Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Birth of Baby Jules

Disclaimer: This is a birth story with all the details. If birth grosses you out, you should probably not read any further.

It was 10:00pm on Thursday February 7th, and Max and I had just finished an episode of Downton Abbey. I had been having some strong braxton-hicks that day, but they were the kind that I thought would surely go away when I went to bed, as they had every other night in the past. I told Max I wanted to go to bed, and as we got ready I started to have some more serious, painful contractions. Max finally caught on and asked, "Are you in labor?" I replied, "Maybe. But probably not. Let's just try and sleep and I'll wake you if I need you."

I laid in bed till about 10:45 before I finally decided these contractions weren't going away and I needed to get up and walk and eat. I got up and went to the kitchen to eat (I was really hungry) and paused and moaned through each contraction. A few minutes later Max heard me moving the couch back in place (we move our couch to our computer to watch movies, it bugged me that it was out of place), and came to check on me. I told him that I was really in labor but he should try and go back to sleep in case we were in for the long haul.

It was around midnight that Max decided we should call our midwife. He told her I was definitely in labor, but that she could wait to come as contractions had only started two hours ago. Meanwhile, my water had broken and contractions were coming stronger. I was thinking to myself how intense the contractions were and how, "maybe I'm just more of a weanie this time than I was with Miss Belle." All this time, Max is trying frantically to set up the birth pool. After breaking our bathroom sink I finally told him that I just wanted him near me and to forget about the pool.

In between each contraction I prayed to Our Lady of Happy Delivery and asked Jesus to be with us. I asked that above all the baby would be safe. In my heart, I knew everything was ok and this was the safest way to deliver the baby. This is a great grace God gave me during labor, because looking back I really could have had a lot of fear about the unknown position of our baby. I also feel it was a great grace that I didn't know she was a footling breech, as I think I may have been more anxious about delivering our baby in this very uncommon position. As I continued to labor in our bathroom, I started to have the urge to push. I told Max that he needed to call our midwife NOW! I tried my hardest to breath through these contractions without pushing, until I couldn't any longer. All the research I had done about breech births said hands and knees was the best way to push and that breech babies should not be touched during delivery. If you touch their little bottoms, it startles them, causing them to throw their arms up thus making it more difficult for the head to come. I knew I should get on my hands and knees, but it was also what my body instinctively told me to do. As the next contraction came I tried my hardest not to push, but just couldn't. I was asking Max the whole time, "Where is our midwife?" thinking I could just hold this baby in till she got there. I told him I was scared and he assured me it would be ok. I was not scared of delivering the baby, I was scared I wouldn't be able to stop pushing until the midwife arrived.

I finally gave into the reality that I couldn't not push and told Max the baby is coming. He was on the phone with my midwife and got behind me to see what was going on. Apparently at this point one of Baby Jules' foot was already out, although I had no idea. With the next two contractions I pushed her to the point where her little butt and legs were hanging from my body but her head and arms were still inside. I told Max not to touch her and he promised he wouldn't. I was so anxious to have her out at this point that I tried to push with no contraction and yelled, "she isn't coming!" As she was hanging there, I could feel her moving her little head and arms still inside me. This is the number one weirdest thing I have ever felt in my life. From the research I had done, I knew that this was common for breech babies. They do a little sit up type action to position their head correctly for birth. A truly amazing instinct! Once I finally realized that the reason she "wasn't coming" was because I wasn't having a contraction, I was able to take a few deep breaths and wait for the next one. As the next contraction started, I pushed with all my might, and out came our little girl into her father's hands.

I told Max to give her to me, and we immediately started rubbing her back and talking to her (she didn't cry right away, but when I looked down at her wide eyes, I knew she was ok). Within seconds she was breathing fine and making those tiny newborn cries. Max hung up with the midwife and we sat there in awe for a few minutes staring at her beauty. After a minute or so, I checked to see what we had and was pretty shocked to see that it was a girl! I think we checked three different times to make sure. So there we were, just the three of us and God, sitting on our bathroom floor admiring the new life that was in our arms.

Our midwife showed up about ten minutes later and found everyone to be perfectly healthy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Through The Fire

This is the birth story of my third child and beautiful daughter. The story really begins far before her birth and I feel that it is important and an intricate part of it. I want to write it down to remember the spiritual journey of this pregnancy and to remember the abundant graces given to my family and me during this time.

