Welcome Alida! A birth story.
August 22, 2015
Aww, the littlest one had her one month birthday this week! She’s here sleeping in the crook of my arm rocking the socks and underwear look as only a babies and really, really old guys on the beach can. She’s such a soft little kitten, with a silky halo of dark hair and this tiny pink mouth! She was born barely three days after my last post, and I thought I’d share her birth story today! They’re not for everybody, but I’m a little addicted to birth stories (LOVED this book!). Is there anything so harrowing, but also so sweet? It’s this awesome combination of tender beauty and total badass adrenaline laden female grit. Or at least that’s what I’m saying now that it’s comfortably behind me! Ha! 😉
So! Here is it – Alida’s birth story and a few photos (nothing graphic!) after the jump!
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First of all, whew, a completely different experience than the first time around! I know everyone says no two births are the same, but it’s hard not to expect a similar experience. Jonah was born at home (as planned) – my water broke unmistakably in the evening after a full day of slightly obsessive floor, window and wall scrubbing. We called the midwives and things moved pretty predictably from there. Seven hours later, there he was! The hardest part was the pushing – 2.5 hours of it, mainly because he was a whopper. Big J was almost 10 lbs, with broad shoulders, a nice, round noggin, and these notably big, beefy purple mitts – one of which he kindly stuck out first, thanks Buddy! 😉 When I finally gathered the chutzpah to make it happen, I straight up turned Violet Beauregard purple! Physically, it was the hardest thing I’d ever done.
With this little sweetie, we decided to go to the hospital – navigating a totally different system in german seemed tricky enough, plus, the idea of having a very curious 3 year old around didn’t sound relaxing at all! We chose a small hospital in a quiet community just outside Bonn. It was recommended to me by a midwife for its emphasis on letting birth take its natural course. I actually have kind of a fear of being pushed into medical interventions – somehow I feel like I know my unmedicated body and can work with it – anything beyond that makes me feel an uncomfortable sense of losing control. So anyway, it seemed like the right place for us!
Alida showed up a week after her due date – nothing crazy, but she’d been measuring on the hefty side and my doctor was freaked out. She literally sucked her teeth at the ultrasound images of my apparently giant baby, and had already written up orders for two inductions. So far I had decided to wait a little longer… The medical evidence I could find didn’t seem to support it, plus I’d already had a 10 pounder pave the way – I kinda felt like this would be okay. Still. It had definitely gotten to me – I was really nervous and seriously, seriously wanted to have this baby!
I’d been walking, hopping, dancing and floor scrubbing all week long – no dice. In a way, I wonder if I was just too nervous about delivering my supposed little behemoth. I’ve heard that wild animals will fully stop giving birth when threatened by a predator, and although I’m not sure who the predator would be in the scenario, I was definitely squirrely!
Luckily, in Germany after your due date you have prenatal visits every couple of days, and one of mine fell on a Saturday. That meant that I went to our hospital, rather than to my own doctor (It’s probably worth noting that the OB who does your prenatal care generally does not deliver your baby here – if you go to the hospital, you’ll be with an attending midwife and OB). When I arrived at the hospital, I was jittery in this damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t kinda way. I was worried about the big babe, but also didn’t want the induction – and I was nervous about explaining that I didn’t want the induction. Thank heavens, the hospital was a total breath of fresh air – they were so chilled out and encouraging. The midwives, the doctor and anyone else who breezed by agreed, they didn’t think I’d have a truly massive baby, and given my history with Jonah, a bigger baby shouldn’t be a problem. They seemed genuinely surprised at my doctor’s concern. Go home and relax, they all said.
So I did, finally. Annnnd whaddayaknow? 12 hours later, things got rolling! Well, sort of.
