Tag Archive | pregnancy

Capturing the Moment

I always feel a little silly having maternity photos taken, especially with it being my third child who is on the way. But I never regret having them taken. We get family photos taken a LOT and it sometimes seems a bit frivolous, but we all have our priorities, don’t we? And though there are things we may have to go without, I’m always so glad we invest in professional photography. Our photos are something I cherish the most. They’re hanging all over our house and the ones that aren’t, I return to often to look at in photo albums and on the archival CDs. I just love them.

The photographer we chose this time is one we’ve never used (because she’s very very VERY expensive), but I’ve long dreamed of her taking my photo because she’s AMAZING. And I daresay, our maternity photos from last month are my favorites yet (though it’s a tough race between these and the family photos we had taken in Hawaii in February!). Which is saying something, considering that I feel as if I’ve chosen some pretty amazing photographers over the years. I wish I could show ALL the photos in all their glory on this blog. There are so many others that I can’t show here — ones with a beautiful sunset and Cupcake hugging my belly and my girls and I in flower crowns and my family walking on the beach… But alas, for the sake of staying somewhat anonymous, I’ve had to do some careful cropping and editing. I hope I’m able to still showcase how magical these photos truly are. (If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve already seen the best of the best, so this post will probably be a bit ho-hum. 😉 )

But without further ado, here is a little looky-loo at me and my belly at 31 weeks…

With Skittle. I love it when they're this little and can sit comfortably on big bellies!

With Skittle. I love it when they’re this little and can sit comfortably on big bellies!

This is Cupcake's little hand. She's

This is Cupcake’s little hand. She’s “playing” with “Charlie,” the temporary nickname she’s given to Baby Poppy.

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Sticky and Stuck

I’m feeling stuck. I can’t decide what to write here, or if I should write nothing or everything. Should I give pregnancy updates? Talk about my day-to-day with Cupcake and Skittle? Get philosophical on what it means to be a mother, or infertile? Get sentimental and remember the baby I lost, but haven’t forgotten? I sometimes think I should participate in Microblog Mondays, but I usually don’t even think of it until Monday night and then it just seems like too much work.

I think part of the problem is that I want to write something meaningful — something that matters — and I’m not sure this is the right place for that, or if what matters to me matters to anyone else. And honestly, I don’t even know what matters to me right now. I have two kids and another on the way, and I’m just tired and rushed and a bit overwhelmed, and writing anything coherent seems like a daunting task. And it’s really hot here in the Pacific NW, where A/C is not really the norm inside homes (including ours), so I’m not just stuck, I’m sticky. With sweat. And unmotivated to do much of anything because of it.

See, I have a lot of excuses for my lack of content, but none of them really mean anything, do they? So just please bear with me as I try to figure this out. I’m not sure if I’ll be writing more or less in the coming weeks, but I promise you I will continue writing as I feel inspired to do so. And many thanks to all of you who have stuck around. Whether you lurk in the shadows or comment on every post, I feel your love and appreciate your support.

While I’m here, let me give a brief(-ish) pregnancy update in an easy-peasy bullet point format:

  • I just began my third trimester (depending on who you ask). I’m 27 weeks as of yesterday.
  • I’m still struggling with “morning sickness.” It’s better than it was in the first trimester, but I suffer through periods of nausea several times a week still. I vomited just tonight, right after dinner, per my usual once-a-week meet and greet with the porcelain throne. It kind of blows my mind since it was never like this in my last pregnancies. I hardly had any sickness with Skittle and, though I often felt very nauseous with Cupcake, it was gone by 13 weeks. And yet here I am, at 27 weeks, with vivid memories of what the inside of our toilet looks like. Crazy.
  • Besides the nausea AND my severe seasonal allergies, I’m feeling pretty good. Tired, but not terribly so. The headaches that I was having for a good few weeks are gone now. I don’t have the same shortness of breath or leaky bladder that I did in my last pregnancy, and no blood pressure spikes or hemorrhoid flare-ups yet (though I am fully expecting both of those to come knocking at my door down the road).
  • Emotionally, I’m feeling pretty strong and serene. I have my moments certainly, and I can feel my anxiety creep from my stomach to my chest to my throat when this baby has been too quiet for too long, but I’m managing to keep it mostly under control. Hourly kick counts help. And by “hourly,” I mean every hour that I’m awake of every day, I keep a tally sheet of how many times Poppy kicks, and I have been for the last seven weeks. I know it’s a bit insane — proof that I’m by no means “normal” when it comes to pregnancy — but it really does help to keep the crazies under wraps.
  • We’ve chosen a name! Just tonight. We had it narrowed to two and I told Honey to make the final decision because I just couldn’t. I love them both too much. The name we’ve chosen is a bit unusual and, though used exclusively for boys in the U.K. (where it originates), it’s become trendy to use it for girls here in the U.S. That worries me some, as well as the fact that his initials sort of allude to a swear word, but all in all, I adore the name we’ll be giving this little boy and am excited to reveal it to our friends and family (and on this blog!) after his birth.
  • I’m whittling away at my pregnancy “to do” list. So far, I have asked my friend Leigh to be my doula again, hired a birth photographer (sooooo excited for this one!), hired a maternity and newborn photographer, started stocking our deep freeze with freezer meals, and done lots and lots of shopping for our little man. But I still have more shopping to do, plus preparing the nursery, making more freezer meals, and moving Skittle into Cupcake’s room (which I am beyond terrified for).

