Birth Story #3
After my first two children had their 4th and 2nd birthdays I felt a strong urge to have another child. My husband and I had discussed the idea for several months. Finally, one day I said with confidence to my husband, “Life is an adventure!” I continued, bubbling with excitement, “So, let’s go for it. If we never do it, we will always wonder if we made the right decision. But, if we do, it will definitely be wonderful because we will have a baby!” And he agreed with enthusiasm. Three weeks later a barely existent second blue line appeared on the home pregnancy test. Tentatively, I crossed the length of the house to show my husband the result. “Is it really there?” I whispered, afraid that if I spoke too loud the line might disappear. A doctor’s visit the next week confirmed our test, and we embarked on our next adventure.
My third pregnancy was the easiest of all of them. For the first twelve weeks I was able to run 5 days a week. I even felt energized to continue running until I was almost seven months along. We began planning a homebirth with our midwife, and I knew I would be able to have this baby at home. The trauma from our second child’s birth was still causing me anxiety, even though the transfer to the hospital from the comfort of home resulted in a healthy, 8.5 pound baby.
I naively assumed we had plenty of time to get ready for our third child because the other two had been born well past their expected due dates. The cupcake I ate at a party 4 days before my due date was so amazing, and I immediately regretted it because I had indigestion right away. “I’m so sorry, but I’m feeling a little full, and I think I need to get back to work,” I said to the colleague sitting with me. After the party, I headed to run some errands to tie up loose ends before I started my maternity leave, with the full intention of working another week until I was in labor. That evening, I picked up my kids from day-care, made dinner, and put the kids to bed. Then, I texted my midwife and doula to say, I was feeling a little “crampy”, and I would put my feet up to see if the cramps would go away. We had been planning on organizing the kids’ clothes, washing, folding, and making space for the baby clothes. After the kids were in bed, I told my husband that I thought we should just go ahead and get organized, because I was having some contractions. They didn’t hurt and they were 10-20 minutes apart. I thought, if I went to bed they would go away, and I would have the baby next week.
Around midnight we went to bed, and I listened to a guided meditation to go to sleep. At 2am, I woke up with a strong contraction and the desperate need to urinate. Without waking my husband I went to the bathroom. After I peed I looked in the toilet and it was full of blood and then I had another huge contraction. The phone-call to my midwife was quic She said she was on her way which meant at least an hour until she would arrive. My doula made it to the house at 2:30. Careful to not wake the children, we started walking around the house as I labored with her rubbing my back and giving me encouragement. Between contractions I was listing instructions to my husband: what to do with the clothes we just folded, how to make up the bed for the birth, and he started putting the crib together, and blowing up the birth tub. I felt so relaxed and peaceful, and during each contraction I used the meditation and relaxation techniques I had learned from prenatal yoga and HypnoBabies. When my midwife and her assistant arrived a little after 3am I felt energized and ready to tackle the long labor I had ahead of me.
At some point, around 4am, I thought we should call my parents and ask them to come and take the kids to school so they would be out of the house while I was laboring. They said they were on their way. They wanted to get there by 6:30am to help get the kids’ breakfasts and take them school. A little after 4am my midwife asked me if she wanted her to check my cervix. It was after we had called my parents, and the kids were still sleeping. I waited until I had completed a contraction and got on the bed for her to check my cervix. “Well, you’re 8 centimeters,” she said clinically. Shocked and excited, I got back up to have another contraction while standing because being on my feet felt the most comfortable. She also said the head wasn’t as low and engaged into the pelvis as she would like and suggested I do squats while having a contraction. This task was excruciating. I’m pretty sure my vocalizations during the squatted contractions are what woke up the other two kids. My doula got out of bed and the oldest came to see me in the bedroom. He seemed a little dazed and she suggested they go make birthday cards for the baby in the next room.
The birth tub was just steps away and I really wanted to get in the warm soothing water. The contractions were painful. And the squats must have worked because I could feel the baby getting lower. As I was walking to the tub I had another contraction and felt the urge to push. I said, “Put some of those towels under me, my water is going to break!” And, on the next surge, it did, splashing all of us. I was standing at the foot of the bed, the midwife was kneeling with a flashlight in front of me by my left leg, and her assistant was standing in front of me to my right, and I was draped over her with my arms tight around her neck. My husband said it looked like I was putting her in a head-lock, and bearing down on her neck even more with each push. My water broke at 4:30am, and I could see a lot of meconium in the fluid. My midwife, ever the optimist, didn’t seem worried. “I see the head,” my she said calmly, and I bared down and prepared for the next push. In the next breath she said, “And, there’s the feet!” Perplexed, I looked down. She carefully guided the body out, and then the head. I grabbed my slippery, purple baby and sat down, exhausted. My third baby emerged into the world at 4:36am, and we knew why there was so much meconium. I sat down holding my new baby and looked around the room in disbelief that we had just had a breech delivery. Perhaps it was all of the swimming I had been doing in the last weeks of my pregnancy that gave the baby the opportunity to shift its initial head-down position, to butt-down. She was breathing well, and had a strong heartbeat, and she immediately fell asleep in my arms. The birth tub sat unused in the corner. I had no idea the birth of my third child would change my life forever.
I knew when I looked at her face. I knew when she started nursing and tired quickly. I knew when my midwife performed the newborn exam, and checked her muscle tone. I knew as I held her floppy body that didn’t give any resistance back to mine. She was beautiful and she was amazing, and I knew why I had to have her. For an hour we pondered names, and gave her lots of kisses and snuggles. My parents arrived when they were expected, took some photos of the baby and the other kids, got some breakfast, and then they left to take the kids to school.
Six hours after the baby was born, after she had been weighed (7 pounds 15 ounces), photographed, held, documented with a foot stamp our midwife said she had some concerns about her vital signs. We started the conversation about what I already suspected. “I think she has Down syndrome, or something similar. Her pulse-ox reading isn’t coming up, and I would like to check it again with another machine. If it doesn’t get up to 95% soon, we will have to go to the hospital”. For some reason, I wasn’t worried or scared, just a little nervous, and hopeful that even with Down syndrome our baby would be healthy. When she was 8 hours old we got dressed, me with an ice-pack between my legs, and went to the hospital to have her checked by a neonatologist. They took as right away into the pediatric emergency room. The nurse and doctors congratulated us on our successful delivery and on our strong beautiful baby. After getting checked by a bunch of medical personnel it was determined that she was totally was fine except for having low blood sugar. I couldn’t wake her to nurse so I expressed colostrum into a spoon and she did the impossible. My baby drank the liquid from the spoon like she was far older than her several hours’ existence. This would be the first of many amazing feats our new baby would perform. We left the hospital after 2 hours with the instructions to have her checked by our regular doctor the next day. At four weeks of age we received the phone call from the geneticist with the news we already knew. The official diagnosis gave us the ability to start services and therapies for the baby.
The challenges that come with having children might be replicated in other ways, but having my children has been the greatest adventure of my life. I see how they embody their own adventurous spirit when they take small risks like diving off the diving board or trying a new food. Having a child with a disability has significantly changed how I parent, but most importantly how I engage with the rest of the world. I slow down and relish in the small joys that come with her everyday successes. When I see her take on challenges that seem easy for the rest of us, yet she masters with her tenacity, I realize I can accomplish far more than I thought possible. The past three years have been full of her great achievements. Her example pushes me to exceed my own high expectations for myself. I want my children to look to their mother and see an intelligent and motivated professional, but also a kind and generous citizen. In her short life she already embodies all of these traits, and we are so fortunate to have her in our lives.