So I finally made it to the labor and delivery room, ready to go. I will just say this very quickly – it took me three hours to get to 10 cm, and it took two hours to push. I’ve received a lot of questions about natural delivery, so I think now’s a good time to sidetrack and talk about my experience “going natural”!
I want to make a quick caveat – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting an epidural or any other medication. Most women get them nowadays and there a lot of healthy moms and babies out there! Our decision to have the baby naturally was one based on our own convictions and my own assessment of my own body – I knew I could do it, and I felt that if it was possible for me to give my baby the absolute healthiest and most risk-free option, then I ought to do it. And I will say that that was what kept me going – even when it would have seemed “easy” to get medication, when I reminded myself that I was doing this for the baby, not for myself, I had the strength to keep going.
In short, it was a GREAT experience and I plan on doing it again for all my babies. There are a lot of reasons for this, but a huge one was just the sense of control I felt over the situation. I know that it seems that being bombarded with pain would make you feel out of control, but the fact that I had prepared for the pain and that I was expecting it and ready to face it head on rather than trying to get rid of it gave me a huge measure of confidence and a sense of control over the situation. Also, I felt very in tune with my body – I was able to monitor my own progress, I knew myself when it was time to push, and I had more control over the pushing. But the biggest pay off came after the birth, when I had complete charge of all my own faculties – both mental and physical.
Secondly, the pain was quite manageable. There was a short window of about 30-45 minutes (the transition period) that I began to feel that I just couldn’t go on, that I couldn’t handle another contraction. The upswing of this time period was that I was prepared enough to know that when that transition period hit, it was going to be the hardest of all – but that it would be very short and that when I began to feel those emotions, I would be ready to push very soon. Thus I was able to hang in there. The only tough thing was that when I began to go through transition, no one was able to verify for me that I truly was – so I began to have a doubt in my mind that perhaps I wasn’t in transition and this was just going to go on forever. When my Mom and the nurse said “you’re probably going through transition, we’ll see” – that’s when I began to panic just a smidgen when I thought “if this isn’t transition, I don’t want to know what is!!!”
Last of all, without medication I was able to dig deep for other things to rely on. First, I hung onto Andy for dear life. The sweet guy almost never left my side – except for a quick moment that he started to faint because he hadn’t had a thing to eat or drink in hours and hours! He was an awesome coach. My Mom was also incredible – I turned to her for advice and for help with breathing and pushing and positioning and just trusted in her experience. Finally, I dug down deep and laid bare everything before God, clinging to him for my strength to do this for my baby. I knew that with him, I could do it.
In the end, I had a calm labor. I didn’t want the tv, I didn’t want music. All I wanted was to focus. I could hear Ida’s heartbeat the whole time, and that also gave me a lot of peace and strength. The nurses were surprised at how quiet I was. It’s not that I was never tempted to flip out. But when those moments came and I wanted to just wig out, all that I could think was how far it would set me back. A moment of indulgence in panic or screaming would only tense my muscles, fight the contractions and hurt my psyche – so I hung in there.
To prepare for labor, I employed the Bradley Method. I wasn’t able to take a full class (although it would have been awesome), but I relied on their website and on the book by Susan McCutcheon, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. It was a great resource to learn a lot about labor, to learn techniques, and to refer to for practice. I highly recommend it if you’re hoping to go natural. The other thing I recommend is to say that you WILL go natural. If you tell yourself that you’ll see how it goes, that you might get the medicine if it gets too rough, you’re likely to get it. Decide if you want to commit to it, and if you do, hang in there! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it!!!
The hardest part for me, in the end, was pushing for two hours. A lot of this was due to my own expectations. All that I had really prepared for was the laboring – I expected that to be the toughest part. My Mom pushed all six of her babies out in ten minutes or less, sometimes in only one push, and especially as I watched my labor going exactly as all of hers had, I really expected that that would be how my pushing would go as well. I was excited when the time came to push because I thought “yay!!! it’ll all be over soon!!!”
Nope. There came a moment in those two hours of trying various positions and agonizing that I began to doubt that I would ever have a baby! I lost focus and I doubted my own ability to do all of this. In this time, my doctor was incredible. He really helped me work on my pushing, he was so calm, he assured me that I would be able to deliver vaginally, and he was just patient and relaxed. He didn’t make me any false promises or any ultimatums on length of pushing. It is because of my pushing experience that I am hugely thankful I went naturally – I could have been pushing for much much longer or ended up with a c-section if I hadn’t been going natural.
