One of the less pleasant aspects of Aubade’s birth was that it resulted in a 4th degree tear (baby girl was coming fast and needed to come fast as each push caused her to have pretty significant decels, indicating potential hypoxia – they actually had me on oxygen and made sure we waited in between pushes to get Aubade fully oxygenated before each new push, and she was quite big!). While it’s been healing as well as can be expected, it’s put some limitations on what I can do, which is really frustrating for me.
But! Today I pushed the boys in the stroller, while wearing Aubade, all the way to the Museum of Natural History two blocks down from our house! I’d been building up to it: I’ve walked with them to the children’s museum one block from the house with no stroller, just carrying Aubade and the diaper bag, since the boys can walk that distance fairly easily; and I’d taken all three of them to the grocery store and pushed them in the shopping cart (which in retrospect was rather stupid because I lifted Rondel in and out of the cart and he’s quite a bit above my lifting weight limit right now). But this was my first solo outing with the stroller. And it went really well! With the weather so frigid, gloomy, and drizzly these days, it is especially nice to have broadened the scope of where I can take the boys when my husband is at school – and it makes me feel much more like my normal self: confident, independent, and quite capable of planning and executing fun outings with my children!
I guess my whole point is that even when you know rationally that recovery takes time but will eventually happen, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like you’re never going to be yourself again, until you have those little moments of normalcy that help you see that you are coming back. It’s true physically with the recovery from a tear (or C-section, as I learned with Rondel), and it’s true emotionally with the hormonal transition from pregnancy to postpartum; in either case, you might need some extra help getting there, but recovery is totally possible, and you will find yourself again.
Because I thought I knew how it would go after having two babies, and discovered I still had a lot to learn!
- Every delivery is different – and by that I mean different enough to leave even a third-time mom completely confused and unable to read the situation! Baby #1 I had no false labor but dilated to 3.5cm, was induced two weeks late, and had a c-section for failure to progress. Baby #2 I had some preliminary Braxton-Hicks but nothing painful or regular until the real thing, a slow and steady labor. With this one, I had several weeks of regular uncomfortable contractions with no dilation, then an incredibly rapid and intense labor that took me from 1cm to delivery in less than 24 hours. My mom and MIL both describe their deliveries as all being cut from rather similar cloth but that has not been my experience at all!
- Oxytocin is pretty powerful. I’ve not been very excited about this pregnancy, or about meeting the baby, and I hadn’t felt any sort of emotional attachment with her – but lying their in labor, I suddenly felt this wave of anticipatory love, thinking ahead to the moment when she would finally be snuggled up against my chest. So I’m grateful to the hormones for that one!
- Transition is miserable without drugs! I was comfortably attached to an epidural for my first VBAC by the time I hit transition, but this time (because of the labor’s fast progression) I got to experience a bit of it before the anesthesiologist could put the line in. Normal contractions are bad… transition contractions are worse. I would describe them by saying that the pain suddenly was all the way around all at once instead of focused in either my back or abdomen, and it was significantly harder to breathe through them because of that lack of focus. I am in awe of you ladies who can make it through labor drug-free.
- Epidurals can come out during labor. Not the most pleasant thing to happen at 9.5cm, but…
- Pain that isn’t relieved by your epidural can signify uterine rupture. Before the doctors realized that the epidural line had come out, they were starting to become seriously concerned about that possibility. So I suppose the bad news of hearing there was a technical difficulty was really good news compared to the alternative! I was lying there thinking, well, the worst that can happen is that I’ll have a hysterectomy and this will be our last baby. The epidural makes me rather blasé about disasters and fatalistic about outcomes, I think… if something had gone drastically wrong, I wouldn’t have felt the emotions for a day or so.
- That crazy feeling of a baby slipping out of your body is simply amazing. Not quite as good as the feeling of the sticky warm baby herself pressed up against you a moment later, but pretty close 🙂 I don’t think either of those feelings could ever lessen in their primal beauty and profundity.
