I write from a hospital room in Kentucky, where the nurse is checking Hope in front of me as baby looks around with wide eyes and Isaac dozes in the easy chair beside me, tired out from four hours of sleep last night and taking care of the two of us.
Side note - as the blogging community has changed and faded, some of us that were blog friends have wanted to stay in touch, and now I'm getting newsletters, following some of you on Facebook, etc. If any of you who know me on here want to follow our family blog and newsletter, let me know and I'll get you signed up. Anyways....
I feel unspeakably grateful. For a smooth birth. For a healthy baby. For grandparents that are watching my other kids. For air conditioning, hot showers, American food made in the cafeteria and delivered to the room. For the caring nurses and doctors that provide so much support. I think of the hospital in Manokwari and what it would have been like to deliver there, and I don't quite know what to do with the privilege it is to be here. It's a mix of thankfulness and some feelings of guilt at this gift. I think of my friends struggling with infertility or major issues with the babies they are carrying, and I wish for redemption. When Hope latches and nurses I think of Elly's first days with the cleft palate, realizing she couldn't suction and nurse on her own, and again I am so grateful.
So here I am, peaceful, thankful.
I've now had three babies, and every one of them such different experiences.
- Easy pregnancy, little in the way of aches and pain.
- Born on his due date
- 9 hour labor
- Labored through the early hours of the night and morning, born at 9am
- Epidural meant basically no pain from contractions
- 30 minutes of pushing.
- Cord wrapped around his neck, causing concern during delivery
- 7lb 13oz
- Between tearing/stitches and waiting for the pain killer to clear my system, I could barely move out of bed for my two days in the hospital and was sore for weeks
- Easy feeding and sleeping - a dream of a newborn
- Worse morning sickness than the first time around
- Hormonal acne worse than being a teenager
- Round ligament pain that made it hard to walk and lift my legs, even midway through the pregnancy
- Born a day before her due date
- 5 hour labor
- Labored through the morning, born late morning
- Didn't get an epidural until 8cm dilated, managed the pain to that point okay
- Basically pushed once or twice - felt like it was over before it began in terms of pushing!
- 7 lb 3oz
- Discovered the cleft palate immediately and entered the journey of pumping and basically drip feeding a baby who couldn't create suction to drink
- Back pain from the epidural that lasted a few days, but recovery in general was faster than #1
- Worst all-day sickness in the first trimester, with actual puking
- Braxton hicks (especially at night) for 1+ weeks before actual labor
- Born four days before due date
- 4 hour labor? Hard to decide when labor started (rather than braxton hicks)
- Labored in the afternoon, born late afternoon
- Natural birth with no pain killers
- Pushed three times
- 8 lb 5 oz
- Cord wrapped around her neck and she was born purple, if pushing had taken longer it might have been dangerous.
- No tearing and no epidural, so I was on my feet within a couple of hours and had minimal swelling and soreness.
My water never broke before actual delivery.
I never "dropped", everyone would say the baby was carrying high all the way up to delivery
My only craving was really for meat, probably showing a need for fat/protein/iron. Mostly aversions, particularly to coffee and sweets.
I don't know how long to say this labor was because those overnight braxton hicks never ended that morning. All morning long they'd randomly hit - light and inconsistent most of the time, but still present. I packed my toiletries bag up thinking maybe, maybe this meant real labor was coming (but really I'd been thinking that every day for a week so don't be too impressed by my intuition!). I had my regular weekly OB check scheduled for just after lunch and was thinking that even if I wasn't in labor, surely she'd tell me I'd progressed and things would be moving along soon. Well, contractions were coming regularly through lunch and as I got ready to go to the appointment, but I was still talking through them as if nothing was going on. We started timing them on the way to the appointment (1:15) and they were less than 10 minutes apart, which set Isaac on slightly-panicked mode.
The OB said I was four cm dilated and very soft, and that I would probably have the baby later in the day but that labor was in early stages there wasn't a need to rush to the hospital. That's just what I was thinking. With my other kids I very clearly went into labor and knew it and things progressed quickly, this whole braxton hicks thing was new for me and I didn't know what to expect in terms of how fast things would progress. I didn't want to check in to the hospital and wait around for hours of light labor.
We drove home, got our bags, told Judah we were going to have a baby, and left for the hospital. Contractions were about six minutes apart and I couldn't talk through them. I wanted to walk for a while rather than check in, so that I wouldn't get stuck unable to eat or move around for potentially hours of labor. However, within an hour of arriving at the hospital the contractions were just minutes apart and getting intense, so we went to check in. Whoops, somehow they were totally swamped and had no rooms available so I was sent to labor in the family waiting room, surrounded by people.
Man. That was the weirdest and toughest thing about the labor, I'd say, managing the later stages of labor in a waiting room chair surrounded by people. When they called me in and saw me managing a contraction in the hallway on the way to the triage room I think they knew things were serious, so they checked me right away and I was already 9 cm dilated and I think was "in transition", as they say, moving from managed contractions to waves of intense contractions right on top of each other, nearly ready to start pushing. I was hardly aware of hastily signing some papers, being moved to a wheelchair and run down the hallway and moved to a delivery room, but I was so thankful to be there!
My doctor and Isaac were coaching me through intense contractions. One of the reasons I didn't want an epidural this time around was so that I would have more control during the pushing stage, but man once you enter the transition period things are so intensely primal and physical, not very controlled for me. I was able to hear Isaac more than anyone else, and sometimes follow what he was guiding me to do. I was attempting to breathe through the contractions but was also feeling a ton of pressure. When they started asking me if I was feeling the need to push I'd already been feeling it for a while and half the work had been fighting that urge as they got me to the delivery room and everyone got set up and in place. With all my babies my water didn't break before hand, so once the doctor was in place she reached in and broke the water and I could feel a small gush and knew that we must be close. I was so relieved when they told me to push. Again, I thought I'd have more control without the epidural, but at least for me it still felt mostly like a crazy overwhelming, just push with everything in me and no idea what I was actually doing or how things were going.
It took two or three pushes and she was totally out. I didn't know it, but she had the cord wrapped around her neck and the OB was pulling it off between two pushes. She came out purple but I think because things moved so fast, it was all okay. They put her on my chest and I looked at her in wonder but was still panting and totally internal in the management of contractions and pain. That was different than with an epidural, where after the major pushing I was back to very calm and focused on baby. Without pain meds I was still managing lots of pain for a while after she came out.
The best part of no epidural was the recovery, actually. Hope was 8lb 5oz, my biggest baby, but there was no tearing, no back pain from the epidural, no numbness that kept me immobilized in bed for hours, and a real sense of control over my body and limbs after the major contractions died down. Recovery is great.
I am filled with the peace and wonder of this newborn stage, and deep thankfulness that we got to be here for this stage. Now that I have had medicated and unmedicated births, what's my summary of the difference? I'm really glad I did this third one all naturally. It's my personality to stand back and watch noncommittally until I feel like, "Yeah, I can do that." Third time around, I felt like I could do it, and yes it's empowering to have "done it", but that's not really a super good rationale for choosing an unmedicated birth. Also, I could get through the birth unmedicated because I have fairly easy births and this was my third. Laboring with no relief for the hours and hours that many women go through on their first baby - well, I personally say just choose an epidural! It allowed me to relax, to focus on baby, and not be traumatized. But, knowing that labor would most likely be fairly short and relatively easy, being unmedicated this third time around absolutely made for an easier recovery.