The Birth Story of Harry and Arabella-Part Two

 

 

img_0549In preface to this post, I want to reiterate my firm belief that every mama and baby are different. What I chose for mine may be radically different than what you chose. Not only is that ok, I think it’s tremendously important. I will never judge you for your choices just as I expect to not be judged for mine. Or, as I’ve said before, human nature is to judge. I may judge in my heart but I’m keeping it to myself as should we all. Unless a child is in danger, what mamas need from each other is SUPPORT. To be able to share our learned wisdom and mutually benefit. I have chosen this path for my family because I strongly believe it to be the best one, as I am certain that is how you have chosen yours. I pray to be able to share perspectives among one another without shaming, I know I have drastically changed decisions in the past thanks to other mamas sharing their knowledge with me. I am an opinionated, naturally minded mama. And proud of it. Be proud of yourselves mamas, and I hope you enjoy part two of our birth story. The tale of a stubborn naturally minded mama who managed to infuriate nearly everyone on the pediatric floor of the hospital we birthed at. This is Day Two in the lives of Harry and Arabella.

img_0486The rest of November 8th is a fuzzy blend of blank spots and poignant memories, a sea of haziness with bright stars shining through. I don’t remember what I ate, I remember being voraciously thirsty and not being allowed to just guzzle liquid, instead I was spoon fed crushed ice and given small sips of orange juice (nothing has ever tasted better!). Immediately after the twins were born the barrage of unwanted requests for procedures on the twins began. No, we don’t want the eye ointment, no we are not circumcising him. (Not circumcising was a surprise decision we made late in the game, if you’re interested as to why we chose no circumcision for our son I’d be more then happy to share, comment below or send me an email).

fullsizerenderIt continued to be a battle. No you cannot give them that/no you cannot take them to the nursery we want them in the room with us. That one made me hugely popular, (not), especially when I followed my babies to the nursery for the car seat test, which we acquiesced to as they wouldn’t let us leave without it. I was up until 2:00am the day of my babies birth due to my refusal to be apart from my newborns. I regret nothing. My husband and I did have a beautiful morning together the following day, while it was periodically interrupted we had a few moments to just sit there alone, the two of us with our new family, soaking in the moments and trying to realize what had just happened. (Which is something I struggled with for a while, if you haven’t read it yet I shared my heart in my battle with PPD in a previous post, click here to read it).

img_0487My husband was my brave knight in shining armor, standing up for me and our babies against the surprisingly aggressive nurses on the pediatric floor. I missed my labor and delivery nurses soooooo much once they transfered us. Having never been hospitalized I had this naive notion that I would be able to relax for a day or two, snuggle my babies and just eat. Ha. Reality was that I wasn’t fed, no one brought me even liquid, they kept coming in every 15-20 minutes to wake and poke my babies and yell at me (literally!) for not writing down every breastfeeding session. Had I not been holding my babies and letting them nurse almost constantly I would have understood their concern. But as my babies were nursing nearly non-stop and frankly I was starving and foggy and stunned, I decided writing down “still nursing” every thirty minutes was not worth it. Eventually I got so irritated with their attitudes I admit I refused to out of spite. img_0485Yes, you can safely assume I was not their favorite patient. I wouldn’t do the tests, I wanted to change my own babies diapers (why is that weird?!) and I just wanted to go home. So I did. I demanded an early release and the minute we informed the staff we wanted to go home that day, wouldn’t you know everyone suddenly disappeared.img_0482

No one answered our help button, and our room went from resembling a chaotic train station to a vacant ghost town. My poor husband had to track down what felt like hundreds of people to sign and deal with the voluminous amount of paperwork required to effect our release. It literally took all day, we didn’t leave the hospital until after 9 that night. I have never felt so judged and shamed as I did with the looks and comments we received as we headed home with our wee ones in their giant car seats. I did get to avoid the usually mandatory wheelchair ride out of the hospital as the nurses were so angry at me they were busy fuming and messing with the babies. We also had to agree to a mandatory weight check appointment with our pediatrician the img_0488following day, (an appointment that nearly destroyed my breastfeeding journey, watch my video on my feelings on the breastfeeding support that new moms receive by clicking here).

