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The Long Story of How We Ended Up With So Many Kids

A commenter recently asked:

I don’t want this to come across as rude or judgemental, but was it an active choice to have so many children? Have you always wanted a large family or just threw caution to the wind and allowed to happen what would happen? (I know there are many Christian families that believe in the quiverfull idea and therefore strive to create large families in order to serve God but I know that doesn’t apply to you.)

First of all, I don’t take this as rude or judgmental!  I’m a pretty open book, and I’d rather people ask me questions than make assumptions.  And I’m sure this is a subject quite a few people wonder about.

The short answer is: no, it was not an active choice to have so many children.  It’s mostly been a case of carelessness.

And it’s funny that you bring up the Christian angle, Holly, because I’ve suspected for a while that people in my real life world who don’t know me well assume that Michael and I must be super-religious because we have so many kids.  Other Christians seem to be genuinely shocked to learn that I don’t even believe in God, nor do I subscribe to any religion or dogma, and that we are raising our children religion-free.

Here’s basically the story of how we built our family:

When Michael and I got married, I already had a child (Kevin) from my first marriage.  In my first marriage, believe it or not, there were fertility issues; my first husband and I were married for ten years before we had Kevin, and there were several years of trying to conceive in there, which included exploratory surgery and a few rounds of Clomid.  It turned out to be male-factor infertility, but even though that was clinically diagnosed finally, I was so accustomed to trying to get pregnant only to have nothing come of it that I was convinced it would be the same with me and Michael.  As it turned out, though, Michael and I are a combustible combination!

So, when we got married, we were both well into our 30s, I had Kevin who was 4 1/2, and Michael and I both wanted kids together.  I remember that we talked about having maybe two more kids, making it a total of three.  And based on our ages and Kevin’s age, and the fact that I was worried that it would take a while to get pregnant, we started trying within a couple of months after we got married.  BOOM!  I got pregnant the first month we tried.  Surprise, surprise.

That was Joey, and he was born a few weeks shy of our first wedding anniversary.  I never went back on the pill after that, for a variety of reasons – I was nursing, I was in my mid-30s already, and I never did like the physical side effects of the pill.  So we just started trying to be careful time-wise, if you get my drift.  Something loosely based on the rhythm method and NFP.

I’ve always believed that anyone who is truly dead-set against getting pregnant will take whatever measures necessary to make sure they don’t get pregnant.  Michael and I knew that this wasn’t a foolproof method of preventing pregnancy, but since we were open to having another baby at some point anyway, we were okay with the chance that I would get pregnant again.  It worked for about a year and a half – until we were ready to actively try for another baby.

BOOM!  I got pregnant again the first month we tried.  This would be baby number 3, and we would probably be done after that.  Only somehow we ended up with TWINS!  That was a shock.  No twins in either of our families (although, contrary to popular belief, the hereditary component in conceiving fraternal twins – which is releasing multiple eggs in a single cycle – is passed down on the mother’s side and has nothing at all to do with the father’s family history; identical twins, on the other hand, which originate from a single egg that splits, is completely random and has no hereditary component), no fertility treatment, just a surprise two-for-one deal.

Four kids – we should have been done, right?  Only, neither of us were sure that we felt done – as crazy as that sounds.  It was (is!) a lot of work having so many little ones (Joey was only two when the twins were born – I’ve had three in diapers at the same time multiple times in my child-rearing career), but there was a joy in it, too.  And I think we had both fallen in love with the idea of our kids having numerous siblings and having their lives enriched in that way.

I still remember, clear as day, sitting in the bedroom with Michael, having a serious heart to heart about what we should do.  The twins were about 16 months old.  Were we going to have another baby or not?  We talked about it for a long time, sitting there that morning – about all the pros and cons, what it would mean for us, for the four kids we already had, to have another baby, or not to.  Neither of us could settle on an answer, so we agreed to wait until the twins turned 2 later that year to make a decision, and in the meantime, we’d continue being “careful.”

Only, a couple weeks later, I found out that I was already pregnant.  I wasn’t even sure when it had happened, because I had been keeping careful track of my cycles, etc.  I can’t even remember exactly what made me start suspecting, but I do remember that I was hosting book club at my house that night and I went to Target to buy martini glasses and a pregnancy test.  What a combo.  When the test came up positive, I was surprised, and, truthfully, a little upset, only because we hadn’t planned this one, and that was a new experience for me.  Michael was totally okay with it from the get-go, and once I got over my surprise, I was thrilled, too.

