Adelaide is 6 weeks old today. I started writing this blog post two weeks ago, but today it’s getting posted, no matter what.
After both Nora’s birth and Zara’s birth, I had their stories written within a week, but this time around it’s felt like I’ve barely had any time to process anything. Between work, having two other children, and the end of the school year, I didn’t have much energy for anything else, but then one month postpartum the blogging bug hit. I wanted to get it all down before I forgot, but of course life got in the way, until tonight when I decided to forgo sleep in order to actually get this post published.
6 weeks ago…
Rewind a little over six weeks ago. Addie wasn’t due until the 13th of May and I was still working a ton, telling our little pumpkin that she needed to stay in as long as possible. I was hopeful she would decide to be born on a weekend instead of a weekday, and told her that quite frequently because I didn’t have time planned for a maternity leave and May was crazy work-wise (more on that in another post). It was the last days of my pregnancy, I wanted to delay the inevitable as long as possible, and I was having a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions.
I had Braxton Hicks contractions with previous pregnancies, but none that were quite as intense as these – there were multiple instances when I actually thought I might be going into labor and started timing contractions in preparation for calling our midwife, Kim. Likely, lack of sleep and stress was a big contributor, but I could tell there was no way I was going to be pregnant up to my due date.
The beginning of the end:
On Wednesday, May 3rd, I lost my mucous plug, and on Friday the 5th, I had regular contractions for over an hour during a morning conference call with a client. They weren’t too intense, but I started writing times down in the margin of the notepad where I was taking notes. More Braxton Hicks, it turned out, though it felt like the beginning of something real.
The contractions died down that Friday morning, but I kept thinking about them all day, and finally called my mom that evening to update her on things. She was planning to come for baby’s birth, but her flight wasn’t scheduled to arrive until Tuesday.
I told her what had been going on and that it was very likely I might have a baby before she arrived. I wanted to ask her to come – because sometimes you just need your mom – but didn’t because I knew it would cost her money to change her flight and rental car.
Thank goodness my mom could tell I needed her and made the decision (on her own) to change her flight to Saturday morning – if she’d have come as planned on Tuesday she may have missed Addie’s birth. Of course, she changed her flight, came Saturday and then I felt fine, normal, and not at all like I was about to go into labor all day. I felt more than a little like the boy who cried wolf: a feeling that would repeat itself over the next few days.
Sunday, my mom and I went to church, went shopping with the girls, and took Nora to an end of the year party for dance. Late in the afternoon, I had Braxton Hicks contractions for almost two hours, but again they died down before I got anyone too excited.
Monday I felt normal again and was in super work mode, trying to get as much done as possible before baby came. I usually work nights after the girls go to bed, but on Monday I was up especially late – until 3:30 Tuesday morning – trying to get as much done as I possibly could. Little did I know it, but I would regret staying up so late, because not an hour after I had finally gone to sleep, I woke up feeling wet and with soaked pants.
My water broke – or so I thought.
I went to the bathroom, noticed some light pink staining – clear evidence that I was dilating – changed my pants, laid a towel on the bed and tried to go back to sleep. I was pretty sure that I would be having a baby that day and I knew I needed to get as much rest as possible after my ridiculously lat night working. Not that sleep was really possible.
At 5:15 am, I started timing the contractions. I hadn’t said anything to Chris yet, who was sound asleep, and decided that I would wait to let the midwife know so that she could get more rest too. Of course my mind was racing with everything that needed to be done, but I figured that if I had to operate on not enough sleep, at least everyone else should be well rested and in their right mind.
At 5:50 I woke up Chris and I finally broke down and called Kim. I had been seeing a regular pattern of contractions that were 5-7 minutes apart and lasting for about 60 seconds. Nothing was too intense to manage, but given how quickly things had progressed during Zara’s birth we weren’t taking any chances.
