Monday, February 24, 2014

Emmerson's Birth

With both of my pregnancies, I've been lucky enough to share the experience with a really close friend. I was pregnant with Berkeley the same time my good friend Betsy was pregnant with Charlie, and I was pregnant with Wren the same time my dear friend Rebecca was pregnant with Emerson. And there really is just something comforting about sharing those months with someone. Comparing notes and woes and tips and yoga videos and double desserts- it's good times.

And this time it was made even better because I got to photograph Emerson's birth! It was just a few weeks before Wren would be born, at the same hospital, literally in the room next door.

The short of it is this: Rebecca was amazing. 1) Her labor lasted so so long, and 2) I felt like some of her nurses didn't say the most encouraging things to her. But in spite of having been at the hospital for going on two days, and in spite of having maybe not the most helpful help, she just kept with it; she stayed so positive and hopeful and determined and nice (I really don't know how she managed to be so nice through all of this). It was clear she felt so defeated and exhausted several times, but in the end, after being forced to move her labor to the operating room, and with the threat of a c-section looming over her, she pushed that 9+ lb of baby boy out!

I feel so grateful and happy and blessed that I got to be there. I love all three of these guys so much!

I should note here that I actually feel kinda guilty about having gotten to photograph this because another close friend of Rebecca and Derek's, Aubrey, was photographing this for them, but after having done so for over 24 hours, she had to leave to photograph a prior commitment. So I feel like a jerk- Aubrey is the one that was there with them in the trenches, and then I came in at like the eleventh hour, and took the gold, so to speak. Anyway, a very sincere nod to Aubrey and all her hard work!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

About six weeks ago, I had another baby.

This little one.

I've been meaning to make a post about Wren's birth for weeks now, but every time I go to work on it I remember how I have very few pictures from the event and I get stuck. I am apparently not so great at using just words to communicate . . . I have nothing on my "real camera" until about an hour before we left the hospital. So here goes Wren's birth story, sans much visual input . . .

There being an obvious amount of things that were similar between my first and this birth (they were both babies, made by me and Shawn, they came out of my body {both 12 days late}, and I fell in love), there were many things that were so different.

For starters,  I wasn't actually overly excited about Berkeley's birth (see here). Deciding to add a kid to our lives was not something we did because we were dying to have a baby. So until she was actually here, in the flesh, on my chest, I just wasn't oozing with love for her . . . but this time, I felt love for the little being inside me from the very beginning. Having now had the experience of Life with Berkeley, of my heart regularly swelling bigger and bigger, I knew that such a thing was possible with this little zygote as well, and I felt connected to Wren from the moment I knew she was in there . . . I would lie awake in bed at night with my hands on my belly and just think about her. Berkeley at that point felt much more like an alien, an alien I was sure I would one day love, but a foreign intruder none-the-less. With Wren in utero,  it felt like a family member, and I was anxious to get her here.

But as anxious as I was, I was still very relaxed about the fact that she was late. I've read enough hippie childbirth books to know that they will come when they are ready, and interfering is almost always a bad idea. I wanted (very much) to have a natural childbirth. I'm fully aware that I'm not proving anything to anybody by so doing, but it was something that was important to me. It was important to me for several reasons- from an actual medical standpoint, as a life experience that I just wanted to experience, and because it was something I saw as potentially empowering. In all the reading I'd done I had come to believe that women really need encouragement and support more than they need drugs. And I was excited to take that approach. (I wanted the same with Berkeley but after 12 hours or so of labor, they convinced me I needed some assistance- pitocin- and after that I just couldn't take the pain any more. So I was trying to avoid the pitocin/induction at all costs this time and have labor start naturally)

I had some dear women lined up to be there with me to be the said encouragement and support during Wren's birth- Liesel, who was there with Berkeley's, and Jenny. Both of them were leaving town for Christmas though, so when it got to be 10 days past my due date and they were both leaving in the next 3 days, I started to freak out that I would have to be induced on Monday, but would then have none of the support I was depending on there with me. So, as much as I didn't want to, I went to my (wonderful) midwife Florence late Friday afternoon (the 20th) to have my membranes swept. She did that, but the best thing she did was just listen to me think and struggle and debate things out loud. She was such a comforting presence.

