Ivy's birth story (well, more like a novel) is finally finished. And I am sure it still needs a lot of work (typing at 3 a.m. when I should be sleeping is not the best idea, but that's when the chances of being interrupted are minimal), and some changes will be made as I remember more details later... I did my best to recollect the sequence of events, but for some reason my memory has been quite fuzzy after birth this time... Still, it's time to publish it, Ivy just turned 1 month old a few minutes ago and it's a good way to celebrate this bittersweet milestone...
:: Gearing up ::
Our journey to becoming a family of 6 turned out to be full of surprises. First of all, we were so certain she was going to be a boy, that I didn't even bother to get out of the storage Anya's newborn clothes, not to mention buy anything girly. Maya even picked out a name for our 'baby boy' - LeVar Burton (Reading Rainbow fans out there?) - long before Ivy was conceived.
To my surprise, Ivy wasn't born on May 23rd, like I thought she would be after having a vivid dream about that day being her birth day. Instead she made her appearance on May 25th, about a week before her 'due' date.
Ivy's birth was full of surprises as well. I got to experience several 'firsts' this time, in spite of the fact that I was giving birth for the 4th time. My other labors always started early morning. I would wake up at around 3-4 a.m. with the distinct feeling that I just experienced my first real active labor surge. After that it was active labor all the way up until the baby's birth.
Things went differently this time. I was starting to experience some 'transitional' surges (as I'm going to call them) a few days before Ivy was born. They were stronger than my regular Braxton Hicks, but not the active labor surges that I knew so well. On Monday (May 24th) I woke up in the morning feeling the same type of transitional surges, coming more often than in the past few days, but still not strong enough to convince me that I was going to be in active labor soon. I called my midwife (Chris) that morning just to give her an update and let her know that things were picking up, yet I still was unsure of what was going on. I did ask Mark not to go to work that day, just in case. It was wonderful to have him at home with me that day, helping take care of the little ones and waiting together for our birth journey to begin.
I went about my day, experiencing the same surges, somewhat stronger and slightly more frequent. I felt tired in the afternoon and decided that my body needed some rest, so I went to take a nap around 2 p.m. I managed to stay in bed for an hour or so, waking up several times with each new surge. I could feel they were getting stronger. That little bit of rest was probably enough to get my labor truly started. I decided to try checking for dilation using external method, and at that point I was at about 8 cm, which to me sounded about right, since I tend to dilate early and go into labor when I'm between 6-8 cm.
After 4 p.m. my surges became quite regular, coming at about 15 minutes apart. They were also strong enough to make me want to breathe through them and NOT enjoy our quick trip to Costco on the bumpy road to pick up my 'labor' watermelon. After we got home, Mark called his mom and asked her to come over in the evening to help with kids' bedtime and possibly watch them if the baby was going to be born during their awake time. I also called Chris and told her that I was in labor, then sent an email to my friend Annie, inviting her to my 'birth day party'. At that point we had no doubts that the active labor had begun. And from my birth experience with Anya, I knew that those 15 minutes apart surges were indeed *real*.
:: Getting the 'party' started ::
Everyone showed up at our house between 8 and 9 p.m. Kids were put to bed and I finally felt like I could concentrate on birthing my baby. I started with sitting on the yoga ball and listening to relaxing music while Mark was rubbing my back. With surges being so far apart I got to take quite a few mini-naps. The pool was being set up and Elijah, who was still awake, couldn't resist checking it out. I was nervous that he would put up a fight before going back to bed, but at the same time was happy to see his sweet face, thinking that this was going to be his last night of being my only 'baby boy'.
At 11:15 p.m. I finally got into the pool, welcoming the familiar comfort of warm water. I felt peaceful...
