I am taking time in this blog, for those interested, to tell the birth story of our recent arrival and new addition to our gypsy family a few days ago, as well as to apologize for my five week blogging absence!
First, to get my apology and excuses out of the way, I have had “write a blog” on my to do list for several weeks now. Although I’ve been busy and distracted, I certainly could have and sat down several times, but I’ve had major blogger’s block. For one, I’ve been completely preoccupied with the then impending birth of our son. I’ve also had “HAVE A BABY” on my to do list for the past couple of weeks. For most of the third trimester we were worried he’d come pre-term (but alas, he stayed in until 39 weeks on the dot), so I was anxious and obsessed. Second, I’m currently juggling three work contracts and have also been trying to work like mad in order to have more time spend with my little one once he arrives. And lastly, because we’ve been home in Chicago since October hibernating as we were waiting for the newborn, travel has not been on the forefront of my mind so I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired about writing on the subject of traveling with babies. I do apologize for my extended absence, and am planning now on writing one blog per week from here on out.
And now, for the birth story of my son. Since 33 weeks I was having noticeable (and sometimes regular) contractions, enough to put me in L&D shortly before 34 weeks to get steroid shots to mature his lungs in case he came early. Since my daughter was born at 36.5 weeks combined with what seemed to be early labor coming on, everyone was convinced that he, too, would come early. By the time 37 weeks came and went I started to feel like I was overdue. It was nice being off modified bed rest at that point and back to exercise and some sense of normalcy. But my husband and I started getting really anxious and eager to get the show on the road- especially since we have planned travel coming up soon in February where we will part ways.
Then at 38 weeks I got hit with a nasty cold/ flu thing. I had my flu shot and tested negative for the flu, but I had a fever for four days I had to keep down for four days, muscle aches, and I horribly violent cough with a sore throat. At that point I was hoping labor would stay away until I recovered. Last weekend the fever dissipated and I was feeling much improved, although my violent cough still lingered, and out of that so did laryngitis (and I am still without my voice today).
On January 22 I woke up with some noticeable contractions and later that morning told my husband that this was the day. We had an appointment with our midwife that afternoon, and when she checked me I was 3.5cm dilated and 70% effaced. I told her I didn’t mind if she stirred things up a bit as she was checking so she did a quick and mild “sweeparoo” as she called it. After 5 weeks of contractions and anxiousness, I was ready to gently help things along.
I continued noticeable contractions after that, and by 6PM they were regular enough that I began to time them, and called my midwife at 8:30PM to tell her they were coming 5-8 minutes apart for about a minute each, and were fairly strong. She told me to come in right away, so our friends came over to care for our toddler, and off we went to the Alternative Birthing Center (ABC) at the West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, just outside Chicago.
We arrived to L&D triage by 10PM, and after a short stint of monitoring to make sure that baby and I were both doing well and my midwife checking me to see I had dilated to an almost fully effaced 6cm, I was admitted to the ABC room. I told my midwife it was go-time and my goal was to push baby out in a couple of hours by midnight. I was quite excited since I had planned a water birth here with my daughter two years ago, but was not able to have one since I was 2 days shy of being considered “full term.” The ABC room is spacious with a microwave and fridge/ freezer for food, a Queen sized “family bonding bed,” dimmable lights, a birthing ball, and a large birthing tub.
I walked around for a half hour to keep things moving along. By 10:30PM I was really having strong contractions less than three minutes apart. I got into the shower in the bathroom- it felt great to have the warm water pour over my body as I went through strong surges. My husband stayed next to me, and we were left alone besides the lovely nurse who came in periodically to check on baby’s heart tones, which were great throughout the labor.
By 11:30PM I was cranky and told my husband to get rid of the coffee he had as the smell was making me nauseous, and I felt like pushing so he should get the midwife. The midwife and nurse came in, and when the midwife checked me I was dilated to a fully effaced 8cm. She had already prepared the tub, so in I went. My midwife and the nurse sat across the tub from me, and my husband beside me with my water bottle. It was so heavenly to be immersed in the warm water as the surges took over my body. I gripped onto the handles on either side of the tub and gently moaned through my laryngitis during the surges.
Between contractions I drank lots of water and I rested in a half-sleep state with my eyes closed, in a complete state of relaxation. My midwife told me that when I felt the urge to push go ahead and do so and listen to my body. By 11:40PM I felt the urge to push with my contractions, and I could feel his head making his way down lower. I used all of my energy for those 1-2 minute surges to bear down and push, and it was wonderfully encouraging to feel the progress being made, and hearing my husband and my midwife tell me they could now see his head. I was feeling tired and as he was crowning it was painful, but I just told myself that if I give the next push all I had he would be out soon. The water all around me was incredibly soothing, though, and definitely took the edge off.
Shortly before midnight I pushed my son’s head out, rested once more, and with the next contraction pushed the rest of his body out of me. It was amazing relief to have him out of me, and my midwife gently pulled him up out of the water and laid him on my chest. Everything was so peaceful and gentle. He snuggled up on me quietly, then a minute later let out his cry. My midwife was quite excited that he had come out of the birth canal with his bag of waters still in tact around him, and that he had one true knot in his umbilical chord- both I am told are a sign of a “lucky” baby.
I was feeling like a lucky momma after having gone through less than three hours of active labor and 20 minutes of pushing. After it was over my husband and I looked at each other and laughed. I said, “That was it??” He responded by saying, “Let’s have a couple more of these.” After what I can only describe as an amazingly powerful, gentle, peaceful, and transcendental birthing experience in the bath tub, I’d be happy to have a whole litter more.
We all laid down together in the family bed, and as soon as I brought my little one to my breast he latched on like he had done it a thousand times before. He started chowing down, and three days later he is still at it with a vengeance. My husband and I promptly ordered pizza. I was so curious about how my body would work with breast milk since I am still breastfeeding my toddler. Indeed, my milk went away, my colostrum came in after he was born, and three days later I am engorged with milk for newborns (which my toddler is thoroughly enjoying as well). Our bodies are amazing.
My son, Surya Oscar, was born at 12:02AM on January 23, 2013. He weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces and was 20 1/4″ long. His name, Surya, is Sanskrit for “the sun,” and his middle name was my grandfather’s middle name. He is already lighting up our lives, and our hope for him is that he continues to live as gently and peacefully in the world as the way he entered it.
We were eager to get home quickly to our two year old, Veda. Originally we were planning on having her come and meet us immediately after the birth. Because of the flu going around now, though, the hospital just implemented a policy that no one under age 18 would be able to visit. Both Surya and I were doing great, so we were discharged as soon as possible the next morning of the 24th.
Our daughter is certainly rising to the occasion and doing a wonderful job as big sister. She was so excited when we brought him home that she was spontaneously singing “Happy Birthday, Surya,” dancing around and giggling, and smothering him in gentle kisses. The first time I breastfed them together she gazed lovingly at him and stroked his cheeks gently as they both quietly nursed. I love my children incredibly, and I feel so lucky to be the mother of two beautiful little beings.
We are re-adjusting with ease to life with a newborn- it seems so easy to have this little thing who lays around and sleeps compared to our strong-willed toddler! Cleaning poop off a penis is a whole new adventure for us, though.
After a few days of rest and family bonding, my husband and I are now back in travel-planning mode, both with impending departures for work a few weeks away. As of Monday we will be able to get Surya’s birth certificate, and after that it is time for passport, visas, vaccinations, and all other things travel marathon. Stay tuned as I delve into an entire year of travel with my two year old and newborn with Pakistan, Haiti, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, Kenya, France, Spain, and South Africa on the itinerary from February through September/ October of this year!