Friday, December 15, 2006

Andrew's Birth Story

I think part of me was concerned that the magic of your new life would be more watered-down with a second birth, and yet here I am staring at you as you sleep with the same sense of wonder that you are actually real and finally here. How is it possible that this new life is now in the world, yawning and stretching and waving these perfect tiny hands in the air? I can’t believe we finally get to meet you. It seemed like such a long journey and such an agonizing wait, and yet now that seems so irrelevant because you are finally here!

On Tuesday, I knew this was going to be The Night. Jack and I were at the mall finding you a First Christmas ornament, and my body just felt like something was going to be happening. I had such a surge of energy. Came home and tried to rest up, but I couldn’t stop cleaning and getting things ready. We went to bed around 10:30, but I couldn’t fall asleep; I kept waiting for my labor to begin. Around midnight I was feeling contractions coming really regularly, but they weren’t very intense at all. I kept watching the clock, and they were getting so close together. But they seemed like the ones that petered out; they were just like the contractions I’d been having for weeks. I fell asleep for a few hours, and was even having contractions in my dreams. I was doing all these goofy things in the dream trying to help the contractions, like hanging from the ceiling fan and asking Dad to set it at a medium speed. So strange.

I woke up around 3:30 and realized that these weren’t going away, but I still felt silly calling the midwives. I think I was in some denial that these could be real, even though I was overdue and they were coming regularly. Janice said they’d start traveling down, and I got off the phone feeling like they’d get all the way here and it would be nothing. I called her back to tell her I wasn’t sure if these were a big enough deal yet, but she said second baby labors could turn quickly, and they had things they could do to keep labor going. I felt better about having them come at that point, even though I think I still believed they’d have to head back home.

I was supposed to rest up, but Dad and I were both too charged. We blew up the pool for the water birth and I realized I had the wrong faucet adaptor – a minor detail that was missed in all my detailed preparations (thankfully, the midwife carries a spare in her huge supply of tools!). We were doing such silly things as we waited, just burning off our adrenaline. I trimmed his hair. We set out the rest of the buffet of snacks for the midwives and doula on the kitchen table, and I went back to bed to pretend to sleep while Dad showered. Around 6:30 they showed up, and by then I was sure these weren’t going away - but feared we were all going to be really bored while we waited for things to get serious. I was feeling too excited and happy for these to really be labor.

Dad and I went walking for a while to increase the intensity, and I kept having a new contraction at the exact same place of every “round” around the circle. Right by our front door, a new wave would start in my back and move into the front. I think then I was starting to feel like this might really be happening.

The adrenaline and excitement lasted all the way through full dilation. I loved being in the water, and couldn’t believe how manageable all the contractions were. We’d be chatting about what ingredients I used in my chili or how Dr. Phil is turning into Jerry Springer, and then I’d feel a wave starting. They felt amazing! Like something magical and perfect was happening and I could just sense I was part of something primal and important. I loved that part of labor. Just like with Jack, I went into a trance when I hit transition. I knew I must be around 7-9 centimeters, because suddenly I got an overwhelming urge to just nestle into Dad and close my eyes. I could feel this warmth in my body and all the voices turning into this blurry background din, like the voice on Charlie Brown.

I asked Dad for music, because there was something I was wanting to hear. I couldn’t figure out what it was though and I couldn’t articulate myself at all. He asked if I wanted to hear Kenny Loggins, and I knew immediately what song he was talking about. “Return to Pooh Corner”. The one I used to play all the time when I was pregnant with Jack, and still makes me bawl every time I hear it – especially the part at the end about the teddy bear. I just curled up next to the side of the pool and cried while it played, and it felt like such a release. I couldn’t believe I was about to meet my new little boy.

As I was coming out of the trance, I knew I must be nearly completely dilated, because I remembered what it felt like with Jack. The midwives and I kept expecting me to have a sensation to push, and it wasn’t happening. I got so drowsy that I wanted to go to bed – not because my body was tired physically, but almost as if I’d been giving heavy sleeping pills. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I felt like something was off. I tried resting, but couldn’t shake the feeling that things weren’t quite right. Why wasn’t I getting the urge to push? The midwives checked me, and found that your head was tilted sideways, so you weren’t pushing against my cervix the way you should be.

I remember with Jack being so glad when I heard he wasn’t breech. That was the only malposition I knew about. Come to find out, he was posterior and facing up - which made his labor so long and intense, but still amazing and successful and a triumphant birth. I prepared myself emotionally for another posterior baby, but did so much reading this time about preventing it. I was euphoric every time I could feel your little butt under my belly button, which meant you were turned right. Turns out, there’s this other malposition that can throw things off! Apparently, my mild scoliosis can throw my little guys into goofy places. =)

The midwives were so amazing and knew exactly what to do. They put me into different positions during the next series of contractions, trying to coax you back up off my cervix and then coming back down the right way. Nancy kept asking if I was feeling “a pain worse than the contraction” and was able to point right to the spot. To have that type of support during my labor was exactly why I wanted a homebirth throughout the pregnancy. I think I had a sense that I was prone to complex labors, and wanted to have someone there that would help me work with the complications and know exactly what to do. There were times during pregnancy, especially when we were making peace with paying for the birth at home completely out of pocket, that I’d wonder if it really mattered where I gave birth. I will never have that doubt with my future children. They were so committed to getting things back on track without painful interventions for you. They were so in tune with what was going on and how to keep the labor so healthy and safe for you. Truly amazing.