And an update on the rest of my life:

  • I’ve been feeling a bit isolated and lonely these days. With Cupcake out of preschool for the summer and me having so much I want to accomplish at home, I’m finding that we don’t get out of the house as much as we should. We’ve had a few playdates and I’ve gone out with Leigh several times, but most of my days are primarily spent with a 1- and 4-year-old. They make me laugh, but it’s not the same as having the company of an adult. It’s times like this when I really miss Lillian and the rest of my mom’s group (which has essentially fallen apart over the last two years). So I’m painfully aware that my social life is in the crapper right now. But I’m thankful for my one good local friend, Leigh, and the support and comedy that she adds to my life. We spent all of this past Saturday making homemade strawberry jam and we have other fun things planned for this summer, too.
  • Though Honey is gone most of the day, working hard on a project at work that is finally nearing its end (thank GOD!), he comes home and somehow finds it in himself to have a good chunk of quality time with his girls and to help me around the house. Right now, I’m typing this post up and he’s sweeping the kitchen floor (after having already done the dishes and going to fill my car up with gas), that’s how amazing he is. I hope to write a blog post on him soon, but suffice it to say, I am so, so, so lucky this man is mine.
  • Cupcake is four-and-a-half now and still has one year of preschool ahead of her before entering “big kid school.” She’s about to have her very first haircut and I’m nervous but ready for the change. This girl continues to challenge me with her strong-willed ways, but we are now past the worst of the toddler power battles and every day with her is becoming more and more fun. She’s thrilled to bits to have a baby brother on the way.
  • Skittle is 20 months and every day with her is a joy. Her two-year molars are considering their entrance and so there’s a lot of drool in our house and a few difficult nights here and there, but overall, this girl just amazes me with her fearless, determined, playful, and loving spirit. I don’t want this stage to end! But more on that later. I hope to write a post on each of my girls sometime over the summer.

So that’s where we’re at in a nutshell. Up next for us:

  • Getting the results to my one-hour glucose test. I’m really, really nervous for this since I failed last time (but then passed the the 3-hour test). I just want to be able to eat all.the.ice.cream, you know? It’s hot here!
  • A road trip to Idaho to visit family. Not sure how it will go being trapped in a car for four or five hours, but I’ve done it before in pregnancy. I can do it again!
  • Massages and attending a painting party with my friend Leigh. I’ll also be taking boudoir photos for her later this summer since the last time we made an attempt, she came down with strep throat.
  • My maternity photos at the end of this month. I’m paying an obscene amount of money for this photographer, but having her take my maternity photos has been my dream for a while. She’s a-mazing!
  • My 32nd birthday in just a few more weeks.
  • A visit to my sister in August. She’s going through a divorce and is really in need of the extra support these days.
  • A final litttle hurrah as a family of four over Labor Day weekend, when we go stay at a rented house on Puget Sound. Sounds relaxing…I really hope it is!

There’s a lot on the horizon for us and, as summer turns to fall, the crowning glory will be this baby’s birth. It’s crazy, and incredible, to imagine.

Blue

I’ve never really liked the color blue. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a big ol’ girly-girl or if it’s just something about the color itself that rubs me the wrong way, but I’m just not a fan and I never have been. In fact, of all the colors in the world, I’d say it’s my very least favorite.

Which is sort of a problem since we’re about to have a lot more of it hanging around this house.

Any guesses why???

It’s because Poppy is a boy.

After two girls, I am pregnant with a boy.

We are having a baby boy!

It’s a thought that’s taking some getting used to and I hope to write more about that later, but for now, I’ll just say we’re excited. And we’re scared. We’re nervous. We’re curious. We’re hopeful.

Most of all, it just feels like, of course this is the way it should be. This is what was always intended for us. This baby boy has always been ours, from the very beginning of time when none of us existed.

This little one, this boy, is our boy. And that just makes this mama very, very happy.

