Birth of Izabelle, 2016

In Early January, I remember feeling “weird”, not sure if I felt PMS-y or what. I told my friend, “I really don’t think I’m pregnant…. Obviously….” As I drank a glass of wine in her kitchen, “but I do feel …. ‘off’”. I had only 1 period. My toddler was 20 months old, still breastfeeding and I was sure my body was just playing tricks on me while reregulating; navigating menstruation after baby. This was not unusual, as it all felt and looked similar to my previous ‘first postpartum cycle’ experiences. I had some spotting on Jan 25, and just was so sure that it was confirmation that my body wasn’t back to normal yet and I should just keep waiting.

On February 3, I finally got out my doppler and listened to see if I could find fetal heart tones. None. See? I knew. I was NOT pregnant. But of course, I knew that meant nothing. That only meant that *if* I was indeed pregnant, that I wasn’t far enough along to detect fetal heart tones yet. The next day, I stood on the sidewalk at our house. I was walking to the van. I knew I needed to buy a test. I said out loud, to no one; to everyone; to myself, “whether it’s positive OR negative, he’s getting that vasectomy which he’s been asking me about for the last 4 years….” 

I peed on a stick…. And it was INSTANTLY positive. Of course it was. Duh. I really already knew. But I was in denial. I was alone in the house. I yelled “I’m starting a business here!!” and “I JUST wanted to wait 5 years for number 6! WHY NOW!?!?” It was a crazy emotional time. I never felt I didn’t want another baby. Just that I preferred a larger age gap for the next. I was exhausted. And I was finally feeling like I could take time for me. Finally feeling like there was more to me that ‘just being a mom’. Except with 2 pink lines, all of that was pushed back to the back burner. Where it had already been sitting for 5 years. I was ready to move on to where life would take me ‘next’ and here I was, being told I had to push that all back.

I know there’s someone out there reading this who is saying that no one should let a baby ‘hold them back’. I have always felt that babies should be close to their mommy, not the childcare provider. I’m not judging anyone else for choosing that, but it was NOT what was right for my family. I needed to be the sole care provider for my exclusively breastfed babies. It likely also had a bit to do with my OCD, and the fact that I didn’t feel I could trust anyone to not give my baby formula or solids before I was ready. I didn’t feel I could trust anyone that my parenting choices would be respected. I felt that demanding that my choices for my baby be respected was more difficult than just staying with my baby and doing it myself. Plus. Baby snuggles. Oxytocin. Win win win.

So I starred at those 2 pink lines. And crazy me, selfishly wanting what I wanted, was still in denial.

The next week. Yes, week. I know. Don’t. I knew. But I was seriously in denial. I got out my doppler again on Friday, Feb, 12 and it took just a bit, but I found fetal heart tones. There it was. I could no longer be in denial. I went to Walmart, printed off a picture of each of my 5 kids, and a picture of a positive pregnancy test. I bought a frame with 6 photo openings. I inserted all 6 photos. I went to talk to David. I said “so, I have something for you” and showed him the photo frame, “you can go get that vasectomy now.” As I emotionally choked on my words just a bit. Reality has that effect sometimes. I was emotional about being pregnant, and about being ready to be permanently done with these moments.

It only took him a moment, and he sighed, smiled, hugged me. He said “so, are you going to do this one on your own too?”

I said, “yes”

“ok. But I don’t want to be there”

“ok”

Grins. Kisses. Hugs. Telling the world.

When you tell people you’re having baby number 6 you get all ranges of reactions. From “oooohh!!!! YAY!!!!” to “… what, do you want a basketball team…?” or “don’t you know how that happens?!” (ummm… want to share that, cuz clearly that’s the only way we’d ever have *so many kids*. [eye roll]) or “oh…reeeeally…..” (rude, sarcastic, questioning tone). I’ve heard all the stupid, rude comments. Anybody who has more than 3 kids knows EXACTLY what I mean. Those who don’t, please know, do NOT say these rude things. Ever. Stick to ‘congrats’ in some form, as this life deserves as much respect and celebration as any other life. That, and if you say the rude things, there’s a good chance you’ll end up being quoted on someone’s blog in their birth story at some point, with your comment being used as an ‘example of what NOT to say to a new pregnancy announcement’ sort of article.