But eventually, we were headed home and yes, we must have checked that our babies were still breathing every thirty seconds. My family had gone home a little bit before us and never have I ever walked into anything as welcome as the paradise they made. img_0544My mother had prepared an Italian feast, wine awaited us, candles were lit everywhere and it was warm and peaceful. A radical change from the hospital environment we had just left and desperately needed comfort for this exhausted and struggling mama. I sank into the soft warm blankets and snuggled with my cuddly (and to my relief, happily accepting of the babies) cats, stared at these beautiful tiny new faces that had just come out of my BODY, and breathed deeply.img_0548

I still wasn’t prepared and had no idea how to deal with the influx of attention that happens when you have a baby. Everyone, EVERYONE wants to see you, well not you, the baby/babies. In hindsight, I plan on a lockdown next time I have a baby. I don’t believe birth is a medical crises but I DO believe it is something which absolutely requires, and deserves, time to adjust and heal from. But I’ll write more on that later.

In conclusion, I want to encourage you mamas to not be afraid to stand up for and demand what you feel is best for you and your baby. I know it was the right thing to come home early, it wasn’t easy, but we made it happen. Maybe it would be different next time, and such is birth. And had my babies had medical needs that required attention, obviously I would have stayed. But they didn’t. What they needed was me to be able to give them my all, and I knew in order to do that I had to get home where I would be cared for and feel safe. To get where I could bond with them and they with me and my husband.

Best laid plans inevitably change. Especially where children are involved. And that is ok. But never be afraid to stand by your decisions. Mamas almost always know best, and unless you plan on bunking in a snowbank with your newborn, I’d say you should have faith in yourself. You did make that human. Roll up your sleeves, mama bears, these are our cubs, and being with mama is really the main thing they need and truly all they want.

Click each link below for posts on:

postpartum recovery

the fourth trimester

breastfeeding support

breastfeeding in public

wine and boobs

and…

my opinions on coping with the “Everyone Comes out of the Woodwork Invasion Phenomenon” when you have a baby.img_0545

The Birth Story of Harry and Arabella-Part One

img_0502In advance to sharing this story I want to thank my husband, without you and your love I could have never made it through this. You’re truly my rock, the love of my life. My parents, for your unending and limitless love and support, my sisters for their also unequaled love and support and being my cheerleaders. Tria, for the meals and foot rubs, and  Hayley, for photographing this truly once in a lifetime event. I am so blessed. I may give birth again, but (thankfully) it will never again be my first time.

Giving birth to my twins has without question the first most remarkable event in my life. Writing this post was undeniably difficult, where to begin, what to include?! Sharing my birth story is like pouring out my raw beating heart for all to see, while I am proud of this story it is hands down the most personal event I have ever shared. Bringing my twins into this world is the greatest honor I have ever been given, and I hope to do justice to the day they came earthside in sharing our story. One thing I have promised to always do in sharing my motherhood journey is to be honest. I hope with all my heart in sharing my stories that I can touch and encourage the hearts of every woman in their own journeys. This will be Part One of our tale of birth. So, without further ado, I present, the Birth Story of Harry and Arabella.

Everyone always told me that as my pregnancy neared its end I would be ready to do anything to get those babies out. They were right. Towards the end I became so uncomfortable, I couldn’t eat, drink, sit, lie down, or pee. EVERYTHING was just plain frustrating. My belly was a constantly moving soup of sharp elbows and knees, and I was astonished anew every day that they hadn’t actually punctured my bladder with their tiny limbs. I had been having Braxton Hicks periodically for what felt like forever, and my loving husband was always quick to pop me in a warm bath if I felt things were getting too intense. I worked literally up until the day before I went to the hospital, no I do not recommend that. My hearts desire had been to give birth at the lovely birth center we lived nearby, but thanks to Colorado law I had to give birth at a hospital as multiple births are not legal in birth centers. For my next one, I want to do either home birth or birth center, but these being my first and being twins my husband and I prayed and determined to go the hospital route. I firmly believe that birth is as much about the baby’s journey entering this world as the mama’s, and I knew that the best choice for them was to do the hospital this time, even if it meant giving birth in a sterile cold operating room (more lovely laws).

We had determined to be surprised at birth as to what the babies genders were, and managed to not find out until the week before they arrived when a heartless nurse spilled the beans. (I say heartless because after she blew the big reveal to me without my husband even being there, she laughed and said ‘oops’). Don’t ever blow something like that to a very pregnant, hormonally charged exhausted woman and then simply laugh it off, it’s a very, very bad idea. I was so upset I made my husband call and inform them I never wanted to see that nurse again. They actually kept her away from me from there on out. (Maybe I was scarier than I thought).