That was Lilah – baby number 5, and our first home birth.  I was honestly thrilled that I would finally get to have a birth on my own turf, my own terms.  I had hated my hospital births – especially the twins’ birth – and I wanted for once to have a positive birth experience.

I loved midwifery care – so much different, in so many ways, from OB care – and my midwife and I really bonded (and are friends to this day).  Lilah was born at home, nine days after her due date, after a very trying on-again off-again labor that lasted over a week.  Her birth – my first drug-free birth – was not what I expected; I think I went into it mentally ill-prepared, and the reality of it was shocking to me, and in some ways, a let-down.  I had envisioned this peaceful, serene birth, and instead, I screamed my way through it, convinced I was going to die through part of it.

Because of that, I wanted a do-over.  I know very well how crazy and silly and selfish and irresponsible that sounds, but it was the truth.  I wanted one more – just one more – so I could do it right.  It makes me kind of sad now that that’s how I felt, like I had done Lilah’s birth wrong, that I had failed somehow, and that I needed to prove to myself (and to Michael and Sue, my midwife – neither of whom felt in any way that I had failed) that I could do it better, the right way.

There was also a part of me that just didn’t want to close that chapter of my life – childbearing.  It’s always been a gargantuan thing to me, childbearing.  My therapist has said that she thinks I’ve subconsciously set out on a mission to build the family I never had, and I absolutely think there is truth to that.  A house full of people who love each other, not hate each other.  A house full of people who share experiences and care for one another.  It’s all about wanting to love and to be loved, isn’t it?

So once again, there Michael and I sat in our bedroom having a serious heart-to-heart about the possibility of having another baby.  By this time, I had just turned 40 and Lilah was not quite a year old.  I wanted another baby – just one more, for good reasons or bad – and Michael was ready to close that chapter of our life.  His was obviously the more practical position.  Five kids is a whole lotta kids, we weren’t getting any younger, and wasn’t it time to move on, to move past the always taking care of babies phase and onto all the possibilities life held with kids who were a little older and not quite so dependent?  So I acquiesced, though my heart wasn’t in it.  And I felt a loss.  No more babies.  That was it.

Well, I can’t say that I was exactly careful at that point about making sure it didn’t happen again.  I kind of felt like, he’s the one who doesn’t want anymore kids, so let him make sure it doesn’t happen.  And of course, he didn’t.  And I kind of figured, well, he knows full well that he’s playing with fire here.

About a month later, I was pregnant again.  I can’t say I was surprised.  I was scared, though, about how Michael would feel about it.  I took a pregnancy test when he was at work, and when it came up positive, I texted the news to him – I couldn’t even bring myself to call him or wait until he got home to tell him face to face.

And you know what?  He laughed.  He was happy.  Because Michael loves being a dad, he really does.  What was one more when we already had a house full?

That was Finn, born 21 months after Lilah, and also born at home.  This time I was better prepared for what to expect with a natural birth, and although I’m pretty sure I was just as loud, I knew I wasn’t going to die, and I didn’t come away feeling like I had failed.

But Finn came with a big surprise: Down syndrome.  And not only that, he ended up in the hospital having major surgery when he was a day old to correct an intestinal atresia he was born with.  He spent two weeks in the NICU, and the whole experience absolutely yanked the rug out from under me.  The aftermath of his birth was a very sad, dark time for me, and I found myself once again wanting a do-over.

In time, that feeling passed, though.  I recognized it for what it was – part of the process of grieving upon the arrival of a child who was very different from what I had expected – and I made peace with it as Finn grew older and burrowed his way deeper and deeper into my heart.  And in time, we were finally able to start enjoying things as a family that were too difficult to do when I was constantly pregnant, nursing, and caring for infants.

And then, when Finn was only 7 months old, Michael was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.  The rug was yanked out from under us yet again.  It was a horrific experience, for a long time not knowing if he was going to live or die, watching him go through a grueling, year-long treatment process of chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries.  His illness really gave me pause to consider how absolutely, horrendously difficult it would be to raise six children on my own should the worst happen to Michael.  And maybe for the first time, I realized how irresponsible it was to have more kids than one could take care of on her own should it come to that.  It scared the crap out of me – it still does.

