Tag Archives: delivery

Post Cards from the Edge

PostPartum Missives, maybe is a better title.  Only because Postcards From the Edge has already been taken.

I forgot a hundred things about being a new mom in the last six years. But I remembered one.  New moms put hormonal teenagers to shame.  I am out of my fucking mind.  Carrie Fisher style.  Crazy.  But lucid enough to know it. Carrie Fisher crazy without the booze.

But this time it has not taken me by surprise.  Four days.  I made it four days on virtually no sleep before I asked MQD to just sit by me.  He held my hand and I  wept.  First quiet, reverent, emotionally charged tears.  And then big, fat sobby, snot running down my face in to my mouth tears.  “What’s wrong, babe?”

“I have no idea.  I am pretty sure nothing.  I just started to cry and now I can’t stop. ”  MQD handed me some tissues and he sat back down next to me.

He sat back down.  And he held my hand.  And I smiled.  Because he sat back down.

Aside from a general state of crazy… the last few days have been unbelievable.  Eventually the weepy “I am so in love with this baby and my family is complete now” post will come.  But I haven’t had a chance to process all that yet.  Next week, after my family leaves, before MQD’s arrives, while Emily is in school and I can get my “stare at Lucy and contemplate my love for her” on it will come… but today all I have is some observations regarding my postpartum self.

Since my post regarding grooming was such a hit I figured I’d share this.  If you’ve ever ordered a draft beer  in a cheap pizza place then you will know what I am talking about.  The big mug arrives.  Oh, a frosty mug of beer.  Delightful.  And you pick it up to raise it to your lips and HOLY SHIT, you almost zing beer over your shoulder on to the backs of the people sitting in the booth behind you because it is so much lighter than you’d anticipated.

I climb in the shower yesterday, hair washed, face washed.  Listen for Lucy.  I hear quiet from the bedroom.  I picture MQD snuggling with our sweet girl in bed.  Drip, drip, drip go the boobs, no harm no foul.  We are in the shower.   I have five more minutes to shave my legs.  And I grab my razor, lift my foot up to the corner of the shower (where I propped my foot before I could only reach the side of the tub) and HOLY SHIT if I was a cheap plastic mug of beer I’d have been ass over head on my back in the shower.  Without the giant stomach to stop me,  body still hopped up on relaxin, the hormone that makes your joints limber for an easier labor….  I can damn near put my foot behind my ear from a standing position.  Stretch marks, stitches and a total absence of abdominal muscles makes this a much less appealing visual than it might have been at nineteen…but nonetheless, I had a smile as I imagined my post-pregnancy body… not too different from a cheap plastic mug of beer.  It’s no frosty pint glass.  But at least it’s beer.

Feeling rather full of myself I jumped out of the shower.  And took the first long look in the mirror. At 29, after Em was born I had high hopes.  Aspirations of bouncing right back to my pre-baby body.  This time, I know better.

Yesterday I pulled all of the super pregnant third trimester maternity pants out of my closet.    And I replaced them.  With the super comfortable elastic waist band pants of early pregnancy.  Elastic waistbands, we’re thick as thieves, you and me.

I’m not going to turn my back on you just yet.  We can’t stay friends like this forever. But for now… please take good care of my belly.  Do what you can to not let it fold over your elasticy goodness.  No one needs to see that.  And I promise to keep you covered with a tank top as often as possible, choosing to pull my boobs out the top of my shirt instead of lifting up my shirt to expose myself as an elastic pants wearer.

In the meantime, I will try to see past the stretch marks and the belly and the big black circles under my eyes.  And I will try to remember the wondrous thing my  body did for me less than a week ago.   You gave me my Lucy Quinn, body.   So I will give you a couple of months of elastic pants.  But just a couple.

A couple of years after Em was born  I had the pleasure of stumbling in to this website – The Shape of  a Mother.   I struggled with posting this picture today and then was reminded of the brave women that came before me, telling their stories.  Stories of birth and rebirth, of love and fear and shame and pride and all the emotions in between.

I have been honest about so much of this journey.  And this is where I am today.  Six days post-partum.  Weepy.  Joyful.  Falling in love a hundred times a day.

And Then We Were Four: Part Four

It was decided that I would stop trying to push through the last centimeter of my dilating, that I would  stop and take a break, let my body finish doing the work.  Then it was determined I should change position.  In spite of the enema I had managed to give myself during early labor the shred of privacy I had been maintaining was holding on to the fear that it felt like I had to go to the bathroom.  When Sarah suggested I go sit in the bathroom for a while it sounded like as good a plan as any.  Pillows were placed on the back of the toilet and I sat backwards with my face against the cool, soft pillows.  In the dark it was easier to let my mind go.

