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Natural Birth: Papa’s Version (Mama’s tomorrow!)

Natural Birth: Papa’s Version (Mama’s tomorrow!)

This birth story comes from two angles. Today, we share papa’s version of the events. Check back tomorrow to read it from mama’s perspective – and find out just what she was doing with the midwife while her hubby cleaned the car.

“Janna came out of the bedroom at 9am.  Saying she thought that her water broke but wasn’t sure.  She also thought she was having contractions but wasn’t sure.  They were 30 minutes apart, maybe.  So I fed the cats and we set off for a mile long walk.  Not like the movies, is it?  We’re halfway down the street and she tells me, “Oh that was definitely the water breaking, there.”  “OK, honey, maybe we’d better limit this one to a half mile”, I said.

I don’t even remember what we had for breakfast.  Her contractions were still kind of crazy.  Was that one?  Are they four minutes apart? Are they 40 minutes apart?  Was that one 15 seconds long or five minutes long?   Bah, let’s just call Bernadette, the midwife.  This was Saturday, and Bernadette was working on some stuff in the office so she told us to come on in.  Just in case, I loaded up the candles, music, towels, change of clothes and all that stuff.  Plus we had a bunch of snacks and food.  It looked like we were going on a romantic picnic.

Bernadette examined Janna, and she was four centimeters dilated and still contracting sporadically.  Bernadette looks up at me and says, “Looks like we are going to have a baby, today!  Maybe around 10 pm.  You guys go home, get some lunch and a nap and call me when the contractions are five minutes apart.”  Then she gave Janna a special labor tea with X,Y and Z in it.  It’s about 1:30 or so by this point.

We get back in the car to head home and BANG!
OK, THAT was a contraction.
Janna bends over and groans.
Ok, we’ll time this one.
BANG! Another contraction.
What was that, like three minutes?  What the heck happened?  Should I turn around?  Bernadette said we were still hours away.  OK.  Janna will be fine.
BANG!
Six minutes?  I don’t know.  I can’t drive and time the contractions.
Now the engineer kicks in.
Do you measure from peak to peak or from trough to peak?
BANG!  “Ok..sweetie, we’ll be home in 10 minutes, that’s two contractions from now.”

Why was I thinking that they’d get better?
When we got home, she went off to do something and I heated up the only thing we had readily available that sounded even remotely appetizing to a contracting pregnant woman:  garlic mashed potatoes and meatloaf. I would regret that.

She had three more contractions in 10 minutes while eating, so I called Bernadette and told her we were coming back.

Now we’re back in the car and I’m driving back north to the birth center.  On Highway 3 she says she might be sick.  I should know her well enough by now to know that ‘might be sick’ means ‘I’m going to hurl right now’.  I roll down the window but don’t slow down.  Torn between a high speed vomit and getting to the birthing center.  Sitting in the car is making contractions very painful for her. I just want to get the drive over with.

Oh, there she goes.  I can see it streaming back past the back window at 50 mph.  I pull off onto the shoulder and slow down, but another contraction brings her head back in the window. I cut across two lanes of traffic and get in the left turn lane next to a family in their shiny family car.  First the kid looks over, eyes go wide, and he points at the car.  The mom looks over and then snaps her head back around to the boy and slaps his hand down.  She doesn’t turn fast enough to prevent me from seeing her horrified look.  It wasn’t until much later that I saw what she saw.

Time is now measured in contractions.  I figure we have about five contractions to go until we make it there.  Not stressed out that we’re going to have a baby or anything.

We pull into the parking lot and I hop out to help her out.  I walk around the back of the car, and…oh God…put down what you are eating…the whole passenger side of the Murano has a translucent sheen speckled with chunks.  None of the paint is showing aft of the firewall, and it’s all down in the window channel too…I guess I’ll be washing the car as my first dad chore…Nothing I can do but laugh at that poor lady in the car next to us at the stoplight and help my wife inside.

It takes several trips to get everything in.  Zune player, speakers, wires, candles, more candles, lighter, cooler with food, bag with snacks, water bottles, Pedialyte pops, camera, charger, video camera, tripod, small tripod, change of clothes, bathing suits, change of shoes.

