I recently gave birth to Don Knotts. To truly tell the story of his birth I'll need to back up about 2 weeks before he was born. I was pregnant; Yea, verily. In case you've lost track, I've had 4 other kids, two of whom came out together....so I'm familiar with pregnancy and its long list of pros and cons. I know I've signed up for 9 months of vomiting, less-than-stellar bladder control, narcolepsy, and intense cravings (this time around it was sushi, and yes I ate a LOT of it) but somehow this pregnancy kicked my butt in a way none of the others did. And considering that out of the last 16 months, I spent 14 of them pregnant, I was reeeeeeally ready to have this baby. My uterus seemed to feel the same way- considering about a week and a half before my due date I started having contractions. After my experience of enduring a week of early labor when pregnant with Oliver last time, I was determined not to be duped by "fake labor" this time around, so I decided to just ignore all contractions until, well, I couldn't ignore them anymore. It wasn't until one day when my contractions started coming about 5 minutes apart for a few hours and I started to feel really intense pressure that I thought I should call my midwife to let her know my status. She agreed that it sounded like things were progressing, and awhile later my sweet nurse, Karen came over to assess the situation. We sat and chatted for a few hours, and determined that this labor wasn't going anywhere fast, and if something changed later that day to give her a call. Sadly nothing did change that day...but a few days later my hopes were high again as the contractions started coming regularly--about 2 minutes apart and with increased intensity. I waited as long as I thought was safe before calling my midwife again (Seth was really not interested in catching this baby by himself) and a short time later Christina and Karen arrived and we started to prep for what we thought would be the birth of our baby. Within a few hours or so the contractions stopped coming regularly, and then finally stopped altogether. What was going on?! Aside from feeling completely and totally miserable with this non-stop early labor thing, I was no longer sleeping longer than 20-30 minutes at a time-- leaving me exhausted and spent. The only hope I could cling to was that this couldn't possibly last forever, and honestly--having my midwife and nurse hang out all night was kind of like a fun slumber party...except the boy we were hoping would crash the party never showed up. It seemed that during the days my contractions were totally haphazard-never falling into a pattern or really increasing in intensity, but at night they would pick up and hover on the brink of unbearable as the rest of the house lay sleeping and all was quiet. I would try my best to sleep through them--but that was mostly impossible...and so I would go lay in the tub, or take a shower to relieve the pain--but as the sun would rise, my contractions would gradually fade, forcing me to face yet another day still in labor-limbo. This went on for about another week--with one more midwife/nurse sleepover thrown in there as they responded to yet another phone call of mine telling them my contractions were 2 minutes apart and I was having a hard time coping with the pain. Much to my dismay, however, it all came to a stop at some point leaving me both babyless and frustrated beyond imagination.
I was now a week and a half overdue, and the clock was ticking. Despite all the signs pointing to a baby coming soon, I never could get into the active labor phase. Christina thought the cord might be wrapped around the baby's neck, preventing him from really descending into the pelvis fully--preventing my body from really getting to the next level of labor. She explained that the baby wasn't at risk because of the cord, but that what often happened in that situation is that the baby would stay high until everything was fully dilated before making a straight shot out of there to minimize the time spent getting squished around the neck. Realizing that we were running out of options (I had done everything that alleges to bring on labor, including very powerful herbs--none of which helped) she asked if I would be willing to try acupuncture. I told her I was willing to try anything at this point!
As we drove (Chanel had the good sense to insist I not drive myself that afternoon) the hour home from the acupuncturist, the contractions were like clockwork. The contractions themselves were very intense, lasting a minute and a half and coming every 3 minutes. So I did what every woman in labor does: I demanded Chipotle and Jamba Juice (Chanel, of course, marched into Chipotle and announced to the people behind the counter that this burrito was for a woman in labor and to make that burrito on the double!) And then I called Karen, my ever patient nurse to say that this was it. The real deal. I was going to have this baby. Tonight.