Shortly after getting into the pool, I started feeling hot. That's when Annie became my new favorite person by offering some frozen wet washcloths (and I have to mention that she was also in charge of photo and video recording... seriously, every mom needs an Annie to help during birth :) Mark permanently parked himself right next to me for the duration of my labor, applying cold washcloths to my face, neck and shoulders and blowing at my face when I needed him to. He became quite a pro at supporting me during my births and I really couldn't imagine doing it without him...
apparently, Annie and I were on the same brain wave and ended up wearing matching Lucky Brand jackets :)
Chris, *the* midwife
I have to say, when I'm in labor, I don't really like to move around much, not even to change positions, even though I know it can be quite important for many reasons. I like to have all the weight off my feet as well. So considering those 2 reasons, and also my birth experience with Anya, I decided to stay semi-sitting in the pool. I had one slightly 'pushy' surge shortly after I got into the pool and that was it. Just before midnight I decided to change my position and to turn to my right side. And then it happened... All of the sudden my body was pushing with the very next surge, which was so strong, fierce and powerful that it actually brought my baby's head all the way down to my perineum and I could feel the top of it when I reached down.
To be honest, this unexpected experience completely caught me off guard and was overwhelming enough that I decided to go back to semi-sitting, hoping it would slow things down just a little bit, yet still allow everything to move in the right direction. I think if I stayed on my side at that time, Ivy would've been born very quickly, quite possibly before midnight.
We figured this would be a good time to go get Maya up, since we promised to her that she would get to see her new brother or sister being born. She was sleeping deeply, so Mark just laid her on the couch next to his mom. Meanwhile, my next surge came. I expected that I'd start feeling my body bringing the baby down gently, but instead I went back to feeling regular labor surges. I was ok with that though and thought to myself that I probably needed more rest. So I relaxed and breathed and had several more mini-naps while laboring in the pool.
Time went by and my surges didn't change, even when I tried to change positions (squatting and kneeling/leaning forward). I got tired of listening to the music and decided that my mind needed a break from being so preoccupied with the labor. I asked Mark to put on M*A*S*H and we went through a couple of episodes while I continued to rest and labor.
:: Just do it! ::
It was past 2 a.m. and things didn't change much at all. Chris kept listening to baby's heart tones, which were good, and at some point suggested that it would probably be a good idea to check me soon (for the first time) if there were no changes in the labor pattern. I was determined not to get out of the pool until after birth, so I decided it was time to get serious and let my body bring that baby out. I reluctantly went back to my right side, and wouldn't you know... another powerful and overwhelming surge came, complete with several strong pushes. I could feel Ivy's head again. I surprised myself by feeling the need to vocalize with ahhh's, which turned out to be good and productive, and somehow helped to balance out that overwhelming power of pushing. (I was doing HypnoBirthing this time too, so no, I didn't vocalize because of pain, which I really didn't feel. Thanks to HypnoBirthing, my whole labor felt just as peaceful and relaxing as my labor with Anya, and the one distinct difference was how much stronger and more overwhelming those 'pushing' surges were. Controlled relaxed vocalizing was definitely the right tool at that time. I think the best way to describe the need for it would be to think about lifting something really really reeeaaally heavy. Or maybe doing many many push-ups. It takes a lot of strength, concentration, energy. We may grunt or vocalize at that moment, without being in pain...)
With the next surge Ivy's head crowned enough to stay that way and not go back in. With Chris' and Mark's help, I made my last attempt to go back to semi-sitting as I really truly didn't like pushing on my side. But who was I kidding... Ivy's head went back inside. For some reason my body just didn't feel like pushing in that position (which could've possibly been caused by Ivy's head being tilted slightly to one side - asynclytic presentation). Back onto my side I rolled. I waited for another surge, and Ivy's head came out, with her shoulders and the rest of the body sliding into the water at 2:43 a.m. Chris guided Ivy's tiny slippery body into my arms and I placed her on my chest. She cried a little and calmed down pretty quickly.
I had to get out of the pool right away, so we moved onto the couch. Ivy just laid on my chest quietly looking around. I noticed that she had no vernix left on her, so she was plenty cooked at 39 weeks. I felt immersed into the state of quiet bliss, resting on the couch, in the comfort of our own home and intimacy of dim lights in the room, with our new baby snuggled on my chest. No longer she was inside me, this time I was enjoying feeling her moving on the outside, with her skin right against mine, her wet head resting on my chest, close enough to allow me to feel that intoxicating sweet scent of a newborn...