I got everything set up in the room, and I have no idea what Janna was doing.  She was off with the midwife.  I put candles around the room, thought about it some and then moved the candle that was next to the oxygen tank, set up the player and speaker, lit the candles, put the video camera up in the corner where it would catch most of everything and hit record.

The hot tub is already ready and the room is clean.  The birth center has these rooms setup like your bedroom, if your bedroom had fluorescent tube lighting and a hot tub in it.  But the paint is nice and the bed is a real bed with real sheets and a real comforter.  We turn out the lights and Janna gets in the tub to the flickering candle light.  Very, very nice.

She sits in the tub and kind of rests in the center of it.  Definitely a resting pose, not a relaxing pose.  It looks like she has just finished running an 800m dash.  When a contraction hits she leans forward on her knees and rests her head on the side of the tub.  SO much better than in the car.  She’s kind of moaning softly through the contraction and then when it is over, rocking back on her knees and sitting up to rest again.  I don’t mean to be weird, but the contractions were much more sexual than crazy TV pain like.  If I had to describe it, it was more intense than painful… looking.

While things are still quiet, I go out to wipe down the car.  Do a two minute car wash with a rag and a bucket and get most of the chunks off.  I use an Oxy Clean type of thing and douse the interior so that we won’t have to get into a RANK car with the new baby later.   I am only mostly successful.  Welcome to parenthood!

Once back inside I alternate between taking artfully composed and flattering pictures, running to get cold bottled water from the kitchen, and feeding Janna Pedialyte pops.  I am constantly moving.  Then when she hits a contraction I jump over to her and put pressure on her lower back.  LOTS of pressure.  Like I was trying to push the baby out myself.  After about an hour Janna has had enough of the photos.  My  full time job now is taking care of Janna.

Put pressure on her back. Get fresh cold rag for her forehead.  Get Pedialyte pop.  Swap barf tubs and rinse out vomit.  She throws up about every fifth or 10th contraction.  She’s moaning, and looks like she is working, but she looks in control.  She looks beautiful.  She looks like she is working hard, but on a mission.  I am also on a mission.  Anything I can do to take care of her I do.

At some point her whole family comes in, but Janna wanted this to be private.   I shoo them away.  It’s me, her, the midwife and the midwife’s assistant.  Family waits in the waiting room with the TV and couches.  Janna never even notices.  Sometimes I catch Claire or Donna sneakily peaking around the corner.  I wave and smile and they smile and disappear back around the corner.

Beforehand, so many things seemed important.  The right music, candles, having family there, pictures.  Now when everything is happening, none of that matters.  It is just me and her and the quiet.

Things progress this way for a few hours.  Nothing like a hospital birth on TV.  No machines that went ‘bleep’, no bright lights, no screaming, and no urgently protesting nurses.  Bernadette needs Janna on her back to do the first examination.  We help Janna up onto the bed and give her some pillows to lay on.  The baby’s heart rate is good, momma is good, and then a contraction hits like a truck.  She’s begging to get back in the water.  We turn her on her side so I can push on her lower back.  I’m lying on the bed beside her pushing with all my might.  She’s trying to hold her knee to her ear.  That helps a little.  I remember clearly feeling very sorry for women strapped on their backs at the hospital.

Janna hops back in the tub for another hour or so.  I really have no concept of time.  It’s like going on a ten hour run without a watch or any mile markers.  You just never know where you are or how long things are taking.  You never know how close you are to the finish line.  And that’s just me.  I can’t imagine what Janna is thinking.  A few times she’s asked the midwife if it will get worse and the midwife said no.  I can hear just the hint of anxiety in her voice, but when a contraction hits she refocuses and recovers. You get the sense that she is struggling but going to make it.  I am very proud.

labor support

more labor support in tub

Things basically continue until the next examination.  She is back up on the bed on her side.  I am doing my best to push against her contractions.  I am shaking and sweating I am pushing so hard.  I am also trying to hold up her leg.  I am exhausted.  You know what though?  I wouldn’t DARE take a break.  There is no way I am going to leave her here.  They will carry me out before I give up.  What kind of a sissy am I?  Push harder you sissy man!

