Greek organization had I attended a large state school. I went to a small, private women’s college, and most are surprised to find that many sororities were founded at women’s colleges or other smaller institutions. And though they find their way off-track at moments, the whole idea was to support and enrich the lives of young women when they weren’t often met with such support in the land of higher education.
And my tiny little chapter turns one hundred years old this fall, so we threw a big ol’ party! My Saturday was full of catching up with old friends and seeing familiar faces and listening to stories from eight different decades of women who were present there to share a common bond. Eight decades. To think of what that means is pretty astounding. Rewind from internet, from cell phones, from the days when it was socially acceptable for women to drive cars or wear pants. It’s fascinating to think of how much has changed and what stays the same. I’m always proud to be women’s college educated, but on certain days like this, I am especially honored to be in this group. It was a day and night that recharged my batteries for a long time.
Returning home is nice too, but it was met with Halloween madness, a stubborn head cold, and mounds of catch-up from my extended stint as a single parent and my night away with girlfriends. Much too much to do this week, but my tank feels full, and that’s such a rare and valued thing for a mother. Happy November, reader!
So there’s something I’ve been keeping from you, and it’s kind of a big deal.
My posting has slowed significantly in recent months because I find it very hard to just talk about little things while ignoring an elephant in the room. That might be best though because if I would have been writing, I’m pretty sure I’d just be telling you how tired I am and how often I felt like I was going to puke and how I have been home alone with a toddler for the vast majority of my first trimester. It hasn’t been easy, and nobody likes a whiny voice.
So I am here to say that I am ten weeks and I feel as though I am ever so slowly coming out from under a rock, and we are very excited. I had a feeling something was happening in my body, and we were anticipating this baby so very badly, and I pee’d on a stick seven whole weeks ago before I’d even missed a period. So it feels like I have known forever. I’m going to try not to make this just a birthy blog, but admittedly it has been on my mind a lot lately.
I’m not quite to the end of the first trimester yet when you are “supposed” to tell people and I’ll wait a week or two before blasting it to the uninterested masses on my personal Facebook, but after weeks of queasiness and fatigue and seeing a little heartbeat on an ultrasound screen, my heart is in this enough that I’d need to talk it out somewhere if, God forbid, something went wrong. But for now, all signs are good and as miserable as I’ve felt at moments, I’m generally just grateful to get to do this all over again and to expand my little family with a brand new person. A whole new person. That’s so crazy when you really think about it. I AM HAVING A BABY!
I used them all the time last year during Jude’s tiny baby days, and I thought I would give them up this year since they are, ahem, a little feminine. But really? Girls wear camo and people think it’s cute, so I’ll ride this current as long as I can – that is to say until he is old enough to tell me mama, take these off. I look ridiculous.
The charm of overflowing leg chub is undeniable but it’s not just that. They are really convenient, too. Diaper changes are essentially wrestling matches these days, and no pants to remove is one less step. Which of course means he can get back to fun stuff. Like chasing the dogs. Or finding and eating week-old cheerios on the floor. Or getting stuck between pieces of furniture.
This post is linked to Things I Love Thursdays over at The Diaper Diaries. Go see what everyone else is loving this week!
It’s a strange feeling to look at a clock and remember exactly what you were doing at this time one year ago. And tonight, I can’t help but reflect on the work I was enduring last year on the eve of your birthday. It’s hard to believe you turn one tomorrow. I can’t begin to recap the past 12 months for you, but alas there is really no reason to. I know you’ll one day tire of the millions of photos your dad and I took and the million tiny moments I chronicled on this journal.
I wonder, often, what it will be like. Growing up in this new age when there are so many ways to communicate with the world and your own self. You can’t hide from anything anymore. Those 16 hours of unmedicated labor? Those are documented. That time you threatened my intact vagina with 3.5 hours of pushing? That’s documented. That time we survived a 5 hour plan ride with you? That’s documented. That time you forced me to go a year without a night’s sleep? Yep, that’s here, too. That time you bit me while I was nursing you, and I received an open wound in the worst possible place? Did I never tell you about that? Go throw up, and I’ll wait here. I guess that one is now documented, too. If you are reading this years down the road and feeling guilty, realize that it’s all part of a mother’s job – the guilt. And send me a bill for your therapy.