Michael’s cancer treatment left us with the impression that having anymore kids was off the table.  As part of his treatment, he underwent 6 weeks of daily pelvic radiation, and although no doctor ever said, “This will make you sterile,” they did ask Michael if we wanted to have more kids, and mentioned the possibility of banking sperm for those people undergoing this type of treatment who did wish to have children in the future.  No, we were done.  And this took the decision out of our hands, anyway, or so we thought.

And so, when in October of 2011 I discovered at the age of 44 that I was pregnant again, it was on the short list of Most Shocking Events Of My Life.  We hadn’t been doing anything to prevent it because we just didn’t think it was even a possibility.  And because I wasn’t keeping track of anything anymore, I couldn’t, for the life of me, even figure out when it had happened, and it wasn’t until I had my first ultrasound that I found out I was about three months along.

That was Scarlett, baby number 7.

It’s funny . . . I remember after Kevin was born, how much I missed being pregnant, and I thought to myself, “I want to have TEN kids!”  Never dreaming how close to that number I would actually come.  I remember enjoying every one of my pregnancies so much that I joked, “I’ll just keep getting pregnant until I’m in menopause,” never imagining how close I would actually come to doing just that.

No, never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would have this many kids, and no, we didn’t exactly set out to have this many kids.  But here we are, and I wouldn’t change it.  It’s not lost on either one of us how different, and in many ways easier, our life would be if we had stopped several kids ago.  But it’s useless to think about that for too long, because here they all are, and the beauty of it usually far outweighs the could-have-beens.

No matter what I do in my life, I think I will always feel that growing life and giving birth, and yes, frustrating and taxing as it is, raising children, will have been the most profound experiences of my life.  Maybe partly because initially it took me so long to get pregnant in the first place – I spent years feeling like a part of me was missing, so deep was my longing to have a baby.  And then when I finally did get pregnant, I savored it and mourned it when it was over, and longed for it again . . . and again.

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The Road to Hana: In Pursuit of Positive Birthing

For some of us, the journey matters as much as the destination.  This is the fundamental reason many of us make alternative birthing choices.

So many of us are told that what matters is a healthy baby and a healthy mom – the implication being that these are the only things that really matter when a woman is expecting.  Certainly, these are the ultimate goals of any expecting woman and her care provider, but wanting a healthy mom and a healthy baby shouldn’t cancel out also wanting a positive birth experience – whatever that may be.  Too many moms are told after a disappointing birth experience that “at least you and the baby are here, safe and healthy,” leaving them to feel as though the only emotion they should be having is gratitude, and that there is no room for disappointment or grief over a birth that didn’t go as the mom had hoped it would.

For many of us, how we give birth – the atmosphere in the birthing room, the attitudes of those surrounding us when we give birth, the procedures we submit to by choice or otherwise, and yes, ultimately the outcome – ties very much into how we feel about ourselves as women and as mothers.  It can also play a large part in how we cope with the postpartum period and beyond, and it can impact how we approach subsequent pregnancies and births.

I know this because it’s what’s driven me for years and years in the birth arena.  I never realized how profoundly my birthing experience would impact me until after I gave birth to my first baby over fifteen years ago.  It ended up being a huge disappointment, even though I went into it with no particular agenda except: (a) wanting pain management as soon as possible (which was based on fear), and (b) believing I was in the best possible hands.  After Kevin was born, however, though nothing had gone amiss during his birth, I felt cheated.  That experience led me on a pursuit for positive birthing, and it was during my next pregnancy with Joey five years later that I became somewhat of a birth junkie, reading everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy, labor and birth, and even pursuing certification as a doula.  The truth is, though, that I don’t think I really had the kind of birth experience I pined for until this last one, when Scarlett was born.  My hospital births were all disappointments – my twins’ birth, especially, still makes me sad and angry when I think back on it – and even my first two home births left me with conflicting feelings (my first home birth – Lilah – I just went into arrogantly and was therefore ill-prepared for the reality of how intense it would be, and my second home birth – Finn – not only kicked my ass physically, but the aftermath, with his hospitalization and diagnosis, clouded the entire experience with gloom and sadness).  This last birth, though, was pretty much everything I dreamed of: it went smoothly, I was surrounded by people I love deeply, it was, more than anything, a celebration, and I felt empowered and very much at peace with the whole thing.  I am profoundly grateful for that experience and for the memories of it that I’ll carry around for the rest of my days.

