Birth Story: Elijah Griffin (Eli)

The Pregnancy

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This was about 12 week. If I was a better mom and this wasn’t the 3rd child I may have had a 20 week picture that was clearer.

If you read Isabel’s Birth Story you know that we had a miscarriage directly before becoming pregnant with Elijah.  I had a D&C three months prior to becoming pregnant.  The Dr that we were seeing at the time told us that was the amount of time we needed to wait so we did and got pregnant easily that first cycle we tried.  I honestly wish we would have waited longer.  I don’t think that I was even remotely emotionally ready for another pregnancy.  I was not in the right headspace at all.  In my mind, getting pregnant again with make it all better.  It would take away the terrible pain, it would fix me.  I was very broken after that miscarriage.  Even now, six years later it affects me.  Again, these are things no one talks about. 

We were fairly certain that our preceding loss was due to low progesterone levels.  The OBGYN and Midwifery practice we were seeing at the time didn’t “believe” that progesterone therapy made a difference in outcomes and their policy was not to prescribe it.  We had been planning on having a home water birth with our third pregnancy anyway so this was just the last push we needed to find new providers.  I had been in contact with a few homebirth midwives and they recommended some local providers that were supportive of Homebirth and would be willing to see me early for HCG and Progesterone testing and prescribe progesterone support if needed.  I emailed one OB and told him my background, he promptly responded and told me to call the office the second I got a positive test and he would call in labs and we would go from there.  He knew that my plan was to see him as a backup to a Homebirth Midwife and was fine with that arrangement.  

Days after that email I got a positive pregnancy test after feeling absolutely bone tired for days and nauseous, I was shocked and terrified.  I called that day and went and got blood work.  As with my miscarriage, my HCG levels were on the lower end of the spectrum and my progesterone was very low.  The Dr saw me the very same day and I started progesterone.  I was terrified that we would lose this baby as well.  We had a couple incidents of spotting.  The OB we saw was so reassuring and supportive of my nerves.  He was compassionate, caring, and just what I needed.  He did several early ultrasounds and lots of followup bloodwork and everything looked great.  

By 12 weeks we had seen the heartbeat several times and felt that we were likely in the clear.  We still had not told many people that we were pregnant again.  The last time, we had shared the news here and there by about 8-10 weeks only to have to un-tell everyone which was like a knife in the heart, every single time.  I suspect that most people figured it out by the time we announced at 14 weeks. 

During this time, the original Homebirth Midwife we hired had to step down from her practice so we were in the process of interviewing a replacement.  Michigan is a lot different than North Carolina, there were dozens of choices, all legal and regulated.  We interviewed several and decided to hire Stacia with Trillium Birth Services.  Personality wise I couldn’t have asked for a better match.  Plus, we both had roots with the same Borders Books store.  We started care with her around 16-18 weeks.  

My pregnancy was hard.  I was emotional, a nervous wreck, and in constant fear that we would have another loss.  I was also very sick.  I had never had such nausea in pregnancy before, it was all I could do to care for Oliver during the day and I spent most of the days on the couch.  I was sick enough that I finally relented and started taking meds when I was having a hard time staying hydrated and eating regularly.  Let me tell you, Unisom and B6 are a godsend.  I was able to at least eat and not be puking all day long.  It wasn’t a cure, but it helped.  The only plus side to being so sick is that I lost weight through the first trimester and only ended up gaining 12lbs.  I had to continue taking them until the day I delivered, I never got that relief most women get in the second trimester.

The Birth

Sunday, September 23, 2012 – 6 days overdue

Tired of being pregnant, cranky, and generally not fun to be around I spent most of my day sulking because I had slept through the night and not woken up in labor.  That weekend we all had just lounged around the house; Mark decided to tackle the Mountain of Laundry that had piled up over the past week. The kids played, made messes, and irritated each other most of the day. And I was still pregnant, much to everyone’s dismay.  Oliver was born 3 weeks early. No one thought I would be overdue this time.

After lunch I was sitting in the living room and just could not get comfortable on the couch, I was moving from lying down, to sitting and getting more and more grumpy that I could not get comfortable at all. My lower back was aching, and my whole body was just tired. Mark mentioned that maybe I would feel better if I took a nap. I wasn’t really tired so I stayed on the couch and whined for a while longer. At this point, I had noticed that baby had been quieter than was normal.  I knew that could be a sign that labor was coming, but didn’t get my hopes up because I had decided I was going to be pregnant FOREVER.

At about 2:30pm, Mark again mentioned that maybe I would feel better if I took a nap. I was so uncomfortable on the couch I figured I had nothing to lose by going and laying in bed, even if I didn’t sleep.  I layed up there a while, browsing the internet on my phone and I did eventually doze off and slept hard.  Remember, the best nap of your life almost always means labor is looming. 

At about 3:30pm I woke up with a contraction.  I had been having lots of “fake” contractions for weeks, but this one was different, more intense and slightly more painful. I decided to take note of the time but ignored it. If it was real labor, I would know and I wouldn’t be able to lay in bed through it. By 5:30 when Mark came upstairs to see how I was feeling about dinner I had had several more contractions as I drifted between sleep and awake.  They seemed closer together. However, I still hadn’t been timing them. I was hesitant to even say anything since I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, (especially mine) but casually mentioned I was having some contractions.