This time there is a problem.  She has an ‘anterior lip’.  Part of the cervix is hanging up on Ethan’s head.  I look at Bernadette, and she is intent on Janna’s cervix.  Definite concern on Bernadette’s face.  I watch with increasing anxiety as Bernadette tries and tries to push the cervix passed Ethan’s head.  She is clearly having trouble.  This lasts through a couple of contractions.  When a contraction comes the lip starts to come off and then when the contraction ends it snaps back.  I’m starting to panic on the inside, knowing full well that it is my duty to remain perfectly calm and help Janna.  I try very hard to not give any hint that I am scared for the first time.  Then, a contraction hits and Janna moves her leg and pop, there it goes.  Everything is suddenly OK, just like that.

It’s time to move to the birthing stool, and time to start pushing.  This was one of the things that I really didn’t understand about child birth.  The contractions aren’t pushing.  Pushing doesn’t happen until the end. The birthing stool is about a foot high, has handles, and is kind of like a wooden toilet with no front.  Bernadette is lying on the ground in front of Janna and I am behind her.  I rub her neck when she’s not pushing and just hold on to her when she is.  That’s all she wants now… For me to stand behind her and hold her.

There is a mirror on the ground in front of her and I can see the head.  It comes down and then sucks back up.  Comes down and sucks up.  Every time it makes just the smallest progress.  This is really hard on Janna.  Still no screaming.  No weird breathing.  Just a grunt, and her whole body tenses.  She catches her breath and then pushes again.  Rests for a minute.  Two minutes?  I don’t know.  Then push.  This goes on for maybe an hour.

Bernadette lubes Janna up really well, but Janna can feel burning, tearing.  Bernadette tells her that she is doing everything she can to prevent a tear.  She really helped Janna get over her fear at that moment.

Then, Bernadette starts getting excited.  There is a huge mop of dark brown hair.  He is here.  He is here.  Just a couple more pushes.  Another push and I hear him slide out.  I look over Janna’s shoulder and I can hear liquid gushing, and feel it splashing against my bare feet.  Suddenly there is a baby in Bernadette’s hands and then it is in Janna’s.  I am surprised.  Surprised?  Why?

I knew that a baby was coming out, and I saw his head, but then all of a sudden there is this baby. Then all of a sudden, in my mind it is MY baby.  Holy shit, he is mine and he’s going to grow up someday to be like me.  This little thing is going to be my baby and then my boy and then my son.  I’m a daddy.

newborn in towel

Why did I feel so surprised?  Was it because we spent so many hours laboring and all of a sudden, bang, it’s done?  I don’t know.  Did I expect a kitty?  That’s what Janna kept dreaming about.  I don’t know.

I cry.  His mouth and nose are siphoned and Janna is holding him, and he looks perfect.  He cries.  It’s not so loud, but it is powerful.  It is strong.  Not annoying like you’d expect a loud crying baby to be.  It is wonderful.  It is life.  Everything is great.  You could slap me and I wouldn’t notice.

I don’t know what I thought about.  I don’t know what I felt.  I was totally lost in the moment.  I was holding momma who was holding baby.  That’s all I was doing.

I am snapped out of it by Bernadette telling Janna to push again.  There is a lot of blood.  I can feel it pooling at my feet.  Then there is a splash and a plop and the placenta is delivered.  It sounds gross, but it’s not.  Nothing could be gross at this moment.

Ethan passed a stool on his way out and the placenta comes out upside down.  Instead of just popping off the uterine wall, it slowly peeled off.  This causes intense bleeding and it shows. There is a huge mess and it all has to be cleaned up, and Janna has to be cleaned up.  We clean up Ethan a little, too.  He is a bit cone-headed, and has two big bumps on his head.  But so alert!  So alive!  With such great color!   Nothing like the health class videos I saw.

This is when we find out she also has a second degree tear.  Janna never notices with everything else going on down there.  She’s holding Ethan on the bed, on her breasts, while Bernadette shoots a local in her and sews her up.   I can’t resist and watch a few stitches.  She is so swollen and bleeding.  Poor girl.  But she is completely lost in Ethan.  Ethan is holding her and that’s the only thing in the world that matters.

We hold him for a while, and nurse him a bit.  When he is comfortable we take him and weigh him and measure him.  Eight pounds, 4oz and 21 inches; born at about 7:30 pm after five hours of really hard labor, including an hour or so of pushing.  It is so hard to measure time.