There is a misconception, I think, that women who choose non-mainstream birth want to be in control of the process.  I don’t believe it’s about control – birth is unpredictable, and we all know this.  It’s about wanting to be an active participant in our own care and our own experience; it’s about putting our care in the hands of someone who has as much reverence for the process as we do, who honors and respects our bodies’ capabilities.  It’s about surrounding ourselves with people who believe in the value of the journey as much as in the value of the destination.

It’s true that these things don’t matter to everyone.  And while deep down, I think those women are missing out on something profound, I’m not here to say that it should matter to everyone.  To each his own.  But to discount the feelings of those of us to whom it does matter is doing a huge disservice.  It is valid to care about how we get there, and not just getting there.

One Month

I can’t believe it’s been a month already since Scarlett was born.

She’s changed so much; she hardly looks like the same baby.  It was hard at first to figure out who she looked like.  After a few days, I saw a resemblance to Annabelle and Lilah.  Now people are saying she looks like me, and at first I didn’t see it, but I’m starting to now.  It’s weird – I’ve never had a kid who looked like me.

She’s starting to reward us with those first goofy baby smiles – real smiles.  (Which is not to say that she’s not still quite a fuss bucket – she is.  Man, can that girl scream!)

There are times when she won’t let me put her down, when I spend hours sitting with her, trying to soothe her, trying to get her to go to sleep . . . and then when she does finally go to sleep and lets me put her down, I find myself missing her.  I like having her close, and I feel very possessive of her.  Which makes sense, if you think about it: she’s been with me since conception; why wouldn’t I have a hard time separating from her this early on?  I have friends who want to hold her for hours, and I imagine they think they’re doing me a favor by giving me a break (or satisfying their own baby lust), but the truth is, right now I still feel like she’s a part of me, and I miss the soft, warm weight of her when we’re apart.

As for me, it’s been a tough go all the way around, this recovery.  First a bad case of the blues, which, thankfully, began to lift a week or so ago.  But right when I started feeling better in my head, I got a bad case of mastitis, and that was miserable.  Then that started clearing up, and I started having abnormally heavy postpartum bleeding – at a time when it should have been petering out.  That appears to have resolved now, but for a few days I was scared and just really bummed that one more problem seemed to have appeared.

I’m finally starting to feel better in every way, so hopefully things will remain on an upswing.  Seems to me that this is just a sign that chicks as old as me . . . well, anyway.

Here’s a montage of my birth photos.  Some of the pics are fairly graphic, so if you’re squeamish about that sort of thing, or if you won’t be able to look me in the eye after seeing pics of a baby coming out of me, do us both a favor and skip it.  I think birth is beautiful, though, and Scarlett’s birth was by far the best of all my birth experiences.  A wonderful note to end my childbearing career on.

A Week and a Day Later

The weeks immediately following the birth of each of my babies has always been a struggle for me.  I walk around in a foggy, altered state, trying to figure out this new existence.  It’s confusing and frustrating – physically no longer pregnant but not back to what I once was either, and emotionally all over the place.  In the beginning, there’s euphoria . . . and as the days go on, the blues always set in to some degree.  My hormones are wreaking havoc on me; the night sweats, the tears out of nowhere, the pining for a pregnancy that no longer is – pining because the realization hits, once again, that caring for a baby while it’s inside is much easier than when it’s outside.  There’s a sense of letdown after spending all those months in excited anticipation – and now it’s over and here I am with a baby who cries almost all the time, and six other kids who are being largely neglected by me because I’m tied to the rocking chair with the baby for hours at a stretch.

I’m trying to figure Scarlett out.  Does she prefer to be swaddled tight, as I thought at first, or not so much?  She’s one of those babies – so far, anyway – who doesn’t want to be put down.  Wearing her in a sling would solve some of this, of course, but the sciatic pain I developed over the last few weeks of pregnancy has only gotten worse since she was born.  So I pop ibuprofen and sit against a heating pad as much as I can, and hobble around the rest of the time.  She hates being in her carseat, and the couple of times Michael and I have ventured out with her to run errands, she’s screamed the entire time.

