On Sunday, Henrie, Joshua, and I drove down to Chatfield Reservoir and went swimming. Or rather, we sat in the sand and the sun and stuck our toes in the water. Henrie seemed to enjoy herself, but the water was chilly, and there was less swimming than there was people watching (one of Henrie’s favorite things).
I was, of course, quite pregnant at 40 weeks and two days. I refused to buy a swimsuit just for my pregnant belly, and as a result, I was a bit of a show-stopper in my bikini with my enormous tattoos and watermelon-sized belly.
We headed home, and while Henrie napped, Joshua went on ten mile run in the blistering heat, and I made matching outfits for Billie, Henrie, and myself. I was feeling pretty proud of my clothes making skills, especially without patterns, and when Henrie woke up, she put on her new little dress right away.
At one point when I was sewing or when I stood up to shower after sewing, I noted a crampy feeling in my lower abdomen. And, like with most noted feelings in the past three weeks, I thought to myself, “this could be it.”
After two or three contractions within five to six minutes of each other and a continued feeling of crampiness, and I told Joshua that I thought I might be in early labor.
I drew a bath for Henrie and me, dumped in a packet of lavender salts I had purposely bought for early labor, and we got in.
(As a testament to my frugality, this is the sign that I knew this was the real deal. I would never have used a $3 packet of special bath salts if I hadn’t suspected something was brewing.)
Henrie and I soaped up and played in the lukewarm bathwater, and I shaved my legs. Sure, I might be pooping myself in front of room full of people within 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be well-groomed.
Weston came over just as we were getting into the bath, and he and Joshua watched soccer and got a picnic ready for City Park Jazz. Joshua timed my contractions, and both of them looked at me skeptically when I said I still wanted to go.
After my 36 hour labor last time, I thought a relaxing picnic in the park, listening to jazz and talking to my friends sounded like a great way to pass the first few hours of labor.
So we went. Nana, my mom, my friend Zena, Stacy, Gaylynn, and Margot joined Joshua, Henrie, Weston, and me on blankets for babaganoush, greek salad, honeydew, and a little bit of red wine (I had a small glass, because somewhere I had read that that was the first thing you should do when you go into early labor. It sounded like a perfect way to relax to me.)
The contractions continued, speeding up and gaining intensity when I would walk or stand and then slowing down when I sat. I sat with my legs crossed and my back straight, rocking from side to side like we do in prenatal yoga. I kept smiling and telling myself to relax.
At one point, Nana, Grandma, Henrie, Joshua, and I walked up to the stage and listened to Gumbo le Funque. Henrie danced and clapped, and I watched my beautiful daughter.
Back at the blanket, we chatted and ate some more, and around 8:30, we drove back home.
Once we were home, Henrie and I spent some time together. The contractions were a bit more intense now, and Henrie sat with me, alternately squatting and sitting in butterfly position, rocking back and forth. Henrie was so sweet, copying me and looking very serious. Joshua cleaned and packed bags, getting ready for the hospital.
At about 10:30, we all laid down together to try and sleep. I would doze off and then wake up for a contraction, concentrating on breathing out through my mouth. At 1:30, the contractions were too uncomfortable to go through laying down, and I thought it would be a good time for Henrie to leave so that I could focus on the contractions without scaring her.
We called Nana, and she came and got her within 45 minutes. In the meantime, I set up the living room with candles, tealights, and music. My playlist was mostly comprised of Sun Kil Moon, Alexi Murdoch and a series of yoga ragas.
I tried laboring for a while on my knees with pillows propping me up and my forehead on the couch, but as soon as a contraction would hit, I wanted to stand up and move my hips, breathing deeply.
In the incense burner, I had jasmine, clary sage, and lavender, and I found the smell of jasmine and the fan blowing on me very calming. At 3:30 I was feeling pretty tired, so I tried laying on my side to labor through the contractions. That allowed me to rest more effectively for the next couple of hours.
