Friday, June 22, 2012

we are now a family of 6!

I know it's been a long time since I've written consistently, and believe me, I've missed it.  The end of pregnancy brought with it some pretty severe carpal tunnel syndrome, and my hands just couldn't do much typing.  (which I am still experiencing but gradually recovering from as my body makes its way back to "normal".)  I am excited to be back now and ready with a long list of catch-up posts for the days I run out of ideas.  (Hopefully the kinks will be worked out of my blog template as I go along also.)  I thought it would be fitting and fun to pick back up on blogging by writing about something I want to document while all the little details are still fresh on my mind.  I want to remember them for family's sake, but also to have something to refer to next time I am pregnant.  So feel free to read on, but unless you are a "birth junkie" like me, it will probably be boring.  :)

I went into labor in my 37th week, began dilating, and then my labor suddenly stopped.  I'd had contractions just a couple minutes apart for several hours before we decided to head into the birthing center around 4:00am.  What a disappointment it was, but it was reassuring knowing that something had happened.  My belly dropped quite a bit that night (and had been slowly dropping for a week or so beforehand), and we all thought that the "big day" must be getting very close.  I was a bit surprised when I made it to my next midwife appointment, and then the next, and the next.  Baby Stewart went from measuring right on/slightly big (39-40cm) to measuring pretty small (37cm) as she dropped pretty far into my pelvis.  (I could hardly walk for the last three weeks or so.)  I'd had many, many nights of what seemed like could have been the beginnings of the big day and only after getting a terrible night's sleep, things would begin to slow down right as the sun would begin to rise outside. It seemed like from mid-May until little girl came, it's been a cycle of one night of slowly progressing labor, to one night of good sleep and feeling a little better.  I finally adjusted to it and just did my best to be patient and get through the day (man alive, every day past when I normally give birth - 7 days early - felt like it would never end!  And there is a HUGE difference between 39 and 40 weeks, let me tell you!  I will remember that part for next time for sure.).

Friday night (June 8th), Wes and I were so excited and relieved that he finally had a weekend off.  He's been working lots of extra shifts right now since we've had some extra expenses from baby, fixing up the house, etc. and we wanted to take advantage of the very rare opportunity for him to make some extra cash.  Anyway, we were up extra late just enjoying being together and finally turned in around 1:30am (I know, not smart when you are a week past your due date....lesson learned.).  Wes and I were both thinking that since our baby had waited so long to come, that she must be making her debut that Sunday, June 10th, which is Wes' mom, Johanna's, birthday.  So during that week, anything that started didn't really phase me, which was good.  I was pretty emotional and exhausted at this point, and I don't think I could have handled thinking I was going into labor all week.

Around 3:15 Saturday morning, I woke up at the peak of a pretty strong contraction after I'd been dreaming of having them, which makes me think my labor probably started shortly after falling asleep.  I couldn't seem to get comfortable enough to fall back asleep, but they weren't going away either.  The "normal" routine I had figured out was that if I got into the warm bath, I could get things to calm down enough for me to go back to sleep.  So, I got up and got into the tub.  Fifteen minutes later, I woke Wes up so he could read me a few hypnosis scripts to help me relax.  We decided to time the contractions as well, since they were growing stronger.  Around 4 or so, we times one contraction 14 minutes after the previous one, so I decided to hop out of the tub and climb into bed.  At this point, I was convinced Peyton was coming on Sunday, so I was preparing to have a long, slow labor and wanted to rest up every minute I could.

But sleep was not imminent.  The contractions, which actually felt more like waves of intense pressure, were getting stronger, and I was suddenly feeling a little nauseated.  Wes suggested I try the birth ball, which had been a huge comfort to me the past few months, and I had a few bites of cereal.  In between contractions, I tried to tidy up, kiss my boys, throw a load of laundry in, etc.  Things weren't slowing down, but they weren't picking up, either.  I was getting pretty tired at this point and decided to go back to bed and try to sleep.

