After twelve days with the new girl in the house, we are settling in. Two whole, living children. As expected, it’s a rather large adjustment. Worth it in every way, of course… but large nonetheless.
I guess there’s still lots I haven’t told you, starting with the big weekend o’ birthing, but finding moments to write has become a wee bit more difficult, so guess what… bullet points!
What was the same:
- My three births were all very different, but wouldn’t you know it – they all hurt. Ha ha.
- They were also all inductions, with care transferred to our local hospital.
- We had planned to deliver at the hospital, and it meant a lot to us to do so, to “come full-circle”, as Sean put it, by having a joyful experience to follow up our tragedy, in that same place.
- The midwives were there for me through it all, for every birth.
- As with E, I ended up having an epidural for Baby A. This was after 8 or 9 hours on the oxytocin drip (to strengthen contractions), through the night during which I obviously didn’t sleep, so everyone assured me I was making a good decision: get some rest before the really hard work. (Still had an internal battle about it, though.)
- As with E, I did the pushing on my back in the hospital bed (because of the epidural IV – not a lot of room to move). I’d been reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and had high hopes for moving around during labour and getting gravity to work for me… but you can’t win ’em all.
- There was the same feeling of total surreality when my baby was suddenly out in the world… I can’t believe you’re here – I can’t believe you’re real – I can’t believe ALL of you fit inside there!!
- The maternity nurses were freakin’ awesome.
- My midwives were freakin’ awesome.
- Sean was a fantastic birth partner, as always.
What was different:
- I had to have two doses of prostaglandin gel over 24 hours to get my cervix ready. With E, they gave me one dose and bam – contractions began on their own a few hours later.
- I was dilated 3 cm and having very mild contractions by the time I would have been given the third dose (Saturday evening, around 9), but chose to go on oxytocin drip anyway.
- For a moment, I was like, Wait – why did I pick this?? I really wanted to stay in the care of my midwives, and see what my body would do on its own… but then, there was no guarantee I wouldn’t have needed the drip anyway. The biggest consideration was that Sean could only get Monday off, therefore we really wanted to have this baby soon, so he could be there for the birth and have a bit of time with her.
- Finally, I got to experience real “early labour” – you know, that part they tell you about, where you can talk through contractions and go about your business? Never had more than a few minutes of that before. Wasn’t bad!
- I also remembered to use some visualization, which worked well for me for about seven hours. I was reminding myself of Ina May’s information on sphincters – that the cervix is one, and women have shown themselves able to help open or close theirs with certain thoughts and emotions. During contractions, I would consciously relax all my nether muscles and picture the tension/pain exiting my body that way. It really did help with the pain – until… it didn’t any more. I don’t know if it helped me dilate – it still took me those seven hours to get from 3 cm to 5 cm. Sigh.
- The pushing stage was positively leisurely! I remembered it being overwhelming with E’s birth, and now I know why: there are supposed to be breaks. These contractions were a few minutes apart, whereas his were almost on top of each other. I recall barely having time for an ice chip and one breath of air before the next push, and feeling that there was no way I could keep going. For this birth, there was actually time to relax in between pushes. It made a huge difference.
- No episiotomy, no vacuum assistance! And only two stitches. Yay!
- Although it was technically a transfer of care, the doctor on call knows my midwives and didn’t feel the need to come in. So it was just the maternity nurse and my midwifery team, and the student midwife caught my daughter. Pretty great.
- We were privileged to have a very talented, sensitive photographer in the room – so glad we made that decision!
- Post-natal cramping: Wowch. I was warned that with any child after the first, uterine cramps are way more painful during those first few days, especially during breastfeeding. YES. It’s true. They feel like contractions.
What I’d forgotten:
- That getting an epidural is a rather laborious process (oops, bad unintentional pun). With E, I was so exhausted by the time I got the needles (after labouring for 37 hours), I have almost no recollection of the procedure – only the relief.
- Just how loosey-goosey everything feels when you suddenly have no baby in there – like your internal organs can just joggle around. Way more so this time than with Sebastian, since Baby A was close to double his birthweight.
- That the placenta resembles the tree of life. What a crazy-cool organ – and pretty brawny for something so ephemeral.
What I remembered:
- Pain is a weird place to be; a different dimension. It transports and warps your perspective… and it just wears you out.
- The epidural is pretty magical. Otherwise, who would ever want to get multiple huge-ass needle injections between her vertebrae?
- Birthing a baby makes a big ol’ mess. (I can’t deny it’s nice to have all that taken care of by hospital staff.)
- I was grateful for hospital food, unexciting though it is. Tomato soup and raisin bran muffin tasted scrumptious after all that work.
We had quite a few visitors that first day (all family, or close enough), and Baby A slept angelically for basically the whole time. When E arrived to meet his baby sister, he came straight to me instead and climbed right up on the bed for a snuggle. Poor guy had been so excited for his sibling to arrive, and now he wasn’t sure any more if he was happy about it. But after about ten minutes to reassure himself that there would just be more love along with the additional person, he approached A and swiftly fell in love.
Daddy went home that night, to be with E, while Auntie Beth kept me and A company in the hospital.
And I did have a little moment all by myself with my brand-new daughter. I just looked at her precious face and hands, kissed her velvety cheeks, and cried with gratitude.
So beautifully, perfectly alive.
P.S. A more detailed – and chronological – version of the birth story will be up on MotherGather sometime soon!
*For the record… we consider ourselves a three-child family, in our hearts. But the semantics are tricky. You know.