Chris moved our dining room table, started inflating the birth pool and setting out all the supplies, while I worked to make our bed with a plastic drop cloth and another fitted sheet, plus doing some miscellaneous cleaning and getting ready things. My mom heard all the commotion, woke up, and came upstairs to help. Not long after Nora woke up and joined us upstairs as well, while Zara slept through all the initial commotion.
Standing up and starting to move around made the contractions come closer together – they felt like they were 3 minutes apart, and I called Kim again at 6:25 to see what her ETA was. She said she was almost done packing and would arrive soon, and indeed she was at my house 20 minutes later.
While Kim set up all her equipment, I ate a bowl of cereal in hopes that the food would help me have more energy. At 7:16, she took my blood pressure and temperature, and listened to baby’s heart beat. My contractions were still pretty frequent – 3-4 minutes apart, but not lasting more than about 40 seconds.
With all the setup done, everyone – Kim, her assistant, my mom, Chris, Nora, and Zara (who was now awake) – was sitting in the living watching me and I felt a lot like a fish in a fish bowl, so at 8:00, I decided to go lay down in our bed. Clearly things were not progressing as quickly as they had with Zara; I decided it would be good to try and get more rest, and I wanted to be somewhere where I didn’t feel like I was being stared at.
I rested for about an hour, not really sleeping, but enjoying being in my own space, in the quiet. I felt like laying in bed was making the contractions slow down, so at 9 I decided to get up and be on my feet to speed things along. I’m not sure what it was – lack of sleep or not enough time to really think about the birth in the months leading up to it, but I wasn’t really in a place where I could focus on enjoying the process. Instead, I just wanted it to move along as if labor and birth were to-do items that needed to be checked off a list.
When I was in labor with Zara, I wanted to bake a birthday cake, but things progressed so quickly I didn’t get to do it. Since things were obviously not moving quickly this time around, I asked Nora and Zara if they wanted to bake a cake. They did, so we hung out in the kitchen and I supervised them mixing up the batter, while Chris made food for Kim and her assistant.
Impatience sets in:
By 9:35, the cake was in the oven and I was really starting to get impatient. Also that “boy who cried wolf” feeling was starting to creep back in. I was still having regular contractions that I had to breathe through, but they didn’t really feel intense at all, and the baby still felt really high. I wasn’t feeling any of the pressure I remember feeling with Nora and Zara. I started doing laps around my living room, hallway, and bedroom.
At 10:26, I did something I thought I would never do: I asked Kim to check me.
Third baby and my very first vaginal exam – I never had one during either of my other births, because I didn’t think they were necessary. In this case I was starting to feel like I had called everyone over for no reason, and for the first time I just really wanted to know how things were progressing. I wanted to know that this was real and not just more Braxton Hicks.
I was 90% effaced with a small anterior lip. Also – surprise – my water had not broke, because I still had an intact bag. (So either I had a small forebag rupture earlier that morning or I wet my pants a little…who knows.)
Hearing that I was 90% there was pretty relieving – not because it was so painful and awful that I needed to know it would be over soon, but actually the exact opposite: because I needed to know I was not crazy and I was indeed having “real” contractions.
During the exam, Kim determined that baby was hanging out on my right side, so afterwards I went into the living room and started doing cat/cow stretches on hands and knees to see if it would encourage baby to move into place.
Zara appeared from the basement where she and Nora were watching a movie and decided to join me in a little yoga too.
I was finally starting to feel a little more pressure and the contractions seemed more intense (perhaps just knowing I was that close made them feel stronger?), so at 11:00 I gave myself permission to get in the birth pool.
I had been waiting because I didn’t want to get in and out, and I wanted to make sure that things were serious. When I finally got in the pool, it felt so nice.
I labored in the pool mostly kneeling. Sitting felt uncomfortable, but as long as I could kneel and close my eyes and breathe through contractions, everything was manageable.
I was still able to carry on conversations between contractions, and the girls kept coming over to ask me if I was pushing yet. Zara, especially, kept asking and was so excited to watch me give birth – she was just as impatient as I was after a 7.5 hour labor.