My blood pressure has been screwy still, too.  The first couple of days following Scarlett’s birth, it dropped so low that I constantly felt woozy and on the verge of fainting.  I lowered the dosage (I had started taking a higher dosage towards the end of my pregnancy), and it would go down for a few hours and then shoot back up pretty high.  I tried all the things my midwife suggested, but in the end I finally called my doctor and explained the situation to him and he prescribed an additional medication to take with the one I’m already taking.  Both are deemed safe to take while nursing, but both do pass into breastmilk, and I hate it that Scarlett is getting any of it, but I have to do what I can to stay healthy, too, right?  Ahh, the dilemmas and guilt of a nursing mother with a chronic condition.

Michael goes back to work tomorrow.  He’s been off this past week – or, I should say home, but working from home every day – but tomorrow he has to go back to the office.  I dread it.  I don’t know how I’m going to cope.  Although he’s been working from home, it’s still been nice to have another set of hands here to deal with the other kids.  Plus, he’s really the only one who understands my tears and mood swings.  Friends have stopped by, to bring meals and to see the new baby, and as grateful as I am for these things, there’s a feeling of having to be “on” for other people, which I just don’t have the energy for right now.

Anyway, I’ll adjust, we’ll all adjust, I know we will.  It’s a tough time right now; it’s a little overwhelming.

The Birth of Scarlett Rose

** WARNING: Birth is graphic.  View the following at your own risk.

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Scarlett Rose Morguess

June 23, 2012 6:46 p.m.

7 pounds 5 ounces, 20 inches

I became pregnant with my seventh baby at the age of 44, this after my husband, Michael, had undergone cancer treatment for stage 3 colorectal cancer two years prior, which included intensive chemotherapy and pelvic radiation.  To say that this pregnancy was a surprise would be quite an understatement; my age alone made it seem somewhat unlikely, but we were under the impression that his cancer treatment had left him sterile.  Our family felt complete with six kids, and we were thankful that Michael’s cancer was in remission, so the idea that we would have no more children was fine with us.

After a week or so of mood swings and crying jags last October, however, I decided to take a pregnancy test just to rule that out as a cause of how strange I was feeling.  I was absolutely certain the test would be negative, but I needed to see that just to be sure.  It was positive.

I cried.  How could this be?  I was too old, I had no business being pregnant.  There was no way this could end well.

When I called my midwife, Sue, who had been here for Lilah’s and Finn’s births, and who had also become a dear friend who gave us so much support through Michael’s cancer treatment, she laughed.  She was sure that this was a miracle baby who would someday do something phenomenal.

I spent the entire first trimester being really scared (and nauseous), sure that I would miscarry, or that it would come to some other bad ending.

But it didn’t.

By the time the second trimester rolled around, I was feeling much better physically, and I felt myself relax and stop thinking about bad omens.  Right around the time my nausea disappeared, I began to feel those little flutters of movement.  Wow!  I was really going to have another baby.

We opted not to undergo any prenatal screenings to detect disorders or birth defects, despite my advanced age and the fact that Finn, born almost four years ago, has Down syndrome.  It wasn’t a difficult decision for me; I didn’t feel that knowing anything ahead of time would be of any benefit to me or to the baby.  I was glad to have not known about Finn’s Down syndrome until after his birth, and I wanted the same opportunity to just enjoy being pregnant this time around.  I figured that our family was strong enough to deal with whatever surprises this baby might be born with as well.  We did opt for a mid-pregnancy ultrasound just to rule out obvious physical anomalies that would preclude a safe home birth, and it was then that we learned we would be having another little girl.

The whole pregnancy went by really quickly.  I guess that happens when you have a passel of other kids to keep you busy.  I settled into being pregnant and reveled in it.  I felt really good and could hardly believe how smoothly things were going.

The biggest concern was my blood pressure.  I’ve had blood pressure issues throughout my last few pregnancies, and I was diagnosed with chronic hypertension about two years ago – hereditary (my dad had it) – and have been on meds to control it for about that long.  With medication, a high protein diet, and supplements suggested by my midwife, my blood pressure stayed in a nice, healthy range throughout my pregnancy – until the last couple of weeks.