An hour later the contractions were still strong and steady and my midwife Stephanie was on her way. The kids had been farmed out for the night to the Browning's and I knew they were in good hands, allowing me to just focus on what I needed to do. Once Stephanie and Karen arrived they strongly encouraged me into taking a walk around my house to keep things moving. I stopped every minute or two to have major contractions--holding on the banister, the chair, the wall and to curse them for making me walk around. I could feel the contractions down my legs and I did my best to breathe and relax through each one. I have no clue how long any of this lasted. It felt like time was on hiatus, and I just lived inside each contraction. This is about the time things got so intense I went to my zen place--where I just listen to my music, close my eyes, try to relax through contraptions and ignore everyone else. That helped me get through that stage of contractions until I started feel intense pressure and the need to push. I knew I wanted to have a water birth, so I got in the tub and everyone else just found a spot to hang out on the bathroom floor. I mention that because at no point were Stephanie or Karen telling me what to do or how to do it. Having only had hospital births before, I kept expecting them to give me directions, or tell me what to do--but they just sat back and let me do whatever I wanted. When I told them I felt like I needed to push, they simply said, "ok". They occasionally gave me some encouragement, but for the most part everyone was quiet and just let me do my thing.
By this time it felt like the contractions never stopped. At one point I blurted out, "Why do I feel like I want to sing, 'She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes?!" No one could really answer that question since I quickly moved into making those horrible primordial noises only women pushing a baby out make. I had envisioned being very quiet and focused while pushing, but obviously that plan was replaced with straight up yelling, which is what I did next. I managed to say, "I don't know what to do!" to which Stephanie calmly responded, "Whatever your body wants to do." I was near tears as I said, "I don't think I can do this" and then I remember distinctly thinking to myself, "I will never be able to get this baby out". Moments later his head was out. Karen said, "His head is out--feel it!" and so I reached down to feel his head--which was (and will remain) one of the most shocking and mind-blowing experiences of my life. In a hospital you're laying there on your back, not knowing what's actually happening on the other end and relying on a nurse to tell you when to push and for how long. This time around I was sitting in my tub, fully aware of what my body was doing--and yet having no control over it. And here was this person's head coming out and suddenly I had this insane urgency about getting the rest of him out, yet no matter how hard I pushed I couldn't get him out! Again I had a very distinct thought, this time it was "I will live forever with half a baby coming out of me" and seconds later out he came and Karen again said, "Reach down and get your baby!" I reached down and brought up a giant squishy baby.
There are more emotions in the moment a baby is born than at any other time I've ever experienced. Pure joy, utter exhaustion, wonder and awe, shock, elation, concern, and overwhelming love all come crashing together in one instant leaving me no choice but to weep. I held him as Stephanie undid the cord around his neck (suspicions confirmed) and as Karen handed me towels and started rubbing on his back. We sat there for awhile as we rubbed him down and looked at his squishy face and we all commented on how big he was. Eventually Seth cut the cord and took the baby while they helped me back to my bed. That's when things started to go wrong.
After the placenta came out, Stephanie could see that the bleeding was severe. Something wasn't right. She pushed on my abdomen to try and stimulate my uterus to contract and clamp down, but it wouldn't. Then she manually tried to clear my uterus of clots or any placenta that didn't detach--but that's where I'll stop with the details. If you asked me which I would rather do--give birth to a ten pound baby, or endure the aftermath of my hemmorage again, I would birth a baby in a heartbeat. It was horrible for so many reasons. Physical pain being the top of my list. But the uncertainty of what was happening was very scary for Seth. He is a man of action and does not like feeling helpless--which is exactly how he felt as he watched them work on me. Thankfully they were well-equipped with the proper medications to help stop the bleeding and injected them. But as a safety measure 911 was called because Stephanie explained that if the bleeding didn't stop within the next few minutes, then I would need to be transferred to the hospital. By the time the EMT's arrived (6 huge men all huddled in my bedroom) the bleeding was under control and I didn't need to go to the hospital--though it was a long night of monitoring me, getting IV fluids, and making sure I was out of the woods.
Since my recovery has taken a little longer thanks to a copious amount of blood loss, I had the pleasure of doing basically nothing the first few weeks but holding, feeding and loving on this amazing baby while my loved ones have picked up the slack of cleaning, driving kids to and fro, and otherwise making sure things run smoothly around here. It makes me so grateful for the people in my life who love me, and so grateful to be back to full health and able to take care of my family.
Babies are strange creatures. They take over our bodies for 9 long months, cause extreme agony while coming out, require round the clock attention to their well-being and turn our lives upside down and yet; there is beauty in sacrifice. To sacrifice for the ones we love is to understand on the smallest level the kind of love our Savior has for us. I guess that's why I feel nearer to God with a little baby in my arms than most other times. To have played a role in creation is humbling and both the greatest pain and pleasure of my life.