Clarity

Thank you so much for all the love and support you showed after I published my last post. I should have known all along that I could count on you to lift me up. I don’t know how often I’ll be posting from here on out — probably much less than I did in my last pregnancy — but I do know I want to be able to come here from time to time as needed. Thank you all for following along.

The start of this week was rough. With daily headaches and barfing three times in the span of 48 hours (I can’t believe I’m STILL dealing with “morning” sickness at 15 weeks pregnant!), I was feeling really crapping. Also, my head and heart weren’t in a good place because a good friend of mine had broken up with me. Seriously. I don’t know any other way to say it. It would be almost laughable — to be dumped at the age of 31 by one of my best friends (I thought this drama only happened in high school?) — if it didn’t hurt so damn much. I’ve lost a lot of sleep and cried a lot of tears over this and may write about it in my next post since the friend in question is one I have talked a lot about on this blog, but for now I’ll just say…it’s been a sad week here. It’s messed with my head. It sucks.

People talk about moments of clarity. Like when you nearly lose your life and, afterwards, take stock of everything that you are grateful for or need to change. I find that my moments come to me on a much smaller scale, but they have the same effect. Earlier this week, I was feeling normal pregnancy worries. I hadn’t felt the baby (we’ll call him/her Poppy…as in poppyseed…as in, my baby was the size of a poppyseed when I first learned s/he existed) move in days and, though I know this is very normal since it’s still super early to be feeling any fetal movement, I let it get to me every time.

I brought out the doppler as I always do when I start to feel the anxiety creep in, almost-but-not-quite expecting to hear just silence and my own slow heartbeat and the gurgle of whatever is going on inside of me. I always feel just on the edge of believing my baby will die at any given moment…probably a form of infertility and miscarriage PTSD. But then there it was instantly…that fast and beautiful thumpity-thump-thump and, simultaneously, the sweetest, smallest baby wiggle or kick or whatever it was and I breathed out, “Thank you, God,” and then I knew.

I knew that nothing else really mattered besides that baby. That heartbeat and that kick. And the two other squealing, bouncy little ones in the next room. And the husband who has done my normal household chores — dishes and making dinner and picking up toys and on and on — without a word of complaint, even though I know he’s tired after a long day of work, because he knows my pregnancy sleepies and queasies trump that. And nothing matters more than the others in my life who choose to love me. And nurturing my relationships with them. And showing them and telling them what they mean to me.

That is what’s important.

Not a friend who has decided she finds no more value in my friendship. Not a friend who tells me all the things I need to change about myself, but can’t handle the truth when I meet her with brutal honesty and refuse to be bullied. And not the words I say to myself about what must be wrong with me. About why I don’t deserve to be loved.

Because there are people who love me. People who want to love me. People who can’t help but love me. At my best. At my worst. No makeup. Unshowered. Raw. They see me and they love me anyways.

Clarity.

We all need some of it from time to time.

Unexpected

There’s no other word for it.

Well, that’s not entirely true, is it? There are other words for it really…surprising, unplanned for, accidental, unforeseen. There are more surely, but “unexpected” seems to perfectly describe the course my life has taken. The path most of us infertiles face. The pregnancies that come when we’ve hit rock bottom. The losses that occur just when we start to feel “safe.”

And it’s unexpected that I’m coming here now, under much different circumstances than I predicted in my last post. I’m here because I need to say this, because I need to tell you, though I don’t have the right words to say or know how it will be received. But let’s not beat around the bush.

I’m pregnant.

Unexpectedly expecting, so to speak.

In fact, today I am thirteen weeks pregnant. Entering my second trimester. I have had three ultrasounds. Baby has a good heartbeat and is measuring a couple days ahead. When I start to feel anxious, I bring out the doppler and search for that heartbeat while muttering prayer after prayer. It all still feels unreal.

This is my first natural pregnancy. No Clomid, or RE, or monitoring. No endless cycles of hope and then failure. My body is a funny thing. Since puberty, it has not cycled regularly. It did not know how to put all the pieces together to make it all function so that a mature egg would be released on a monthly basis. By my college days, it hardly happened at all. And yet, there is something about the weaning process that just works for my body. My menstrual cycles don’t start until after I wean my babies, but always within thirty days of the time when I have officially stopped breastfeeding, I ovulate. And this time, I was prepared for it. Watching and waiting and having a bit more sex than is usual for us. They say it only takes once and I’m proof that it does.

I’ve been wanting to come here for a while now to share my news. But I didn’t know what to say. And I was scared. Scared that putting my news out into the world would be an irreversible curse. But if I’m being completely honest, even more scared that the easy road I have walked to achieve this pregnancy would mean I was no longer wanted or welcomed here. I didn’t want to face the rejection.

