Monday, October 31, 2011
Welcome Sweet Palesa! Born at home on 10.26.11
A beautiful, sweet letter written by her mom....enjoy:)
As I start writing you this letter, you are 2 days old. You are lying asleep next to me as I write down your birth story. I can’t wait to share this with you some day.
I went into labor with you on Sunday, October 23rd. Your “guess date” was the Tuesday before, October 18th, but I thought you would be a little bit later than that. Besides, I loved being pregnant with you so much that I wasn’t quite ready to have you on Tuesday anyway- I wanted a few more days to enjoy our pregnancy!
On Friday that week, I took a long walk in the Arnold Arboretum in the morning, and then around Jamaica Pond that evening. I was having “warm up” contractions throughout the week. At least I thought they were contractions, but I couldn’t really tell for sure- they could have just been you moving inside me. On Saturday your daddy and I took a long walk in the Arnold Arboretum, and then walked into town to take care of some errands. We ate Thai food for lunch, and I asked them to make the Pad Thai extra spicy, hoping that it might start labor soon. The waitresses all thought you would be a boy. That evening, we walked around Jamaica Pond again, and got to see the Lantern Festival. Afterwards, your daddy and I had a piece of apple cheesecake that we made a few days earlier. When I went to bed Saturday night, I was visualizing my uterus contracting, my cervix opening, you preparing to be born, and labor starting.
That night I had lots of cramping contractions while I was sleeping. They became part of my dreams, and I could still sleep pretty well despite the contractions. They felt like bad menstrual cramps, and very different than the painless contractions I’d been experiencing all week, where my belly would get hard like a rock. I woke up at about 5:00 am and went downstairs and wrote you a long letter. Someday you will read that letter too (but that one is by hand, not email). Afterwards, I went back upstairs and snuggled in bed with your daddy, knowing that labor was starting soon and that this would be the last morning just the two of us would be able to cuddle in bed. I used my phone to time contractions as best as I could, and they were all over the place and very irregular, which is typical of “pre-labor.” We got out of bed around 7:30 or so and ate breakfast- I had a piece of toast with butter and fig jam. Then, around 9:00 am I curled up on the couch and took a long nap. Your daddy gently woke me up with kisses on my arm at around 10:45. We were tentatively planning on hosting Church at our house Sunday night, and Jen had called to ask about our plans for the evening and how things were going. But before we could even call her back to tell her that we’d still like people to come over but that labor was quickly approaching, I had to call your Auntie Suz. I had promised her that she would be the first person we would call when we went into labor. So I called her to tell her that mild contractions had started, and though I didn’t think I was in real labor yet, we were getting close. Your Auntie Suz was so excited for your birth, and exclaimed, “Congratulations!” She reminded me that the next day, October 24th was the day she guessed you would be born. It was a very special day for her too- eight years ago she and Uncle Bryan went on their first date together, and the 24th was also the state competition for the Windsor High School marching band, where your Auntie Suz was a director. I told her I thought it was very likely you would be born the next day and she would have guessed right!
Then we got dressed to go to Jamaica Pond. Sunday was a crisp and beautiful fall day and the pond was beautiful. Your daddy went running, and I did some walking and jogging. I kept my phone in my pocket to time contractions, and when I was running, they would come as close as every 3 minutes. So I knew that the motion of running was helping start contractions. Plus, I really enjoyed getting to run one last time before giving birth to you! I tied my jacket around my waist and ran in a t-shirt, and got a lot of funny and amazed looks from the other people around the pond staring at a very-pregnant woman running!
After the run, I showered, put in a load of laundry, ate lunch, and called Audra, one of our midwives to let her know that I was getting pretty irregular contractions- anywhere from 8-12 minutes apart, with cramping that felt like menstrual cramps, and that overall this felt very different than the day before. We agreed to check in if anything changed, if I felt like I needed anything, or before going to bed.
Somewhere between 1 and 3 p.m., I realized that I was somewhere edging on the line between “pre-labor” and “early labor,” which basically means that my contractions were starting to fall into a pattern and they were starting to soften and open my cervix. We called a few more people to let them know that the birthing process had begun, and sent an email to some friends and family that had been praying for us and offered great encouragement. Everyone was so excited, and we were too.