I never really felt like pushing until the very end, but I occasionally would give little experimental pushes to see if it would move things along. I still wasn’t feeling pressure and Adelaide stayed pretty high up until the very end. Then, all of a sudden at 11:47, I felt her drop right down into place. I said “Oh shit,” because it was so sudden and completely surprised me. And with that, my body took over.
Birth in 13 minutes
I reached down and could feel the bulging bag of waters, and moaned, “And the head is right there.” All of a sudden labor got serious. My mom called Zara over (Nora was already nearby) and Kim and her assistant jumped into action.
On the next contraction, my water broke (for real!). After that, I felt like I was having one long continuous contraction. I tried to slow things down because, even after a morning of trying to speed the process up, I did not feel ready for the crazy involuntary pushing that is the final stage of labor. I was still kneeling in the pool. I remember just trying to breathe and stop my body from pushing – which, of course, is impossible – thinking, I’m not ready for this incredibly hard part.
At 11:58 Addie crowned, at 12:00 her head came out, and at 12:01 I pulled her up to my chest. She gave a small cry when she first came out of the water, but didn’t scream lustily like both of her sisters did. We realized very quickly that she had a nuchal cord (cord wrapped all the way around her neck), so Kim took her, unwrapped it, and started rubbing her back pretty aggressively to get her to cry.
For me, it felt like an incredibly long time before Addie really gave a good cry, though looking back at our video, I can see that it was less than a minute. She definitely had a slower transition to the world than both Nora and Zara did, likely due to staying so high and not being squeezed enough on her way out. It all felt really tense for a moment or two in comparison to our other births, but with some extra back rubbing she pinked up and started crying.
We stayed in the pool for a while until the placenta was delivered, then Chris took Addie while I moved to the bed.
Once I was settled, he brought her to me and I laid with her on my chest so we could snuggle and attempt nursing while Kim monitored us. Laying in bed, my lack of sleep finally, really hit me, and after I got her started nursing I dozed off for a 20 minute catnap.
Just after 2:30, I went to the bathroom, took a quick shower, and then we cauterized her umbilical cord with two candles rather than cutting it.
Cord burning has been around for 100’s of years and can help to reduce rates of infection. It wasn’t something that we had previously done, but when Kim offered it as an option during our home visit, Chris and I thought, “why not?” It seemed like a nice way to slow things down and (it takes 10-15 minutes to burn the cord) and we thought it might be special to do something different for Addie’s birth.
Nora and Zara were super into it, as they were for every other part of Addie’s birth, and were quite serious about helping to record it all.
Once her cord had been burned, and after a little snuggle time with dad,
it was time for Addie’s checkup.
She was 7lbs 3 oz (my smallest baby) and 21 inches long.
We got Addie dressed in an itty-bitty cloth diaper and the same little sister onesie that Zara wore right after she was born, with lots of help from big sisters.
And then grandma got her first snuggle in before I took her back to nurse.
Kim and her assistant left at 3:30 after starting a load of laundry and packing up the birth pool. Chris and our big girls came and joined me on the bed again for a family meeting to discuss baby names, while my mom made chocolate frosting and frosted the cake that I had baked with Nora and Zara earlier in the day.
After much debate, we settled on Adelaide Elizabeth, though I’ll admit I wasn’t quite convinced right away and told Chris and my mom that I wanted to wait a bit before we told anyone. For some reason she felt like the hardest one to name and I wanted to sit with it for a while before going public – hence the nameless Instagram photo that I tortured everyone with.
While we were waiting to share her name, Chris made phone calls to family, I checked email and put out fires for an hour, and Addie nursed. After dinner – some of the most delicious Thai food I’ve had in a long time – Chris convinced me we were not going to change Addie’s name, and we had a short birthday party complete with us singling “Happy Birthday” and blowing out a zero candle.
It’s silly, but it’s a tradition I love…plus, after labor and birth on no sleep, cake (and sugar) is pretty magical – though not magical enough to keep me from snuggling up with Addie in our bed and passing out after my long, crazy day.