Monday, August 07, 2006
4 Months Old!
[Editor's note: in case it's not obvious, the first picture is Ilana Leora 1 1/2 days after birth, and the second is now, when she is four months old]
Yes, as I type this, Ms. Ilana Leora has just turned 4 months old. Officially! It's 10:49 pm and she was born at....umm....10:30-something. And THAT inability to remember what happened four short months ago has led me to belatedly decide to actually write her birth story down. We meant to do it right at the time, but life intervened and all we have is a list of quotes from the family written down in her baby book.
SO: The official due date was the 12th of April, the first Seder night. All of the other girls arrived after their due date--Batsheva was something like 10 days, Chana was over a week, and PB was 4 days. It never seemed possible to me that our baby could come before the due date. Especially with Pesach coming; I seemed to think that we were somehow "protected" from having the baby until we had finished turning over our kitchen for Passover, and that wasn't going to happen until Sunday the 9th.
Wednesday night, the 5th, things started happening. I had "show" (I'm trying not to get TOO graphic here), and, when this happened with Penina's birth, it was a straight shot from that to 16 hours later when we were holding her in our arms. I got excited, and Sam and I stayed up and made the guest bed for Julie, who was going to come and be with the kids. I went to bed saying, "by tomorrow morning, we will probably have our new baby!" HA!
I had some contractions through the night, but was able to get some sleep(emphasis on "some"). Thursday morning I went to Tang Soo Do class, trying to move as much as possible (plus I knew the laughter that always happens there would also help move things along). The contractions increased in intensity and duration throughout the day, but I was still able to drive (though I'll always remember a big contraction I had just as I was getting off Storrow Drive. Very surreal place to have a contraction!). I had to be in Brookline to pick Batsheva up from school and take her to an appt, and then Sam and I had a meeting in Brookline re. B's educational path four hours later, so I didn't have much of an option but to get to Brookline and then stay there. I took the girls out for pizza between the two meetings. During dinner we ran into our family's pediatrician, which was lovely timing since Chana was feeling so lousy she had her head on the table and was half asleep (not that the Dr. had any more answers than she had had for the last two months, but it made me feel better to at least talk with her). I made it through the meeting, glad that Sam was with me and could pay attention for both of us. I stayed in the car and called with midwife while he picked up the girls at my aunt's house. I didn't want anyone to panic or get overly-excited at our impending baby! Miriam-the-midwife said to just keep in contact and that she would come when the contractions were something like two minutes apart and 60 seconds duration.
Another night with little sleep. Friday morning we were REALLY sure things were progressing enough that Miriam should come. We called her at 5:30 am. She said it still sounded early. I started to get a little discouraged and cranky. I asked Sam to please stay home from work. Debra came over and walked around the pond across the street with me, stopping and squatting with me when I had a contraction. When we got back from the pond, Chana had just thrown up. sigh.
I was supposed to have an appointment with Miriam that morning, but I certainly didn't feel up to driving, and neither Sam nor Debra, the only two who I felt comfortable having contractions with, were available to drive me due to work commitments. Luckily, Miriam was able to arrange her schedule so that she came to our house. After being with me for a few contractions and feeling my tummy, she said that the baby was not arriving imminently, and that it might not even arrive before Sunday. She said something about "labors that putz along" and I tried not to let steam come out of my head (not necessarily at her, although I think there might have been a more positive way to say it, but mostly at myself and my body b/c, after three times birthing and countless hours spent listening to Hypnobirthing tapes, reading positive birth stories, and writing and thinking positive birth affirmations, I STILL couldn't get a "short" birth, or anything even approaching "short-ISH".)
Batsheva had gone to school, with my promise that Julie would come get her at school if the baby was coming soon. PB was at Play Group (I don't even remember how she got there, or home!). Around 1:30 we called Julie and asked her to come over. Luckily, her next piano student was my niece, so they were understanding about Julie's need to reschedule :).
The next hours are kind of a blur. Debra and I stayed upstairs as I paced around and made phone calls to tell Rhona, Kelly, Heidi, and Katie that I was in labor ("Start the prayer brigade!"). Sam was frantically trying to cook Shabbat dinner for a huge group of people, so that Julie, Deb and Frank, and the two midwives (along with our family) would have something to eat. I had gone to Russo's Produce a few days before so that we could have chametz-free stir-fry and baked tofu (wow....having had the SC diet in our lives now, this menu sounds very odd!). We filled the birth tub and tried to get the water hot enough, which took kind of a while, but was worth it once I finally got in. Birth tubs are blissful! I remember Deb continually doing her special "Agliano whistle" to get Frank's attention, and why Frank didn't strangle the two of us, I'll never know, b/c it really was something like every two minutes there was something we needed him to do. What a guy!
For a while, I was getting out of the birth tub every hour to go to the bathroom, but that stopped about five hours before Ilana was born, despite all those popsicles I was eating. It...just...took....so....long....I kept checking myself and wondering what the heck was wrong--where was this baby?! I kept moaning "so low"--trying to cryptically ask why, if the baby felt so low, was she not in my arms?!
