But mea culpa isn't the point of the story, this story is about the beautiful moment when I brought you into the world to meet your family. And thanks to cell phones and friends and a recent visit back to the birth center where we welcomed you, I do have pictures to remember.
I had prodromal labor with you for weeks. Every night, around 11, I'd go to bed and have a few contractions, and then they would go away and I would fall asleep. Grandma flew down the Friday before you were born, May 11th. Saturday I decided to take her for a pedicure for a Mother's Day gift. Why we didn't wait until Sunday I don't know, but we all were saying you might be a mother's day baby. I treated us to the deluxe pedicure: extra long massages, hot stones, paraffin wax, very decadent. I'll always swear the pedicure is what put me into labor! It was so relaxing to have a little pampering, and it was Grandma's first spa pedicure!
That night followed the same pattern of going to bed and having contractions. Daddy went out to a friend's house and Grandma and I went to bed. Around 11:30 I think I started to realize that my contractions were not going away, but I determined to get as much sleep as I could because I knew if I really was in labor, I'd need the rest. I think they started at about 7 minutes apart. Maybe an hour later I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, so I used an app on my phone to start timing them. Eventually the contractions got strong enough that I couldn't lie down anymore, so I got up and started doing some things around the house. My body started "clearing out" in preparation, but I wasn't convinced I was really in labor (and I wasn't convinced really until you were nearly born!) but I thought at least I could get some things done while I waited for the contractions to go away. I bounced on my exercise ball in the dim light of the oven hood, and got on the computer to clear off my camera's SD card. I called Daddy, and reminded him that we had church in the morning so he should come home at a reasonable hour. Sometimes I stood and swayed, or leaned back against the wall, or leaned forward against the kitchen island. I'll never forget the way I just hung my head, relaxed all of my muscles, and breathed deep deep breathes. "Open", I told myself, and relaxed my jaw and my hands.
I called Daddy a few more times. We have church in the morning, I told him. You should come home NOW.
Around 4, I think I called my midwife Emily and told her what was going on. The birth center was 45 minutes away, and I wanted to know what to do. I think I apologized ten times for waking her. Come in, she said. We'll hang out, and if you're not really in labor you can go home and we'll see you again another day. Later I found out she knew: she knew it was real but I wasn't convinced that anything I could go through with such relative ease could bring me a baby.
Finally I called Daddy again. "Why aren't you home?! I'm in labor for Pete's sake! I've been asking you to come home for hours!"
"Why didn't you just tell me that before," he said, "I would've come right away." Like I said, I never was really convinced enough that I was in labor to tell him. Oops.
I collected things to take to the birth center. Ingredients for the special post-birth meal I wanted, jugs of water, snacks for labor, your little outfit and blanket to come home in. I baked you a chocolate mayonnaise cake with whipped cream cheese frosting. Later that day, after you were born and we sang you happy birthday and we ate the cake I realized that it was lumpy because I had the lights so dim I couldn't tell if I had mixed it all the way! I called my friend Casie to come over and be with Shane, and I woke my mom up. And I swayed, and I breathed, and I swayed, and I breathed.
I don't remember what time we left for the birth center, but it was still dark. I think it was a little after 5 AM. Nathan drove. Mom sat behind me and rubbed my shoulders. At one point I remember telling her to save her hands because I would need their strength later, when things got intense, and I didn't want her to be worn out too early. Looking back I am sure I went through transition in the car. I cried about ruining Shane's life and how he was too young for a sibling, that I was robbing him. I'm sure mom and Nathan had something reassuring to say, but I don't remember it and like a spring rain, the storm of emotion quickly passed.
We got to the birth center as dawn broke. I remember posing for one last bump picture in the early grey light, as the early morning sun rays peeked over the horse pasture in back, in my magenta tank top and my familiar old black athletic shorts with the white stripes on the side. The same ancient shorts I'm wearing now, in fact. I went inside, I think, and mom and Nathan unloaded the trunk while I talked with Emily.
|My birth record and Azaria's newborn exam.|
I was able to get my birth record when we went back to Texas recently and it's so neat to see everything spelled out in black on white. Emily did an exam at 6:17: temperature, blood pressure, fetal heart rate. She didn't check my cervix, I didn't want to know. My contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and about a minute long. Nathan did something with electronics so we could watch a movie, and I bounced on a big red ball. We all hung out and laughed together: me, mom, Emily (my midwife) and the two birth assistants, Jenn and Amanda. Nathan went to my room and slept. At some point mom brought me a yogurt and prayed over me, and Emily gave me a hot rice sock for my lower belly. I leaned over the back of a chair and rocked and bounced.
