Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Holland Grace

    I was walking on the beach at the lake the summer of 2011. Audrey snuggled in the ergo while I walked her around to keep her napping and Bryan played with Noah in the water. Another ergo toting mom spied me and said hello. We chatted for a while and shared all the pertinent details about our babies and our births. She mentioned her newborn daughter's name was Ireland. Wow, Ireland, what a beautiful name ! She explained that she loved all those "place" names, you know, like Paris, Scotland, Holland...


The name stuck with me. Holland. I told Bryan that if we ever had another baby girl, her name would be Holland.  Back story; I'm very Dutch - my grandparents were both immigrants to the US - and Bryan has always liked the name Holly.

Fast forward to Christmas 2013. 
Bryan and I had just lost a baby in a very early miscarriage in the beginning of that month. I couldn't help but be testing way too often and early ... almost as a way to reiterate to myself that I really wasn't pregnant anymore but also with the hope that maybe, I would be again. The faintest second line appeared on a test on Christmas morning; excitement and hope welled up.

Cautiously, we waited. Extreme nausea began and didn't let up until well past my 15th week. At 12 weeks, we finally had a long awaited ultrasound to confirm dates, and that, well, there was a baby growing inside of me.

This pregnancy was my most difficult as far as discomfort goes through the first and second trimesters. The third trimester I felt a lot of discomfort as well but overall, I felt well. I knew intuitively that the baby was healthy and I also felt good, minus the increasingly annoying braxton hicks contractions. Around 36 weeks, I started having bouts of false labor, waking in the night with regular contractions, only to have them disappear after a couple of hours. This, combined with the increasing size of my belly, had me convinced I'd go into labor a bit early, or at LEAST by 40 weeks.

38, 39, 40 weeks came and went. 

Over analyzing each tiny contraction. Googling labor signs (yes, doulas do this too). Rubbing every damn oil I own into acupressure points. Texting Jenny (friend/doula/birth photographer) to whine about my plight. Finally, eventually, giving up completely. and starting all over again with the over thinking every detail of what if, what could be, wait-that-contraction-felt-different.

The weekend before I went into labor (for real) I thought my water broke while casually walking down the stairs. After lots of excitement, we had an optimistic afternoon contracting and watching "Sherlock", just Bryan and I. Nothing progressed and the kids came home after apple picking with their grandparents. Beth (our midwife) came over the next morning to check my fluid and also see where things stood after a few weeks of prodromal labor.

"No, your water didn't break. You are about 1 cm and 30% effaced."

Not exactly what I wanted to hear. Happy that my water actually didn't break, yes. I wasn't "on the clock" waiting for contractions. But frustrated at my apparent lack of progress cervix-wise. Even though every birth-wise friend I knew was reiterating to me, "SARAH, you KNOW those numbers mean NOTHING."

Yes, Doula Sarah knows. She also knows its best to wait for this labor to start on its own and trust my body will birth this baby. (BUT REALLY I JUST AM SO FRIGGAN SICK OF BEING PREGNANT!)

The eve before my official 41 week mark (and by my dates, 10 days past due) I wrote to the baby, letting him or her know that I needed to meet them. That being outside is so much better than being in. That we loved him/her and that his big sister and brother wanted to meet him. (I did this the night before I went into labor with Audrey too).

3:30 am. Woke up to pee. Contraction. waddle to the bathroom. contraction. These felt different but I tried to ignore them because it had been 5 weeks of waking up to contractions. I noticed bloody show in the toilet.    !!!!!    I might have tried to do a dance.

They continued to come. I worked through them and tried to sleep in between. Around 5, I texted Jenny and Beth to let them know what was up.

At 5:30, I woke Bryan up. "It's for real this time, get up, get up get up!" The contractions were strong and steady, about 8-10 minutes apart. Noah went off to school and Audrey went with her grandmother around 11 am. I had previously considered having the kids here for the birth but when the contractions started, I knew I needed them to be out of the house.

I retreated upstairs and Bryan massaged my back through each surge. We started to watch New Girl to pass the time. I felt anxious and sent him to the store to get food for the midwives just in case it was a long birth. He worried about leaving but I was feeling good and figured I still had lots of time.  While he was gone, I had a few contractions that made me see stars. Vocalizing through them, I clung to the shower curtain. When I thought it was over, I tried to move, it started to swell again in intensity.

I called him back to the house and called Beth. She agreed to come over and check in about an hour from then. The contractions were starting to come closer and definitely continuing to grow in strength. Texted Jenny to let her know it would be a good idea to head over around 3.

We tried to watch a show while we waited for the midwife but I couldn't make it through even a few minutes. Emotions boiled up inside of me and I was mumbling about missing Noah while he was at school and how Audrey wouldn't be my baby anymore. How I wasn't ready to be a mother of three children and how worried I was about how the kids would transistion. Bryan rubbed my feet and consoled me, reminding me this was all good stuff. Let it out, let it go. 

Beth arrived. Contractions were coming, hormones pumping. I felt good but tired all of a sudden. I'd been working for 12 hours now and the emotions were starting to play a big part in my ability to cope. 4 minutes apart at this point. Jenny seemed to just appear and I remember thinking it was odd to be with her without six screaming kids surrounding us. I tried to joke between contractions about the pain...I think I was already feeling much more on edge than I was showing at that time. Jenny, Beth and Bryan took turns giving me counter pressure against my back.

