Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sebastian's Birth Story

I awoke to my first real contraction at 4 AM.  I worked through it, then rested until the next one came, as I lay quietly next to Pete and Lucy.  They woke up at about 7, and when I told Pete it had begun, he got excited.

He explained that he had hoped it would happen that day, September 13th.  So far, all of our significant events have had a little pattern to them.  Our anniversary is on February 20th, Lucy was born on April 20th, and my birthday is June 20th.  Pete is all alone on July 13th and thought it would be nice if our son was also born on the 13th.  Once he pointed that out, I burst out laughing and said, "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED."  Lucy chimed in, "Mama happy?" I said, "Yes, Lucy, Mama's very happy."  She replied, "My happy too.  Papa, ah luff oo."  It took me a moment to realize she had just said, "I love you" for the first time.  It was a sweet way to start our day, and I was practically buzzing with contentment.

Throughout the day, my contractions steadily grew stronger and more regular as long as I stayed upright and active.  The moment I slowed down, so did they.  I was able to eat and take a nap without much trouble, and otherwise puttered around and got things accomplished.  Alex and Juliana helped so much by keeping Lucy occupied.

Pete and I were able to really connect.  I relied on him so much more this time around, after reading still more accounts of natural labor in Ina May's Spiritual Midwifery.  Last time I focused only on my pain and myself, but this time I was able to really see him and engage with him throughout the whole experience, and it definitely helped.  In the afternoon, we walked to the library together in spite of the rain, and that's when I felt things move forward.  And yet as soon as we got home and I sat down, they ground to a halt.  So I went back to work, tidying up and getting everything ready.  I made up my mind to hold off until Lucy went to bed so that I could leave knowing she was settled for the night.

As Pete put Lucy to bed, things heated up and I knew we had to get going.  Once we were in the car, I suddenly became emotional about leaving Lucy's babyhood behind.  I knew that nothing would ever be the same again and it frightened and saddened me.  I suggested that we take a walk once we got to Cooperstown, so I would have a chance to calm down.  I'd only had two contractions during the 30 minute drive to the hospital, so I thought we had the time.

And yet--as soon as I got out of the car, the most intense contraction hit me and I had to grab onto Pete. We had to go right up, even though I was still feeling a little raw emotionally.  The short walk to the entrance of the hospital was punctuated with contractions, and I stopped to lean on the benches along the way.

We made it up to the birthing center at about 10 PM and they hooked me up to the monitors.  Sitting on the bed was uncomfortable--I preferred being able to stand and lean on something through the contractions.  We explained that we wanted as few interventions as possible.  I remember telling the doctor to just catch the baby.  The doctor insisted on giving me an internal exam during a contraction, which was pure torture and did not endear him to me.  He told me I was at 7 cm, but I didn't hear him through the pain.  Once he was gone, I began to get impatient and felt even more annoyed about the monitors, so we called a nurse and she detached me.

We went into the bathroom and shut the door so we could be alone again.  I immediately began to feel better and more in control of the experience.  They have these splendid showers with two shower heads in the birthing center.  Pete got on his swim suit and helped me get situated in there.  I was able to lean on the shower seat while he ran the water over my back.  It was so relaxing that I began to yawn uncontrollably, and the contractions came on top of each other.  As strange as it sounds, it felt good.  I was completely at ease.  But we knew it was time to call the nurse and transition back to the main room.  They got me back on the bed, where--of all things--I had to sign some paperwork between contractions.  The doctor broke my water and before I knew it, it was time to push.

I wasn't comfortable on the bed and wanted desperately to stand, but it was out of the question.  They adjusted the bed so it was more like an armchair, which didn't really help.  I had nothing to brace myself against.  The nurse and Pete held my legs, but I couldn't push my feet against anything, or use my arms to pull myself up and curl around the baby.  I was so frustrated.  My legs were shaking uncontrollably.  The doctor kept counting and making Pete count, which infuriated me.  For some reason, between contractions, I kept cupping my vulva, perhaps to provide a little counter-pressure.  Inexplicably, the doctor offered to numb it for me.  I curtly told him no, and was astounded that he would offer it after I had made myself clear--and was so close.

I remember glancing at the clock.  It was a little after 11--and if I wanted him to be born on September 13th, I would have to hurry.  I remember yelling, "Get him out of me!" over and over.  The nurse said, "You have to push him out," which made me switch to chanting, "Get out of me!"  I asked for a mirror, but once they held it up, I was completely horrified at the sight of the baby crowning and averted my eyes.  The baby's cord was around his neck, so the doctor had to clip it quickly.  Then he was out entirely, with a gush of blood and a flood of meconium.  I saw my stomach collapse, and suddenly missed having him inside--because I had forgotten to savor it.  He was whisked away and I was convinced he couldn't breathe or had swallowed the meconium.  I insisted the nurses tell me what was the matter with him.  They told me he was fine--but I wouldn't believe them.  "Just tell me--I can take it!" I remember saying.
Finally (after only a minute or two) they brought him back and he really was perfect.  His little eyes and mouth turned up a bit, making him look so perpetually content.  He had this fine black hair, little fuzzy ears and back, chubby arms, scrawny legs, long fingers, a perfectly shaped head, a little upturned nose.  He latched on almost immediately, putting to rest all of my fears about more nursing trouble.  We didn't call him anything right away--in fact, I was a little afraid to try out any names at first.
The doctor gave me a couple of stitches and was on his way.  I was able to shower and get dressed.  Anna arrived bearing provisions--after working for 12 hours and driving for 4.  We wolfed down the food she brought us and settled into our new room.
The next morning, before Pete left, we decided to settle on a name once and for all. For the first time, we called him Sebastian to see if it fit. Though I loved the name throughout my pregnancy, I was nervous somehow of how it would be perceived by others. It was the only name we both liked but that didn't seem like a good enough reason. We read over the life of St. Sebastian.  Then it occurred to Pete that our baby, who had been born on the eve of the Church new year, would have a nameday on secular New Year's Eve. I found it so charming that I instantly felt comfortable with the name. And I think he really does look like a Sebastian, as much as any baby could.
Pete returned that afternoon with Lucy.  Their meeting was everything I had hoped for.  I was so proud of Lucy's gentle interest in her brother.
I was so grateful to our friend Katia and her family, who visited and took these lovely pictures for us.  And I was incredibly thankful that Juliana, Alex, and Anna were there to take such good care of Lucy.  When it was time to leave, she was happy to go with her aunties, which was a tremendous relief for me.
It has been such a joy getting to know Sebastian.  Having him made me realize fully that my heart can hold a truly staggering amount of love.  I was almost convinced there couldn't possibly be room for more.


Juliana said...

What a beautifully written birth story! I'm so glad you were able to have a peaceful birth (ridiculous doctors notwithstanding!) and that Sebastian was born safe and healthy! Good job mama! He is a beautiful child and the name is perfect.

Rosaura said...

Thank you! This is an amazing birth story! Chanting 'get out of me' & 'go ahead I can take it'.

elizabeth said...

this is so lovely!!! good for you for knowing what you want and sticking to it! this is important in birthing a baby from all I know / have read on these things. And his name is so lovely. what a happy blessed event! Glory to God! :)

ps: I can imagine also going through all those emotions of the changes etc. God is with you.