I got up to go to the bathroom and was planning to go downstairs for dinner. There was the sign I was looking for that labor was coming soon, bloody show. I think this is the only time in my life I was excited to see bloody mucous. I let Mark know that he was probably not going to work tomorrow, and decided to put my birth team on alert. I sent texts to my doula (and great, longtime, childhood friend) Melissa, Birth Photographer, and called our Midwife Stacia.

I decided that I wanted to take a shower and see if that made my contractions stop and if it would help with my sore lower back. The water felt great on my back and I had several more contractions in the time I was in the shower, I was starting to think this could be the real deal. The contractions were starting to get a little more intense and I was having to stop what I was doing to breathe through them. I still didn’t want to get my hopes up too high. I putzed around upstairs doing my hair and getting dressed (read that as put clean pajamas on) the whole time having more contractions and more bloody show.

By the time dinner was ready at about 6:30, I was seriously doubting that I should be eating the spicy enchiladas we had planned earlier in the day. On my list of things that could be unpleasant if throw up I think enchiladas are on the top. I also wasn’t sure I was going to be able to sit through the meal with my contractions. I knew this could be my last chance to eat and that I would need the energy in case this was real labor. Luckily, just being around the kids slowed my contractions down and I was able to eat between them. I did have to stand up from the table every time one hit though.

Mark and I decided that it would be an early bedtime for the kids because we were pretty sure labor would pick up once they were in bed.  Mark started the bedtime routine while I retreated upstairs and discreetly packed small overnight bags for the kids, just in case.  I didn’t want them to see anything was going on.  We still hadn’t decided if they were going to stay home for the birth or not.  I wanted them there but didn’t want them to hinder my progress.  I felt a sort of instinctual need to keep the whole family close by for some reason. We had several plans for the kids should we need to send them away, but for now I wanted them home.

At this point, I was pretty sure it was the real deal, and of course, it was because the house was an absolute disaster. There was clean, folded laundry spread all over the living room and the kitchen still hadn’t been cleaned from dinner. I had been keeping the house spotless for WEEKS since we had a slew of people coming for the birth.

I called our Stacia again and told her it was time, she suggested that we set up the pool so that when I was ready the pool would be too. I wasn’t quite ready for her to come yet but told her I would call when I was.  As soon as the kids were in bed Mark set to work inflating the pool and filling it with water while I paced in the bedroom and “supervised”.  He was very patient with my backseat driving while he set up and filled the pool because he was obviously doing it all wrong.

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Once the pool was filling and I was satisfied Mark was doing it my way, I went downstairs to sit on my birth ball to time contractions. They were getting closer and more intense and I really wanted to get in the shower again, but couldn’t since we were going to need all the hot water we could get to fill the pool. I spent the next hour or so pacing the lower floor of the house, going upstairs to check on the pool, and on Facebook chatting with my friend Carrie. I was starting to get anxious and I figured that this feeling probably meant it was time to call everyone.  I sent Melissa a text telling her it was time to head over at about 9:30 pm, and then shortly after called Stacia to let her know I was ready for her.  At this point, I had forgotten all about calling the Photographer.

Mark had finished filling the pool at this point and it was ready to go, we were shocked that it only took one round of hot water and it was still slightly too hot to get in. He covered it with a blanket to keep the heat in and then tidied up the house a bit. Melissa arrived and we milled around the kitchen for a while, chatting between contractions. After a bit I needed to move back to the yoga ball in the living room, things were picking up.  

I was starting to get anxious that Stacia hadn’t arrived yet, and she must have felt that because she walked in about two minutes later. She watched just a few contractions and announced it was OK to get in the pool. I was shocked because that meant she felt I was already progressing well, and I still didn’t feel sure it was time to have this baby. It’s a funny thing about labor, no matter how many times you do it, you can still be unsure.

The pool felt amazing. It was the perfect temperature and took the edge off the contractions, I still wasn’t in serious pain yet, but I knew I would be soon enough.  It was probably about 10:45 pm at this point, and this is where time gets foggy. While I was in the pool, Melissa sat at the side and was there to remind me during the contractions not to tense up, relax my shoulders, and stop clenching my hands into fists. Relaxation is not always my strong point, so I needed the reminder. She also kept a supply of tea and water between contractions and a cool washcloth on my head and neck.

Mark played the good host, making coffee, fetching me water and letting the rest of the birth team in the house.  The Midwife Apprentice, Cynthia arrived and was beginning to set up the supplies and get everything together. Thankfully Stacia thought to text my Birth Photographer and let her know it was time for her to come because I had totally forgotten about her at this point.

My contractions continued to get closer, stronger, and more painful.  Stacia and Cynthia intermittently monitored the heart rate which was steady at about 150 bpm. I was starting to feel like maybe I needed to push, but I wasn’t 100% sure.  I tried a few pushes and it just wasn’t feeling “right”. I knew I was probably complete because I was starting to worry about seeing those enchiladas again.  I was also starting to shake from the hormone rush. My water still hadn’t broken and the baby was moving all around and I could feel the head low in my pelvis turning against my cervix.