Around 38 weeks, my midwife went out of town for a few days, my blood pressure started rising, and I came down with the flu – all at the same time.  That was stressful! She was in Nashville, and she and I were in constant contact via text about my blood pressure, and I was able to bring it down somewhat after a couple of days, but from then on it continued to go up and down and remained a big concern.

On Wednesday, June 20 – two days shy of my due date – I woke up with some bloody show.  This was a promising sign; it meant that labor probably was not very far off.  I happened to have a prenatal appointment scheduled with Sue that morning, and she checked me and said I was dilated to 1 cm – which really means absolutely nothing, but at least it satisfied my curiosity.

My blood pressure continued to rise and fall.  By Friday, June 22 – my due date – the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been experiencing for so long were finally becoming real contractions, but they were pretty irregular, ranging from ten to twenty minutes apart.  Still, I thought it was a sign of progress, and I went to the bakery and bought a “birth day” cake in anticipation of the big event and put it in the fridge.

Sue came over again late in the day.  She and I talked and I agreed to have her check me again and if I had dilated any further, she would strip my membranes to see if she could get things moving.  I had, indeed, dilated a little more, so she did a membrane sweep.

For a few hours after that, my contractions picked up.  They were definitely more intense, and consistently ten or so minutes apart.  Michael and I went to bed, half expecting things to really pick up during the night.  I slept fitfully; the contractions were waking me up from time to time, but they actually had gotten farther apart.  By morning, Saturday, June 23, it seemed that whatever had started up had now mostly stalled out.  I was feeling a little frustrated – was this going to be another drawn out start-and-stop labor like I had had with Lilah? – but also sort of okay with it; I figured the baby would come when she was ready.

Michael and I ran some errands in the morning – mostly to kill time, I think.  We came home and fed the kids lunch and then decided to go for a walk.  While we were out walking, Sue called me on my cell phone.  She was still very concerned about my blood pressure, and talked to me about risks associated with maternal hypertension.  Placental abruption was the biggest risk and the biggest concern.  She emphasized that the best thing would be for the baby to be born as soon as possible, and she wanted it to happen that day if possible.  Suddenly I was scared.  Placental abruption? Now I had to consider the possibility of death for my baby and/or myself?  Sue said, “I love you guys too much, and have watched you come too far, to allow a bad outcome.”  Michael was scared, too.  Was this a situation that required transferring to the hospital?  I didn’t want to do that unless absolutely necessary – I knew without a doubt that if we went to the hospital, my blood pressure would shoot through the roof just from stress and anxiety, and they would immediately put me on Pitocin and probably Mag/Sulph, and the entire thing would spiral downhill with interventions and it would break my heart.  I trusted that Sue would send us to the hospital if necessary, and she hadn’t, so it wasn’t necessary.  But we needed to give my labor a kick-start and encourage this baby to come out and meet the world.

When Michael and I got home from our walk, we figured we had better get things set up just in case.

Sue came over mid-afternoon and she, Michael and I sat down and talked about our options.  I was having strong but sporadic contractions, and she checked me again and found that I was dilated to 5 cm.  I asked her about breaking my water, and she said that she’d rather not unless I was in active labor.  She suggested castor oil.  I wasn’t thrilled with that idea because I had taken castor oil to get things moving with Lilah and remembered the effects.  Sue said that her experience has been that castor oil gets active labor going within two hours usually.  I absolutely didn’t believe that was going to be the case with me – my contractions were twenty to thirty or more minutes apart at this point, and I just couldn’t imagine that things would pick up considerably that quickly.  It was worth a shot, though, so I agreed.

So we sent Michael to the store for the ingredients for Sue’s Special Kickstart Labor Shake: castor oil, OJ concentrate, and vanilla ice cream.  She threw it all in the blender, and I drank it at about 4:00 p.m.

Then we waited.

Kevin was down the street at a friend’s house, Joey was running around the neighborhood from one friend’s house to another, and Michael took the girls to swim at a neighbor’s across the street.  To kill time, Sue and I chitchatted for a while, and then we started watching home birth videos on YouTube.

Michael texted me a few minutes after 5:00 from the neighbor’s house to see how I was doing, and I told him my contractions had picked up a bit but they were still 10+ minutes apart.  My friend Lisa texted me at about 5:30 and I told her that my contractions were picking up some.  I still thought it was going to be quite a while, and I was prepared for it to stall out again.

