Monday, August 27, 2012

Baby Nichols Arrives, Part 3: It Gets Awesome!

Alright, here it is - the long-await Part 3. ;-) If you missed the beginning of this story, you can find it here: Part 1 or Part 2.

So, we're twenty hours into labor and we've discovered that the baby is posterior. I was completely ready to give up at this point.

Denise hadn’t given up yet, though. “I’m going to try and turn the baby,” she said. She did this by using fer fingers to push the head up out of the pelvis and then trying to rotate it from the inside. She did this for some time, manipulating and pushing, but the baby was stuck. I felt a contraction coming on. I felt panicky – here I was flat on my back with her hand up inside me and now I had to deal with a contraction, too. I yelled and writhed around and yelled some more. Denise continued trying to turn the baby during the contraction.

Still not working. At this point, Ginna started trying to rotate the baby from the outside, on my abdomen, as Denise worked from the inside. I was starting to get lost in the pain and wasn’t paying as much attention to what was going on. Denise then asked me to bear down with the next contraction, to try and push the head down into the pelvis while she had it turned the right direction so that it would stay put. So we did that. AUGH. She wanted me to do it again. “Why do I have to be flat on my back!??” I wailed. “Oh, you don’t have to,” she said, and everybody helped me get upright. I think I was leaning against Ginna or possibly Todd as I forced myself to push into the next contraction. It was still horribly painful, but at least I was upright and had a bit more leverage. Pushing before your body is ready to push is hard enough without having to do it without the help of gravity. I think the pain was also significantly worse because I was scared and tired.

Finally, they stopped doing what they were doing. Apparently they actually had gotten the head turned anterior, but I didn’t know that at the time and didn’t know it until after the baby was born! I thought they had just given up.

“Okay,” Denise said. “We’re going to run to the birth center to get my birthing stool. Then we’re going to grab a cup of coffee and recharge a bit and we’ll be back. You guys try to rest.” She looked a bit discouraged and seemed frustrated, which I thought was because turning the baby hadn't worked. In retrospect, she was probably concerned, and frustrated that I was so tired and starting to lose faith. I felt her discouragement, though, and it discouraged me too. I felt like I was failing her.

Todd and I lay down on the bed together. We rested in between the contractions. At this point they came every 15 minutes. I had one more before Denise and Ginna left and they helped me through it, and then it was just me and Todd. As soon as I felt the next contraction coming I had Todd help me up quickly and hold my arms as I squatted down, as I had done with Denise. I bore down for all I was worth. I was still not fully dilated so I wasn’t trying to push the baby out, and didn’t have an urge to push, I was just doing it because I thought I could try and get that posterior head down further into the pelvis. (I still didn’t realize that the head had been turned. But it was good that I was pushing during the contractions because it probably did help the head to descend and stay anterior.) We did this three times over the next forty minutes, though it seemed longer than that. I must admit that while it was harder to deal with the contractions when I was dozing in between them and didn’t have time to prepare, the rest was nice. It felt good to be there with Todd, just the two of us. He was so sweet and calm and didn’t seem concerned at all.

I, however, was very concerned. I absolutely felt that I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I had been laboring for nearly an entire day with virtually no progress on my body’s part – Denise had basically manually dilated me the entire way, and the baby was posterior, and it just didn’t seem possible that it was going to come out. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t think I could physically fit a posterior head – women birth posterior babies all the time, and as I said before, if I could fit Max’s 15” head with a nuchal hand beside it I could almost certainly fit this posterior head through my pelvis, and I did technically know that. It was more that I just didn’t have the energy. I felt that what little strength I had left had been lost in trying to push the head down this past hour, and when a contraction came and I had to get up with Todd and squat and do it again, it was almost too much for me, between the pain and the overwhelming intensity of the contraction and the effort of squatting and the incredible energy required to bear down.

“I can’t do this, Todd,” I said quietly, as we rested on the bed. “I’m done. I don’t have anything left. I think we’re going to have to go to the hospital.” He held me and told me that he really, really did think that I could do it. I shook my head. He didn’t know how absolutely, utterly drained I felt. We talked further about it.

