Jude is here!
Or more accurately, he arrived about 2.5 weeks ago on July 28th.
I had been having contractions off and on all day at work. In hindsight, I probably took more “sit down” breaks that day but really didn’t take any signs of my early labor seriously. The only sign I observed and attributed to impending labor was actually the day before I went into labor, and it was that all of the edema I had been experiencing vanished. Absolutely no swelling in my feet or hands. I figured this was a pretty significant shift likely caused by hormones related to me starting labor, but figured I had at least a week left. I experienced an increase in what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions, but Layla teased me relentlessly for weeks before arriving just 1 day shy of her due date. As Jude was 2 weeks from his due date, I assumed he would come some time that last week. Over the course of the day I noticed the contractions felt mildly different, and questioned whether or not they were “productive” because I felt a definite downward pressure as opposed to just abdominal tightening. But again, this was how I was with Layla, so I once again blamed it on being in “labor prep” mode. I contemplated whether or not I was maybe dilating a little bit more, but surely “true labor” was just wishful thinking.
My ride home from work at 6 o’clock was uneventful except me noticing that the contractions hadn’t stopped all together no matter what position I was in. I began to question whether I was wishing for labor signs or actually experiencing them. Grant and I discussed whether or not it was necessary to start timing my contractions over dinner, but I decided not to tease myself and to just take a shower. “It’s not like it will happen without me knowing it anyway” I said dismissively. Grant went to bed early that night and I laid down with Layla at around 9:30. I noticed right after laying down my contractions changed. I felt a strong downward “pull” and a familiar sharpness in my spine. I quietly wished for Layla to fall asleep quickly so I could tell Grant the news, but after only 3 of these contractions my water broke. Then things began to happen very, very fast.
As I felt warmth begin to trickle down my legs, I jumped up and waddled to the bathroom saying “babe…babe…babe…babe…BABE!!!” When he finally heard me, I called back “My water just broke!” He jumped out of bed as if someone fed him 6 espresso shots intravenously. He called out “WHAT?!” sounding half shocked, half confused. When I pointed at the puddle of water beneath my feet in the middle of another painful contraction he tried (and failed) to hold back a smile while saying “Wow, ok… are you ready?”
From here things get a little bit blurryish. I sat on the toilet waiting for Grant to bring up my yoga ball (and call my mom, and every one else). I began to panic…. this was not at all what I remembered. In my previous labors, contractions came on slowly and the build up in intensity was gradual. Once my water broke, however, labor was painful. It felt like I was thrown into it. In the phone call to Dinah, she dismissively asked me to try and get some rest if I could and keep her updated. But my panic feeling didn’t go away…. I knew intuitively that this was going to happen faster than expected. After waiting only 30 minutes, we called back and told her we were on the way. I questioned my ability to stay on top of the painful peaks, even telling Grant “if she tells me I’m at 4 cm, I really don’t think I can do this!” The drive was a nervous mix of attempts to distract me and rushedly trying to get there fast. Grant joked as we passed Mimosa Dr “Just think, Babe! You can have a bunch of mimosas soon”. I acknowledged his attempt at humor.
We arrived at the birth center around 11 o’clock. I waddled in and tried to regain control of my fracturing self confidence. My spine felt as if it were on fire and I knew from previous experience that I was head to head with my biggest fear…… back labor. Dinah examined me and told me my second biggest fear… I was only at 4 cm. I almost started to cry.
Here is Corwin’s labor all over again! I thought as I began cursing myself and my body (which I prematurely credited for failing me). Dinah and Grant came to the rescue…. she recommended turning me over and began massaging my lower back during the next few contractions. They were incredibly intense, and I was terrified of what to expect as labor progressed. Was I just lucky with Layla? I thought. What if I can’t handle it again.. Grant continued what Dinah started without a word or any prompting and I really appreciated it. I briefly let myself get distracted by what I can only describe as performance anxiety… I was worried about disappointing Grant, Dinah, and myself. Then, unexpectedly, I felt Jude move and steadily the agony in my tailbone lessened to an ache. I turned on my side, clutched Grant’s hand, and continued to labor.
I was very surprised at how vocal I was this time around. I moaned through contractions, and found the vocalizations (while they must’ve been annoying) really helped me breathe appropriately through them and keep my composure. I had removed my glasses and was focusing very hard on staying completely relaxed in between contractions (nearly falling asleep between a few of them). Time kind of escaped me here, and combined with not being able to see, I felt somewhat disoriented. So I just kept my eyes closed. Eventually they got strong enough that I felt a need to change positions. I briefly sat on the ball, but before long it was recommended that I go in to the shower. Initially the idea of standing up felt terrible, but I remembered how much the water helped with Layla and jumped in. It took several minutes for the shower to get comfortable, though (once I found myself able to relax) it made all the difference. I focused on tuning out everything else going on externally and just visualized my hips opening up, silently chanting relax… open…. breathe… I concentrated on allowing myself to feel the baby move down. At the peek of each one I reminded myself that I was feeling pressure and not pain, because the contractions had a purpose. I remembered and held in my head on repeat what became my mantra for this labor- “The contractions can not be stronger than you, because the contractions ARE you”. That all REALLY helped me. I fell into a rhythm and instead of fighting the contractions, I really started to go with them. The more I repeated that quote, along with visualizing and making sense of the sensations I was feeling, the more comfortable I got with this very intense labor.
