Here we are! Today is Wednesday May 3 2017, and Elliot is 6 days old. He was born at 10:33pm last Thursday. Here is his birth story!
Last Wednesday night I couldn't sleep. Something felt different. I ate an entire pineapple that day, and in the night I felt energized, nervous and slightly anxious. 3AM rolled around and I felt some light/consistent cramping. I listened to a couple hypnobirth tracks, but for the first time I felt extremely dizzy and had bed-spins. It was really bizarre, I turned the tracks off and had to look outside to calm that sensation. I decided to just breath in bed and start to time these light contractions* (*I find it hard to say contractions as they truly do not feel anything like what was to come). After I had an hour and a half of consistent (45 second long, 5ish minutes apart) I went downstairs to wake Mark up and tell him (we slept apart the last 4 nights of pregnancy as my sleep was getting rocky). He texted his mom to let her know we might be going into labor that day, so pack up and head to Fernie (from Calgary - a 3 hour drive) to come take care of Penelope while I laboured at home. I wanted to get things moving a bit more so I went for a walk at 7AM. It was a beautiful misty morning. I didn't want to count contractions because they seemed to be less consistent, so I just walked and did my relax breathing, saw lots of earth worms and buds on trees making their first appearances. I came back after an hour and it seemed like my labour kind of just halted. **Parents skip ahead two lines***... no seriously dad, skip two lines.------ Mark and I had sex to help get things going again, and it helped (prostaglandins are real y'all). The contractions came back and were closer together. I was timing the very beginning of the contraction until it was completely gone, which was 60 seconds in my head, but in reality were more like 45 seconds. I had calm music, my diffuser going, and the windows covered to create the calmest most relaxing environment. It was great. I showered and started to focus and breath with intention through these contractions (around 9:30am now). With contractions looking like they were 2-3 minutes apart, I was like woah labour is progressing I bet I'm in second stage labour BOOYAA. Little did I know - I was not...hahaha! We got to the hospital and Mark told the triage I was in first stage labour. I looked at him with shock and I said "no this is second stage Mark get real". They admitted us into the nice room (yessss the one I visualized!), and we started to set up the music, Himalayan salt lamps, birth ball, and snack station. I wanted to bath right away for relief (being in water can help the pain a lot). The first nurse we had was nice but she didn't pick up on the mood I was trying to set - calm, quiet, dark. She then informs me they are about to have a fire drill. WTF I AM TRYING TO CREATE SERENITY. I kept waiting for the opportunity to 'get in my zone', and get into a deep state of hypnosis and relaxation. When I listened to my hypnobirth tracks, they worked so well at home. I visualized a 3-hour natural pain-free labour, so that's what I also expected. In retrospect, I think I should have mentally prepared for a marathon, but prayed and hoped for a sweet sprint. I am the type of person who loves/needs to know how much energy I need to chunk off for things. 60 second sprint? Got it. 10 km run? I can do that. But telling me to start running, then after 50 km, tell me I may or may not have another 50 km to go? Fuck that. Do you know what I mean??
But you don't get that luxury of knowing everything in birth, and I think a lot of it is about surrendering to your baby and body, and being able to relax. So so so so much harder said than done. On top of that, when I am at home for a 30 minute hypnobirth track, its quiet, perfect and blissful. I wasn't incorporating a hospital, and all the distractions that come with that into my visualization. Nurses check baby's heart-rate and my vitals sometimes as often as every 15 minutes. I think I was thrown off by all this, and felt frustrated for the first few hours rather than focussed and optimally calm. After my 10 minute bath, they want to see how much I have progressed. (Note: I tested positive for group B strep, which is a bacteria 20% of women have living in their vag. Ain't no thang, but if you test positive they want you on antibiotics so it won't put baby at risk of getting any bacteria on the way out, which can make them more likely to get a pneumonia or infection - so they put me on a drip antibiotic every 4 hours till baby comes). The first time they check me, I am 4 cm dilated (at 10cm you push your baby out). Not bad, I thought. Close to half way, I got this. My contractions continue to intensity, and I have to keep changing positions, walking, and breathing to get through them. I start squatting through them to help get my mind on something other than the pain. They check me 3 hours later, and I am still 4 cm dilated. I am so frustrated, emotional and confused. It feels like things are getting harder, 3 hours (my hopeful length of labour at one time) went by and nothing changed?? They said my cervix was thinning, but I was crying and scared to think that my labour could stop, and maybe I couldn't handle the pain, and maybe I was going to have a really long labour and be too tired to even push (knowing I didn't get a wink of sleep the night before weighed on me too). All of this was fear, and anxiety and also feelings of pain. I didn't get into that sweet relaxed state to keep me calm, and I was getting in my head. The nurse asked if I wanted