Well, I suppose it’s time to finally sit down and write out Natalie’s birth story. It only seems right that it should coincide with the debut of her newborn photos. I want to say that this was the quickest turnaround for newborn photos that I’ve ever done, but that’s not quite the case. I began taking her pictures around 7 days old. I finished taking pictures today, her 1 month birthday. And, instead of the hundreds of images to sort through that comes down to about 30 or 40 finished images, I only have 16 shots that I was able to eek time out for. It turns out, it’s super hard to photograph your own life. Much like a hairstylist usually can’t do her own hair. Anyway, I digress… onto the most important part of this story…
Throughout my pregnancy, I had always assumed that I would go at least a week past due as I had with my son. Around 30 weeks, I was monitored for pre-term labor. That turned out to be fine. And, then over the course of the last half of the third trimester, I was monitored for growth restrictions. This baby was measuring on the small side and the midwives were a bit concerned. It was then that I thought I might not make it to my due date at all. Everything that I had read had indicated that if baby fell below a certain percentile, they may induce for IUGR.
Despite this feeling, I still continued to make plans and enjoy life as usual, including a trip to the city for one of my favorite guilty pleasures (shhh…it’s NKOTB. ;-) ) 39 weeks. I was concerned that I was going to go into labor solely as an act of universal humor. I mean…why WOULDN’T I have a baby a week early just because I was going to a concert out of state. But, the joke was on me and the night and remainder of that week went by with no baby.
My due date came and went…but the next day, my body began showing signs that labor was not far off. I texted Robert and warned him that the baby could come that day or the next, but it would definitely be by the end of the weekend. That night, we had dinner on the patio, and enjoyed the nice summer breeze with my parents watching our firstborn run around chasing lightning bugs and blowing bubbles. My parents had been in town about a week and my dad had spent much of that helping us paint the nursery, so that evening after dinner, he and Robert decided to sit up late, watching movies and talking. Robert came to bed around 3:30am. As he fell into a deep sleep and started snoring, I got up to move to the couch to sleep in silence. However, once I got to the couch, I began to feel strange. A dull cramp started low in my stomach… I brushed it off as having eaten too much that night, and tried to sleep. But another one came soon after. Sighing in defeat, I got up and headed to the bathroom thinking it was just indigestion. I sat in there for several minutes with nothing happening and then finally gave up and as I stood up, another cramp hit, stronger this time. I went into the kitchen and watched the clock. The minutes dragged by… and on the 10th minute, another cramp. Just to be sure, I waited another agonizing 10 minutes and sure enough, there it was.
Now that I had pretty much determined that these were contractions, I woke up Robert to let him know. However, in his mid REM cycle state, he didn’t really understand me and fell back to sleep while I got in the shower. I showered and then filled the bath tub, hoping to labor in there for a little while. I figured the contractions would stay far apart with me in the tub allowing Robert some time for extra rest and me time to figure out how to deal with the contractions effectively. This was not the case. Almost as soon as I settled into the warm water, the contractions seemed to ramp up. They were intensifying and were now around 7 minutes apart. I got out of the tub and woke up Robert again, who still didn’t quite grasp the urgency of the situation. We live 45 minutes from the hospital and had been advised to head that way once contractions hit 7 minutes instead of the usual 5 since this was our second baby.
I called the midwife on call and notified her that we’d be there soon and started packing my bags, stopping every few minutes to breathe through the contractions and rock on the ball. I woke up Robert again. Until that point, he hadn’t been convinced that I was in labor, but as he came into the living room and saw my face, he realized it was Go Time. We woke up my parents to let them know we were going and in a moment of clarity, I realized that I was walking out of that door as a mom to one for the last time.
