A Birth Story, Part Four (The Birth)

When I booked the reservation at the hotel, something told me that my little girl would cut our visit short.  I completely relaxed during that final day, and perhaps that is what coaxed my littlest love to arrive: a mommy’s body doesn’t cooperate well when it is in a stressful situation.

(*See footnote for explanation of “Ding Dang Baby.”)

My contractions began at around 11pm, and I just continued to read while relaxing in bed.  They seemed pretty steady though, and I mentioned them to Victor about an hour later.  He asked if I wanted to go home.  I didn’t really see the need of abandoning our hotel room until we knew for sure this was it.  I also wasn’t in a hurry: Ale took forever to be born, so I thought we had plenty of time ahead of us.

Ale was asleep, so I just continued to monitor the situation without waking her.  Finally, I decided I would use the app on my phone.  It helped me to realize that maybe we were further along than expected.  Around 2:30am we started the process of cleaning up and packing up the hotel.  Ale awoke and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t go swimming.  She had started the day wearing her swimsuit and tutu, and at this point was dancing around the hotel room wired.  I had been telling her for a month that her sister was “coming soon,” so she was pretty unphased.  That is until the contractions were strong enough for me to need to stop and breath.  “Mama, stop!  Stop doing that!” she said more than once.

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This was our last family photo before Josie was born.  Victor was a little irritated that I wanted a photo during my labor–so there was no time for a retake!

Victor called his mom to let her know I was in labor, and I called the midwife as we were leaving the hotel.  I also notified my mom and sister, as promised.  Clearly it was the middle of the night, as both of them asked me if I was going to go home…  Umm, no, I thought I would I would just use the bathtub here.  

This chat spans a couple of hours.

I not-so-patiently checked out of the hotel.  Contractions were pretty strong, and I had to stop to breath through them several times during the process.   I would feel one beginning, and tell the middle-aged man behind the counter, “Excuse me.”  Then I would turn my back on him, walk to the wall, hold on, and breath for a minute.  When the contraction subsided, I walked back, smiled, and apologized.

The taxi arrived and I joined my family outside.  (My husband must have been a little nervous.  He let my toddler pee in front of the hotel before getting in he taxi.  No time for a bathroom break! No sir!)  The ride home was pretty quick.  I sat in the front seat just to continue making middle-aged Mexican men uncomfortable.

We arrived home and began getting the room ready.  Remember when I said I thought we had plenty of time?  Well, we didn’t prepare the room before leaving for the hotel… So there we were, 3:30 in the morning getting everything in order.  I went through the baby basket and cleaned off the table in our room.  (By “cleaned off the table,” I actually mean I swept everything into a bag and stashed it in the closet.)  I am pretty sure Victor swept and mopped.  Finally, I took a permanent break from getting the room ready to concentrate on getting my body ready.

 My contractions were strong.  I know this next part sounds crazy, so don’t judge me: As a contraction would start, I would imagine a tall skinny man.  That’s what it felt like.  The contraction was like a long line that went down my back.  With my hands braced against the wall, I would start at his head and breath my way down his body.  Weird, I know.  It helped though, a coping mechanism of sorts.  I also nodded my head as I breathed, so I am pretty sure I looked nuts too.

The bathroom was nice because it was dark and private, but at this point it felt good to stand up.  I didn’t want to bend over, lay against the sink/wall, squat on the toilet, etc.  It felt good to stand straight pushing out to my sides with both hands against the doorframe.  My midwife arrived and did a quick check on the baby.

She, her crew, and Victor worked in the bedroom to get the pool set up and filled.  I literally didn’t see my husband again until the baby was born.  My labor was requiring all my concentration, and I didn’t have a break or all the time in the world to chit-chat like I did with Ale.  Finally I asked if the tub was ready, and continued my labor there.

I have sweet memories of Ale during this time.  She would check on me during contractions.  A couple times I remember her getting right down in my face and smiling a big, fake, slightly terrified looking smile.  I was aware that she was there and needed some reassurance.  I would smile back (I think, although it was probably more of a grimace.), tell her I was fine, and let her know baby sister would be there soon.  She joined me, bathing suit and all, in the birthing tub.  My midwife showed her how to pour water on my back during the contractions.  At some point, she got out and fell asleep in the next room.  Later I found out that she refused to remove her bathing suit before sleeping.

In the pool my contractions changed.  They weren’t a tall, skinny man anymore.  They morphed into a short, fat man.  Instead of long pain, it was horizontal and stretched across my back.  The short, fat man wasn’t nearly as nice as the tall guy. The coolest thing is that depending on my pain, my midwife knew where the baby was.  She didn’t make me get out of the water to check the progress, because she could tell the labor was progressing.  She also didn’t check to see that I was dilated, so I have no idea how far along I was.