to discuss pain management and I was like nah I want to breath through this, which I did. Another 3 hours went by, more and more intensity and they check me again - 4 cm. This felt crushing. I didn't understand!? I was doing everything birthing classes tell you, I was doing all the positions, creating the best environment, and I was breathing like a pro and nothing changed? I cried a lot and felt down. Throughout all of this Mark was incredible. Hugging me, kissing me (actually helps create oxytocin and move labour along), supporting me, offering constant incredible words of encouragement, managing as much of the environment around me as possible, and keeping me fed and hydrated always. He kept me positive and focused even with the frustrating news. It's around 7PM now, and I am getting really concerned about my energy and having enough for the long-haul that seemed to be ahead, being at 4cm STILL. When the nurse comes back I say "I am interested in discussing pain management options." She tells me they are laughing gas (I tried this with Penelope's birth and it made me very nauseous and sick, so I tried one inhalation and felt that lightheaded nausea right away, so I ruled that out), morphine (given with gravol to prevent nausea), fentanyl, or an epidural but that is not usually the first thing they give. I wanted to relax and give my body as much of a break as I could. The pain from the contractions were getting so intense, but still 2 minutes apart, one minute in length. I opted for the morphine. It wasn't what I thought it would be like. I thought it was going to NUMB EVERYTHING. It made me feel a bit lighter, the in-between contraction zones felt better than normal, but the contractions were only 20% less intense - what the heck man. I still had to really focus, and squat and move to get through the intensifying contractions. The timeline is blurry to me, but they checked me a bit after the morphine and I was finally progressing (I think 7cm at this point). Being able to relax a bit more helped my body move forward. They don't like giving morphine close to delivery because it can mellow baby's heart rate, and they want baby 100% alert for birth (the entire time I was in labour and even in pushing, Elliot's heart rate was happy and perfect (the doctor described it this way!). I knew the morphine was fading, and I was not prepared to go back to PAIN TOWN. Without hesitation, feeling the drugs wearing off, I requested an epidural. My doctor wanted to check me before I got the epidural. She said I was 9 cm, but wanted me to feel good about pushing and so they gave me the epidural. I thought they didn't normally give epidurals that late but I wasn't about to have that discussion. The pain was unbearable. I was sitting upright trying to get through them and just telling them to put it in already. During a contraction while waiting for the needle, my water broke (such a wild feeling - water gushing out in a volume you've never seen leave your body). I knew I was getting close, but wanted some relief to get through it. After what seemed like a slow labour, I wanted reassurance and relief so I knew I could get through it even though I started to have the feeling like I should push. I ignored it and didn't tell the doctor, but she checked me and was like his head is right there! It was time push! I laid on my left side and Mark supported my right leg (the epidural numbed my legs, but I still felt a lot of the contraction - it all was happening so fast). Pushing is the best time. It's the end. THIS is the sprint (I love sprinting. I can sprint. The end is in sight!). There is pain but my memories of pain are much worse when I was having contractions and tightenings of my uterus.] The worst part is getting the head out. After his head came out, I really felt a bit of relief. My doctor assured me there is just a little bit left and that she will help me. With another good push his shoulders popped out (literally feels like a pop! pop!), then a sloosh the rest of the body slides out! The incredible doctor didn't skip a beat, and placed him immediately on my heart. The moment every mom dreams about. Their child being born and united safely with her. There aren't the words to describe the amazement, love, awe, life, energy that I felt when he was finally here and embracing me.
I didn't get this moment with Penelope - her birth had much more 'emergency' feel when she was born. We didn't get skin to skin or delayed cord clamping as they had to hook her up for breathing support immediately. I didn't even get to see her face for several hours. With Elliot, the doctor had so much faith and confidence in me, him, and the situation that she gave us that moment so fully and perfectly. They left us with him, just taking in the moment, love and peace of his arrival and his health and his life. I didn't know until later, but my mom was just outside the door the moment he was born. She heard my last pushes, screams, then the cheer of the nurses and doctor and laughter to follow. All our parents were there, and they came in the room after we had our moment. It was so sweet. The doctor came back after to weigh him and do a quick check. 7 pounds 5 ounces, and I don't remember the length or anything else. I was so tired my right eye was going to sleep without telling the rest of my face. The parents left and we were moved to an after birth rest room for the night. I breastfed him which calmed his little cries, and we swaddled him. He slept for 6 hours. I did not. I was wired and in euphoria. I had to write and reflect and watch him. I felt so good. Tired but great.