The day I learned I was pregnant, I told two of my good friends. One of them said to me, “See! You’re not really infertile at all!” I didn’t say much to that (well, I did actually — I argued with her over it, but she didn’t want to hear me or believe me, so I let it go), but she just clearly has no idea. If I hadn’t caught that one lucky, post-weaning egg, we would be right back where we were two or three years ago as we were trying to conceive Skittle…smack dab in the middle of Clomid and uncertainty. One ovulation doesn’t mean anything. I will always be infertile. Who else prays so fervently countless times each day for a healthy baby? Who else has high blood pressure only when at the OB’s office? Who else lives from one doppler listening to the next, just hoping her baby will still be alive? There was once a time when I wanted nothing more than to be as fertile as the next gal. But infertility is part of my identity now, a part I am not ashamed to own anymore. And if I don’t belong here, in this community, then I don’t know where I belong at all.

With that said, I don’t know if I’ll be posting here again in this pregnancy. That’s not to say that I definitely won’t…I just really don’t know. Maybe it will depend on the feedback I get to this post. Maybe it will depend on how anxious I become over the next few days or weeks or months. Maybe it will depend on something completely unexpected. I think when it’s time to post again, I’ll know. I’ve known this post needed to be written for weeks now and I will trust my heart to tell me when there is more to say.

Until then…may life’s unexpected twists and turns be kind to you, friends. Thinking of you all. xo

The Birth Story

** This one is a long one, ladies! I want to record it for posterity so that I will forever remember one of the most beautiful moments in my life and I want to give an honest account for anyone hoping for a natural birth. No holding back! **

Last Wednesday was a crisp, cool day here in the Northwest. Autumn had definitely arrived. Our lawn was already covered in fallen leaves and the skies were gray. And it was still dark outside when my husband called the hospital at 6:30 a.m. to see if and when we would be reporting for our induction. I expected them to tell us to call back at noon, or 4 p.m. or 6 p.m., or midnight. I did not expect them to say they were ready for us and we should report at 8 a.m., but that is exactly what they told us.

We scrambled around that morning, finishing the packing of our hospital bags and getting dressed and ready to go and preparing my daughter for her overnight stay at my friend Lillian‘s house. It was a frantic, hectic, chaotic start to the day — and to our newest adventure.

After dropping Cupcake off, we (Honey, my mom, and I) arrived at the hospital fifteen minutes late. We were out of breath, anxious, nervous, and excited. We had been waiting for this day to come for a very long time. And still, we waited some more. In fact, we spent the next eight hours waiting. Waiting to be checked in and taken to our room. Waiting to complete all the admission questions. Waiting through an hour of fetal monitoring. Waiting for my blood work to come back and my urine to be tested. Waiting for the doctor (not my OB, but one of his partners) to do an ultrasound. (Skittle was still head-down, thankfully.) Waiting for my first dose of Cytotec* (which I did not even get until 11a.m.). Waiting through more fetal monitoring. Waiting for contractions to start. Waiting for them to get stronger and closer together. The waiting was endless.

I brought my own pretty hospital gown to labor in and I also brought these cute socks.

I brought my own stylish hospital gown to labor in and I also brought these cute and cozy socks.

Around 4 p.m., the few contractions I was having pretty much petered out. They were at least ten minutes apart and I couldn’t feel them at all. It was decided then that I’d be given a second dose, this time twice as much, of Cytotec. This meant at least another two hours of fetal monitoring. It felt like I would be tied to my hospital bed forever. I ached to get on my feet, to stretch my legs and back, but instead I had to be happy with switching from sitting to side-lying on one side or the other. The whole process seemed endless and I was beginning to worry if an induction would even be successful this time.

And then everything started to change.

Within an hour of my double dose of Cytotec, I went from having essentially no contractions to having them every 90 seconds. They weren’t yet strong enough to cause me the sort of pain that I would experience in the hours ahead, but they certainly were enough to make me stop and catch my breath. And they gave me hope that this thing might happen after all. That my body could and would respond to another induction and bring forth the baby I felt kicking away in my womb.

But then there was a sharp, scary turn of events.

Skittle’s heart rate dropped. During one of many contractions, her heart rate dropped from the 130s to 80 or so. My nurse had me quickly recline and turn onto my side and Skittle’s heart rate returned to normal, but I could tell the nurse was shaken by it and so was I. We waited and watch in the minutes that followed and while her heart rate did not decelerate again, it also didn’t show the variability (the up and down of a heart rate that often occurs with contractions or movement) that is considered a reassuring sign. The charge nurse came in to watch the fetal monitor alongside my personal nurse, but nothing changed. I became worried. They kept assuring me that my baby was okay and probably just sleeping, and I could hear her heartbeat and knew she was alive, but I suddenly felt very vulnerable. We were in a hospital and well on our way to welcoming Skittle into this world, but she still wasn’t safe. She wouldn’t be until she was in my arms. It was a horribly frightening realization and I couldn’t hold the tears back as I lay there, waiting and hoping for some sign that my baby was going to be fine. That she could, and would, recover from this. That she could, and would, endure these too-close-for-comfort contractions.