At 5:30 or so, Jen and Aaron came over for church. Both of them had gotten to see you grow inside me for the past 9 months, and each were extremely excited to spend the evening with us- neither of them had ever seen a laboring mother before! I went to the bathroom around 6:30 and noticed my mucous plug when I wiped. It came out in a giant chunk about the size of my thumb. Normally I would have called your daddy to come look at it (it was actually very cool to see), but since we had company over, I couldn’t do that. I did whisper in his ear that I’d lost my mucous plug, and I think he was a little bit disappointed that he didn’t get to see it. At this point in the evening, I was having fairly regular contractions, about every 7-8 minutes, and though they were definitely getting stronger, I could easily manage them and talk through them. I was definitely pretty distracted though- I walked around a lot as we prayed together, and didn’t really want to stay seated as we ate pizza for dinner. I skipped having a piece of cheesecake even! During our prayer time, I remember your daddy standing behind me and rubbing my shoulders during a contraction, or encouraging me to lean on him as he comforted me.
After Jen and Aaron left, your daddy and I went downstairs and called a few people. We got to do a video chat with Grandma D and Grandpa Abe, who were both so excited to meet their first grandchild. I talked with Audra again, and we made a new plan. She encouraged me to try to get as much rest as possible, and I would call her when contractions were about 5 minutes apart, or I felt like I needed her there. She said she thought it was likely that she would hear from us in the middle of the night. Contractions were pretty regular at about 7 minutes apart, and although I could still talk through them, I definitely had to pay more attention to them and make an effort to breathe and relax! I remember being on the phone with Cyndi, who asked if I was having a contraction and asked me to talk through it. I think I said something silly about what I’d had for lunch that day!
About 10:30 or so, your daddy and I went to try to go to bed. We decided to have a small glass of wine to help me relax and hopefully fall asleep. Cyndi also encouraged me to have a good snack of complex carbohydrates, so I had a warm whole wheat tortilla with honey and a few stoned-wheat crackers. We sat on the couch and sipped our wine and cuddled, as your daddy gently stroked my belly. I remember how special the moment was that we got to share- it was a final memory your daddy and I got to make together before we welcomed you into our arms (though you had a very special place in our lives since the day we found out that I was pregnant with you!).
We turned out the lights at about 11:30, and after 3 contractions, I realized that I definitely was not going to be sleeping, and that I needed to get up and move through the contractions, just before midnight. I got dressed in cozy sweatpants and slippers and walked to the living room so that your daddy could sleep as much as possible. I rocked and swayed during contractions, and sometimes leaned over the dining room table, or or leaned forward on my knees on a medicine ball. Between contractions, I put down my head and closed my eyes.
At 1:00 am or so, I drew water in the bathtub to try to soak and relax. I had little LED light candles in the bathroom and the lights off, and just enjoyed the quiet time as I thought about how excited I was to meet you. Grandma Nancy had mentioned when we talked on Sunday that she thought you would arrive sometime after the sun came up the next day. I began to realize that there was no turning back- in just a few more hours, this pregnancy would be over, and we’d have a new baby!
I got out of the tub around 1:45 and went back to bed, still timing contractions. Though they weren’t extremely uncomfortable or painful, they were usually around 5 minutes apart, but sometimes 2-3 minutes and sometimes 6-7 minutes. Still, I woke up your daddy and told him that I thought I needed a little more help, and maybe we should call the midwives. We called Audra somewhere around 2:30 or 3:00 am, and talked for a good while. Because I was laying on the bed and looking at the bright screen on my phone, my peripheral vision became a bit splotchy, almost like I had a migraine headache. I remember us being on the phone with her for what seemed like a long time- at this point I was moaning softly through the more intense contractions, and some of them were coming fairly close together, maybe 2 minutes apart. When I couldn’t talk, I’d put down the phone and she would listen, or your daddy would talk to her.
Audra came over shortly after this. We sat in the living room and she took some of my vitals. She listened to your heartbeat, which was strong and excellent, and took my blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. Your daddy made both of us peppermint tea. We spent the next hour and a half or so talking and telling stories. Audra sat on our couch and could see a picture displayed of the day your daddy and I got married, and from that we began telling stories about our wedding and the other weddings of some dear friends we had attended this summer. Technically, you went to these weddings too! I could no longer tell a story during a contraction, so I would pause wherever I was in a story, breathe through a contraction, and then pick up again after it had subsided. I felt cheerful and excited, and encouraged your daddy and Audra to keep talking during contractions (which Audra was timing). Even though I couldn’t talk through them, I definitely enjoyed listening. I think I was sitting on the blue medicine ball and swaying and moving gently during contractions, but I don’t think I had to use a lot of breathing or comfort techniques, or really move into different positions to work through the contraction- I think I just swayed gently, possibly moaned softly, and breathed through them. I remember commenting how nice and unusual it was to be sitting in our living room telling stories at 4 in the morning! Before we’d gone into the living room when Audra arrived, we put classical music playlist on the ipod in the kitchen, and I remember hearing one of my favorite pieces, Mahlers’ second symphony, and my favorite place where the music crescendos into a wonderful trumpet trill.