In my head, the ideal was that we could go to the hospital, get an epidural, and then I could sleep – and if I got sleep, I had no doubt that I’d be able to push my baby out. I would have the strength I needed then. However, I also knew that they probably wouldn’t give me an epidural at 9 cm, although since my contractions were so far apart I suppose it could have been possible. Regardless, I knew that if we did go to the hospital, it would almost certainly mean a c-section at this point. I felt okay with that. I certainly didn’t want one, but I was so tired. I was just beyond caring at this point. Even the financial aspect didn’t seem to matter – I knew that we would be horribly in debt from a hospital birth even with my insurance, but I also figured that those things have a way of working themselves out (which they often do). “I really think we need to go, Todd,” I continued to say. I started trying to figure out the logistics of how I would get into the car, how I would get through a contraction in the car, how I would get through contractions at the hospital during what I knew would be a lengthy intake period. I wondered how I would hug and hold Max with a c-section incision. What I thought about most, though, was getting to hold my baby and finally be done with all of this mess.

Denise and Ginna returned. I don’t remember the exact conversation at that point, but it was similar to the one that Todd and I had been having – I didn’t think I could do it, I was exhausted, I didn’t have it left in me. We acknowledged the a transfer would probably mean a c-section. Ginna (who has had a cesarean herself with her first baby, followed by a twin VBAC) asked, “Would you rather hurt for a few hours or for six weeks?” I understood the logic, and it was a good thing to try and remind me of, but I still just didn’t think I could do it. I think I was still hoping that if we did transfer I could get an epidural, sleep, and then push. I remember wondering to myself if we could call the hospital, ask them if they would give me an epidural, and if they said yes we would go and if they said no we wouldn’t go (cut me a break, I was in labor! Haha!). Ginna also tried to dispel that notion from my mind – “If we go to the hospital, it’s either more of what we’re doing right now, or a c-section,” she said.

Everyone was of course sympathetic, but they weren’t jumping up to rush me in to the hospital because, I think, they knew that I could do it. Denise in particular, I could tell, was frustrated. I must say that I don’t think they realized I didn’t know the baby had been turned – honestly, if I’d known that she was anterior and staying there, I might have felt a little differently. But from Denise’s perspective, we’d turned the baby, it was moving down, and even though I wasn’t fully dilated yet, I’m sure she was figuring that if I wasn’t already, I would be soon. She knew I was tired but she also knew that this baby was SO close, and that a transfer was not at all necessary. I think she also knew that I an unnecessary transfer, and especially an unnecessary major surgery, would be so disappointing to me in the end, even if I thought I was okay with it now. If I had absolutely declared that we were going to the hospital, they would have taken me, and I knew that. But I hadn’t 100% decided. I felt that I had given up, but all of these people were telling me that I could do it; I think that energy was starting to sink in to me a little bit.

I remember apologizing over and over again to Ginna for being negative; one of the things I’d kept telling myself over and over again before the birth was that I’d stay positive, and try to keep the energy all around me positive, and here I was crying and whining and giving up. But, as I’ve been saying, I just didn’t feel like I had anything left.

Finally, they convinced to me to come out into the living room and try pushing on the birth stool. I went with them not because I thought I could do it but more to humor everyone. Ginna said something about how we should at least make sure we’ve tried everything before we went to the hospital, and that way if I had a c-section I would at least know that I’d tried absolutely everything else first and that it had been necessary. I finally agreed.

I got on the birth stool, which for those of you who don’t know is a low stool with the padded seat in a U shape, with bars below the seat. You sit on the seat in a squat, put your arms between your legs, and pull on the bars while you are bearing down. It’s a helpful tool because the squatting position opens the pelvis significantly, making the opening larger than it is in pretty much any other position, and the bars give you some leverage to push really hard and help you direct your energy downward. The fact that you are sitting makes it less tiring than actually squatting. Max was born on this very same birth stool.

Denise checked me. “You’re like nine and a half, but stretchy,” she said. “I’m going to try and hold this lip of cervix back while you push, and I’ll try and get it over the baby’s head.” I almost had to laugh at how this was so Max’s birth all over again – the stool, the cervical lip, the crazy pushing before I had an urge. The difference this time, though, was that I was doing better mentally even though I had “given up” – I wasn’t checked out of my body, which made a world of difference.