Then literally as I was walking out the door, she stopped me to say they just found some protein in my urine sample and that was an indicator of preeclampsia so they wanted me to do a 24 hours urine collection. So, Saturday evening I went to the hospital to drop that off; I thought it would just be a quick drop-off, take my blood pressure and be on our way, but it turned into a few hours of monitoring and them telling me they'd like me to stay, right then and there, and have the baby. I kinda thought they were crazy for suggesting this. Berkeley was there with us and I just wasn't at all in the right mindset. We finally agreed I would go home and they would call in the middle of the night if the test results were positive, and I would come back.

So we went home, and indeed they called a little after midnight to tell me the results indicated I should come back sooner than later. They said I could sleep for a few more hours though and come in around 4:00am. But it's a little hard to go back to sleep when you know you'll be having a baby in a few hours. So I got up and took a shower. Then I laid back down to try to sleep, but that's when all my emotions and fears and insecurities decided to release themselves. I had a good cry while I told Shawn about how I didn't think I was ready for a second child, how I hadn't even figured out how to be the kind of parent I want to be with the first one yet, and what the hell was I thinking adding another one, and how I just wanted to go crawl in bed with Berkeley and make her know how much I love her, and ignore all of this . . . and then I felt much better. I fell asleep for about two hours and then we got up and drove to the hospital.

We met Jenny there, and headed upstairs to go have a baby! It felt so strange to just calmly check-in, when the last time I was there waiting at that desk in that hallway, I had already been in labor for hours and was not calm. But this time, considering the fact that this was not at all going how I wanted (having to be induced, which in my mind meant pretty much giving up on a natural childbirth) I did feel oddly calm. I got changed into my "birthing clothes", joked with the nurses, (was even incredibly patient with the newbie one that misplaced my huge IV twice!), had a cheese stick, and climbed into bed.

I decided to try to sleep for a bit while they got everything set up. I stirred as the sun was breaking through the fog. It made the whole room glow. The nurse was getting everything ready for the actual delivery because they believed labor would go really fast (I had been at a 4/5 for more than a week). And then she started talking to me about my birth plan, saying she thought most of it was completely doable. That really made me take heart, because at that point I had sorta assumed I needed to let go of it, but she seemed confident, and I think that really helped. She started the pitocin around 8:30am.

Contractions started a little bit later, slowly. Then within an hour they got to where I was really having to focus on my breathing, and shortly after that I needed the tub. I thought I would want to walk around because that's what I did with Berkeley, but the contractions were so close together and so strong that I didn't want to get out of the bath at all. I sat in there, eyes closed, with Shawn on the other side of the ceramic, for about an hour. Remembering the way Shawn talked so perfectly to me during that time will I think forever be one of my dearest memories. He kept reminding me that this was useful pain, and that this is what childbirth and being alive felt like. He reminded me to be as loud as I wanted and to let everything out. All of that was so helpful. As things I forgot from one second to the next, I needed him there to just keep reminding me. I also spent a lot of energy thinking about Jenny- about how she birthed 10lb babies with no pain meds, and about every other woman who had gone through this completely natural process since there have been women. (I also thought a lot about the Prom Mom! Bizarre, I know, and a totally inappropriate and awful form of inspiration, but so it goes- she just kept popping into my mind, "if she could do it, dammit . . ".

They finally told me I had to get out because my blood pressure was getting to a dangerous level and they wanted me to have some magnesium. Things were getting really unbearable though. I was to the point where I was thinking, "Never mind. It's not worth it, I need something". There was starting to be almost zero respite between contractions- one would end and the next would start. The walk back to the bed was so hard.