- Finally, labor is more than just a physical process; it involves the whole emotional and spiritual aspect of a person as well. The contraction pain drove me to prayer, and prayer – while not necessarily relieving the pain – brought comfort and hope in the midst of it. It’s very much like squeezing my husband’s hand through a contraction: the knowledge of his presence in response to my need gives me strength to persevere through the pain. Labor prayers are not particularly eloquent but they are fully and authentically meant! There isn’t much room left for pretense or appearance at that point, after all. And one of the strongest feelings I can recall from my labor was that of being held, enveloped, by the love and strength of Mary and Jesus. She was another mother, my spiritual mother, holding me through the pain, giving me her comfort; He was love itself surrounding me, the One without whom nothing can be made or created, with me bringing this new life into the world. And when we thought that we’d have to have a c-section anyways, because Aubade wasn’t aligned right to make it past that last half centimeter, it was prayer that gave me peace regardless of the outcome and prayer that, I think, made the difference in straightening her out and letting the dilation finish during the 45 minutes of prep time for the section (after 5 hours of unsuccessful contractions).
What did you all discover after the birth of a subsequent child, that you didn’t know or fully realize after the first (or second, or third…)? It makes sense that every delivery would bring some new revelation, since the experience is bound to be different in some way or another 🙂 I just didn’t realize how different it could be the third time around!
Everyone tells you to rest after you have a baby – to let your body heal, to bond with your newborn, and so on. This is especially true after a c-section or a bad tear, since significant physical healing needs to take place and won’t be able to do so as effectively if you’re always pushing yourself to your limits.
But rest is much easier said than done.
I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s a wider cultural phenomenon, but I start to feel guilty and depressed when I just lie around all day, even when I know my body needs it. I see the boys running around and want to join them (despite the inconvenient fact that I can only walk at a slowish shuffle right now). I see the mess and disorganization from labor following hard upon the holiday chaos, and feel bad for not helping my husband sort through it all. Rest is hard. But my body needs it right now, for short-term and long-term reasons, and it would be foolish to deny myself that rest.
It has made me think about rest in everyday circumstances as well, though. I like to think I’m fairly good at giving myself opportunities to rest and relax – but really, most days the time I spend enjoying a good book or peaceful hobby is marred by the guilt of a hovering to-do list reminding me of all the things I should be doing instead. And a lot of time I get stuck in an indecisive limbo, neither resting well nor working well because I can’t do either without either guilt or exhaustion interfering.
Rest shouldn’t be a cause for guilt in any case, though! Even God Himself, who is outside time and has no need to rest, did so on the seventh day to mark that day as holy and to set an example for us in our rest and work. How much more, then, ought we to rest when we need it: to acknowledge the frailty of our bodies, minds, and spirits; to admit our lack of control over our lives; to be humble and small and at peace before God instead of continually striving to do everything in our own power.
So – I think I’m going to try to use this period of enforced rest as a training on how to rest intentionally and well, in hopes that it can carry over to normal life.
Birth stories are a love it/hate it kind of thing and I’m not that good at writing them anyway, so I’ll spare you the details and just announce the arrival of Aubade, the newest member of our family!
(As with the boys, this isn’t her real name. It is instead the name of a type of poem, in this case one which celebrates the dawn – quite fitting for this little girl who waited at 9.5cm all night long just to be born as the sun rose in the morning.)
I’m honestly not sure how to express all my thoughts about the pregnancy, the labor, the birth, or even baby Aubade herself. It was intense and overwhelming, full of unexpected twists and turns, punctuated by great pain, and only endured through much prayer and the support of people who love me. But there is something exquisitely precious in holding a newborn, sticky and screaming, to your chest and feeling her tension subside; there is something inexpressibly beautiful about watching your sons shower their sister with kisses and giggle over her tiny toes; there is even an undefinable sweetness in the sleep-deprived snuggle a new mother offers to her infant.
And so our lives unfold and deepen and begin to change in unknown and unforeseable ways, through this new life entering into ours, and we are so grateful for this gift of love in our hearts and our home.