Monday, September 24, 2012, 12:00 am

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I’m pretty sure Stacia could see I was struggling, she suggested that maybe I flip on my hands and knees and try to push that way. Up until then, I was on my back leaning on the side of the pool, I knew this was not the optimal position, but it’s what I found comfortable at the time. I flipped over and pushed another 20 minutes or so and it still didn’t feel right. Around this time, I told everyone that I was done and I couldn’t do it and I’d like an epidural. Stacia was great and told me that was fine, but I’d have to get out of the pool, get dressed, and drive to the hospital. It would probably be faster just to push the baby out. I begrudgingly agreed that was probably true. She then offered to check me to see what was going on, this was about 12:45 am or so.  

When she checked I was 10 cm, but had an anterior lip on my cervix and baby was so high she could barely feel his head. She had me flip back over and offered to hold the lip back while I pushed past it. At this point, I was getting tired, and I was ready to be done. We waited through a few contractions and I continued to push, and my water broke. She checked me again and I still had the lip, I told her to hold the lip back.  It hurt, a lot, but I got the baby to move down slightly.  When the baby came down she could feel that there was still a bag of water over baby’s head. I pushed some more with no progress, and she offered to break my water the rest of the way. I told her to do it, I was ready for this baby to be out.

As she was trying to snag the amniotic sack with the amnihook she mentioned how strong the bag was. I would like to attribute that to my cravings for grapefruit juice, oranges, and lemonade.  Once she got my water to break, things moved quickly. Instantly I felt the overwhelming urge to push. That was what I was waiting for, it was almost like before my water broke everything was too squishy and cushioned so I couldn’t feel what I was supposed to do. Baby came all the way down while she was still trying to hold back that anterior lip. I didn’t know at the time, but he was posterior and when he came down she could feel that and she rotated his head and turned him manually. I was told it was quite the site to see.

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I pushed for what seemed like forever, with each push I could feel him moving down but just not as fast as my other two births. At one point I said that this baby is a lot more work.  I kept pushing, soon I could just barely feel a small patch of the head when I reached down, progress. They told me they could see that the baby had dark hair. We were minutes away from knowing if the baby was a boy or a girl and who he or she would look like. I started pushing really hard, I just wanted to be done. Stacia asked me to slow down (which I had warned her that I tended to push way too fast), so I hopefully wouldn’t tear this time. I breathed through a few contractions and I kept reaching down to feel if that soft patch of the head was getting bigger, and it was.  Cynthia, moved in to help guide the baby out and slow the baby’s head down.

(I didn’t know at the time, but this was the very first baby that Cynthia had caught in her apprenticeship. And now, five years later she has her very own Midwifery practice.)

Then I felt that telltale feeling, the “ring of fire” and the head was out. Mark moved into position to catch once he was fully born. I still had to push a few more times to get his shoulders out, Cynthia helped maneuver them and then the body was born at 1:46 am. Mark lifted the baby out of the water and onto my chest. As I put my hand on the baby’s bottom I was pretty sure I could feel that it was a boy, I peeked between his legs and sure enough, he was! It worked out well because the boy name was the only one we could agree on, Elijah Griffin, he looked like an Eli to me.

He pinked up right away, but never really cried. He was amazingly alert and wide-eyed and looked just like his sister! Except for his amazingly chubby cheeks, he looked like a little squirrel with cheeks stuffed full of nuts. We hung out in the pool for while until I started to get a little grossed out by all the blood in the water and was ready to get out. His cord was done pulsing so we had Mark cut the cord and take over holding his new son while I worked on delivering the placenta. They had set up a birth stool for just that purpose, which was a good thing because my legs were so tired and shakey. I could barely lift my leg up to get out of the pool.

From there I dried off and moved to the bed.  With some help, I got him latched on and he nursed for about 30 minutes. I was amazed at how big he looked, I had predicted that he would be long from all the stretching I felt inside but he was for sure bigger than my other two.  We all placed our bets on weight and weighed him. He was my biggest baby, bigger than Ollie by nearly three pounds at 9 lbs 2 oz. He was also long at 22.5 inches with a 14.75 in head circumference. No wonder he was a bear to push out. I felt like a rock star! He was HUGE!

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Stacia and Cynthia evaluated him and he looked great. I was in pretty good shape too, a small abrasion, and a second-degree tear that we decided not to stitch up. All in all, I felt pretty good, considering I just delivered a small linebacker. Someone brought me a snack and Melissa decided to head home as well as the photographer. They were followed by Stacia and Cynthia at about 4:30 am.

Once everyone left it was surreal, I was all tucked into my bed everything was all cleaned up and I had this new little person. The whole time I was in labor my two big kids slept peacefully just across the hall in their rooms, not knowing that in a few short hours they were going to wake up to a new baby brother. I could never have imagined the birth would go so fantastically. Stacia was a perfect match for us, low intervention when I wanted her to be, but able to help things along when I needed it. I laid there in the dark with Eli next to me and watched the sun come up, too high on endorphins to sleep.

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His birth was just the healing experience that I needed following a late first-trimester miscarriage. His birth taught me how to trust in my body again and trust in myself. He is exactly the Rainbow Baby I needed. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better birth.

A New Family of Five

I would be lying if I said that those first days, weeks, months were easy. We had a rough start. There was a lot going on in general plus we added a newborn and were suddenly outnumbered. We had a lot of breastfeeding issues due to lip/tongue tie and low milk supply. I spent a crazy amount of time worrying about feeding him so he would grow which didn’t help make it any easier. The jump from two to three to kids was a hard one for us.