Then, just when I began to feel a rhythm in the shower, my transition to third stage hit me like a ton of bricks…. things got serious, and the shower didn’t seem as comforting. I felt weakness in my hips with every one of them. Soon standing up didn’t seem possible any more. I began to lower myself to the ground and immediately Dinah said “Well that’s a great sign! How about we get that tub ready”. She said something about calling the other midwife, that the bath would take a while to be ready, and offered for me to lay on the bed while she worked. I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait for her…
I could no longer talk myself out of describing the contractions as anything but very painful, and I knew I was very, very close to delivering Jude. My hips felt spread, awkward, and I felt Jude’s head turn inside of me in a very, very low place. I had only just made it to the bed and buried my face in the pillows when my body took over. There was absolutely zero possibility of me controlling my pushing (a terrifying realization as I was very paranoid with the idea of tearing). In my first contraction, Jude was crowning. Dinah realized what was happening and, rather flustered, exclaimed “Oh, well, ok, we’re doing this then!” and shut off the water for the tub (hint, I never made it in…)
One push, he’s crowning. Two push, his head is out. The third push, I delivered my beautiful baby boy. I reached beneath my legs and cradled my son closely to me in a sort of post birth euphoria/confused state. It all happened very, very quickly. I tried to put words to what I felt, but quickly gave up. I was in awe, both of myself and of him. Dinah even made the comment “well, that was fun!” and I asked her, distractedly, “what was?” as if she must’ve been talking about an experience miles away because I had hardly even taken notice that she was a spectator to mine.
And that’s pretty much it. We laid skin to skin with Jude for what seemed like a very long time, examining fingers and toes and trying to decide whose features he developed (we still can’t decide that one). After several minutes, the cord was clamped and Daddy cut it. Jude was weighed and measured. We diapered him and got him dressed, I took a shower, and soon after we left. It was simple, and beautiful, and absolutely everything I hoped it would be (minus the water birth and Grant being able to “catch” him; delivery happened too fast to allow either).
I loved, LOVED going home so early. Jude was born at 12:25, less than 3 hours after my first painful contraction, and we were home by 3 am. I loved that the room was quiet, very dimly lit, and that I was allowed to labor however was comfortable. Grant was holding my hand the entire time (except when I was in the shower). One of my favorite parts of labor was laying in the bed cuddling with him during some of the most painful moments. It really felt like an intimate moment between the two of us as husband and wife, as opposed some cold medical event. By far it was my favorite delivery even if quite a bit more painful than I remember Layla’s being. And being able to see the look on Grant’s face completely clear headed as he held his son for the first time, and us both snuggling on the bed with him after, was priceless.
I’m at 2.5 weeks out and I feel great. Due to what I am sure is a combination of factors, this is my first postpartum period where I do not feel constantly pressured, overwhelmed, and weepy. Breastfeeding has been going beautifully, except my usual overproduction issue. I have learned my tricks for it though, and it has aided in me having 200+ oz of breastmilk in my freezer already for my return to work. Grant has been so incredibly supportive and having him home a full week after Jude’s birth was tremendous. My parents were sweet enough to stay a few days when we discovered Layla had hand, foot, and mouth disease (yeah, the day Jude was born she had 102 temp… go figure). I also have to credit my good friend for encapsulating for me at a huge discount. I see a huge difference when I forget a dose and I know I have benefited mood wise from taking them regularly. As a person who has struggled in the past with postpartum depression, the value I place on how I feel right now in comparison is priceless really… My biggest gripe is how I look, as silly as that sounds. I am the heaviest I have ever been not pregnant and it is doing a lot to me mentally in my weaker moments. However, I’ve had 3 beautiful children. I was also heavier at the start of my pregnancy with Jude than I was with my other 2 kids. I know I need to be patient, it’s just hard when I was already unhappy with my weight before the pregnancy began… baby steps :-).
Here is a picture that pretty much sums up how my maternity leave is going…. Jude is a beautiful but gassy little thing, so I’ve definitely gotten my use out of the Moby so far. The house is a disaster, but I keep trying to remind myself that stressing myself out about things like that is part of what made my postpartum experience with my other 2 children so rough…. I’m supposed to be focusing on nursing my baby, taking care of my other 2 babies, and resting. So I’m just going to do that. I’m not a super mom, I don’t need to be a super mom, I’m just Mom. And that is totally okay 🙂