Michael came home with the girls at around 5:45, and Daisy got into the shower.  Suddenly, my contractions started coming on stronger and closer together.  By 6:00 they were no more than a couple of minutes apart and incredibly strong.  Every time one would hit, I would drop down on all fours because that seemed like the position to assume to deal with the contractions best.

In no time at all, the contractions were coming fast and hard, one right after another.  I began to panic.  I yelled for Daisy to get out of the shower because we needed the shower connection to fill up the birth pool.

I was trying to get undressed, but the contractions were coming so quickly.  “Shit!  Here comes another one . . .” I moaned.  “Fuck, another one . . .”  Sue said, “Why don’t you let me check you just to see where we are?”  “No, there’s no time, I’m there!” I said.  Clearly, the baby was coming.  Sue helped me get a bathing suit top on and into the pool, and being submerged in the warm water was a relief.

I remember thinking, “I hope it just stalls out now, I hope it just stalls out now . . .” but the contractions kept coming, one right behind another.  I couldn’t believe how fast this was happening.

We sent the girls out of the room so I could focus, and because I didn’t want to scare them with all the noise I knew I’d be making.  I had screamed my way through Lilah’s and Finn’s births – the truth is, as big a fan I am of natural birth, I’m not one who will claim it’s a peaceful or serene experience.

Sue checking baby’s heart tones

I felt my water break in the pool, and suddenly my body took over and the pushing started.  It is the wildest thing – completely beyond your control, that bearing down with everything you have.

Somehow I managed not to scream through this one.  I moaned – loudly – “No . . . no . . . no . . . I can’t do it . . . I can’t do it . . .” while Sue and Michael kept saying, “You are doing it.”  I just wanted it to stop, to be over.  I was on overload, every cell of my body working to get this baby out, and truly feeling like there was no way I was going to survive this.  Melodramatic, I know, but damn – giving birth just pushes you to your limits.

I could distinctly feel the baby – especially the round, hard shape of her head – moving down and out.  Though it felt like it took an eternity, the truth was that I pushed through two contractions – just a few minutes – before my daughter was born.

Sue’s labor notes read: “6:45 – head out; 6:46 – body out.”  Scarlett was born with a nuchal arm, meaning her hand was up against her face, so her head and arm came out at the same time.  I don’t know if that added to the intensity of it, but I can’t imagine it didn’t.

Sue went out to tell the kids that their sister had been born.  They were all playing in the front yard and didn’t hear me make a peep, and it had happened so quickly from the time they had left the bedroom that they couldn’t believe she was really here.

 

I sat in the pool, enjoying the weight and warmth of my baby in my arms, marveling at the improbability of all this, until the placenta was ready to come.  Michael cut the umbilical cord, severing the physical tie that bound Scarlett and me for all these months, and took his newest baby girl.

Sue helped me dry off and get into bed, and when I put Scarlett to my breast, she knew exactly what to do.

Sue didn’t have the flannel sling that goes on her baby scale, so she improvised with this shopping bag, which will have special meaning to my book club:

Then the initial newborn exam.  She looks healthy and beautiful in every way.

I absolutely love that the kids were right there to meet their new sister right away.  Home birth is truly a family affair.

Look at this old chick who just had a baby.

I look at the lines in my face and think about how far and wide my life has taken me, and I am amazed that my body can still do this, and I am thankful for all that I have.

40 Weeks

Forty weeks and livin’ large –

I know it won’t be long now before I’m wandering from room to room in our house, with a baby snuggled warm against me, marveling at how such a short time ago she was nestled all cozy inside.

It’s been a wonderful pregnancy; I feel so incredibly fortunate for this very unexpected gift.

Baby Watch

Everywhere I go, people are starting to look at me as if I have a bomb strapped across my belly.  Geez.

Okay, so it’s true that I could blow pretty much at any moment.

Friends are starting to check in with me regularly to see if there’s any news.  It’s nice to be on everyone’s minds 🙂

So here’s what’s going on:

Not much.