I was connected to all sorts of wires while in labor. This IV was only one of them.

I was connected to all sorts of wires while in labor. This IV was only one of them.

What was supposed to be two hours of fetal monitoring became two-and-a-half. Three. Three-and-a-half. I was so sick of lying in bed, but they wouldn’t allow me to get out until they saw a change in the baby’s heart rate. It was decided that I would be given terbutaline, a drug sometimes given to stop premature labor, but for me it would be used to slow down my contractions, hopefully giving Skittle the time to catch her “breath” and bounce back after contractions coming too close together for too long.

Around this time, I also decided I was ready to text my friend Leigh to ask her to come to the hospital. Leigh is one of the few people who has walked alongside me through this entire journey. And while she has never known the pain of infertility or miscarriage, she has somehow always shown such sensitivity and gentleness in regards to my experience, and she has always said the right things. She birthed her second child naturally and hopes to one day study to be a doula, so a couple months ago I asked her to attend my birth (her first ever!) and help me have the natural labor and delivery that I so desired.  With the contractions becoming painful, my body shaking uncontrollably, and my heart so full of fear for Skittle, I knew then that I needed her, not only to help me through the contractions, but to give me the extra emotional support and comfort.

Leigh arrived 45 minutes later just as my contractions were finally slowing down to a more manageable spacing of 2-3 minutes apart. The doctor arrived shortly thereafter to check my dilation (3cm, I think?) and try to tickle the baby’s head to see if her heart rate would respond to touch. I was also encouraged to go to the bathroom and, just as I climbed back into bed for more monitoring, our precious Skittle finally woke up and began kicking and wiggling away, which led to the heart rate accelerations we had all been waiting for. The relief in the room was palpable. I felt such a sense of calm flow through me and my shaking stopped almost instantly. So the terbutaline had done its job and Skittle was rebounding nicely, but there was a new problem: my pulse was abnormally high. It was most likely a side effect of the terbutaline, but it was a cause for concern nevertheless and once again kept me from being free from all the wires. So I was monitored some more. Le sigh.

Contractions were about two minutes apart here, and painful, but not unbearable.

Contractions were about two minutes apart here, and painful, but not unbearable.

Finally, though, after hours stuck in bed and some begging for freedom from both me and Leigh, the doctor and nurses agreed to let me walk the floor. I would still have to be monitored the entire time and kept hydrated with my IV fluids, but I could use the portable fetal monitor instead. So I walked about as the contractions grew in their intensity and my mom, Leigh, and Honey took turns pushing my IV pole and holding my gigantic jug of apple juice. (Did I mention I was only allowed clear fluids since my arrival at the hospital? No food. Yeah…that was fun, too.)

After an hour of walking the halls of the birth center, I was ready for a change of pace. My contractions were back to being about 90 seconds apart and they were becoming more difficult to talk and walk through. We decided to try the bathtub instead, since the portable fetal monitor was also waterproof. That hot (so hot we had to add ice cubes to it!) water was such a relief. The first couple contractions I spent there I didn’t even feel and the ones that came after were much reduced in intensity. I felt like I could have spent the rest of my life, or at least my labor, sitting there immersed in that warmth.

But. (Isn’t there always a but?)

But the water made it difficult to monitor Skittle. They kept losing her heart rate and eventually the doctor ordered me out of the bath and back to my bed.

And so to the bed we went.

Apparently this is what I did with my toes during the worst of the contractions. Please note the pretty pedicure!

Apparently this is what I did with my feet during the worst of the contractions. Please note the pretty pedicure!

As the contractions continued to come very close together and seemed to become more painful with each one, we tried everything we could to manage them:

  • A variety of positions: all fours, side-lying, sitting on the edge of the bed while leaning over a table, sitting on a birthing ball while leaning over the bed (my favorite), reclined in the bed
  • Massage from a rolling pin on my back
  • Counterpressure from a rolling pin on my back
  • Hip squeezing
  • A hot water bottle against my lower back (I loved this.)
  • Alternating hot and cold rags on my back
  • Cold rags on my neck and face
  • A small roll of tape rolled on my lower back (because I forgot the tennis balls)
  • Low back massage
  • Shoulder massage
  • Listening to my labor CD
  • Low moans and deep abdominal breathing (This really helped me keep my focus.)

