31 March 2018

An anniversary of sorts

I shared this on my Instagram, but wanted to put it here, with my other thoughts and memories about Israel.  

In my heart there is a place where both joy and grief collide - and I've spent the last 8 weeks trying to figure out how to reconcile the two. 

Yesterday marked what would have been our stillborn baby Israel's first birthday, had he lived.

But, if he had lived, Edythe would not.

In the weeks after Israel died I wondered if I would ever not feel the pain. Now, I honestly find it hard to even remember that sorrow that was so immense. 

Until a song plays on the radio that makes me think of Israel. Or I fumble when people ask me how many boys I have, and I have to awkwardly explain that I've had 5, but only have 4. Or when I go through the bins of boy clothes to pull out what will work for Edythe, and realize that the clothes might have been worn once more, but will never be. Or when I'm scrolling through old pictures and see ones of his lifeless body or his tiny casket. 

Israel's death does not consume me or define me, but it definitely is part of me. 

But then there is Edythe, in all her glorious loveliness. Her pregnancy was an emotional battle: everyday that I remained pregnant felt like a victory. Her birth was the answer to countless prayers, and her life is a healing salve to my heart. I wouldn't want to live in a world without her in it. 

And therein lies the struggle - how do I wish that Israel had lived while being so joyful that Edythe does? I love them both with all my heart, knowing that I could never have held them both. 

So, today I will put aside the confusion and instead hold a space in my heart for both Israel and Edythe, as that's the only place they can both exist, where I can love them both the same, with everything I have in me. 

03 March 2018

The Home Waterbirth Story of Edythe Rose

Every woman's birth story is different, and for me, having given birth to 6 babies, I can say the same of each of my births. I've experienced everything from a cesarean section to a beautiful home waterbirth, to a stillborn delivery of my 20 week gestation son. And I've even gone through the equally difficult labour of bringing a child home through adoption.

I suppose it was foolish of me to think that the birth of my sweet Edythe Rose would be any less eventful than any other.  Still, leading up to her due date, February 11, I gave little thought to the birth process, or even to the logistics of a homebirth - after all, I'd done it all before, right? To be honest though, it was probably more of a mind block than anything - because despite some wonderful birth experiences, the traumatic ones certainly leave a more lasting impression. Her pregnancy had been relatively uneventful - from a clinical standpoint.  But, from an emotional place, it had been pretty terrible. I spent the first 20 weeks worried at every moment that my baby was going to die. Every twinge of pain, or reminder of Israel, sent me running for my doppler to check the heart beat.  After about 20 weeks I was blessed to be able to feel her move consistently, so the doppler was used less, but still, always by my side.

On the evening of January 25th I had no expectation of having the baby any time soon.  In fact, I completely assumed that I would go at least to my due date, if not beyond, and I was totally okay with that.  That day my dad had offered to drive my kids into the city for a full day Forest School program they participate in, and my plan was to be totally productive at home - but I ended up just sitting around knitting and relaxing, which turned out to be exactly what I needed.  The kids and Jared all came home and we had dinner together and got ready for bed as usual.  Because of the severe hip pain I'd been having, I had been sleeping on the couch for several weeks, so at about 11 pm Jared kissed me goodnight and headed up to our bedroom, and I hunkered down on the couch.

I wasn't quite asleep yet, just in the place between wake and sleep, when I suddenly felt the unmistakable pop and gush that was my water breaking.  I started quiet yelling for Jared - you know the one you do when you don't want to really yell, but you need to be heard?  "Jared. Jared!  JARED!!!"  Finally he woke and groggily got up.  I yelled, "Bring me a towel!"  I had quickly tucked a blanket under me, but didn't want to stand up without a towel to absorb the certain gush that would follow. Once Jared realized the reason I'd so abruptly awoken him, and we sat in shock that we did not have 2 1/2 more weeks to prepare for a baby, he sprang to action fairly quickly.

The first thing we did was call our midwives.  During the homebirths of Atticus and Machen I'd refused to call them until I was basically ready to push the boys out, but this time two things were different:
1. We now live out in the country, 45 minutes from the city. I knew I had to give them a little heads up if I wanted them to get there.
2. Even though my water had only just broken, the only other experiences I'd had with my water breaking before labour had begun were Eli's birth, which ended up in a c-section at 35 weeks, and Israel's stillbirth.  With these experiences replaying in my mind, I needed the reassurance of my midwives that this time would not be like those times, which, of course, they gave me.

