Monday, December 27

Joseph Brian's birth

Well, friends, here is a tentative stab at writing out Joseph's birth story, exactly 2 weeks to the wonderful day he was born. I preface this with "tentative" because for one, I am bound to be interrupted in the near future, and two, I'm not all quite mentally back yet which may cause the written element of this narration to be a bit shoddy. So here goes....

In order appreciate just how incredible this birth was, you have to first understand that this pregnancy was pretty hellish for me. Another stronger soul might not have found family drama, four plane flights, buying a house, remodeling a house, moving into a semi-habitable house, high blood pressure, and bedrest to be "much" but I did. And the funny thing was that it was the bedrest that broke the proverbial camel's back. After all that activity, one would think that 2 weeks in bed would be a much appreciated change. Not for yours truly. Having to lay around and watch my stomach move, while my mother-in-law watched Greta, and I watched Greta get everything she wanted was not easy. I hope to goodness never to relive that experience. It was among the most difficult situations - emotionally - that I have ever been in. But like all good - or bad - things, it came to an end.

December 3rd found me at Mom's group in the morning. Greta and I needed the diversion. Then Josh and I drove the two cars to Albuquerque, 2 hours away. Josh was selling the Subaru and I was going to my midwife visit there. My midwife and I had something of a showdown about my bedrest. She didn't think I was taking it seriously and I was just ready to shoot myself and go home... or something along those lines. Long story short, we got back to happy terms, which was a good thing because who wants to be pissed off with someone who is attending their birth? Not I! Then we noted that I was about 3 centimeters dilated and contracting every 5 minutes or so. Note to self, Joseph Brian does not like confrontation. We decided to watch and wait. So I wrapped up my appointment and found my way across town to the car dealership where I met up with Josh and we had dinner at Carl's Jr. Then we went back to the dealership and signed our car away. I have never seen a car sold so quickly... Josh informed the lady attending us that his wife was having contractions 5 minutes apart and that we needed to get home to Gallup for our homebirth. She was most understanding. My favorite part of that evening was preparing and using the Hibiclens douche in the bathroom of the car dealership. Hey, if I was going to have that baby in the car on the way back, I wanted to be sure he didn't catch GBS on the way out! That didn't happen. Instead, we had a nice, relaxing ride home, said the Rosary, napped (I did, Josh drove), and arrived home at about 9pm.

At some point, we went to bed. Enough said about that. We slept very soundly until about 4:20am, when I felt my water break. Explode would be more like it. I jumped up and informed Josh that it's "baby time." I trundled off to the bathroom and made use of my "birthing chair" aka toilet seat, while Josh set up the birthing pool. Someone should give me a prize for calmness. It seemed to me eons that Josh took to set up the pool, while during contractions, I really wanted to hold on to him. Problem was that I couldn't talk when the contractions were starting. So we rigged up a nice system. I banged on the sink and he came back into the bathroom when the contractions came. In retrospective, it still makes me laugh. Oh, somewhere about then, we called our midwife and she began the 2 and a half hour trek from Rio Rancho.

The contractions got harder and more painful. Finally, the pool was set up and I eased inside the warm water. It was really incredible. The warm water literally cut the pain in half. For awhile, maybe about half an hour? I lost track of time... I had a hard time with the contractions. I remember moaning and groaning a lot. It got pretty difficult. Then something magical happened... at least it felt magical to me. And believe me, to feel pain-free without drugs during labor is nothing sort of magical to the party involved! I had read and studied all about the Bradley method of relaxation during labor, of breathing, association/disassociation, etc. However, I never really had a chance to try it because Greta's birth was too fast. This time, however, something clicked and I found myself breathing through each contraction and not feeling anything. It was surreal. During the last half hour or so of contractions, I found that if I stayed completely still, if everything around me was completely quiet, and if I breathed deeply through my stomach and held my breath for a short period at the peak of the contraction, I didn't feel anything. But the craziest thing about it was that in between contractions, I found myself falling asleep until I scared myself with the vision of falling asleep and drowning in the birth pool. Not even Josh would save me because he, too, had fallen asleep in the rocking chair next to the pool.

Then there came a point when I knew the baby was coming soon. Not sure how, but I just knew it. Josh texted our midwife and she was 15 miles outside of Gallup. "Alright," said Maria to herself, "let's have this baby." And so we did. The contractions got harder. I hit "transition"... the time in labor that the Bradley method identifies by the "emotional signpost" of a feeling of "not being able to do it anymore." And it's so true! I remember screaming something about "God help me... I can't do this..." and thinking at the same time, "Hmmmm... this is transition. That means the baby will be here soon." Just knowing exactly what was happening and having an idea of how much longer I had to go made the last stage so much easier. I wasn't afraid of the pain because I knew what was going on.


Silence and peace pervade my house at the moment. It's a week since I started writing. Since then, my brother and sister have come out to visit, Joseph was baptized, Christmas came and went, Mom went home, and I am attempted to rediscover home life and a routine with a new baby. Right now, the babies are asleep and I am relaxing with a cup of coffee and Baileys... and taking a stab at finishing this blog post.