This pregnancy tested me to limits I had never been brought to before. First with physical suffering, then with mental. I have already described some of the pelvic issues I had during pregnancy that almost made me lose my ability to walk. I cried out to God in desperation asking him why he would want a mother of two very active children to go through this. I was brought to my knees and to tears daily at having to depend on my husband and those around me for almost everything. And then answers came, through a small book that no one even knows exist. Through weeks of exercise I was nearly pain free and I knew it was nothing short of a miracle that I thanked God every day for.

Fast forward to 32 weeks into the pregnancy. I went to my midwife appointment and what I knew all along was confirmed. The baby was breech. For some this seems to be no big deal, but for me it was. Peanut was also breech and he never turned head down before they took him by c-section at 38 weeks. The memory of that experience came flashing into my head daily as I knew the routine way for breech babies to be delivered these days is by c-section. For those of you who may read this and don't know me very well, a c-section is not a small deal to me and I really only think they are necessary if the mother's or baby's life is in true danger.

For 6 weeks I spent much of the day trying to get the baby to turn head down. I hung upside down on my head, took homeopathic remedies, went swimming and did a headstand in the pool, spent an outrageous amount of money on chiropractic care and acupuncture and still the baby would not turn. Through the weeks I researched constantly about breech birth and finally made the decision that I wouldn't go in for a c-section unless something was wrong with me or the baby (that is what hospitals are for, after all). Before I continue, I think I should note that this decision wasn't made lightly. Every day I questioned it and felt Satan tempting me with doubt. I prayed constantly for peace and fought for it every day. Every time the baby moved I wondered if she was turning, only to find out that I could still feel her little head up in my ribs. I cried out to God telling him that this was His child and His birth and if a c-section was necessary I would do it. But I told Him that my children needed their mother and that was a lot harder to be after a major surgery.

This constant daily mental agony was filled with moments of peace only to be shattered again by thoughts of what could go wrong. I prayed novena after novena and cried out to God asking Him why he didn't just turn her!  I am certain the only thing that kept me sane was the constant prayers I knew so so many people were praying for me. Often times when I was at the end of my ropes I heard God whisper in my heart, "I will take care of you". I didn't know at the time what that exactly meant, but I trusted in it.

On one particularly hard day, I thought that looking through my ultrasound pictures might bring me some comfort. Somehow, through the midst of suffering, I sometimes forgot that an actual baby comes at the end of all of this, and needed a small reminder of who was kicking around inside me. But that day, I wasn't even granted that comfort. I could not find the pictures anywhere. A few days later my sister invited me to adoration and I took her up on the offer. I grabbed a random book from my end table and set off for a much needed holy hour. That evening before the blessed Sacrament I told God that I laid it all on his altar. That I knew this wasn't the end of the hard days but whatever happened belonged to Him and I would trust Him for answers. That until I felt my instincts and His urgings tell me otherwise, I would continue forward with the plans for a breech vaginal delivery. As I sat down after my prayer and opened my book to read, I found my sweet ultrasound pictures laying within the pages. I couldn't help but cry at the physical sign that God had given me letting me know that everything would be ok.

Fast forward to 38 weeks pregnancy. As I was driving Peanut to pre-school I was pondering all that had happened during this pregnancy. I knew I would see my midwife that evening and was a bit nervous and relieved. I also knew it was the last day of a novena a dear friend had been saying for me to St. Giana. My friend had promised that the baby would either turn that day, or that I would be at peace about everything (she also said the angels told her she was praying for a baby girl but I didn't believe her). And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I pray often to be a Godly woman. I say all the time, "Lord, mold me into the woman you want me to be. Purify my soul. Transform my heart. Help me be patient. Teach me to love." I pray all these things, and while I truly mean them, it didn't register till that day that through all of this suffering God was purifying my soul. He was answering my prayers. Did I really forget that often times we have to be purified through fire? Did I think it would be easy? Marriage and motherhood are my vocation and God will sanctify my soul through them if I let Him work. I felt great peace the rest of the day. Even when my midwife told me the baby was still breech. And that brings us to the evening of Thursday February 7. Stayed tuned for part 2.