There are already things that I hope you can forgive me for one day. …. Feeling hurt about the manner of your arrival.Retelling that war story too many times. Explaining the difference between gerunds and participles. Begging you to please stop crying so I could just get some sleep already. Giving you a name that will surely usher sing-alongs from annoying, drunken college girls one day. Subjecting you to Joni Mitchell. Already teaching you how to fetch Mama some coffee. Lecturing you on the surprising thematic similarities between Dr. Seuss and William Blake.
And sadly, this is only the beginning. I will screw up many times, Jude. But you’ll need to bear with me. This parenting thing is new, and I do the best I can. If you are reading this now, as your adult self, you are probably thinking of all those times I messed up. You can stop tallying them up now and just know Mama is sorry.
You’ve grown so much in these months. Your newfound mobility, your occasionally overzealous excitement, your capacity to love so openly and enthusiastically, your curiosity, your laughter, your obvious super-genius abilities….. This is all to say I am already proud of who you are, little man, and of how far you’ve come.
You are so different from the day we brought you home. I’m a little different, too, I suppose. I don’t cry about nothing. I don’t walk around shirtless and curse loudly or throw things at your father. I shower. I don’t wonder if I am meant to be a mother. Now I know I am. I’m meant to be yours.
But back to you. Last October you were a tiny creature full of froggy little arms and legs and awkward yawns. I was enamoured, and people warned me I’d spoil you, but I didn’t care. Day and night, you slept in the crook of my arm for 14 weeks. We had a rough start, little one, but those weeks were a new beginning for us. It’s because of that time that I can see my hard work to get you here as beautiful in its own way.
I feel pretty proud that I’ve taught you quite a few things in the past 12 months. How to dance to music on the stereo. How to eat like a well-mannered gentleman, cramming fists full of food in your mouth and throwing it all over the floor. How to hug like you mean it. How to laugh with your mouth wide open. How to read books, or I guess you are looking at the illustrations but whatever. How to say “Baaath!” enthusiastically when you see that water running in the tub and we get ready for the nightly ritual.
But here’s the good part. No matter what I’ve taught you, you’ve managed to instruct me in so much more.
I’ve learned that the most amazing moments in life happen when you are not paying attention. Then you look down at the tiny person sitting in your lap and realize he’s real, he’s loved, and he loves you.
I’ve learned that your father is incredible, and we are so lucky to have him in our little family.
I’ve learned that rocking a baby as the sun comes up is the best possible feeling in the whole world, regardless of how little sleep you’ve had. There is no better metaphor, no better way, to say welcome to the new day and let’s make it count.
I’ve realized I am capable of so much more than I thought I was.
I’ve realized being a mama is hard. Real hard.
I’ve learned to love like I didn’t know I could before. And this is coming from someone who has always loved generously, was always lovin’ on something – my books, my family, my food, my dogs, my travels, my students, my wine…. but here we are with a whole new kind of love, my boy. One that supersedes all the rest. One that somehow puts the whole world in clearer focus for me. I breathe life in a little deeper, and there is so much contentment filling those new spaces.
So I pray, Jude, that in the decades ahead, I can somehow communicate to you the lessons you’ve taught me. One day when I’m long gone and the world is undoubtedly different than it is now, I hope you’ll look back at my time with you and know life and love like you’ve given me.
The next week promises to be full of lots of reflecting because (gulp) my baby will be ONE in 8 days. (I say that like it’s something new when all this journal really ever contains are random reflections anyway.) Anywho…..I dug up some baby photos and here’s what I found.
me at 12 months
and Jude at 11 months and 2 weeks
I remember when Jude was something like 10 days old and I was hormonal and overwhelmed with the weight of so many things at that point (aren’t we all?) and a visitor came to our home and uttered these exact words, “Well, Katie. I’m sorry. He’s a spittin’ image of his daddy. I mean he looks just like Scott did as a newborn.”
Really? Because I just withstood 9 months of discomfort. 8.5 months without a damn cocktail. Then 16 hours of completely unmedicated labor. Then 3.5 hours of attempting to push this kid out of my vagina. Oh yeah, then a major emergency surgery followed. And I’m currently his sole source of nutrition, but whatever. He has none of my genes? That’s cool. No biggie.