This time, my water broke with a trickle first thing in the morning and honestly, it took me a half an hour to convince myself that I hadn’t maybe just weirdly wet the bed! When we arrived at the hospital, upon hearing that my water had broken, my midwife asked something that with my imperfect german sounded to me like, was I “beautifully packaged”? …while gesturing downwards…? Aha. Yes. I was fine, I assured her, feeling experienced. I had this little flimsy regular pad on – after all, my water had already broken. Pfffff. Yeah, I had no idea what I was talking about. Frankly, I felt like I was peeing my pants all day. It was kind of incredible. Honestly, I am secretly convinced that the reason my belly was so massive was all that amniotic fluid, not this here little wee babe! I’m sorry – and no worries – I think this is the most graphic my story gets, but for real! Sheesh.
I was only 1cm dilated and my contractions were mild and 10+ minutes apart for basically ever, so we had about as boring a day as one can, while absolutely on the edge of one’s seat. Walked the perimeter of the hospital premises a bunch of times, ate an ice cream bar, peed my pants in the chapel (or at least to anyone tuned into 24 hour live hospital chapel TV station – yes it’s a thing – it certainly looked that way!), played repeated games of waiting room Teddy Mix & Match and tried to ramp up my contractions by running (waddling) the stairs. At some point, with my blessing, Achim went home and got his laptop. Got a little work done while I distractedly drew a fairly uninspired (and never finished) picture of my hospital bracelet arm. Are you riveted yet? 😉
Every so often someone would come get me to draw blood or hook me up to monitor my contractions for a bit, and at one point a midwife actually gave me some acupuncture to move things along! Free! Or covered by regular insurance, anyway. But those were the medical highlights until finally around maybe 8 or 9pm things started picking up…
We made our way to the sweet birthing suite. It was nothing special for Germany – just a regular birthing room, but it was much nicer than what I had seen on tour of the hospital back in Toronto, and frankly, a lot more comfortable than the tiny one-bedroom attic where I’d delivered Jonah! Big, with lots of windows, a double bed, a jacuzzi tub, and an array of waldorfy looking birthing contraptions – a textile sash to pull down on, an exercise ball, various interesting stools, and a sort of wall-mounted ladder, all wooden or in warm colours. I imagined myself labouring as I had with Jonah, trying this and that over the course of a long night. I was particularly interested in the jacuzzi! But that didn’t happen…
I walked into that room with sort of mildish contractions – intense enough to stop me from talking, but nothing that felt like immanent birth. 2cm dilated. We started monitoring and maybe 7 or 8 contractions later, I was making some noise and dancing on the spot! Still, I had it in my head that we were just getting started. Actually, Achim was working away on his laptop! I know that may sound callous, but frankly it was totally cool with me – he was pleasant and responsive to me and it kept him occupied while I didn’t need him… after all, surely it’d still be a while…? Lol, I think my mind was a little behind my body, there!
I maintained my denial for about an hour, spending each contraction half hanging on, half two-stepping with that wall-mounted ladder. In between, I’d roll on the exercise ball, texting with my sister and chatting away with Achim. But then I lose track of time. I only know that it was an hour and a half-ish because my phone record shows texts at 11pm, and Alida was born at 12:35am. There’s no sequence in my memory – just this hazy, wild period. Achim was at my side and supportive but I have no memory of him beyond that. This is what I remember: It. Was. Intense.
My contractions ramped up faster than I knew what was happening. I’d scamper to that wall ladder thing each time, but I got increasingly dramatic about it – mammalian yelling felt good so I just gave ‘er! Ooh, boy. Let me tell you, this was some serious just-dumped-by-his-first-love-pubescent-teenage-boy-wailing-away-to-grunge-ballads/moose-in-heat kinda yelling! Except probably louder. And I was dancing like my feet were on fire! In between I’d drape across the bed like a mourning princess and lie very still, collecting myself, eyes closed, breathing, until the next contraction when I’d leap up and scamper to my post once again.
