Friday, July 10, 2015

Welcoming Cora: A Home Birth Story

Lately I've been a little out of sorts – sleepy, foggy brain, worn out, and pretty much just tied up in one job, unable to do much else except try to remember when I'm going to feel normal again. But it's all for a good reason. Our third child, a beautiful and healthy baby girl, entered the world on June 25.

This pregnancy was by far the hardest and weirdest of all of them. My morning sickness lasted well into the second trimester, despite my continued expectations for it to end 'any day now', and my energy level was awful the entire time. I developed pregnancy ailments that I didn't even know were related to pregnancy, such as nosebleeds, drooling like a Saint Bernard in my sleep, and all-night snoring that often led my poor husband to seek refuge on the couch. Add to those the typical pregnancy issues like acid reflux and fatigue, and you can sure bet I was beyond ready to have this baby by the end. But, of course, I did things backwards, and my pregnancies have gotten longer each time instead of shorter, so this little girl decided to stay safe and cozy inside Mommy until five days past my due date.

She was worth it. Cora Ivy was born at 9:47 a.m. on a Thursday after a 6-hour active labor and what felt like weeks of early labor. I had been having so many Braxton Hicks contractions for so long that I joked with Clint that I wouldn't notice when I finally went into real labor and the baby would eventually just fall out one day. Ha! Would be nice if it actually worked that way...

I felt strange the whole day before she was born. The contractions seemed stronger and even more frequent, but I had given up on this baby ever actually coming out of me. I felt as though the big event was close, but I didn't want to get my hopes up like I had so many times before. I had fitful sleep all night until around 3:30 a.m, when I realized that I kept waking up in pain. I finally got up and walked around for a while, timing the contractions with an app on my phone like I had so many other times before. They were definitely closer together, but still not very regular - 6 minutes, 2 minutes, 8 minutes, 4 minutes. This labor was so unlike my last, but these contractions definitely felt 'different', so I knew it was (finally) the real thing.

I called my midwife and woke up Clint around 5:00 a.m. He started getting the birth pool set up while I walked around and nervously timed contractions, wondering if I'd waited too long to call the midwife since some of the contractions were so close together. I felt much better once she arrived, and my mother-in-law arrived soon after to pick up the kids. Poor Hannah teared up a little as she hugged me before they left, but we reassured her that she would have a new baby sister soon and it would all be worth it. I would continue to tell myself the same thing throughout the morning.

They left around 7:00 a.m, and it took a while longer for the birth pool to get filled, but once it did I settled into the warm water, Clint put some Josh Garrels on the stereo, and for a while it really was like taking a relaxing bath in my dining room. I used the same method I had used in my last labor – breathing through the contractions and picturing in my mind my favorite photographs of my kids. It helped me to take the focus off of what my body was doing and instead focus on the reward at the end.

At some point though it started getting much harder, as labor tends to do. As the pain got more intense, the water began feeling much hotter, probably just because I was having to work harder, and my midwife and Clint took turns giving me sips of ice water and putting a cool washcloth on my forehead. I remember wondering how in the world this pool could stay so hot, and I sat up out of the water occasionally to cool off – in between contractions, of course.

I've seen many water birth videos, and most of the time, it seems women prefer to squat or rest their arms on the side of the tub. That DID NOT work for me. Gravity made things horribly painful. What worked for me was actually lying back in the pool with my hips lifted up. I let my legs just float in the water, and it seemed to take away some of the pressure I was feeling. Clint held me up with one arm, and I gripped his hand with the other as I focused on the music and thoughts of my kids.

I can't recall which song Cora entered the world to, as I was rather distracted (and in lots of pain) at that point, but the song that I remember hearing most clearly during labor is called 'Morning Light'. I was facing our back patio glass doors where I could see our backyard bathed in sunlight, and I was struck by the relevance of the lyrics.

And also -

But every good gift comes down from above
From the Lord of light like a labor of love
Upon the child who waits for Him."

I would recommend to anyone in labor to have some soothing music playing. I didn't have that in my other labors, and it truly helped me to keep calm and maintain a relaxed atmosphere, in spite of all the intensity involved in delivering a baby.

When it came time to push, I remember thinking it seemed more painful than my last labor. At the time I had no idea she would end up being as big as she was. My midwives (the second one arrived at some point during transition) remarked that my water still hadn't broken yet, and soon after, there came the baby's head, still in the sac! I heard the midwives comment on it, and I remembered having read about babies born that way and how rare it was. Cora was born “in the caul” - still completely enclosed in her amniotic sac. I wish we had been able to get a picture, but the four of us were all pretty busy!

After they laid her on my chest, one of them commented that she was big and had to definitely be over nine pounds. I think I said something like, “Really? No way!” because I had never had a big baby before. Hannah was just under seven pounds and Abram was just under eight. Sure enough, once we moved into the bedroom and some of my family arrived, my midwife weighed Cora and announced to us all that she was 9 lbs 12 oz! I was in complete shock.

Nothing was as to be expected with this pregnancy, which just serves to remind me once again that life rarely meets expectations. Cora is also a typical newborn who doesn't meet expectations and eats more and sleeps less than her parents would prefer, but that just brings me back to the song lyrics of her labor – joy comes in the morning, and it's gonna be alright.

Hannah and Abram adore their baby sister, and although I admit that I am anxious for the time when she is a little older and they can enjoy interacting with her more, I am trying to soak up these baby days and remember how quickly they go by. Before we know what hit us, we'll have three big kids. For now we'll keep cuddling this tiny (though bigger than expected) little girl.