It seemed like I was in the birthing tub for hours.  Later, Tirsa (the midwife) told me it was only about an hour.  I laid down a while, like one might in a bathtub.  Then Tirsa said it could help to change my position and move my hips.  I would ask questions like, “Why is there no break?” “Why does it only hurt on one side?”  She would just answer, and we would rest until the next contraction.  She applied counter pressure to by lower back and hips during the contractions, as well as pouring the warm water over my back.  I was on my knees while lying against the side of the tub.  I remember somehow working my way from one side of the tub to the other.

I didn’t voice these thoughts aloud, but in my head I thought, “Never again.” “I understand why women like drugs,” etc.  When I started getting the urge to push it seemed unreal.  With Ale I would push, then fall asleep in between contractions.  With Josie, there was no time!  I remember telling everyone I felt like I needed to poop.  (A bit embarrassing now…)  Tirsa said, “That’s because your baby is coming!”  Someone got my errant husband, and he held me at the end.  Three contractions back-to-back and Josie arrived!  I was on my knees, so they helped her swim between my legs to the front.  I laid back, and put her on my chest.  Wow.  That feeling.  Even writing about it now makes me tingle inside.

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The hours after her birth were amazing too.

I had watched this really inspiring video about the breast crawl, and I wanted to see if it worked.  We moved to the bed and placed Josie on my chest.  It was totally cool!  Within 30 minutes she latched onto my breast.  I delivered the placenta, but it was just placed into a bag alongside of us.  I don’t remember when we cut the cord, but it was so calm in the room, it wasn’t a big deal!  I moved to rest against the wall, and we continued to work on breastfeeding.  I had (mistakenly) thought that after nursing Ale for 2 years and 4 months, I would be a pro.  Wrong.  Feeding a newborn is no task for the faint-hearted!

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I feel like I should reiterate how calm it was.  Maybe I felt calmer because it was my second baby, but the general atmosphere of the room (and the people present) was peaceful with Josie.  I had a home birth and water birth with Ale, but it wasn’t exactly the calmest environment.  In fact, Josie’s entire labor was MUCH calmer.  When it was over, I almost immediately felt like I could do it again.

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Ale meets her sister, Joselyn Victoria.  (Josie’s name is a combination of my brother, Joseph, and my sister, Jenny Lyn.  Her middle name is in honor of her Papi, Victor.)

I have so enjoyed looking back over the photos.  The following photos are of the hours/days following Joselyn’s arrival:

 

 

 

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Josie is one day old! (Yes, she’s at McDonald’s.  We took her sister there after registering Josie’s birth with the powers that be…)

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Ale’s special Big Sister cake that she helped to make. (Because only BIG girls get to cook with Mami–not babies.)

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Daddy and Josie!

 

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Sister still likes to poke the baby’s cheeks! I blame that on old Mexican women who always grab her cheeks. 😉

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Abuela and Josie; My mother-in-law is something special.  Upon meeting Josie, she THANKED me.  It still makes tears come to my eyes to think about it!

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Los Abuelos! Having them here for Josie’s birth was really special.

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Sweet girl…

* “Ding Dang Baby” is from a Jacqueline Woodson book, Pecan Pie Baby.  I read the book when I was pregnant, and I sat and cried in my office.  It is all about a sister who isn’t overly excited about the birth of her sibling.  She calls him a “Ding Dang Baby.”  I was really worried about Ale being hurt or feeling replaced by Josie.  After reading the book to my mom, we often referred to Josie as the “Ding Dang Baby.”  This is an AMAZING book, by the way.

** I am SO happy I have these text messages with Mama and Jenny.  Not only do they remind me of details, but they provide quite a bit of comic relief!

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A South-of-the-Border Birth Story

Alexandria is now two weeks old, so I hope that I haven’t forgotten important details.  The good news is that moms recover brain mass after childbirth, so maybe that will help my memory?

First of all, when I became pregnant I was interested in water birth.  Even when I thought I would deliver in the States–it just made sense that it would be more relaxing.  I moved back to Mexico when I was 8 weeks pregnant, and immediately heard about the extremely high cesarean rates in Torreon.  In fact, it was months before I met anyone who had delivered naturally.  At 90% c-section, I knew we needed to do something.  I met woman after woman who would tell me, “I wanted to deliver naturally, but the baby’s heart rate dropped.”  Or maybe, “I wanted to deliver naturally, but the doctor said my pelvis was too small.”  There was always a reason for why they had to have a c-section.  (Interestingly enough, none of the women breastfeed either–they “didn’t have enough of a supply…”)  At our appointment for our 4-D ultrasound, the doctor said, “It’s really easier on us and the mom if we do a cesarean.”  I couldn’t believe that everyone just accepted c-sections as if they were a normal part of giving birth!

