I am 12 weeks out from the most…
experience of my life: the birth of my daughter Clarissa Rose.
Don’t get me wrong – it was beautiful. It was also unbelievable. I am still struggling to get my mind around two things:
one, that baby came out of me
two, this infant is a potential 30-year-old adult, like the one sitting here writing this blog for all of you to read.
So here’s a breakdown of what you’re about to read: it’s going to be a tastefully detailed account of Clarissa’s BIRTH DAY. For some of you, you’ll be nodding in agreement, feeling my pain, and completely understanding what I am talking about. For others, it might be an informative and possibly educational anecdote of what giving birth is like. And it will inevitably be too much information for a handful of people.
BUT FIRST! Here’s some of what EVERYBODY reading this wants: baby pictures! Here’s just a PEAK at how gloriously adorable my little one turned out to be and how much she has already changed in the last 12 weeks:
Braxton Hicks is the name. No, that’s not a name of a person; that’s what you call “practice” contractions when the uterus tightens in preparation for “b-day” when it will move a living creature down the birth canal and out into the world. I was pretty well-versed as to the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and the real thing, thanks to the internet, my own research, and my midwife. So when I woke up the morning of January 4th (eight days before baby’s due date) at 4:53 with a distinct pain in my lower back, I had a feeling it wasn’t Braxton Hicks.
I still remember the moment like it was yesterday, the moment my relatively fast labor began: I opened my eyes, turned to look at the clock, took note of the time, rolled back over to sleep, and woke up exactly ten minutes later to the exact same pain. The contractions didn’t stop until Clarissa Rose was born that night at 10:11, 7 pounds and 19 inches long.
I recorded every single contraction until about 4pm. I don’t even know why I was still doing it; it was painfully obvious to all that I was in labor. But I’m getting ahead of myself and skipping all the delightful details!
After about an hour or so of contractions that were averaging 8 minutes apart, I alerted my husband. The entire morning I was recording contractions like my life depended on it. I happened to have an appointment scheduled with my midwife later that morning, so I decided to ride it out until then. It was my first birth, after all, and heaven forbid I jump to conclusions.
I normally drive Ella to school in the mornings, but we decided it would be safer and wiser if Kevin took her instead. Just the night before it had dawned on me that Ella needed to pack a bag as well (Kevin and I had nothing packed yet) so I voice this realization to her as I’m timing contractions. She promptly packed a bag and then asked if she should bring it to school. I literally didn’t have an answer for her (which is rare). She decided that she should. Smart girl!
Before going to see my midwife, I tried to take a nap, which was constantly being interrupted by contractions. So I took a hot shower, which really helped. Driving to my midwife’s office, which is only right down the road, was less than enjoyable; but I wasn’t about to make that walk when my contractions were now an average of 6 minutes apart.
It was 10:30am when my midwife checked and announced I was 3 cm dilated. It was happening. Go home and pack your bags, she said. Try to get some nutrition and rest. Let it be known that I did try all three of those things, but all attempts on my part were futile.
As I left my midwife’s office, I called Kevin and told him I was basically in labor. There was a chance the contractions could stop, but my body was telling me they weren’t. At the time, my phone was unprotected because the case I had was beginning to break down. As I was getting in the car, I dropped it. The screen shattered. Happy birthday.
Needless to say, I put the beginning-to-break-down case back on the phone so I could still use it without the risk of getting microscopic pieces of glasses in my fingers and face.
Back at home, I make some phone calls. Hi! I’m in labor! I’m literally bouncing on my exercise ball now. When the afternoon hit, the contractions were an average of 4 minutes apart, and the pain was getting INTENSE. I took a hot bath. Kevin came home and basically started doing everything because it was all I could do to keep breathing and bouncing.
I tried getting some nutrition and ended up puking all the carrots and hummus I was hoping to consume. I didn’t make it to the toilet, either. (In retrospect, the fact that I threw up was indicative of how far along in labor I was.) I immediately googled a remedy for nausea during contractions and started popping ginger chews.
During my contractions while Kevin was running around packing bags and grabbing food and cleaning out the car (we really weren’t prepared for Clarissa to come early), I was frantically looking up and writing down scripture references for women in labor. My plan was to be reading these at the birth center. What I didn’t realize then was that I was already in the stage of labor when I should have been reading them.
I had tested positive for GBS (Group B Strep – you can google it if you’re curious), so I needed to have antibiotics before I went into labor to protect my baby from possibly contracting an infection. Kevin and I went to the midwife’s office for it to be administered; my midwife felt it would be a good idea to get it out of the way before laboring at the birth center.