I sat bleary-eyed as we waited for a contraction. Todd was behind me, Denise was in front of me holding my cervix, and Ginna was next to me, saying encouraging things. Finally, the contraction came, and I wearily gave myself over to the force of the birth. I knew there was no running from the pain at this point. The only way out was through. Even if we went to the hospital, at this exact moment I was still here, pushing on this birth stool, and I figured I might as well give it everything I had.

Everyone kept me telling me I could do it. I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I actually could.

So the contraction came, and I gathered everything within me, and I pushed.

It’s really an inadequate word to describe the work involved. I’ve heard pushing described as “throwing up, backwards”, which is more accurate as far as the sensation is concerned – the feeling of one’s entire body contracting to eject something from itself with incredible, overwhelming power. When you are pushing without an urge, it is a little different because you have to actual make yourself have that sensation and it doesn't necessarily take over. It takes an incredible amount of willpower. There is no sitting back and letting your body act on reflex like there is for vomiting or even regular pushing. You feel the contraction, you gather yourself, and you have to tuck down and in, hold your breath, and HEAVE yourself into the push. The first few moments of it are incredibly painful, and scary, as you try to find where you are pushing and also deal with the contraction. Denise would help me by pressing her fingers down where she wanted me to direct my energy, so I could focus on that (she did that with Max, too), and then once I was fully into my push, it felt better. I held my breath and PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSHED. I called out every reserve of strength and energy that I possibly had left in me. I pushed beyond strength and energy. I held my breath for as long as I possibly could, because I knew that as soon as I “came up for air” even for a second, I would have to find my way into the push again, which was the hardest and most painful part. I finally gasped quickly and got back into the push and kept going. I did it again, and then one more time. I’m sure the contraction was way over at this point but I didn’t want to stop because I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it again. My contractions were so ridiculously unhelpful I couldn't even tell if I was having one or not.

I was vaguely aware during this push of everyone being very excited.

When I did finally stop, Denise’s face was shining. “That was fantastic!” she said. “I could really feel the baby coming down. That was a wonderful job.” Ginna was saying similar things. They had been praising me and sounding surprised at my sudden burst of effort even while I was pushing. I suddenly felt energized, and encouraged! Could I actually do this, after all?

Another contraction came very soon – three minutes or so. (This was the first time in the entire labor that I naturally had contractions that were closer than maybe seven or eight minutes.) I gathered my courage again and worked into the push, pushing toward the pressure from Denise’s fingers, pushing down and out as I now remembered having done with Max. Denise laughed – “Girl, you’re pushing my fingers right out!” She made me want to push even harder. And, astonishingly, I started to feel the baby moving down inside of me. With Max, I pushed for a good two or two and a half hours before I was able to “feel” anything at all, and it was hard to tell if progress was being made. But this time, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was happening. If I weren’t already pushing at maximum capacity, I would have doubled my efforts. Ginna was cheering and making comments about how amazing I was, as was Denise. The best part was that I could tell that Denise was legitimately impressed and excited by how much progress I was making and how much I actually was able to move the baby down. She wasn’t just saying it to make me feel better!

Everyone made me feel very, very strong, and powerful, and l felt even more that I might be able to do this after all.

I think I had three or four contractions and pushed hard through them, maybe five, before Denise announced that head was past the cervix and that it had retracted all the way. Now my job was to get the head under the pubic bone. Once we did that, we would know for sure that we’d be having a baby soon!

I was completely excited at this point. Pushing was still hard and painful, but I felt re-energized. The contractions came, and the very beginning of each one before I got into the push was scary, but every time I just forced myself to do it and bore down. Denise was still encouraging me. She told me that as soon as we got the head past the pubic bone, I would be able to stop pushing so hard and get into the pool, which was EXTREMELY motivating. :-) I continued to give it my literal all. And like I said, when I pushed I could FEEL that head moving down through my body, which was also incredibly motivating! I knew, finally, that I COULD do this. I WAS doing it! After a final push, I felt the head not only move down but STAY down. It was right there in the birth canal, which was an astounding feeling. Baby Nichols was getting CLOSE!