I admit that I was hormonal and anything but rational at that time, but please be forewarned never, never tell a new mama the baby doesn’t share her traits at all. Because even if he doesn’t, she needs to feel like he does. For a short while anyway. (Am I the only crazy one who feels this way?) And who knows? The characteristics might show up later like Jude’s did.
The truth is there are aspects of me that I hope to pass on to my Jude – my hair color, my tolerance of things that are different from me, my love for good music, my picky-eaters-are-unbearable philosophy, my appreciation for roots and all things southern and homey, my ear for poetry, and my love of books.
But there are things I don’t want him to get from me either – my at times ridiculously overactive imagination, my tendency to blush, my inability to say no to chocolate or pushy people, my excessive worry.
I’m hoping he inherits Scott’s humor, his intellect, his love for travel, his loyalty, and his decent singing voice without picking up that gene that inspires a passionately undying love of Star Wars.
I guess I am hoping we somehow pass down all that is best of ourselves to him. But isn’t that what all parents hope for?
So mamas (or future mamas), what do you hope your little ones get from you? What do you hope they don’t?
We are back from Seattle, and I am busy catching up on things around here. Rather than writing a post about how great our trip was, I figured I’d share a couple of scrapbook pages I finished. (You can click on the image for a larger view.) Traveling with a baby was SO much easier than I had expected. It was fun!
This is the third part of the series. Be sure to begin with chapter one and chapter two to get the entire story.
This chapter, in ways, is the hardest for me to write, but also the most important, I think.
The weeks that followed my delivery were rough. There was the physical healing with both an incision and some vaginal tearing as well, and there was so so much disappointment. I’m not saying that cesareans are like this for everyone. I know plenty of women who prefer them, and I understand that every woman’s situation and response is unique; all I can write is my own story and what it was for me. I think women who have a hard time healing emotionally after a cesarean birth are often seen as crazy people who care about the vaginal birth above the health of your baby. This is not the case at all, and I understand that surgical birth can save lives that would have been lost a few generations ago. Nevertheless, I feel like a hole is carved in the memory of my son’s birth. I will never feel my first-born, warm and fresh, laid on my chest. I will never be the first one to hold him. I will never feel him pass through my body on his entrance to the world. It is a moment I can never get back, and one that I craved not because I’m selfish or because it’s a medal of honor or because I wanted to feel pain but because I am a mother, and that is how my body is designed to begin that journey.
Yes, I was in love with this beautiful boy and admiring him more everyday, but what surgical birth robbed me of is the feeling of confidence and contentment in my own body, my own abilities as a mother. I’ve written here before about my problems breastfeeding, and that certainly added to my self-doubt. I can remember one instance where my mother and sister came by for a visit, and Jude was something like a week old. I sat on my couch in my dirty, sweaty, stained pajamas and cried about how I was defective. My body didn’t work. I was not capable of pushing a baby out, and now I couldn’t breastfeed. I truly felt, at that moment, like I wasn’t cut out for motherhood and I didn’t deserve my baby. My cesarean robbed me of joy I should have taken from those first few weeks, and that is something I can never, ever get back.
In the end, it took many things from me. What did it give me? A healthy baby boy first and foremost, but a few other things as well. It gave me an appreciation for my hours and hours of intense unmedicated labor. It is because of that time spent working through every rhythm that I can remember Jude’s delivery as ours alone. When I think back to his arrival, it is those 22 hours spent in a dimly lit room focusing and breathing with my husband and my doula that I reminisce on. Many women look back at natural childbirth and remember pain pain pain. I sincerely appreciate that pain and will do it again gladly. I am not sure I would have that admiration for the process of labor if mine had not ended the way it did. My cesearean also gave me a ridiculously stubborn determination to breastfeed. I’d like to think that, even with a perfect natural birth, I would have kept fighting until we got breastfeeding right, but one thing I know is that I craved that confidence in my body and my abilities, and I refused to let my surgery take away my nursing relationship with my son. It was a lot of crying, a lot of pain, weeks of hard work, a pediatric ENT, a frenulectomy, and 5 lactation consultants, but in the end, I felt relieved to have us back on nature’s path that I felt was right for us. Lastly, my cesarean has left me plugged in to the birth community in a way that has proven so helpful. My local chapter of ICAN is very active, and their message board has been infinitely interesting and useful for problems big or small. My interest in birth, ongoing as a result of my cesarean and the choices it has left me with, is blooming in to an interest in informed parenthood that is continually connecting me with others whose stories and advice make me a better mother everyday.