There was part of me that still couldn’t believe that I was in labor and close to birthing a baby. I am also an aspiring midwife and a doula and a childbirth educator, so I know a great deal about the labor process intellectually, but I have never experienced it. Also, I didn’t want to get too excited, because I still had a lot of work ahead of me. I remember asking Audra if she thought that I was actually in labor. She laughed a little and affirmed that yes, I was actually in labor. I didn’t even realize at this point that I’d already been in active labor (versus warm-up labor or early labor) for a few hours by this time.
After this, the time all became a little bit fuzzy to me. Audra could see that the contractions were getting more intense and closer together, and suggested that I take another bath and just soak in the tub for a little while. This was somewhere around 5:00 am, but it did take a while to fill the tub. Our bathroom had an old and very deep jacuzzi tub with jets. Your daddy filled the tub with water so deep that only the tip of my belly reached over the surface of the water. He also placed the LED candle lights around the tub, and turned on the jets. When I got into the tub, my contractions seemed so much easier at first. Your daddy sat next to me and held my hand, and helped me breathe and stay loose. I usually moaned in deep, low tones through the contraction. Audra stayed close by and would come in periodically to listen to your heartbeat (always strong, just like you!), but she also recognized the specialness of the time between your daddy and I, and gave us some nice privacy to share this experience together.
As I stayed in the tub, the contractions got stronger and stronger, and soon I had to twist or turn my body through a contraction. My moaning and toning got louder and lower as the intensity increased, and Audra encouraged me that I was doing a great job staying so relaxed and moving with the contractions, which were opening my cervix and bringing down my baby. Soon, Catherine, the apprentice midwife arrived. I remember seeing her in the doorway of the bathroom, and I must have been between contractions because I cheerfully smiled and said hello. It was as if I were saying hello to an old friend at a coffee shop, not like I was in the process of birthing a baby, naked in a tub!
At some point (we can’t remember if it was before or after I got out of the tub though), your daddy made a joke and asked if I wanted to listen to Bob Oates, the NPR morning show we usually listened to in the mornings when our alarm clock went off. To me it was still in the middle of the night, and it seemed absurd that listening to Bob Oates was even a possibility, but your daddy reminded me it was after 6:00 am on a Monday morning.
The contractions in the tub continued to get stronger and stronger, and some of them were so close together that it felt like a continuous contraction. Your daddy, Audra, and Catherine each reminded me how hard I was working, and most of the time I agreed that although this was very hard, I could do it. I thought of all the emails and messages I’d received over the past day, and began crying a little, very moved and touched as I remembered how many of our friends and family around us were thinking of us and praying for us right then, and sending so much love and support and encouragement. I definitely felt the presence of people around us, though no one was in the bathroom with me at that time except for your daddy.
However, soon, it occurred to me that laboring was actually really hard and painful, and I didn’t want to be in labor anymore. I asked everyone to make labor stop, because I didn’t want to do this anymore, and I was just finished. Audra and Catherine encouraged me that I could definitely do this, that my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing, and that we were getting closer and closer. I tried to stay encouraged, that each contraction was one contraction closer to getting to finally meet you. It was hard work, and I was making lots of deep and low noises, and sometimes the volume of my voice surprised me. I wondered if our neighbors upstairs were surprised at the noises of a birthing woman below them!
I had awful heartburn during much of labor, and started to feel a little funny. Catherine brought in a bowl, and your daddy held it nearby. At the end of one particularly intense contraction, I vomited violently. All over the wall, the tub, and in the bowl. The nice thing was that I also peed at the same time, which felt good. Normally, when I would sit down on the toilet to pee, I’d have a contraction, so it felt really good to pee without having a contraction! After vomiting, the midwives used the shower hose to clean me off and I got out of the tub feeling very good. In fact, I sat on the toilet to try to pee some more, and your daddy took a picture of me with a big towel draped across my body and a wide and relaxed smile. A few minutes before this, a smile would have been almost impossible, let alone a wild grin!
I also remembered Audra helping me out of the tub and asking her to get me a hairbrush. I told her I didn’t want to give birth without brushing my hair. I pulled it back into a high ponytail.