“Alright, girl, you’re right there!” said Denise, taking her hand out and sitting back. “It’s time to have this baby!” Todd and Ginna had started heating up water to warm up the birth pool a little bit a few minutes before, and they finished removing some of the cooler water and pouring in the hot. I got off the evil stool (I hated that stool after Max’s birth, and I still hate it now!) and practically dove into the pool, I was so eager to be in there and so ecstatic that the hardest part was over!

And oh my GOODNESS, did that water feel good. My whole body instantly relaxed. I didn’t have another contraction right away, which was a bit disconcerting; I gave a tentative push without a contraction (I’d basically been ignoring the contractions and pushing on my own up until this point, anyway. Gosh – my contractions were just useless for this entire birth! I dilated like 4 centimeters total by myself the ENTIRE labor, I never really even went into active labor, I pushed without contractions or at least regardless of them – jeez. Well, I guess not only can I give birth, but I can give birth without any help from my body whatsoever! Take that! :-p) and felt the head move. I decided to just go for it and pushed harder and felt my body sort of hitch forward and take over a little (that throwing up in reverse sensation, again, only it was far more gentle since I was being gentle). Denise reminded me to slow down, which is something that I’d wanted to do ahead of time – I REALLY wanted to avoid a tear this time, so I wanted to push as slowly as possible to give my tissues time to stretch. So I slowed down.

I was so, SO excited. “Do you really think the baby will come out?” I demanded, although I knew the answer. Denise laughed. Everyone was all smiles, including me. She declared, “I’ll bet you a cappuccino that you can push this baby out!” Ginna winked at her and said, “You’re just saying that because you want a cappuccino and you know you’ll get one!”

You might be thinking that this is all kind of routine – obviously, this baby was going to come out. I mean, it was anterior (even though I didn’t know it was), it was smaller than Max had been, I had birthed a baby before, etc. But you just have to understand how much I had absolutely given up and was sure I couldn’t do it and then understand how INCREDIBLE I felt when I realized that I could. I could do it. Even when it got hard, which it did. I was going to have this baby, and I was going to do it even though it had been so hard and I had had so much fear and doubt. I was also astonished because I’d spent most of the labor convinced I wasn’t actually in labor, that my body was just faking (which, well, it honestly was), that it was going to be a long time still before this baby would be born. Even when I was walking out to get on the birth stool, I wasn’t convinced that we were going to have the baby at home – I was still thinking we were going to transfer for a c-section because I couldn’t do it. So it was astonishing, and thrilling, to have it all of the sudden HIT me, seemingly without warning, that I could and would actually push a baby out of my body.

Another thing I have to quickly mention – with Max, I was so completely out of my body and lost in so much pain that I don’t feel like I actually gave birth to him. It felt like I was just pushing and pushing and pushing and ripping open and dying, and feeling like I was failing, and then BAM, there was a baby on my stomach – I don’t feel like I pushed him out, I feel like he just came out of me by luck or accident and I had pretty much nothing to do with it. I went from pain and confusion to a baby appearing. So I didn’t feel like I could say “I’ve done this before” to give me courage – I hadn’t done this before! I had never felt these sensations. Honestly. Sometimes I feel like a VBAC mom that way. This was all new to me. And right now, that made it all the more wondrous.

Anyway, we’re in the pool. I’m delighted and so excited to meet this baby and realizing that it’s going to be soon. I wasn’t sure if I was having a contraction or not but I thought maybe I was so I pushed again. My body kind of took over and bore down sort of hard, but not nearly as hard as it had been before. I felt my muscles and tissues spreading around the head as it moved further down, which was an outrageous sensation. I was not aware of that sensation when I was having Max, so this was all new to me. It was wonderful and crazy. It did hurt, yes – when I pushed and my body gave that “hitch” and pushed too I would scream, but it wasn’t a scream of terror, it was just a scream of energy, of alarm at the newness and strangeness of the sensations, but not of fear. My voice got a little high pitched and Denise directed me to bring it back down, so I did, into more of a yell. I was yelling and grinning at the same time.