So at the end of the day, what do I know for sure? I know that birth is a natural process. I know that every woman’s body is different, and nature knows what is best. I know that medical intervention is necessary sometimes, and at that moment, it was necessary for my Jude to arrive safely. I also know that medical intervention is overused, and we have to change the way we view birth in this country. I know that, when you really look at the research, VBACs are indeed safer than repeat cesareans. I know that sometimes life is completely unfair and it absolutely sucks. I know that a delivery that was so frightening and so difficult has bonded me with a little boy in a way that I never dreamed was possible. I know that breastfeeding does more than nurture a baby, it heals a mother, too.
I believe that every baby has the right to choose his or her birthday. I believe that every mother has the right to refuse medical intervention that is not absolutely necessary. I believe that even informed women can be bullied into decisions they know are not right. I believe that doctors who intimidate women into deliveries that are “convenient” and overly-controlled make us feel powerless, and they should be called to task for this. I believe that birth is a rite of passage, one of the rare moments in life that women remember for every second thereafter, one that changes who you are in a single instant. I also believe that one day, I will have a beautiful, natural delivery that will validate my body’s abilities and be a source of redemption for me as a woman.
One of the things I love about the blogging community is the inspiration I find from all of you. Kelle Hampton’s approach to life’s obstacles sheds light on my own challenges every time I read her posts. In comparison, my birth story does not hold a candle to hers and neither does my situation, but she wrote something once that hit me at my center. She said birth is a beautiful transformation, “Especially when it’s a little bit scary. It rocks you to the core. Picks you up, smacks you down hard and then rebuilds you with all new parts…..the minute you welcome [a baby] into your life, you inherit a thicker skin…because the bus will hit you plenty of times to the point you’ll think you damn near died. But you don’t. You pick yourself off the ground, dust off your knees…and move on. Because beauty awaits. The beauty that fills in all the holes and rough spots.”
And rough spots there are. The scariness, the ugliness, the overwhelming unfairness is what really began my journey to motherhood in a big way. I cannot forget that. I cannot pretend it didn’t happen. But for now, I can dust off and move on and cherish all that it taught me. I can’t say I’m grateful for it yet, but we’ll get there. In the meantime, there’s too much joy to dwell on the ugly and too much love to be weighed down with disappointment.
First I have to admit that relaying this part of the story is only possible because of the timeline my doula provided and the details my husband and sister remember. While I remember most of it in one way or another, the idea of time is completely and totally foreign to me when I think back to that day. I also have to admit I had to let go of a lot of vanity showing these photos, but at the end of the day, I am so, so grateful I have them.
Checking in to the hospital, they confirmed all of my medical information and verified that I was being admitted as a result of low fluid levels. I said, yes, my fluid was a 7, so it had gotten progressively lower, but I explained that I didn’t feel that urgent. The nurse glanced at me, smirked, and said the doctor had written fluid level of three on my forms, but that he had a habit of “fibbing a little to speed things up.” This bothered me immensely, and it certainly did nothing to calm my nerves, but it did verify that I, in fact, was right in knowing that a seven was nothing of concern. She completed a cervical exam though, and I was 100% effaced and 3 cm dilated at check-in, so that was good news. At 6:30 pm, they inserted Cervadil and told me to get some sleep. Scott and I talked, called my doula, and generally wasted time and watched television until we decided to try to get some sleep. The hospital had offered me a mild and safe sedative, and I took it hoping to calm down, get some rest, and have energy for a Pitocin drip at 7am the next morning.