I assumed that during my time in my tub I’d gone through transition, which meant that pretty soon I would be feeling ready to push. It is very normal for labor to slow down just after transition and before pushing. It is called the “rest and be thankful” phase- so I was eager to take advantage of the chance to rest. I moved back to the bedroom to get more comfortable. Contractions were mild and seemed to be spaced further apart. I didn’t want to lay down right away, and I remember enjoying that labor suddenly got much easier. I was in good spirits and comfortable. For a while, I stood in front of the bed and leaned forward if I had a contraction. Tara, our other midwife arrived, and I waved and said hello to her from the bed, as if standing naked when company comes over was the most normal and natural thing in the world. I remember laying down and resting, or moving gently on my feet, and greatly appreciating that labor no longer felt as intense as it felt in the tub. It must have been around 7:00 or 7:30 by then, because I asked your daddy to call Auntie Suz. I knew she would be on her way to to the State Marching Band competition, but that she would be awake. I talked to her for a few minutes too, and told her that soon i expected to be pushing. She was so excited.
I remember while I was lying on the bed watching Catherine set up some birth supplies in our bedroom. She plugged in a heating pad and very neatly and with a clear pattern folded our receiving blankets around the heating pad so that when you were born you would be immediately dried and warmed with toasty blankets. I enjoyed watching her do this, and it reminded me that as part of their jobs, they were preparing to care for a newborn baby.
I can’t remember when, but sometime after the sun came up your daddy made a big pot of oatmeal that everyone enjoyed (I had some the day after you were born!). Later that morning too, he also made some vegetable and turkey soup. I had a bowl after you were born, and like everything your daddy cooks, it was delicious. I don’t ever remember him being away from me long enough to make oatmeal or soup, but somehow he managed to be two places at once, because he hardly left my side, continually talking to me, touching me, and encouraging me.
Your daddy reminded me of the importance of resting, especially because I hadn’t slept at all since my nap Sunday morning. I laid across the bed and your daddy laid next to me, facing me. We held each other’s arms, and I shut my eyes and slept between contractions. He slept too- both of us were very tired. We listened to a playlist of songs we had made for our wedding, and it made me happy to listen to them. Some of the contractions were so mild that I didn’t even have to really move at all- my eyes stayed shut and I softly moaned through them and then fell back asleep. But most of them were a bit stronger, and I’d roll over to my hands and knees, rock and sway and moan through the contraction, and then lay back down again. Catherine or Tara came over and put pillows beneath our heads.
Somewhere about 8:15, I got out of bed and went into the kitchen to visit with Tara and Catherine. They had been listening to my contractions (from my voice) and Tara mentioned something about wanting to time them and get a sense of what was going on. Labor had slowed down during the rest phase, and it seemed that just when she mentioned to me their awareness of how close and strong the contractions were, they did seem to pick up. I remember asking them if they thought it was likely that my baby would be born that day. I still didn’t want to get my hopes up that I would be meeting you soon. I wondered if it was possible to have labored this far, but still have another day like this to go before the baby arrived. They both encouraged me that we all expected that I would meet my baby that same day. I was actually surprised that I felt no urge to push at all, but contractions kind of similar to what I’d felt hours earlier while sitting in the living room talking with Audra and your daddy in the middle of the night. Tara suggested that if I wanted, we could do an internal exam and see where things were and how things were progressing.
After another 15 minutes, I woke up your daddy, still asleep at the foot of the bed and was ready for an internal exam. This was my first internal exam all pregnancy, and just like Tara had warned me, the exam triggered two very strong contractions, one on top of the other. She was graceful and eloquent in telling me that I had been making great progress, and that there was still a little bit more work that my body was doing before I would be ready to give birth. She said that she still felt a hard ridge of cervix (the rest of it had soften and almost melted away), but that my cervix was opening up very nicely and that I was doing a really great job working with my body as my cervix continued to open and the baby moved down.
I don’t really remember too much of the next 3 hours, except that I labored on the bed, and sure enough, things were getting intense again. I spent a lot of time on my hands and knees, and sometimes standing and rocking or swaying. At one point between contractions I thought it would be a good idea to call your Grandma Nancy, right around 9:30. I think I said hello to her, and then an intense contraction started and I gave your daddy the telephone. I continued to have bad heartburn. The midwives all offered me drinks with straws- a mason jar of coconut water, and another of water. Your daddy brought me a few frozen grapes, and they were absolutely delicious.
