Monday, June 2, 2014

Juniper Kate, or a lesson in trusting God- a birth story.

Long before you were even created, little baby, I was hoping I carried you around and I didn't. I wasn't crushed, and then, a short week or two later I was down right relieved that God knows best, that it wasn't the right time for you to be on your way, that your Papa was so hurt and I was so busy, and our family was healing and we would need time to be whole before you came. I thanked God that you were not on your way, I thanked God that you were not here yet and I prayed that God would give you to us when the time was right.

All that terrible month of May in my mind I would savor the thought of you, though. I would dream about your birth, your birthday, and in my mind every detail was perfect, and the best part of that day dream was that it meant your Papa was healthy, that things were normal, that God had answered every prayer, that we were able to make you and God knit you together under my heart.  I looked forward to you like I hadn't known to look forward to Elliot, though I love him as fiercely. I didn't know what that love felt like, but I did before you came. Every Mama I saw with her tummy round with life I would gaze at happily, dreaming of when our life was normal, when Papa was normal, when we would be anxiously awaiting for you.

And. One day, towards the end of summer, God answered those prayers and I knew there was someone new coming to our family. I was so excited I took a test as soon as I could and I could hardly keep the news to myself.

Through the last year or so it seemed like one after another I heard of Mamas who had babies who were going to die when they breathed air- if they made it that far- of Mamas who carried babies with holes in their hearts, Mamas who had holes in their hearts for the children their bodies would not and could not bear, and you seemed more of a miracle.

Because, you are a miracle, Juniper. If Papa had died like he almost did- twice- if Papa had not returned to himself- which he did- there would have been no chance to make you, there would be no you, and I would just have Elliot. It was as though God wanted you to be made, and he did.

Through the weeks of laying on the couch reading Mr. Brown Can Moo infinite amounts of times without the energy to get off the couch, of willing myself to get out and exercise, of running my first 5K when you were just 12 weeks inside of me I thought about how lucky and blessed I was to have you.   And I tried not to think of what could go wrong.  I had just learned that bad things happen- that God is still good, that He is still God- but very bad things can happen, and I was so thankful every time I felt you kicking and rolling even if carrying you turned my joints to jelly and my back into knots. I was one of the lucky ones, I know, to have my health, to have the ability to carry you, part of me, part of Papa.

Around twenty weeks it seemed I could hardly walk to the end of the road without my joints feeling like they were spontaneously combusting so there went my long hikes and walks. I tried cheering myself up that as soon as you're born and I'm feeling better we can get back out there again and I'll lose all the weight I would inevitably gain, and I thanked God for you, and the privilege of carrying you. 

I read every book I could get my hands on, determined that this birth would be different than Elliot's, that it would  be a shorter, natural, water birth, with my mom there, and Papa there, and I knew how it would feel to be in the birth tub with you, I went over it so many times in my mind. We took a water birth class and I got really excited to meet you, and I knew I was making the right choice for our family.

Late in my pregnancy I had a few tickets to use up so we flew to North Carolina to see Nana Eve and Buppa Joe and the aunts and uncles there and an even quicker trip to South Dakota to see Emmy and Burdette.  Both trips went so good, Juniper, even though you really cramped Elliot's lap child space, but I was so worried you might want to come early, because I knew it could happen.

I breathed a big sigh of relief being back home and nested like you wouldn't believe. I painted the hall way, Elliot's (and yours, when you're older!) room, the bathroom and stairwell. I decorated, sewed, made Etsy sales, cleaned every closet, nook and cranny and often made two dinners per night. One for now, one for after baby. Elliot had come two weeks early and I was vastly unprepared. I wasn't going to let that happen to me twice!

On his birthday I had really strong, frequent braxton hicks and I called the clinic, hoping they'd let me just be checked at the clinic... it was too late in the day so we went to the hospital, wondering if we were going to meet you.  It turned out I just had an "irritable uterus" and we did the walk of shame back home. It turned out that I knew nothing about being pregnant, being in early labor or when you would come.  I was relieved you wouldn't share a birthday with Elliot, but grumpy for even having called- they always say to come in- and wasting Elliot's birthday evening.

