Zelie’s birth story

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I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about labor as the third time around approaches – wondering if it’s going to follow the pattern of the first two (slowwww) and getting stressed out about sort of wanting/wanting to want to do it naturally and then finally getting back to where I was at originally (there’s no trophy for that and epidurals have been great for me and we’ll see what happens). And I figured it would help me to remember an actual labor I went through and better late than never on writing out Zelie’s birth story!

Zelie was due on April 14, which was Good Friday. It made for an interesting Lent for me, because it was a time of preparation in lots of ways. With her birth, I would stop working indefinitely and a couple months later, we would be moving to Indiana. A lot of transition on the horizon.

On Palm Sunday, I went to an event at my parents’ church in the afternoon and I felt kind of “off,” so I wasn’t terribly surprised when contractions started around 9pm that night. I tried to be chill about it and waited like half an hour before telling Chris, and then told him we should try to go to sleep, because who knows how long this would go on. After probably an hour of not sleeping, I gave up, because standing and moving felt better. I called the birth center at some point – maybe to see if they had a bed available? – and they suggested I try taking a shower. That felt great, and contractions sped up, so I called my mom so she could drive over the hill from San Jose. She arrived and I think I told Chris to nap and my mom helped put pressure on my back, and then they switched off and by 5am or so it seemed like we should go in. I think my mom stayed with Evange and then dropped her off at a dear friend’s house at a more reasonable hour (like 6am – thank the Lord for moms being up early!) and joined us at the birth center. (Wow, so much I don’t remember about that night – I really should write my birth stories before two years have passed…)

I was only at 3cm when I arrived at the birth center and I was worried they would send me home, but they did not. PRAISE. Once I was in my own room, it was close to 7am and I hadn’t really slept all night, so Chris and I both tried to sleep. I remember being tired enough that I really did doze off and would just squeeze his hand through the contraction and then fall back asleep until the next one. That went on for maybe an hour or so, and then the midwife came in and checked me – and I was maybe at 6cm – and we talked about laboring for a while longer and then getting an epidural. I was surprised that it was offered so soon – everything felt like it was going so much more quickly compared to Evangeline’s labor. I’d only had one sleepless night so far! The pain wasn’t even that bad yet! I felt like I was wimping out with getting the epidural this early on, but I also knew how I had dilated so quickly after getting it with E, and I didn’t want another 50 hour labor. So, at this point it was morning, I was up and walking around, eating some food, laboring away, and feeling just this pleasant surprise at how quickly and yet peacefully everything was proceeding. As I got the epidural, my mom was chatting up the nurses and the anesthesiologist and I just kept thinking, “Wow, I don’t feel like I’m dying right now. Is this okay?”

The epidural wasn’t as strong, or didn’t work, or something – I wasn’t completely numb like with Evange. But I was happy about that because I still had these nagging worries that I was “cheating” somehow since I hadn’t hit that same low/discouraged/exhausted point like I had before. So I felt half the strength of the contractions, and when it was time to push (not much later), I could feel the pushing this time. And when she came out, I felt the “ring of fire,” and yelled in this way that seemed totally involuntary, like a primordial scream from my gut, totally out of my control, and she was born and it. was. awesome.

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It was only 11:30am. The sun was shining, it was about 14 hours from when the first contractions had started, and I had a baby in my arms. She was 6 pounds, 7 ounces and seemed so much smaller than E had been. And she was hairy! Little hairy back and butt. 🙂 So cute. I kept feeling surprised that it had been so chill and peaceful, and was over already.

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It was Monday of Holy Week, and I felt well enough, and we had family in town, that I was able to do Triduum stuff with her and Chris – and it felt like no big deal taking a newborn out! Crazy how much I’d learned and how expectations had shifted in those 19 months since E.

 

Now I’m anticipating meeting this next baby girl in less than two weeks! Gonna try to type out her story (maybe one-handed) this summer while it’s still fresh in my mind.

 

first born out of my womb (a birth story three years late)

First born out of my womb, love of my life. That’s something my mom would say to me growing up, or at least how I remember it. Kinda weird but also great, like my mom (love you!). Chris and I are both oldest children and, let’s be real, there’s just something special about that first baby. Evangeline Marit made us parents for the first time. And, as I’m realizing, everything new about parenting, we’ll hit first with her. At least the basic developmental things in these early years. So, as we celebrated her third birthday last week and I reminisce about these last three years, I thought I’d finally typity type out a birth story. If that’s your kind of thing, read on.