I dozed from something like 10 pm until 11:45, but some intense cramping kept waking me. At midnight, a nurse came in and stated that I must be dehydrated because I was having contractions. (Nothing to do with my being 41.1 weeks pregnant, I’m sure.) She hooked up a bag of fluids to my i.v. port and left the room. I’d been drinking water all day, mind you, but on came the intravenous fluids. These pains continued to get stronger and stronger, and I certainly couldn’t sleep through them. At 1:00 a.m. , the same nurse came in and removed the Cervadil after telling me that I was, for sure, in labor. So my induction consisted of about 6-7 hours of inserted synthetic prostaglandins, but that’s it. No intravenous Pitocin! I woke Scott at about 2:30 to tell him I needed help focusing and getting through these contractions.
By 3:15 a.m. things are moving along faster than I expected, and we call my doula, Pam. She arrives at the hospital by 4:30, and according to her notes, my contractions are steady at every 2-3 minutes. By 6:30 a.m., my sister arrives as part of my labor team and my contractions are coupling, as Scott said at that time, “It’s like aftershocks after earthquakes.” A nurse tells me to lie on my left side to regulate them.Things start to get a little hazy here, but I remember a lot of back labor and some very focused breathing. My water breaks – in a steady drip, not a gush – at 8:30 a.m., and my amazing husband is behind me all the way. My contractions are definitely felt in both my belly and my back.
At 9:10 the on-call doctor comes in and is so welcoming and encouraging. Her exam shows that I am at about 8-9 cm with a noticeable anterior lip of cervix. She manually breaks my bag of waters (what was left) hoping that will speed things along and help me get over that cervical lip. The baby is a -1 station which is still a bit high for this stage of the game. I have an awesome nurse named Tracy who is letting me go off the monitors fairly often and move around to ease the pain. She’s also holding them to my belly as I bounce on the ball which is amazingly supportive.
I remember bouncing on the ball and saying, “Everyone leave me alone. I need to go to the bathroom.” I get up to head that direction and nurses in the room scream, NO. One asks if it feels like I need to poop which is usually not information I willingly share, but I assure her that yes, it does. The nurse informs me that I could be very, very close to push time, but that I need another check before I get the okay. They check me again and I am at, as my doctor describes, a 9.5 – that damn lip still won’t move. During my next contraction, my doctor tries to manually move the anterior lip, but it won’t budge. She tells me to open my pelvic floor as best I can, but fight the urge to push. If you’ve been in labor, you know what this means. It’s like saying fight the urge to vomit, not to mention that opening your pelvic floor while fighting the urge to push is opposite in nature.
This is where things get really, really fuzzy. They catheterize me (ouch!) to move things along faster, new people come in the room with all the baby lamps and gear, my doctor places the covers over her shoes. Everyone is saying I’m almost there, and one nurse tells me that she knew from the moment she walked in hours ago that I would make it all the way. “I could just tell when I saw you, I said, ‘she’s going to do it.'” I start to cry saying I will meet him soon and this is really hard not to push. I want to see him. I just want to hold him. I want to push. Can I please push? I am going to push? I’m trying so hard. This is so hard. Then we find that we really aren’t that close as my body refuses to fully dilate. Some time between 9:30 and 11:00 a.m., I go from feeling a little pushy to oh-my-god-I-am-going-to-push-this-baby-out-I-can’t-help-it. The urge to push at that point is the most overwhelming physical sensation I have ever felt in my life. Eventually I find myself lying on my side on the bed with Scott behind me, and I am kicking my legs like scissors as hard as I can with every urge to push.
The rhythm of things at this point is urge to push, contraction, rest between contractions. Urge to push, contraction, rest between contractions. Again and again. I remember feeling the contraction swell like a wave and being so grateful for the pain, loving the pain, relishing the pain because that meant that the pushing feeling would disappear. I loved the rest between contractions , too. But I would get scared after a few seconds because I knew the pushing feeling was coming. I’m telling everyone I am so scared because I am pushing. I can’t help it. I’m pushing. The nurses start to look concerned. My doctor comes in, She tells me that she knows I didn’t want to go this route, but that an epidural may help to open me up. Fighting the urge to push is keeping things tight. She also warns that tearing my cervix would lead to major swelling and we really don’t need for that to happen. She leaves the room, and I say there’s no way I am getting an epidural when I have made it to a 9.5. Then some more time passes, I don’t know how long, and I say I can’t do it anymore. I get an epidural or I push this baby out. Now.