The family comes in, and there are photos taken of us lying in bed.  At some point, I get up and cut the cord.  What a strange thing.  I’m sorry for this description but it is much like squid sushi, or perhaps week old bubble gum in texture.  It is very difficult to cut.

cutting the cord

Janna needs help getting back and forth from the bathroom.  She is dizzy and exhausted.  She has lost a lot of blood, hasn’t eaten and thrown up everything she had to drink.  I hear giving birth is hard too.  She passes out on the toilet a couple of times, and we wake her with smelling salts, which she did not appreciate.  Once, helping her back, even I start to black out.  I have to dash for the bed and lie down for a second.   When was the last time I ate, anyway?

At around 10pm we are ready to go home, but Janna looks really pale.  We decide to put her on a couple of liters of IV fluid and spend the night.  Every couple of hours Ethan wakes to feed, but by morning all of us are feeling better.  I get dressed, go outside and hop in the c—Oh god what’s that smell?  Oh yeah, vomit in the window channels.  I pour another couple of cups of cleaning fluid down the window channels and clean up some spots I missed.

Then we load Ethan into his car seat for the very first time.  It seems special.  He is so tiny.  It’s cold so we have him bundled and I had the car’s heater on waiting for him.  We go home and enjoy the cold sunshine.  We are all doing great.  Janna is very tired, and much smaller than I am used to, but she is walking around and in pretty good shape.  Sit ups are out of the question and she has a large squishy area on her belly that used to be large and tight.  You can really feel where the baby was.  I am fascinated.

We even go out to get Thai food a couple of days later.  When people ask how old he is, we answer in days and they are amazed.

Looking back I still get a smile for the whole thing.”

Papa holding son

Eating is a Family Affair: How to Support a Breastfeeding Mother

Eating is a Family Affair: How to Support a Breastfeeding Mother

I had always expected to breastfeed my babies. I was breastfed until I was two (or four, depending on which parent you ask) and it just seemed normal. But I had never considered how important it was to have a partner who supported me in breastfeeding. Like a dreamy adolescent girl who has already chosen the colours for her wedding, I knew what I wanted and figured it really had nothing to do with the man in question. He would just have to like it or lump it.

And when I did meet the man, and we did decide to have a baby, and we met with our midwives, I found that they were pretty much in agreement. It’s the mother’s decision, they said, and the father just has to ‘be supportive’. They suggested that the father (all the couples in our prenatal class were hetero) could do this by bringing the baby to its mother in the middle of the night and offering her a glass of water. That was it.

But there is so much more to supporting a mother in breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a personal decision, but the actions, ideas, and social cues of people around the mother are major factors in making that decision. The mother-infant dyad cannot be taken out of its socio-cultural context. Even for the newborn, eating is a family affair.

I was right that my partner would be supportive of my breastfeeding and I was right that it would come easily to me. But I was wrong about it having nothing to do with him. My husband supported – and continues to support – me in breastfeeding, 100%. And it has made all the difference in the world.

jaime papa

There are the practical aspects of his support, such as doing all the cooking, feeding bottles of pumped milk, and working outside the house so I can stay home with the little ones. But when I think back to our journey over the last two years, it’s the intangible things that come to mind…

He never said it was gross. He never said it was beautiful, either – he just treated it like it was normal.

He never told me to be discreet. When I had milk spraying out of me in seven distinct four-foot jets all over the sidewalk (oversupply, anyone?), he just laughed and said that he liked how I “don’t do things by halves.”

He encouraged me to feel comfortable nursing in front of his parents, reminding me that his mother had breastfed her two kids and that, frankly, it would take more than that to scandalize his dad.

Despite the fact that our baby was humungous and nursed every hour, he never suggested a switch to formula. Instead, he read the research about the short half-lives of breastfeeding hormones (indicating that the infant body ‘expects’ to be fed at least every few hours), and we agreed to feed our son on demand.

dinner

In the bedroom, lactation became quotidian, an entirely healthy part of my body. He considered ‘The Spray’ yet another womanly indication of arousal – and what could be more arousing than that?

I don’t think he was ever jealous of the time and attention I put into breastfeeding our son. If he was, he dealt with it himself – because he saw that it was his own issue, not mine. Maybe he wished that he himself had a secret milky weapon to calm our little one.

Comfort

He never called me a cow, a human pacifier, or an exhibitionist. He called me ‘badass’ instead.