We had quite the “toolkit” of pain relief methods and yet nothing felt like it was enough. The back labor had me crippled with each contraction and, with the contractions so constant, there were no breaks. No recovery time. I felt like I was treading water. And sinking.

When my water broke shortly after midnight in a gush that soaked me and the bed, I got scared. Throughout my labor, I had been telling Leigh, “I’m scared. I’m scared.” And I was. It was my constant mantra, this admission of fear. Fear of the pain. Fear for my baby’s well-being. Fear for my ability to endure. Fear of the unknown. But this time, I really meant it. I was afraid. So afraid. Afraid because I knew the contractions would get harder without the cushion of amniotic fluid. And they did. Oh, God, did they! Ten minutes ago, it had been hard to imagine any more pain than what I was experiencing in that moment. But now I knew…it could get worse. It would get worse. I still had a long way to go.

I will say this: I was really at my most vulnerable, my most primal, during my labor. The low, deep moans. The wailing and whimpering I couldn’t control. The wild hair that has me cringing when I look at photos, but that I didn’t even ponder when I was in the middle of it all. The cries for help. The farting. The peeing. The vomiting. I didn’t poop during delivery, but I did just about everything else. It was not my finest hour.

My mom pressing hot and cold towels to my lower back. The back labor was a b*tch!

My mom pressing hot and cold towels to my lower back. The back labor was a b*tch!

And yet, I had never felt more present in my life.  I had my eyes closed throughout much of it, but my senses of touch and hearing were incredible. I could tell who was touching me just by the weight of their hand. I heard every conversation even as I turned inwards to get through the worst of the contractions. I was able to respond to questions, able to hear my baby’s beating heart, able to laugh when Honey told a joke. I felt more empowered than perhaps I ever had. I was doing what female mammals had been doing for thousands of years. I was experiencing, fully, truly experiencing the glory and grief of womanhood at an acute intensity. It was amazing.

It’s a funny thing to feel so strong and weak at once. Strong because I felt completely and totally alive. But weak because I really was beginning to feel like I couldn’t go on. I was tired. And I was in excruciating, unbearable pain. I won’t lie…more than once, I wished that Skittle had been breech after all and I’d been forced to have a c-section. And with those thoughts, the “e”-word also rose to the surface. Epidural. Epidural, epidural, epidural. The four syllables thudded through my head over and over and over. I wanted to give in and give up. I wanted someone to give me the permission to do so.

I started to feel some painful rectal pressure and I said so. It was about 2 a.m. The nurse checked me. I wanted her to say I was 7, 8, 9, 10 centimeters dilated. I needed to know the end was near. And I told myself if it wasn’t, I would consider accepting pain meds. I would admit my weaknesses and cry uncle.

I was then told I was 4-5cm along.

“Oh, god. I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore!” I felt like crying. I was only halfway there? Really?! This was all starting to feel like a cruel joke.

The charge nurse, Debbie, knelt before me. She told me to open my eyes and look at her. She told me I had a decision to make. “You need to decide what you want to do,” she said. “Not during a contraction. Not immediately after. But in between. Talk to your husband. Decide what you can live with. And we will support you in whatever you choose.” Essentially, she was giving me the permission to give up that I so desired.

After another contraction, Leigh gently asked me if I wanted to talk to Honey. “No, I want to talk to you,” I said. “I don’t want to let you and Lillian down. You were both so strong and I know this isn’t the kind of birth you wanted to attend.” Leigh laughed. She said not to worry about her, that this had nothing to do with her. That each woman’s labor is unique and I had already been so strong, so amazing.

Another contraction gripped me and then I asked my husband if he would be disappointed in me if I asked for an epidural. Though I yearned for the permission to give up, a part of me was hoping he would say yes. That someone would require me to stick with it. Instead, Honey whispered loudly, “Honestly, I can’t even remember why we want a natural birth.” The nurses laughed. Mom and Leigh laughed. So did I. “Why do we want to do this again?” he asked.

“Because it’s what’s best for the baby,” I said. I believed it was best for Skittle and I believed it was best for me, but with another contraction coming on strong, it was hard to feel much conviction. And so as soon as I caught my breath, I relented. I asked for an epidural. I was disappointed in myself, but relieved too. And desperate for the anesthesiologist to come as quickly as he could. Fast would not be fast enough.

Gripping my doula-friend's hand and the bed railing during a contraction.

Gripping my doula-friend’s hand and the bed railing during a contraction.