Despite our rough start Eli has grown into the sweetest boy. He is so caring and protective of his sisters. He’s generous and always wants to help or “do a job”. He is always looking for a snuggle and to sit in his “special spot” next to me.  He has a special knack for being the annoying little brother and knows just how to get under everyone’s skin especially his older siblings.

This year he’s tackled full-day preschool at the kid’s elementary school and is thriving. He will be a pro by the time Kindergarten comes next year. He’s decided he wants to be an engineer when he grows up and I can totally see it. He loves to build things.  Happy Birthday, Elijah! 

Pink Expectations

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Something that having kids has taught me is that I need to let go a little (lot).  When it was just Mark and I, we could plan things and they would mostly turn out how they were supposed to.  With kids?  They don't care that you have a plan. They are small people, but they still have their own agenda.  I needed to adjust my expectations and celebrate the successes.  Maybe some of that comes with getting older, but I feel like its one of the big things that our kids have taught me.  There are a lot of things in life that you just can't plan for.

When I was pregnant with Zoe, we found out the sex at the 20 week ultrasound and we were thrilled to find out we were having a girl.  We bought all the pink things and girly stuff, made all the plans. She was born and she was for sure a Daddy's Girl. They were buddies, and if Mark was around I was clearly the second choice. I'm not going to lie, it hurt a little (lot), I grew her inside of my body for nine months, and there were times that she wouldn't give me the time of day.

Her and Mark were just bonded in a way that she and I weren't.  I faulted myself for that. Maybe he was just a better mom than me?  Reality is that she's every bit opinionated and stubborn as I am and those two things don't mix well.  She also takes after Mark, shes a big dork, loves Science and learning. So they bond over those things, while her and I butt heads about our similarities.

Being that Zoe was our first baby we didn't really have any expectations or wants in regards to her sex. By the time we were expecting our second child, I really wanted to have another girl.  That seems weird right? I already had one that didn't particularly seem to like me. But, I wanted Zoe to have the sister that I never had. (Sorry, Aaron.) I wanted her to have that sister to sister relationship, someone to play dolls with, have tea parties with.  We were only planning on having two kids (HA!) so this was her only chance in my mind to get that.

Mark's Thoughts: Being a man that never really played sports, I was hoping for a girl when Zoe was born, I had no idea what to do with a boy.  I've never felt like a "manly-man". My definition of what a "man" is has changed a lot since then, but at the time I thought a man was the typical "play sports" "watch football" image of the great American Dad. I didn't tell Crystal this, which kind of illustrates how poorly we communicated in the beginning of our marriage (like most people).

I'm going to talk about something that no one talks about, because it needs to be talked about. When we found out we were having a boy I was disappointed, upset, and scared.  I feel absolutely terrible about that to this day.  How can you be upset when you have a healthy baby? I was, and it was totally selfish and terrible.  But in the end, those feelings are valid and I shouldn't have felt I needed to hide the fact that I felt that way.  As parents, no one talks about these experiences. If only for the fact that we can validate for other parents that its OK.

Why was I so disappointed? I was disappointed that Zoe wouldn't get that "sister" experience.  Scared, because I had a girl and knew what to expect.  What was I going to do with a boy?  They smell, and like gross things.  Sports? Yeah… no, totally not my thing. I was upset that my expectations weren't being met, because I had already built up the picture of how it was going to be in my head. I was also upset at myself for having these feelings.

Oliver was born and he was a typical Mama's Boy.  I got to see first hand the special "thing" that Mark and Zoe had.  He was (is) so sweet and loving.  He didn't have nearly the amount of "sass" that Zoe had.  Of course the Mom Guilt kicks in and I feel even worse that I was disappointed that he was him. Come to find out having a boy wasn't so bad. Sure, they do smell bad, but they also love their Mama's so fiercely and their sisters almost as much. They're always up for a snuggle. Come to find out, I really like watching them play sports.

Mark's Thoughts: I was worried when Oliver was born because, again, I didn't think I would be able to do "manly" Dad stuff with him. Afterward I realized it didn't matter even a little bit. For reasons I don't understand, Dad's are cool in their kids eyes for at least the first few years, regardless of their athletic prowess. Oliver also grew to love sports, and in the process I did too to a point. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be cheering and shouting at the top of my lungs at a little league baseball game, but it happens now.

When we were pregnant with Elijah, we decided not to find out the sex until birth.  We already had one of each.  We were planning to do his whole pregnancy/birth much differently than the other two, so why not wait unlike the previous two kids.  Plus we had had a miscarriage a few months before, so it made me really thankful that we were even getting a chance to have a third child.  Some, people don't get a chance at all.

What I didn't tell (most) people is that I didn't want to be disappointed again.  No expectations = no chance for disappointment.  I still wanted that sister experience for Zoe, but also thought it would be pretty cool to have two boys to dote on me and that brother experience for Oliver.  Not knowing until birth meant that I didn't have time to have a let down.

Mark's Thoughts: Not to go off on a tangent, but this is really how you get through parenting. You just enjoy whats happening, and try to drop any expectations you might have. Oliver started playing baseball 3 years ago, which is amazing, but next season he might want to try ballet, or basketball, or golf; I have no idea. Whatever it is though, I'll be there cheering. Same with the rest of the kids. I have no idea what they will want to do, but I'll be there discovering it with them.