As I found myself back in intense labor again, I continued to moan and make deep, low sounds. Sometimes my voice was very loud, like an actor on a stage projecting their voice in front of an audience. I wasn’t yelling, but using the sounds to stay relaxed and open. Tara sometimes chanted with me, “Oooooooooooo-pen” or “loooooooow” and that helped me relax my jaw and stay loose, and visualize my cervix opening and my baby moving down. My voice matched the intensity of the contraction, and your daddy was next to me with his hands on me, helping me stay loose. At the end of a contraction, and for less intense contractions, I would buzz my lips together to help me keep my jaw loose. Tara told me her little daughter Melina, who is about 3 months older than you) would absolutely love me. Once during labor, maybe after Tara said this, I lifted up your daddy’s shirt and blew a raspberry on his belly.
For one moment I was really hot and overheated, and then I had chills and would shake with cold. Your daddy had a hollow rolling pin full of ice and a warm rice sock that he alternated putting on my back. They felt so good. Catherine also placed washcloths soaked in ice water on my neck and forehead. Your daddy also tried to comfort me with other techniques, like the rebozo. He lifted some weight off my belly, but I remember having to concentrate so intently on each contraction that I couldn’t even pay attention anything but just breathing and rocking through each contraction.
Eventually, Audra encouraged me to try taking another bath, as it had seemed to really relax me before. At first I wasn’t interested at all. First, I grew up in Colorado, where we have to be very aware of water usage. I had already taken two deep baths, and a third seemed excessive and extravagant! Who was I to waste water? Also, part of me was a little afraid that if I got into the tub again, the same pattern would be repeated- labor would get easier at first, but then I’d go through transition again and then labor would stop. I remember telling Audra that I didn’t want to get into the tub because I didn’t want to go through Transition again! Plus, I’d vomited two or three more times into a bowl while on the bed, which encouraged me that things were probably moving along and I must be pretty close anyway. I was also starting to feel a lot of pressure on my pelvic floor, in addition to the intense cramping of the contractions. Your daddy was encouraging me to try some of our breathing techniques, but all I could do was was make the moaning sounds.
After I initially declined going in the tub again, your daddy repeated Audra’s encouragement, and I finally agreed that getting back into the tub would be a good idea, and they drew the water for me, but this time much cooler than before. I remember it taking me a long time to move into the tub- it always seemed like just one more contraction before I was comfortable enough to be able to move. They were so close together at this point that often I would feel a new contraction beginning before the prior one had fully disappeared.
Slowly, I moved back into the tub. At first, contractions became much easier, just like the first time. Your daddy sat next to me, and we prayed together. He would constantly ask me, “Have I told you how proud I am of you?” I sunk down deep in the water, taking as much pressure off my body as I could, and relaxed and breathed as he held my hands. He told me I looked incredibly beautiful I looked in that moment, and took a few pictures. It must have been somewhere around 11:30 when I got into the tub again, because I asked your daddy to go downstairs and send a quick email to our friends and family and let them know we were still laboring. Thank goodness for time stamps on email and cell-phone call-logs!
This time in the tub, the contractions felt very different than earlier. When a contraction started, it wasn’t so much a cramping sensation anymore as it was intense downward pressure in the front and back. Catherine dripped cool washcloths over my chest and neck, and poured water over my belly as I moaned and rocked in the water through each contraction. I was so focused and intense that I often was unaware if anyone was even in the room with me. Between contractions I closed my eyes and leaned back my head. I remember your daddy asking if I had any focal points during my contractions, and he tried to encourage me to use some sort of focal point, and to find a sense of grounding which I could labor and breathe around. I told him that my voice and the sounds I my body were making were my focal point. With each contraction and between contractions, I was in my own place, at the same time both aware of my surroundings and apart from everything going on around me.
For a moment, I even wondered if I was rude, ignoring everybody else in the room who were all there to support me, because my eyes often remained closed. I remember just being so grateful to Tara, Audra, and Catherine, and so in love with your daddy. Every time they brought the straw to my lips so I could sip water from the mason jar, I felt genuine gratitude, and did my best to say “please” and “thank you.” It was such an honor to be in the presence of these three midwives as well, also fellow sisters of mine who had each birthed babies of their own. I welcomed all of their encouragement, soothing voices, and gentle touch as they comforted me. I would hardly notice when they held the doppler to my lower belly to listen to your heartbeat during and after contractions. Each time they reminded me how strong your heartbeat was and how well you were doing with labor. When I got in the tub, we put Bebel Gilberto, some of my favorite Brazilian music on the ipod. Her first song is called Baby, and I smiled when Tara realized that we were both singing about our babies (except I would never get a recording contract with my deep moans and tones, and her Baby was a lover, not an infant!)
