Monday, July 18, 2011

June Helen

I sense that quiet moments like these are going to be scarce in this house, but I'll revel in this moment with three peaceful sleepers, a cup of steaming chai and the easy strokes of MacBook keys at my fingertips. I want to write about June Helen, about her birth and the days that lead up to it, about the waiting and the trusting in a timing bigger than my own and what a joy it is to add her to our home. I want to write so I don't forget.

This third pregnancy was HARD. It was the most difficult of the three, not only because I had a three year old and a 1 year old to keep up with, but because various medical conditions kept creeping in, causing pain, causing distress. Varicose veins kept my left leg perma-bound in a compression stocking, pelvic symphysis kept me home bound more days than I was used to. Many many nights I was kept awake for hours at a time, insomnia became the norm, I expected it nightly at 3am, I fought every day not to be a wretched grouch to my children, my husband. It was such a battle. Four weeks prior to her birth I started having long bouts of false labor, contractions for 2-3 hours, contractions when I walked, did laundry, played with my kids, like a boa cinching my insides when I dared to move.

I wanted desperately to be done with it, to just have the baby early and be finished with the trials of pregnancy. I reminded myself daily to be thankful, knowing so many women who long desperately for a baby, willing to endure anything for the chance at another life. The whole process forced me to trust, to be content that God alone had a perfect time for our little bundle, whose gender remained a mystery. I knew that while I didn't understand at the time, on the day our baby came I would see the whole picture, it would all be clear.

At 330a on July 7th I awoke (as per the norm) to contractions. I laid in bed for an hour, they continued, I couldn't sleep at the hope that maybe, just maybe, this was it. I got up, when downstairs and read some scripture on peace. Another hour passed by and I started getting pretty elated, they were coming stronger and faster than ever before. I decided to put on a little makeup, fix my hair, get dressed in the event things picked up. I wanted to look nice when I went to the hospital. Ha!

Corey woke up around 630a, I told him how things were going, told him it would probably be a good idea for him to stay home from work just in case, I called his mom so she could drive the 45mins in from Havana where she had been staying.

When Melanie arrived at the house shortly after 7 the commotion of her arrival compounded by an ashen faced and groggy Asher (saying he felt sick) caused a halt in the contractions all together. Corey and I decided to get out of the house; thinking that walking would get things going again we made trips to Target, the mall, Fresh Market, all the while the contractions remained anywhere between 10 and 20 mins apart. We ate lunch together at Qdoba. We realized that while frustrating, this time was really such a blessing. We were able to spend the whole morning together, just the two of us, talking and laughing and indulging in new types of chocolate. The unexpected "date" on what we hoped was our little one's birthday was special, preparing us for the arduous task of what was yet to come.

At 145 I went to a scheduled appointment with my midwives and the bumpy drive on Rt. 6 to the Center for Health seemed to kick start things again. I started having contractions consistently every 5-10 minutes. I chose to get "checked" for the first time my whole pregnancy and discovered I was at 4cm, +2 station, progress was being made despite the starts and stops. We left and decided to go ahead and "preregister" at Proctor, since I had procrastinated on doing so. I had a strong contraction while signing the paper work. Corey joked with the woman at the desk that we'd see them later that night and we strolled to a nearby bench to see if relaxing together in the sun might keep things afloat. It didn't, we went home.

I went to our upstairs bedroom alone, disappointed, near tears, thinking how strange it was to lay there hoping for more pain. For it to be faster and stronger. I prayed to meet my baby that day, but also resigned the choice to God, professing a genuine trust that He knew what was best. Forty five minutes into resting things started getting intense. The contractions were still only ten minutes apart but so strong I could hardly breathe. I called my midwife, she said she could tell by my voice it was time to go to the hospital. I ran down the stairs between contractions in near tears of joy and pain!

We arrived at Proctor around 430P and I could scarcely get into my gown between the intensity of the contractions. Shortly after my friend Krystal strolled in, she is training to be a doula and I wanted so much for her to be there for this birth, for her to see how crazy and glorious an unmedicated birth can be. I was scared that maybe this time I'd wimp out and disappoint her, having some one less familiar in the room produced more insecurity in me than I had thought. Sherry Hartenbower was in the room shortly after Krystal, her infectious smile and maternal presence seemed to help me relax despite the contractions moving fast. After testing out 3 of the hospital's birthing balls that Corey dug out of a closet for me, I settled on one and got as comfortable as possible. I had my 20 minutes of monitoring and was set free to move about. Corey's iPhone was streaming some mellow tunes in the style of Zero 7, my feet were cold while the rest of me was sweating, Krystal and Sherry helped to keep my shoulders relaxed with gentle massage while Corey did the hard work of keeping counter pressure on my lower back during contractions. I was soon to find out that the extra pain there was thanks for posterior positioning of the baby.