I sat and calculated my due date. This is not always a cut and dry situation. I had 1 period. But I had no idea cycle length, cuz I had just had that 1. No idea when I had ovulated. So basically, the ‘last menstrual period’  or ‘last ovulation’ calculators weren’t going to tell me much. I used the date I found the heartbeat, compared to when I hadn’t been able to a week earlier. I used the dates we had sex. (in case you haven’t already concluded, I’m a charter. Although I had only re-started charting about 2 months before, and hadn’t yet gotten back to the habit of charting all the things. Otherwise, I likely wouldn’t have gotten pregnant, cuz I would’ve known when I was ovulating. That’s a different topic. Google: natural family planning, or fertility awareness method, or Couple to Couple League, or the book ‘Taking Charge of Your Fertility’). I used the days I had spotted as possible ‘implantation bleeding’ dates. In the end, I had 4 possible due dates, ranging from Aug 21 to Sept 14. Add in the fact that I had previously had a 37 week birth and also a 42 week birth, I expected this baby anytime from August to October. I LOVED not knowing my due date!! It was so freeing! When people would ask, I would say “babies don’t have calendars!” and told very few people when I was guessing I might be due. And those people, I still told “eh, September, October ish”.

I recorded my first fundal height measurement at 21cm, at my bellybutton, on March 7. I weighed myself at 133.8 pounds. I used my “middle due date” as a guide in my note taking. Just to give me a number to compare to the previous time I measured.

I realized I hadn’t had a summer of fall baby for several years. And none of my warm weather maternity clothes fit. I had usually bought maternity clothes where I could, as cheap as possible. I loved thrift stores and garage sales, and some of my favorites were from those places. This time, I was already feeling depressed that I was putting myself on hold for a new baby, I also wasn’t getting any “handmedowns” as I had a few times before. I needed to go shopping. I bought a couple things at my favorite store with a red-circley logo… ehem.  I went to Omaha for the B.E.D conference (a birth conference) and went to the maternity clothes outlet store while I was there. I felt so comfy in clothes purchased for me, that were CUTE! I found an amazingly comfortable pair of jean shorts (only 1 though. All the others in the store I strongly disliked!), some tops, a dress, and a new nursing bra. Wearing clothes I love always lifts my spirits and gives me confidence!

I loved being pregnant. I always have. There’s moments of each that I don’t love, but overall LOVE. It was bittersweet, as my husband went to get that vasectomy in June. I knew I was done with babies, had & have zero regrets. But it still made me sad. I spent a lot of the summer laying on my bed, binge watching. I was drained. I had zero energy. And I had lots of pelvic floor pressure. This was physically hard for me this time. My hips were so sore, as they had been for all of my last 4 babies. I finally got relief in June when I had a chiropractor appointment. I had seen chiros before, and they hadn’t really helped. So I’ve become the one telling everyone “if you see 10 that don’t help, try another one. You’ll find the one who’s methods work for your body type”. This one made my hip pain vanish for 5 whole days! I felt so much better. We were also broke. Story of our whole life, but hey, whatever. So I went every 2 weeks, instead of every week like I wanted. I did go weekly if it was really really bad in between. I was able to wrap my belly with my Rebozo to support the weight of my belly and squeeze my pelvis at just the right spot. This helped me last that last week without too much discomfort. I did towards the end, go see him every 4-6 days, because my hips hurt so much all the time.

I saw no doctor or midwife. This is called “unassisted pregnancy”. Sometimes women who choose to birth unassisted have an outside care provider, other times they don’t. There’s a whole new level of trust when you look to yourself only and don’t seek outside opinions.

I journaled that I was finally starting to prepare for the birth, Aug 7th.

                “I’ve finally been preparing for the birth of my last baby. I’m either 35, 36 or 37 weeks. I’m feeling pressure when I’m on my feet, both in my uterus and my cervix. I’ve had some sharp pains in my cervix; the ones that feel as if baby is punching me, or trying to crawl out. I’ve felt like sitting a lot, but more like laying, so that keeps those pains at bay. I’ve also had a lot of round ligament pains.

                I’m finally feeling excited about this birth, but still don’t want to rush through these last few weeks of baby movements that I’ll never have again. That makes me sad, but I’m ready to move on to what is next in my life.

                I decided the laundry room will be the best place to set up the birth pool. I’m still not sure if I want to be alone or not, but I want someone to take pictures, and hand me things when asked. I also want my kids to be present, so I need someone here for them. I can’t mother them while I’m in labor.

                I’m getting to the point where I want to isolate myself from the world.

Next journal entry: Aug 16th.