So, with that being done, Jared headed over to my parents' house, who live next door, and whose house we were actually planning on delivering the baby at, to set up the birth tub and such, while I tried to calm my nerves at our house and get some rest while I waited for contractions to start (oh, and frantically texting all my sisters to tell them that I was in labour!) I was excited to finally meet the little one I'd been carrying for 38 weeks, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit the amount of fear I felt: at one end of the scale, just the regular fear of labour and the pain that accompanies it, and at the other end, fear that my baby would die, like Israel did, just a year before. Sleep, therefore, did not come easily, as I lay there sorting through all those emotions, and constantly taking note of every kick and movement I felt within.

After a fitful sleep, with inconsistent and not very strong contractions all night long,but thankfully all sorts of movement from the baby, I woke up discouraged, and a little worried that I was going to do a do-over of Eli's birth. I texted this to my midwife, Wendy:
"Inconsistent contractions. Not terribly strong, but stronger that BHs. Baby's moving lots, still. A little blood in my fluid. Still leaking lots, but the gushers seem to have subsided."

I spent the morning with my family, taking walks and eating good food, but by noon what little contractions I'd been having had stopped completely, and I didn't have another before 4 pm when we decided to go to the hospital to check things out. The kids all went to my sister Alice's house for the night. At the hospital they monitored baby - who was doing just fine - and did a quick ultrasound to check the baby's position - also fine. And so, we went home, hoping once again that labour would begin before too long (after we stopped at Wendy's for a Spicy Chicken dinner!)  We made a date to meet at the hospital the next morning at 9 am for an induction if nothing happened over night, and to try harder to get things going naturally.

At home at 9 pm, with an electric pump in hand, I got to work.  Almost immediately upon starting to pump, contractions picked up.  And they were strong!  So, I'd pump, pump, pump, and then sit there and contract for an hour or so. But, slowly they would slow down, and get less intense, so I'd hook up to the pump again, and they would pick up. It was exhausting, and it was in the middle of the night, and I hadn't really slept the night before either, and all I wanted to do was sleep, but I knew that I had to keep going. At one point contractions were strong enough, and I was vocalizing loud enough, that I woke Jared up. He came down to me, contracting, and frustrated with my body, and he said, "Well, I think we should just go to sleep and deal with it in the morning."  Wouldn't that be nice if you could just go to bed and deal with labour in the morning...

By about 3:30 am, with constant pumping to keep contractions going we called the midwives, and they agreed it was time for them to come out.  We gathered what we needed from my house and headed up to my mom's.  My sister, Chloe, came over to take pictures, and my dad left to take care of her kids. By 4 am we were there with my 2 midwives, Wendy and Carol, my mom and sister, and I was already totally exhausted.

As things do in labour, the timing is all messed up in my head. At some point they checked me, and I was only 6 cm.  I was pissed (really, that's the only way to describe it.) I had been contracting HARD for HOURS, and I was only 6 cm!  As long as I was pumping, the contractions would keep up, but the contractions were so hard, like transition hard, and I hated every minute of it.  What I really wanted was to go to the hospital and have an epidural and sleep and just get the whole thing over with - except for the fact that I hate hopsitals, and doctors, and 40 minute drives to hospitals when I'm in labour.  So, at home I stayed, but not without lots of complaint, and a few expletives to boot.

I so desperately wanted to be in the birth pool, but when I'd get in, while it felt like heaven, the contractions would stop.  And so the midwives would pull me out, I'd hook up again to the pump, get contractions going strong, only to get back in the pool and have them stop again.  It was so frustrating, and I honestly just kept thinking, "If this is going to end up with me in the OR with a cesarean, lets just cut to the chase and go to the hospital right now. Why am I suffering through this?!"  But, the midwives remained optimistic (annoyingly so, if you would have asked me in the moment) that all was fine, and that if we could just keep things going that we would have the baby soon.  They suggested I get dressed and go for a walk - outside - something I had no interest, whatsoever in doing (it was -14 degrees Celsius out!)  So, instead, I walked the stairs, and around the house.  While I moved, contractions kept coming, and while I pumped, they came even harder.  But still, I was not progressing as fast as I felt like I should.  I was sure I'd gone through transition twice already, but I really hadn't, and I just needed a nap!