I threw up one or two more times in the tub as well, and was uncomfortable with the heartburn. Catherine watched me step my feet against the tub wall through a contraction and reminded me that my baby was doing the same thing, stepping its feet against the top of my uterus as it moved down. It made a big difference to make a connection to the intense and uncomfortable sensations I was experiencing with each contraction to the baby inside of me that we were going to meet very soon. After particularly strong and long contractions, Tara always seemed pleased and gently told me how strong contractions like that were exactly what was going to help birth this baby, and that the uncomfortable pelvic pressure was the baby moving down the birth canal. Audra often called my contractions “beautiful,” I believe both because of the strength of my body working to birth you as well as the way my body knew just what to do and just how to move as I did my best to stay relaxed through contractions. I was so thankful for the gentle reminders that the pain I was experiencing had a very special purpose, and even though I hadn’t met you yet, you were that special purpose.
But just like the previous time in the tub, things got very hard. Contractions were on top of each other, and I remember crying for a moment that I didn’t even get a break between them. I felt as if I was entitled to at least have a few seconds between contractions before the next one started! I felt daunted that I wasn’t even finished yet. I’d been working so hard for such a long time, and I hadn’t even begun to start pushing yet. How would I find the energy and strength to get through pushing? I complained (again) that I was just too tired of doing this, and I wanted labor to be finished. I wanted all of the sensations to just stop. I remember crying that I would be in labor forever, and I couldn’t do it anymore, be in labor forever. Tara reminded me of all the progress I was making, especially with the pressure I was feeling, and how it was very clear that my baby was moving and getting ready to be born. Audra told me how different this was than the last time I was in the tub, and how my body was doing just what it needed to do.
Still, I remember being daunted that labor had been so much effort up until this point and I still hadn’t even started pushing yet. How in the world, I wondered, would I ever find the energy and strength to push? It took everything I had to just move through contractions! Sometimes I also felt like I should apologize to Audra, Tara, and Catherine for taking so long to birth this baby, as if my labor was a huge inconvenience to them. But I never said anything, because I also knew how much they were also honored to be there birthing with us, and the entire labor they made me feel so good because I knew they were here to support and care for me physically during labor, and be part of the experience with us of your daddy and I welcoming you into our family.
I remember your daddy being in the bathroom with me when things were especially intense, and just shouting out to God to help me get through this, praying for the strength to get through. Your daddy prayed with me as well.
The pressure was becoming so intense with each contraction that I flailed through contractions, writhing from side to side, but unable to find a place or a position that offered any relief. I started feeling a little grunty pushy, like I wanted to bare down just so slightly to get some relief during contractions. Sometime during a contraction, I felt a little pop inside me that almost felt like gas in my bowels. It felt like I had a gigantic poop waiting to come out in both my butt and my birth canal. The pop was my water breaking. Tara saw a small gush of blood come out as well, and a few pieces of vernix. They continued listening to your heartbeat, which remained strong, as usual. I think I may have vomited when my membranes ruptured, because I vaguely remember making a joke about things coming out of me from all over the place.
Catherine helped me out of the tub and dry off. I sat on the toilet to pee, which triggered a contraction but I felt like I had nowhere to go but just sit through it. I turned around and looked at the clock, curious. I was sure it must be about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, but it was only just past 1:00 p.m.. They helped me over to the bed, which was now lined with chux pads. I climbed on my hands and knees. I had cold chills and was sweating with heat, plus still a little wet. It was all I could do to muster “blanket” to ask for it either on or off. Tara instructed me a bit on how to push, encouraging me to wait until I had the urge. Earlier, I had asked Audra if the contractions went away during pushing. I quickly learned that no, they don’t go away.
I leaned forward on propped up pillows and soon had a contraction where I felt the urge to push. I wasn’t sure how, and my first push felt like I was just testing the waters and figuring out what to do. With the next contraction I bared down and pushed. At first, pushing was a very scary feeling, the first moment in labor that felt truly out-of-control. I could feel the strength of the contraction and it was a scary feeling to meet that contraction with my strong pushes. The sensation was unfamiliar and frightening, something very big (you!) inside of my birth canal. After the contraction ended there was no relief to the intensity I was feeling, and for a moment I felt a little panicky. I had never felt something so strong and powerful in my life, and it was pressing on me from the inside of my body and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. It was so scary at first because even when I finished pushing, the sensation remained. It was so intense. Tara encouraged me to let the sensation to push really build up, because pushing takes a lot of energy. So with every contraction, I chanted to myself, “Let it build, let it build.” I realized that in order to push and get through these intense sensations, I had to let myself go and meet each contraction with the strength of my pushing, the strength of my own body. Withe the next contraction, I pushed. I waited until the peak of the contraction, and pushed a few times, baring down with everything I could find within me. The sounds that came out of my mouth surprised me. I have never felt so strong and powerful as during pushing. Pushing was hard work but it was nice to not notice the contractions themselves anymore, and it was nice to finally participate in a way that I couldn’t during contractions. I liked how my body knew how to push, and when the urge came to push, there was nothing to do but to just move with it and push.