                On Saturday, I had my first non-braxton hicks contractions. I had tummy photos taken and had contractions during and cervical pressure. Pretty sure I lost a mucous plug yesterday too. I’m hoping to get the henna in the mail before baby comes, so I can have belly art done.

Aug. 17th

                Checked my cervix again. It’s dilated more than last week and I had another glob of mucous. More contractions, but nothing to speak of. Some cervical pressure, but nothing consistent. Some lower uterine pressure, but not much. Lots of baby movement. I’m sure I can feel a butt in my ribs, on the right, and the head by my pubic bone. I’m really sad that my last pregnancy is coming to a close, but ready to birth, ready to have my newborn.

Aug. 18th

                I think the anterior side of my cervix is close to fully effaced, I cant find that lip on that side anymore. I’m feeling like I’ll be surprised if I’m still pregnant I a week. By my “due dates” I’m either 37, 37, or 39 weeks now.

Aug. 22nd

                Did belly art with henna and more belly pictures today.

Aug. 25th

                Having some contractions. It’s 11:50pm and they started around 10. I’d had Braxton hicks all day, but these were different. Not closer than 15 minutes. Going to bed while I wait.

Saturday, September 3rd

                I was having period-like cramps when I went to bed, wondered if they were early contractions, but they came with no tightness; didn’t feel like a ‘real contraction’ but did have a slight ‘painful’ feel. They weren’t regular. Noticed a few more through the night, when I’d stir, having trouble sleeping.

Got up at 4:30 to potty, and decided to have a snack too. Had a ‘real contraction’ at 4:51, knew this was it was a ‘very real contraction’. I ate my sandwich. Pottied again (had a very soft stool). Lots of cervical pressure. Checked my cervix. No notable changes from last time, in dilation or effacement or mucous amount, but I did feel the bag of waters bulging.

Notes:

5:18 – another strong, but short contraction. Going to try to sleep.

5:29 – fixed stove clock to match time on my phone and my watch.

5:34 – contractions still short. Less than 30 seconds, but strong.

5:39 – short contractions. Starting bath.

Journal: After I ate my sandwich, I tried to sleep on the couch, but I knew after a few contractions that I was in labor. I went to take a bath (notes: in at 5:47, out at 6:28). I timed my ctx, checked my cervix, decided to turn up the hot water heater soon. But it was dark still, around 7am(7:30?).

(notes: 7:26 – 100% effaced, dilated to 4 or 5 or 6? Amniotic bag bulging. Still walking through each contraction easily. Crying. Emotional. Last baby. Last birth.)

 I went to the basement, turned up the water heater, then went for a walk around the driveway. I quickly decided that hadn’t been my best idea because halfway around the shop, I had a very strong, intense contraction. I wanted to lean on something, but there was nothing to grab. I then called my doula. at 7:40.

I went back inside, moving through each contraction. At 8 I was folding laundry when Sierha’s friend (Sierha’s birthday was tomorrow, and she was having a birthday sleepover) came in. I asked her to please go wake up Sierha, tell her I’m in labor. Sierha and her other friend came in shortly after; contractions were pretty intense at this point. Someone (one of the friends; their mama has had homebirths too, they new the drill) asked if there was anything she could do to help, so I set them to work getting out the birth pool. (notes: 8:10 – girls getting pool ready. Jonnie woke up). I can’t remember when, but at one point Sierha said “I’m not sure what to do”. She was so excited and nervous I think. I closed the door to the bathroom. Checked my cervix, which wasn’t fully open yet, but oh so close. I went potty and walked back out. The very next contraction I went back to the bathroom, stripped my clothes off from the waist down. (Notes: 8:20 -  transition?)

Things got much more intense and I said something about the birth pool may not be ready fast enough. The water filling it was steaming hot, but such little pressure. I had Sierha get the outside hose for cold water, so that it was faster.

The girls had no idea how to set up the pool or fill it, so I was giving directions all through, in between contractions. I started a pot of water on the stove, to boil.

Finally, the outside faucet water had added enough cold so that I could get in the pool. Instant relief. I let out a loud soothing sigh that made Sierha giggle.

A few contractions later, I looked up and saw Lauren. I told her “20 minutes. Tops.” (notes: Lauren arrived 8:35)

Another contraction. I told Lauren I had a notebook, and please write down when things happen, times and small details.