My doctor had informed us early on that if the twins didn’t come before 38 weeks they would induce, and as we arrived at the weekend before the big 38, I told my body the time had come. The Friday before the twins arrived, they informed me at my OB appointment that I was nearly 5 cm dilated. Halfway there?! Whoa, was all I could think. The next day, Saturday, we took a walk around our neighborhood and I finally felt no fear as my contractions began to increase in regularity. I still felt little pain, but I could tell things were speeding up and my husband called our doctor to see if they thought I should head in to the hospital yet. Due to me being so dilated, they answered with a big fat yes and suddenly things started to feel more real. We called my parents and told them it was time, and once they arrived we loaded into our cars and headed to the hospital. We had packed our hospital bag earlier that week, and I felt like I should be doing more/feel more ready, but there was nothing to be done. My contractions kept petering out and I tried all manner of things to ensure they kept accelerating. I knew one thing, I did NOT want an induction if at all possible.

img_0490We arrived at the hospital and checked in, I was hooked up to the contraction monitoring device and atttempted to relax on the very uncomfortable bed. I had the absolutely most LOVELY nurses on my delivery team, I know God sent them to me. Wherever you are ladies, know you’re in my heart and prayers for always. I was far too excited and nervous to sleep, and they sent in the nurse to discuss the plans for the following morning. They suggested pitocin but I was very against that (and very thankful later that I hadn’t!). The other option was to break my water if it hadn’t by morning to get things moving. After prayer and discussion, my husband and I decided that we would do that if it hadn’t broken by the morning. At first, the doctor wanted to wake me at 4:30am to break my water but my amazing nurse reminded me this was MY labor and I chose how it would go. So I chose that if we did break the water it wouldn’t be until after 6am. 6:00 came and went and my contractions were still the same so we did break my water, and it was very hard to break I will add. (Ouch!)img_0480

After my water broke (holy Toledo is that liquid HOT) my labor changed instantaneously. In a matter of moments I went from having contractions to HAVING CONTRACTIONS. Everything smelled bad including my poor husbands coffee which he hastily disposed of. I threw up into every nearby receptacle and refused to allow my patient spouse into the bathroom with me (labor is not exactly a dignified affair but I was not about to let him see me do anything nasty that I could avoid). I was hooked up to what felt like a million devices and couldn’t move much if I had wanted to. Also to my surprise I wanted silence, none of the calming music I had spent hours compiling for my labor. A nurse came in to check me and announced I was fully dilated and ready to push. And suddenly I was not ready to do this, not ready to push or to have my babies born yet at all for that matter. My surreal little bubble of expectant joy popped and I was reeling in very unexpected terror. My husband was by my side the whole time, encouraging me, holding my hand or hair back as need be, and I vaguely remember telling him repeatedly I could do this. Y’all, transition is no joke. img_0489My loving family was there too and I also remember being worried sick that I was going to scare my poor sisters out of ever having children. My plan had been to have an all natural birth, we had practiced and taken all natural childbirth classes and I had watched countless birth videos in joyous wistful tears. I thought I was prepared for birth. I was not. But the thing about birth, there are no take backs. Ready or not, that baby/babies are going to come out of you one way or the other.

So there I was, the room spinning around me and the nurse came in to talk to me about an epidural. I thought you could only have those before you were ready to push but apparently not. Baby B was still transverse, and the nurse gently explained to me that while the baby could turn while Baby A was being born, if they did not the doctor would have to reach up and manually turn her if possible (at which point she said I would be feeling that death was a good option) or they would have to put me under emergency general anesthesia and I would miss Baby B’s birth entirely. I talked to my husband and we determined to do the epidural. I was in full blown ready to push mode at this point, so let me tell you sitting still while having a needle placed in my spine was anything but enjoyable. Different hospital staff kept trying to talk to me to my immense irritation, at this point I was barely holding on and the last thing I wanted to do was think let alone answer a question. Sorry if I was a jerk guys…(my husband insists I wasn’t, but he loves me). Eventually the epidural was placed and began to take effect. Dear kind anesthesiologist, I appreciated you, your respect and your gentleness to me that day more than you could know.

fullsizerender-2I was wheeled into the cold and extremely bright operating room, husband at my side. Leaving the rest of my family behind was scarier than I thought it would be as I headed into the unknown. During birth I wanted my mom there and my immediate family so badly it hurt. Thank God for my supportive husband, he was like a rock every moment. We wheeled into the OR and my team transferred me to a cold steel bed under some enormous bright lights, I vaguely remember noting the VERY large group of masked people. There was my team, a team for each baby, and apparently some medical students as well. My dear nurse was by my side holding my hand and she prayed with me. Someone said it was going to be okay and asked if I was ready and she said ‘it’s going to be great! We prayed!’