Turns out, you can't be upset about something silly like a penis or vagina when you've just worked your ass off to birth a baby.  Once you look into that little persons face, it doesn't matter for one second whats between their legs.  Plus, mother nature makes sure you have all that Oxytocin rushing through your body.  That moment, after holding him in my arms for a while, finally looking to see who he was, was just amazing.

So amazing, that the fourth time we also didn't find out the sex, and I wish that I could go back and not find out with the first two.  By the time we were pregnant for the fourth time, I had pretty much resigned myself that Zoe was never going to get a sister.  Come to find out matchbox cars, dirt, and robots weren't so bad. We talked about if we would prefer one or the other and we didn't really care.  It would have been neat to have three boys in a row.  After all, Zoe was going to be nine years older than the youngest baby.  What could they possibly have in common at that point?

I had never had a feeling that our kids were one sex or the other before, but I was pretty sure that we were having a girl the fourth time around.  I didn't verbalize it though, because I didn't want to be disappointed by the image that I built up in my head. Remember, no expectation, no disappointment.  Turned out I was right and we got that second girl.  Obviously we were just thrilled to have that healthy baby, but the girl bookends was a nice way to complete our family.

 

Birth Story: Isabel Mae (Bits)

Today seemed like a good time to sit down and write this one out.  We knew that we wanted to talk a little bit about the birth of each of our kids and because today Isabel (Bits) turns two it seemed like a good time to do hers.  Maybe we will do each of the kids on their birthdays?  If you’re at all grossed out by birth, I’d quit reading right now. 

The History

If you read The Story of Us, you know that Isabel was a big surprise for us.  We were pretty sure that we were done having kids after Eli, not as sure as I am now, but still sure enough to get rid of every baby item we owned before we moved across the country.  I have several friends with surprise babies that will tell you that it’s a sure fire way to find yourself unexpectedly expecting.

I couldn’t talk about Isabel’s birth without going into a little history.  I’ll try to make this the shorter version. In 2011 we had made the decision to expand our family, Oliver was only 15 months old and we wanted to have our kids closer together (Zoe and Oliver are 3 years 2 months apart) this time, so we started trying that summer.  I got pregnant within a few months, but this pregnancy was much different than the previous two.  I felt different.  I was much sicker, much more exhausted, just not myself.  Around six weeks I had some bleeding which I had never experienced before while pregnant.  I went into an urgent appointment with my Midwife practice, they did an ultrasound and some blood work and deemed everything “fine”. We had seen the heartbeat so we tried to relax. I continued to have small episodes of spotting and was assured it was “normal”. By week 11 the bleeding had picked up, and I knew something was not right.  We had a miscarriage. It was probably one of the darkest times I’ve been through. I won’t go into anymore detail, because that is a post for another time.

Because of our history of miscarriage, in order to maintain a pregnancy I needed extra hormonal support.  This came with lots of things, extra blood work, extra doctor appointments, and the constant worry that we would lose this pregnancy like our other had. I was honestly a wreck, pretty much the whole time.

The Surprise

In fall 2014, we had just begun to settle into life here in Raleigh.  I felt like we were getting our bearings, falling into a routine.  When we decided to move here one of the “conditions” that we talked about was me not working for a while.  We wanted to make sure that I was available to help the kids with the transition, by that fall I had felt like I had done that and I was itching to get out of the house.  I was (and kinda still am) a stay at home mom failure.  I had begun to explore job opportunities around the triangle, but because I still wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wasn’t making much progress.

One morning in November, I woke up and was instantly nauseous and ran to the bathroom to dry heave.  Strange, but maybe I was just feeling a little extra reflux-y due to a spicy dinner the night before.  I went about the morning as normal, sent Zoe on her way on the bus, and took Oliver to preschool. Normally, I would run errands but I was feeling tired so Eli and I went home.  As he played I did some laundry, then it occurred to me, my breasts were really sore. Something told me I should take a pregnancy test, luckily I had a pack of these on hand, they’re cheap and easy for peace of mind.

I headed to the bathroom to take it. Now this was not my first rodeo, I knew better than to take an early test in the middle of the day, but hormones make you do stupid things.  I took it, stared at it for the required 3 minutes and saw nothing but a single line.  I tossed it aside on the counter and laughed to myself at my stupidity.  I couldn’t possibly be pregnant.

I went about my afternoon, I was in and out of the bathroom cleaning and whatnot. Right before we went to leave I had to pee, so I popped into the bathroom.  As I walked in, there on the counter was that test and now there were two lines. WTF. I know as well as anyone who has ever taken a pregnancy test that after the ten minute mark you are not to read them because they are not accurate, it had been two hours. BUT I also know that you can’t detect pregnancy hormones that are not there.  There was that nauseous feeling again. Since were about to walk out the door, I didn’t have time to pee on another one.

On the 20 minute drive to school, I tried telling myself all the reasons why the test was defective.  They WERE really cheap tests. This was why they told you not to look at them after 10 minutes. I was also thinking about (and dreading) telling Mark about this being a possibility. I think that he was more done that I was.  He often mentioned in a joking matter that there were too many kids and too much chaos at our house.  How was he going to feel about this? How did I feel about this?