I checked baby’s head station. I thought birth was mere seconds away. But this baby was taking a bit more time. Crowning, back peddling. It wasn’t happening in one swift motion as it had with Jonnie or Lyzza. I was on my hands and knees, but sat back in between, feeling defeated, like this shouldn’t be so hard. Yet it was harder than my last 2 births had been. Another contraction brought me back to my knees. Sometimes I had my right leg out, more on my foot and my left knee, and back to sitting back in between. Next contraction bringing me again to my knees. And when it ended with no baby yet, I’d lean back again. Defeated again, but for only a moment.

Sometime in one of those in between moments I asked if my boys were up and sent someone to get them. I told Sierha to go wake up Daddy, so he could choose to come or not. (notes: 8:40 – woke up David; 8:55 – I said “head is *right there*”)

Next contraction, baby’s head finally came out. Still in the caul. But then nothing. We both waited. Time stood still. Waiting. Feeling so much intensity. Amazing. Terrifying. Wonderful. Perfect. Not really scary at all, yet wondering if all was ok. Another contraction. No movement. Brief pause. Another contraction. With one final hefty push, as I felt my body leading me to do, baby slowly emerged. Amniotic bag still intact, it broke somewhere between her neck and her tummy being born. (notes: time of birth 8:58)

I brought baby immediately to my chest. No breath yet. That’s ok. Wait. Still no breath. Rub baby. Still none. Still ok. Wait. Still no breath. Rub more. More vigorously this time, but still gently. Short cry, breathing perfectly. Perfect. Relief.

I leaned back, holding baby, taking it all in.

I got crampy feeling. I swear, the placenta contractions were worse. Maybe because after baby, your mind shifts. You feel done. I tried to push placenta at 8:06, it wasn’t quite ready like I thought. I pushed the placenta into my hands at 8:09. I asked for the bucket to put it in. I asked for a towel to cover baby. I wanted out of the pool soon, as it was cold. I was cold. I knew baby was cold too. I passed baby to Sierha. Lauren held the bucket with the placenta, and held out her hand for me to grab as I climbed out of the pool. That was when I started to feel weak. I was ok, and took a quick shower. I told Sierha to not peek to see if we had a boy or a girl. I rinsed off. I patted dry, because I noticed that my arms were covered in vernix. I asked Lauren to take a picture. She also layed down a towel for me, as I asked, so I could sit on the floor. I didn’t feel I could walk just yet. At 9:20, we checked: GIRL! We sat on the bathroom floor for a little bit. Little David asked “when will you cut the wire thing?” She nursed, for almost 20 minutes. While her siblings took it all in. We moved to the couch, nursed. Lauren made me eggs. Daddy said hello to new baby, and left for work. We moved to the bedroom. And then cut the cord in mommy’s arms at 11:50. She had her first diaper at 12:55, and we then weighed her. 8 pounds, 9.6 ounces. 20 ½ inches long.

I felt so tired. Weak. It wasn’t the same as I had felt after any of my other kids were born. I drank a bottle of liquid chlorophyll and felt better, so I don’t know if I had low iron, or if I had lost more blood than is optimal. But it did leave me feeling drained and wanting to stay in bed for over a week.

I didn’t even try to find a name for her for a couple of days. Then it took me a couple more to decide. I asked David to choose between the few I had. Told him her middle name is Joy. Because all while I was pregnant Jonnie walked around saying “I have a baby in my tummy. And it’s a boy. And his name is Joy Joy”

On Wednesday, we finally decided on Izabelle Joy.

Cord stump fell off at 5 days. We went for a newborn exam and PKU & hearing test at 9 days. She was a bit jaundice for a little while, but was breastfeeding well so I wasn’t worried. We had some trouble getting a deep enough latch, and for awhile I thought she may have been tongue tied, but with a football hold and only a few tears, we pushed through. I had 2 lactation consultants look and say “I’m not sure… she may be tied, but I can’t tell. And I didn’t bring my gloves to properly evaluate” (because if you aren’t aware – a tongue tie can NOT be assessed by observation only!) I was ready to have her tongue evaluated for a tie, and the pain stopped, she was getting a deeper latch. So I wonder if it was muscular or something else. But wither way, we overcame whatever the problem was.

Looking back, and comparing to my other pregnancies, my body has a harder time dealing with “bigger babies”. The tiredness. The strong pressure. The lack of desire to do anything. It all compared to only 1 other pregnancy – the one with the only baby I had that was bigger than her. Blayne was 8#14 ounces, and his was the only other one I felt so defeated with. I feel deeply that when you follow your body’s cues, you do what you need to do in order to grow and birth a healthy baby!