Our house was spotless the night of his actual birthday party, and I kept it up, because a few weeks after was when Elliot had been born. Every night I tidied up and cleaned the kitchen- just in case.
The weather was unseasonably warm and every day me and Elliot headed outside simply because I didn't want to make a mess, my Etsy shop was closed and there was nothing to do but wait for you, little honey!

Nana Eve and Jubilee- who has been saving her money for two years- came when I was 38 and a half weeks, Elliot was already three days old at that point, and we thought for sure you would be coming any day. That whole week every twinge I hoped and thought "maybe this is it!" and I'd time the contractions and wake up still pregnant with nothing new happening. Two days before she left I woke up at four in the morning, any activity I'd been having the night before stopped and I cried and cried because there was nothing I could do to make you come. It seemed so unfair that other girls live close to their Mamas and it's not a big deal for them to be at the baby's birth, or even handy- they just call her up, "Mom, it's time," and they drive over. The day before she left I called the clinic hoping to be seen that morning instead of the next, because she'd be leaving a few hours after the scheduled appointment. It worked out, and there didn't seem to No change since Elliot's birthday, so it sunk in there in the clinic. My mom was going to miss your birth. I cried again, but it got a little easier because I couldn't hope for it any more and just accepted it.

"Expectation is the root of all heartache," Sweetheart. William Shakespeare said that and it's true.

To my relief, you did not come immediately after Nana Eve left, that would've made it harder, had she missed you  by hours not days- or what actually would be weeks.

I've been a person to say I wouldn't induce labor at 39 weeks just because, or that going overdue isn't a bad thing, and I had to really see if I believed that. It's easy to say when you've gone two weeks early! Every day I woke up, still pregnant and it was almost laughable. I was happy to find that I didn't mind being over due, after all.  It struck me that I didn't know when I might be this pregnant again, that who knows what the future would hold or if there would be other babies, and for certain, I would never again be pregnant with you, once you came out. So I cherished being just Elliot's Mama a little longer, and enjoyed feeling you kicking and swimming around.  Nature has shown that no one has ever actually been pregnant forever, so you would come out; though I stopped believing that after awhile. I would be that person to be pregnant forever, I knew it.

Monday morning, May 5, I got a call to go to a different clinic location, the  midwife was a a birth at Legacy Salmon Creek, could I go there instead, so off we went, Me, Papa and Elliot. I was still dilated to a two, very high, you were swimming and not looking like you were going to come out anytime soon at all. I laughed and said, well, I can't do anything about it!  I knew that from Nana's trip- we had eaten spicy foods, taken evening primrose oil, walked 4 and 5 miles, bounced on the exercise ball, pushed pressure points- literally, everything we could think of to encourage you to come out. Me and Elliot even would march around and chant, "Rum Tum Tum, Baby Come!" which he had gotten from a library book. We talked to you and told you how nice it was out here and how much we wanted to meet you, but you didn't want to come out.

We discussed our options with Kate the Midwife, the Vancouver clinic only lets you go to 42 weeks so my induction was scheduled for the next Monday.  Though, "Hardly anyone actually makes it to 42 weeks," she reassured me. I agreed to do a non stress test that day, the ultrasound testing on Wednesday and then on Friday another non stress test. I wanted you to stay in as long as you needed to, so I said sure.

Papa took Elliot to the waiting room and I was escorted down the hall. A nonstress test, it turns out, is just hospital monitoring of baby's heart rate. I sat there for the required twenty minutes after which the nurse returned and asked if you hadn't moved, it turns out the "call light" she gave me was to track fetal movement though she didn't tell me. She looked at your heart rate and I could tell by her face she didn't like the look of it. She went out and returned with the same funny look on her face and asked if would do another twenty minute session because things weren't "adding up." She gave me apple juice to drink and I sat there again, waiting, and trying not to worry.  After the final session she took awhile to return and when she did she said the strip wasn't "like baby needs to come out, but it isn't necessarily like baby needs to stay in much longer, either."  She had talked to Kate the midwife and could we please go to the hospital for further testing.