So the anesthesiologist is called, and it seems to take her forever to get here, but she finally does and the epi is inserted. I hate it, and it feels so weird and disconnected, but I am not trying to push him out. I am not yelling or crying or kicking my legs like scissors, so that’s good. Scott is relieved. I don’t blame him; being the spectator cannot be easy.
Time is so weird when you are in labor. For some women, they think it’s been hours when it’s only been minutes. For me, time was racing without my realizing it. The clock had been covered in our room since about 4am. I honestly thought it might have been something like 11 or 12. When my doula told me it was past 4pm and that I had fought the intense urge to push for 5 hours, I was shocked. No wonder everyone else looked so exhausted.
By 6:10 pm , I complete dilation, so my doctor’s suggestion of an epidural, in this case, was a very good one. She warns me, though, that Jude was still quite high, and it might be a good idea to sit up in the bed and “labor him down” for a while and make pushing easier. I agree, and at 8:30, we finally had the go ahead to push. The first couple of pushes, I can’t feel anything, so I tell the nurse to turn down the epi. Every time she turned it down, I tell her more, more because it is so incredibly weird to feel so much so intensely and then nothing at all. So by the time we are really pushing, I am feeling the pain and the urge – although not nearly as strong as before. The first hour or so of pushing, everyone is cheering me on and they sometimes say “That was a good one!” or “You brought him down.” They give me a mirror for motivation, and soon we see hair! Not far down; he certainly isn’t crowning. But up a ways, we can definitely see hair. I am so happy and relieved after almost 20 hours of labor; I know I will see him soon.
But after a while, a weird thing happens. He doesn’t seem to be moving anymore and people stop congratulating me. My doctor is trying to get her hand as close to his head as possible and I am bleeding from some internal tears. No one is really saying anything. Scott is cheering and motivating, and my doula is patting my leg and encouraging me, but I can tell something has changed. My doctor mumbles something I cannot hear, and my sister looks at me and said, “He’s posterior, Katie.” Okay, I say. So what do we do? Should I change positions? My doctor explains that she doesn’t think he’ll get out “this way,” but that his heart rate is okay, so I can keep trying. In hindsight, I know she knew where this was headed, but I am forever grateful that she allowed me to make this as much my birth as it could have been. I decide I am not done yet. I push for another 40 minutes or so. Finally I lie back on the bed and just say, okay.
My doctor says hold on a minute and puts her hand up me. I know she is pushing him back up. The urge to push is back, and I want to do it so badly. I suddenly realize I am really, really exhausted. I start to cry and say it hurts. My doula rubs my leg and says, “You are so strong. You’ve done so much, but we have just a little more work before the end okay.” The doctor leaves the room. The lights go on. The room fills with people I haven’t seen yet. They pull up my hospital gown and shave me. Another anesthesiologist comes in and doses the epi really high. I start shaking uncontrollably. Like seizures shaking, seriously, out of control. I vow VBAC for my next baby, and I am told “They don’t do those anymore. They are too dangerous.” I am wheeled in the hallway and to the OR. The surgeon shakes my hand (my doctor is assisting him). I’m just crying and I say, I tried so hard. I tried so so hard. I’m still shaking uncontrollably.
I feel them tugging. I smell burning. My doctor pulls my baby out of me at 11:46 pm.My husband shows him to me. He is beautiful, but I cannot touch him or hold him. I am shaking too much. Scott tells me he has my eyelashes, and that is the last thing I remember. I wake up 2 hours later, and my husband and son are next to me. I am a mess. It was only the next day, that I could smile like this.
Somehow the ugliness, the disconnectedness, the unfairness of my delivery melts a little more every time I look at this photo. I worked so hard, and I loved him so much already.
So what caused my cesarean? I guess I’ll never know for sure. For a long time, it was my belief that Jude was not positioned correctly and that in a few days time, he probably would have maneuvered to the right fit and labor would have begun. No woman has ever been pregnant forever, and I would not have been the first. I’ve read that Cervadil is stronger than it’s given credit to be and that it can, in fact, induce labor. When I read those sorts of things, it’s my belief that my induction led to my cesarean. Worst of all, I feel like I was bullied into the induction and can remember that sick feeling in my stomach when I knew things were going down the wrong road. It’s hard not to blame myself, to feel stupid and a little broken.