img_0484The team I had was amazing, knowing my disappointment over having the gender surprise ruined to make up for it they took bets on who would come out first, boy or girl. My husband was assigned the task of counting my pushes, and I began to push. And I pushed and pushed. They had me feel Baby A’s head as he crowned and it was so wrinkly I was highly alarmed. They reassured me it was absolutely normal. Apparently I pushed for an hour, and then the doctor told me she was going to give me one last chance to push before she did an episiotomy as Baby A’s head was stuck. I remember thinking, oh eff no, that baby is coming out NOW. And come out he did! The doctor proclaimed him to be the boy, I remember hearing him cry and saying ‘oh he’s crying that’s a good sign!’ They immediately began to check for Baby B and determined not only was she still transverse but she was going into distress. I am so thankful for my doctor, she remained calm and even delayed Baby A’s cord clamping as much as physically possible per my request. She did have to manually turn Baby B, I remember seeing her hand move around on the inside as I looked at the outside of my stomach, talk about weird. There was shouting, the doctor asking ‘what’s in my hand what am I grabbing’ to the person running the ultrasound machine. It was determined she had grabbed a head and she pulled that baby down and I pushed her out. What felt like a lifetime was two minutes. img_0481My son, Harry James, was born November 8th at 12:00pm weighing in at exactly 6 pounds and my daughter, Arabella Rose, was born at 12:02pm weighing exactly 5 pounds.  I was very foggy by this point and don’t remember much but my doctor saying ‘sorry mama’ as she scrubbed me out and stitched me up. (I’m thankful for that scrubbing, I avoided any uterine infections!)
They wiped my babies down (I had requested no baths, save that vernix!) wrapped them and put them on my fullsizerender-3chest. I know I was crying but I still felt so numb, so surreal. There were tiny humans on my chest?! Where did they come from?! And I became SO COLD. I was shaking like I’ve never shaken before. They wheeled me back to my room where my babies were put back on my chest and what felt like millions of hot towels and blankets were piled on me, and lots of other family came in. I love family, but was I thankful my nurse kicked them out. Next time I give birth I have determined to allow myself a little bit to adjust before company. I remember being so overwhelmed and just wanting to sleep (thanks a lot epidural). I do know however that I made the right choice. Thanks to the epidural I may have been foggy but I was AWAKE for my little girls birth. I still have a goal of going all natural next time, but I still believe that what’s important is babies arriving safely and mama surviving.fullsizerender

I did eventually warm up and stop shaking, the rest of the day was a daze of looking at these two tiny doll like figures with piercing beady black eyes. My perfect little babies.

To be continued…

Click here to read The Birth Story of Harry and Arabella Part Two

The Postpartum Experience

fullsizerenderAs I’ve mentioned before, my mother is Italian, and I come from a loving, high energy and very effusive family. No emotions on lockdown when I was growing up, (nothing has changed in that). Open expressions of love and feelings were never prohibited, and I’ll say with amusement that my energetically open, affectionate and readily communicative style of living was definitely something for my sweet husband to adjust to. But despite having grown up with such love and depth, I wasn’t prepared for the beyond intense, past all consuming feeling that is being a mom.
I don’t think anything, or anyone, can actually prepare you for the insanely, crazily beautiful, soul devouring, complete passions igniting, space vacuum roller coaster of love that is being a parent. You feel things you never imagined you could feel with an intensity you could not have imagined possible. You would jump in front of a speeding train for this tiny human, and every emotion in your body is woven tightly into their every breath.

I know things have gotten better in some ways, but in so many other ways I believe new mamas are left to hang dry in our culture post birth. I was blessed to have an incredible support system of husband and family and it was still the most grueling experience I’ve ever had. fullsizerender-3 Everyone says your life changes the moment your baby hits your chest. That wave, that feeling of joyous uninhibited love didn’t happen as suddenly for me as I fought through postpartum depression for a while after my twins arrived. PPD is a tricky beast, I found myself experiencing this completely overwhelmingly intense soul consuming love for these two tiny beings while simultaneously feeling terrifyingly emotionally dulled and vacant. I remember waiting for the wave to hit me after they handed me my babies, but all I could think was, where did these things come from?!
My room was filled with people within an hour of my twins being born. Well meaning family but it was too much. Thank God for the nurse who kicked everyone out for me so I could rest and try to wrap my head around what had just happened. (Standby for my full twin birth story post next week) In hindsight, I’m giving myself permission with my next kid to not see anyone for a while after birth. My life at the time my twins were born was pretty high stress, I was teaching 7 days a week and looking back I realize that is partly why I wasn’t able to identify that my feelings of depression were more than environmentally triggered. I believe the trickiest part when fighting a mental battle is how easy it is to lay blame for the situation on anything physically present, especially yourself.