I found Papa and Elliot in the hallway, and thought maybe someone had told Papa but they hadn't, so he was a little puzzled and I tried to allay his fears though mine weren't quite to rest either. It's just a precaution, I said. We brought Elliot to Grandma's, telling her we'd probably be back home to fetch him in a few hours.

At the hospital I was hooked to the monitors and we sat there all afternoon with much of the same results. Around four, we had the ultrasound we were supposed to have Wednesday and you wouldn't really cooperate there, either, you funny baby! You were moving like you should, and there was enough amniotic fluid so the placenta was fine, but you just wouldn't do a practice breath long enough. The nurse had kind of explained that the midwife would probably want us to stay if you didn't pass your ultrasound with flying colors, so as I watched you breathe for 20 seconds- and stop- I hardly knew if I was hoping for you to keep going or stop.  I was ready to meet you, especially watching you suck your wrist oh so adorably on the ultrasound screen, watch you move your little feet... I wanted to watch those feet not on a screen, and kiss your little face!  I asked how big she thought you were and she said mid sevens to high eights- that there was a lot of water but you weren't too big. Just that morning I had told Papa I just "knew" you were going to be big, bigger than all your cousins, especially since Elliot was 8 pounds two weeks early and here we were three weeks after that! The nurse left to call Kate the midwife, who wanted to talk to me when they finished.

I was pretty sure of what she would say, and it was no surprise that she was uncomfortable sending us back home, though she could kind of fudge the numbers if I really wanted her to, and come back the next day, and the next... until you wanted to come out.  Honestly, I was tired of being pregnant, I didn't want to find places for Elliot everyday for an hour, and most of all I didn't want to go home and worry about you until the next day. My mind was already racing with thoughts of Papa being on antiseizure medications when I got pregnant, and what if-?

With a feeling of unreality I told Papa we were staying, we're going to have a baby, I said!

Papa ran home to collect everything and get a bag together for Elliot so someone could stop by and get it to bring to him at Grandpa and Grandma's house.  Meanwhile I was transferred from triage over to a room and dinner ordered.

By the time Papa came back an IV was in and the night shift coming on. I had him take one last belly picture, and before I knew it I was hooked up to a bag of Pitocin, my archenemy of Elliot's birth. I'm sure that's what helped him be born, but by the time I needed it last time, I had been in transition for hours and wasn't coping, the Pit seemed like the last straw and I had wanted to avoid it this time. Our game plan was though, with you so high- rascal babe- was to go on Pit and walk long enough for you to drop low enough for her to break my water and hopefully get off of it. It was really unreal walking the birth center with the contractions not bad at all- I felt like an interloper, that any moment someone would come running up yelling, "You don't belong here! Go home and stay pregnant!"

The walking didn't last long because the monitor kept slipping because of my enormous belly and would pick up my heart rate and lose yours, Juniper, so we resorted to bouncing on the birth ball in the room.  That worked, and Papa and I watched Despicable Me 2. The contractions were clearly not bad because I thought it was funny, even.

Kate came by to check on us around ten, and as we were chatting and I was saying the contractions were only uncomfortable at the very top but I was managing well without pain medication when she said, you know, lets just check you! So she checked and I was dilated to a three with a "mushy" cervix, almost completely different than in the clinic that afternoon- AND you were low enough to break the water! I was infinitely grateful we agreed to check. She broke my water and it gushed and gushed and gushed, and for some reason it struck me as funny.  Maybe because I was so relieved to actually know there was no going back- we REALLY were going to meet you soon- and also because her finger was up there slowly letting water out and it was dripping on the floor and it was such a strange tableau we were participating in that I started laughing and couldn't stop which made the gushing worse. I think Kate even had to go change, I guess you could say I wet her pants.