I kept asking for the epidural. Or rather, screaming for it. Begging for it. “Where is he? Where is he?” I asked over and over. “I need heeeeelllllp!” I could feel myself losing control, spiraling. I was a mess. A number of times, it occurred to me that if there was another pregnant woman walking the halls in early labor and if she happened to pass my room, I would probably scare that baby right out of her. My pain terrified me; surely it would terrify someone else too. But even while I knew that I had lost all grip on my pain management, and even though Leigh worked very hard to guide me in getting it back under control, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t listen. I wanted no part in working with the contractions anymore. I just wanted pain relief. And I just wanted that baby out of me.

And then suddenly, I felt the most incredible, undeniable pressure. It felt like I was being turned inside out. Like I was being ripped apart. “I feel like I have to poop!” I screamed. But even as I said it, I knew I didn’t. I knew I just needed to push. I knew Skittle was ready.

And when the nurse checked me, just fifteen minutes or so after my last check when I was only 4-5cm dilated, sure enough…it was confirmed that I was fully effaced, fully dilated, and ready to push.

The problem? The on-call doctor was at home a half-hour away. And the other doctor on the floor was no where to be found.

“I have to push! I have to push!” I screamed.

“No! No, don’t push!” Everyone screamed back. My nurse ran to gather a team of nurses to help in the delivery while Debbie (the charge nurse) tried to convince me that I had to wait until the doctor arrived. And I did try, but only half-heartedly. I already knew that I couldn’t hold back much longer.

“I can feel her coming! I feel her head. I need her out! I need her out!” Phrases like that streamed out of me, over and over, while everyone kept telling me not to push. To wait. To hold on.

But there came a point of no return. Skittle was coming, ready or not, and so I let go. I screamed and I pushed. One, two, three. Three pushes, one vivid ring of fire, and less than five minutes later, and then there she was, in the hands of Debbie, whimpering.  Not crying, It was 2:23 a.m.

“Is she okay?” I asked, straining to see her, already on my way to forgetting the intensity of the pain that I had just endured.

“She’s fine,” they told me and she was placed on my chest, warm and gooey and beautiful, and then she did cry a loud, perfect wail and the greatest weight was lifted from my shoulders. Skittle was here, safe at last, and nothing mattered more than that. This was the moment I had been fighting for, crying for, praying for, waiting for, hoping for, yearning for, preparing for, for months and months and months. Perhaps my whole life.

Some of my first moments with Skittle.

Some of my first moments with Skittle.

I will never forget what it was like to hold her, to see her, to touch her. To realize she was no longer inside of me, but outside of me. Tears are falling down my cheeks as I type this. It is still surreal. Unreal. I have spent so many days trying to get here. Perhaps it will stop feeling like I dream once I have spent just as many days with her in my arms.

Those first moments after her birth are vivid and perfect to me. I opened my eyes to see Skittle and to see a room filled with nurses I had never met. My husband cut the cord and took pictures of the placenta. A doctor I didn’t know came to sew up my second-degree tear. I snuggled Skittle and then handed her over to be weighed, measured, and swaddled. The anesthesiologist showed up about fifteen minutes later and the on-call doctor a few minutes after that. Honey became weepy and hugged my mom and Leigh and wouldn’t let go. And then he hugged me and cried into my shoulder, telling me how proud of me he was, how wonderful I did. He had never cried like that at Cupcake’s birth and seeing him become so emotional at Skittle’s made me love him even more. He held Skittle and I heard him tell her “I love you,” and my heart melted. He didn’t say those words to his first daughter until she was two, or three or four, months old. To hear him say it now was shocking and wonderful. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one who had been transformed by this experience.

I still have some mixed feelings about my natural birth. Quite honestly, I cannot believe I did it. I think I was doubting myself more than I cared to admit. I am proud of my accomplishment, and having done it with an induction no less. I feel like I am part of an exclusive club. Like I overcame the unimaginable. And truly, it feels like the first step in a long process of healing after the darkest days in my life.  I love my body for what it did and I love myself for somehow surviving it.

But. (There’s that but again!)

But I also feel a bit like a fraud. I did ask for an epidural, after all. Can I really claim to have had the strength and willpower for a natural birth if I was begging for mercy? If I would have had an epidural had my labor not accelerated at the rate that it did? I do know that I would not have been able to do it without my doula-friend, Leigh, there at my side. I have talked extensively with her about my birth experience and she constantly assures me that I am strong, brave, and capable. She calls me “amazing” over and over. Surely, I did not accomplish a natural birth with as much grace as she did, but I’m glad to hear that she seems to have no doubt that I deserve to feel proud and empowered. She says few women are able to do a natural birth with an induction because the intensity of contractions are so great. She says few women would have lasted as long as I did with contractions coming so strong and close together. My dear friend Lillian, for example, had contractions four minutes apart throughout all of her labor. Mine came every minute or two. And Leigh says I only screamed for an epidural because I was in transition. Many a laboring woman has declared that she’s ready to quit as she makes the final dash to the finish line. And to go from 5cm to 10cm in fifteen minutes is one hard, fast, breathless, crazy dash.

