Calla’s First Smile.
Calla Lily Augusta McGillagreen was born March 22nd, 2015: 7lbs 4oz, 19inches long, and pure heaven. She is now almost three months old (holy s***) and I figure it is high time I write down her birth story before my sieve of a brain loses all those small details I want to remember. I will warn you now that I am going to hold nothing back. If you are uncomfortable with bodily fluids or swear words, or if you are my brother and do not want to know some very intimate things about your sister, then maybe skip this post. Shame nor modesty do not exist in my vocabulary anymore. For the rest of you: read on!
My due date was March 21st, which was a Sunday. That previous Tuesday we had what would be our last prenatal appointment, little did we know. Husband and I were both recovering from colds and my midwife, true to her Granola self, suggested that we take a drive to the coast as the negative ions in the air from the crashing waves would do us good. She also mentioned that one last hurrah before the baby comes would be nice for us. So I booked a hotel in Forest Grove for the weekend, and Saturday morning we headed for the coast.
As I was very (VERY) pregnant we did more driving than anything else. First we went to Canon Beach, stopping at my favorite bagel shop before wandering around on the beach–wandering for Husband, waddling for me. Husband had brought his camera to get a couple of belly pics, as we still had yet to document how absolutely huge I had gotten.
Look at that huge belly!
Holy Belly! Then the weather turned a little on us, so we went and had some hot chocolate then decided to head down to Tillamook. We visited the cheese factory, then hit the beach again walking and talking mostly about baby. Husband took a some more pictures, some beautiful and some just rotund in nature. I had a couple of what I took for Braxten Hicks–or Boson Higgs contractions as Husband liked to call them. They were kind of cool to feel as I had not had any my whole pregnancy–for the first time I could feel my whole uterus (this detail is important for later) contract from top to bottom. I think I had three total all day.
In the evening we drove halfway back home to Forest Grove to the McMenamins Grand Lodge. It was insanity there and nothing seemed to go exactly as planned, but I was strangely okay with everything. The first hiccup was they had misplaced out reservation, but were still able to figure out a room for us. We took a short nap and then had a lovely steak dinner. For the first time EVER, I sent my food back as my steak was more on the charcoal side, while I like it more on the red side. But the waitress was very sweet and not only replaced my steak, but gave us a double serving of dessert on the house.
After dinner we meandered over to the soaking pool, which felt amazing despite the couple of nosy and rude glances from a couple of women who would rather see a pregnant women’s life sucked of all joy. They probably were not that bad, but it is amazing how judgey people get when you are pregnant. After the pool we went to the theater that was just down the hall from our room and saw the second Divergent film. It was horrible and fun all at the same time, and I was safely tucked into bed at 12:30 pm. I was asleep in seconds.
Husband was not.
Little did I know he had a bought of insomnia so he took his phone to the lobby and that is where he was when I called him at 2:30 in the morning in labor.
I woke up with an intense pain in my lower abdomen, something along the lines of a period cramp on steroids–the hulk of period cramps. The first one passed as I laid in the dark. I thought about calling Husband, as I had woken up alone, but then I tempered myself thinking that if I had another one I would call him and see where the hell he was. Four minutes later another “cramp” hit and after it passed I picked up my phone and called Husband.
I felt a little silly and passive aggressive for calling him. I didn’t think I was in labor as these cramps were so different from what I had felt earlier in the day. I didn’t feel any “contracting”, rather just some intense pain in my nether regions. In my mind I wasn’t in labor. My greatest fear before labor, was I would exaggerate what was happening in my mind and jump the gun. I didn’t want to get everyone all geared up to go–the midwife, the birth center, the in-laws to drive from Seattle, my parents to only find out I was in early labor and we had days to go. I did NOT want that to happen.
So I was not in labor. As husband had just been down the hall, it took him seconds to reach out room. I started timing these things that WERE NOT CONTRACTIONS on my phone. Husband felt that I should call Marilyn our midwife right away. I dithered as I was not having contractions, promising to call if I had a couple more. I had a couple more, all the while timing these things that were not contractions, so I called Marilyn at three in the morning. I didn’t tell her that we were in a hotel. I told her that I was having some “rhythmic cramping” that was pretty painful, and she said I should try and rest and keep her posted as things progress.
At 4, after having more “cramps” husband talked me into driving home as neither of us wanted to be at a hotel if things started getting interesting. I still would not let myself believe that I was in labor, even though as I counted on my phone the “cramps” were four minutes apart, lasting for 40 seconds, and I couldn’t talk through them. We packed up the car and drove. I felt pretty hungry at this point and knew that if I was going to go into labor I would need fuel.
Though I wasn’t going into labor, so I was just being sensible. The only thing we found open was the McDonald’s on the way out of Forest Grove, so I got an oatmeal and a milk–trying to find something that sounded appetizing. Between “cramps” I remember how still everything was–how dark and empty the streets were as I gripped Husband’s hand and he drove for home. It only took us 30 minutes to make it to our front door and we headed straight for bed. We both wanted more sleep if labor was going to kick in. But I was having cramps every three to four minutes and it was hard to get any rest in between, so I took a bath and Husband tried to sleep as it was now 4:30 and he hadn’t slept at all.
At 5 I decided to call my mom. IF I was actually going into labor it would be important for Husband to have some sleep, but I wanted someone awake with me and I knew my mom would be up getting ready for work. She made it to our house by six. She found my leaning over a medicine ball, trying to watch Mulan. I apologized for having her take off of work, as I was “just having some cramping.” At this point Husband took my phone and looked at the contraction data, forcing me this time to call Marilyn again. We were all on speaker phone as Husband described what he called my contractions. At this point I broke in and told her that I didn’t think I was in labor, I was just having some cramps. But right then a “cramp” came along and I couldn’t talk. Marilyn listened for the minute it took for the cramp to pass and then told us, “I will see you in 30 minutes at the birth center.”
I didn’t want to let myself believe that I was going into labor. Like I said I was afraid of jumping the gun. On top of that I was also afraid of my labor stalling. I had heard enough horror stories, and my way of keeping that reality at bay was to hold of on believing I was actually in labor.
But having Marilyn tell me to get to the birth center, snapped me into my reality. We called Husbands parents who packed their bags and headed for Portland. Husband, Mom, and I walked into the birth center at 7. By that point the contractions were 3 minutes apart and lasting for a minute. They were strong and I was quickly entering into my own world, where the only thing that existed were the contractions and myself.
During our birthing class, a recent new mom described labor as weight training: your trainer stacks more weight than you have ever lifted onto the bar and asks you to lift it over your head. You do it, but barely and it takes everything you have to do it. You put the bar down with pride and relief, happy that you are done and that you DID it. Then the trainer asks you to do it again, and again, and again. That’s contractions. It felt like it took everything I had to get through one. In the middle of one I wouldn’t be sure I would make it through it, but then you would come out the other side and the relief would be so beautiful.
But then there would be another.
From the time we arrived at the birth center, to the time Calla was born is all a blur. I remember they checked my dilation when I first arrived and I was at five centimeters, but after that they didn’t check again unless I asked. Besides Marilyn or Kim (her assistant) checking the baby’s heart beat every 30 minutes, they left me to labor as I saw fit. We were the only ones at the birth center, as it was a Sunday. I was told I could go wherever I wanted: I could walk up and down the stairs or take a walk outside, but I was happy to stay in our room. It felt like a cocoon. It felt save, peaceful and as the contractions got more intense the more I turned inward and forgot about everything outside out room.
The room was perfect for me. It was appointed with a king size bed, that had fresh white sheets and towels. The bath tub was bigger than I had ever seen with pads for my hands and knees and candles around the edge. I flitted between the bed, the bath, the floor, the toilet, and a medicine ball. As soon as a towel got even the slightest bit wet it was whisked away and replaced with a fresh, warm one. I remember puking a lot and half the time I puked I would pee at the same time, but Kim and Marilyn worked to keep everything clean and pleasant.
I spent my whole labor naked. I couldn’t stand the idea of anything constricting like clothing. When I got cold from sweating I would put on my bathrobe, but as soon as a contraction hit I would rip it off. I know time passed but I don’t remember it. I would sometimes ask what time it was and I would always be shocked that half an hour or an hour had passed, as I felt locked in this timeless existence working through each contraction.
At no point did I think of the baby. I couldn’t think of anything but the pain and making it through another contraction. My whole existence contracted to this one thing. I know Husband and mom where there and that they took turns feeding me and having me sip smoothie and coconut water, then holding the bowl while I threw it all up again.
And when I didn’t think it was possible the pain got worse. I don’t know how long it had been since they had first checked my dilation, but I with each contraction my faith that I could handle this was chipped away. I remember saying over and over again that I can’t do this.
I guess I only really said it out loud once, as Husband told me later, but I remember repeating it like a mantra. I decided that they should check me again and if I was only a centimeter or two past five I wanted to transfer to a hospital and I wanted an epidural. This was all an internal thought process. No one knew I was thinking of transfer, when they had my lie on the bed to check, but being on the bed was the worst, and I wouldn’t lie still long enough for Kim to touch me, let alone check my dilation. With the next contraction all thoughts of transfer went out the window.
I think it was about this time that I lost my mucus plug. To me this was the first tangible, touchable, sign that things were progressing. Marilyn kept telling me how well I was doing. Then my water broke and she said, “your are getting close,” and I hung onto those words like a lifeline.
Then I was in the tub again, on my hands and knees. Husband was in the tub for a little bit for me, but unlike the photos of couples I had seen laboring in the tub together where the woman is resting back against her partner, I could not stand to be still in a contraction. I kept flipping around in the water like an otter. It helped to move and the only position I could stand to be in for very long was on my hands and knees.
