Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Birth, round 5

My admit bracelet reads 7:08 AM.

That morning, when the alarm had rung at 5 AM, I told Greg I would get up with him and eat a little something and see how I felt. I wasn't sure I wanted him to make the 45 minute drive to work. I had had some contractions in the night, while I slept deeply, which had felt more real-- and had brought me back to that primal place of labor. As I dreamed, I remembered those hours spent with babies past moaning deeply over the birthing bed, bouncing on the ball, standing in the shower. The realness of the memories made me feel as if these random, sporadic contractions might be leading up to something bigger.

So I had some juice, and a little coffee, and at 5:05 I had a little one, and at 5:25 a longer one. I took a shower, and had another one after that, short. There seemed to be no pattern. They seemed short. But somehow, they did feel real, so I asked him to stay home. He called in at 6:15 and asked for a substitute.

Another random one, but the pressure was feeling huge. Huge. So I called the midwife, and Greg called his parents and asked them to come. It was 6:25 and I lay on my side, tweaked from the weight of the skull pressing on my pelvis. Liam came down and sat with me while Greg brought our bag out to the car. I was beginning to feel desperate, and I wailed to Liam about how Grammie and Grandpa were taking so long. Checking the clock, he noted to me it had been only 7 minutes since Greg had called. It seemed like forever. I could feel this was real, and now.

Soon help arrived, and I smooched Liam in the driveway and we headed out, leaving the girls asleep. I was grateful not to have had to say goodbye to Fiona, because I felt so sad thinking of that morning as our last moment with her as my baby. To have had to say the words, goodbye, and to see her tiny little self, her blond curls and big, heavy lashed eyes waving to me, perhaps through her own tears, would have sent me reeling. This goodbye was simple, just Liam in the driveway in the misty rain, waving and leaping with excitement as we pulled out past his grandparents. They were walking up to the door as we pulled out. I was frantic.

In the car, every bump hit me with such fervor. I wanted out, but I was quiet and restrained. I wasn't sure what was happening. There hadn't been any apparent escalation or pattern to what was happening, but clearly this was labor.

We arrived just as the 7 AM shift was coming on. Our midwife Judie met us at the hospital, just as she had met us early one May morning eight years ago. She was bleary eyed, as she had been then, but this time charged with an optimism that was different. She walked us to the same room where Aoife had been welcomed five years ago. The lights were low, and she hugged us both.

I wouldn't miss this for the world, she said, and I knew she meant it.

Because I am a VBAC patient, there are a few hoops I have to jump through before getting started with a birth. So while I breathed heavily, leaning on my hips, sometimes arching back, always with eyes closed to the dim light, the blood bank came and took my sample and braceleted me, and the nurses fought to find a good vein to put in my IV port in case of emergency. It was 7:30 by the time they finished these logistics, and I was feeling so heavy and weighted. The reality of labor had hit to the point that while I eagerly awaited the result, I dreaded the work that lay ahead. The incredible, deep discomfort that is labor was suddenly real again, and it felt hard to embrace at that moment.

Judie wanted to check me, and I wanted to be checked. The last time she was our midwife was for Liam, and I remember clearly the strange look that passed over her face when she discovered that I was fully dialated, but that the baby was no longer in my pelvis. This was the beginning of the breech discovery and subsequent c-section, and so it was unnerving to me when, at about 7:35, Judie checked me and once again I saw a strange look pass over her eyes. This time, though, the news was in my favor. My heart nearly stopped with joy at her words:

Do you feel like you should be pushing?

Am I fully dialated?, I asked, hardly daring to believe that what I had felt, and not believed, was real.

You are, you are. Any time, take your time.

And I did. This news that the work I was prepared to do, but dreading, was actually already complete gave me this incredible peaceful strength. I was almost confused: when had this labor happened? How had I gotten all the way dialated without knowing it? But what a gift! This was my body's fifth time doing this, and it was good at it.

