pregnancy


I have the privilege of knowing two couples who are trying to conceive their second child and both women have confided in me that they might be pregnant already. (You don’t know them. I promised I wouldn’t tell.) I swear, I am so giddy with anticipation that you would think it was me trying to get pregnant. Chad has asked me not to refer to myself and the word pregnant in the same sentence. No worries, Honey, I’m good with the two we have.

I am dying to know.

And I remembered a little trick that my friend in college taught me long ago: Feel your cervix. If it is a hard bump like the tip of your nose, then you are not pregnant. (She would tap her forefinger against her nose.) If it is soft, like your lower lip, then you may be pregnant. (She would pull down her lower lip repeatedly with a sad face.) Except in this case a softening cervix would be GOOD NEWS.

If you’d rather just look at pictures of somebody else’s cervix, you can see 33 photos of the same cervix at a site I posted about in December, called MyBeautifulCervix.com

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I have the privilege of knowing two couples who are trying to conceive their second child and both women have confided in me that they might be pregnant already. (You don’t know them. I promised I wouldn’t tell.) I swear, I am so giddy with anticipation that you would think it was me trying to get pregnant. Chad has asked me not to refer to myself and the word pregnant in the same sentence. No worries, Honey, I’m good with the two we have.

I am dying to know.

And I remembered a little trick that my friend in college taught me long ago: Feel your cervix. If it is a hard bump like the tip of your nose, then you are not pregnant. (She would tap her forefinger against her nose.) If it is soft, like your lower lip, then you may be pregnant. (She would pull down her lower lip repeatedly with a sad face.) Except in this case a softening cervix would be GOOD NEWS.

If you’d rather just look at pictures of somebody else’s cervix, you can see 33 photos of the same cervix at a site I posted about in December, called MyBeautifulCervix.com

Christian’s home birth was about as perfect as I could have hoped for, but there was a complication after he was born that made the whole experience more exhausting and harrowing than it needed to be. It’s also the reason why I’m still lounging about on the bed, pale and weak. Good thing I made so many casseroles in advance.

After Christian was determined to be beautiful and healthy, the midwives turned their attention to the the delivery of the placenta. Pushing out the afterbirth is the third and often overlooked part of a labor and delivery – I mean, who cares about the bloody mess after the baby has arrived? And there is generally no pain associated with afterbirth once the baby’s head has passed through.

So we sat around on the bed admiring Christian. Intermittently I would try getting up in a squat to push without much luck. My midwife explained the natural progression of remedies she would try and get me to deliver the placenta and mentioned that going to the hospital was a last resort, but a possibility. At this point, I believe I had lost a normal amount of blood for a delivery.

We tried homeopathic medicine, herbal remedies, sitting on the toilet, a shot of pitocin in the thigh (to stimulate stronger uterine contractions), and finally Karen attempted a manual delivery of the placenta. Unfortunately, by this time, 1 1/2 hours after the baby’s arrival, I had major blood clots forming and Karen could not reach my placenta around them. She said that my placenta was very high up in the uterus. Each pitocin-induced contraction was making me expel more blood clots and Karen was concerned about my blood loss. Sadly she suggested that the safest course of action was an emergency medical transport – which would most likely result in a d & c.

So, somewhere around 3-4 am in the morning, instead of resting and enjoying the new human in our laps, we were dialing 9-1-1 and anticipating a hostile reception at the hospital.

What a hubbub it is to call an ambulance.

Inside of 20 minutes, my bedroom was filled with half-dozen burly, fully-outfitted firemen and paramedics and all their equipment. From quiet music and candles, we went to bright lights and lots of brisk business-like questioning. Outside I could hear the high-pitched beeping of the fire engine and ambulance backing up. Inwardly I was groaning and stressing about the neighbors. I hated to give home birth a bad name! But outwardly, I remained as calm and as collected as possible, knowing that it was critical that we were all perceived as having made a safe informed choice with a home birth.

All the firemen and paramedics turned out to be very sweet and gentle. We made it very clear to them that the baby was fine and was not to be admitted into the hospital as a patient and they were gracious about accommodating our wishes. It was just funny how every man there seemed gargantuan to me – at least over six feet each and very muscular – I think this effect must have been magnified by the fact that they were all in heavily padded gear.

I rode in the ambulance with two of the paramedics. The experience was not uncomfortable, but even more sterile and institutional than I had ever imagined. The paramedics were friendly though: one paramedic was leaving for a Memorial Day weekend at the River when he got off duty, and the other was making plans to go to Vegas for her 21st birthday (she was the only girl). I had an IV going in my right arm and an oxygen mask as well.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were expected, so we headed directly up to a private room in Labor and Delivery to wait for the on-call OB emergency doctor. Meanwhile I was still periodically gushing blood, but otherwise feeling okay; just very, very tired.

To our utter amazement and delight we discovered that two of the nurses working with us wanted to become midwives! And so our reception was not at all hostile, but compassionate and curious.

Even luckier for us, the doctor took his own sweet time getting to the hospital. The nurses were not allowed to do anything to me except change out my IV until the doc arrived. The beauty was that after over an hour of waiting around, I began to have very strong and painful contractions again.

And I pushed the placenta out by myself!

Plus lots more blood clots.

So when the doctor finally did arrive, I requested that he check that the placenta was intact and refused an internal “swipe.” He was obliging. But he did gown himself and give me a visual external check. He found one minor tear, which he repaired. And that was all.

We were free to go home.

Whew. It was the best case scenario of an emergency hospital transport that I could have envisioned.

Once at home, the midwives examined the placenta on their own. They discovered that it was an unusual shape: somewhat oblong, with a triangular piece at one end. Karen guessed that the triangular piece might have been lodged up in on of the horns of the uterus, making it difficult to detach. I confessed that because of Bella’s low-lying placenta, that I had done lots of visualizing of a HIGH placenta. We had a bit of a chuckle over that one.

In the end, everything was fine, except that I had lost a lot of blood. I had been given two bags of IV which kept my blood pressure up, but Karen tells me that it will take at least three weeks for me to replace the red blood cells I lost that night. Until then I will be pretty tired, especially when I get up and move around.

There’s something to be said for doing something a second time. Really, I had no recollection that labor and delivery was going to be as hard as it was. Not that I remembered Bella’s birth as being easy, but I sure didn’t remember how deeply I fell away from this world of rational thinking into the world of my body – the intensity of the contractions and the pain of pushing through them. Having a baby presses you right up to the limits of what you think you can manage (and stay conscious).

Right now, my breast have swollen to cyborgian proportions and I have a diaper shoved up the front of my t-shirt to absorb all the enthusiastic dribbles. Little Christian is well-nursed and swaddled in my lap. This is the first time I’ve sat at my desk since before he was born. He is now four days old.

Probably not long after my Thursday afternoon post, Chad and I retired upstairs to the bedroom to watch a movie together – either we were watching the last bit of The Company (historical fictionalized account of the CIA from a HBO) or starting the HBO miniseries Angel in America (AIDS, life and politics in the Reagan era – lots of surreal insertion – which reminds me of one of my favorites, Brazil). Bella, Corrina, and Chad’s brother were downstairs hanging out. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t settle down enough to watch the movie. The contractions were manageable, but growing in intensity and length.

My mind started to float away and resist thinking. I lay in runner’s pose on my bed and just breathed and observed my body. The contractions were coming anywhere from four to 15 minutes apart, and I told myself that if they continued that way for an hour that I would call my midwife. In my labor with Bella, my contractions had been fitful and irregular and both midwives had come and gone and returned several times before Bella was actually born.

I could feel the beginnings of a contraction swirling up from somewhere deep in the space inside me and then the tugging sensation as that contraction seized my uterus. It felt like a waistband tightening, but the waist of an internal me. And the tugging and pulling was like something the size of a watermelon trying to contract down to the size of a golf ball. As much as it felt like my uterus was trying to shrink into something small and hard, I kept focusing on reversing that feeling as the STRETCHING OPEN of my cervix – my cervix need to go from pea-size to softball size.

By nine in the evening, I’d been laboring like that, pretty much alone in the bedroom for two hours. I called my midwife, and then spent the next two hours laboring very intensely with Chad. We spent most of our time on the king-size bed, although I did spend a lot of time on my knees holding onto the edge of the bed too. In between contractions, Chad would spoon me and the warmth and smell of his body was unbelievably comforting. I remembered flashes of Sue laboring with her eyes tightly shut and her face buried in her husband Joss’s armpit – he wasn’t allowed to move an inch. It was the same way with Chad – once I’d set up my comforts – I didn’t want anything to change at all.

By the time the midwives arrived (Karen and her helper, another Karen), I was so focused on my contractions that I can barely remember them entering the bedroom. I don’t think I ever looked up – I just heard Karen say, “Oh, it won’t be long now.” At this point, my rest periods were very brief, so I stayed crouched in child’s pose over a stack of pillows vigilantly listening with my stomach’s ear for that initial tugging sensation that another contraction was on its way. Once it started, I needed to be on my hands and knees, moaning and rocking, and Chad bearing down on my lower back. Somebody handed me a wet washcloth which felt great on my face.

