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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Golden Splash: The Birth of Esther (The Long Story)

Years rolled on again, and Wendy had a daughter.
This ought not to be written in ink, but in a golden splash.”

~Peter Pan~

Well, my friends, it has happened again. Life has snatched me and tossed me across a gap I cannot uncross. It is done, it has been written. My daughter is born, and in the bathroom mirror I see the face of a mother. It is a wild and wonderful thing.

On August 9th, 2012, I looked around and found everything in place.
How often does that happen in life? Not very. But on that day it seemed like even the tasks I wouldn't have minded leaving until after the baby's arrival had been taken care of. Dishes washed and put away...clean laundry...I even found time and energy to pull the grates off of the stove and scrub it down. Even though the baby wouldn't be sleeping in the crib just yet, I was also happy to have had Daddy and Caleb put it together a few days before, since I needed every bit of storage I could get.

So I had leisure to sit and wonder about the new sensations inside me. She seemed to be pushing down, but harder than before, and almost in a rhythmic sort of way. But then...could a baby en utero be able to push quite so hard? Was this what Braxton-Hicks felt like? I hadn't had any until that point. The sensations faded away after the morning, however, so I set the thoughts aside.

August 10th, 2012, I woke up at 2:30 am as usual to send my husband off to work—and found the same rhythmic pressures at work. However, they weren't going away, and were accompanied by the discovery of a lost mucus plug. I promptly called my doula.

“You're having a baby,” she said.

I somehow managed to convince my panicking husband that he really didn't need to call in absent at work, so he left after many reassurances that I would be fine, and I would call him if anything seemed to be progressing more rapidly than I expected. I tried to go back to sleep, but what I now identified as early contractions wouldn't let me quite doze off. So I laid in bed with a timer, paper and pencil, and turned on the BBC Persuasion with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. The contractions averaged at about 7-10 minutes apart for several hours.

At 7 or 8 in the morning I called my mother-in-law just down the road, and she came to get together a last-minute Wal-Mart list so we would be stocked with snacks, toilet paper, and similar incredible luxuries. Caleb came home from work at 10:30 (I still wonder how much he managed to accomplish, checking his phone every five minutes in an agitated flurry to see if I had tried to contact him) and at that time I called my mother. After asking how she was doing, and getting the reply that it was just a nice slow day, I asked her,

“Well, if it's a slow day for you, is it a good day for a baby?”

I gave her the scoop on my contractions, and then couldn't really get another word in because she was too busy calling Dad on the other phone and giving my brothers instructions for while she would be gone.

By this time, I was thanking God for my rocking chair, and every time a contraction hit me I would sit, rock, and breathe.

At somewhere around lunchtime, I called my midwife to let her in on things, and she told me that before she headed over, because it was a long way to drive, I should take an hour-long bath. This would stabilize my labor, which would either slow down and possibly delay for as long as a couple more days, or it would pick up and let us know that this baby was ready.

By the time I got out, nothing had slowed down. My doula arrived, and promptly banned me from the rocker and all other flat surfaces. After that I mostly sat on the birthing ball. I found that although the ball strengthened the contractions, I had longer and better rest periods in between if I used it. So I sat and rocked and leaned against the arm of the couch as Caleb pushed on my lower back to ease the pain.
If I needed to stretch, I would stand up and circle the kitchen table, stopping to lean on the counter and rock back and forth through the contractions.

Things were far enough along at this point that I was putting vibrato into my exhales and distracting myself with scripture verses. I had prepared five particular verses for labor, but was surprised to find that the most readily available in my memory turned out to be the beginning of James 1, which my family memorized to rhythm about 10 years ago. The sing-song quality matched my rocking movements well, and the words turned out to fit well--

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

It wasn't long until the vibrato-breathing turned into what my sister-in-law describes as “dying cow noises” and I would have to approve of that description. That's what it sounds like, people.

My midwife arrived around six in the evening, checked me, and told me I was between six and seven centimeters, and between 80 and 90 percent effaced. I got into the pool, which my husband and doula had been filling with water from the stove for quite some time. It felt so good.

A lot of mothers talk about their “push-urge” as a powerful sensation which sort of overtakes the whole process of laboring. I assumed it would be (excuse my simile) something like the vomit reflex—hard work, not pleasant, but involuntary and all-consuming. I don't know whether it's because I could have waited longer before starting or I just didn't understand the descriptions, but I found that I had to make myself push much more than I thought I would. The closest I came to what might have been an “urge” was when it became much more painful if I didn't push through a contraction than if I did.

I pushed for an hour, squeezing one of my husband's hands, and one of my mother's. My voice grew hoarse, and between contractions I lay limp against the side of the pool, asking God for help. I think it was about this time that I started saying to myself what every mother must in the face of hard labor:
I'm never doing this again.
(Of course, that sentiment doesn't last very long.)
My water broke sometime inside that hour, and when Esther began to crown, they said I could reach down and feel her head. At that point I was so tired that I really didn't feel like breaking my concentration, but my midwife encouraged it, so I did—and I'm so glad. It brought a smile to my face and renewed my resolve, because we were so very close to meeting face to face.

The rest is rather a blur of pushing and standing up to deliver (so her head wouldn't hit the bottom of the pool) and the sting of my tear, and then I sat back in the water to look at my baby girl.
I don't really have words for that moment. Maybe someday they will come to me.

We moved to the bedroom for delivery of the placenta. I had planned on much more skin-to-skin and nursing time with Esther at this point, but I ended up being so weak and tired that when the cord stopped pulsing and Caleb cut it, I was happy to let Mom take her out to meet the crowd of uncles, grandpas and neighbors who had gathered in the living room. It was strange and surreal sitting there getting stitched and listening to the deep laughter and conversation in the next room as they admired my 9 lb, 13 oz daughter and (bless them) siphoned the water out of the birth pool.

We have been trusted with an eternal soul to nurture in her Creator's name. I could not feel more honored, nor more delighted. So ends the story of Esther's birth at home, with which I could hardly have been more pleased. I didn't find myself harboring nasty feelings towards my husband or anyone there, I never thought I would die, and I never felt like I just couldn't do it.
There was a point during my last few pushes where the contraction stopped and my midwives kept urging me on. I had no strength to push without the force of the contraction, so I gasped out, “I can't...” and I think they may have mistook that for a moment of despair, because they immediately cut me off with, “Yes you can. Yes you can.” But it really was only that I needed the help of the contraction to continue.

Life doesn't always play out the way we hope, however. Across the following weeks, nursing became more and more painful...my baby cried more...and her fat rolls began to shrink away. She is healthy and strong now, but I will save that story for next time. God has been good.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the low estate of His maidservant.”

~Luke 1—The Magnificat~

1 comment:

Ashlee said...

I think your description of pushing would be pretty close to how I remember it with Ralphie. I didn't like it, it didn't feel relieving, and up until the very end I had to remind myself to do it, and do it well! These first time babies really make you work, don't they!? haha.

I love reading birth stories. Thanks for sharing Esther's - and so openly, too!