My blood pressure is stable, and I’m mostly over this cold/flu I had.  The kids are done with school and home for summer break.  After not gaining any weight for a month or so, I suddenly packed on three pounds this last week, so now I’m right where I was at the end of all my other pregnancies.  My midwife doesn’t think she’s a very big baby, but none of mine have been very big (let me just say for the record that I pushed a 7 lb. 10 oz. baby out with no drugs, and then a 6 pound baby with no drugs – it feels exactly the same).  My midwife also has a theory that perhaps I just cook girls longer than I cook boys: all of my boys came before their due dates, and while the twins also came before their due date, I carried them a lot longer than anyone expected me to (2 days shy of 38 weeks), and Lilah was 9 days late.  I haven’t quite reached my due date with this one yet (it’s day after tomorrow), so we shall see.

I’m large and cranky and tired.  So tired that I can’t sit down to read without dozing off.  Yesterday I thought I had pretty much had it and was ready to cry “uncle” and ask my midwife to help things along when I saw her this morning, but then I woke up this morning with a new resolve to just be patient and let things happen as they’re ready to happen.  I was rewarded with some signs this morning that things are moving along (I’ll spare you the gruesome details), although, of course, it could still be days away.

I’m ready.  I think.

Late Pregnancy Musings

 

Today I am 39 weeks pregnant – or 40 weeks if you go by my original due date.  In any case, Baby Girl is still cozy inside.

It’s been a week of emotional ups and downs.  That cold turned into a full-blown flu, and I’m still not completely over it, though feeling better than I was a couple days ago. Feeling that crappy this late in pregnancy has been no fun at all!  Also, my blood pressure has been up and down all week, which has heightened my stress level, which . . . probably hasn’t helped my blood pressure.  It seems to be okay for now, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.  I’m keeping an eye on it and taking all kinds of extra measures per my midwife to keep it in a healthy range.  Oy.

I don’t know how much stock I put into the mind-body connection, but sometimes I wonder if anxiety about this impending birth might play a part in baby taking her sweet time in coming.  Not that I’m feeling impatient.  Yet.

I wonder if I’m up for this.  For labor.  For giving birth.  I guess I have to be, right?  I also wonder if I’m carrying around emotional baggage from Finn’s birth and the aftermath.  I’m not sure.  I just want everyone to be okay.

I realize now that saying, “I just want a healthy baby” is a loaded statement.  Or at least an ambiguous one.  What does it mean?  I guess it probably means different things to different people.  For me, from my own vantage point, it really just means that I want her (and me) to come through the birth unscathed, and that I hope she doesn’t have any issues that will require surgery or hospitalization.

This is the first pregnancy I’ve had that Kevin has been less than thrilled about pretty much the entire time.  I have no doubt that his age is part of it – being 15 and realizing exactly how your mom got into this condition is, I’m sure, horrifying.  He also remembers very well the aftermath of Finn’s birth and is worried that this baby won’t be okay.  It’s not Down syndrome that any of us are scared of, it’s health issues, the possibility of the baby having to go to the hospital.  Also, I finally dragged it out of him that he’s afraid to get attached because of the age difference!  He’s afraid that he won’t really have a relationship with her anyway because he’s 15 1/2 years older than she will be and will likely be out on his own when she’s still little.  I can see his point, and honestly, I find it very touching that he even thinks about stuff like that.

All the other kids are very excited (though worried, too, about the possibility of Mom or baby having to go to the hospital), except Finn who really just doesn’t get it that there’s a baby in Mommy’s tummy.  I think he’ll be okay with the idea, though, once she’s here.

So, we wait.

 

Strange But True

Well, pregnancy is nothing if not unpredictable.

Today, my blood pressure is completely within healthy range.  My midwife and I have been in close contact via text and phone even though she’s been out-of-state for the last few days (she’s back now, as of tonight – I have a sneaking suspicion that she cut her trip short because of me, which I feel really shitty about, but she’ll never tell me if she really did or not), and she’s been having me really load up on protein and super-hydrate myself since yesterday morning, plus today I started taking my bp med on an empty stomach rather than with food.  Still, it’s hard to believe that those things alone brought my bp down from 169/75 (!!) yesterday to 124/62 today.  I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, ya know?

I’m still going to go in tomorrow morning for blood and urine workups so she can get a baseline on me in case my bp goes up again.  Sigh.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve bought some time.  Hopefully I can kick this cold in the next few days and get through this last week of school for the kids before Baby Girl makes her debut.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and positive thoughts, here and on Facebook – it really means a lot to me!