I picked up Oliver and we came directly home and I got both the boys down for a nap. I went into the bathroom and took another test, and stared at it.  SHIT. There was the second line again. It was barely there and super faint but it was there.  I started doing the math.  I was about 5 days until my period was due, so it was super early.  I still didn’t feel like this could be a possibility, so I took a third test later that after noon. Still positive.

I did what any mom of my age does, I sent a picture of my pee sticks to a close friend to see her opinion.  Clearly I was seeing things.  She assured me she also saw the lines, clearly I didn’t have “line eye” (a phrase on every internet forum ever for pregnancy). She asked if Mark knew, uh? NO.  I wasn’t going to call him at work and burden him with this.  That’s a sure fire was to de-rail a whole work day.  I’ll wait until he’s home.

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The Breakdown

Mark came home and I am sure that in hindsight he knew something was bothering me.  I wanted to just come out and say it, but I din’t want the kids to know and couldn’t find a quiet moment (remember, many kids, much chaos) to say anything.  You know how some women come up with all these cute ways of telling their spouse that they’re knocked up?  Wrapped pregnancy tests, t-shirts, funny baby themed gifts? They must be better at keeping secrets from their spouse than I am, because I had known less that 6 hours and it was killing me. I felt physically ill trying to hold it in.

When Mark came down the stairs from putting the last kid to bed and I could feel it exploding out of my mouth. “I think I might be pregnant. I’m sorry.”  He was silent for what felt like 9 months, but it was likely only a few seconds.  “What do you mean you think, you might be pregnant? How can you not be sure?” (I had never been unsure before) The whole story rushed out in one long sentence as I cried and finished with me taking him to the bathroom to show him my collection of now four tests, all with faint lines.  He could see my point, they were cheap tests, the lines were faint.

We decided that we needed to buy a more expensive test to be sure.  The First response has never failed us before, and we should wait to take it in the morning.  Spoiler Alert: Also positive. So there we stood in the bathroom, while our other three kids ran through the house. “I guess this is happening.” I cried again, a sure sign I was pregnant, because that’s not something that I do.

The Pregnancy

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Because of our previous miscarriage I needed to get into see a doctor ASAP to get on progesterone therapy. Of course it was a Friday morning when I took that final test, but that meant I had the weekend to figure out what the heck we were going to do.  We were new to North Carolina, I didn’t have a OB/GYN or a Midwife, I hadn’t planned on anymore kids so this wasn’t something I had looked in to at all.  I did have a family doctor that we had all been seeing, so I decided to start there.

I knew that like Elijah, I wanted her born at home. Come to find out, Homebirth in North Carolina is not as easy (or legal in some cases) as it is in Michigan. (You can read more about that here.) At the time there was only one legal provider that served our area along with a few underground midwives. We chose to go the legal route, due to a history of needing a backup OB practice, which only she had.  Like Eli’s pregnancy, I was on progesterone therapy for the first 14 weeks.

I spent most of the early pregnancy a nervous wreck.  Honestly, a surprise pregnancy is hard but when you weren’t mentally prepared to go through the worry and the extra medial stuff that goes along with it, its rough.  One of the reasons I was pretty OK with not having anymore kids was because maintaining a pregnancy was so hard for me. Emotionally I was not there.  I was very disconnected with her pregnancy, it never really felt real for me.

I have never been one of those super happy, glowing pregnant people.  I was horribly sick and exhausted.  I needed to take meds so that I was able to stay hydrated and eat, even then it only took the edge off, I lost almost 10lbs in the first half of the pregnancy.  Thank god that Mark is an amazing partner and father, because he picked up all my slack and was compassionate and understanding while I felt like complete crap for 9 months.  I still feel bad for all the TV my kids watched just so we could make it through the day.  Pregnancy in your 20s is much easier than in your 30s.  Other than being sick and feeling like crap the pregnancy was uncomplicated and uneventful.

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As an aside, we did not find out the sex before birth.  Since we had decided to wait Oliver had come up with the nick name Baby Yogurt.  Which is very cute and I almost wish they still called her that.

Preparing for the Birth

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One of the things that was new to us with being in North Carolina was that we didn’t have any friends or family here.  This presented us with lots of logistical issues when it came to delivery.  With our previous deliveries, we had lots of child care options grandparents, siblings, or friends were close by and able to help as needed.  We didn’t really know what we were going to do.

We threw a lot of options around, some involved elaborate travel plans for grandparents, but we ultimately decided that because we would be delivering at home we didn’t want house guests as well.  Our kids also have come between 37 and 42 weeks gestation, which meant we’d be asking someone to put their life on hold for 5-6 weeks.  I didn’t really feel that we could ask someone to do that.

So, what do people do when they live out of state from family and need childcare?  Come to find out there is a whole niche business that covers people for that! We ended up being put in touch with Heather at The Doulas of Raleigh who we ended up hiring to be on call, and with our kids during the birthing process.

We had decided that as long as the kids were comfortable we wanted them to be present for the birth of their newest sibling.  Having Heather be there for the kids to be able to assure them that the process was normal and what to expect was important to us.  She also would then be available in case of an emergency and able to stay with the kids so that Mark could stay with me.  Mark also didn’t have to worry about splitting his attention between me in labor and the kids.

