I've been writing this story in my mind since before she arrived. In some regards wanting to know how it will go and in others just wanting to get a head start! Nonetheless this is the story of how a beautiful little lady came into our world May 19, 2010.
Having given birth once before at home I knew what to expect. Although so much happens from the time you give birth to raising a young one and going through a second pregnancy at the same time that when the time approached, I needed some re-education. Knowing full well to avoid the TV shows about birth experiences I pulled out my books on birth stories and watched a few real ones online. What I was really looking for though was the second baby experience. How is that different from the first? (If you haven't read my first birth experience it is in my notes from 2009) The search was unsuccessful, at least for what I was expecting to find - encouragement and perhaps tips. What I did know was that second babies tend to come faster than firsts, BUT nothing is for certain and every birth is different.
In my first pregnancy I had made the mistake of telling everyone the "due date" only to have my baby three weeks later in a whole other month and year. I say mistake because there is a certain emphasis we tend to put on that day and yet in reality there is a six week or more period of time when the baby can come that is normal. Our African friends don't get due dates, they get a "some time around May" kind of estimated arrival time. We do the same with animals. At that time though I was being told horror stories of late term pregnancies and asked about possible medical interventions which caused my already vulnerable state to escalate with anxieties about being pregnant forever and/or losing my child. So this time, I didn't tell anyone the "due date" knowing full well the baby would come when she was ready as the old proverb says, the apple falls from the tree when it's ripe. With all that said, I was 41 1/2 weeks pregnant when this birth story begins.
My midwife Debbie, who is largely a part of our family, came for our regularly scheduled appointment at 10:00am Wednesday May 19th. (She is amazing and we highly recommend her.) She comes and spends a total of an hour and a half at our home but probably only a third of that time is about me and the baby - the rest of the time is fellowship in Christ and relationship building which is vital to the parent/midwife dynamic but also makes a great bonus to the visit. (The sad part is after the baby is born we miss out on those visits, but there is always the next baby to look forward to!) Anyway, while she was here, I said, "I think we have another week to go," expecting that she would come at the same gestation time as Zeke. When she left Zeke and I took our daily nap. When we woke up I used the bathroom and noticed my mucous plug was coming out aka bloody show. "Uh oh!" I said, and called the midwife, husband, and mom.
After half an hour of timing contractions (and interacting with a toddler) they seemed to be seven minutes apart and about a minute long. I decided to call it and have everyone make their way here. I was a little unsure just because of the false alarm a few weeks prior. It turned out to be the right decision after all. Everyone made it here in great time. (Although my sister-in-law was at work and the assisting midwife had family issues and neither of them made it to the birth) Darryl got home and quickly filled the birthing pool and got things situated with Zeke in the backpack while I breathed and relaxed through contractions on our bed, excited to be giving birth finally. For the previous almost two weeks I had not been able to walk without pain from all the loosening of the joints in the pelvis and on top of that had post-nasal-drip-coughy-cough-yuckiness.
By the time Debbie arrived the contractions were getting more intense and closer together, now every four minutes. She got things situated and mom arrived as well. So Zeke was now occupied out doors and Debbie and Darryl joined me on the bed and we had great conversations and laughs in between contractions. After getting up a few times to go the bathroom it was evident that movement made contractions come more frequently so Debbie suggested I get up and move around. "What?! I thought, then saying 'I don't think I can stand up during a contraction.'" Debbie reassured, "Sure you can!" So I did it, walked around and sure enough stood up during an intense contraction! (By the way, I've heard it said in business you can have it two of three ways: Fast Cheap Right. You pick the combination. So in a similar way, if you are going to have a fast labor, it's not going to be easy.) At this point the contractions were getting more intense. I was wondering when would be a good time to get in the birthing pool, and we determined now would be just as good as any. With Zeke it seemed like labor got easier or more manageable and I felt more alive in between contractions probably because I was relaxing more. However, this time around when I got in the water I felt like it lifted my belly up but immediately brought on a contraction.
We had a beautiful day and a gorgeous yard/garden for me to look at during contractions. Still, in between them we seemed to have a different mini conversation and when they came on everyone fell silent as I breeeeeaaaaaaaaathed deep. This breathing was helping but at this point every contraction was more intense than the last and were getting less and less manageable. I mentioned this to Debbie and took gulps of seltzer water which was so refreshing. I had been in the water only about thirty minutes and could hear and see Zeke running and playing outside with his Gramma. I told Debbie I felt like I was about ready to push soon but we still hadn't seen that gap in contractions indicating my readiness in body. However, on the next contraction I felt her head emerging! Sure enough, it kept on coming out. I yelled, "get the camera!" But by the time Darryl got it on, her head was fully emerged and then he put the camera back down in time to catch her. (I never did get to push, my body and baby did it all on their own.)
Our baby girl was born into her Daddy's loving hands! He pulled her up out of the water and placed her onto my chest. She was so quiet and calm but breathing and perfectly normal. She nestled in and decided to go ahead and take a nap. In less than ten minutes she was nursing well and has ever since. While we were in the pool bonding and relishing the moment I felt like it was her and I alone and I realized how she came into the world and that those same loving hands that caught her would some day give her away in marriage and I had a good little cry. I told Darryl this later thinking that he and Debbie had left the room for the moment but he said, "no, we were there too." Funny how things are in that moment.
So our little girl was born, she was a 9/10 in APGAR, minus one point for a little less pinkish color at one minute born than should be and at five minutes was perfect. Darryl got to cut the cord and I got out for a shower and then into bed in time for dinner. The labor was a mere 3 hours long. It was intense, but I wouldn't say painful. Something I learned this time was about afterbirth pains. They apparently get stronger with each baby and boy were they! That was the painful part. I barely remember having them with Zeke more than the first day or two, and here we are five days later and there is still a faint remnant of the stabbing cramping sensation of uterine involution going on in my lower abdomen. Next time I'm going to be prepared with some serious herbal reinforcements and moist hot packs!
Zeke seemed concerned with her crying when he came in to see her just born while I was still in the pool and still is a little bit, but every day he is making great strides in adjusting. He touches her gently, points out her facial features, kisses her and does the sign for baby. It has helped him to know he can still nurse when he wants to even when he is sharing with a new baby. Thank God he gave us two!
There is so much more I could write about but that goes beyond just the birth. I feel so so blessed. The birth was so perfect, in timing, setting and intensity and everything. Just having Debbie and Darryl as the birthing team was really intimate and special as they coached me really well. All the while Zeke and his Gramma were enjoying each other's company which took that load off us all. I'm healing really well and quickly, although I'm staying in my pajamas lest anyone think it's back to business as usual! Thanks to everyone for praying, God heard! We are so thankful that we were able to have another successful homebirth and look forward to more in the future.
Hadassah Naomi Russell 8.11lbs 20in born at 6:06pm Wednesday, May 19, 2010 fearfully and wonderfully made.
Hadassah = 'hidden'; Ester's (meaning 'star' in Persia) Jewish name before the exile; both names also mean 'of the myrtle tree' which I found a scripture verse referring to this being a place angel's dwelt. I like to think that makes her hidden in Christ.
Naomi = 'beautiful woman'