We debated about when to fill the tub. The midwife's assistant, Bryn, arrived and I think it was shortly thereafter that I stepped into the tub. I felt pretty ambiguous about it at this point. The contractions had become so intense I imagined nothing could take the edge off.

Ahh... hot water immersion. Okay, yes, it felt better. The hard edges of the contraction were dulled. Not having pressure on my feet and hips significantly reduced the sensation. But then, I seemed to widen and expand with each one and all my energy had to go to vocalizing through them and I tried to focus keeping my body loose around my baby during them. In between, I was either saying something silly or totally matter of fact. I truly lost my filter during this birth. Whatever came to my mind, I said. This turned into begging and pleading for relief, crying out to Jesus and yes, swearing two seconds later. I had been on my hands and knees coping but needed to try something else when I started to get tired. I sat back against the pool.... Bryan behind me, holding me.

A gush of fluid. Oh, I think my water broke! (it didn't...but we didn't know that at the time). Panic set in. Afraid to push, afraid of the next contraction. Beth reassured me that it would be okay, I would have my baby soon, maybe within the next few contractions (I didn't- it appeared I would... but the baby had other plans).

The contractions continued... looking back, I think I was fully dilated this whole time, just laboring the baby down. When inside the contraction, I could literally feel the opening, my hips just completely separating. Sweating, exhausted, I cried. Hot, hot tears. What if I was only 5 centimeters? What if this never ended?! Beth offered to check me but I declined, only because I knew if I didn't hear 10 cm, I would officially lose the rest of whatever shit I hadn't lost at this point.

Beth and Bryn massaged my submerged feet to alleviate my tension, I gripped Bryan and Jenny's hands... Bryan hummed hymns in my ear. I needed them all there, their presence reminding me that there was still something else that existed beyond what I was feeling during those contractions. When I surfaced from the depth of each one, they were still there, smiling, reassuring me that I was going to make it. Cool wash cloths on my forehead and drinks brought to my lips, constant support.

At that point, I started to doubt it. I really truly doubted. Why was this so difficult? Audrey's birth was so easy! I was so calm! I'm acting like a lunatic, oh god, here comes another one. I started to plead, verbally and in my mind. I tried to figure out a way to tell them all, okay, nope, I'm leaving. I need to go to the hospital. Really, I'm all done here now, let's try to figure out a way to get to the hospital and I'll have an epidural please, and thank you. But I couldn't make sense of how that would happen because, I can't move damnit! At some point Beth moved behind me where Bryan had been and tried to give my back and hips pressure to help with the pain.

Continuing to have what I can only describe as contractions from hell, I started to pray and beg. God, please, you need to do something. I'm done, I'm at the end of my rope. I truly can't go on. Please make something change, bring this baby to me. I need to be done. I felt the urge to push but only mildly at the end of each one and started to put some pressure behind it.

Shortly thereafter, my waters broke and fluid seemed to explode into the birth pool. Apparently my water hadn't broken before! I braced myself for what I knew was coming- the baby.

Sure enough, she started crowning. The power of the contraction behind it was incredible and all my energy was just forced down as she moved through. The intensity was so strong but in a different way than previously. Bryn excitedly told us that our baby had lots of hair. It was then I was put back in touch with the fact that, yes, I'm having an actual baby! Ohmygosh I'm going to find out if its a boy or a girl!  It took a couple of contractions to birth her head. Bryn checked for a cord around her neck. Beth asked her which way the baby was rotating. I couldn't hear Bryn's reply. I kind of felt something wasn't normal and I remember Beth going to assist and Bryan coming behind me. She asked me to lift up my bottom off the pool. I remember thinking, I will do whatever you need me to do. I will get out of the pool and walk to the bed if I have to. I had total faith in Beth's care as a midwife at that moment, though, and knew the baby (and I) would be okay. They rotated/pulled the baby with my contraction. one shoulder birthed at a time and then her chest also requiring significant pushing from me as well. Finally, she was here, on my chest. This huge, big baby, a bit stunned, laying on me, her soft skin melting into me. September 16th, 7:55 pm.

I sobbed.

Is it a boy or a girl?! I felt around and said, I think its a girl! Bryan double checked and it sure enough, a baby girl! I sobbed more.

Feeling shell shocked and in love and a million things at once; I cried for the baby I lost, the babies I birthed before and out of pure happiness that I was meeting this amazing little soul who lived inside of me for so long. Thank you, Lord.

Holland Grace.  You were fearfully and wonderfully made. 

All 10 lbs, 21.5 inches of beautiful baby girl.

Thankful for my husband whose love really saw me through this experience meeting our second daughter. Without him there through it all, I couldn't have done it.

Also so thankful for my amazing midwife, Beth. I appreciate her warm, quiet spirit and how beautifully gentle and loving she was to my baby as she helped her into the world and examined her carefully after she was born. and for the way she cared for me through out my entire pregnancy and birth.

Thankful to Bryn, for assisting Beth and for her words of encouragement and the strength I felt from her during my labor.

and last but not least, thankful to my wonderful friend Jenny for capturing Holland's entrance into the world and sitting with me during my most intense birth. For her total acceptance and for her comic relief. and for her patience. I will treasure these photos forever.

Despite the intensity of Holly's birth, I wouldn't change a thing.