By this point, walking was a joke because every 3 steps was contraction. It was 3:30ish when my midwife checked and declared I was already at 8 cm. I did the math later and calculated that I had dilated about a centimeter an hour since 10:30 that morning. I was already in active labor. And we weren’t at the birth center yet.
After a bag of penicillin was emptied into my bloodstream, I tell everyone I need to pee. The contractions are STRONG at this point, and my water had yet to break. As I’m sitting on the toilet, a very intense contraction comes on, immediately followed by a warm plop. A plop literally fell out of me. That’s what it felt like.
“I think my water just broke!” I announce through the closed bathroom door, “And I’m about to puke!” My midwife throws open the door with the garbage can too late. At this point, all dignity was lost. My water had broke, so there was no turning back now. Not that it was ever an option. Just saying.
For exactly two minutes, there was brief and futile discussion about whether we would make it to the birth center or not. Our apartment was too small. The office was an office, not a clinic.
The walk back to the car was miserable. The car ride to Kirkland was not fun either. Kevin said traffic was horrible, but I don’t remember any of it. I just remember getting there and saying, “I want to get in the tub.”
We reached the birth center around 5:15. I started pushing pretty much as soon as we arrived. The majority of my labor was in the water. I experienced intense lower back pain every contraction, and being buoyant was the only way to rest between contractions. I drank water and almond milk during labor.
The proverbial “they” always say that it’s at the very end, possibly moments before the baby was born, when the women doesn’t feel like she can do it anymore. It’s true.
I asked for pain medication and cried, “I can’t do this!” multiple times. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and just cry but I physically couldn’t even do that! Every fiber in my body was screaming, and I was spent.
When Clarissa started crowning, Kevin referenced the two marathons I had run. This impressed my birth team, and they all started drawing motivation from that, but I recall saying something to the effect, “This is like running a marathon after you’ve already run 4 of them!” I even refused to reach down and touch the top of my baby’s head when my midwife offered. I just wanted her out of me!
I remember being there, in the tub, gripping my husband’s arm. For almost five hours I had been so intensely focused on enduring the intensity of each contraction, on funneling all my energy to push. My baby was strong. She had been showing no signs of fetal distress. She was coming out in a posterior position, however, which was why she and I were having to work so much harder to make this birth happen.
Kevin started to tell me he could see her. He could see our baby. She was almost here. He could almost see her eyebrows! Everyone was chiming in with their encouragement. It was like the noise of spectators you start to hear as you near the finish line of a race.
I pushed. Good! Good, Victoria! Almost there!
I pushed again. Yes, yes, that’s it, you’re so close!
I pushed, and screamed (or something) as I felt this indescribable pain, immediately followed by the feeling of a newborn baby on my stomach. Still attached to me.
Kevin helped clamp and cut the cord. He took our newborn baby, and I was helped out of the tub and seated onto a birthing stool. My placenta pretty much fell out of me. (There are now only a couple of capsules of my dehydrated placenta powder, as well as a keepsake cord, left of my placenta, which was discoid in shape, deep purple in color, and just over 1 lb in weight. That’s right, I ate my placenta; but that’s a whole other blog post for later!)
Clarissa was having trouble breathing. Respiratory distress. They were able to give her oxygen and resuscitate her. I prayed the entire time for out loud as I sat there in the bed. I was somehow not worried and at perfect peace. My baby girl was here now.
We were there at the birth center for 4 hours after the birth, going through all the routine things. I was operating on adrenaline at that point. I couldn’t stop talking. I had something to say about everything, not to mention I WAS SORE ALL OVER. Nobody told me that my WHOLE BODY would hurt, not just the parts you expect to hurt. Or that it feels like YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO MOVE AGAIN FOR MONTHS.
I tore pretty bad. While I was getting sown up, I was literally demanding as much pain medication as possible and would vocalize any pain I felt during the stitching. Peeing was my ticket home, so I felt pretty accomplished when I finally went.
I had no idea my butt could be so sore. It was likely due to Clarissa’s posterior position. Let’s just say I sat on ice for a while.
When we were finally strapping our little newborn baby into the car seat, it was almost 2 in the morning. We drove back home to a whole new life. A life full of more life, more care and responsibility, more love. I sat in the backseat next to my baby, watching her, talking to her, letting her squeeze my finger with her tiny hand.
(Call me crazy, but when Clarissa started outgrowing her clothes, it made me want another baby – just for a few seconds.)
I still can’t believe she came out of me.