At 5:30, I could no longer labor lying down, so I got up and told Joshua that I wanted to call the midwife. While I was handling the contractions significantly better than I had handled my contractions with Henrie just before going into the hospital, I wanted to go in now, because the contractions were intense enough that the prospect of going through them in the car was very unappealing.
When I called, the midwife encouraged me to eat something, shower, and then come in. Joshua gave me some yogurt and berries, and I did eat, but when I considered the shower, I just couldn’t get in. My legs were starting to tremble, and I was feeling a little less in control of each contraction.
Thankfully, the car ride was only 12 minutes long, and I had only two contractions, bent over the back seat.
In triage, the nurse wanted to put me on the monitors, but when she saw me bend over, sway, and breathe loudly through my next contraction, she decided to check me first instead.
7 cm. I cannot tell you the relief I felt when she told me this. What I did say was, “Halle-fuckin’-lujah,” and then I held both of her hands and thanked her and told her I loved her.
When I checked in with Henrie, I was 4 cm and screaming. Getting to 7 cm took forever, and I stalled there. Now, I was ready for transition, and the nurse moved me up to labor and delivery.
Once I’d arrived in my room, the labor and delivery nurse strapped the monitor to my belly, and I had to labor through the next 20 minutes of contractions standing relatively still, hunched over the bed. This was probably the worst part of the whole labor. I felt extremely hot, the contractions were very, very uncomfortable, and I had little relief.
Finally, the 20 minutes were up. I needed to use the bathroom, but when I sat down, another contraction hit, and I practically crawled into the already drawn tub.
Initially, I wasn’t interested in getting in the water, but as soon as I stepped in, I felt my entire body collapse. The water seemed to take some of the pressure off, and at this point, the contractions were sending thoughts through my head like I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
Joshua sat with me for a couple of very intense contractions, and then he had to go to the bathroom. I was feeling pretty desperate, but I had read that it is important that husbands aren’t holding anything in while your trying to push something out, so I let him go. When the next contractions hit, I held onto the bathrail with all my might.
I had vocalized very little the entire labor, but at this point, something else took over and before I really understood what was happening, I was screaming and pushing. When Joshua got back, he heard me yelling for the first time, and I confessed after the contraction passed that I thought I was pushing.
Joshua ran out to tell the nurses, because your not allowed to push or deliver in the tub, and then he carried me to the bed. Another contraction hit while I was still squatting on the floor, and that’s when the midwife and the nurses somewhat frantically transferred me onto the bed.
In child’s pose, screaming, and pushing, I still wasn’t quite sure what was going on. I vaguely remember the midwife calmly telling the nurse that we were about to have a baby and the nurse seeming very flustered that her patient was crouching on the bed. “Shouldn’t we move her onto her back?” The nurse said, and I found myself thinking, “make me.”
I asked the midwife what was happening, and that’s when I realized that this was as bad as the pain was going to get, because she said, “you’re going to have a baby in two or three contractions.” “What should I do?” I asked, and she said, “you’re losing energy through your mouth (aka you’re screaming). Curl in and push through the sting.”
So that’s what that was. The so called “ring of fire” had already arrived, and in some ways, all the things that had scared me the most didn’t hurt as much as I had feared. I pushed without screaming and then they told me her head was out and then I pushed again. They rolled me onto my back and handed her to me.
Wilhemina was crying and it felt a little chaotic as nurses wiped her off and cleaned up the refuse of labor (this is probably why labor scares so many people; it’s very messy). The midwife asked me to push again and the placenta came out. As I lay with Wilhemina, she checked me for tears, and then she said, “you’re intact.”
After an episiotomy and third degree tear last time, I was shocked and I nearly started crying as I thanked her. She laughed and told me that she hadn’t done anything.
And then they all left. Apparently, there were 6 deliveries before 10 AM that morning, and the ward was a very busy place. Joshua and I just kind of looked at each other in amazement at how quickly it had all happened. We were checked into the hospital at 7:11 AM. Wilhemina was born at 8:40 AM.
