Sunday, June 19, 2011

The birth of Julian

Julian's birth was amazing and fast. It was a hot, humid morning when things started happening. It was gray outside and the air felt heavy. I was up early, as usual. It was a Monday. I was lamenting the fact that I had no plans for the day and wasn't sure what I would do with Jonah that day. I can't remember what Matthew's plans were or whether he was scheduled to work. We were still living and Dani and Marc's house, and Dani was awake, too, when I realized I'd be having a baby very soon.

I think I'd been having contractions off and on for weeks, but I chose to ignore them or pretend they were still just Braxton Hicks. But, the baby had felt lower in the past couple weeks, and I had been feeling irregular contractions, especially at night and especially the night before I went into labor. Some of these contractions over the previous two nights were pretty strong. I ignored it. In fact, I had suspected that my water had broken the night before but it was just a tiny trickle, if anything at all. Again, I tried to ignore it.

I was determined to ignore as much of it as possible in an attempt to stay out of my head about the birth this time around. But, on the morning of June 28, after I'd eaten some cereal, I started secretly hunting around online about signs that your water has broken. I remember reading that the trickle I was experiencing could mean that my water had broken, but I still wasn't sure. I also read an interesting fact that some women actually feel a popping sensation in their abdomen when their water breaks. I didn't feel anything like that. Soon, Jonah, who was 2 1/2, was up and my mind had moved on from what was going on with me and this pregnancy to breakfast, Jonah and the rest of my day.

A few minutes later I was sitting on the couch in my nightgown reading a book to Jonah. I wish I could tell you which book I was reading to him as he sat next to me, but I only remember that suddenly I felt a small "pop!" in my lower belly on the side. Then, a gush. I jumped up and ran through my bedroom to the bathroom, grabbing a towel on the way. "My water just broke," I yelled.

At some point, I remember thinking, "It's June 28." And, that sounded like a good day for a birthday.

Matthew called the midwives and doula. I still wasn't convinced the baby was coming. I had ignored so many of the previous signs. And, now, it seemed like all of a sudden my water broke, but I worried that labor hadn't actually started. I worried it would be just like Jonah's birth, when my water broke two weeks early and we had to use all the tricks in the book to get my contractions going and keep them going and I stayed awake for two days and ended up going to the hospital for pitocin and he was finally born 62 hours after my water broke. On the phone with one of my midwives, I sort of told her all of this, talked about my fears. I also talked a lot about Jonah, about my worries that he would be alright with the caretakers we had arranged to be with him during my labor. My worries were about the unknown. And, about another long, drawn out labor that might end up with another hospital birth, which I did not want. I really wanted this baby to be born at home. One of my midwives, Jharna, gave me a little talking to over the phone. She reminded me that I had plans and back-up plans for Jonah's care and that he would be fine. She told me I could stop thinking about that now. She gave me some instructions: to go make my bed and to start thinking about this birth. This baby is coming today, she said, and it was time for me to start focusing on that. Her words gave me direction and a sense of control, which I craved. I think she knew that. My midwives are so smart.

At some point, our friends, Matt and Kristy, came over to pick up Jonah so he could play with their son, Rex, who is a little younger than Jonah. They kept Jonah all morning and he napped in Kristy's car during a ride. Dani would pick him up after work and, if necessary, drive him up to Brattleboro, Vt., where he'd spent the night at his cousin Hugo's house.

Dani went to work. Marc was also working. One of my midwives, Chana Luba, showed up. About two to three hours after my water broke, and not very long after my verbal smack down from Jharna, the contractions really started. I tried to listen to music but soon decided it was too distracting. Bouncing on the birthing ball or leaning over and resting my head and arms on the bed seemed to work best for a while. At some point, my doula, Katherine, and Jharna, showed up. Several hours passed but it felt like minutes.

Soon, it was afternoon, somewhere between 2 and 3 p.m., I think, and time to decide whether Jonah would go to Brattleboro. I didn't know it, but I was about to go into transition. Still, I went back to worrying about Jonah. We decided he should go to his cousin's house, and even though I had already packed his bag, I listed several items to Matthew to make sure were in there. Jharna was listening and chuckled a bit, but also reassured me that Jonah was in good hands, that Matthew would do a good job making sure all his things were in the bag.

My midwives checked my progress at least once or twice during this time. I don't remember specifically how many centimeters I was dilated, but the numbers seemed to make sense to me and made me feel like I was on track. I was so happy because this time I didn't need to walk and walk and walk. I didn't need to drink castor oil. So far, I hadn't needed any medical interventions. They checked the baby's heart rate intermittently and my vitals and everything was fine. Maybe I channeled my worries into other things, like Jonah's care, but I wasn't worried at all about my health or the health of the baby. It was like somewhere, deep down, I knew it was going well and everything would be fine. My midwives' demeanor, actions, quiet voices, gentle hands and proficiency helped a lot to foster that feeling of calm.