Our son wasn’t night-weaned until 15 months and he never told me to do it so that we could get our bed back, go on vacation, or have more sex. When we weaned it was my decision – it was I who wanted “my body” (and my sleep!) back.

He didn’t complain about the cost of nursing pads. He acknowledged that my bras smelled rancid after sitting in the bottom of the pile for a week – but he did the laundry anyway.

park

He never made pervy comments about how our son, “Doesn’t know how good he has it!” or that, “He’ll really be a ladies’ man!” He never expressed discomfort about the fact that all of his friends had now seen my boobs.

Because that’s what it’s all about for my husband and for us as a family. To us, breastfeeding is mostly about nourishment.

It can be an emotional thing, all sweetness and comfort. Maybe even beautiful and romantic…

Nursing in Bed

But sometimes, it’s just dinner.

sunglasses

How did your partner support you in breastfeeding? Leave a comment and share your experience.

Don’t Wait to Be the Parent You Want to Be, Do it Now

Don’t Wait to Be the Parent You Want to Be, Do it Now

This started as a FB update and just took off, so I put it into a blog post.

me and a editedGoing to share a raw moment with you. Last night I was looking for a picture and you know how that goes…you end up sitting for an hour or two looking through old pictures, even after you’ve found the one you needed. My children were all 3-5 years younger than they are now. The phrase ‘it goes so fast’ has never had more meaning. Also, with the age of social media we are blessed to connect and get support. That also means sharing and supporting hardships and heart break. I pondered on all this last night and today.

Hubby came home and played with the children while I made dinner…happily. I thought on the last 2 years of PPD, sometimes so dark and deep. Suffering silently, then openly. Doing what I could each day so my babies did not suffer, but only I did. They were loved, taken care of, kissed, cuddled. But the connection to my brain, my memories…well, it’s a blur. As I cooked spaghetti and hamburgers (hey, we have a picky crowd!), I thought on how grateful I am the PPD is lifting and floating away from my soul, my life…and how after the last 24 hours it has no place in my life anymore. Nope, it doesn’t.

I sat down at a large dinner table with my husband and 5 children and talked to them about The Progressive Parent family’s loss. For 20 minutes I taught them about how in this world, our problems are valid, but there is also perspective. They listened on with tears and understanding in their eyes.

I told them how much I cared about them. I told my oldest I adore her love for animals and reading and to please always share that with me. My son, I told to keep talking to me about Ninjago…every single detail, because I care and want to know. (I plan on sitting down and watching that dang show with him.) I told my 5 year old I loved playing tic-tac-toe with her today and can’t wait to play and cook with her tomorrow. I told my 3 year old she is the best cuddler and I love watching movies with her. I kissed my almost 2 year old.

dad and baby

I then told them how much I love their father. That we are not perfect. We argue, but we say sorry and forgive one another. How hard we are working to show them how much we love each other. I told them there is no one else in this world that has loved and supported me like their father has. They need to know that.

I asked my whole family if we could focus on what we have this week. Instead of fighting who sits where at the dinner table, can my oldest realize how much her younger sisters admire her, because in almost every picture of them together, you can see the admiration in the youngers’ eyes for their big sister.  Instead of complaining over sharing chips, can my oldest son just share with his siblings and be grateful he can.

admiration 1 edit

It was a raw and beautiful moment for my family.

mini blog post pic edited

We then finished dinner while talking about how silly 3rd graders are for wanting to ‘date’. Ugh, this world! At least my kids agree it’s ridiculous.

After dinner, we sat around the table with hot chocolate and laughed, mostly at how awesome and funny Mini is. He was cracking us up with his macho face and thumbs up.

Teeth brushed, everyone in the family room, read scriptures and we all got on our knees and prayed as a family. I write this with tears in my eyes because no amount of PPD, money problems, fighting with friends, or other issues have the right to take away precious moments from me, with my children.

My point is moms and dads, when we are frustrated or tired, take inventory and then ask yourself, ‘What memories am I making for my child TODAY‘? What will I wish I would have done if I did not have this time with them anymore? If it was taken away with no notice? Would I listen to them more? Care about what they care about more? Color with them more? Not care about the noise and messes? AND DO THAT NOW while you can. While we can. We love our babies. Life can be hard. Perspective.

donuts edited

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