For 3 hours I labored in ever changing positions as Sherry tried to encourage the baby to turn. I preferred the birthing ball, but also labored on my hands and knees, standing, laying on my left side. Transition came, it was hard and rapid and I found myself growling to alleviate the pain despite an insecurity in the back of my mind that I was most likely being heard by the entire floor of this small, quiet hospital and a fear I was really freaking Krystal out! There came a point where I knew transition was over, but the need to push was weak, there was very little pressure, though pushing seemed right. I kept telling Sherry it "felt good" to push but that it didn't feel like I was pushing anything. After a short time, Sherry told me she felt that I was "breathing" through the contractions more than pushing through them. With the next one I pushed with some gusto and watched as the bag of waters exploded across the room like one of those water canons on the pirate rides at Disney World. I mean, it was like a clip they might use on SNL when a woman gives birth to some hairy faced man baby smoking a cigar. But at this deluge, I could tell pushing was going to be different.

After several bouts of pushing I started feeling hopeless, like my efforts weren't getting me anywhere. Corey whispered to me that he felt like I was insecure about being "loud" and I realized I needed to do whatever it took to get this job done. I felt like pushing in a squatting position was going to be most productive, so I stood on the bed with one arm each around Corey and Krystal. I remember feeling nervous about the first push in this position, afraid I would tear if I pushed too hard, not sure how different it would feel. Sherry told me to push HARD, so with the next contraction I pushed as hard as I could, eyes closed, shrill banshee screaming uncontrollably. I opened my eyes to find that I was full out standing on the bed, barely even holding Corey and Krystal, towering over everyone while I panted like a crazed wildebeest about to enter stampede. It was a little embarrassing. Sherry told me she needed to hear LOW sounds, that I needed to focus on making everything low; in my legs, my sounds, my efforts. I took a break with the next contraction, and as felt the next one coming on I tried my best to "go low" and lo and behold, I got to look right into the face of our little bundle (which was cool and a little creepy at the same time). Sherry had me reach down with the next push and I was able to actually pull the baby onto my chest myself!

To some one who has never had a baby, I just can't explain to you the joy and relief and elation of this moment. The fatigue and fear of the prior moments just melts away as this bluish, squirmy little life lays shocked and wailing against your skin for the first time. There is a love that is so instantaneous, you forget that you ever worried that you wouldn't have enough love for another addition to your family, you forget that you wondered if they would be cute, or if you'd be able to handle this little child. In that glorious moment as you cradle this precious gift against you, time is still and you just KNOW that it will all be alright. Everyone stood staring at this sweet little baby for several full minutes before the nurse asked, "Do we know the gender?!" Hilarious as it seems, we didn't even think to look! As little June squirmed and wiggled and the umbilical cord pulsated we kept flipping her around to try to find the story telling parts. It took probably a full minute before we realized she was a girl! Corey's hopes were heard and my dreams of a built in best friend-playmate for Shiloh were realized. She was wonderful from that very minute. The staff at Proctor let her nurse and snuggle for what seemed like so long, I savored every minute of her near me. When she seemed satisfied with nursing I let them take her to get wiped down and weighed. She was exactly 7 lbs, 18inches, bald as can be and perfect in every way. Her little head gave no indication that she had just been through such a taxing process, she looked several days old from that very hour.

By the time all of this was done and little June Helen was being taken to the nursery I was spent. Hours of labor tacked onto a long day of hoping preceded by less than 4 hours of sleep sank in as utter exhaustion. Krystal, more serving and helpful than I could have hoped, took off for Chile's to pick up dinner for Corey and I at 9 at night (as neither of us had eaten since noon!) and I laid there near passing out while Corey chuckled at Jon Stewart's late night shenanigans. Something about the normalcy of this moment with him, laying there while he watched TV, just seemed so fitting of us, how we weather everything so seamlessly, how nothing seems to shake him. He is such a solid force for our family, a stability I missed growing up without a dad. I loved him even more in that private moment together as he held my hand and we joked about cable being the best part of the hospital.

I bonded with June right away. I can't say exactly why, it took longer with Shiloh though I think I bonded with Asher before he was even born. June has a sweetness to her, and old soul, a peaceful way handling the crazy world around her. I just can't wait to see who she'll turn out to be.


  1. Love, love, love this story! So inspiring for me whenever we decide to have a third. You have a gorgeous family, Jen!

  2. Love it! Beautifully written! I'm so glad you had another natural/no meds birth! You rock!!! So happy for you and your family, Jen!

  3. i'm sorry... but i am laughing hysterically at your description of finding yourself towering over the other at the end of that push... it literally took me about a minute to clear away the tears so i could read again... It's probably so funny b/c similar things have happened to me. :)great job! :-D