I have been meaning to write down what I remember of Harper's birth for sometime now. Life has been happening pretty rapidly, and what with a baby around and a wedding to plan, all of my free moments are spread thin between those things, and the occasional shower. Let's not forget the kitties that also need quite a bit of love...
But Harper is six months old now. That milestone happened last Thursday. Wowza...6 months. And we are getting better at putting her to bed. For instance tonight, she has been down (and in her crib) for about an hour and 15 minutes. That's is really good for us/her! I like to think her inability to stay asleep is because she loves me so much, but more likely, it's because I haven't hardened my heart to her crying. I fully admit to being a mushy momma.
But her birth!
Her glorious arrival into my world. She took her time getting ready to show up, but once it all started, she was eager to be among us.
Harper had a due date of October 30th. That day came and went. I was convinced I would work until I went into labor, but I found out some interesting thing about myself in this pregnancy: Sometimes it's okay to rest. Her due date was on a Sunday, and when I came into work Monday morning to almost everyone on staff asking, "What! She didn't come yesterday?!" I became so demoralized, I went home early (my swollen ankles in tow), and then later that night texted my boss that I was taking a Personal Day for Tuesday. Wednesday came, and I told my her I was going to start my leave. She was great. Through my whole pregnancy, Mary, Jessica, Jennifer, and Jenn were great.
My mom came to town on November 4th, my dad's birthday. It was so great to have her in the house. There is nothing like knowing there is someone around who knows what to do. No offense to Dan, or even to my Doula, who I could have called anytime, but I was worried I would go into labor without my mom there, and it wasn't a good feeling.
I had been having contractions for quite awhile before going into labor. Months, actually. They were constant reminders that I needed to take it easy at work. That I should drink more water. I should sit down. Lesson from Pregnancy: let people help.
Contractions were coming about every 25-35 minutes at some points, but they never got closer. I talked with Dionne (my fab Doula) and she suggested some tea, some drops, warm showers, walking... The closest my contractions ever came (before the hospital) was the night after my mom gave me the best foot rub imaginable. It was about 45 minutes of awesome. That night, I was woken up every 9 minutes with contractions. I thought for sure by the morning we would be rearing to go!
Then the 5th came and went. And 6th. Ciara would be disappointed Harper would not share her birthday. Then the 7th, 8th, and 9th happened. Sarah would also lose out on sharing her birthday with the Harpster. Meanwhile. Mom was cooking. We tore the house apart cleaning. We walked. We spent hours on Facebook. We walked some more.
I had my doctors appointment the next morning, November 10th, and I was dreading what my Midwife would say: I would need to be induced. I wanted to have a drug free birth. I wanted to feel it. To really feel it. I knew there could be situationa that came up that would mean my birth plan would fly out the window, but I kept thinking it would go exactly the way I imaged it: I would start labor at home, I would walk, breathe, and work my way through the slow labor and transition, then when I was 5-3 minutes apart with contractions, I would go to the hospital, wear my own clothes, not be hooked up to machines, and birth this baby like the strong, capable woman I am.
Before my appointment, Mom and I stopped for coffee and a scone. I ran into Andrea, a woman from my birth class. She commented on my being past due, and I said something along the lines of 'yeah, going to the doctor now. They will probably set an induction date. I don't feel like I'm any closer to labor. See ya!'
At the doctor's office, they looked at my placenta on the ultrasound and the nurse said, "Oh, I don't like the look of that." I was past due. There is a reason human babies have a 40 week timeline. I was 11 days past that date and my ship was starting to sink. My placenta was shutting down and starting to look like it wouldn't continue to nurture my baby.
My doc put me on the fetal monitor to check for movement and contractions. There was movement, but contractions were back to 25 minutes apart. And Harper's heart rate kept dropping, instigating a horribly annoying buzzer to turn on. I would poke my tummy and move her around, and it would pop back up into the acceptable range. After about 40 minutes of monitoring, the doc said she wanted me to head over to the hospital then to get set up. She wanted to break my water and see if that started things.
I was shocked. No way did I think things were going to start. I had given Dan the go-ahead to drive to Springfield to be apart of his swearing in ceremony! I was still so certain that Harper wasn't going to be born, even with my water being burst, that instead of going to the hospital right away, mom and I went home, packed my bag (yes, it hadn't been packed. There was plenty of time! My contractions were 25 minutes apart!), then stopped at Noodles for some lunch. I was not going to be going into this thing on a stomach with just a scone to occupy it!
I texted Dan to give him the update. I suggested he head home before going to the hospital to change out of his suit, maybe take a nap, and to bring a book with him when he comes...this was going to be a while.
At 12:30 mom and I get into the room and I change into my birthing clothes (a nursing bra and a cotton night gown.) The nurse was surprised I refused the hospital gown. (The same nurse would later be surprised to find me going through a contraction on the room's floor saying....oh, I've never seen that before!) They got me on the bed and strapped the external fetal monitors on my tummy.
At 1:10 ish, the doctor comes to break my water. It was nothing like I thought it would be. It felt like I had just taken a huge pee. And almost immediately, my contractions started in, coming about every 5 minutes. It was great to be able to see the intensity on the monitor. I enjoyed watching how fast they were coming and how strong they were getting. I felt so proud of myself when the nurse would come in and say, "Oh that was a strong one!"
Dionne had shown up after my water was broke, and she and my mom were chumming it up. I didn't need a lot. I just needed people to leave me alone. I was breathing and trying to be comfortable on the bed.