For a little while, with each contraction, I bore down just enough to negate the rush. I found that with just enough push, I could make the discomfort of the contraction go away. I gave myself this, for a few rounds, just to ease the strength of it all, and to give myself a few minutes to wrap myself around what was happening: I was having a baby.

I got up, then, onto my knees, and I asked Greg to put on some music: the Wailin' Jenny's, Bright Morning Star. He did, and almost immediately upon the opening strains of the music something happened which has always happened before: a strange break in my contractions, perhaps a three minute rest where I just lay, with my head resting on the top of the raised birthing bed, breathing slowly and peacefully. The labor almost seemed to have disappeared, but I knew what would come.

The calm before the storm, I said quietly.

About thirty seconds later, my water broke like a bomb, with a tremendous bang and a huge splash that covered the midwife from belly to forehead and had me three inches deep in fluid on the bed. I knew then that my moments of peace were well spent and that now was the time to work.

I pushed steadily and quietly. I didn't make a sound as I felt the head come down, and begin to turn the corner as it crowned. I reached down and could feel it coming through. I was blind to the world around me, deaf to the words of the midwife, of Greg, and of Trudy, our beloved nurse who has attended each and every birth of ours. I could feel the baby coming, and still I hardly dared to believe it was real.
But it was real, and I felt the head come out and reached down and felt it, the skinny little neck and the full, real head, and I could hear the midwife say, it's starting to cry, and ask Greg if he wanted to catch her.
Greg came over and held out his hands, and I pushed again, and Maeve fell out into the hands of her Daddy, and everybody yelped with joy, and Maeve cried, and I turned onto my back and reached for her, this fourth daughter of mine, this proof that May is not cursed after all.

Her face shone up at me, greyish and greasy and contorted with a beautiful birth cry. She had the same little face as all my other babies, she was so absolutely and positively mine. I clutched her to me and for the first time ever I did not cry, I just broke into a huge, unbreakable smile and was filled to the brim with a happiness I could hardly name.

This child, this new little girl, this life I had hardly dared to believe in. Through the Rh sensitivity scare, a cord around the neck revealed on ultrasound, extra amniotic fluid, and any number of nights spent eating ice cream and praying for movement, here she was: alive, beautiful, and so real. She shouted for just a moment and then, as most babies do, quieted as I held her to my chest and snuggled her ear to my heart. I whispered into her ear and held her close, and a warm blanket was laid over us, and our life together began.

It was 7:56 AM.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Maeve Eloise

7 lbs, 2.7 oz


(more to come)

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Today the rain falls, as it is forecasted to until the 22nd of May.
I am unable to catch my breath tonight, literally, and so I've settled onto the couch, my huge belly resting on my lap. My muscle is ripping away from my ribcage again, as it did when I was pregnant with Fiona, and the pain is excruciating. Now I think my physical anxiety to deliver this beautiful, ready soul is paired with my mental urge to do so. Baby, come out, come out. Come to me, baby five.
So many loose ends of my life are tied up now. Having passed the anniversary of Charlotte's birth there is some lightening to the fear I had that somehow fate would align the births of the two Maybabies. I needed her to have her own time. Tomorrow Greg will celebrate his birthday, and I wish that I could deliver to him the one gift he asked of me eight years ago, a gift I wept for years upon not having been able to provide to him. I hold that gift for him, tightly.
Tonight I'm merely breathing, or trying to, and wishing that ten days could turn into one, and that there could be some resolution to the mystery of the rest of my life.

And also, feeling slightly envious of all the people I know who only wonder when that baby will be born, and have no "if's" attached to the idea of birth. My "if" seems so huge right now...