The Birth

I was due July 24th, this was new for us, the previous three kids were fall/winter babies. We also now lived in North Carolina which is MISERABLY hot from May-October. By my third trimester I was very done, very hot, and very cranky.  Starting around 36 weeks I began to have contractions, which is called prodomal labor.  You would think that being a 4th time mom I would know when it was real labor vs practice labor. Because Oliver came early at 37 weeks I was on high alert that things could happen at any time, because babies do what they want. There were many nights, as I laid in bed, or paced the bedroom in the dark having contractions those last few weeks, that I was unsure when it was actually time to “rally the troops”.  There were a few times that I had Mark work from home “just in case”.

Wednesday July 22, 2015

The days leading up to her delivery I had a lot of the usual signs that it was close to baby time.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but one of those signs was having the best nap of my life that afternoon.  That evening we decided that we would rent a movie for the kids to watch and have a family movie night.  The kids picked Paddington, and about 15 minutes in I noticed that I was having consistent contractions that were intense enough that I was having to focus and breath through them.  I moved to sit on my yoga ball and quietly timed them.  I didn’t want to say anything in front of the kids and didn’t want to get Mark excited.

After the movie was over (which seemed like forever) and the kids were in bed I let Mark see the contraction timer and we discussed if it was “real” or not.  We decided that it was best to proceed with caution.  We figured that we should probably get to bed at a reasonable hour just in case.  I wanted to shower and typically if that slows things down then its not real labor.  The shower did slow things down a bit and as I was doing my hair and getting ready for bed I was disappointed. I was still having contractions, but they had seemed to peter out a bit.

I got into bed and was restless and as I laid there I was still contracting enough that  couldn’t sleep.  I was so uncomfortable. Mark was already asleep and snoring which just annoyed me, but I didn’t wake him up as much as I wanted to just so he could be miserable with me.  I got up to go to the bathroom about 15 times and finally decided I was going to sit on my yoga ball and bounce some and lean over the bed.  I put some lavender oil in the diffuser (we use this one) and set it to cycle through the light colors to help me focus on something.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

At about 1 am they were getting consistent again and becoming longer and stronger. I timed them on and off while I browsed Facebook, drifted in and out of sleep and listened to Mark snore.  They were coming between 3-5 minutes apart and varying in intensity.  I still hadn’t woken Mark up yet because I knew we had potentially a long day ahead and I didn’t want him to tell me it was time to call everyone, I didn’t feel like it was really time yet.  I was doing OK on my own at that point.

Around 3 am I was a little less sure that I was OK on my own, but still didn’t wake Mark up.  I was alternating between pacing in the dark in the bedroom and sitting on the yoga ball.  I was starting to get tired. My contractions were still between 3-5 minutes apart, but I was beginning to want to moan through them.  I still hadn’t called the birth team because I wanted them to be able to sleep as long as possible.

This is where things start to get a little fuzzy. I am pretty sure that I woke Mark around 4 am and told him that today was the day, he wasn’t going to work.  I decided he should go back to sleep for a little while, but at 5 am he was up again and decided that it was time to call everyone.  I felt like I wanted to get in the bath while he called.  At this point I was vocalizing through the contractions and I had stopped timing them because I couldn’t concentrate enough to do it.

Apparently the info he gave the Midwife was enough that she decided it was time to head our way. (she was traveling an hour) He also called Heather, who also headed here.  He decided (or maybe the midwife told him) to try to get me to eat.  It was already too late, by the time he delivered my bagel sandwich to the tub I was too far gone and couldn’t eat more than a few bites.

I think he was getting nervous that he would be catching Baby Yogurt on his own.  While waiting for everyone he got out all the Birth Supplies and started filling the pool.  He’s a good man, he knew exactly what he was supposed to do.  I continued to labor in the tub, vocalizing and being in labor land.

Heather was the first to show up, as she was the closest.  I could tell by the way she asked when the midwife would be here that she was nervous.  Since the kids weren’t awake, she set to work to be a birth doula for me while Mark got everything ready.  At this point I was out of the bath and on my knees leaning over the edge of the tub.  A little bit later the birth assistant showed up and quickly started unloading supplies.  I think that we all thought: fourth baby, probably in late labor, the baby would be here soon. The Midwife was there shortly after.

The house was all of a sudden a flurry of activity, I had moved into the birth pool and was laboring there and vocalizing more and more.  It felt like transition to me.  The kids were starting to wake up, so Heather headed to them to start their morning routine.  After they had gotten breakfast they all came in to say hi.  They didn’t stay long, just enough to see what was going on.  At one point I was vocalizing and Eli said “Mamas a ghost! She’s scary… Oooooooo!” We all got a little chuckle at that.

I was in lots of pain at this point, I was having back labor, and the contractions were coming coupled. One big one and then on smaller shorter one. I was starting to get really tired, I had been up over 24 hours at that point. I finally asked the Midwife to check me because I needed to know I was making progress. I was 8 cm dilated and Baby Yogurt was high, this was about 9 am.  I was feeling lots of pressure, despite it not being time to push yet.

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Around 11 am Heather had to leave, and her backup Anna, came to be with the kids. I was so grateful to have them there so we didn’t have to worry about the kids.  They played outside, made Birthday cards, did crafts. To them, it was a super fun day.