On the other hand, I’ve read – and even been told by a reputable midwife – that if my body responded to Cervadil in a few short hours, I was ready to go and in early labor anyhow and it most likely had no effect on the outcome. I know other mothers who ended up in the operating room for a stubborn posterior baby and had no medical intervention at all. When I hear those sorts of things, I believe that there was really no “cause” and that is perhaps even more frustrating than playing the blame game.
I can question every decision made along the way. What if they didn’t break my water? What if they never gave me fluids? And the big one, what if they had just let me push despite the large lip? Why would nature give me such a srong urge if it wasn’t time? Even in hindsight, there are so many uncertainties. I know a few things for sure though: I certainly didn’t grow a baby too large for my pelvis (one that was over a pound less than estimated, by the way). I wasn’t incapable of giving birth vaginally because God made me some odd way. I don’t think my body is a lemon, but I did for a really, really long time. The road to healing was pretty long, and for more on that, read the third chapter of my experience.
It’s about time. Jude turns 9 months this week- which is so hard to believe, by the way. And I can’t believe we are nearing the one-year mark. This year has been full of so many surprises, and when I reflect on who I was 12 months ago, I realize I have learned a lot. I’ve learned life is not always fair. Choices are not always easy to make. I’ve learned that motherhood is amazing, challenging, and in a weird way, also healing and redeeming.
I went to visit my friend last week after she had a baby in the same hospital where Jude was delivered, and so many details of Jude’s birth came racing back for me. Then this week we have ventured to Seattle to tag along with Scott while he works, and I actually get some time to reflect and write while Jude naps (instead of racing around the house to clean or deal with something that needs attention). Writing is healing in ways, and this has really helped to end one chapter and move on to some more exciting things with a growing, active boy. It’s taken me so long to sit down and write this, and even now, I’m not totally ready. There’s always something in the writing of things that makes you see everything more clearly, though. So here we are. I’m dividing this in to three pieces. The before, the during, and the after. It makes sense to me, and it avoids the Longest Post Ever that I won’t even want to read myself.
So let’s rewind. My pregnancy. It was totally uneventful as I felt pretty good (comparatively), and my round belly displayed all the signs of a growing, healthy baby. I was at the same OB practice I’d gone to for something like 5 years, and I found my doctor through his ASTOUNDING reputation in the Atlanta area. I will spare you the details of my sister’s second delivery, but I’ll tell you he treated her during a difficult pregnancy that could have ended at least three times as she was in and out of the hospital for premature labor; he vaginally delivered a large baby who was positioned in a way many doctors would have shied away from and preferred the OR. It was actually my doctor who first said to me when I had my introductory prenatal appointment, “Pregnancy is a wellness. It’s natural. It’s not a sickness. Relax and know your body knows what to do.” It was his attitude that led to my interest in natural childbirth, and I enrolled in a Bradley course where I learned a lot of specific and useful information, and my birth plan revealed my preference for no induction or pain relieving drugs. I wanted to do what was best for the baby, and I also wanted an experience that would allow me to feel everything in labor and fully experience childbirth as I was created to do it.
Fast forward to October 3rd, 2009. I finished my last day of work before maternity leave, and I was 4 days out from my “due date.” From the beginning of my pregnancy, I had always proclaimed that I knew he would arrive late. I don’t know why, I always knew. Family, friends, even strangers affirmed this as they’d tell me I “looked too good to be that close.” I felt too good, too. I’d walk up and down my driveway and around my hilly neighborhood everyday to “walk that baby out” as I’d been told. My driveway is a small mountain, and this task leaves even a fit man exhausted, but I walked and walked and walked without a second thought. I was relishing these last few days off work before Jude’s arrival and taking it easy with energy to spare. Minimal anxiousness, total confidence in my body. Having taken my Bradley course, I knew precisely what would happen in each stage of labor and how my body should react. I knew that modern interventions are usually unnecessary. I knew that birth is natural for the female body and that I was created for this very thing. My original due date according to my period was October 1st. My practice later changed that date to October 7th after looking at an ultrasound and understanding that I wanted to avoid induction.
