(Alternate title: The Birth Story That Took Longer to Write Than to Actually Happen)
I'm sharing another of my own birth stories because this once-newborn of mine turns fifteen today! Michael is my second son on earth, conceived soon after the loss at 10 weeks of an older sibling who we named Joseph Mary.
We learned we were pregnant in July of 2006. Much of the pregnancy was hard. I struggled with a lot of fear since we had just lost Joseph Mary only two months earlier and that was such a shock and heart break. I was constantly analyzing how I felt and I remember checking every single time I went to the bathroom preparing myself to see the blood. But I did feel sicker this time. That, at least, was a comfort. My hCG levels were good and the doctor even put me on a natural progesterone skin cream just in case that was the issue with the last pregnancy, telling me that there were no drawbacks to using it as a precaution as long as you wean yourself off carefully. I used that until about 16 weeks or so. We did have one episode of light spotting at only nine weeks or so and I went in that day. It was thrilling and surprising that we were able to pick up his tiny heartbeat that early! Such a grace. Hearing that sound brought a little relief to the worry.
I struggled a lot again with lightheadedness and low blood pressure, especially in the morning. Later in the pregnancy, I had crazy nosebleeds that would go on and on and on, usually in the middle of the night. I remember passing quarter size clots through my nose. (I know you wanted to know that.) Every time I was beginning to think that maybe I'd need to go to the hospital, they would finally stop. I'm sure part of it was the dry air of winter but I wish I had been proactive enough to have really have looked into what was going on and fixed the underlying cause because it couldn't have been good for me. It was likely a sign of a B12 deficiency (as are the lightheadedness and heart palpitations I experience during pregnancy) which I learned of way too many pregnancies later.
This was also the pregnancy when back issues started. I never realized after John Paul was born that my abdominal muscles never completely healed. Diastasis recti was never talked about back in those old days, let alone pelvic floor therapy. I felt okay but once the weight of Michael's pregnancy grew, it threw my back off in all crazy ways since there was no support in the front. There were lots of tears and there was no money for frequent chiropractic visits. John Paul was born six days earlier than the estimated due date so I prepared myself to be ready for that. I was due officially on St. Patrick's Day and part of me did think it would be fun to have the baby that day. I didn't want to be caught so completely off guard this time around like the last time so I was ready earlier. During the time between John Paul's birth and Michael's pregnancy our doctor stopped attending births at home. The insurance company raised his rates too high for it to make sense for him. We went along with him and decided to birth at the hospital this time instead of switching. At the time, I still wasn't all into my birthy stuff and made the decision without a whole lot of research or thought and I regret that a lot. You know those things you wish you could go back and redo in life? This is one of those. We took the hospital tour and sat in on their class (with our two year old sitting in my lap eating Cheerios) because I wanted to know where things were and what the room was like. The class itself was pretty lame. Here's what we will try to do to you when you come in. But at least I was able to get a look at the room itself and know what the rules were for being set free once the baby was born. I also learned that people (then at least) will look at you funny if you ask about bathtubs and if CD players are available. We went to bed Friday, March 9 at around 9 p.m. after making love. I fell asleep quickly and was jolted awake only an hour later at 10 p.m. with what I realized quickly was a VERY strong contraction. I lay there for a few minutes and another one came. I woke Brian to let him know and I remember going downstairs to the bathroom and walking through them. They were spaced a few minutes apart but they were strong. I remember getting in the shower figuring that either that would help calm them down or at least make me feel ready to leave for the hospital. Once I got out I remember them picking up a lot while getting my face ready to go (oh, yes I did). Brian came down and I remember finally relenting that we did, in fact, need to call our friend Jim who lived around the corner from us to come watch John Paul and that we did, in fact, really need to get out of there because things were getting very intense very fast. We had a half hour drive in front of us. I felt bad about waking Jim up when he had two children of his own already but they had volunteered and were some of the sweetest people in the world, previous homebirthers themselves. He would come and the plan was that my mother-in-law would start the drive up to take his place. I made Brian make all the calls because who wants to be on the phone during a contraction? (Or, if you're me, who wants to be on the phone ever?) Our doctor was already at the hospital for another birth and he said he would wait. Jim got to our house quickly and I remember having a beginning of transition type of contraction while standing in the doorway ready to leave. We left right away for a pretty...intense...car ride. Never transition in a car if you can help it. Never transition in a car that is a half hour away from its destination on a rainy night with so. many. stoplights. on the way. Heck, just don't leave the house if at all possible. I was so grateful that we had purchased a used minivan before this labor because I was able to move around in a limited way, bending, swaying, squatting, groaning in the back seat hunched over the kids' car seats. I did remember during