The Birth of Joseph Matthew

22 Aug

Wow I can’t believe it has been almost two months since my last post, but I have been busy!  I finally had the baby and have been meaning to write the birth story but my hands have been full with two little ones and I needed some time to actually sit down by myself–a real rarity these days.  I have time now so before it runs out here we go…

During almost my entire pregnancy I was convinced that our baby would be born early; not excessively so, but probably right around 38 and a half weeks.  Especially towards the end, when I got SO HUGE, I figured that he or she was getting uncomfortable and would come out to meet us sooner rather than later.  At my 37 week appointment one of my midwives, Whitney, said that the baby was perfectly positioned and ready to go.  Because I had developed preeclampsia so late in my pregnancy with Ruby I was anxious to get this baby out and thus be less likely to avoid complications and induction.  Well 38 weeks came and went…then 39 weeks…then my due date.  Still no baby.  I was drinking red raspberry leaf tea infusions, taking evening primrose oil, getting induction acupuncture, eating spicy food, and doing pretty much everything else I had heard of to try and get labor going.  I was having lots of contractions and had one false alarm when I really thought that things were happening.  Still no baby.

A week after my due date I had a non-stress test (perfectly normal) and an appointment with Marsha, another midwife.  She stripped my membranes and assured me that the baby would eventually come.  I wasn’t miserable or anything and luckily my midwives do not induce vaginal births after caesarian (VBACs) and would have let me keep going under close observation unless there was a problem, but I was ready to meet our baby.  That afternoon I went to another acupuncture session then had a lovely dinner with my family.  My dad had driven up for the day and I announced at dinner that I really thought that the baby would be born sometime the following day.  I wasn’t having contractions but could feel that the time was finally here.

I put Ruby to sleep around 8 and then headed to bed a few hours later.  I still wasn’t having contractions and slept well until 12:30, when I woke up to use the bathroom.  I had a contraction…then another…then another.  Unlike my previous contractions these were pretty uncomfortable and I started timing them using my iphone app at 12:47.  45 minutes later I could see that they were pretty steadily lasting one minute every two and a half minutes.  As a VBAC I was supposed to go to the hospital at five minutes but apparently I had skipped that stage altogether.  I called my doula, Kerry, and then the midwife on duty, Nora.  Nora said to come in to the hospital but I wanted to take a shower first, which she said was fine.  I got in the shower and decided to shave my legs (why?  I couldn’t tell you, but apparently this is pretty common among laboring women).  The shower took for. ev. er because I had to stop every two minutes.  Matty and my mom were running around getting everything together and wondering what the hell was taking me so long.  At one point I knocked over the stool we have in the shower and gave them both minor panic attacks because it was super loud.  I finally finished showering and proceeded to take my sweet time getting dressed because of my now fairly painful contractions.  We left the house sometime after two and arrived at George Washington University Hospital at 2:15.  The hospital is only a few miles from our house and thankfully there was no traffic in the middle of the night so I only had to deal with about four contractions on the way there.  Matty dropped my mom and me off at the ER and then parked and Kerry met us right as we were walking through the door.

By this point my contractions were really strong and close together.  To cope while we were filling out admissions paperwork and waiting for a room I would sway and do some sort of weird hippie dance.  This was not intentional–I just felt like I needed to crawl out of my skin or something–but Matty thought it was hilarious and looking back I’m sure it was!

I had planned on using one of the three labor and delivery rooms with birthing tubs, but there was a pretty significant baby boom going on and they were all full.  I was honestly only disappointed for about half a second before another contraction took over and I forgot all about the tub.  We got settled into the room and I put on the nightgown I had packed in my hospital bag a few weeks before.  I wanted a dark, peaceful space and Mom, Matty, and Kerry placed the battery operated vanilla scented candles ($9.99 at Costco!) around the room, which really did provide a nice ambience.  Nora came in to check me and said that I was 6-7 centimeters, which made me happy and excited.  I figured we still had quite a long road ahead, but were well on the way.