However, I was still aware that your head inside me was BIG. It sure felt big. I told the midwives that there is no way it was possibly going to fit, it was just impossible. I thought that if your daddy and I ever had a second child, we should probably just adopt, but at this point I realized that there was no way out but through, and that somehow I was going to push you out. But Tara and Audra both insisted that your head would fit, and it was fitting. Not only did I have a roomy pelvis with plenty of room through which to push you out, but I was also pushing effectively and making progress. The baby was just working now to get under the pubic arch, they told me, but it was close. Just reach inside and feel your baby’s head, they told me. I thought it was impossible, but I reached down to feel your head inside me. I thought it would be impossible for me to feel your head inside me, but I did. You were only about as far away as my second knuckle or so. I couldn’t believe you were that close. I exclaimed, “That’s our BABY!” and was amazed and encouraged to feel your head. It instantly reminded me that you were the purpose for all the work I’d been doing- we had been doing-and that you were that purpose!
Your daddy knelt on the bed beside me, touching and comforting me, and Tara wiped cold washcloths across my forehead and offered me sips of water after each push. Audra asked me if I wanted to see your head, and placed a mirror on the bed below me. It was amazing to see a sliver of head peeking through. I was working so hard and concentrating that I wasn’t really even paying attention to watching you, but I definitely noticed that with each contraction and each push, I could see more and more of your head.
Finally, I felt an uncomfortable burning sensation and I didn’t want to push any more. But when I looked down, I could see so much of your head, and even after I stopped pushing, your head was still visible. “Am I crowning?” I asked, though it was pretty clear and obvious that your head was on its way out! Maybe one more contraction and your head was definitely more out than in. I asked if the head was out, and she said it was out to the chin, and asked me for one more small push and then to stop pushing while she checked for a cord around your neck. I could see the back of your head as I looked down between my legs. I don’t remember anything what your daddy and Audra and Tara each said, but Audra put some oil on my perineum. I watched your head rotate to my left thigh, and then heard the word “shoulder” and before I knew it, you slid out of my body. I didn’t even push out your body, but you glided out of me and were gently eased onto the bed. I heard you cry and I saw you beneath me and joyfully shouted, “We have a baby! We have a baby!” I looked over at your Daddy and felt overwhelmed with how much I loved him, and how we just had a baby together. I felt like it would be impossible to love him any deeper, but I was just so happy, exclaiming that we have a baby! Someone helped me roll over on my back, and I was propped up leaning against pillows with you on my stomach. Tara and Catherine dried you off with warmed flannel receiving blankets, and I was overwhelmed with love for my family. My legs shook uncontrollably. I wasn’t hot or cold, but I was just shaking. Your daddy embraced and held me closely, and we looked at you with amazement.
After a few minutes, Audra asked me to feel the cord, which had stopped pulsing. She believed that our placenta detached from the wall of my uterus very quickly. She started preparing to cut the cord, and your daddy came back from the bathroom. When you came out of my body, you splashed your daddy and got him pretty wet with blood and amniotic fluid, even soaking his pants. Audra clamped the cord and your daddy cut it. By this time the cord had no more blood in it, and you couldn’t feel it at all when it was cut.
I put you to my breast immediately, but you weren’t yet interested in nursing right away. You still had a bit of fluid in your lungs which you were still getting out, and Tara reassured me that it was normal for you to take a few minutes to be interested in nursing. So I just held you, naked against my chest, and fell deeper in love with you, and deeper in love with your daddy. I felt like I must be the most blessed person on the planet to have such a beautiful family. You were created out of the love between your mamma and daddy, and we welcomed you into our lives with so much joy and excitement.
We still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl yet. We were just so excited to finally meet you and we were already so in love with you that we forgot to even check. None of us can actually remember if we checked before or after your cord was cut. We all think it was after, but logically, even your daddy wonders how he could have cut the cord but not noticed. Anyway, we soon learned that we had a daughter, and we were so thrilled! Secretly, I had hoped the entire pregnancy with you that you were our daughter, and it was a wonderful joy to finally see you!