Once in the bed Shawn asked them to check me (which is what I had been trying to request but never managed to get out). The doctor said I was at an 8, and that it would probably be "only" 20 more minutes until I was to a 10, and I just screamed. There was no way I could go through that for 20 more mins (the contractions literally were just one giant contraction by then). This next part is a bit of a blur, but essentially I went from that moment where they said I was at an 8, to her being born 5 minutes later! I think the doctor was getting ready to leave because I heard the nurses yelling, "She's grunting! She's Grunting!". "Don't leave". I didn't actually know what was happening; I assumed the baby was coming because of the convulsions of my body and the words of the nurses, but I honestly wasn't sure. Nobody had actually said, "the baby is coming", so I kept asking (yelling) "what's happening?!?" as my body and mind were in a place so outside of anything I could comprehend.

Then she just landed on me. It's actually kinda hilarious to me that she practically surprised me. But I had been absolutely writhing in pain, aware really only of pain, and not that something was actually coming out of my body. My eyes had been closed for pretty much the entire last two hours. Not sure why that is- I guess it's just easier to be in pain with them closed. But it makes the whole memory feel like very short clips in a movie- a shot of my IV above the water in the bathtub, one of my toes on the floor, one of the railing on the side of the bed, and then, Wren. And at that point, the lens stays open. I was so utterly relieved in every sense. I could finally see, and breathe, and make sense of the voices around me, and I just stared. I held her and marveled at her dark hair and eyes and just kept thinking, "you're here".

My body shook and shook afterward (I guess that's a common thing for unmedicated births). But I just held and held her. I was able to hold her there for a really long time. They were trying to get some blood clots out and at first I could handle the pain because I was so elated at the little body sitting on top of me. Every time it would start to hurt, I would just look at her and think, "it doesn't even matter; look what I have." But then it started to unbearable and I was screaming all over again. They decided they needed to take me to the operating room and knock me out. I guess there was a lot of blood loss and hemorrhaging and they needed to take care of things soonish.

So Shawn took the babe to the nursery to get weighed and cleaned and all that, as I was getting prepped for the OR. I didn't mention it earlier but Jason got there while I was in the tub. Jason is not somebody I was feeling that I needed to be there for the birth. I mean, I was happy to have him there; I think it meant a lot to Shawn that he be there, but it's not like I was depending on him for anything, so it surprised me how happy and grateful and relieved I ended up feeling that he was there. He was the only one who actually got to see Wren be born since everything happened so fast and Jenny and Shawn were (I think) both up by me, focused on me, and it just feels better knowing that somebody we love was able to witness her first second entering the world.

I thought Jason would be able to go with me to the OR, but as they were wheeling me off they made it clear he couldn't go. I tried to be firm and say I really wanted him there but I guess it's just not a thing they allow if it's not for the actual birth. And that's pretty much the last thing I remember. I am apparently really sensitive to whatever they gave me, and I was OUT. I woke up several hours later back in the birthing room but continued to be really out of it for quite some time. I occasionally heard Jason and Shawn talking quietly and then I would go back to sleep. They came over to help me drink a few times and then I would go back to sleep. I would see a blurry shot of them holding Wren and want to hold her too, but then I would go back to sleep. (The staff later asked me what I remembered and I said Christmas lights :)

I was still feeling pretty out of it, but it was getting late and I really wanted to see Berkeley. I was so nervous and excited for this meeting. The second I saw her and my mom I started tearing up. I was in this same hospital with her the tiny little being wrapped in hospital blankets just a few short years ago, and here she was, the big sister. And oh man, watching that big little girl hold the new baby, it was almost too much.

Our hospital stay was so different this time-- no Shawn and I being roomies for two days while we order three times the amount of room service one person should need, and take turns holding our new creation. This time, I almost couldn't send him home with Berkeley fast enough. As much as I wanted him there, I wanted to be with Berkeley, and having him leave with her was the next best thing. And so began a life of each of us receiving a little less attention from one another.