“Oh, we can see the head!!” Someone said. Denise said, “Look at all that hair floating around!” I almost died at this point, I was so happy. “Oh, oh, what color is it!??” I cried. “It’s the same color as Todd’s hair!” Denise said. I thought I would burst from happiness. I pushed again. I was also holding myself “down there”, which was something I had not done before and which I absolutely believe helped me not to tear, because I was able to apply counterpressure to the exact places that were feeling overstretched without having to rely on someone else to do it for me. It seems like people always worry about supporting the perineum, but what about the front?? I tore up the front with Max in addition to the perineum, and I almost thought the front was worse even though the tear in the perineum went through the muscle and the front didn’t (both places still required sutures). Anyway, it was awesome to be able to press my hands for all I was worth in the places that I needed to. Denise was also supporting me somewhere, but I wasn’t really aware of her hand and I’m still not sure exactly where it was.

At one point I exclaimed, “Where is it coming out??” because I could feel bulging not only in the obvious place but also in my rectum. Denise laughed and said, “Your vagina!!!” …Doh. :-p I guess I just wanted to make sure!

I felt the “ring of fire”… oh, it definitely burned! Oh my goodness, it stung so bad. If I hadn’t been holding myself I would have been sure I was tearing during a push, but because I could feel the skin there I knew I wasn’t. I had been expecting this and was just having total faith in the universe that I wouldn’t tear, or at least that I wouldn’t tear more than was actually necessary, which I was fine with. (With Max I felt like I tore so badly because I was pushing way too hard and panicking so much, though of course part of it was his arm, too.) Crowning hurts, but I wasn’t scared, and that made all the difference.

Finally, I could see the head myself!!!!!!! AMAZING. Amazing amazing. It was an absolute triangle, it was so pointy, at least the part of it that I could see from my perspective. And yes, it was the color of Todd’s hair! Dark blonde!! It was so unreal and so wonderful to see that. Oh, I was so eager to get the baby out – I wanted to meet Baby Nichols at long last! But I knew that I still needed to go slowly to not tear. I would push and back off and push and back off. Sometimes it was VERY hard to back off. Finally, I just PUSHED. I knew I was SO close and I just COULDN’T wait anymore!! I YELLED and then oh, there was the head! I was totally aware and watching the head come out. I was very surprised because I’d been expecting to see a face, thinking still that the baby was posterior, but there was no face, just hair. I think I either half-closed my eyes or maybe got blurry vision for a second at this point or something because in my mind’s eye the image isn’t very clear, but I gave another hard push to get the shoulders out. I had debated stopping once the head was out, but I was SO close I couldn’t stand it and just pushed. I vaguely saw/felt the shoulders come out and then the baby gently slid into the water. Baby Nichols!!! Oh!! I’m pretty sure I yelled as the head and shoulders came out but I don’t remember for sure. In my memory it's in slow motion and there is no sound and it just me and that pool and that baby. All I can really remember is how INCREDIBLE it was to be so freed from fear, so excited, so in control of my body, and to be pushing out my baby all by myself and WATCHING the baby emerge into this world. Being free from fear was the most amazing feeling of them all. Oh, that felt good.

So the head popped out, there was a pause as I debated whether to keep pushing or not, and then the shoulders popped out and there was another millisecond of a pause and then out floated Baby Nichols. I scooped up the baby and brought it up out of the water onto my stomach. “Baby Nichols! Baby Nichols! Oh, hi baby!!!” I was saying. The cord was quite short (Max’s cord had been the same way) so I could only pull the baby up to my stomach, not my chest, which was frustrating because I just wanted to cradle that babe for all it was worth. Also, in both births I was aware of how uncomfortable it was to have the taut cord pressing against certain sensitive parts of my body!! But it was okay. Baby Nichols was here!

“Oh, Baby Nichols!! Can you cry? Can you please cry for Mama?” The baby was completely pink and looked great and I knew absolutely that nothing was wrong, but I still wanted to hear a cry just to reassure myself that all systems were go on this little being. I rubbed and rubbed its back without even thinking about it, and rubbed it all over to try and stimulate it. It was completely instinctual and I didn’t even realize I was doing that until just now. The baby did cry then, probably within seconds, and it sounded great. It only cried for a second or two and then settled down right away and was just looking up and all around.