Afterwards, I easily delivered my placenta with a small push when I felt a cramp. Audra reminded me that the placenta had no bones, so it would feel very easy. Then, your daddy held you against his bare chest while Tara checked me for any tears. I had a very small first-degree tear. Tara put a few stitches in to help it heal, and I didn’t even hardly notice because you were back on my chest and I was distracted by how beautiful you were.
At some point we all asked what time you had actually been born, and no one seemed to have paid attention except for Catherine, who said you were born at 2:18 p.m. on Monday, October 24th. After a few hours of holding you against both of our chests, Audra examined you. I sat on the bed eating some rice and soup and watched. She listened to your heart and lungs (both strong and perfect), your respirations, and checked all your reflexes. She checked each part of your body. You were so tiny and precious that I just wanted to kiss you all over. You were born with a full head of soft dark hair. We put a hat on you so that you would stay nice and warm, but I loved to smell you. As I write this, you are now three days old, and I still hold you next to my nose and inhale you. I love the way you smell, and sometimes I want to just lick you the way a mother cat licks her kittens. Your head still smells like it did the day you were born, and I like to take off your little hat and drink in the smell.
Your head was about 13” around, and you were 20.25” long and weighed 7 pounds and 4 ounces. You have a little dimple on your right cheek, and your fingers and toes are long, like piano players. You make beautiful little faces, and your arms would move all over the place, because you couldn’t quite control them. Your APGAR scores were 8 and 9 (at one minute and five minutes), and you are healthy and perfect. There were no complications for either of us during labor. In fact, your heartbeat stayed strong the entire time and you handled labor really well.
I know that this story of your birth makes it sound like giving birth to you was really challenging and hard. While it is true that it was the hardest thing I have ever done, it was also the most incredible thing I have ever done. Even more, it was the most incredible thing your daddy and I got to share together. Neither of us will ever forget this experience of your birth. With your daddy, even though a baby (you!) came out of my body, we brought you into this world together. Your daddy and I both had a baby the day you were born. I did not labor alone. Every challenging moment of the birthing process was worth it to see your face for the first time, and the moment we first held you, I forgot everything about how much work labor had been. We expected labor to be hard work, and it was worth every second. You, my precious daughter, were worth every single moment we spent in labor together, and I would do it again for you in a heartbeat. The amazing thing was how quickly I forgot about the hard parts!
I also want you to know that you were also a part of my body, as well as your daddy and I, giving birth to you. While you were in my womb, you were also experiencing the contractions, and you were moving and working your way down, settling your head into my pelvis, and moving and adjusting as you navigated down the birth canal. You worked really hard to be born as well, and I remember feeling so grateful for you and the way you and I worked together during labor. You also worked really hard, and you were so strong the entire time.
Your midwives, Audra and Tara, and their apprentice Catherine all agree that you are precious and amazing. Audra expressed to us how much she enjoyed being at a birth as beautiful as ours. She said that attending your birth helped remind her why she became a midwife in the first place. Tara also told me how special it was for her to witness you being born and share in this special time of watching our family grow. She told us that it was very much an honor to have spent this time with our family.
The day your daddy and I got married was the first best day of our life. The day you were born was also the best day of our life. We are just so happy, and birthing you was so amazing. You made us each a mother and a father. We are YOUR mamma and daddy!
As I write this, you are now 3 days old and just as precious as the day you were born. Last night I looked at you sleeping and began to cry, remembering that you would never be 1 day old again, and you would never be 2 days old again. I was so in love with you that it made me cry with joy. Today, I love you even more. As I’m typing, you are curled up on my chest, inside of my shirt. Your cheek is against my skin and you are easily close enough to kiss, which is good because I can’t stop kissing you.
I loved being pregnant with you, and I loved giving birth to you. Since you were born, I still think of your birth constantly. I want to remember every single detail of the experience and share it with you. My precious daughter Palesa, you changed our lives the day you were born, and completely filled our hearts with joy. Your daddy and I are overwhelmed with love for each other, and love for you.
I know this letter has gotten very long, but before I end it, I want to tell you the story of how we chose your name, Palesa Sela May. We named you yesterday, and below is something your daddy wrote.
Amy Benson May and Osei May have chosen a name. Our daughter shall be called Palesa Sela May. Palesa (pah-LAY-sah) is an African name from the country Lesotho meaning "flower." Sela (SEE-la) is a biblical name/word meaning "rock." Our little daughter is preciously beautiful as a flower and strong like a rock. She has might in her hands and a strong grip. She can lift up her neck already and she can suck like a Dyson. Her name suits her features and personality. We wanted to get to know her first before naming her. You can see why we waited.