My husband found the doula and her birthing classes online, and we began to attend classes at five months.  Quite frankly, the classes weren’t very helpful.  The information in the classes wasn’t new to us, but I can understand why it is important for these women here–women who’ve been told for years that their bodies are incapable of delivering babies naturally.  We watched videos on YouTube to prepare for our birth, and that was part of my undoing.  Warning: The videos online aren’t of long labors.  They are of women who seem to push babies out as if it’s an everyday occurrence.  One woman actually said, “I don’t feel like I’ve given birth.  That was the easiest thing to do.”  That was my inspirational video I watched as I counted contractions.  Big mistake.

Friday morning, March 15th, I woke up with contractions.  I had awakened with several that morning, but returned to sleeping.  At around 8, I actually got up and went to the bathroom.  I was so excited to see a bloody show, and I knew that our precious baby would be joining us soon.

That day Victor’s new friend from school wanted to take him to a couple of places in Torreon.  I agreed to tag-a-long, and I am glad I did!  It was distracting to say the least!  We visited with his family and finally, Victor and I ended up at the mall to eat around mid-day.  My contractions had continued that morning, but they were 20 minutes apart.  My belly was still high, and I was told that when the baby dropped I would know it was time.  I knew it was time–but the baby never dropped…

I ate a good lunch because I was hungry.  And by the time we left the restaurant at around 2, my contractions were more steady.  They were still around 10 minutes apart.  But it was like clockwork.  I went home, and we began preparing for our baby’s arrival.

I could tell my husband was nervous.  He had been so attentive during my entire pregnancy, and now he busied around the house.  He cleaned and moved things, but mainly ignored me.  I spent the time making a labor playlist of music that I thought would be relaxing.  That was of course in between contractions, which I kept track of on a contractions calculator online.  I skyped with my Mom, and at one point she mentioned that maybe it was time to call the doula and doctor.  My contractions were about three in 10 minutes or every 3-4 minutes apart.

My contractions were getting stronger and they were pretty steady when my doula came around 7.  But shortly there after, they seemed to slow down a bit.  They were strong, and my back was really hurting.  During a contraction I practiced everything I had read online: deep breathing, swaying hips, visualization, moaning, bending over to take the pressure off, and my husband began applying pressure on my lower back.  The doula said that the contractions weren’t close enough together, but she and my husband set up our room for the baby’s birth.  I eyed that birthing pool with great anticipation…

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My doctor arrived around 9, and I was incredibly disappointed when she said I was one centimeter dilated.  What!?  But my contractions were close!  My body was hurting!  I was so tired already!

She and the doula left and said they would return in a couple of hours.  They instructed me to keep track of my contractions and just let it happen.  I was happy to have one of my friends join us, and she kept track of contractions while my husband took care of me.  We heated a rice bag in the microwave, and the heat really helped the contractions too.  They returned around 12 or 1 in the morning.  The doctor checked my progress again: 3 centimeters.  At that point, I was ready to cry.

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I labored everywhere in that room and outside as well.  The air outside was cool enough to make me feel fresh, but we labored on the commode, the labor stool, the bed, etc.  I knew that I  should keep standing and moving.  When the doctor checked me the next time, I was only 5-6 centimeters dilated.  The baby was still high in my pansita.  And while I was having contractions and strong labor pains–I could see that the doctor was beginning to worry a little.  She and the doula talked in hushed tones (and spanish) outside the room, and I just put them out of my mind.

My doula doesn’t really get the chance to do her job very often due to the suspicions that people seem to have about birthing here.  She was eager to try out everything on me.   She tried to change my breathing–I resisted.  She tried to tell me to squat–and I told her that I tried it.  It didn’t feel so good.  She rubbed incense oil under my husband’s nose, and was heading for mine.  I informed her that it smelled bad.  She finally backed off and let me do my thing.

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My friend and my husband took turns pressing on my lower back, and I was finally allowed to labor in the birthing pool.  It was amazing.  I felt my pain cut in half.  Someone began pouring water on my lower back as I stayed on my hands and knees to encourage the baby to rotate her head.  I moved back and forth in the water, and the doctor encouraged me to begin pushing through contractions to see if we could move her down.  I remember falling asleep in between contractions on the edge of the pool, then being awakened in an abrupt and unpleasant way as surges of pain shot through my back.  I don’t remember feeling the contractions anywhere else–just the back pain.

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I got out of the pool, and labored more on the birthing stool.  The doctor laid down on the floor in front of me with a light (similar to what a mechanic would use to see inside an engine) to help her see.  At this point, I had a cervical lip.  At least from what I can tell that is what it was–the doctor said the baby had descended some, but that my part of my cervix was keeping her head from moving more.  She began trying to push the cervix out-of-the-way when I had contractions, instructing me to push (although I still didn’t have the “urge” to do so).  The pain was horrible.  I remember actually screaming at that point.  I also aimed the scream for the doctor’s ear so that she would know the pain she was inflicting upon me.