this time to start pulling from the visualization aids from the Hypnobirthing book my sister had lent me. I tried the best I could to relax, to breathe, and to visualize opening. It was helpful but hard to do while hunched over the car seat. We arrived at the hospital's emergency room around 11:20 p.m. and the clerk knew what we were there for, smart lady. She told me to get into a wheelchair and I was in no position to argue, though that felt so unnatural to what my body wanted to do. Brian ran to park the car while some random man wheeled a writhing and twisting me down to the room. I may have tried to bolt from the wheelchair, it's all a bit fuzzy. The nurse who greeted me there tried to make me put on a gown. I gave her a look and said words that I don't remember but basically equivalent to "NO way in hades are you going to make me worry about my outfit right now, woman." I may have scared her because she didn't come back and she was replaced by a nurse used to working with "Dr. E.'s patients." I appreciated that and I promise, I wasn't mean or intending to be difficult but have you ever been in transition while someone tried to talk to you about your outfit choice? Dr. E. came in (God's grace that he just happened to already be there that night) and was surprised to find me already at 9 cm. It was so so intense. I'm convinced that while it's great when a labor is quick and it means that everything is lined up well and ready to go, it can also mean the labor is much stronger since your body is doing the same exact thing but in less time. The visualization actually did help and I remember the image of a rose opening being the one that was easiest to remember in the moment. A few minutes later and I was feeling the pressure and the pushing and the "dear silly man, I'm sorry, but there is no way I am NOT pushing right now." Brian got into position since our doctor had asked if he was interested in catching the baby. Brian was very much interested. In one agonizing push out came that sweet little head and according to Brian, the rest of him "just shot out." There are no words for that moment I experienced right after. It was this primal and visceral need to hold my baby. A need I could feel in my throat and my body. I can still feel the traces of it. There was no control over my arms as I reached for him and pulled him to my bare chest. (At some point just before pushing I had ripped off my shirt.) I don't know what I would've done if they had taken him even for a moment and thank God I didn't need to find out since they handed him right to me. A boy! Another sweet baby boy and he was perfect and oh. my. sweet. goodness. what. just. happened?!? It was 11:42 p.m. The entire labor was a wild and crazy hour and forty two minutes.
His cord was clamped after it was done pulsing. I don't remember much about the third stage and the placenta, though I wish I did. I do remember the pain of the stitches from the tear because he came out so quickly. But I held my sweet baby boy the whole time despite the chills and shakes. Whether they were from shock or just normal post-birth hormone shakes, I'm not sure. I was thrilled and in shock and in love and exhausted. He was weighed at six pounds 15.5 ounces. We joked that the extra half ounce must've put me over the edge and my body was in evacuation mode (John Paul was six pounds 15 ounces as well) necessitating the whirlwind labor. He was 21 inches long and absolutely perfect. I could barely let him go to take a glorious (and dizzying) post birth shower.
Pretty soon after, the doctor went home telling me I could leave whenever I felt up to it. I would've been ready that very minute but we had to wait to see about the Rh issue since I'm negative and Brian is positive and we also had to do that whole "name the baby" thing that they make you do. We waited for the blood test to come back and tried to get some sleep while I cradled the most perfect newborn in the world in the crook of my arm. And since hospitals are so conducive to rest, I got probably 46 minutes worth of sleep. Very early that morning of March 10 we decided on the name Michael Joseph - Michael because of St. Michael's awesomeness (my grandmother told me later, "Every family needs a Michael.") and Joseph in honor of the little one without whose sacrifice this new little person would not exist.
His blood type was positive so I ended up taking the Rhogam and we (very very impatiently) waited for what seemed like eternity. I just needed someone to open some closet, pull out the Rhogam and stick it in me and for some reason that took four hours. Four very long hours. I couldn't wait to be home and I missed John Paul so much. It felt so odd and off not having our family together at such a big moment and the hospital felt strange and uncomfortable and cold. It finally arrived and we were able to go at noon. If they hadn't made me use a wheelchair, I probably would have run. (Just kidding. I'm not that much of a super birther. I would have humorously hobbled.)
Looking back I very much wish I would have just stayed home and had the baby there. Had I known how fast it was going to be and how close we were to having a baby in the car, I probably would have and this was a huge factor in our future decisions. I am grateful that I got a taste of the hospital, though, because it helps me help other women having a hospital birth and I'm grateful for a doctor who was supportive of natural birth. And I'm grateful for a husband who knows how to drive fast. His birth was beautiful - beautiful in an intense, crazy, wild, powerful sort of way. I'm not sure I'll ever cease to be in awe that God saw fit to trust us with another of His children and the crazy way He brings them here. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to convey to this boy how much love I have for him. I'm so eternally grateful for the gift of the amazing little person who shot out and changed our world forever. My grandma's right: Every family needs a Michael.