At almost 4:30, I hit the two-hour pushing mark. My doctor then laid out my options. He said I could continue pushing as long as I wanted, I could get an epidural and take a break for a while, or he could help out with a vacuum extractor.
I really appreciated his attitude through this. I’ve heard lots of stories of mandatory c-sections after a set period of time, but my doctor didn’t even consider that option and was completely comfortable with letting me keep pushing if I wanted. He explained that he was just giving me these options because after two hours, the woman can get so tired that her pushing becomes less and less effective, and he wanted me to know what the possibilities were.
Well, I turned down the epidural, as he expected me to. Then came the most agonizing decision that I made – to keep going or to work with the vacuum?
In the end, I chose a vacuum assist. I felt very guilty about this at first, as I felt it wasn’t completely “natural”. But I’m glad I made that decision. First of all, my doctor only used the vacuum to hold the baby in place as I pushed her myself down the birth canal – not to actually pull her out. The reason pushing was taking so long was because she was stuck behind my pubic bone and he just used the vacuum to keep her from sliding back after each push. Secondly, I was losing faith fast. I was losing the end goal. But after I agreed to the vacuum assist, suddenly everything changed – the room was flooded with nurses, things came out of the ceiling, the baby warmer was ready to go, and suddenly I was renewed with confidence.
This fantastic nurse joined the room at this point, and as they got the vacuum ready, she helped me work on my pushing. She was awesome, and I regret that she wasn’t there the whole time as I pushed more effectively than ever under her guidance. It was especially helpful because I felt that I was really doing most of the work getting the baby out even after they added the vacuum, and after the whole experience, I feel more prepared to push for my future babies.
Ida was born at 4:37 pm – about ten minutes after they began prepping the vacuum.
I cannot describe to you how fantastic that final push felt. The relief, the joy, the accomplishment – it was wonderful. And this was the best part of the whole natural birthing process – my baby was incredibly alert. Her huge, bright eyes were wide open, and she was looking up at me when they tucked her into my chest. She remained alert for about three hours. She was so calm – they had to work pretty hard to get her to cry! But she was definitely not sluggish – she was taking in the world and very shortly began rooting and sucking her fists and getting ready to eat. I also felt so wonderful – no effects from any medications, just me and my baby.
Ida was in great shape. Her cord was wrapped around her neck and her shoulder got stuck on the way out, but the doctor handled it seamlessly and I didn’t even know any of that was happening. She had a little bit of wet lung and had to be given oxygen, but otherwise was the healthiest, perkiest little newborn that there ever was.
After I was stitched up (her shoulder tore me) and we were both cleaned up, we were left alone with just a nurse to help with breastfeeding. After helping me out with that for a bit she left too and we just had an hour or two to enjoy the baby. My Mom and Dad and sister were all there, and we just reveled in baby’s sweetness and big bright eyes.
A few hours later, and we were settled into our recovery room and all alone again. It was the oddest feeling – me, Andy, and baby – three. We couldn’t take our eyes off of her! I finally went to sleep around 5 am, after a wonderful evening that was only disrupted by a near faint on my first trip to the bathroom. I ended up surrounded by nurses that appeared from nowhere waving ammonia under my nose and being cradled by the nurse that had been assisting me. It was a bit obnoxious because I couldn’t take a shower that night or go to the bathroom by myself after that. We also had a bit of trouble nursing and ended up giving baby a pacifier after she finally decided to exercise her lungs. But really, all I did for the next two days in the hospital was just stare at my baby!
And that’s it. Sunday afternoon we brought her home, and the birth was over!!!
Yes, you read that right. I am forty weeks today! And no sign of baby.
Well, there are lots and lots of signs of her. She wiggles and moves and my lumpy presence on the couch with a squirming belly is hard to miss. And her little things are everywhere – in my packed bag, her bassinet set up next to our bed, her little nursery.
I think my insane nesting instinct faded with the completion of all baby’s needs as well as getting settled into our house. But now, I am on a constant round of “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it this very second” because there might not be a tomorrow to do it in. My number one obsession? Keeping the kitchen clean. Boy, that bottle of degreaser comes out way more than necessary. My sister found me one day with a magic kitchen eraser, scrubbing our ancient stove while panting and puffing and occasionally sagging from a contraction. She hovered and begged me to stop and reported me to Andy when he came home; but it made me feel better!