Dan showed up (no he didn't take a nap, he came right over). He did bring a book, but that wouldn't be necessary. I asked Dionne to find a birthing ball so I could try sitting up. I would be in the zone, and focused, and then I would have a new rush of water come out of me. I didn't expect the continuous flow after my water was broken. I thought, "oh, they break my water and then there is no more water." No. The water keeps coming. It felt like I was peeing my pants (although I wasn't wearing pants) over and over and over. I kept apologizing to he nurses who would change the linens and padding on the ball. The water was so distracting - I would be focusing on breathing and then a Whoosh! of water and I'd be back in the present with an audience.
My doctor checked me again. I went into the hospital at 3 centimeters dilated. She checked me and I was at 6. It was 4:40. She was going to go home for a while then come back to deliver, she said.
She left and I got on the floor. I don't know why, but it felt right, and I was not going to argue with intuition. Screw laying on my back. No thank you to the ball. I was on my hands and knees, on the floor, going through labor. About ten minutes later Dionne looks at me and asks, "Do you feel like you need to push? You look like you want to push... Do you feel like you should push?" "Yeeeesssshhhh." Is what I think I said.
Dionne ran out to grab the midwife before she went home, and I go back on the bed. When she came in, I was on the bed, but not laying. Hell no. The back of the bed was up and I was flung over the top. My arms were draped over and I was hanging off the back, as much as one person can hang. The doc checked my progress and in the span of 15 minutes, I went from 6 centimeters to 10 and pushing. Each contraction was all I could think about. I would feel one coming, almost see it in the distance, just chugging closer to that point when I would ram my face into the bed, grip the back of the bed and moan through the pain. Dan didn't exist. Mom didn't exist. I was in a dark tunnel and forward was my only thought. The pain was taking me one stop closer to meeting my daughter and I was pumped. I hadn't been induced. I didn't have an epidural. I was in labor the way I had hoped to be in labor.
In my birth classes with Dionne, she talked about several methods of laboring. One that sounded both logical and practical was what's called a birthing bar. Instead of a woman lying on her back trying to force a baby our laterally, the woman can crouch on the bed with the bar under her arms, and let gravity help the baby in her progress.
My doctor suggested they set up the birthing bar for me so I could let go of the back of the bed, which would also give her better access to all the things she needed access to. (I don't really remember this part). One minute I was in a contraction with just mom, Dionne, the doc and Dan, and the next minute I turn around to move to the birthing bar, and there is a HUGE crowd of people there - they rushed into set-up mode. Apparently I had been progressing so quickly, they brought in the crew to watch (I had said it was fine to have students in the room and they ran with it.) Whatever. I said, "Hello everybody." They laughed. I moved to the bar. I got back to business.
I pushed. Harper's head was coming into sight. They asked if I wanted to see and I said yes. They brought in a huge mirror. I got to see Harper's head while she was still unborn. That was such a slow moment for me. I could hear encouragement from my midwife. I could tell people were waiting for me to keep pushing. But it all just slowed down. I starred at Harper's head. She was there and I was there, and I was going to get to meet her! I was going to meet her that day, in just a few moments! I was going to be someone's mother and I was so ready and I wanted it so badly.
In birthing classes, the other thing that got talked about quite a bit was "the ring of fire." Supposedly, it was that moment in birth where crowning occurs, where you just have to push through the pain. It's typically the moment where you hear women screaming the words, "Just kill me." Or "I can't do this." Or "Give me more drugs." When I was starring at Harper's head, just there in what I thought of as her own waiting room, I remember thinking to myself, "Ok. This is that point that is going to hurt the most. This is the moment where you meet this mythical 'ring of fire.' Fucking ring of fire. I am fine. I am fucking fine." And then I pushed. One long, constant, controlled push. I just starred at Harper's head, focusing on her and no one else. I didn't moan. I didn't scream. I don't even think I opened my mouth. I just looked and pushed and then she was there. I was holding her. She was red and scrunched up. I put her on my chest and I didn't let her go for an hour.
I had asked beforehand to not cut the cord right away. I don't know how much it helps to wait until the cord stops pulsing before cutting it. But I know that if the cord wasn't cut, they could take her away from me. And at one point, the nurse tried to "go get her cleaned up" and my midwife got pissed (man, I loved working with her!) and said the baby was still connected. "Oh! My goodness!" Can you guess which nurse this was?
Dan was not interested in cutting the cord. He was safely planted in the chair next to the bed, not passing out. I asked mom if she wanted to cut it. She as so thrilled, "I've never cut a cord before!" I had to laugh. When would someone get to cut a cord? Let alone your daughter's cord. It was awesome to be able to give her that.
Harper was born at 5:56 pm. She was 8 lbs, 3 ounces and 19 3/4 inches long. I was in labor for about 5 hours.
When I went into the hospital I got in touch with Dan's parents and sister, and they had made it to the hospital by about 3pm. Nora was ready for a marathon birth, with several movies along, and snacks to boot! She may have been a bit disappointed that she didn't get to watch them...I don't know! They all came in shortly there after and got to meet Harper.
Eventually the nurse took Harper from me and weighed her. I got her back to nurse her, and look at her, and touch her. She was awesome. She is still awesome. She hasn't stopped being awesome since I met her. It has been 6 months and I am still amazed by the amount of love I have for her. Dan and I did not plan on having Harper at the time that we did. We had some difficult conversations. We made some choices. I am so unbelievably happy with our choice. Our chosen child. Our little Swiftlet. Harpsichord. Harp-star. Harp. My daughter.