We knew Dani would soon be on her way to pick up Jonah, stop at our house to pick up his stuff and then head up to Vermont. Meanwhile, things really started moving. My contractions were coming faster. I really wanted my nightgown off but had trouble saying the words. I started pulling it off and somehow managed to "ask" Matthew and Katherine to help me. "Pull this," I think I said. Somehow, I asked if I could get in the tub. No sooner had the midwives said, "Sure," that I lost the ability to really speak and was having trouble breathing through the contractions. There was a moment when I noticed Matthew wasn't in the room and Katherine was with me, but suddenly I just really needed Matthew. I barely said anything, but Katherine knew just what I needed and got Matthew quickly by my side. I needed to touch him. I was grunting and my body was pushing. I had to push. The midwives checked me to make sure I was complete, and I was. I honestly couldn't believe it. Just when I thought I couldn't do this anymore, someone said, "Your baby is coming in a few minutes." (Did I tell you my midwives are very, very smart? That reassurance was perfectly timed.) "Really?" I said. "Really?" Soon, the baby was crowning and I touched the head. It was only then that I finally believed I was having a baby very, very soon. At first I was on my hands and knees, but then I tried lying on my side. I have a tweaky hip when I give birth so I naturally ended up lying on my back with my legs pulled back like a frog. It felt totally natural. The head was born after a few very painful seconds. I knew the rest would be easy. Apparently, the body didn't come out during the next push as it should have, so there were a few seconds when things got very serious, but I barely noticed. A shoulder was stuck under my pelvic bone, so Jharna got up on the bed, reached in, turned the baby a bit and guided him out during my next contraction. And, there he was! He was born.

I think I asked, "Is it a boy or girl?" Someone, probably Matthew, said, "A boy." Another boy!

The baby had sucked in some fluid on his way out so they did a lot of suctioning. Kristen, a midwife, explained that she would like to use a special tube to get it out, rather than the bulb syringe. I think she may have even said she learned how to use it in England, while training as a midwife. I agreed and she pulled out quite a lot of fluid. I learned later that Matthew was very nervous at this point, but I still had that calm feeling of knowing everything was and would be fine. Maybe it was the hormones, the lack of medication in my system, the midwives or a combination of things. I do remember that this baby was pinker at birth than Jonah had been. And, Jonah was completely healthy and fine, just a little gray at birth. But, I loved that pinkness. We hadn't weighed this baby yet, but I heard my birth attendants remark about his big size.

Soon, the baby was crying and making noise and breathing fine. I had him on my belly and chest and concentrated on seeing if he wanted to nurse. He seemed interested in being near my breasts but didn't want to latch, which was fine. I let him do his thing. Meanwhile, we waited for the placenta, which took a little longer than they liked, but was also fine. At some point, my midwives commented that they were slightly concerned about my bleeding. I turned inward to pay attention to how I felt, so I could tell them if I felt symptoms as a result of blood loss, like light-headedness or nausea or weakness. I was paying attention to myself, but, I learned later, that the serious look on my face worried Matthew. In the end, my midwives gave me a little shot of pitocin in my thigh in an effort to contract my uterus to help stop the bleeding. They were so kind about having to stick me and cause me pain, even though a little needle stick seemed like nothing after giving birth. I do remember that this birth, especially at the end, hurt a lot! I remember that I yelled and screamed through most of it, which is kind of funny because Dani and Marc have tenants who live downstairs. I still don't know if they were home at the time and heard me. I don't really care, but it's kind of funny. I was making a lot of noise. I also remember thinking soon after the baby was born and the pain stopped that now I really, really know why people get epidurals! Soon after, I learned that I had only pushed for about 15 minutes, which amazed me because I pushed for more than three hours during Jonah's birth.

My water broke at 8:15 a.m. Active contractions started around 11 a.m. And, this baby was born at 4:20 p.m. The baby had come before Dani or Marc got home from work, and even before Jonah went to Vermont. Soon after he was born, Dani arrived home with Jonah. We decided that Matthew would run his stuff down to the car, and Dani would come in to see me and the baby for a few minutes, but that we'd have Jonah stay in the car and then head right up to Brattleboro. Dani told us that he had been verbally prepped for his sleepover and was really excited about it. We thought it would be good to put off introducing him to his baby brother until the next day and have a night with only one baby at home. I desperately wanted to see him, but Matthew assured me he was fine and happy and looking forward to going to Hugo's house.

The midwives stayed until about 6 p.m. Before they left, they helped me take a shower. Kristen did some craniosacral therapy on the baby. "I think he has a little headache," she said. Within minutes of laying her hands on him, he fell fast asleep. At some point, they weighed him with a fish scale. Jharna was holding the scale. With a big smile, she said, "You're not going to believe this. Nine pounds, eight ounces!" He was almost two pounds bigger than my first baby at birth! No wonder it hurt so much!

I loved having such a big baby. I felt like he was just that much healthier and safer. He didn't even really look like a newborn. He was chubby and solid. A ton of black, curly hair on his head. Long limbs. In fact, Kristen told me that he was big enough that I didn't have to worry about waking him to nurse every two hours. "If he sleeps for longer stretches, you can just let him sleep. He'll be fine." That was the most wonderful thing anyone could have told me going into the first night with a newborn.

We ordered Chinese food, since it was dinner time. I devoured a giant plate of brown rice, chicken and vegetables and a bowl of miso soup, which is good for restoring energy after a birth. We were so happy that this baby had come at such a convenient time of day. Marc got to meet him when he got home from work. My dad came over after dinner for a while. And, we got to go to bed at bedtime. I had not been awake for two days trying to keep my labor going. This labor happened on its own and my baby was born at home, in my own bed, surrounded by the people Matthew and I had chosen to help us.

We didn't know what to call this baby, but at some point in the middle of the night, I started thinking about it. He was born on June 28, but his due date had been estimated for early July. I started thinking about July and the name Julian formed in my head. Later, I told Matthew and he liked it. We let it sink in for a few hours before deciding, but, from the start, it seemed like the perfect name. We had already decided his middle name would be Dean after my father. (Jonah's middle name is Thomas, after his other grandfather.)

There he was. Julian Dean Cavanaugh. And, my family was complete. ~ Nicole