At some point the discussion was had that if we were going to go to the hospital we needed to make a decision, considering the 45 minute drive. It was after 9, because earlier I heard Wendy call the hospital to tell them we wouldn't be coming in for the induction at 9, but I don't know exactly what time it was.  I was convinced to try one more time to get things moving, to pump consistently, to stay out of the pool, and to have this baby soon.  So, that's what we did. I lay on my side on the couch and pumped. I hated every minute of it, and every time a contraction would start I'd pull the darn thing off, only to have the Carol pass it to me again immediately after.  I begged to get back in the pool, but was told no because we needed to keep things moving.  It felt like forever, but it mustn't have been too long.  Finally my Carol said I could get into the pool if I'd go have a few contractions on the toilet.  I HATE having contractions on the toilet. I think with both Tuck and Mac's labours I went through transition on the toilet. Well, that remained consistent. I went to the bathroom, had three MAJOR contractions right on top of each other that almost ripped me in half, and that was that.  I got in the pool, and it was go time - no more pumping, no more stalling, no more hope of an epidural and a nap.

In the pool the contractions were strong, but so much better than on the couch or the toilet.  Jared held me under my arms while falling asleep himself.  I was so, so tired.  Between contractions I just cried that I wanted to sleep.  At some point I was so frantic that I started hyperventilating, which caused my hands to cramp up really strange, and shake, which freaked me out and made me even more frantic.  Here I was, supposed to push out a baby, and I couldn't control my own hands. At some point Carol checked me in the water to see if there was a lip there that she could push away, but all was fine.  She told me that it would all be over, and all I needed to do was to push the baby out. But, I was waiting for the urge to push: the primal feeling that would take over my body and expel the baby itself.  I was too tired to do it myself.  Many contractions went by, with me crying that I couldn't do it, and Carol telling me I could. I could feel the top of her head easily in me, but just couldn't find the energy to push her our. Finally it occurred to me, that just like everything else in this labour, my body wasn't going to do it on it's own, and I was just going to have to help it along, or be in labour FOREVER, which wasn't really a viable option. So I pushed.  I think it only took two or three contractions to get her out once I decided to do it, but it felt like the hardest thing I'd ever done.  I was just so tired, and my hands were still cramped and shaking, and I was still a little disappointed that I couldn't have that epidural. But I pushed, and out she came. It was 11:40 am. So, while it had been a very long 36 hours, I really had only been in active, hard labour for about 2 - the rest was spent trying hard to get there. 

We didn't have an ultrasound during our pregnancy, and didn't know what we were having. After already having 5 boys, I was pretty sure we were having another.  As the baby came out, I yelled, "Here he comes!" But, I pulled the baby up, and to everyone's surprise, HE was actually a SHE!!!  Everyone was so excited - my mom was crying, Jared was giddy -  but to be honest, I was so tired, all I could think about was taking a nap, and that I was relieved that we didn't have to come up with another boy name (we'd had Edythe picked out since we were pregnant with our first).

It didn't take long for the cord to stop pulsing.  We all just sat and admired her while we waited.  The midwives gave me a dose of oxytocin to help along the placenta delivery and uterine contractions, something I didn't take after my other homebirths, but was willing to do considering the distance to the hospital in the case that something might have happened. I think, due to that, I delivered my placenta much faster and easier than I had in the past.  We collected it in a bowl so that I could have it encapsulated.

I got out of the pool as soon as the placenta was delivered and went with the baby into the bedroom. Very shortly after we got in there Alice brought my kids over to meet their new baby sister. They were all surprised, and very excited. 

It was Silas's turn to cut the cord (Eli had cut Atticus's, and Evy had cut Machen's), but he didn't want to, and neither did Atticus, so Jared cut it. Carol then checked the baby and me, to make sure all was well. I didn't tear a bit. Then she examined the placenta, showing it to the kids and explaining how amazing it is. Then the kids helped weight and measure Edythe.  She weighed in at only 6 lbs 12 oz and was 21 inches long.

She wasn't (and still isn't) the strongest nurser, I think because she was so tiny compared to me, but she did latch on and get some milk right away in the pool, and again on the bed. After all that pumping, I was primed and ready to go, so even with a weak latch, she got lots of colostrum right off the bat.

 At some point someone brought me something to eat, and a big glass of orange juice to drink, and once all the business had been taken care of Edythe was passed around for everyone to admire.  It was obvious that she was the star of the show! And finally, once everyone had gotten enough, they left the room, and I finally got to sleep!


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