For the next two hours, we looked at Wilhemina and talked about a middle name. We had been planning on Everdeen (the last name of Katniss in the Hunger Games), but I still wasn’t sure. Empire and June were candidates, but ultimately, Lupine won out. Lupine has so much significance for us: a Colorado flower, a flower middle name like Lily for Henriette, and most importantly, the role it plays in my favorite children’s book, Miss Rumphius.
Pediatricians came in to examine Wilhemina, and eventually, she was weighed and measured. 7 lbs 3 oz and 19 3/4 inches.
As we looked at Wilhemina, Joshua pulled up pictures of Henriette from the blog. We decided that they look pretty different. Wilhemina’s nose for one and the shape of her face. She also has more hair.
Wilhemina nursed for a bit in the first hour, but not for long, and we were trying again when Stacy, Kyle, Margot, and Gaylynn came to visit.
I ate an amazing meal from Hi Rise that the Pietaris brought, and then we waited to be transferred to the Mom and Baby unit.
In the meantime, I was up on my feet within an hour, going to the bathroom. In general, I was amazed by how good I felt. The cramping in my uterus was pretty painful, but otherwise, I could walk and move easily on my own.
When we finally did leave and go to the Mom and Baby unit, I walked there, and when we arrived, I decided to take a shower. I was pretty much in awe of how much better I felt compared to my first labor.
Once I was out of the shower, we tried nursing again without much luck and my mom came. She declared that Wilhemina looks like a Kuhne, and thinking of a beautiful photo of my grandma Marlene, I decided I was more than ok with that.
Soon after, Nana and Henrie arrived, and Henrie got to give Billie a kiss and hold her for the first time. Henrie seemed happy to meet baby sister, but she wears her heart on her sleeve, and it was obvious that she felt a little off-kilter. We gave lots and hugs and kisses all around, trying to send the message that all is love.
Eventually, my mom, Nana, and Henrie left, and then Weston came. He held Billie for a bit, and then we had the room to ourselves for a couple of hours before Sarah came with a little dinner for Joshua.
That night, I nursed Billie every two to three hours, but in the first 24 hours, she wasn’t particularly interested.
The next morning, the nurses changed shifts, and I was so happy to see a familiar face. The postpartum nurse that we had had with Henrie had a lasting impression on me, and I was lucky enough to have her again. She’s funny and warm and a little crass, and she even remembered us from two years ago.
After spitting up quite a bit of amniotic fluid, Billie finally seemed interested in nursing, and right away, her latch was great. Nursing felt a little pinchy and uncomfortable, but now four days in, there is none of the excruciating bleeding or soreness I felt with Henrie.
Thankfully, Billie passed all of her tests, including jaundice, and we were ready to be discharged by 2 PM. We drove home and were greeted by Nana and Henrie, who was excited to see her sister but feeling very sensitive. After nursing Billie, I took Henrie for a little walk to the park to spend some time together. Henrie seemed to relax a little, and I was so thankful that my body was allowing me to reassure my first little girl.
So that’s the story of labor and the first 36 hours or so of life with Wilhemina. I feel like there’s a lot that I missed, but I wanted to get it all down here so I won’t forget.
Recap on Labor and Delivery:
- Contractions started around 4:30 PM on June 29.
- Contractions intensified around 1:30 AM on June 30 (I’m guessing I was at about 4 cm somewhere between 10:30 and 1:30).
- Called the midwife at 6:00 AM.
- Checked into the hospital at 7:11 AM. 7 cm.
- Delivered at 8:40 AM.
I did a bit of preparation in hopes of an unmedicated labor (I say unmedicated purposely, because I don’t like the terminology “natural” – as if some labors aren’t natural – psh.) So here are the things that really, really helped:
- I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. It was really interesting, and I actually almost didn’t even read it, but for some reason, I picked it up about a week before Billie was born and read the whole thing. There were a number of helpful tips that I used:
- – - Stop thinking about labor and delivery as improbable or incredibly painful. For some reason, people are always talking about the improbability of passing a baby through a small opening, religious texts are cursing women with pain during childbirth, etc. In reality, your ligaments loosen, your body pushes out the baby, and there is enough room. Gaskin recommends the mantra, “open,” and I thought that to myself constantly. I also tried to describe the contractions as intense or productive, rather than painful. I’m a words girl, so this kind of stuff matters to me.