It seemed like people were running around and fussing over things but I was totally oblivious to everything. Denise gave me a shot of Pitocin to make sure I didn't bleed too heavily with having such a tired uterus, but I wasn't even aware of it at the time.  It was just me and my baby - the rest of the world was a total blur.

“What are you, Baby Nichols?” I inquired. Finding out the gender seemed like an afterthought – I didn’t even care what kind of baby I had, I was just so excited to have a BABY! Baby Nichols! But I tried to peek between the legs. It was actually hard to do because the darn cord was so tight and so short and was pressed right inbetween them, so I couldn’t see very well, and it was hard to lift the cord enough without dunking the baby’s face in the water. I managed to lift it enough to see beneath, though – and it sure looked like a girl! “Is it a girl?” I asked Denise, just to be sure. She sort of had to crane around to see, also, but finally saw and confirmed. “Todd!” I cried. “It’s a girl! We have a little girl!” Oh my gosh. I was so happy. I’ve never been that happy. I honestly wasn’t surprised at all that she was a girl – all of the “signs” had been pointing to it, after all. I don’t think I ever outrightly knew she was a girl when I was pregnant, but I certainly had my suspicions, and here she was.

At this point it had been thirteen minutes since the birth (which I only know from looking at my chart later), though it seemed like seconds, and Denise asked if we were ready to cut the cord. Are you kidding me?? I thought. I had been dying to cut the cord from the second she came out, haha. Darn those short cords, keeping from snuggling my babies right away! Anyway, Denise clamped the cord and said “Todd, you should grab the scissors!” Todd was surprised – we hadn’t ever even talked about it, and he hadn’t cut Max’s cord. But he willingly took the scissors and cut that cord! It was perfect, and we were both so glad he got to do that.

At this point I was ready to have the placenta and get out of the pool, so Baby Nichols got wrapped in a towel and handed over to Todd, who had taken his shirt off, and they cuddled up skin-to-skin on the recliner (Todd had gotten some immediate skin-to-skin time with Max after his birth, too, which is a favorite memory of his. I think it’s so awesome that he gets to do that with his kids).

I think I was supposed to wait for a contraction to have the placenta, but of course that wasn’t happening (contraction? This labor? What a joke!), so I just pushed. Nothing happened at first but then I felt it slip into the birth canal. I was just kind of hanging out by myself – Denise was off to the side doing something and Todd had the baby and Ginna was somewhere doing something else. I pushed again and it appeared, looking like a gray ball. I for some reason thought I wasn’t supposed to pull on the cord, so I didn’t, but I wasn’t able to get the entire thing out with my push, so I grabbed the gray ball with both hands and gently pulled it out. It floated up into the water and beautifully unfolded, looking just like some kind of manta ray swimming off into the water. Sorry if you are grossed out by placentas, but I think they are awesome and I LOVE that I had some “special time” with mine, just the two of us! :-p Besides, this is my blog and my birth story and I can say whatever I want. ;-)

Denise was next to the pool now and said “Wow, I’ve never seen anyone do that before!” Deliver the placenta, I guess she meant? She’s delivered well over a thousand babies so that was surprising to hear. Ladies, deliver your placentas, it’s awesome! :-p Anyway. She and Ginna helped me up and out of the pool and onto the couch. I rested there doing nothing but being completely blissed out. I was SO happy. I had just GIVEN BIRTH! All by myself! Not only had I survived what had felt unsurvivable at the time, but I had pushed an actual baby out of my body with joy and not with fear, and been able to welcome her into the world as perfectly as I'd hoped. I had found a strength and an ability to push through walls that I had never, ever dreamed that I possessed. Ever. I still can't believe I was able to do that, but I was. (Although I do feel like I could NOT have done it without my husband and my amazing birth team!! It was ONLY with their encouragement and because they had such unwavering faith in me and didn't let me quit that I was in fact able to find that strength! Thank you, wonderful people, for believing in me, for keeping me going.)

