Sunday, June 1, 2014

Baby E's birth story

Like his brother H2, Baby E has the gift of perfect timing. My mom was due to arrive in the afternoon on Sunday April 27 and leave on May 7, so our desire was for the baby to be born early in the time she was here. The previous weekend was Easter, and my brother and sister-in-law spent the long weekend with us. (Canada, where they live, has the civilized custom of Good Friday being a public holiday). I was still feeling pretty good, though large, and was really able to enjoy their visit. On Monday, after they left, I started having a killer backache. Every step I took hurt, and only sitting, lying down, or kneeling on all fours on the floor brought relief. On Monday night Ari and I watched a DVD, and I was having contractions every 10 minutes throughout the movie, but when we went to bed they stopped. Although I wanted my mom to be there for the birth, the backache just didn’t go away. I wondered how much more pain I could stand and thought it really wouldn’t be terrible if the baby came first. Nonetheless, the big kids and I got through an entire week’s worth of school. At my Saturday afternoon appointment, Julie, the midwife, said she thought I’d be in labor within the next day or two – the baby had really dropped. Saturday night, I woke up around 2:30am with painful contractions, and got up thinking this was it, but as soon as I was sitting up the contractions stopped, and I went back to bed at 4:00 and slept soundly. I was glad I could go to church on Sunday, but we spent some effort asking people if they would be able to pick up my mom from the airport if I did go into labor before it was time for us to leave. However, by 2:30 Sunday afternoon there wasn’t any change in the 2-3 contractions an hour I’d been having – mostly painless, none seeming to mean business – so Ari took the 3 boys and collected my mom from La Guardia Airport (about a 3 ½ hour round trip). P9 stayed with me, being the child most able to be helpful if I did suddenly start active labor before they got back. But nothing happened, and my mom arrived before the baby did, as we’d been praying.

On Monday, when I woke up, I was having contractions about 10 minutes apart, and they weren’t slowing down when I changed activities. They weren’t painful, for the most part, so I told Ari to go ahead and take the car to work, so he could quickly drive back if I needed him. My mom and I spent the morning cleaning and organizing the kids’ room, which I’d meant to get to but my backache had given me an excuse to procrastinate. Just after we were done with that task, I went to use the bathroom but when I turned on the tap to wash my hands, no water came out. A quick check confirmed that our water had been shut off. I got angry. Shortly before Thanksgiving last year, the gas company drilled through our water pipeline. Our water was shut off for several hours, but once they got it turned on again, it took about 3 days to run clear. 3 or 4 times after that during the winter, our water would suddenly turn brown again and stay that way for at least a full day, sometimes 2. The brown would remain in the water for longer if there had been a water shutoff preceding it. We would call the water people, who would invariably wait just long enough that the water was running clear again before coming over, tell us that we had no problem, and suggest that we call sooner next time. So when I saw that the water had been shut off, I just knew we wouldn’t have clean water for a couple of days, and that the baby would be born into a house where we had nothing with which to wash him unless we’d bought it – let alone having my hoped-for water birth. I sent out text messages to family and updated Facebook with a prayer request for clean, running water, and prayed myself, declaring aloud that God is more powerful than dirty water pipes. I was going to walk down the road to see if the gas company was there and ask them what the story was, but my mom offered to go instead. She took all the kids except E8 and found, as I expected, that the gas people were working on a busted water pipe at the bottom of the road. She calmly asked them if it would be long before the water came back, and they told her it would be at least two hours. She then told them that her daughter was in labor and planning a home birth. This resulted in a satisfying change in facial expression on the gas people, so Mom headed back uphill, concluding that her work was done. I’m sure she was more effective than I would have been, because I might not have kept my temper (particularly since even walking 10 feet was painful enough with my backache, let alone all the way down the hill). It took 4 hours, but the water was turned on. It was brown and muddy – once it drained from the bathtub there was muddy residue in the tub. After a while it was only slightly less brown, the color I had seen it remain for days many times before. I tried to resign myself to no warm water for pain relief during labor. My mom took all 4 kids to the playground after H2’s nap was over, and I called Julie to let her know she’d probably be seeing me sometime in the next 12 hours or so, and whined about the water. She suggested I just let it keep running and see if it cleared. I thought, “Well, we tried that several times before earlier this year and it didn’t work, but no harm trying.” And it started clearing! I was amazed! By the time Ari got back from work, the water was as perfectly clear as it ever is. I instinctively started looking for purely natural explanations for why we had so much trouble so many times when no-one was praying, but now that everyone was praying the water ran clear. I haven’t come up with any yet that beat the simple conclusion that God answers prayer.