Earlier, I had gotten very sick.  Throwing up like a freshman at a fraternity party, I couldn’t even open my eyes lest I see the bucket and get sick all over again.  (Hello, chinese food, I had to have!!) I took a new bucket with me to the bathroom just in case.  There, in the clean white bucket from the birthing center was a single dog hair.  Even amidst the mania I felt… I smiled, Fisher… his damn hair gets everywhere.

Changing positions brought no physical relief.  If anything it required the body to  acclimate to new pressure points, new pain.  At this point each contraction seemed to radiate down in to my legs.  Later I would have IV fluids to hydrate me and the pain in my legs would  almost immediately subside.

Physical relief did not come while I was in the bathroom, but it did give me a moment to regroup emotionally.  I’d had my eyes closed much of the previous hour and now in the darkness I could  feel only hands rubbing my back.  Not knowing if it was MQD or Erin  – it almost didn’t matter.  I cried out as my contractions peaked.  Spoke quietly to myself and to the baby in the interim.  I don’t know how long I was in there.  But when I came out, I knew it was time.  I said more than once that I felt like I had been asleep.  And like I had just woken up.  I asked several times for Erin to tell me again what was happening.

For a time I felt like I was trapped between the bathroom and bed. My body had returned to the bed, my mind had stayed in the bathroom.  Eventually we all reunited and a feeling of calm alertness washed over me.  MQD smiled at me and I could see in his eyes the relief I was experiencing.  Never once did he look frightened, but he looked so happy to have me back that I know it must have been quite a scene there for a bit.

As with so many things in our lives the clearest pictures are those that we can see only after the fact. From this side of things I know that it was the final stages of transition in the bathroom.

As much as it was almost unnecessary to check, I needed to hear it. When Sarah said “You’re ten centimeters, we can have this baby any time you’re ready,” tears began to flow down my face.

I had watched a lot of birth videos.  I had seen images of these smiling women as they pushed their babies out in to the world.  But I had imagined I would be more of the Linda Blair/Exorcist labor and delivery type  than the Blissed-out Commune Mama type.  This picture does not tell the whole story, certainly.  But it captures the joy, the lack of a sense of fear and urgency, the calm that was in the room before Lucy made her debut. 

Our doula, Erin, pulled triple duty as she held the mirror, the flash light and my iPhone throughout the home stretch.  Sarah suggested I reach down and touch the babies head and I asked her to guide myhand.  In keeping with the sense of levity throughout my labor Erin said “I don’t know how big your vagina is exactly, but you’ll find it.”

As soon as I felt her the waterworks began again and I wondered how I would  ever continue to push slowly, not risk tearing.  At one point (after I had the moment of clarity wherein I asked for my glasses and could  actually see in the mirror!) I saw her head begin to emerge and then as I tried  and relaxed between pushing I saw it retreat.  “No, no, no, baby, come back….” and I wept.

I told Sarah and Missy and Erin the story of my dream, how Baby D came and knocked on the door and I didn’t pick him/her up.  How I was so terribly afraid that I didn’t do the right thing.  Sarah reassured me that the baby would descend at least as far as they had previously with each push.  So, I relaxed.  And spoke.  “Come on baby, I promise I will pick you up, and I will never let you go, just come out… Come on… I am right here.”

And slowly, I saw this tiny flash of baby hair become a baby.  I was waiting for the ring of fire, and as I saw the head emerge I can recall thinking this must be it… and then the head would grow bigger.  Later they would  tell me Lucy was born with her hand against her face contributing  to her already giant sized baby head.

I felt it, finally. The mystical ring of fire, the moment that your body is open, allowing passage of your child in to the world and then I saw her face.  Red and smushy, bloody and quiet.  With little effort  her shoulders appeared and I had my hands hooked beneath her armpits and I was pulling her on to my chest.  Our baby. She was here.

I cried out for Emily. I had been adamant that no one tell me if we’d had a boy or a girl and we realized as Emily entered the room that from my vantage point I really couldn’t tell.  And no one else had gotten a decent look. So, it was Emily that told me.  My sweetest girl, my Emily June, it was she that said “It’s a sister.”

“You got your sister, baby girl…” I said,my eyes flooding with the realization that my baby girl, was no longer my baby girl.

We stayed at the birth center only a few hours before we headed home.  Our family of four.  Mom and Dad in the front seat.  Our girls sleeping quietly in the darkness of the early morning.  I carried Lucy Quinn in to the house.  A teeny tiny girl in her car seat.  MQD carried Emily June up to her bed, her long legs looking even longer as he carried her past me up to her room.

It was just after six in the morning.  A new day.  We were home.  And then we were four.