So I am trying to see myself the way that Leigh does. The way Lillian and my mom and Honey do.  They brag about my natural delivery. They sing my praises. They assure me that what I did was an incredible feat. I want to feel incredible. I want to believe I’m incredible. I have a long way to go, but here is what I know: I am glad everything happened just as it did.  I am unbelievably thankful I never had a cesarean and enormously happy my epidural never arrived. I believe a natural birth was the right choice for me and Skittle. She was more alert than Cupcake ever was in her first day of life and has been a champion nurser since her first hour after birth. And my recovery has been ten thousand times easier and faster than when I had an epidural in my first delivery. An epidural was a necessary and precisely right choice for me then, but laboring without one was the best thing for me in this moment in this place in my life.

If you had asked me an hour or so after Skittle’s birth if I would ever do it naturally again, I would have hesitated. I wouldn’t have known what to say. The pain was still too sharp and fresh. But now? I’d say yes. Absolutely. Of course. No regrets. And if I could, I would do it over and over and over again.

Skittle's first bath. And because I didn't have an epidural, I was able to get out of bed right away to help!

Skittle’s first bath. And because I didn’t have an epidural, I was able to get out of bed right away to help give it to her!

In the end, though, it matters very little how Skittle came into this world. That Clomid, lots of time, and a thousand prayers were required. That I cried many tears waiting for her. It doesn’t matter that I had to be induced, almost needed a c-section, had high blood pressure and plenty of small scares along the way. Or that I asked for an epidural, but never had the time to get one.

All that matters is that she is here, she is safe, and she is mine.

I feel so lucky. I can’t stop holding her, touching her, kissing her, telling her how much she is loved. I snuggle with her for long hours, her body pressed against my chest, just feeling the weight of her. I stare at her face. I run my fingers through her fine, silky, dark hair. I have already taken hundreds of photos. I know from experience that these moments will be gone too soon. That Skittle will grow too quickly. So I will cherish this, the good days and the hard ones alike. I will not waste a second. I will treasure my child and I will hold her close for as long as she lets me.

She is my rainbow and, after a dark and stormy season, I finally get to lift my face to the sunshine. Alas.

The necklace was a "push gift" my Honey MADE for me. Look closely and you'll see what book inspired Skittle's name. :)

The necklace was a “push gift” my Honey MADE for me. Look closely and you’ll see what book inspired Skittle’s name. 🙂

* For those of you who don’t know, Cytotec is a vaginal pill given to ripen the cervix. It is usually administered prior to Pitocin for pregnant mamas who have not made much cervical progress prior to their induction in order to soften and efface the cervix and make the Pitocin more effective. Often, it will start contractions on its own and Pit will not even be needed. It can hyperstimulate the uterus and cause too many contractions, however, and that is why fetal monitoring is required for an hour or two after administration.

Another Change of Plans

Thank you all so much for your words of advice, encouragement, support, and best wishes to yesterday’s post, written by my husband. (I can’t believe I actually let him publish something so wacky!) I appreciate every one of you more than you can know.

In both good news and bad news, Skittle is still not here. I am at home, on the couch, waiting for tomorrow instead.

The reason for this is that when we went in for our 7:45am consult with my OB today, we learned Skittle had performed yet another gymnastic feat and was back to being head-down. She has shocked her parents and baffled doctors, nurses, and sonographers alike. If Dr. Smiles wasn’t such a professional, I’m sure he would have muttered “WTF?!?!” today as we all stared at the ultrasound screen, stunned to see her head once again in the perfect position. Honestly, none of us know how this is even possible, this late into a pregnancy and with such a reportedly “big baby.” But somehow, Skittle is able to continually keep us guessing. She definitely marches to the beat of her own drum.

I had hoped that, should this small miracle occur, I would be able to go straight to the hospital for an induction instead. Though I don’t want an induction, I want a c-section even less and I am terrified of Skittle flipping again. But there’s no room in the inn — or the hospital — for this pregnant mama. At least not today. So an induction has been scheduled for tomorrow instead and if and when I go will once again be dependent on how full the Birth Center is.

So it’s on to more and more waiting. And while I am so relieved that, at this point, a c-section is not needed, I am also feeling a wee bit sad that nothing has really changed. I woke up this morning thinking that I would finally get to meet my baby.

Instead, here I sit, worrying about how little she is moving today and waiting to welcome her. The same story as ever.