Once we got you back into place, things started getting really intense. I’d get so scared to get out of the pool, because the contractions were so much worse out of water. But I also wanted my bag of water to break, and it didn’t feel like that was going to happen in the water. The pain in my lower back was so intense, no matter how much counter-pressure they gave me. Just when I thought I couldn’t get through one more contraction, my water burst. I’d been hanging off of Dad’s neck and standing up during that contraction, so the water soaked his pants. At the same time, I threw up from the pressure of the contraction all over the back of his Flutie Flakes shirt (his “uniform” for your labor and Jack’s). Had I had more presence of mind at that point, it would have been hilarious to me.

The contractions kept coming one on top of another. I wanted so badly to have a remote control to just pause things, be able to take a break for a few minutes, and then come back to the pain. I was sure you were never going to come. It’s funny now, as labor is over and seeing the midwives’ notes about when my water burst and when you were finally born. That period was so short, but at the time I thought it was never going to end. The intensity felt like it meant it was hopeless, but it actually meant you were so close to being born!

I got back in the tub, hoping it would help the pain go away – but the pressure was still mind-blowing. I reached up inside and felt your head, and suddenly I could have pushed for hours more. I remember crying out, “My baby!” and it finally hit me that you were almost here. I could have stopped a freight train with the overwhelming power I suddenly felt to get your little body out. I was begging my body for more and more contractions, no matter how bad, because I knew I could do this. They became a constant onslaught, and I just roared as I felt your head pushing through the canal.

They took your heartbeat during one of the contractions, and for the first time your heart rate showed you didn’t like the position. I was in the pool, so I was the only one that knew your head was coming through the opening. I knew I couldn’t move and that you were seconds from being born. That you were going to be fine because you’d be out in seconds. I shouted through a contraction to Dad, “Feel your baby! He’s right here!” I gave the most powerful push imaginable, and there was your head. Another surge, and the rest of your body came out. It was incredible! You were born at 4:28 PM. They pulled you up to my stomach and pulled your cord from around you. You were instantly pink and breathing and perfect. You gave a little cry and scrunched up your eyes from the sunlight. We turned off all the lights in the room and then you relaxed and would turn your head. You laid on me and snuggled and we tried to nurse, as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing so Dad could cut it.

My first thought when I saw you: “He looks just like Grandpa Tom!” We’d had your middle name chosen the entire pregnancy, and it was unbelievable to see such a marked resemblance to him. Jack’s middle name was for my dad, and looks so much like my side of the family (except he has Dad’s ears). You have none of the same features of Jack, which I love. It makes it so obvious that you’re going to be your own persons with your own stamp on the world. We still can’t place your mouth, since it has that distinctive curled “newborn” look, but you have the Spasojevich eyes. You have fuzzy brown hair (although not much!) and dark eyes and your complexion is so different from Jack.

The midwives stayed with me to help deliver the placenta while Dad took you in his arms to walk around. Jack was so amazed by you. Dad says your eyes were open and you were just staring at both of them and looking around contentedly. It was a really special memory for him as he held his new little boy.

I couldn’t believe how alive and healthy you seemed from the first minute of life! I loved how gently you came into the world, just being snuggled and loved by your family. They checked you over as you were held, and we weighed and measured you. You were so laid-back and calm and curious.

One of the most special undercurrents of your birth was how connected Jack was to what was happening. He’s such a nurturer that we always sensed he could love being at labor, more than being scared by seeing me in pain. He has such strong intuition. He and I spent the last month watching shows about birth and new babies, despite the fact that they usually depress me by how many things go wrong and how scary and dangerous birth seems when you watch those shows. He and I talked so much about where you’d come out and how I’d sound during labor, but I had a hard time fathoming what he’d think. He was always intrigued by the babies coming out on the TV shows, but how much of it would really translate into real life?

Having Amanda the doula be there as a support for Jack made me feel so much peace about having him here for the birth. I wanted him to be there if he was interested, but have a point person that could take him outside and comfort him if he was scared. During the “boring” part of labor until I started pushing, Jack and Amanda read or went outside and just kept him occupied. He watched “Toy Story”. I was so independent during that section of labor, because I was in the pool and not really needing the physical support of anyone – just the social distraction of conversation between contractions. As things started to pick up in intensity, though, Jack was right there by the pool. He had such an understanding that you were coming and what this was all about. With every contraction, he’d say “I love you so much, Mommy” and I’d feel kisses on my head. He didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the roaring; he knew this was about you. I couldn’t believe it! I remember him saying after a particularly hard contraction, “Andrew is coming” and I started crying. I was so moved by his connection to you, even before he met you.

Since the moment he saw you, he’s been awestruck by his little brother. So gentle! He gives you kisses and strokes your head so gently and asks to hold you. I can’t wait to watch your relationship unfold. I have every expectation of the normal sibling rivalry as you grow up, and don’t really expect that it’s all going to be about kisses and gentle head strokes. =) But I will cherish forever the memory of how excited he was for you during pregnancy, how nurturing and connected he was to your birth, and how instantly in love with you he was upon seeing you. To know that you came into the world with another person that is going to love you so much.

I always tell Dad that you can measure the strength of a relationship by the “Law and Order Index”. You never see characters in interrogation giving up their siblings in order to cut a deal, but the hit man you hired is likely to give you up for a can of Sprite. I love that you have a brother. I love that Jack has a brother. That there’s this additional thread of attachment and love in your life, regardless of the ups and downs of normal family life. While you might not be best friends in life, there’s another layer in your foundation. I love the family you were born into, little one. I think you’re going to be so happy here!

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