MQD's girls

And Then We Were Four: Part Three

The final  parts of Lucy’s birth story are likely best told as a series of pictures in my mind.  Moments I thought I would never forget… my hazy memory of Emily’s birth tells a different story.  I’ll make some effort to put them in a narrative order… but that is the best I can do.

We took the room in the front of the birthing center, the same room I’d been in only twelve hours earlier.  Only at night it was different, quieter.  As we arrived and our bags were put down, cell phone chargers plugged in, I could not help but imagine that it would be in this room we would meet our baby.  These people…. these were the players.  Me, MQD, Erin, our doula, Sarah, the midwife and Missy, a kind and gentle nurse on call for the evening.  Later that night I would laugh between contractions, laughing to cover my embarrassment and apologize for what I feared seemed a rude question and ask Missy why she was there?  “I know you are not actually a scary person… but no one told me that there would be a nurse here the whole  time.  Is something wrong with me?  or the baby?  Is that why you are here? You’re scaring me.”  We all got a good chuckle over this, my being frightened by this addition to our cast of characters.

As we organized ourselves, each of us finding our place in the room I decided to change my clothes. I had a black nightgown, with a racer back that I had envisioned wearing for a while.  I pulled it on and realized it was backwards and started to giggle, pulling one boob out each side I said “So, I was gonna wear this, that’s cool, right?  A great nursing gown, too, right?’ It set a tone, showcasing my absurd sense of humor, in even the most reverent times.

Sarah checked me and I was six, maybe seven centimeters dilated.  Not as far along as I had hoped but lots of progress had been made since the morning.  She said that she thinks my water had ruptured up high in the amniotic sac, there was plenty remaining so there was no reason to be concerned about the baby.  I recall her telling me that we had plenty of time, and thinking, sure, loads of time, what’s the rush?

Shortly after we got to the birthing enter my contractions began to get closer together.  The experience of the stopping and starting of active labor was an incredible feeling.  The relief felt as each contraction ended, the way I could see it in MQD’s face as they peaked, the reflection of my own pain in his eyes and the strength I knew I had to endure them, these were all new experiences to me.

I have since told anyone that I have spoken to that the stopping and starting of contractions can be compared to only one other mind-altering, if not life-changing experience in my life.  In my wilder, younger days, as I sat in a hotel room after a concert with a handful of friends, looped on whatever was our pleasure for the evening, sweaty from dancing, all of us in our own mental spaces I can recall the moment when the trip was over and I’d blink my eyes.  And in that instant, I was back.  “Guys, hey guys!  Are you normal? I feel totally normal.  Is anyone else normal?”

As each contraction came to an end I’d revel in having my body back, my mind returned to me, all at the same time clinging desperately to the fleeting memory of the experience, knowing that I had experienced something while I was gone, something I wanted to remember forever.

This picture is everything that I wanted from this experience. My smile, MQD’s support, Emily’s pinkie blanket in my right hand.

My greatest weakness as an individual and as part of a couple is my struggle with asking for help.  And this experience was life changing in that respect.  To see and experience what I am capable of achieving if I am willing to lean on others, specifically someone who loves me, was empowering.  To experience that strength that comes when you need it most.

My contractions continued to escalate for some time, growing increasingly more difficult in their peaks, and slowly my need to entertain, to hold court, to make up for perceived weakness during those moments with a clever commentary during the time between contractions slowly waned.

It was during the first of one of these quieter moments that my water broke. Again.  This time I got to experience the rush of fluid that you see in the movies.  It was comic, nearly missing soaking Erin.

This was another moment that I could feel the energy of my own mind shift. My water had broken completely.  It was to time to get the baby out.   Shortly after this Sarah checked to see how dilated I was, at my request.  I was beginning to second guess my intuition.  What is an “overwhelming desire to push?” I have had a nearly overwhelming desire to meet this baby for weeks.  How would I know that this was the time when I could not fight the desire any longer?

I was only 9 centimeters, but feeling more and more like it was getting closer.  I was afraid that Em’s absence would hold me back.  That I’d not be ready to meet our baby until I knew she was here, the final players in our cast of characters.

MQD called Amy.  Or maybe it was Erin that called.  I knew they could get here within half an hour.  As soon as I knew they were on their way I started feeling more and more like I couldn’t wait any longer.  Sarah told me she could  help me, she could try to ease my cervix back that final centimeter if I felt like I needed to start pushing now.  Later, when my sweet girl was born with a head not unlike that of Megamind I would see that this early  pushing, the pushing that I felt had been wasted energy, it had been significant.  Moving Lucy down in my birth canal, it had also made for one hell of a bruise as I tried to squeeze the poor girl out a not quite open door.  Days later with her  perfectly round little noggin in the crook of my elbow as I type, I can laugh.  If I doubted my strength I need only look at those first few pictures of her.