Although I won’t lie. My “Let’s Do It Right Now” complex extends to a sudden round of food cravings, one of which turned out to be a gigantic Graeter’s banana split sundae. I felt mildly embarrassed to be fulfilling the stereotype of the extremely pregnant woman, shoveling down a gigantic quantity of fudge covered sugar. Yum.
Besides staying on top of all the chores and vaguely on top of dinner options (I hope the baby comes in the next few days, because the bathrooms are all freshly cleaned and I don’t want to have to do it again before she comes…) my brain has officially checked out. I’m in a waiting game. Not because I’m impatient, or frantic, or even particularly nervous – it’s just that I haven’t got much in me anymore and what’s there I am conserving for labor. So I just sort of chill, enjoying the days passing one to another and quite convinced that she’s going to have a late checkout. I have no doubt that there will be a Forty One Weeks post.
Goodness, when they talk about energy ups and downs in the last month, they are not kidding. Well, let’s be realistic. It’s all an energy down, but I find this uncanny ninth month ability to pretend that I’m not having an energy down and then someone finds me scrubbing the stove down with a magic kitchen eraser and a bottle of degreaser and packs me off to the couch where I sit comatose because, like I said, the energy was actually down.
I know part of it is this giant belly. Andy says that I’ve reached a point where it doesn’t look like it should be possible. I don’t think it is possible, and maybe that’s why sleep and a settled stomach are so elusive right now.
The big plus to having such a big belly and having skin stretched so tight that it hurts to be rubbed is that I can see every single movement of the Bumpkin. And the Bumpkin, she likes to move. Her aunts say she’s going to be sassy and I say she’s going to be a ballerina because she likes to point those tootsies and jab my ribs. She’s going to have a good en pointe stance, let me tell you.
I’ve gone into denial that she’s actually leaving my belly and coming into my arms. Really, after all this time? I can’t wait, but I think I’m going to miss having her in my belly. I like feeling every movement, every hiccup. I like our complete dependence on each other. I realized that birth isn’t when I meet her, but her first step away from me towards independence, and I just don’t know if I’m ready for that yet.
We’ve been moving and shaking, drilling and hammering, making lots of service calls and functioning without internet or phone for a very long time. It’s been a long couple of weeks!
We are finally into the laundry-doing, errand-running stage, and preparing-for-back-to-school stage. Still busy, but less frantic. So I thought I’d take a moment to show you a few bits of our house-in-progress. This little house is actually gigantic, at least to us. We can’t quite seem to fill it up! Although the bareness of parts of it bothers me a little, I know it will fill up soon with more people and time will bring its own “stuff”, so it doesn’t worry me.
(I need to apologize – the quality of the photos is poor and the composition is awful, but I am pregnant and tired and actually allowing some “It’s Good Enough For Now” to enter my personality.)
So let me introduce you to the hub of our house, the kitchen:
The kitchen boasts a lovely set of biege appliances which perfectly match their countertops. Then I decided to come in and paint everything cool whites and grays. The beige? Eh, oh well. I’m hoping the ancient appliances meet their demise and our home warranty replaces them. Oh wait. The dishwasher DID die within 48 hours of moving in. And so we’ve been on a constant round of “It’s Fixed – No, It’s Not” service calls for the last two weeks. So Andy is flexing his muscles and washing dishes for the time being since I have to stand about six feet from the sink to accommodate my growing belly and it’s just…not that comfortable.
On the positive side, aren’t the cabinets with their new shiny nickel hinges pretty? And the gray walls? They’re EXACTLY what I was going for. They look so pretty with my yellow kitchen items. They’re not quite finished, as Andy will be adding some nickel knobs sometime when he has a few minutes.
And the breakfast area. I love this table and chairs – the clean lines and the glass top table work so well against the grays and whites. But what makes this area of the kitchen truly pretty is…
…this adorable artwork I get from Etsy! Love the bright colors against the pewter walls.
Cozy, yes? Especially with the bright green laundry tin on the left? I love.
As you can see, the kitchen flows out into the hall that runs from the front door along back to the living room. There’s a bathroom, basement stairs, upstairs, and a coat closet along the hall, and as you can see it is a bit full of things that need to be returned (we’ve moved past the things-to-be-put-away stage!).
