Friday, October 31, 2008
Here is the birth story for those who like nitty gritty details (if you've ever been an expecting mom, you can appreciate how important the details are in birth stories!)
As most of our friends and family know, I've been complaining about this pregnancy for some weeks now and was getting hysterical that he might be as overdue as his brother. Yes, I was officially what my friend Kelly calls "a mommy martyr." I thought first pregnancies were supposed to be the hardest, but this baby created pain in places I didn't even know existed, not to mention adding his fair share of new stretch marks and other pregnancy unpleasantries.
For the past couple of weeks, I'd have increasing contractions throughout the day and go to bed convinced that I'd be woken up by full labor. But, like my own personal Groundhog Day, I'd wake up the next morning back at step one.
On Wednesday morning, I was woken up around 8am by a really strong contraction. I was so excited I jumped out of bed and began walking in circles around the living room to keep the contractions coming. After three of four they stopped and I returned to bed more depressed than ever. I felt a few more here and there and generally felt worse than ever before, but I wasn't about to get my hopes up.
By 4pm, I called a local homeopathic store and asked about clary sage oil to help regulate and strengthen contractions. The owner, sensing my desperation, offered to whip up some concoction of oils that help induce labor, including clary sage. Robbie went to pick it up after work, so she showed him the pressure points to use on my ankles and asked him to give feedback on how quickly it worked.
He came home and immediately gave it a try, warning me "to be prepared." He acted as if he was about to launch a rocket, so I asked what the success rate of this stuff supposedly was. He replied, "10 out of 15 women went into labor within 72 hours." I moaned - THREE days?! That was not the reassuring answer I wanted to hear!
Without any other recourse at this point, I told him to give it a try and vowed to move up to something stronger like cohosh the next day. The oil massage did give me a couple strong contractions, but then nadda. Defeated, we went about our night, which included a mini gathering of friends to watch the Obama infomercial. You know you're pregnant when a well-produced political infomercial can make you all misty-eyed! I think Emerson must be a major Obama fan too because the only things he watches on tv are the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, some PBS documentary about Obama and this recent infomercial. He was mesmerized!
But I digress....
After everyone left, we tried the oil again and then got Emerson ready for bed. The contractions started coming....and coming. At close to 10pm, I broke down and started timing them, but they were anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes apart. I would've given up completely except that I started needing Robbie's help with back compressions to get through them (yes, yet another back labor experience for me).
Emerson had taken a ridiculously long and late nap, so it wasn't until close to midnight that Robbie finally got him asleep. While he was in the other room, I turned to the labor necklace that my friends made me for help through the contractions. Women I know from all across the country sent me symbolic beads, so as I kneeled on my hands and knees on the floor trying to rock away the pain, I reached up and gripped the beads to help me focus.
Around 1am, I was still not convinced that I was in true labor, but I decided to give my parents a heads up just in case. My mom answered the phone and I knew that she knew what I was about to say. She couldn't contain her excitement, but I tried to warn her that it could still be hours...maybe even days...of labor, so she'd better go to bed. I knew she wouldn't.
After cutting our conversation short due to another contraction, I began to panic about how long Robbie was taking. On cue, he emerged from the bedroom and came to help me. I turned on some music I had ready for early labor and we rocked in rhythm to help ease the pain and lighten the mood. When a contraction came on and I dropped to the floor, Robbie kept dancing as he gave me back compressions, so I realized he didn't think this was the real deal. "This is getting serious, Robbie," I muttered through gritted teeth. He still didn't believe me.
Only a few minutes later, I told him it was time to get the labor tub ready. I could tell he thought this was ridiculously premature and I knew he was probably right, but something in my gut told me it was time. It's a good thing I listened to that feeling because by the time it was barely at the minimum level, I was ready to get in. I had told him at some point that getting into the tub too early can slow labor, so he was very skeptical about this move. He started timing contractions again to make sure. Despite my inclination to rip the stupid timer out of his hands, I thought "he is being the rational one."
Right before I got into the tub, I told Robbie to call our midwife and give her a heads up. She asked if I was zoned out even between contractions and Robbie said no. She said she would get things ready and wait for a call to come at the point when I was totally zoned out. I knew exactly what point she meant, but I couldn't completely zone out during this labor like I did with Emerson. One of the good things about homebirth is that no one is around to tell you what to do, but the downside is that you have to figure out what to do! The contractions were getting incredibly intense, but as soon as they were over, I started spouting instructions for Robbie to get me soup or a drink or adjust the pool or whatever. At about 2:55, I realized this was too much for us to do alone and I told Robbie to call the midwife - now.
When I was giving birth to Emerson, I didn't want to know how much time was passing or how far I had progressed because I knew I would get discouraged at how slowly things were moving. This time I kept asking for the time so I could reassure myself that enough time had passed and it could be possible I was getting toward the end. I feared that the midwife and apprentice would show up on my command, only to spend 10 more hours waiting for the baby to actually come. I shouldn't have worried.
The apprentice showed up 10 minutes after the phone call and helped Robbie with a sagging part of the pool. I felt ridiculous for calling her, but the contractions were getting faster and more intense. I'd say, "Robbie help!" and drop to my knees in the tub as he ran over for a back compression. I felt as if each one was ripping my back bones in two - like a giant wishbone being pulled apart on Thanksgiving. Robbie is not much of a talker and I couldn't tell him what I needed, so I silently coached myself. "I can't keep doing this for hours more....don't worry, this is the worst it's going to get...I can't handle this pain...you're doing it for the baby, the baby needs you..." At some point I looked up at Robbie in between contractions and said, "What if I have to do this for 10 more hours?" He shook his head and stroked my arms to help me relax. "When you were like this last time, Emerson was born only a couple hours later."