The morning of October 7th, I awoke feeling great but dreading being “overdue” and answering the questions that came with it. I went to my weekly ob visit, and my doctor was very calm and collected. He informed me that he had a family emergency he had to attend to and that he would be gone the following week. He also assured me that I was 80% effaced and that many women go in to labor within a week after their “due date,” and that would probably happen to me. If it didn’t, I was in the care of the practice’s senior doctor the following week, and he knew my baby was healthy and delivery would probably go very well. With a smile and a vote of confidence in me, he was gone. I left the appointment feeling so impressed and grateful that there was NO mention of induction on the date I was due. I knew most Atlanta practices would have scheduled an induction already, and I felt both affirmed in my choice of practice and confident in my body. That evening, Scott and I went out for eggplant parmesan (third time!), and I even indulged in a glass of red wine – a first for my pregnancy. I mustered all the patience I had and waited on Baby Jude.
As great as I felt, I also wanted to avoid induction so badly that I had been doing everything in the world to get this baby out since about 38 weeks. Walking? Check. Pineapple? Check, everyday. Eggplant? Check, three times. Sex? Super awkward and check. Nipple Stimulation? Used the breast pump, check. Herbal teas? Check. Full moon? Weekend before my due date, check. The only thing I refused to try was castor oil since I’d read a few things linking its use to meconium issues. Nothing was successful, and let me assure you that there is still nothing more frustrating to me than wanting so so badly for your body to do something when it won’t. It’s torture. As the days after my due date went by, I began to fear induction and get nervous. I was never worried about Jude’s safety; I felt good and he was active and moving. I just worried about having to be induced if I went 14 days over since I knew that even very lenient midwives usually act at that time.
On the morning of Monday, October 12th, I was 5 days “overdue” and went to the doctor for my weekly check-up. I had a vaginal exam, and there was no change in my dilation, and the new doctor (whom I’d never met before prior to this appointment) explained that Jude was still quite high. He stripped my membranes without asking “to hurry things along” and chatted with me in a way that seeped arrogance. With an ultrasound, they discovered that my fluid levels were at a 7 which is certainly a drop from my previous reading of 15. I knew from my research that normal levels were 5-25, but when we went in for the conference with the doctor, he explained that his anecdotal experience told him that 7 is definitely low, and that I needed to be induced that very night. I questioned him on this, and he informed me that he was a doctor who had been delivering babies since I was born, and that a healthy mother and baby were of his concern. When he asked,”You don’t want to risk stillbirth for the sake of a ‘birth plan’ do you?” I really began to freak out. He also told me that Jude was “at least 9 pounds” and that I was a small woman with an unusually narrow pelvis, so a cesarean was a possibility. I knew in my gut that I was not carrying a 9 pound baby, but the mere mention of a cesarean sent me to ridiculous levels of anxiety.
I left the office in such a crying mess, I couldn’t even talk. I felt so betrayed by my doctor. I knew deep inside that there was no problem and that I didn’t need to induce, but what if I was wrong? He had a point that he was certainly experienced, and I could never forgive myself if my stubbornness led to problems for Jude. The word stillbirth hung like a rock in my stomach, and I couldn’t shake it. I called the office back and asked for a few more days. The doctor himself called my personal phone, which apparently he never does, and told me that he wouldn’t feel comfortable letting me go longer and that his conscience would not let him be negligent on this. I asked for a non-stress test to assess Jude’s health more closely. He said “okay but only if it is early tomorrow a.m.” So on Tuesday the non-stress test was performed, and everything looked fine. As I used that for an argument against induction, my new doctor explained that it was just the point he was trying to make; Jude was fine now, but I was playing with fire by staying pregnant any longer, and those test results could soon change. He argued for an induction that night. I was incredibly torn, stressed, anxious, and conflicted. I did my reasearch on which doctors were on-call in which days, and I finally succeeded in convincing him to wait until Thursday, even though he was “not entirely comfortable with that.”
Looking back, I knew things were heading in a terrible direction. I spoke with my family, cried to Scott, chatted with my closest friends, all the while making it clear that I didn’t want to do this but felt pressured to do it. My friends, bless their hearts, were trying so hard to be supportive and reminding me of all the successful inductions they knew of. Nevertheless, I was so so nervous as we drove to the hospital on Wednesday evening.