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The last few hours were more of a blur–and I don’t remember many details.  I remember laboring more in the pool.  Throwing up.  
Getting out for the doctor to try to break my water (I was 10 centimeters dilated at this point, but my water still hadn’t broken.)  I labor more in the water–and I began squatting in the pool to push.  My husband joined me, and I was basically sitting on his bent legs as we squatted together.  Victor wrapped his arms around me, and when I pushed, he squeezed with all his might.  I remember the doctor remarking on how the baby was moving down finally–and how he was helping us accomplish this.  The doctor checked me again and my water had broken–she rotated the baby’s head at that point with much discomfort!  They continued to monitor the baby’s heart-rate, and I would wait in anticipation to hear that she was strong.   I would reach down and feel for her head as often as I could.  When I finally felt the baby’s head, I did cry.  How amazing!

The urge to push was something that I had read about in the months leading up to my labor, but I was unprepared for how it would really feel.  I wanted to take it easy, but my body was in auto drive.  I would push on contractions with my team saying, “Push! Push!  You got it!  Breath!”  Then I would say, “I can’t.”  This wasn’t me giving up–it was my way of saying the contraction was over and I needed rest.  My doctor was amazing, and I just focused on her face (which was almost always calm).  She encouraged me to relax, breath, and wait for another contraction.

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When the pediatrician showed up, I was at the end of my labor.  I remember him telling me to sit back against Victor so that I didn’t tear. (We were using the birthing stool in the pool at this point.)  He also was the only one who kept telling me to push the baby out when I didn’t have contractions.  “Don’t let the head back inside,” he said.  Even in my sleepless state I knew that he was wrong.  Victor and I really worked together at the end.  I would nudge his arms and say, “Ready?”  And we would push (that was me) and squeeze (that was him) at the same time.  When the baby arrived, there was no break between pushing her head and the rest of the body.  That’s what I prepared for because that’s what I saw on videos.  Women would wait for more contractions with a baby head hanging out of their bodies.  Not my little girl–she shot out into the water like a bullet!

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I felt so relieved.  They laid her on my chest and I felt this pulling down below.  It was strange–as if the cord was too short.  I remember the doctor saying maybe that is why the baby didn’t move down–her cord was keeping her up.  I don’t know if there’s any truth in that, but it made sense at that moment when her cord was tugging at me.  Victor was immediately concerned about her breathing, but she cried a quick and mightly bellow.  I was shocked to see how much vernix she had covering her body.  For some reason, I expected all that to be gone.  I forgot about it and kissed her head–then quickly remember and tried to wipe my mouth off.  Ick!

My team allowed us a little time before clamping the cord.  Not as much time as I wanted, but in those moments, it wasn’t really what I was concerned about.  They took Alex to clean and test–and I moved to the bed to deliver the placenta and be checked.  I didn’t want to keep (or eat) the placenta, but I did want to see what it looked like.  Unfortunately, I soon forgot about that too.  I did have some tearing, and I figured it was because I pushed when I didn’t have contractions at the end.  I also wonder if we rushed things a bit, but I’m not REALLY complaining about that.  Alexandria was born 24 hours after I had awakened with a bloody show and contractions.

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Birthing at home was an amazing experience   I was never tempted by drugs or epidurals–because I knew they weren’t possible options.  Everyone left us alone after they cleaned and packed up.  That day was one of the most relaxing days I can remember.  I had a perfect baby, and no one interrupted our little family.  We slept in our own bed and chatted online with friends and family.  I had no doctors or nurses coming in my room to bother me.  No one took my daughter away for shots, tests, etc.  I had her with me the whole time.  The pediatrician did come back by that afternoon to see how Ale was doing, but he may have been there five minutes.  I can’t imagine giving birth in a hospital after something like that.  Furthermore, my recovery was amazingly quick!  I rested as much as I could at my mama’s urging–but I was able to move and walk around by the next day with little irritation.

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I read about how empowered women feel after giving birth.  It’s totally true.  I skyped with a friend who said, “You did it!”  Just those three words made me feel so accomplished.  I did do it!  I labored and gave birth to an amazing little girl.  AND I did it with no drugs clouding up our systems.  It makes me feel more amazing as time goes on–and really helps me with breastfeeding as well.  Yes, this hurts–but I can do this.  It’s the way God made my body, and my little girl will benefit greatly from my milk!

My Mamaw would say, “Every ol’ crow thinks her’s is the blackest…” But Alexandria Irene really is perfect.  At birth she was 3.600 kilos (7lbs 9oz) and 51 centimeters (20 inches) long.  She has a head full of black hair and eyes full of wonder.  I am filled with awe every time I look at her.

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