Friday, May 13, 2011


She is eight.
Today was beautiful, it was wonderful: the one day of the year that is only for family, where we don't answer our phone and we dote upon each other and spend every single moment basking in each others' company. Today was especially kind because I have had to postpone some of the essential pieces of the anniversary day which make it hard: those where I ruminate over every detail of the night and day of her death and birth. Replaying these details are important to me, they are such a central part of my personal history and of hers, but today can't be the day. I will postpone this piece until after the delicious, successful, healthy birth of baby number five. The imminent, upcoming birth. Please may it happen soon.
I had spent months preparing for spending last night awake, worried and beside myself. The baby swam gently all night, as if aware, and each time I came to I felt the stirring and let myself glide back into dreamless sleep, conscious not to let my thoughts pass into eight-years-ago mode.
This is so different from most May twelfth-to-thirteenths, where I will watch the clock, and wonder when it happened.
Then this morning, Fiona woke up at 4:39.
Was this the time? The time when we arrived, and our world came crashing down as the flat line appeared?
It might have been.

And there is some power to holding onto today as her day, as the day I have thought of as doomsday, and to feel the baby moving in my huge belly and think, history is not repeating itself after all.

I am grateful that my Charlotte will still have her day as her own. As this day where we mark the sad beginning to such a beautiful family, and pay tribute to the little girl who never got to grow and be a part of what I hold so dear.

In a few weeks, I will weep buckets as I recall the details of this day. And for today, I linger in the moments of the warm spring sunshine, knowing that my sanity rests on my ability to hold onto what today has to offer. Charlotte is holding my hand, helping me see that this is okay.

I love you, baby girl... who is not a baby anymore.

Who would you be today?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Tuesday after

I've gone dark, like a secret agent.

The whirlwind is slowing, though, and I am breathing again. There was the angst. Is the angst.

There were two things, two different weeks, that showed themselves on ultrasound, both of which have moderately resolved themselves. The universe testing me, one last time?

So there is the worry, the constant, persistent worry, but now the worry is slightly offset by the speed of the ticking clock within me-- I am now 14 days from my due date, so it is becoming more in the realm of possible that things will work out. Fiona was born 9 days early, Aoife 5. These are numbers I can work with. Even if this baby doesn't arrive early, at least I can hold out on the possibility that it might happen soon. That balances out some, a little, of the fear.

In the past two weeks, I selected from my computer library, uploaded on to Snap.fish, ordered, sorted, and put into albums exactly 2,078 photographs. I also put together a gigantic mailing for my loss organization that was posted just this afternoon, going to every midwife, OB, and family center in and around our valley. There are four birthday parties in the next week and the gifts are now purchased and wrapped, ready to go. Some semblance of order is falling upon what last week seemed like the most incredible disarray. I was whirling so fast I was labeling photo albums at stop lights while I waited. Too much, too much.

So now, tonight, for the first time in maybe a month, I am actually sitting. I sit, and the warm wind is blowing in the window beside me, and my black cat is vying for a spot on my lap next to the computer. The cherry tree is in full bloom out the window, her blossoms falling ever so gently as the breeze passes.

Today is the Tuesday after Mother's day, which was her day. For some reason, this year, probably because of my pregnancy, the days of the week have seemed very significant for me. On Monday morning I had the intention of running errands and having a swim in the pool when suddenly I was paralyzed by the thought that those were the same things I had puttered away my day doing that Monday back eight years ago. It seemed like too much of a coincidence, and I realized I couldn't do it, I just couldn't, and I ended up having a small scale emotional crisis and spending the morning hooked up to the monitor in my midwife's office, listening to the little one's heart pound while Fiona entertained herself with the dollhouse, and then getting sent over to ultrasound for a better view when the little bugger failed his/her nonstress test. That went like clockwork, with baby scoring 8/8 in a few minutes flat, with visible beautiful blood flow through the cord.

So tomorrow I will try to run a few errands, we'll see, or maybe Thursday. It will happen. And Friday, although to me it seems less like her birthday than today does, I will take the day to settle back with my family and love them up, remembering where it all began.

And also? I won a big award for my program. It was the President's Choice for Outstanding Community Outreach selected from among all volunteer programs in New England. This is the equivalent of me winning the mom-of-the-year award for Charlotte, in my eyes... and I'm pretty darn proud.