The first contraction after my water was broken was much stronger and I thought, that's the real thing! It stopped being as funny after that.

Kate left to take a nap, telling the nurse to page her at one and she'd come check on us. I really liked our nurse that night, she was from Oklahoma and had a sweet drawl that reminded me of home.  She was tall and thin and had five kids!

As I alternately bounced on the ball and took contractions standing they got worse and worse and the pain in my back started up big time and I needed Papa to come push on it when the contraction peaked. I would say, "Thank you God for this Baby, Thank you God that I'm in Labor!"  or "Okay, okay, okay" over and over until it was done.  Then I would start reciting bible verses, the loosely paraphrased, "the joy that is coming can't compare to pain that you've been feeling," 2 Corinthians 4:17 even though when we were talking about it before  hand Papa said it was a stretch, but I said it applied.  Around midnight I asked Constance if we could set up the birth pool, because much to my delight they had planned ahead and given us a bigger room and gotten all the supplies ready for my water birth. I had worried with the induction it wouldn't be possible to even try for a water birth, but here they were so prepared- it was quite cheering! I felt like it might help, and I definitely felt like I was coping less well.

She ended up paging Kate a little early, I think it was 12:30 when she came in, rumpled and sleepy eyed and found me dilated to a five and ready to dive into the tub headlong. She sat on my bed and she, Brian and Constance chatted amiably in between contractions.  She's best friends with the midwife I normally see, so she was telling me about Lauren and how Lauren had bossed her during the birth of one of Kate's kids.  She thought it was hilarious I compare Lauren to Chummy from Call the Midwife when I recommend her to people, but that it's totally true. (In all the best ways!)

The water was different than I thought, it didn't give immediate relief, but it did help. It was also awkward because Papa wasn't in the tub and the contractions were coming so fast I don't think I would've let him leave me long enough to put his swim trunks on, but he couldn't reach my  back very well which was still the worst during every contraction. They started joking because every time I would have a contraction I would say, ""Honey, Push on my back as hard as you can- as hard as you have in your whole life!" I kept adding that last part because I think he was a little hesitant. After 20+ hours of back labor with Elliot he left my back bruised and his arms sore, but the pressure felt so good it never seemed like he could get it hard enough. One time, as a contraction started up Kate said, "Now Brian, as hard as you ever have in your whole life!" before I could get the sentence out. Though, in my mind I only said it once or twice. 

They were getting harder and closer together and I felt myself losing control over and over, motor boating my lips like Donald Duck seemed to help, but it was all I could do. The contraction would slow and stop and I'd feel okay and another would start up. I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't do it. and even worse, I don't want to do this I don't want to do this!   I wished I could crawl into bed and sleep for awhile but I knew that would make me feel worse, I just wanted the pain to stop, to be done, to be holding you! I even wished we hadn't started this journey last summer.  I even said, "Honey, lets only have two kids. Two kids is good, right?"  and Papa said, "oh, did you say two more?"  Of course I didn't mean it I quickly have resumed saying things about "next time," but transition will make you crazy.

Finally the tub was the last place I wanted to be and I felt like I had to have a bowel movement and said so- I could tell I was in transition by the things I was saying, and how out of control I felt. Papa later said I was crazy and he didn't know me and I said I was crazy and I didn't know me, so why would he?  I would stand on my tippy toes hoping the contraction would maybe leave me but being so tense didn't help, and Kate would remind me to relax.  One time I said,  I know, I'm trying, but how can a person that's trying to be in control relax? It's really hard! She checked me when I got out of the tub, 7 centimeters, and I had some contractions standing next to the bed with her, I think I wrapped my arms around her a few times and hung on to her I was that crazy. She had me put a foot up on the bed, leaning into the contraction and it hurt so bad I just yelled Open-open-open-open because I've heard saying those kind of things out loud might help.