"Are you sure? I wasn't like this the first night I went into labor?"
He laughed. "No way, not even close. It won't be much longer."
I was relieved to hear this.
Ten minutes after the apprentice arrived, the midwife showed up as I was having a contraction and I suddenly felt a convulsion go through my body. I told her I just felt the unmistakable urge to push and she said, "That's fantastic!" I shook my head - clearly she wasn't understanding that this urge was coming way too fast to be real. When I made Robbie call her the first time, I started shaking uncontrollably and felt like I was going to throw up with every contraction - signs of the stage of late labor called "transition." I had ignored these signs because I couldn't possibly move this fast, but the urge to push had me in a panic. I was afraid if I pushed too soon I would inflame my cervix and slow labor, so I begged her to check my dilation ASAP. She said I was a conservative 8cm, but to go ahead and push if I felt like it.
I was relieved to hear I was indeed in transition, but I held back on pushing through the next contraction. She and the apprentice began to prep the oxygen tank just in case and were talking calmly when the next contraction hit. I had to push and there was no longer a line between contractions - it was just pushing. Suddenly I felt his head drop rapidly and I screamed out "He's coming too fast!!"
Everyone rushed to my side as I continued to scream out a play-by-play. "Something popped - I think my water broke...RING OF FIRE, RING OF FIRE!!!" This is phrase some women use for the head crowning and let me tell you - it does not do justice to the true feeling. I remember this as being the only truly hard part of my labor with Emerson, but unfortunately this time it seemed to last forever. I was still panicking, so the midwife told me to stop pushing or do little pushes if I needed to. I tried a couple small pushes, but then thought, "The hell with it - get this kid out of there NOW!" It seemed like an eternity of pain before his head emerged, but in truth I pushed for less than 5 minutes! I rested a minute and then pushed the rest of his body out as Robbie caught him underwater. The midwife called out the time - 3:30am on October 30.
Suddenly I was sitting and Robbie was handing me this cone-headed squirmy thing. Before he was even close enough to see well, I knew.
"He has white hair, doesn't he?"
Someone confirmed this as he came into view. I sat there holding him, stunned that he was there already and that I now had not only two children, but two children with albinism. Part of the reason I wanted a homebirth was so that I could have privacy during this moment of revelation. Everyone was so sure that he would come out with dark hair and the odds certainly favored that, but somehow I knew in my gut that he would have white hair. I didn't know what my reaction to this would be, but I wanted to experience it in private and not have hospital staff bustling around making comments. Now the moment was here and I felt...shock. I knew I was in for a long, hard road, but definitely easier than with Emerson. And I knew that this was the best for Emerson since they would always have each other - someone to understand what they were going through in ways even we as their parents could never understand. A feeling of calm came over me and I started to really take him in.
He peered up at me silently with these giant eyes and his body submerged in the pool. The midwife and apprentice stood back and greeted him and Robbie sat behind me, stroking his head lovingly. I suddenly became aware of how quiet it was compared to the hospital birth with Emerson. "Should we do something?" I asked. "Suction him out, get a blanket, deliver the placenta?"
The midwife shook her head no. "He's perfect just the way he is. Stay there as long as you want." I think by then the water had gotten a little cool and I was feeling unsure of what to do, so the baby began to fuss and cry and I gave the midwife a look that told her it was time to move.
While I gave him his first meal, the women prepped the couch with blankets and towels so we could get out. Then Robbie cut the cord and we made a dash to drier, warmer land. After some standard exams that revealed the baby was 20.5 inches and 8lbs, the women left us alone for our "babymooning."
Amazingly, despite my screaming toward the end and the clanging as the midwife cleaned the house and prepped an herbal bath, Emerson slept through it all in the next room. He stirred a little after they left, but Robbie only had to hand him his bottle and he fell asleep again until 11am!
When Emerson finally padded out of his room in footie pajamas with his white hair sticking up all over his head, it fully hit me that I was now the mother of two! Robbie rushed him over to see the baby and explain that he now has a brother, but Emerson completely ignored the situation and has been doing so ever since. The only time he acknowledges the baby is when he sneezes, which sends Emerson into fits of laughter! Robbie keeps telling him to "kiss the baby" but Emerson replies with "all done" and walks away. I guess no reaction is better than a bad reaction!
I learned the hard way that post-labor pains are worse with each new child, but for the most part recovery has been great. He nursed throughout the night last night but I was able to sleep through most of it, so exhaustion hasn't set in...yet.
We held off on naming the baby to see what name would fit his looks and personality. I think if it were up to Robbie to decide we would've called him "baby" forever, but his first dr.'s appointment today forced us to make up our minds (they don't appreciate filing charts under "baby x"). Despite some creative suggestions from friends and family, we settled on:
(I know, I know….but we live in Ann Arbor where you don’t fit in unless you have a weird name!) We will be calling him Fionn - pronounced “fin.” We would have put that name first, but it just didn't roll off the tongue right. Kepler is after the astronomer Johanne Kepler and Fionn is an Irish name that means "fair-haired" or "bright." It's also the name of the Irish mythological hero Fionn Macool, who gained his name when his hair turned prematurely white.
We chose Fionn over Kepler because so far, this baby seems to have an ancient soul worthy of such a name. Maybe it's just because we've done this before, but he seems so calm and easy compared to Emerson and Emerson was a relatively easy newborn! It's strange, especially considering what a little acrobat he was in the womb. I suppose only time will tell...
Speaking of which, all my "boys" are now awake from their naps, including a still exhausted Robbie, so I'd better go. Happy Halloween to all!
(For fun, here are some comparison pics - Emerson first then Fionn)