Eventually the struggle of pushing before it was time became too much and both Sarah and Erin suggested I take a break, change positions.  I had been so certain that I’d want to labor in the bath but intermittently through this labor I was afraid of falling.  Off the bed, down to the ground, I just felt like my grasp on the planet was tentative enough, the addition of water seemed too much.  At one point, we started to fill the tub, but the sound was overwhelming.

Amy and Emily got to the birth center before I got up, I think. I know that Em came in, sleepy eyed and tentative.  She stayed through the duration of a single contraction.  And I told her that each one ended. And when they were over, I was okay.  I recall telling her that it was just like when we were at home.  Amy took Em out to the lounge area to watch a movie and I think that was when I started feeling like I needed affirmation.   I asked Erin to tell me what was happening, that I was okay.  I remember her saying “this is not like when you were at home, this is transition.”

It gives me goosebumps now to type it.  Transition.  The most difficult  part.  The last part.  The period of labor that comes right before pushing.  The hardest work is done now.  This is the time when it is officially “too late” for an epidural.  I was tired.  And frightened.  But in the back of my mind I knew then when she said that single sentence,  “This is transition,” I had this.

We’d done it…. part four.  

And Then We Were Four: Part Two

I spoke with our doula, Erin, shortly after three in the afternoon. She told me that she had class at the Durham Tech campus not far from our house that evening. She planned on stopping by and checking in on us shortly after seven.

The late afternoon passed slowly. I anxiously awaited contractions to begin. Emily, MQD and I sat side by side and hand in hand on the couch. We watched a movie, Fast Girl, about a girl that learns to drive race cars and we talked about how this would be the last time Movie Night would be just the three of us.

MQD said to me at one point “We are gonna have a baby in this house. It just hit me. I’m crying a lot right now. I just cried over Wizards of Waverly Place. Fisher is too ashamed to even look at me.” And we laughed.

We firmed up plans with Amy for the evening. Em would go to school in the morning if necessary. We would call her if things started progressing.

Some time between an early dinner and Emily getting ready for bed I started having fairly regular contractions. True to form, I timed each and every one on my iPhone. Seeing the numbers change as it averaged “all contractions” vs “last five” or “last three” I had to admit that things were progressing. Not unbearably. An uncomfortable 45 seconds or minute every five to seven minutes was more than tolerable. I’d not remembered this predictability. I could feel myself making a checklist of things to do during my next break. Give myself an enema. Put your bathrobe in the dryer. Run the vacuum. Empty the dishwasher. One task at a time we got closer to “ready.”

When Erin called just before seven I assumed she would stop by and say hello. Go home and tuck in her kids. Rest, maybe. Early labor with Emily was a long day of movies and worrying and I’d not imagined this would be different.

When Erin arrived I noticed my contractions slow down for a short while. I told her about how I had felt that after my visit with Maureen I was emotionally ready in a way I had not been yet. That my water breaking felt very mind over matter.

In the moment I did not connect the dots. But hours later it was obvious that my contractions began as soon as I knew that Erin was close by.

We laughed a lot. Told stories about our kids. Took the chance to just get to know one another. The more comfortable I became the stronger my contractions became.

At one point I can recall rolling forward off of the ball and falling to my knees, in quiet tears I said matter of factly “I do not like this. I am NOT comfortable.” and seconds later I was laughing. Not comfortable? No shit? You don’t say?

Erin said more than once that this would be a fun labor.

Eventually I connected the dots between an event and with what I perceived as the next stage of labor. Maureen told me I was ready and my water broke. Erin was near by and my contractions began. She was with us in our home and they progressed.

Shortly before ten I felt like I’d not see any more progress until I was at the birthing center. Mike called and spoke with Sarah, the midwife on call. He passed me the phone and I tried to keep my head screwed on. Eventually I had to say out loud “I know you’re just keeping me on the phone until you can hear me… Here we go….” and a little over a minute later I said “So, that is pretty much where we are. Every three or four minutes. We will be there soon.”

Amy came over and we woke Emily. I asked Em if I could take her pinkie blanket and I kissed her goodbye. And we piled in the car. Still clutching my iPhone contraction timer I started doing the math. A fifteen minute drive should be no more than seven contractions even if they started getting closer. I counted the first few. Chatting with Mike between the rest. He pulled up to the door to drop me off, parking spots only fifteen feet away I cried out “No, park the car. I’ll walk. I don’t want to be away from you.”

He came around and opened the door and helped me out. Slowly we walked away from the Maternity Parking spots I had driven by the last nine months and it dawned on me that we would come back to the car with a baby if all went as I had hoped…. part three.