- – - Obey the “Spincter Rule.” It sounds silly, but this is why I let Joshua go use the bathroom when the contractions were the worst. Ina May tells this story of an explicably long labor and chalks it up to the husband “holding it in” for too long. That may sound a little far fetched, but the other piece is a body rule that feels pretty sensical. Ina May says that it is impossible for your cervix to open if your jaw and face are not relaxed. She even goes so far as to say that you should blow your lips (horse lips) while pushing to prevent tearing, and by god, that’s what I did. Given the extent of my tearing from last time and the likelihood of me tearing this time, I was willing to do about anything. So I did horse lips, and guess what? I didn’t tear. So pretty much her word is gospel.
- – - Let your monkey do it. This one makes me squirm a little bit, because the more primal parts of living make me a little uncomfortable, but again. I was willing to try anything. Basically, this meant that if squatting feels natural and good, do it. If getting down on all fours and pushing feels natural, do it. Have no filter; don’t let your brain get in the way. Nuff said.
- – - Move. Do not try and take those contractions sitting still. Just thinking about trying to do that makes me shudder.
- The other thing that I did was take prenatal yoga. Again, I was skeptical, but I decided to go in with an open mind, and I ended up really loving it. Two things in particular that helped in labor where:
- – - Positions. There’s a lot of squatting and moving your hips in prenatal yoga, and it helped a lot to practice the movements that I used to get through contractions.
- – - “Keep ups.” This is where you hold a pose for a long time (5 mn) and experience muscle fatigue but use your breath and movement to persevere. This is where I learned to concentrate on breathing out loudly and adjust my movement to provide my muscles with relief.
- One of the most helpful things I did was watch labor videos. Brittaney (thanks!) sent me a prenatal yoga DVD and recommended the videos, so the week before Billie was born, Joshua and I watched them together. It was helpful to see how the women worked through their contractions, and in labor, I copied their moves. It put all those pieces – breathing, moving, relaxing, and letting your monkey out – together.
- Finally, there were a bunch of other little things that I did that may or may not have helped:
- – - I drank copious amounts of raspberry leaf tea.
- – - I bought and used clary sage, jasmine, and lavender essential oils.
- – - I ran all the way up to the day before labor.
- – - I tried to sit crosslegged or in butterfly with my pelvis tilted as much as possible.
In the end, labor and delivery were easier than I had hoped. The transition stage from 7 cm to 10 cm were definitely the most intense and yes, I would say painful, but the actually delivery wasn’t as painful as I had anticipated. It was a pretty amazing experience, and given how much better my body has faired and how much easier these first few days have been, it was very, very worth it for me.
Finally, I want to end this post with the wellspring of gifts and love that are all around us. I’m so thankful for:
- a relatively short and easy labor
- a healthy and beautiful little girl
- knowing how to nurse
- my first little girl who is sensitive but still brave enough to love
- being able to lie down to rest, nurse and cuddle with Billie
- an incredibly helpful and compassionate husband who is also a fantastic father
- friends and family for their companionship
- friends and family for their overwhelming generosity, including:
- – - cleaning our house, doing laundry, dishes, cooking, you name it
- – - giving us delicious food, including cheesecake, champagne, enchiladas, Hi Rise bagels, paninis, pasta salad, salad, yum, yum, yum
- – - giving Henrie little gifts to make her feel special and loved and spending time with her
A while ago, during prenatal yoga, the teacher said, “babies are born with a sandwich in their hands,” and it’s true. They are. Billie arrived with more to spare, and these first few days has been the work of ambassadors, spreading her love and receiving love. At night, I whisper into Henrie’s ear, “all is love,” and when she falls asleep, I gaze into my newborn Wilhemina’s face and feel it all well up within me. I am so, so very lucky to have these two little girls by my side.
Pictures to come :)