We left the house around 5am. Contractions were still 7 minutes apart but were steady getting stronger. I wasn’t worried at this point because I had been told to expect an 8 hour labor and we were only an hour and a half in. Halfway to the hospital, my water broke and the contractions went down to 5 minutes. Still…not worried. I delivered my son 15 hours to the minute after my water broke. We arrived at the hospital and in true Hollywood form, Robert pulls up ON the actual sidewalk to the Labor and Delivery ward. So very dramatic. We hobble into triage where I breathe through several contractions as we wait for our room and Robert goes to move the car.
Finally, at 6am we are in our room. The midwife checks me and, YAY!, I’m at 6cm!!! This is encouraging because it means I am progressing and I’m 60% of the way and when you’re planning an epidural free birth, you want to be closer to 10cm than 1cm when you get to the hospital. They make you do 20 minutes of fetal monitoring before you can move around, so I lay on the bed in agony as the slowest 20 minutes in history creep by. But, I’m not off the hook yet. The baby isn’t responding to the contractions the way they think it should. The word “IV” gets thrown around and Robert jumps in with Gatorade and pineapple juice. The juice and a position change on my part gets the reaction that they want and a few minutes later, I’m off the table clutching Robert’s shoulders as another contraction ratchets through me. They are coming faster now. Every 3 minutes? Every 3 seconds, I’m not sure…but I do feel the pressure. And I ask to be checked again. It’s 7am and I am now 8cm. This is going more quickly than I had anticipated and I’m not sure that I can make it. I ask for the tub to be filled.
It takes 20 minutes to fill the tub…or in contraction time, 1200 hours. I spend that 1200 hours on the table gripping Robert’s hand with each contraction and I am no longer able to keep my breathing centered and focused. I am now vocal. Keeping my throat open and face soft and letting the pain flow out of me in low moans. Finally, the tub is full and I am all too happy to get in. I have one contraction immediately upon entering the water and then… peace. At least 4 minutes pass where I’m laid back letting the jets hit my back and enjoying the break. But, little do I know what I’m in for. The next contraction launches me to my knees in the water and I can feel my body pushing. There is nothing I can do to stop it. Fear grips me and I shout for the midwife to hurry. She and Robert both calmly tell me to let go and let my body do it’s job. This is normal. This is good. This is how it is supposed to happen. She encourages me to reach down and feel the baby but I am so damn scared that I just shake my head. Finally, the contraction ends and the urge to push subsides and I sit there shaking, trying to wrap my head around what I must do next. I can feel the next contraction building. I get into a squat and try to push there and it just doesn’t feel right, so I kneel against the side of the tub and my body begins to push, and I begin to push and the sounds that escape my throat don’t even sound human anymore. And, then another moment of peace. But, I can’t continue to do this, so with the next contraction, I push with all my might and I can hear above my yells, the sounds of Robert and the midwife cheering me on, coaching me, reassuring me and then suddenly, I feel relief and then the baby is in my hands. It is 7:36am. 4 hours from when I first started having contractions and a mere 36 minutes after being checked at 8cm.
I sit back in disbelief, sobbing and laughing at the same time. I did it!!! I did it. I.Did.It. And then, Robert tells me to check the sex of the baby. He’s known all along, but has been able to keep the secret from me. I look down, push aside the umbilical cord and see that it’s a girl. We have a daughter. We settle back down in the warm water, letting her stay connected to me until the cord stops pulsing. She and I locked in each other’s gaze. The midwife and I speculate about her petite size, guessing in the 6lb range. Finally, Robert cuts the cord and I pass the baby off to the nurse who goes to weigh her and wrap her. I get out of the tub and walk to the bed. I have a tiny 1st degree tear requiring just a few stitches. We discover our daughter weighs in at 7lbs 5oz and is 20″ long. Robert brings her to me and I begin nursing her for the first time. And she is a natural.
In those moments…in that room…I am healed from my previous birthing experience. I set out to experience a med-free water birth, and I did that and in doing that I set myself free.
It’s now been one month, and I can’t remember life without her. Her big brother loves her to the moon and back and is always asking to hold “sister”. And, without further adieu…. Her newborn photos: