Monday, March 16, 2015

Welcome to the World: Sinclair's Birth Story

Sinclair's Birth
Sinclair Elizabeth Oliver, born February 4, 2015 at 7:30am at Mount Auburn Hospital (Cambridge, MA)
Sinclair's Birth
Our doula, Phoebe McKee, with Luther. 
Sinclair Elizabeth
My mom holding Sinclair the day we came home. 

This pregnancy was hard. The various discomforts started much earlier and were more severe than when I was pregnant with Luther (for Luther’s birth story, see here). During the final weeks, I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions frequently, and my midwife kept telling me that she thought the baby would come before the due date of Feb 4; however, by the day’s end on Feb 3, there were still no signs of real labor activity except that I was leaking a fair amount of watery fluid.

Around two or three in the morning, Luther woke up crying. We got him settled again, but I couldn’t go back to sleep.  I was worried that my water had broken enough to pose a danger to the baby. I was having the occasional contraction, but that was nothing unusual. I laid awake in bed until about 5:00am when I noticed that my contractions were becoming more intense and occurring with some regularity. I started to time them, and they were lasting around two minutes each, six minutes apart. By 5:30am, they were becoming intense, and I woke Piercen up so that he could help me relax through them.

Two contractions later, I started to moan in a low tone (Pierce says this is when he knew we needed to start heading to the hospital), and my next contraction ended with an urge to push. In between contractions, I put in my contacts, and slipped on my shoes and jacket, while Pierce got Luther up and loaded into the car. In the midst of all this, I bizarrely felt the uncontrollable urge to dance through each contraction; it seemed to help take my mind off the pain. So I danced my way to the car (Piercen: “Kelli, get in the car!” Kelli: “I can’t! I have to dance until this contraction is done!” Piercen: dumbfounded).

Once in the car, I tried my best to focus on relaxing every muscle as I dealt with the waves of agony. At one point, I noticed that Piercen was taking a different route to the hospital than I had anticipated, but I didn’t think much of it. However, fifteen minutes later, I realized that we were in downtown Medford, not Cambridge where the hospital was located. As a frazzled Piercen pulled out his phone to start the GPS app, and with each contraction ending with a stronger and stronger urge to push, I silently begged God not to let me have the baby in the car. We slipped (literally) along poorly plowed roads (re: Jan 27 Blizzard), and Piercen ran a red light or two.  As we made the turn for the hospital, I began to have doubts about my ability to handle the rest of labor without medication (according to the Bradley Method curriculum, self-doubt is a normal part of the transition stage and is embraced as a sign of progression).

We arrived at the hospital at around 6:30am and went straight up to triage. The nurses and midwife met us there with the water birth tub ready for us, but I was told that I had to lay on the table for twenty minutes so that they could run the fetal monitor. The midwife then asked to do an internal exam and found that I was fully dilated and that the baby was at -2 station.  I asked the midwife if I could push now; she smiled and replied “absolutely.”

Pushing felt so much better than not pushing. After a couple of good pushes, I felt this uncontrollable explosion of agony; my water was breaking.  I had no idea what was happening though, and this was the first and only time during either of my two labors that I lost control. For a few seconds I could not stop screaming, all the while thinking to myself “Get it together Kelli, this is not how you handle labor!” Finally the pain subsided. The midwife told me that the baby was close to coming out and asked if I wanted to move to the birthing tub, but added that it would be harder for them to coach me as she crowned if I was in the tub. I declined. A few more pushes, and they told me that they could see the head. The midwife asked me to move onto my back and hold my legs up so that the nurses could support my perineum as the baby crowned. With Phoebe our doula helping me hold up my legs, the midwife instructed me to give gentle, short pushes. A few seconds later, our beautiful baby girl was born at 7:30am, weighing 7 lbs 3 oz and measuring 19.5 inches long. We named her Sinclair Elizabeth Oliver, a name Pierce and I had picked out in our junior year of college.

The minutes and hours after her birth were radically different from my experience with Luther. I came away from this birth with only a first-degree tear, two stitches, and no dazed feelings of trauma. Sinclair started showing interest in nursing almost immediately, and breastfeeding has been successful. By the end of the day, I was able to get up and move around unassisted, and we left the hospital a day earlier than anticipated.

Our new life as a family of four has also been easier than expected. So far, Sinclair is a good sleeper, and doesn’t seem easily upset by all the loud coming and goings of home life. Luther dotes on his little sister and revels in helping me take care of her. Pierce has the little girl he has always wanted, even if he is still kind of terrified of the fact. As for me, my initial reservations about having a girl have fled. We have so many strong, smart, feminist women in our lives who will serve as excellent role models for her. And while I still have strong fears for a girl child growing up in a world that holds an overbalance of dangers for the female sex, I have learned to put my trust in God’s goodness, knowing that he loves both my children far beyond my human capacity.   

* Major kudos to the midwives and nursing staff at Mt. Auburn Hospital; I cannot recommend them enough. They had studied my birth plan before we arrived and knew exactly what we wanted and what sort of help I needed. It’s because of their gentle coaching and support at the end that I sustained only a first degree tear.

**Major thanks to Phoebe our sweet doula who braved the Patriots Superbowl Parade traffic to arrive just when we needed her and who was such support for Luther during the whole experience. Having her as part of our birth team put our minds at ease from the very moment we met her!