You fill out a zillion forms after your baby is born scanning for the ‘baby blues’, but I, as I imagine most new mothers do, had no intention of admitting anything other than my joy at being a new mom. I had nothing to be sad about right, I had two healthy new babies! And in no way shape or form did I want anyone to think I was anything but completely capable of being their mom. I had literally waited all my life for this moment, no way was I admitting that I was anything other than fine.
As I’ve mentioned before, due to our circumstances I went back to work at three weeks postpartum. It was horrible, and I could (and will) go off on the ridiculousness that is ‘maternity leave’ in this country. My poor husband didn’t even get a week off. My parents stayed with us after the twins were born and I can truthfully say I wouldn’t have made it through without them. I was so blessed to have a mom who wanted to be there and support me in my new journey.

But despite my circle of support, going back to work that early meant many more people around me and my babies, and it would have been overwhelming no matter what but adding PPD to the mix meant I went into hard core survival mode. My goal every day was to get through hour by hour until it was over. I was completely shut down emotionally, but still had no intention of that showing so I put on a face and faked it like I’ve never faked it before. I could feel the precious moments with my babies slipping by and that made it so much worse. Every day I felt I was losing my long awaited time with them as I paddled desperately through my exhaustion and mental fog, and every day I felt more like a failure and more heartbreak over my lost time.

It is shocking how overwhelming it is to be a new mom. Not only do you have these tiny humans literally relying on you to SURVIVE, everyone has an opinion on how you should be doing it. Every day was like getting a fire hose of emotion to the face.
I wrote in a previous post that sometimes as a mama you are forced to pour from an empty cup, and I don’t believe there is ever a time where that is more true than when you have a newborn. This tiny human needs you, and needs you 24/7. You’re going through recovery from LITERALLY making and bringing a new life into this world, and you absolutely must dedicate everything you are to someone else. I mean, it’s hard to have time to PEE let alone heal and recover. You are completely and utterly the sole source of life to this tiny new being. No matter how supportive your spouse is, and no matter how much supportive family you have, I truly believe you will never experience any pressure in your life that is more intense than being a mom. Nothing has ever made me feel so tiny. And I had the support of my loving husband, parents, and sisters. Not all women are so fortunate.
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Add to this new mom pressure the social pressures and expectations of family friends and work and I believe it is a recipe that can quickly end in disaster. I was expected to be social, see people and have them see my babies. It was like pouring acid on my nerves but I strapped both my babies on me in wraps and a smile on my face and I slogged through. I love this article (mothering the mother, click to read it) from the birth without fear blog, it discusses the horrible lack of postpartum and bonding time that is allowed to mothers in our culture. As it says, in many cultures women are given 40 days to do NOTHING post birth but heal and bond with their baby. And think about it, can you really imagine any task more intense than MAKING AND GIVING LIFE? I remember reading in one of my mama groups of a mother in my area who stayed in bed for ten days post birth doing nothing but being with that baby. I was green as a crocodile in envy as I told my husband about this. And she wasn’t just being lazy and having a vacation. Heck no. She was adjusting to having birthed an entirely brand new human! Yet spending that time with your baby seems so excessive in our cultures eyes. I will never understand why we treat birth as a serious illness that needs massive medical intervention but the need for postpartum recovery time is so often slid under the rug and dismissed.

My twins will be a year old next week, my PPD has improved significantly, it does eventually fade. I still fight guilt and cry for my lost moments with my babies, and I know there are things I will do differently should we have another child. I yearn to see a culture where birth is treated as a natural process and postpartum recovery is held on a pedestal of tremendous importance. Imagine yourself in that scenario. I wonder if I could have avoided or at least short circuited the PPD I dealt with. What would it have changed for you mamas? I hope sharing my story can one day touch some mama, more than anything I feel new mamas need someone who understands. Who can say, I get what you’re going through, and it’s not fair. One day I hope our culture changes and women can truly be there for each other in support like this, I hope our expectations of new mamas can evolve to where we see being a new mama for the serious matter it is, and as a culture respect it. I believe the health of our future depends on it.