|The room where Nathan slept, and I ended up for my first "check" and after birth.|
After a while, maybe an hour, I felt that my contractions had kind of petered out. They had been so easily handled that we all thought I was only in early labor and had hours to go, so I asked my midwife if we should maybe go for a walk to get things going again. It was early enough that it was nice and cool, the sun was still early morning beautiful, and I thought it would be nice to walk down the road to see Emily's horses. They checked your heart rate, and then Emily, mom, and I walked out to the road. I think we got maybe five steps down the road before I needed to stop for a contraction and when it was over I looked at Emily and told her "that felt pushy". So she hustled me back into the center and to my room, where she asked if she could check me.
|The birth stool is what is holding up the blue ball.|
I sat on a birthing stool and when she checked she asked if she could wait for a contraction. Well, on my next contraction my water EXPLODED all over her! She exclaimed, "If you want to have this baby in the tub you'd better get in there NOW!" I think I stripped my shirt and bottoms off as I ran for the hot tub room, calling to Nathan to wake up as I waddled.
|I leaned back against the side to the left, and everyone crowded around across from me by the shelves.|
I got in the tub and Nathan kneeled outside the tub behind me. Each contraction, he'd hold me up by locking elbows with me. I loved my water birth, but I actually was really uncomfortable in the tub because of my floating semi reclined position. This was the hard part of your birth, Azaria. Labor had been so wonderful, calm and I was able to relax myself. I felt so out of control once I got in the tub because of the position I was in, but I wasn't able to move either because once you decided to come, you were going to come! I wasn't pushing very efficiently, and I remember feeling every inch of your head pushing my pelvic bones apart. At one point I remember growling, "I don't want to do this anymooooore!" I watched you crowning with a mirror on the bottom of the tub. I touched your head as you were born. And then your head was there, eight minutes after my water broke, and Emily guided your grandma's hands and my hands to pull you right up to my chest. It was incredible. You seemed so tiny, I swore you were only six or seven pounds, and you looked around with your alert little eyes and your purple little self and I cuddled you so tightly.
You were born at 8:29 AM and I wanted to let you do the breast crawl, but you had some mucous and your lungs were making some crackling sounds so by ten minutes your APGAR had fallen to a 7 for low muscle tone, color, and breathing. I was asked to nurse you then rather than waiting for you to do the crawl and you improved very quickly. By the time I was ready to birth your placenta, you were ready for some skin to skin time with Daddy. I think you got a few drops of Rescue Remedy, and you were perfect after that.
The women helped my out of the tub and dried me off, then wrapped me in a snuggly pink robe. They settled me in a nest of pillows on the bed, gave me warm compresses (way better than ice!) and covered me up with warmed blankets. I got you back and we snuggled skin to skin.
I ate a string cheese while you had another nurse, and we relaxed together. I think Daddy was next to us on the bed, sending your picture to all of the family. Around 9:30 Casie brought brother to meet you. He was so excited to meet you! He sat on the bed with us for a little while, but he wasn't even two yet and soon went to play with toys in the next room.
|Shane meeting you. Casie is in the doorway and the little girl is Faith, Emily's daughter.|
You feel asleep and Grandma held you while I had a peanut butter and honey toast, and around 11:30 I was helped into my fragrant, warm herbal bath. The herbs are a blend made by Emily that promote perineal healing for mamma and also help baby's umbilical cord heal up more quickly. It's also super relaxing and bonding for mamma and baby. I'd looked forward to that bath every single visit when I went into the bathroom, and finally it was our turn! I relaxed by myself for a while until the water was a cool enough temperature for you, and then they brought you to me and I held you so that just your mouth, nose, and eyes were above water. The second your ears went under you relaxed completely, uncurled, and just floated around completely at ease. I rubbed the vernix off you and out of your hair, and we just loved on each other until the water was cold and it was time to get out.
You snuggled with grandma and had a little snooze while I got stitched up. There is one moment, and I had captured it on the lost SD card but I still can picture it perfectly, when grandma was holding you and talking to you and you locked eyes with her and just listened. It was like you'd known her forever. Finally around 1:30 our special macaroni and cheese was done cooking and we got to eat! I don't know if a meal ever tasted better. We sang happy birthday to you and ate some cake, and then around 2:30 it was time for your newborn exam!
|My corner is the far end of the long couch, by the end table.|
I curled up in the same corner of the couch where I'd sat so many times before for my appointments and the midwives set up a heating pad covered with blankets for you. They did your exam right there on the floor of the living room so that I could watch and bubby could "help". He helped measure your head (14 in), your chest, (13.5 in), and your length (19.75 in). Then he helped weight you. I might've been convinced you were teeny tiny, but you were actually 8 lb 4 oz! I guess I just forgot how tiny newborns are. They finished up their exam and grandma got you dressed, just like she did your brother, for your trip home.
|Dressing you in an outfit made by Aunt Erika, on your blanket made by Grammy|
By 3:20 we were working on getting discharged. I nursed you again while Daddy loaded up the car and by 3:45 we were on our way home!
I couldn't have imagined a more perfect birth, little love. I am so glad to have had such a special experience just for you! We all went home and spent the rest of the day learning all about you. Happy birthday, Azaria Natalie!