My contractions were still 7-10 minutes apart when we were done eating our dinner, and Ari told the kids they needed to go to bed. P9 was very upset by this, and we promised to wake her up if things started speeding up. By 10 pm they were still only 7 minutes apart, and I decided to get some sleep if I could. I slept from 10:00 to 11:30, lay awake for half an hour, and then slept again from 12:00 to 1:15. By 2:00 the contractions were about a minute long and 5-6 minutes apart, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be going back to sleep again. Since Julie was a 45-minute drive away, I decided to call her sooner rather than later. Once she arrived, around 3 am, we woke P9 as promised. Because of my backache, I wasn’t walking very much, and things seemed to be going very slowly. By about 5 am, Julie suggested just walking around the house to see if things would speed up. After just one lap (and our house is NOT large) I had a strong contraction, and continued having strong contractions every 2-3 laps around the house (probably only about 20-30 feet per lap). Finally the contractions were getting painful enough and hard enough to cope with that I knew it wouldn’t be much longer. E8 woke up about 6am and, hearing voices downstairs, came and joined us. I only did a few more laps around the house between E8 waking up and it finally being time to get into the birth tub, which was full of perfectly clear, warm water.

I felt the baby moving down as I climbed into the birth pool. I don’t think there were more than 2 or 3 more contractions in the tub before it was time to push. Ari ran upstairs and got B4, who had also been promised the chance to watch the birth. B4 is in the difficult position of being too small and emotionally immature to be consistently included with “the big kids”, but being extremely intelligent and resentful of being treated as a little kid, so we felt that although he’s so young it was important for him to be included with P9 and E8 in watching the birth. We felt no obligation to include H2, though. With Ari, all 3 big kids, and my mom watching, I began to push. I don’t think it took more than 3 pushing contractions before baby E was born. The amniotic sac bulged out and I put my hand on it for the last couple of pushes, which helped me feel connected to what I was doing. I remember feeling, for the split second after his head was out, that I was just too tired to push any more, but curiosity about whether we had a boy or a girl motivated me to give another push, and he was out. His amniotic sac remained intact all the way until he was out of the water and on my chest. According to Wikipedia (which knows everything), less than 1 in 80,000 babies are born “en-caul”, so baby E is unusual and amazing (which I could have told Wikipedia). And unlike his brother H2, Baby E started breathing right away, which we'd also been praying about. 
At this point, I'm going to switch over to let pictures be worth thousands of words.
Notice how clear the water in the birth tub is! It stayed perfectly clear until after the placenta was born, which didn't happen with my other 3 water births. When God answers prayer, he does it thoroughly!
Showing B4 the amniotic sac as P9 crawls past for a better view.  
Thanks to Julie for all her care and support!
As you see, P9 is heartbroken not to have a sister. As she said when she found out H2 was a boy, "Oh, well. Baby boys are cute, too."
E8 contemplates the fact that he has 3 younger brothers who will follow his example...

Sweet dreams...
H2 isn't certain about the new arrival, but E8 is!

B4 is much happier about baby E than he was about H2... he's realized younger brothers are worth the trouble.
 Addendum: my back kept on aching horribly for the first week after baby E was born, so I asked Julie for a physical therapist recommendation. Unfortunately, my insurance wasn't going to cover the physical therapy, so I prayed, suggesting God choose between two options: miraculously healing my back or dropping a sack of money on our heads. His immediate answer was, "I have a better idea." Within half an hour of my praying, a friend came over and suggested that I see her chiropractor, who has really helped her with her back problems. She then went over and personally talked to the chiropractor, who is charging a generously affordable rate and was able to see me the same day. At this point, several weeks later, my back is almost back to normal. Thanks be to God!