Welcoming with love Alessandra Isabel, born Saturday April 6th at 4:24 p.m. 8lbs, 15oz and 20 inches long!
I wanted to write my baby girl's birth story while it was still fresh in my mind. Everything happened so quickly, and I was afraid if I didn't document every last detail it would slip out of my mind during the newborn period (exhaustion, sleepless nights, round the clock nursing). I was a week overdue, and as I mentioned in a previous post, not in the best of spirits. I had an appointment with my midwives on Friday morning, and they stripped my membranes and gave me some more natural induction methods to try. We also tentatively scheduled a biophysical profile with a doctor in town for the following week to check amniotic fluid levels and other such necessities at the end of a long pregnancy. I was desperately hoping to go into labor on my own before this week, but considering how long my pregnancy was with Tony, I wasn't too optimistic.
Saturday morning, Will, my mom and I took Tony to the park so he could burn off some energy.
Slides are serious business.
My mom and Will chased Tony around the playground while I sat on a nearby bench and breathed through some contractions that appeared to be a little stronger than normal (this was around 10am, I might add). I noticed that while they weren't exactly regular, they were occurring with some sort of frequency and I decided I should start timing them. They were anywhere from 7 minutes to half an hour apart, so I decided it wasn't important and just kind of walked around. We went home, and I started having stronger contractions that seemed a little closer together. I made it a point to keep myself hydrated, and I ate a small lunch while my mom put Tony down for a nap. By 1:00, the pains were getting stronger and closer together, and I found myself unable to talk through them. I was focusing on my breathing, and changing positions, and doing the "belly dance" moves I had read about to take the pressure off my lower back and hips. I texted my midwives and doula, and assured them that it may very well be a false alarm, but I thought I should let them know I was having semi-regular contractions. One of my midwives texted me back, and suggested I try and take a nap.
Well, I gave it the good old college try, but very soon after I trudged upstairs and flopped down on my bed, I had three more intense contractions, and there wasn't any way I could possibly sleep through them. I went back downstairs and told my mom if she wanted a rental car, she needed to get it now. (Obviously, we had no idea how long my labor would be, and my mom wanted to have a car in case I was in for another 27-hour labor. Can't blame her for not wanting to be housebound with Tony that whole time). It was about 2:00 when I had Will call my midwives and doula, and informed them that this was probably the real thing, and the contractions were picking up pretty quickly. I was in the living room, down on all fours and moaning my way through each contraction. I kept thinking, "okay, this is intense but not too bad, I can do this, women have been doing this since the beginning of time, don't wimp out now," etc. Will started throwing the essentials into the trunk of our car, and we called our friend Stephen over so he could stay at the house with Tony while my mom picked up the rental car. My midwives called back and said they would meet us at the birth center at 3:30. It was officially go time!
I won't lie, that car ride was difficult. I was experiencing intense back labor, and even with the front seat reclined, I was having a hard time relaxing my way through each contraction. We dropped my mom off at the airport, and she gave me a hug and kiss and wished us the best. Will put his cell phone in "stopwatch" mode so he could time each contraction as he drove. While we were headed for the birth center (which was 45 minutes away), I let him know when each contraction was starting and when it stopped. I was in my own little world, listening to my Hypnobirthing tracks on my iPod and breathing through the pain, but Will was getting more and more nervous and each contraction came closer together. Apparently, his foot kept pressing down further and further on the gas pedal.
We pulled into the parking lot of the birth center, and no joke, I took a flying leap out of the car and kind of threw myself over the trunk of our sedan. Think Wayne and Garth meeting Alice Cooper in Wayne's World; the "we're not worthy! we're not worthy!" pose. I kept swinging my hips back and forth, trying to breathe through an intense contraction, when Brittney (one of my midwives) pulled into the parking lot. She immediately got out of the car and helped me into the birth center, and led me towards the birth room while Will started bringing everything inside. My doula, Maureen, joined us as well and immediately started counter-pressure on my lower back (which was glorious, by the way). It was at that point I started feeling very nauseous, the same way I felt when I was in transition with Tony. I frantically grabbed at a Chux pad, because I was determined not to projectile vomit all over the bed. Brittney asked if I felt sick, and when I said yes she handed me a bowl. Good thing, because my instincts were correct. After throwing up, Brittney asked if she would like it if she checked me before I got into the birthing tub. I hesitated at first, because I didn't know how I would handle it if I was only 4cm dilated, but I decided to find out anyway. She helped me onto the bed just as Charlotte (the other midwife) came into the room. Brittney smiled at me and informed me that I was completely dilated and effaced, and my first thought was "yeah right. Clearly I'm being punked. It hasn't even been six hours since I started feeling contractions." At that point, I felt like I would die if I didn't get in the birthing tub right away, so Brittney and Charlotte helped me into the water while Maureen continued the counter pressure massage and while stayed close by me.