After everyone left and it was just me and the baby, I was laying there with her in the dark thinking about how meeting her felt different than meeting Berkeley. I didn't love either of them more or less, but with Berkeley I was completely swept off my feet and overcome with an instant rush of intense love that I had never before felt and wasn't expecting. With Wren, I already loved her, and knew what was coming so it wasn't such an overwhelming experience. It was more like a fulfilled feeling. And that also felt amazing. Wren also came with a physical relief that was so much greater, making me grateful for her in a whole different way. And there was also their physical appearance. Berkeley was so perfect. She was so small and had the tiniest little defined features, and soft skin. She really was a beautiful newborn. Wren, not so much :) She was super wrinkly, with dry skin, a puffy face, and just looked much more like a typical gremliny newborn, but it was something about how "typical" she looked that made her feel so special. I just had this feeling like, wow- it is probably obvious to nobody else how beautiful and unique and special I know that she is, and it made me feel this need to work really hard to make sure I let everyone know, especially her.

Then there were two days of staying in the hospital- visits from friends, not much sleep, a blood transfusion, a lot of deliberation over her name, ice packs in my underwear, magic bars from Heather, hours of staring at that little face, and way too many random people and beeping machines.

Then as we were waiting for my blood transfusion to end, packing up our things getting ready to go in less than an hour, we still had an unnamed baby there with us. (I really wish they didn't make it such a pain for you to name your child after leaving the hospital). Naming Wren was much more of an issue than I thought it would be. Immediately after they put her on me, I remember thinking, "It's Wren. You're here. Hello Wren". But then the next 2.5 days go by and we try out all the names we were considering- Clementine, Poppy, Winter, and Wren. And I love THEM ALL! As our discharge got closer, I was seriously a bit of a wreck over the decision for some reason. We FINALLY decided on Clementine J., and I called the birth certificate office and told them, but I started crying and had to hand the phone to Shawn to finish giving the info. We hung up and I just stared at her. Shawn tried to comfort me, saying it was a beautiful name and her life would be filled with clemency and mercy, but I just couldn't shake the fact that I had that first impression of her name seconds after she was born. So, a bit hysterical, I called the office back 5 minutes later to tell them we were changing the name. But again as she asked me to spell out Frankie Wren, I could barely get it out. I hung up and was crying all over again. Now I was crying, "great, now she'll have no mercy and clemency in her life, only birds"! Shawn tried to tell me there are no "soulmate names", but I just wasn't feeling at peace with any decision we made. I was kinda laughing at myself even in the moment, but really, even now, I get very antsy about the matter. I was so torn over the decision. I guess I just love all the names. I loved Clementine (the most, probably). I just think it has such a beautiful meaning. And I loved it's subtle homage to Christmas. It being December 22nd and Clementines being a sort of winter/Christmas fruit. I loved Poppy and how it would mean both our girls would have California names, and the happy sound it has. I loved Winter, it being the first day of Winter, a season that to me is filled with more warmth than most of the others. But in the end, we have Wren, a bird :) Albeit, a bird with a loud and complex song.

I have actually loved the name forever. I read a book when I was young (maybe 10ish) called "Wren", a true story by Maria Killilea about her daughter with Cerebral Palsy. I actually don't even remember much of what it's about (I'll need to read it again), but I remember loving the little girl Wren and how filled with love her heart was. And Frankie is of course after Shawn's brother Frank. He has been such a wonderful uncle to Berkeley and it makes me crazy sad that we no longer get to live close to them. Hopefully the name will make the distance feel just a little less somehow.

So that's it- We packed her up, the second child of these two second children, and drove home around 5:00 on Christmas Eve.

Excerpt from the book "Wren"
A wren is a bird. He is tiny but courageous--so was Karen. He is a very friendly little creature. He is always happy and he trills beautifully. When he isn't trilling, he chatters, chatters, chatters. He likes an audience. He has bright eyes and when you talk to him, he listens with his whole self. Even his pert little tail seems to be paying attention. But most of all he loves--he loves other birds (doesn't scrap like bluejays or sparrows). He loves the sun, he loves the rain, he loves flowers, he loves tiny bits of string, little sticks and, best of all, he loves his nest--his home--his family. So Wren was the perfect nickname for Karen.