Friday, August 17, 2012

Welcoming Baby Nichols: Thoughts

There’s this amazing thing about babies. It was one thing that really surprised me after Max born. When he was brand new and not doing much, he seemed like the “part of us” that we’d expected – he looked like us and didn’t do a whole lot besides eat, sleep, and be admired. He felt like “our” baby that we had made. As he got older, though, he started turning into an actual person, with a mind and a personality entirely his own. All of the sudden there lived in our household this completely unique human being, different from anyone who has ever existed before, and who will ever exist again. This astonished me. Max may look like us and share traits of ours, but he is as different a person from us as any stranger walking down the street. That’s the incredible thing about having babies. You get to meet this entirely new individual, welcome them to the earth, and help them get their bearings and figure out who and how they’re going to be. Amazing, and very, very humbling – every day, I ask myself: Who am I that I could possibly be worthy enough to shepherd this marvelous little being, to be trusted to care for them and tell them which paths are the best to follow and which are not? How was I, of all people, chosen out of the masses of much better or at least much more qualified folks to incubate, bring forth, protect, and of all things guide this new, complete, separate entity?

I’m very, very glad that God is merciful.

Though I have a lot of doubts about my suitability as a parent, I must admit that I am nonetheless EXTREMELY excited to meet Baby Nichols. I want very badly for this child to feel welcome on the planet – and not only that, but loved and wanted. Even if our family isn’t a paragon of parenting perfection (…masters of alliteration, though, we definitely are ;-p), at the very least, I hope we can provide a warm reception and lots of love. I figure that if a kid gets love and not much else, they’ll hopefully be at least somewhat better off than they would be with no love at all. That’s all I can hope for.

I got off to a rocky start as a welcoming committee this time around. In the first trimester I had two subchorionic hemorrhages (a ruptured clot behind the placenta) and nearly lost the baby. In addition to that, I was so sick and exhausted for the first five months that I could barely eat or function, and it was very difficult to feel excited about the future at that point. I’m fairly certain I had real antenatal depression for a couple of months there. I started feeling much better physically around the 22-23 week point, but then a new challenge set in: a horrible, haunting fear of giving birth. I’d had the fear ever since Max was born, but it didn’t have a chance to really hit me until I was facing doing it again.

The first part of my labor Max was wonderful – I felt strong and confident and like I was really working with my body, and kept laughing and kissing Todd and texting friends even through transition. Once I was fully dilated, though, things became much, much harder than I had anticipated.

Max was two and a half weeks late, and thus a bit on the larger side at 8 lbs, 13 oz; not gigantic, but pretty sizeable nonetheless. The reason for his lateness, we figured out later, was that he’d had his fist stuck up by his temple; during the last weeks of pregnancy he wasn’t able to “drop” and settle down into the pelvis the way first babies are supposed to, and without that pressure on the cervix, there wasn’t much to get the ball rolling on labor. He also had a 15” head, which just exacerbated the problem (average newborn heads run a circumference of about 13”-14”).

So, when the time came to push, all of these factors came unpleasantly into play. Up until that point, labor had been great, as I said before. But once my uterus started trying to work Max’s giant head and his arm and fist through my pelvis and down into the birth canal all at once, things changed – the contractions went from being intense and powerful but not outrightly painful to being awful, grinding sensations of utter misery and horror. (I promise I’m not trying to tell yet another birth horror story here – really, for the most part Max’s birth was lovely, I can’t stress that enough – but I’m just telling it like it was.) After I pushed for awhile with no progress, my midwife discovered a lip of cervix left in the front, so I had to stop pushing and wait for that to recede, which was [insert clichéd phrase denoting extreme pain or possibly a string of expletives followed by ‘awful’]. At one point she reached in and attempted to push the lip back and over his head during contractions, which. was. EXCRUCIATING. And didn’t work anyway, I might add. Nuchal hands are no joke, my friends, especially when they are coupled with freakishly large Nichols boy heads. (Todd had a 16” head when he was born – I told my mother in law later that if I’d known that to begin with, I may have rethought marrying him!)

Anyway. Fast forward about three hours. After horrendously painful pushing in every imaginable position with maddeningly slow progress, we finally got Max into the birth canal and on his way out. By this point I was so far gone and out of my mind and body with the pain that I was only dimly aware that he was even close to crowning. He was still caught up a bit in my bones, so it took his head quite awhile to crown, and then all of a sudden his entire body (with his fist still stubbornly up by his head and his elbow politely tearing a path alongside) shot out like a champagne cork. Like I said, I wasn’t even really aware of it that entire time; my normal Sarah brain had fled the scene in terror long before, leaving only a wild, screaming animal lost in a haze of panic at the sensation of being ripped apart from the inside out (which I was, quite literally – sorry to be graphic, but I tore upwards, downwards, AND side to side, with the downwards/perineal tear going right through the muscle, which took more than a year to heal entirely – that was the polite little elbow I mentioned, being courteous on its way out). Honestly, I don’t even feel like I myself gave birth to him – I feel like I was completely checked out and lost in the panic and the pain for a short eternity, and then suddenly, with no help from me, there was a baby on my stomach.