Ahh, the warm water. I can't even begin to describe how much relief I felt. I asked Charlotte if this was the famous "aquadural" I've heard midwives describe before. Before I could get too comfortable, however, Will told everyone in the room he wanted to shave. (I really feel I should explain this. My husband is the type of guy who can shave his face at 7am, only to look like a homeless person by noon. He was pretty scruffy after not shaving for a few days, and he didn't want to irritate our newborn baby's skin with scruff. Sweet and understandable, but slightly untimely). While everyone in the room looked at Will in stunned silence, he asked, "I mean do I have time? Is the baby coming now, or do we have a few more hours?" Excuse me? A few more HOURS? This was my reaction:
Charlotte told Will he would have time if he made it quick, so he flew to the bathroom and shaved in record time. At that point, my contractions were so intense I couldn't even talk between them, but I felt this intense, unbearable pressure and the need to push. At that point I kind of went into panic mode ("this can't be happening, it's too soon, I haven't been in labor long enough"), but clearly my body had other ideas. Brittney asked me if I needed to push, and I responded by screaming. I can't even describe how much I wanted to be like one of those cool, calm, collected women in the natural childbirth YouTube videos, or the women on The Business of Being Born, but no. Every time my body gave me the cue to start pushing, I went into Banshee Woman mode and screamed my head off. I was clutching Will's hand for dear life, and at one brief point I saw him frantically yank off his wedding ring and stuff it in his pocket (apparently I had a death grip on him). I started screaming "I'm dying!!!" and Brittney and Charlotte were quick to reassure me that I was not, in fact, on my way to meet Jesus. At one point, Charlotte knelt down next to me and quietly said I should just let my body do what it needed to do, and not to fight the pain. It didn't stop me from screaming, but just hearing that reassurance was enough to convince me to just let myself go, and let the pain take me away. I knew I was pushing the baby out with the next contraction, and I felt so much relief/terror/anxiety/excitement when Brittney announced that the head was out. I pushed one more time, and heard Brittney say "Marisa, here's your baby." Through this haze of pain, I heard Will saying "Oh my God! Oh my God!" and I turned around in the tub and opened up my arms to hold our new baby.
I was sobbing, gasping, and saying "oh my angel, I love you, I love you!" over and over again. At one point, I looked between the legs and said "Oh my God, it's a girl!" Will started sobbing along with me, and Charlotte and Brittney suctioned her mouth and nose, monitored her heart rate and covered her up with a towel while I snuggled her close to me. Brittney informed me that my water didn't break, and Alessandra had been born in the caul. It was Brittney's first "caul birth," and she said it looked like Alessandra had been wearing an astronauts helmet when she came out. My only regret is that we weren't able to get a picture of her in the amniotic sac.
After a while, my amazing midwives helped me out of the tub and led me to the bed, where I changed into my I Dream of Cosmos labor gown (which unfortunately I didn't get to labor in!) and we waited for the arrival of the placenta. Alessandra-we had decided on her name a long time ago-was snuggled up close on my chest, and we had a chance to breastfeed immediately. I remember thinking "thank God I'm done, she's here and now we can relax" but I still felt a significant amount of pain, especially in my lower back. Charlotte was pretty sure the placenta was sitting directly on my lower spine, so she gave me an herbal concoction to speed things up a bit. I delivered the placenta, Charlotte and Brittney checked for tears (I didn't tear at all-I was so amazed and so thankful, especially after such a quick birth!), and Little Miss and I got down to business with more breastfeeding.
Mama might look like roadkill, but fortunately our new baby is rocking the cuteness factor.
Alessandra was breastfeeding like a champ, and we managed to get in eight whole nursing sessions before she finally conked out for a little while.
Nursing is seriously hard work.
We were given the clear to head home anytime after 8:00, and we eventually left around 9:00. I couldn't believe the difference I felt between Tony and Alessandra's birth. I seriously felt like I hadn't even had a baby. The first two nights were definitely on the rough side, as my milk hadn't come in yet and Alessandra would get so frantically hungry she would start crying hysterically if I didn't nurse her right away. But it's been 48 hours, my milk came in, and our beautiful little principessa is sleeping soundly in her bassinet. My mom has kept the house running smoothly, and she's been an absolute godsend with Tony (who, by the way, is fascinated by his baby sister. We ask him what the baby says and he goes, "waahhhhhh!!!"). Our brand new family of four is getting to know one another, and it's been exhausting, slightly stressful, but the most amazing blessing I ever could have hoped for.
Couldn't resist this adorable little onesie.
Tony headed over to give little sister a kiss.
The loves of my life. Thank you God for my beautiful, perfect family!!
I am so grateful to the amazing, caring, compassionate midwives at the Edenway Birth Center, for allowing me to have the birth I hoped for while taking such wonderful care of Alessandra and I. I'm also grateful to my doula Maureen for providing such fantastic support during my (however brief!) labor. This whole experience was so intense and joyful, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.