I felt like I might have to go pee, so I sat backward on the toilet- I had read somewhere that can help everything open up too- so I did that, and to my extreme surprise with one of the next contractions I started grunting and pushing. I leapt up and said I felt like pushing and Kate said,

Okay. Go ahead.

and I said,:  I.can'''!

and she said ever so calmly,

Things change, you can push.

I walked into the room and she checked one more time and had me push a little and then said I was all set and I said again,


You've done it before, you can do it again!'t.feel.this.part.I'',and.I.don' it.

and then before I could argue much more a contraction came and my body just started pushing you out, Juniper, and it scared me so much because it was hurting so much but not pushing was hurting more!

So I said, Maybe I should get into the pool, still romanticizing about my water birth, apparently,  but Kate said I was squatting and would probably like that better. As she said so she gestured and they were quickly getting the squat bar and putting it on the bed.  It was barely on there when an another contraction came, and I just grabbed it and hung on and possibly bit the foam on the handle because I just wanted to push so hard.

After that one, Kate said,

You can't have your baby down there, because it'll land under the bed, and I can't see what's happening, so come up on the bed. And hurry, if you're in a bad spot while you have a contraction you won't like it.

I knew it was true, so I ducked under that bar as fast as the IVs and my belly full of you would let me and rolled over just in time.

The ring of fire isn't called that for no reason.  It was burning and burning and burning and I said,


Which of course sums up the dilemma of childbirth.  I grabbed up a washcloth from the bucket of ice water they'd been using on my forehead when I was in the pool and slapped it on myself. I think it helped.

The next contraction was as big as can be and it burned and burned and I looked at Papa and said, I can't believe I'm really going to do this. I'm really doing this.  And he looked so good in his black v-neck tee shirt that I love when he wears and so clean and composed and he was so proud of me I could see it in his eyes, smiling so sweet and he said, yes, yes you are!

And the next push, at 2:40 am there you were! Less than fifteen minutes from getting out of the pool, wrapped in cords and out.  I couldn't believe it, I had actually done it, it was really over, I wasn't pregnant anymore! My hand slipped between your legs as I lifted you up and I couldn't believe you were really a girl- our sassy little Juniper Kate! I cried and laughed and kissed your funny little face and you howled and howled and the nurses were laughing and Kate the midwife was laughing and Papa was laughing and we were all so happy and relieved. Because, you're a miracle baby, Juniper, and you were healthy and alive and I was so happy to hear how mad you were.

After a bit I gave you to Papa because to my disappointment I tore again, almost like with Elliot and it hurt so much.  I had counted on that pivotal moment of joy, and that the pain would end with the placenta sliding out, but it didn't. It hurt and hurt and hurt, and burned. And even though I had just went through three hours of intense labor and pushed you out without any pain medication it was too much to bear. I lay my head back and cried and told Kate the Midwife that she was hurting me, though she'd given me two doses of IV pain medication and local lidocaine.

The baby nurse took you and weighed and measured you and I couldn't believe my ears you were under 8 pounds- seven pounds, fourteen ounces, so I asked them to say it again! You were so tiny, little love! That's the thing about pushing out babies- you don't know how big or small they are until after you've done it, so you can't make it out to be worse than it is or isn't before hand. It's all over when you hear how big or small your baby is, and you've already done it.

 God has shown me things about Himself with you and your birth, and I have learned to trust his timing, trust his judgement, trust in Him.  Two of my biggest fears were realized- an induction, and by pitocin no less- and they were not only "not that bad," but I chose them.  You needed to stay in as long as you did because you would've been tiny if you were born three weeks before! My other worry, that you were going to be huge, was also unfounded... you just needed a little longer to cook!

That's the way of it, Junie Kate, things rarely go  the way you think they will.  I didn't have that glowing water birth that I had dreamed of for a year, my mom wasn't there, it wasn't euphoric, but that's okay.  Your Papa was there, and he was so whole and beautiful that night.  And you- you were there, and you were just as whole and beautiful, with the fluffiest hair, and longest fingers, with a sweet sweet cry. Welcome, my love, we've been waiting for you.