I went into labor three days before my due date, on a Tuesday night. I was lying in bed when I felt some cramping start and I was like, OMG IS THIS IT?? It died away and came back and so I was like, THIS IS HAPPENING! THESE ARE CONTRACTIONS, THIS IS LABOR! I made Chris get out the contraction timing app we had found and start timing me and had all this adrenaline going. We were both so excited. Labor is exciting! I was also so curious what contractions would actually feel like, because talking to moms and reading about labor, it seemed like no one could describe the pain very well. I had in my head that labor would be like running a marathon. It would be hard, I’d need endurance, and perseverance, but I could trust my body, it was made to do this, and I could do this. I would be smart about it, I would breathe my way through the pain, it would be awesome. So, it’s Tuesday night, contractions start and I am SO PUMPED.

LOL.

Those contractions (which I know now were very early pre-labor contractions) kept me up most of the night and were still far apart and I could talk through them (which I felt great about, because I had nothing to compare them to). Wednesday morning Chris didn’t go to work and we tried to figure out what do to. We went to daily Mass, came home and I managed to nap a bit, and then we got fro-yo and went for a walk on West Cliff. Oh Santa Cruz, I miss you.

Wednesday night – after 24 hours of this early labor business – I tried going to sleep because I was exhausted. But there was still so much excitement and adrenaline, so not much sleep. By 10 or 11pm the contractions seemed to be getting a bit more intense, so we called my mom and she drove over from San Jose. We called the birth center to ask when to come in and to see if they had room for me. They said to wait until contractions were closer together, but that we could come later. My mom arrived and relieved Chris, who had been putting pressure on my back during contractions, so he could nap. Then, around 5am, we headed to the birth center. And I was still so pumped. Like, I appeared calm, and I was focusing on breathing, but I was just so excited that it was actually happening. And that I was handling it well, so far.

We checked in and I was only at 3 cm. I was a bit disappointed, but I shook it off. We got into my room, and it was super nice. I ate breakfast, walked around, sat on a yoga ball, took a shower, and walked some more. At this point, I hadn’t really slept for two nights, but I was still riding the adrenaline high. The contractions got more intense throughout the morning but I had my head in the game. I was breathing through the contractions and kept thinking, My body knows what to do. I kept imagining that the more painful the contractions got, the more effective they were, and surely this was going somewhere.

The midwife checked my progress around 11am and I was at 5 cm. Okay! And then, around 1pm, 7cm! Woot! Things were getting more intense, and this was slower than I’d liked, but there was progress! And then … still 7cm. An hour later they broke my water to try to speed things up, and checked again an hour after that, and said, “Oh, looks like it’s 6cm.”

WHAT! I’M GOING BACKWARD?? That’s when I realized, This is nothing like a marathon. I have no idea how long this race is. There are no mile markers, there is no way to tell when the end will be. And with that, I was crushed. I was so discouraged that Chris got really worried. Without telling me, he sent texts to family and friends asking them to pray for me. I think it was probably around this point, I remember asking, Can they just cut the baby out of me? I’d really be okay with that. 

The midwife suggested getting in the tub to try to help me relax and get some rest. Chris got in with me to keep putting pressure on my back, and I tried to lean on him and sleep a bit in between contractions. After the tub time, I rallied a bit and decided to ask for some intervention. They gave me fentanyl, which takes the edge off the contractions, but only lasts for an hour. Once I got the IV in, I had to stay in bed, which was super uncomfortable. I have memories of lying on my back, staring out the window at the sun setting, and crushing Chris or my mom’s hands every contraction while making the weirdest, terrible moaning sounds. Part of me was amused at how weird I sounded, part of me felt bad for Chris and my mom having to sit there and listen to it for so long, and part of me just wanted to black out and wake up with a baby outside of my body.

Finally, around 8:30 or 9pm, I got an epidural. Sitting still on the edge of the bed for the needle shot was hellish, but at this point I didn’t care, because relief was finally coming. It had been 48 hours at this point. Once the epidural took effect, I was able to relax. The plan was for me to sleep a bit, but things started moving quickly. Soon, I was being told to push, and right after that, we met Evangeline!

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We didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl, so that was a sweet surprise. We’d come with two boys names and three girls names, and right away I knew she was Evangeline Marit. With the epidural, I didn’t feel the pushing or her coming out, so I didn’t have as strong of a feeling of relief/giddiness as I did with Zelie, but man, when they held her up and said she was a girl and put her on my chest, it was amazing. And they left her there for over an hour, just letting us do skin to skin. And Chris pulled off his shirt so he could get some skin to skin time too. So cute.

It was a crazy long labor, and not what I expected, but I’m glad it was what it was. I wanted to have a natural birth, but I was open to whatever came up and open to interventions if needed, and it was definitely needed. There’s so much weird guilt, in some circles, about epidurals, so I’m glad I’ve had the experience of using one so I can say, You do what you have to do to have a good birth experience. Every woman is different, every baby is different, every birth is different. It wasn’t anything like running a marathon, it had some crazy emotional ups and downs, and we got this baby girl at the end. Now we’ll see if I get around to sharing Zelie’s birth story before she turns 3.

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