I think it was around five that Miriam and Audra, the backup midwife, arrived. Sam asked Miriam to talk with him in the hallway, as he wanted to ask what the holdup was (but out of my hearing. Good job!). She told him that it probably wouldn't be before midnight. I was still hoping, hoping, hoping that it would be before candle-lighting time. I couldn't imagine our family and friends waiting until Saturday night to find out what happened.
About 8:30, PB evidently told Julie that she "needed to go and support Mama". She came into my room quiet as a mouse and sat on the bed. I was in the midst of some double contractions (triple/quadruple/whatever)and it was a while before I even looked up to see who was there. I assumed it was Chana because the person was so quiet, and got quite a surprise to see Penina there. (She had very nice behavior through the whole birth. There were only two times, I think, that she needed to be reminded that it was okay to talk between contractions, but not when I was having one. Otherwise, she sat quietly on the bed and just watched for a while, then sat on Miriam's lap for a while, and then held the flashlight for Miriam and followed Miriam's plan that she should be the one to get a towel to put over the new baby).
Batsheva came in about 30 minutes before Ilana's birth. When that happened, I asked that Chana be woken up. We had not planned to have the children in for the birth, but I am so glad we had the flexibility to have them there. (as a side note, we had watched several birth videos and acted out birth a few times. I had told them that I mostly moaned while birthing, and that, while some women in the videos yelled, I wasn't "that type" when I birthed. Well, let's just say that I was proven wrong, very wrong, about the decibel level I could produce while birthing. This was a LOUD birth. It was also the birth where I most doubted that I truly could birth this baby. I remember once or twice with PB's birth saying, "I don't think I....yes I can!". This was the first birth where I ever finished the sentence).
We saw that the baby had dark hair. I kept feeling her head and asking her to please come out. Saying that I had such a nice bracha to give at Shabbat dinner and asking please not to make me save it for next Shabbat.
The final push came. I had an overwhelming sensation that my entire body was about to split in half. I remembered reading that THAT was the push that would bring the baby, and I pushed with everything I had. She didn't come out, but came a lot closer. It's a weird thing about birth. Right down to the last push, it still seems somehow unbelievable that a BABY is going to pop out!
We had planned that Sam would "catch" the baby. It felt so right to have his be the first hands that touched this new life. As Ilana's head came out, the midwife told him to feel if the cord was around the neck. Sam felt. "It's a hand!" he said, in total surprise. And in that moment, all the pieces of that difficult birth fell into place. In my mind, I picture Little Bubbele in-utero wondering what those squeezing feelings are on her head. She decides to try to de-stress and suck on her hand--the best stress reliever there is before you're born, right? Suddenly, she finds herself stuck, head-down, and unable to get her hand out of her mouth. DOH! Only thing to do is wait for birth....
There is an absolutely amazing energy in a room where a baby has just been born. It's incredible that, in a room where there were 9 people only a minute before, there now were ten. (And it also amazes me that there were 9 people at her birth, but, broken down, it was: me, Sam, B,C,P, Debra, Julie and the two midwives. That way it doesn't sound like so many!)
PB jumped off the bed and brought over the towel. We covered the baby and me, as I kept repeating "Oh, you little darling" in a very excited voice. She was covered in vernix (early baby) and had so much dark black hair. She was very red. After a minute or so, Batsheva asked, "What is it?!". We hadn't planned this, but neither Sam nor I wanted to look. We were still basking in the fact that we had done it, difficult as it was, and were just enjoying the fact that the baby was there....the baby was fine....I was fine....It didn't matter at all what gender the baby was, just that it was here.
I'd say it was about ten minutes before we decided to see if we had a daughter or a son. Sam felt and announced, "It's a girl!" "A girl?!" I was so unbelievably happy. Either one would have been fine with me, but I was truly delighted to have a fourth girl.
Chana went back to bed almost immediately. Julie somehow wrangled PB and Batsheva into bed. Sam fed the midwives. Deb and Frank went home. I, blissfully, walked four steps and got into my bed. How wonderful it was not to have to get in the car and drive home from the birth center. Ilana nursed right away for almost an hour!
After they ate and cleaned up their gear, Miriam gave Ilana a checkup by flashlight and weighed her in a sling scale (gotta find a picture of that from her two day checkup. It's very cute). She was 7 lbs, 9 ozs--the smallest of our babies (the others were 7.14, 8.0 and 8.14, so I was thinking we were heading for a 9-pounder!). After the checkup, I tried to nurse her again, but was having trouble. I asked Miriam for help before she left, and Audra said, "it's kind of hard to nurse a newborn while lying on your side" and I had a good laugh over trying to nurse this new baby like I was used to nursing a toddler. They brought me a big plate of food and left around 1 am. Sam was conked out on the sofa downstairs, so I had the most unusual Shabbat dinner ever--alone, in bed, with my new baby!