The days after:
We had the go-ahead to take him home at 8AM, but I stayed and relaxed with him until around 11AM while Mark got Penelope and organized family. Penelope was so sweet meeting him. Curious but generally unaffected. Their interactions are small but I think improving everyday. On Sunday, Mark went to help move his brother in Calgary, and so it was just my mom and I. Elliot was fed, and I could hear Penelope up with my mom downstairs in the morning. I came down and saw her playing on the floor and she smiled at me and I just started balling. I had so little interaction with her, and I know she knew that too. She watched Elliot closely but with confusion, and it felt like she wasn't coming to me. My mom said she went through the same thing when my sister was born, and it is just an adjustment. And I know there are few things better than having a sibling in life. I know they will have eachother's backs for eternity and laugh more together than anyone else, but in the first few days it felt emotional thinking about how much I've seen Penelope. Since that day, we've been very conscious of when to make individual time, and when to make family time - all of which is loving and communicated clearly. I say things like "Elliot wants you to read to him!" "Elliot is saying hi!" "Elliot loves his big sister!" We confirm how sweet and gentle she is, and although she tried a light face smack yesterday, I think she is coming to terms with our new life as a family.
Our first four days, sleep got worse each night. On the fourth night he was up every 1.5 hours, and taking long to settle. He is upstairs with us in a bassinet next to me. All day he is calm and sleepy and has good but short alert awake times too. I was getting worried and wanting to do something about the sleep. A lot of people/sources suggest to start sleeping training at three months, but the book I read (Bringing Up Bebe) said babies sleep through the night by 6 weeks! I'm determined to be there with them! Night 5 we finally had some success. The main thing is observing baby's cries. Waiting 5 minutes before doing or not doing anything. Babies wake between their sleep cycles and need to learn to sooth themselves back to sleep between them. If I always pick Elliot up when he cries, he won't learn to make that connection. I'm not sure if we were good and tired and giving the right responses but last night he woke only at 2 and 6 - both times I feel like we got up at the same time; he being ready to feed, and me being ready to explode in the boobs. Fingers crossed for more smooth nights!
Having the experience of Penelope has given Mark and I skills and confidence to make Elliot feel easy and manageable. Breastfeeding Penelope was so challenging because of her size and energy levels in the first few weeks, and already Elliot is such a great eater (surpassing his birth weight by day 5!), sleeper, and good baby in general. We feel lucky, but at the same time just grateful to know what we are doing a little.
As I write this, Mark is walking the two kids (kids. It's so fun and crazy to say KIDS!) in our double city select baby jogger! The house is calm and quiet, and relatively clean thanks to Mark and everything our family did. We spent the day enjoying it. We went to library (Penelope's favourite place), and even out to lunch. I had five minutes of frustration getting Elliot to breastfeed under a cover in the restaurant, but I got it and all was well. Penelope mostly ate fries instead of chicken or flatbread, but it was a sweet moment the four of us got to have. Taking it each day at a time, knowing how fleeting this moment is. Seeing Penelope contrast our tiny Elliot and knowing there is just over 365 days between them reminds me how fast he will and how fast she has already grown. Soaking up skin to skin. Smelling him constantly. Singing weird songs that make me cry to him and her (at different times - what are hormones). Rolling on the bed with Penelope not worried about my belly. Watching Penelope learn and slowly garner more and more curiosity and love for her brother. Being able to hug Mark with my whole body and not be intercepted by a big basketball belly. Long hot baths or showers. Lying ANY way I want in bed. Watching Mark hold Elliot. Watching him play with Penelope. Taking in all these things as much as I can. Everything is making my heart full. So many good feelings to feel.
More gratitude, why not!
- My body. I did it. 9+ months of carrying our son. Sharing my body, energy, head and heart. And in the end I was given the gift of giving birth to him. One of my greatest treasures having our hearts on the same place. *crying*******
- Our health. We are so alive and so well. It's a huge gift and we enjoy feeling good and being well every day.
- Mark. My heart keeps loving you more every day. Seeing him talk to Elliot and have skin to skin quiet moments together - I don't know how to describe it, but just know my heart is melted on the floor and I'm crying. Still. Thank you for seeing me the way you do, and for carrying us when we need it. No one makes me laugh like you do every single day. I couldn't be more happy or thankful to make a family and life with you.
- Family. The support of our parents leading up to, during, and after birth. Just a shower of love, help, and guidance. Thank you for folding our laundry, watching Penelope, feeding me, feeding Penelope and Mark, sweeping, driving, buying - all the things that made this time smooth and sweet.
- Penelope. You're growing faster than I can keep up with. Having Elliot has been a reality check - one where I see just how big and beautiful your blue eyes are. You are constantly figuring new things out, and greeting us with love and excitement. I love the way you love. I love your sensitive heart, and toothy smile, and your vivacious spirit. You blow me away every day. Being your mom is fun and easy because you make it that way. You've set the bar high. We love you.
- Elliot. I am so happy you are here. I feel whole. I feel soft and in so much love. I miss you when you go for walks. I see your sweetness, patience, and strength I felt in you all along. I love holding you. I love nourishing you. I love changing your poopy diapers. I love your cry. I love your breath. I love your soul, and being your mom feels like I'm on top of the world. Thank you for choosing us and choosing now to be here. Welcome, baby.
Sending love and heart explosions from the mountains,
A + M + P + E