Now at that point, at the first instant his little warm body landed on mine, I did jolt right back down into my senses and was immediately filled with the standard joy and wonder that accompany meeting one’s offspring for the first time. I admittedly couldn’t sleep those first couple of days because I’d have flashbacks every time I closed my eyes, but besides that (and the difficulty in recovering from childbirth with extremely lacerated and wildly unhappy lady-parts), my postpartum period and the years that followed it were really quite blissful.

So, six months or so along in my second pregnancy, you can see how I was a little preoccupied with the fear of what lay ahead, and thus how I was continuing to have a hard time making the new little creature inside of me feel very welcome. I would hyperventilate and have heart palpitations every time I read a birth story. I stopped keeping track of how many weeks along I was and didn’t feel very dialed in to the whole pregnancy thing, trying to ignore the inevitable for as long as possible, I guess. I thought about going to the hospital and getting an epidural – but what if it didn’t work? and what about the part before I got the epidural? and all of the other reasons I shied away from pain medication the first time around, which are many? – and at one point the thought of scheduling a cesarean even crossed my mind. Now, I have absolutely nothing against epidurals or c-sections, mind you, and absolutely, completely respect and support any woman who chooses one to make the best birth for her; however, in this situation, with this child, I had to ask myself if that was the route that would really be best for me and, more importantly, for Baby Nichols. What I was looking for wasn’t simply pain relief so much as it was a way to hide from the experience, to numb myself away from it. Would that really be a good way to heal from Max’s birth and give this new baby the best, most peaceful start in life that I personally could provide? Would that be the best I could do for this new being who, from among the millions of others on the planet, was by some hard-to-fathom miracle being sent to live with me? After much soul-searching I decided that no, it would not. I needed to embrace this baby’s birth as its own, not let my past experiences take away the best possible experience from him/her. Especially after two trimesters of already less-than-sunnyness on my part.

My midwife suggested I undergo EMDR therapy (“Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” – it sounds like hokey psychobabble, I know, but just go with me on this; I was skeptical at first too), a type of therapy coupled with counseling that helps a person integrate traumatic events and reprocess them, thus moving past the actual ‘trauma’ experience of the event and storing it simply as a memory. I did eventually start seeing an EMDR specialist, and it ended up being incredibly, wonderfully healing and helpful. Not only did I come to terms with the negative parts of Max’s birth and come to accept it as its own, unique experience separate from this coming one, with its one strengths, I also identified and dealt with many other hung-up issues from my past, which was great.

In addition to the therapy, I’ve spent the last few months going very deeply into myself and really digging around in there to prepare myself to birth and mother this child. I’ve done a LOT of mental preparation, visualization, and also a great deal of spiritual “cleaning up”. I feel like the physical move we just made really mirrors my own recent internal development – throwing out a lot of junk, simplifying, and finally making the leap from an old, dirty, dark house to a bright, clean, new one. Really, the timing of the move could not psychologically have been better. I love my new mindset just as much as I love my new apartment, and you know how much I love my new apartment

Finally, I feel like I am ready to welcome Baby Nichols in the best way I possibly can, and that feels great.

Now, there’s the matter of the birth to see to. I’m feeling very, very confident at this point, and excited. I’m honestly not expecting it to be like or unlike Max’s birth, which was an entirely separate event, but to be a new and special story of its own, shared by our family and this interesting person who is coming to meet us and live with us for awhile. The baggage is gone, which feels fantastic, and I am loving being in a place where I am genuinely thrilled about what will be happening here in the next couple of weeks.

We’ve worked so hard to give you the best we possibly can, Baby Nichols! You’re so close now. Please accept my sincerest apologies in advance for letting you watch too much TV and eat more graham crackers than vegetables. Please forgive me for yelling sometimes and for getting too preoccupied in my own activities to pay enough attention to you when you want to play. Please know that I love you already more than I can even express, and that I am really, really trying my very best for you. There are people out there who would make much better parents than we are, but for whatever reason, you are coming to live with us. We have love to offer. I hope it is enough. 


  1. Sarah, what a journey! I didn't know most of this, but now that I do I'm amazed at your courage and tenacity. Way to go! And I believe with all my heart that YOU are going to be the best mom for YOUR baby; after all, isn't that the way God rolls? I'll be praying for a much different labor this time.. hugs ;)

    1. Thank you, Lei!!! That means a lot! ^_^ Thanks for your good thoughts and prayers. I feel like I am ready to accept a labor that is even harder than the first one, if it works out that way, and I'm feeling like this time I will be able to get through it without freaking out; but, that being said, if God deems that this labor be easier, I would CERTAINLY not complain. ;-)

  2. Oh Sarah, I didn't know this either! I am sooo proud of you and all the work you have done and continue to do. You are in my prayers. Please send me the name of your EMDR therapist.
    My Love, Juliana
    Welcome Baby are Loved,wanted and prayed for.