The reason we hadn't called the midwife at this point was because the normal signs of labor I have experienced in the past (losing my mucus plug, and severe pressure on my back, etc.) hadn't happened yet and this combined with no pattern to the contractions made me think that labor would stop again.  (I now know that at least the pressure I felt in my back with my previous three kids was due to their posterior position during birth, and then exacerbated by the medical personnel at the hospital insisting that I sit or lay in the bed....positions which are poor for birth anyway, but particularly when the baby's head is already sitting to low on your back, leaving him/her no room to turn around and no comfort for Mom.)

But I suddenly realized that these contractions also felt different than the previous three births in that I felt much more "opening up" going on right at the base of my abdomen rather than cramps and pressure on my back.  Realizing this actually felt pretty magical....I was quite in awe of what my body seemed to be capable of doing with the right direction and tools. (I had done tons of visualizations of the baby coming out in optimal position, combined with listening to affirmations and doing lots of birthing positions on my hands and knees to encourage baby to turn and stay in the correct position.)  Once I made this connection, it actually made me really excited because I think at that moment I knew my baby would be here very soon, very comfortably, and safely.  I felt a strong confirmation that Wes and I had made the right choice for this birth, and that we were about to have an unforgettable experience.

Anyway, after I'd decided to call the midwide while we were in bed, I don't think she believed me that I was in labor because I was so upbeat.  But then a contraction hit and I coldn't focus on both her and my body at the same time, and I think she realized that this was it.  She told Wes to let her know when we were heading out, because I would know when it was time to leave.

After that, Wes called my dad, who came over after what seemed like an eternity.  (Me and car rides during labor don't mix because I don't like sitting the way I have to in order to be safe when I am in labor.)  My mom called Wes to let him know my dad was on his way, in case we wanted to leave right then (my parents only live a mile away), which we did, and we passed him on the way out.  It was 6:15 by now.  I was really struggling to focus and I felt a shift in my emotions as we headed out.  Suddenly, I was happy but felt like crying.  I was super excited to hold out little girl, but feeling too tired to labor any longer.  I felt a lot of extra tension in my body, which I think was just from being in the car, although it could have also been when I entered transition, and a sudden urge to vocalize.  I know it sounds weird, but it wasn't loud...pretty soft actually, and it seemed to help me release the extra tension and relax a little deeper.  (Thanks to my bestie, Celest, for loaning me her book, "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" in which I had read about vocalizing during labor and how relaxing and powerful it is for some women.)  

Wes got to the birthing center in record time, thanks to us hitting every single green light!  Once we made our way in (contractions were right on top of each other getting out of the car, and it took a bit to get inside haha), Rebecca, our midwife, asked if I wanted her to check me to see what I was dilated to (she had suggested previously that I do what feels right because I feel like if they hadn't checked me with Jonah, I might've made it through without medication because I dilated from a 5 to 10 in an hour with him.).  I decided I wanted to know because I knew I could do this either way and I was curious where I was at.  As she bustled around, taking my stats and the baby's, I quickly realized that I needed to get right into the tub and prepare for breathing this baby out!
This tub is made of a special porcelain from Taiwan.  It is so soft, you feel like you kneeling on foam, but it was firm enough for me to grip on to keep my position stable.
The tub was worth it!  It was so big and wide, which made it easy for me to get into a comfortable position very quickly.  Wes poured water on my back and did light touch massage as I began to feel some VERY intense pressure.  I became very emotional and got a little worried that I wouldn't have the energy to endure, but Wes and Rebecca knew right what to say to keep me focused and steady.  Wes was amazing.  I relied on him so much from the point we got there, and I was so impressed, proud, and grateful for the strength and calm he had and was able to share with me.  And Rebecca was so intuitive.  She knew right what was going on just by knowing me and attending so many births.  It was so helpful and encouraging when she'd tell me what was going on just as I'd begin to wonder and lose focus a little.  It was like she knew exactly what I needed to hear and she knew exactly what I needed to do.  Even with the "moaning" I'd been doing; once I got into the tub and felt that shift, she instinctively knew to tell me to changes the "uhhhs" to "mmmms" and said that "mmmm" was a very powerful sound that would help direct the baby downward.  Added bonus: it gave me something new to focus on as the intensity of what I was feeling (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) had grown so strong it was almost overwhelming. 