I was starting to throw up all the liquids I was taking in, a sure sign of transition. I was feeling lots of pressure and she was moving all over the place between contractions which was painful.  About 3 hours later she checked me again and I was only 9 cm.  I asked her to break my water to see if that would help get the baby to move down the rest of the way.  I was so tired and I could see that Mark was too. I had been in and out of the pool a few times. I was trying out different places, on the bed, the toilet, they kept wanting me to squat, but I was too tired and shaky.  In my head I just wanted to yell “NO! Why don’t YOU squat??”  I’m not very nice when I’m in labor.

Right about this time a thunder and rain storm rolled in.  It was about 2 pm, baby was not coming down. I could hear them talking about me getting too tired, after all, I’d been up since the morning before.  I knew it was a possibility that they may want to transfer to the hospital. I got out of the tub again and onto the yoga ball, she started to move down as I bounced but it still wasn’t working for me.  At this point I was crying through the contractions, something that I had never done before, I could tell by the look on Marks face he was getting worried and didn’t want me to be in pain anymore.

The Birth Assistant had a birthing stool in her car, and decided to go get it and see if that would help. I moved over to that, but because I’m short, my feet didn’t touch the ground while I was sitting on it.  Mark sat behind me on the bed and I put my feet on his.  This was a great position, essentially squatting and I could use gravity to help push. I pushed for over 45 minutes, the longest pushing phase of all my kids.

The kids came in when Baby Yogurt was crowning. This was the best part of the labor, and a part I will always remember vividly.  Anna sat in the doorway with Eli in her lap, and Zoe stood there looking like she may want to make a quick getaway.  Oliver came right in and sat at the midwives elbow, he yelled back to Zoe “Come sit over here! You can see much better!” She declined. As I was pushing, Oliver kept saying, “I can see the baby’s head!” “There’s the eyes!” “I see ears!”  It was a great motivator for me, because I knew I was making progress.

Finally the head was out. I tried to push out the body and I was having a hard time. The shoulders were a little stuck. Eventually I was able to get through it. Baby Yogurt was immediately handed up to me and we were covered in a towel. Yogurts eyes were wide open and she was staring at us, blinking taking it all in. No crying really, just observation, taking it all in.  A few minutes went by and we realized we had no idea who we had just met. I called Zoe over to see if we had a Strawberry or Blueberry Yogurt.  She pulled back the towel and announced it was a girl!

We moved to the bed, Isabel nursed while everyone gathered around and took her in.   After a while, the cord had stopped pulsing, so Oliver cut the cord.  Mark and I looked at each other and I said “Isabel?” He nodded and said yes.

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The Aftermath

After we laid in bed a while and nursed, she had her newborn exam.  Isabel Mae born at 2:59 pm on her Great Grandpa’s 90th Birthday. She was my second longest labor at about 22 hours of real, hard labor.  She was 9lbs 2oz, 23 inches long, and had a big headed like her brothers at 14.5 inches around.

**If you are currently pregnant or gory details freak you out, I suggest you stop reading here**

About two hours later I was examined  and they noticed that I had a 4th degree tear (all the way to my rectum) which needed to be fixed in the OR. We think that when she was stuck that she had her hand up under her chin. Unfortunately, that’s not the best way to make your way out, thus the severe tearing.

Both Mark and I ate a little, I showered, and we got ready to go to the hospital. My backup hospital for non-emergent issues is 40 min away so we headed there. My Midwife called ahead so they knew I was coming as a transfer. Surprisingly, I was not as tired as I thought I would be, it must have been all that Birth Adrenaline.

We got to UNC hospital and they checked me in at L&D and I saw the on call doctor for my backup practice. At first they were saying that because the repair was so extensive that they were going to have to wait until the morning to do it and that we would be there likely overnight. I begged them to let me go home. We had no childcare. Our sibling doula was with the kids and she couldn’t stay overnight. We needed time to arrange childcare for the next day.

They let me go home and scheduled surgery with Urogynocology the next morning at 8:30 am. I was so thankful to be able to go home and sleep in my own bed. We went back the next morning and I went back to the OR and got a spinal block and the repairs took about an hour and a half. There is some irony to be found in the whole situation, I had a long, painful, unmedicated birth at home, only to end up with a spinal block afterward in the hospital.  Life is funny sometimes.

Recovery was not all rainbows and unicorns, it actually sucked, a lot.  It took 12 weeks to heal and probably a good 9 months to not have pain when I was on my feet too long or if I overdid it with heavy lifting.  This was not the kind of birth you just bounce back from.  I was told at one of the many follow up visits that if  we were to want any more kids, they should at least be delivered in the hospital, and preferably by c-section.  Any more vaginal births risk rupturing the scar tissue and an even worse tare, which could result in more muscle damage, and have severe consequences.  That pretty much sealed the deal for me, Bits was the last baby.

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Today

Today Isabel turned two.  I still have some unresolved feelings about her birth.  Was it the beautiful, euphoric, home birth I was hoping to end my childbearing years with? Absolutely not.  But its her story and her birth. This fits with her personality now, Bits does what Bits wants.  She doesn’t care what you want.  She’s an amazing, funny, spunky two year old and I can not wait she what she has in store for us as she grows.

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