Someone made me toast and yogurt and brought it over and I devoured it. Denise did the newborn exam and weighed the baby:

Eventually Denise came over and helped me to the bathroom and then we went back to the living room and she checked out my bottom end. Lo and behold, I DIDN’T TEAR!!!! :-D :-D :-D I had some “skid marks”, just little abrasions, but nothing even close to stitch-worthy. YAY. And I will just say now, for the record, that healing from a birth without damage to your lady parts is SO. MUCH. EASIER. You can't even compare the two!

At some point I was moved to the recliner and Baby Nichols and I got some nursies time in. She latched on well and that was all good. It’s so nice to have done it before – it comes back pretty easily and you get to enjoy all of the fun stuff without the learning curve! I’ve felt that way this entire past week, actually, about having a second child. It’s totally awesome to have a newborn without having to learn how to change diapers and breastfeed and be a parent. You get to just relax and relish the unthinkably adorable little grunts and squeaks and that’s it.

Denise and Ginna did dishes and laundry, made the bed, and wrapped up the pool in the tarp it was on (we emptied it later with a hose) and pulled a meal out of the freezer for us. Once they had packed everything up and tidied the house, they bid us farewell, about two hours after the birth. Todd and I got to have a little while to ourselves in the peace and quiet of home, just marveling over our little girl.

"You were AMAZING," Todd whispered to me, his eyes welling with emotion. "What you did... that was absolutely incredible."

Husbands, tell your wives these things. :-)

We stared at our daughter (our daughter...  oh man, what a trip that was to think about! We had a daughter!) for a while longer before we turned to each other, puzzled, and said, "She doesn't look like a Lydia!" We hadn't decided 100% on a name before the birth, but Lydia had been our favorite of the girls names we were considering, and we'd both assumed that's what her name would be. But she was not Lydia. We debated about another name we liked and that didn't seem to be it, either. Finally we both landed on who she was: Catherine! Catherine Irene. Her saints would be the Great Martyr Catherine and Irene Chrysovalantou, who is a favorite of mine for many reasons. It was perfect, and totally fit her.

One of my good friends who is a professional photographer came over about then to take pictures of us, because she is awesome. She arrived just before my parents did, which was perfect, because she was able to capture the exact second that Max met his baby sister, which was the most precious thing ever. Max came in and immediately beelined it for us, saying "Baby! Baby!!" excitedly. He started petting her and kissed her and looked both mystified and delighted. "Aww, baby!" he said, and stroked her head. She had the hiccups and he'd poke her and she'd hiccup and it made him jump and he'd laugh hysterically, and he did that over and over again for awhile. I was crying from laughing so hard.

 I thought I was going to split open from all of the joy I had within me. Max was beaming and couldn't take his eyes off of her. Here I was with my husband and my TWO BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN, and there was so much love.

Even though we are planning on having more kids, I felt and continue to feel like our family is complete now in a way that it wasn't before. Todd, me, Max, and Catherine - we are a family! What an amazing blessing it is to have children. I still feel like we aren't worthy of something so wonderful, but here we are - me and Todd and our love and our history, surrounded by these extraordinary beings full of their own love and light and personhood and wonder.

Every day now I wake up with two small, sweet-smelling people cuddled up against my simple human body and I am amazed.

Baby C, we've wanted you and waited for you for so long. Everything about you and your arrival is perfect, and I wouldn't change a thing. Thank you so much for beaming down into our household and not someone else's! We will try to take the best care of you that we can!


  1. This is such a wonderful birth story, I can't even tell you! I felt like I was there. :)

    I am so impressed you kept going, and so glad you didn't decide to head to the hospital for a c-section. (Been there, done that, wish to avoid it at all costs in the future.) You are amazing!

    Having a photographer there right away is such a great idea - those photos are PRECIOUS! I'm so happy for you and your family!

  2. I am sitting here with tears, you are an AMAZING strong woman...I LOVE AND ADORE YOU!!!
    This incredible detail is priceless. I vote that you write a book.
    I can't wait to see Catherine...our newest gift from GOD. The pictures are amazing.