As contractions continued this way I remember just wishing for more rest time. It seemed that the more weary I grew, the more painful and longer the contractions were. I knew the cliche was that during the transition phase, the laboring woman often says she can’t make it. I thought that since I knew the cliche that I would be beyond it – but not a chance. The contractions now were so long and intense and painful that even if I started a contraction with deep regular breathing, by the end I was thrashing and panting as if I had been pulled under by a strong ocean wave for too long. I had to go poo, but I knew I couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time between contractions. Wait, I think I may have made it to the bathroom two times, but the contractions were completely unbearable when I was sitting up, so I think I scrambled back to the safety of the bed.

I couldn’t tell you who was in the room. It was dimly lit with just two candles burning and I think we had a Belle and Sebastian playlist going. My eyes were closed for most of this.

Then the sensation of having to pass a b.m. turned into a generalized desire to push, so I pulled myself into a squat and started pushing with the contractions. I remembered being angry at this point: where was the rest I was supposed to get between the transition and pushing phase?!? I was fearful too, because my pushing experience with Bella had been so hard; I had pushed for over four hours with her due to a low-lying placenta that had partially covered my cervix. So I was pushing hard, but not expecting to make much headway. I knew it was important to push gradually so as not to tear, but I felt deeply compelled to push HARD, and so I did.

I was shocked when after only a few pushes I heard Karen say she she could feel the head. And then Chad saying he could see it. Karen encouraged me to reach down and feel the top of the baby’s head, and I wanted to – I really, really wanted to – but at that moment it didn’t feel like I had that capacity to budge even a tiny bit from the position I was in. I pushed again and felt the RING OF FIRE. And then, just as I groaned to myself that NO WAY could I take that pain for another push, I felt the baby’s head pass through, and with it the searing pain was gone. I pushed a couple more times and felt buckets of loose slippery parts move through and into the midwife’s outstretched hands.

And there he was. Bleary-eyed, but calm. Stretching his legs as far as they would go, quietly taking in his new surroundings, Christian just lay there. On the bed in the room with us.

It was magic.

Christian several hours old – in his car seat coming from a very un-magical experience at the hospital. More details to follow. We are all fine… great, in fact!

We joyfully welcome Christian Holden Murdy to this world.

Born at home

1:22 am, Friday, May 23, 2008

7 pounds, 2 ounces

21 inches long

We are all well; exhausted, but thrilled.

Birth story and pics to follow.

We joyfully welcome Christian Holden Murdy to this world.

Born at home

1:22 am, Friday, May 23, 2008

7 pounds, 2 ounces

21 inches long

We are all well; exhausted, but thrilled.

Birth story and pics to follow.

Once, I was nicknamed Speedy Gonzales – we were biking up Mount Jay in Vermont or New Hampshire and it was a solid six-mile climb to the peak. I was with a dozen other high school kids biking through New England, and because of my typical leisurely pace, I liked to ride towards the rear of the group. On the day we climbed Mount Jay, I started at the back as usual, but over the course of however long it took to get to the top, I passed almost everybody in the group, hence earning my nickname. I wasn’t going fast – I just never stopped and I never got off my bike and walked either. I just kept plugging along.

I eat my meals the same way. If you’ve eaten with me, you’ll know that I’m often still eating (and talking) while the dishes are being cleared away.

So, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise to me that I labor in the same slow, leisurely way I do many other things in life.

My contractions picked up again early this morning, gaining intensity and regularity. They were coming every 7-10 minutes and were much stronger than any I had yesterday. And even when I got up for breakfast (yes, I’m still eating!) I had to pause every ten minutes or so and let a contraction squeeze past. But then they started to slow down again. At the moment I haven’t had a contraction in 12:41 minutes (I’m wearing a stopwatch…) and there have been three or four half-hour stretches that were completely contraction-free this morning.

I’m lucky to have the midwife I have, because I think this kind of stop-start labor makes hospitals (and other midwives) nervous. Especially since my water has broken and I am at a higher risk for infection. I know this is the case, but I also know that my midwife has never encountered infection because of ruptured membranes in all her years of practice. If this continues however, I’ll start taking my temperature and pulse every four hours to watch for any signs of infection as a precaution.

As it is, I think that the slow pace is giving all of us here time to settle in and adjust (and boil the scissors for the umbilical cord). Yesterday we made pesto, cookies, and creamy green soup, so the fridge is well and stocked.

Which is not say that I’m not anxious for the labor to pick up. To that end, Chad and I went for another long stroll this morning (3 or so miles around Top of the World) pausing and timing my contractions as we went. we’ve been trying the pressure points we learned to stimulate labor too.

The weather is overcast and the breeze feels great. This feels a lot like my labor with Bella – if it continues similarly, the contractions will redouble tonight and the baby will come tomorrow morning. Perhaps while Bella is at school.

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