I suddenly felt so much pressure that I had a sudden urge to get up and run, which I knew from my classes was an adrenaline rush your body gets right before it expels the baby.  I took a deep breath and made the decision to "go within" to my baby and help her come out.  My body wanted to much to "push" the baby out, but because of my practicing the breathing down at home, and the calm I felt since the process had been described to me so many times, I was able to focus that pushing energy to breathing.  Once Rebecca saw what I was doing (not everyone breathes the baby out, some women plan on and prefer pushing), she directed my breathing a few different ways as the process of birthing went on.  Once I felt what is called, "the ring of fire" as the baby crowns, I reached down and felt my baby's head, still covered in the bag of waters, which popped a few seconds later.  And then her head literally popped right out.

I asked Wes what he saw, and he said it was like he blinked and looked down, and suddenly there was her whole head out!  The reason I'd had such intense pressure was because of the speed at which Peyton was coming...Rebecca described her arrival as a "freight train" haha!  Apparently, it usually takes a few to as many as twenty minutes or so for baby to crown and the head to come completely out, so all the extra pressure I felt was because of how fast she came, which I was totally fine with.  :)

Right after her head emerged, Rebecca told me that I would have a few minutes of feeling nothing....kind of a way for my body to rest up while the baby was turning inside of me to allow her shoulders to come through.  It was pretty amazing sitting there realizing that the baby was almost out!  And of course, since thing were going so fast, it was really only about 30 seconds or so before she turned and began to come out!

Rebecca noticed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck pretty tightly, so she let Wes and I know and told us the "new plan" (We had been hoping Wes could "catch" the baby.) for Baby Stewart's delivery.  She knew how to get the cord unwrapped as quickly as possible, and then she slid our sweet girl between my legs and I reached down and pulled her out of the water and onto my chest.
That moment and every one after that was magical. I turned and sat down in the water, with Wes right next to me, and watched our tiny, sweet girl blink and take in, for the first time, the world around her.

She laid there on my chest wide-eyed and quiet. She didn't cry, she just looked around, completely stunned. Wes and I were both overjoyed as we took her in for the first time, observing her cute little mouth, her tiny fingers and toes. Our first, and tiny, daughter. Those skinny little newborn wrinkles, cord still attached, and no vernix in sight (Rebecca said that it sometimes gets absorbed before they come out when they come past the due date.), so she was clean and pink and she looked so beautiful.

Rebecca had some warmed towels handy, and she covered her in one all snug as we sat there and enjoyed our fresh-from-heaven baby. I can't even begin to describe how incredible it was to be the very first person to hold my baby and to love her up like that right at the beginning. Wes was right next to me and it was such a special moment we shared together that now we will always have.
Here we are:  I am totally shocked that I am already holing a baby!  Wes is already in complete bliss.  (Please don't pay attention to my "lovliness".  This all began at 3am and I was in and out of the tub the whole time.  I didn't have time to think about how I looked.  I'm not worried about it, but it's nothing like those pictures you see of epidural moms in the hospital who did their hair and put on makeup before they gave birth.  Just because I am not "dollled up" doesn't mean I was totally spent or had a horrible experience.  I just worked hard, and I was up all night.  But I felt absolutely amazing.
To give you an idea of how quickly this all unfolded, we arrived at the birthing center at 6:35, I climbed into the tub at 6:45, and Baby Stewart was born at 6:58am.
Proud Papa, holding his daughter for the first time.
She was very alert, and wanted to nurse right away.  She continued to do so for an hour!  Wes and I got to wait to clamp the cord until she was ready, and after the placenta was birthed, I got out of the tub and we climbed into bed and the three of us all snuggled there together (yes the bed at the birthing center is big enough for all of us!) as our baby continued nursing and Wes began calling and texting everyone to tell them our big news.
Peyton Hope Stewart - born on Saturday, June 8, 2012 at 6:58am weighing 7 lbs. 7 oz. and measuring 20 1/2 inches long.  We feel so blessed with this special arrival of our beautiful baby girl!


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