Then. I had this crazy contraction. I’d been doing some decent deep breathing between pre-teen moose bellows, but that dissolved and I kinda turned into a baby, whimpering and writhing as my two step became a desperate peppermint twist. Very suddenly, I recognized this weird pressure! “AHHH, whatttt?? I THINK SOMETHING IS HAPPENING?!? MAYBE I HAVE TO PUSH? I DON’T KNOW, I DON’T KNOW, I THINK..? MAYBE, MAYbeeee…?!!” I whined, not quite believing it. With Jonah, I could never really identify that feeling – I was confused when they’d ask me if I “felt pushy”? Uh… wut? I basically pushed because they said I should! But the midwife checked me and sure enough, I’d gone from 4 to 10cm dilated in 30 minutes! Apparently, this was quite fast, and the reason it was so intense. So, I pushed. For like, 5 minutes. A tiny total of 2.5 pushes, and there she was! Our sweet girl, 9 lbs even and no big deal! Oh man, I was so freaking ecstatic. If I could bottle that feeling I’d be a billionaire – just this euphoric combination of massive relief and love and heart-skipping excitement, as that perfect, hot, slippery little body was placed in my arms! I basically lost my shit, just repeating over and over again “I love her soooo much, she’s soooo cute, isn’t she sooo cuuuuteeee?!!! I love her sooo much…” And so on.
It was an awesome moment! What an incredible tangle of emotions. I do think that part of my euphoria was certainly related to the fact that her size had been no problem at all, and that the birth – particularly the pushing bit – was so much remarkably easier than the first time around! Whew.
She was indeed chubby though, with a big head – 37cm! But quite compact – shorter than Jonah, with finer features and hands, although she also pulled the nuchal hand trick on me! Hand above her head in a big hurrah! 😉 Even so, I had minimal tearing, and recovery was really no big deal. In fact, a week and a half later I plopped her in the Ergo and went shopping with my mom for 4 hours, something that would have been completely unthinkable with Jonah!
We didn’t end up getting a family room – none were available, so after a few hours, we meandered to my shared room. This part of the experience wasn’t the best.There was another mother there recovering with her little one and she’d been there for several days already without a roommate, so she’d really made herself at home. Frankly, I felt like I was in someone else’s bedroom. There was nowhere for Achim to stay, so around 3am he headed home. I had intended to stay at the hospital for a night or two – I thought it would be more relaxing, but by 6am, I wanted out. I didn’t like all the interruptions, between the two of us and our babies and families, nurses, midwives, doctors coming to prick heels and weigh babies, etc. So when Achim came back at 9am with Jonah and my mom, we decided to check out. Thankfully, we had no complications so that was no problem.
Interestingly, meeting his new baby sister seemed like the most natural thing in the world for Jonah. He wasn’t hesitant or shy. He was fairly curious and pleased, but overall just seemed to totally accept her right away. We had bought him a couple cool Brio train parts to sweeten the deal a little and once we gave him those, they basically eclipsed his new sister! A month in, he loves Alida. He does feel the pains of less attention sometimes – when she is crying and I can’t really cuddle him at nap time he breaks my heart – “I think she’s fine, Mama, please stay here, I need you!” Oh, my heart. Amazingly, he doesn’t seem to hold it against her though. He often wants to cuddle or hold her, and is forever giving her his stuffed animals to snuggle. The other day I woke him up from his nap by lying her next to him – he rolled over, smiled sleepily and draped one arm gently over her. “I love my baby,” he said, gazing at her. ♥
So here we are, now. A month in! The longest shortest month. It’s a learning curve for sure – lots of asking for help, scarcity of time, little skirmishes between Achim and myself, HUNGER (omg breastfeeding – I cannot feed myself enough!) and an apartment that has more than once evolved to the point of a ransacked garbage-hoarder’s explosion! But it’s also had these really gorgeous, sparkling moments where it feels like this joyful adventure – like, wow, look at this! Parents of two beautiful little characters! We’re doing it! And I feel so, so lucky.
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Annnnd if you made it through that whole story, thank you! You deserve a prize! Brevity has never come easy to me! I hope you found it interesting. Also – I want to let you know, I’m working out how to get back to regular posting here. It’s something I love so much! It’s probably going to have to evolve a bit, though. Less of these gargantuan posts, more illustrations, collected curatorial stuff maybe? What do you think – how does a mama blogger peaceably resolve this mighty clash with Old Man Time? I need your thoughts!