I remember them keeping the water clean with a little fishnet or sometimes a towel to wipe the bottom of the tub, which was a nice touch. I remember the candles flickering, and in between contractions hanging over the edge of the tub practically passing out until another one came. Then I remember screaming instead of moaning, and Marilyn asking me to tell her when I felt like pushing.
I remember wandering how I will know what that feels like, and what felt like a second later I remember screaming that I am pushing. I was just a bystander at this point as my body was in complete control. I am told I pushed for an hour, for the most part on my hands and knees. I remember Kim telling me to go deeper with each contraction. I remember thinking that she can fucking come over here and go deeper, because I couldn’t give any more.
But then Marilyn told me to change the pitch of my scream. And as I lowered my pitch I felt my body push more effectively. That hour didn’t feel like an hour. It felt timeless–like forever to use a cliche. The first time I had reached down to feel my progress I hadn’t felt anything, but then the next time I could feel her head. I remember crying out saying, “she had hair.” Feeling my progress for myself was the most helpful thing in the world. Feeling her head and feeling her hair made it real for the first time. For the first time, I was able to think about the fact that I was going to have a baby. At this point it was inevitable.
Then her head was out. No one touched me, no one reached down except to listen to her heart beat. It was all me. I didn’t feel the “ring of fire,” when she crowned. There was too much pain to differentiate anything. But having her head out was the first sense of relief I had felt since the contractions had started almost 12 hours earlier. I couldn’t imagine having to push out her shoulders after her head, but then before I knew it I felt her sliding out and I caught her.
Then everything happened at once. Husband was in the water with me, holding me while I was holding her. I was laughing and crying as I pulled her to my chest. I turned to Husband and asked it we could name her Calla Lily. I remember the thick, white vernex covering her butt, but not much else. Marilyn and Kim (and my mom) were there the whole time, but they let us just be as a family for the first time. Calla didn’t really cry and she latched right away. We just stayed in the water for a little while, holding her and dipping blankets in the warm water to keep the parts of her that were out of the water warm.
Husband had been reticent about getting in the tub when we had talked about it before, but as soon as she was born I am pretty sure a stampede of wild boars wouldn’t have kept him out of the water, no matter what bloody color it was.
Husband with Calla while I showered.
I was surprised to fine that the contractions after she was born still hurt. Kim kept telling me that if I wanted it to end then I should work with the contractions to get the placenta out, but I was way to tired right after Calla was born. So we just sat there for a little bit and I tried to ignore my body for a while. When the umbilical cord became flaccid, Husband got out of the water and took a shower. My mom cut the umbilical cord and got to hold Calla for the first time, while I finally mustered myself to get that damn placenta out. I got back on my hands and knees and with Marilyn’s prompting felt the umbilical cord and held onto the end of it with each contraction. Slowly I could feel it descending, till I could finally feel where the cord attached to the placenta.
Then with one last contraction I pulled the placenta out and with it came a blood clot the size of Husband’s two fists put together. At that point I told Marilyn that I could feel that had a tear . Husband and Mom went off with the baby (only to the other side of the room, but I was still pretty wrapped up in myself) and I got out to take a shower. I remember just standing in the hot water feeling so thankful that I could stand, thankful that Calla was born, and so thankful that the contractions were over.
Our First Family Photo.
Then I was bundled into bed with my baby and Husband. My dad and his parents, who had all been waiting at our house were called. I held Calla as a distraction while Marilyn and Kim worked on suturing up my tear. Husband started out holding my hand but then he passed out before Marilyn was even done administering the numbing stuff. He did wake up enough to take Calla
We spent the next two nights at the birth center, which was amazing. They had a postpartum nurse who stayed with us, bringing me some Tylenol whenever I wanted. They made us breakfast in the mornings–whatever we wanted, and then had our lunches and dinners brought from any restaurant we could think of in the area. All of which was included in the price–a whooping $2500, which also included all of my prenatal care and six weeks postpartum care. The morning after, with the family gathered to wonder at the baby I was led off to another room for a massage, which was the first time in 7+ months I got to lie on my stomach = pure bliss.
Our Breakfast – everything was so good I had the same thing each morning.
Then before we knew it we were on our way home, and now it has been three months. Time is moving so fast, and Calla is a new and different baby almost everyday. I have never witnessed so much continuous change before. She mastered smiling a couple of weeks ago, and she has just started laughing. She has only really laughed once or twice at this point and each time she does it is magical. I know before long she will be giggling up a storm, just as before long she will be sitting on her own, and then crawling, but right now each laugh is a surprise. It is a wonderful feeling waiting for her to laugh–the sweetest anticipation. Here is one last photo for you–I think it was taken about a month or so ago. It is hard to remember:
Calla sporting her handmade Grape hat and the outfit she came home in–by far my favorite outfit.