Here is our dining area. It’s a bit cavernous for our small table (I zoomed in quite a bit, there’s also the piano in here), but it’s still cozy and cute. I love the new bamboo pendant, and displayed on the far wall are two gorgeous mid-century vases from my grandmother’s collection.
And from the dining room we flow into the equally gigantic living area. I’m a little nonplussed. As you can see there is the seating side, above (with a broken picture frame we are trying to repair)…
With a TV/book area on the other end. The TV being so far away is okay because we turn that TV on about once every two+ weeks and we don’t mind a little squinting, but it just bugs me that it feels like two separate rooms. Due to the layout of the room I can’t really float the couch in the middle of the room without cutting off the hallway.
SO, I am thinking someday of getting a couple of small reading chairs to put by the bookcases, and a lot of bright floor pillows for kids who want to play games and Nintendo on the floor, and some bright toy baskets for the baby’s things. Then it can be a play area with the grown-up seating area on the other side. Does anybody else have any bright ideas?
And the windows. Oh, the windows. My pregnant self stood in the curtain section at Ikea for about an hour, nearly in tears, trying to find curtains that would work with the bamboo roman shades I had Andy install, as well as the rest of the room.
Eventually, I just bought white sheer linen curtains. And the result:
…Okay, but kind of blah. The problem is really the ugly grayish/beige/off-white that is on all the walls in the house. Next summer I’d like to paint the whole living/dining area soft beachy blues and greens, and then I think the curtains will look fine. So for now, they at least break up the wall space. Of course they need hemmed and ironed and they need matching curtain rods, but who cares about that when there’s a baby coming?
And speaking of baby, this is what I know you wanted to see:
I LOVE how sunny and bright this room is. It is the sunniest room in the house, which might not be practical for naptimes but is certainly cheery. To deal with naptimes, we ordered cordless, cellular blackout shades that we’ll install once they come in. For now, it doesn’t matter anyways.
I have some more accessories to go for this room, such as a tree print I ordered from Etsy, a tree toy and a few other things, but although it looks a bit bare in the photos, it really isn’t. (I don’t know why the frames look crooked. They aren’t…)
I am in love with the bedding that we ordered. I can’t get over its cuteness, even though I couldn’t seem to position for a decent shot. The sun rises on one side of the bumper (the one you can see) and sets on the other side (the one you can’t). It’s precious, bright, cheerful, happy, and perfect for this baby and others down the road (I hope!).
And this quilt? This is what sold me on the bedding. This will hang over the baby’s crib, once we get some quilt hangers.
And see the little brown thing in the bottom corner of the picture above? That’s baby’s bassinet, (almost all) set up and ready to be moved into our room when the time comes.
All in all, the room is perfect. How about the sweet little rug on the floor? It is the most lovely 3′x5′ wool looped rug that I ordered from Land of Nod along with the bedding, even though it’s not the rug that “matches” it. I like how it goes with the valance and breaks up the green of the room a bit.
I am feeling closer and closer to being ready for this baby. The drawers are stocked with her littlest newborn things, freshly washed, and lots of linens. I finally got out and bought wipes and a few other essentials, as well as (obviously) the mattress and bassinet. We even sorted her closet full of baby items into what we need now, what comes next, and what comes later. Now we just need the carseat to get her home!!!
So there it is, a short tour of the highlights of my house. Come visit soon!
Yesterday I went to see the doctor. He informed me cheerily that I am “SO CLOSE” and asked if I have everything all ready to go for the baby. I wanted to burst into tears when I said “Well, I moved this week, so no.” He just replied “Oh, you are really going for as much stress as possible, huh!”
I don’t have a carseat. I don’t have a bassinet. I don’t have a crib mattress. I don’t even have a nursing bra. I don’t have a single thing washed and the baby’s room has become a catch-all for other rooms’ unpacked boxes. My curtains are draped over my couches waiting to be hung, there is a plumber taking apart all four of my bathrooms right now.
But it’s okay. My new house is becoming a home I’m loving. Every day, sometimes every hour, it feels a little bit more like home, and I’m bringing my baby home to a brand new home that she will, hopefully, remember fondly. And shortly I’ll be making that last trip to Babies R Us to get those last finishing touches, and then it will be the end of an era, the end of this time of preparing a home for baby.
So it’s all worth it.
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