Hey, everyone! I’m back! If you’ve been wondering where I was, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on Instagram these days. Sleep deprivation and full arms has made short IG posts much more achievable in this postpartum year than formal blog posts. But I have recently found myself really missing this place–and missing the space to minister to all your precious hearts. So here I am, ready to dive back in to loving + learning alongside you all.
As I mentioned, I’ve been on Instagram a lot. Last week, I asked in my stories what you would most like me to write about, and you gave me some absolutely phenomenal responses! I am so inspired, and I’m looking forward to answering every single one of them here. One that I thought would be best to start with (since it’s been such a long time in coming) is Cherry’s birth story.
I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not, but my two longest pregnancies have also been my shortest labors. Pumpkin was my longest wait at 12 days past my due date, and my labor with him lasted only 4 hours. Well, Cherry has him beat! My pregnancy with her was technically shorter by a couple of days, but my labor (at least the active stage) was a mere hour and a half!!
Leading up to her birth, I’d pretty much resigned myself to a 42-week pregnancy. I’ve never been one to try to induce labor. I tend to shy away from anything that alters the way my body is meant to function unless I’m actually sick. I was feeling pretty low and lethargic. I was uncomfortable, of course. Not only was I hugely pregnant, but I’d barely slept for two months due to incurable acid reflux that saw me propped up on no less than three pillows, acid reflux that had by then joined up with persistent contractions. Besides all this, I was unbearably bored, because I’d cleared my calendar so as not to have to cancel plans if she arrived. In retrospect, that was almost undoubtedly a mistake.
When I started having contractions early on a Sunday morning, I figured it was more of the same. I woke up around 2:30 with reflux and what I presumed were Braxton Hicks. They weren’t easy to ignore, but then there was also no discernible pattern to them. I’d already spent a couple of nights over the past week waiting up, logging minutes between contractions that ultimately amounted to nothing. I knew I was inevitably getting closer to the real thing, and I didn’t want to lose any more sleep. But I was so uncomfortable that I decided a little pacing wouldn’t hurt. I left the bedroom so I wouldn’t wake my husband and went to the next room. An hour later, he must have heard me moving around. He reasonably assumed our three-year-old had gotten out of bed and was messing around, something he’d taken to doing in the month preceding Cherry’s birth. He sneaked to the door, thinking to surprise our son and instead was surprised to find me!
I told him to go back to bed, nothing to see here. But neither of us went back to sleep, and around 4:00 active labor kicked in, and I knew we were not going to be going to Mass that day! I expected to labor for a couple of hours before calling my midwife, but the contractions very quickly became stronger and increasingly closer together. In the course of 10 minutes, they’d gone from 8 minutes apart to 5 to 3–still, I feared a long haul was ahead of us, remembering my previous labor with Honey. I’d been on the fence about whether I wanted to have another home birth or go to the birth center. Since I knew my kids would be awake (or rather, I thought I knew) I opted for the birth center. We called a friend to come to our place, but by the time she arrived, I could barely walk. I was beginning to wonder, honestly whether we’d make it to the birth center. My midwife must have been wondering the same thing because she called again to make sure I didn’t want her to meet me at home. Little did I know, she’d already instructed her assistant to come straight to my house, and she was already on our street! I said no, I’d rather go to the birth center. I didn’t want the anxiety of worrying that one of my kids would wander downstairs.
So I made it to the car (barely) with my husband practically carrying me. That should have been a clue. We got to the birth center at 5:15, and very shortly thereafter, I was in transition. Thinking labor was just incredibly intense that time and assuming I was at maybe 6 centimeters, I started to cry. I usually don’t cry during labor. But sure enough, when my midwife checked, I was fully dilated. Only 20 minutes after arriving at the birth center, Cherry was in my arms!
<<Okay, squeamish people, stop reading now.>>
If there’s one word I would use to describe this labor (other than fast!) it would be bloody. I mean, birth is always bloody, but this took things to another level. First off, I actually started having a nosebleed while pushing! What is that?? That’s not a thing. I never get nosebleeds! And then my bleeding after birth was rather heavy, heavier than my midwife was comfortable with. She gave me a shot of pitocin to stem it and decided to monitor me even more closely than she otherwise would. I stayed in the birth center quite a bit longer than I have in the past, until she was fully confident about my bleeding, but given that I’d slept the night before and that labor was so short, I was feeling (apart from the bleeding) much more comfortable than I had in the hours following other labors. Eventually, we dressed Cherry, bundled her in her car seat and headed for home.
In some ways, I missed not birthing her in my own bed. Not being particularly tired after this labor, though, I didn’t especially mind that I couldn’t go straight to sleep. Given the heavy bleeding, I probably wouldn’t have been encouraged to sleep anyway. Also given the amount of bleeding, I was rather glad I wasn’t on my own sheets! There had been other perks to home-birthing. I had to wait longer to introduce the baby to my kids. (Not that you can’t have your kids at a birth center, but in my case the entire point had been to not have them present at the actual birth.) I didn’t get a home-cooked breakfast prepared by my loving husband this time around, but he did go to get my Starbucks, and I’ll let you guess how quickly I devoured that breakfast sandwich! All in all, there were trade-offs, but I was very happy with the decision I’d made.
Cherry was born at dawn. The birth center was silent as the most beautiful sunrise filled the room with perfect, gentle light. It was a beautiful birth, and I’m so very grateful to have had the blessing of another natural birth, another healthy baby. God has been gracious to me, and I know that birth can go so many different ways, and I am grateful this has been my experience and my story, that it has been Cherry’s experience and story. I will never undervalue the gift of a healthy and straightforward birth.
My little baby is now seven months old. The newborn smell has long-since dissipated, but we’re more in love with her than ever. She’s a clingy sort of person and greatly dislikes sleeping unless she’s snuggled up with a warm body. We do a lot of baby-wearing. I haven’t slept through the night since the seventh month of my pregnancy. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was exhausted–and grateful + happy + frustrated + delighted + busy + blessed. Motherhood is full of so many powerful emotions, and being postpartum seems to crank the intensity. So far, I have not experienced any postpartum depression or anxiety, and for that I am eternally grateful. I’m grateful to have spent these months soaking in all the emotions–even the less desirable ones–and that I’ve had energy to do the things I want to with my kids, in spite of my constant exhaustion. I know what it is to spend my baby’s first year depleted to the core, sad, dulled, constantly desperate and defeated. That this has not been the case with Cherry is a tremendous blessing and grace.
And that, dear ones, is the end of this particular story. Though it is only the beginning of so many stories to come. Cherry is a joy and a delight. I love everything that she is, and I look forward to everything she will become.