So where did I leave off? Oh yes, the pain of labor. So I began to transition. It didn't last long. I remember yelling a lot and then, things suddenly quieted down. I began to push, but between pushing, I was almost normal. The midwife came in, but I was too "far gone" at that point to pay much attention. Joseph was going to be there any minute. I got into a squatting position in the birth pool and had Josh support me under my arms. I looked up at my window and saw that the dawn was coming in. It was a good time to have a baby. Besides, Greta wasn't up yet, but it was close to 7am and I knew she would be soon. My midwife told me to take little, short breaths while I was pushing, but I couldn't! Joseph was so close, I could almost hold him, so when the next contraction came, I just hauled off, yelled for all I was worth, and out he popped. Jules fished him out of the water and there he was... my little son. He instantly opened his eyes, looked right at me, and let out a loud, strong wail. Then he was quiet as I held him to me. It was 7:02am, December 4th, Saturday.

It was a magical moment. I remember that when I first saw Greta, my feeling was one of shock, amazement and fear. I couldn't believe she was there... I really wasn't expecting her 3 weeks early. But with Joseph, it was love at first sight. I had waited so long to have him. I felt so much more prepared and ready for him. And looking at him for the first time, all the earlier stress and suffering from the pregnancy seemed to melt away. He was so beautiful and so dear.

As it was with Greta's birth, the rest of the experience is blurry. I pushed out the placenta, which Jules dried out and put into capsule form for me to take later (because "it's GOOD for you!"). Josh, Joseph and I cuddled in bed. Joseph took to nursing instantly, another point in his favor. Greta was an awful nurser in the beginning. It was just lovely to lie there in my own bed, with my dear husband and our new baby, relaxing, watching the day break, and resting in the satisfying glow of a job well-done. Soon Mom brought Greta in, who looked with confusion on her little brother. As with Greta's birth, one of my favorite moments was when they brought me breakfast. For the record, I will go through labor just for the awesome breakfast that follows. A cinnamon roll and coffee always has to be part of that breakfast!

I felt wonderful that day. I didn't tear at all, and I spend the day relaxing with the babies and husband. That evening, Fr. Kellar came over to bless our house... I had promised myself and Joseph that we would have the house blessed as soon as possible. Since it had taken so much trouble to schedule the house blessing through the parish office, I wasn't about to cancel it on account of having a baby. So we made a pasta dinner that night and visited with Fr. Kellar.

And that's how it was. I'm sorry if my unabashed endorsement of homebirths, natural births, water births, and the like have offended anyone. I know it isn't for everyone and that everyone's birth is its own miracle. But I can only tell it how it was and as Josh put it, it was such a peaceful experience all 'round. My brain is starting to peter out, so ciao for now.

Day 1. Greta and her baby

Day 1. Little sleeper!

Day 1. Still on a baby-high

Day 1. I love that Josh looks more exhausted than either Jos or I!

Wednesday, December 1

The infamous waiting game

I would give a lot right now to write a warm and fuzzy post about how beautiful pregnancy is, how womanly and fulfilled I feel when I'm pregnant, what a wonderful thing it is to bring a new life into the world. Maybe all of the above is true in theory, but subjectively (that means, for me personally, right here, right now), that is all one great big pile of whooey.

Believe it or not, my friends, pregnancy (mine, anyhow) SUCKS. Maybe there is something after all to the Garden of Eden and childbirth/bearing the punishment for Eve's sin. I sure as heck feel like I'm being punished right now for every single wrongdoing I've committed since age 7. And that's a lot.

What makes it almost worse is the simple fact that objectively, I'm really not that badly off. In fact, I'm practically rolling in clover. I have high blood pressure. Which means I get to stay in bed most of the day, sleep, read books, and feel safe in the knowledge that my mom in law is taking excellent care of Greta right outside my bedroom door. I have the world's most kind and sympathetic husband who puts up with my whining, crying, complaining and complete mood swings. I'm not even as huge as I feel on most days. And I'm only 38 weeks pregnant. I'm not even overdue yet. You would think that having the ability to acknowledge my blessings would alter my mindset. But that's the rub! It doesn't. It makes it harder to admit what a wimp I am when this isn't even a hard pregnancy when compared with what other women suffer through. I honestly have nothing to complain about when I talk to some of my friends about their pregnancies.

I think what I'm supposed to get out of this situation is that 1) Maria is a horribly impatient person, and 2) Maria is being given the opportunity to grow in the virtue of patience, something she would not willing do on her own. This is very true of me. I'm the sort of person who will expedite shipping for an extra $20 rather than wait a week for something with free shipping. God is wise. He knows us best and knows what we need in order to become better people. It's interesting to think that you can assess a person's faults and virtues by looking at what they struggle with in life. What this whole experience does for me, though, is it makes me appreciate how very small my capacity for suffering is. If simply waiting in bed to have a baby is sheer torture for me... wow. What does that say about me personally?

You know, I'm to the point where I can't even imagine having this baby anymore. I really do feel like I will be pregnant forever with this same child. For awhile, I was so excited about giving birth. Now, I honestly can't see past tomorrow... and tomorrow... and the next day.... Actually holding this baby seems as imaginary and fanciful as dreaming about a wedding at age 16. God help me hold on to what little sanity I have left.