Maya did wake up in time to see her sister being born. She came over to me, smiling and still sleepy. I asked her to check and see if the baby was a girl or a boy. She went to take a look and I sensed her hesitation for a moment. Finally she announced that it was a baby sister :) I was surprised, to say the least, probably just as much as Maya was. We kept snuggling while Chris worked to stop the bleeding. Ivy's placenta was born 15-20(?) minutes after her arrival. Mark finally got his turn to hold our new little girl, and about an hour later the cord was cut. Ivy was 7 lbs 10 oz and 20.5" long, 10 toes and 10 fingers and perfect in every single way (except that she's got my nose, I'm afraid :)
It took us several days to settle on a name for our new girl (we didn't spend much time on girl names before she was born :). Nothing seemed to fit her better than the name we ended up picking - Ivy Joy. She has truly been a joy to us in these past few weeks. She is sweet, cute and *gasp* pretty mellow. Considering how hard out first 3 babies were as newborns (reflux, colic, high needs, you name it), it's amazing to us that she's not screaming for most of the day, can be awake AND quiet at the same time, loves being worn in baby carriers and tolerates car rides better. She also loves to nurse and doesn't scream or fight at the breast.
I can safely say that we finally know why so many parents actually enjoy the newborn stage :) Ivy's brother and sisters are all smitten by her, give her hugs and kisses pretty much non-stop and confess their love to her every day. We all love her so...
:: Lessons learned ::
I loved Ivy's birth, I truly did. I think sometimes that maybe my labor could've been shorter and Ivy could've been born sooner if I did some things differently. The truth is, it doesn't really matter to me and it definitely doesn't take away from the beauty of the whole experience. In fact, this birth has taught me some important and valuable lessons. So here are a few of my observations and things I learned:
* I love HypnoBirthing. This is not really news to me, but I can't say enough times how much it changed my life. I went from being scared to give birth again (after Maya's experience) to being, well, a birth 'junkie'. I'm in awe of how beautifully our bodies are designed, and how they can create, carry and bring a new life into this world.
* Practice. HypnoBirthing is a wonderful tool if you learn to use it and practice. This was my 3rd Hypno birth and my first time when I did hardly any exercises to prepare my mind. I had plenty of practice with relaxing my body in order not to get trapped in the fear-tension-pain cycle, and it worked beautifully. However, I slacked at using positive affirmations and some other exercises that could help my *mind* to be relaxed and prepared for birth. I think the fact that I was so stubborn and wanted to birth in a certain way, even when knowing that it wasn't productive, is a perfect prove of that. I also was too hung up on Anya's birth and kept waiting for things to happen the same way, instead of embracing the uniqueness of Ivy's birth.
* Be mentally prepared to meet your baby. I know this sounds strange, but for quite some time I just didn't feel ready to meet Ivy. I felt like I had too many things on my 'to do' list, and until they all got crossed off, having a baby was not an option. House needed to be cleaned, clothes needed to be washed and organized, baby things needed to be pulled out of storage... you get the idea. So once I hit 37 weeks, I went into a panic mode, even experience a few mild anxiety attacks at night. I actually kept praying not to have my baby until after 38.5 weeks. Once things got crossed off the list, I thought I finally felt ready to welcome a new baby into our family. But my guess is that some of that anxiety stuck around in the back of my mind, which is probably another reason why I was in no rush to start pushing.
* I love my midwife. I really couldn't ask for a better one. Chris was amazing. On one hand I wish I saw more of her in the photos that were taken during birth. On the other hand, to me it's a reminder of how she let me and Mark birth our baby, trusting that we could do it without constant interference. I really can't even begin to describe all the reasons why we loved having Chris with us for these last 2 births...
* I'm truly blessed to have Mark by my side during my births. He did almost pass out when my OB asked him several times if he wanted to cut Maya's cord, but that was long time ago, and since then his skills as a birth partner have grown immensely (even though he still refuses to cut the cord :). I don't know how I could've done it without Mark's support...