As a VBAC I had to have constant fetal monitoring.  During my labor with Ruby the telemetry straps had not worked well even though I was immobile in a hospital bed and I was worried that they wouldn’t work at all during an upright, walking labor.  Whitney had said to bring a belly band to put over the straps and hold them in place.  This worked wonderfully well–the baby’s heartbeat never dropped and my contractions tracked perfectly.  I was also positive for strep B and had to receive IV antibiotics upon admission and every four hours thereafter.  This had disappointed me when I found out but ended up not being a big deal at all.  Somebody had brought in a yoga ball and as soon as Nora was done with my quick exam I bounced on it while leaning against the bed.  Katie, the (excellent) nurse, started my line and gave me the medicine while I bounced away and Kerry massaged my back.  Matty got my ipod speakers set up and started playing the Beatles.  Later we would listen to James Taylor, Paul McCartney, and Simon and Garfunkel.

The music helped regulate my breathing and relax me.  I was tired and (surprisingly, for anyone who knows me) didn’t talk much.  I couldn’t talk through the contractions and in between just wanted to rest.  I don’t know how long I stayed on the yoga ball but Kerry massaged my back the whole time, which helped tremendously.  I remember her telling me that the contractions would get longer, stronger, and closer together, and saying that I could deal with these but didn’t know if I could handle worse.  At one point I also remember saying that I now knew why women asked for epidurals, although I never considered one, or any other type of pain medication.

After a while Kerry suggested that I get in the shower to help with the pain.  When I stood up my water broke.  I got in the screaming hot shower and Kerry positioned the spray so that it was directly on my lower back.  During contractions I would brace myself with my face against the wall.  I think I was in there for about an hour when Nora wanted to get my vitals and check me again.  Matty and Kerry helped me out of the shower and suggested I sit on the yoga ball while they dried me off.  I agreed and plopped right down then promptly fell over onto the floor.  I was totally fine but everyone else had a quick scare.

I walked over and sat on the edge of the bed so Katie could get my blood pressure.  My contractions were so strong and close together that even when she started the monitor as soon as one was over by the time it finished cycling I would already have  started another so my bp readings were super high.  Nora had come back into the room to check me and I told her that all of that stuff that Ina May (Gaskin, patron saint of American midwifery) said about envisioning the cervix opening up like a flower was bullshit.  Right after that all of a sudden I had an incredible urge to push.  It completely overtook my body and I could not have stopped even if I had wanted to.  I  let out a guttural wail and pushed then yelled “am I dilated?  Am I allowed to do that?”  Nora smiled and said “I would say so.”

I was helped back onto the bed and pushed when I felt the urge.  The room was peaceful, Simon and Garfunkel was playing in the background, and only Matty, Mom, Kerry, Nora, and Katie were present with me.  Katie kept busy applying hot compresses, which helped prevent tearing.  No one yelled at me or told me what to do.  When I pushed I received loving encouragement but also rested when I wanted to, which was wonderful.  I probably pushed for about 30 minutes but less than 8 times total.  I channeled Ina May and breathed the baby down, then gave a few good pushes and out he came!

Our beautiful baby boy was born on June 25th at 6:19 in the morning, naturally and peacefully.  He was massive and magnificent and when he was placed on my chest I looked up at Matty and said “Joseph?”  We hadn’t decided on names, but he looked like big Joe Shellock to me.  Joseph was my grandfather’s name and we had discussed either Walter (for Matty’s grandfather) or Matthew for a possible middle name.  I told Matty to pick and he chose Matthew.  Joseph Matthew Shellock was perfect and I was ecstatic.  A little later he was weighed and measured and found to be 11(!) lbs and 22 inches long.  Joe nursed for an hour right after being weighed–he was a hungry boy!

Matty’s parents had driven down from NJ right as I was going to the hospital and got to the house a little after 7.  Ruby woke up at 7:30 and walked downstairs to find three of her grandparents sitting around the living room.  We facetimed with everyone and showed Ruby her new brother.  She was instantly smitten and has remained so.  Later that morning the grandparents brought Ruby to the hospital and she held and kissed her “baby brudder Jofes.”  She also told him “I love you,” which was the first time she had ever said that completely spontaneously.  My heart felt like it would burst with joy.

I had been convinced of the benefits of natural childbirth during my pregnancy with Ruby.  Her birth (I wrote about it here) turned out very differently from how I had envisioned and I had a rough recovery.  When I became pregnant again I knew I wanted a VBAC and sought out the very best medical care.  I was incredibly fortunate to find the midwives at GWU Hospital.  They greatly encourage doulas, especially for first time moms and VBACs, and I was blessed to work with Kerry from Birth in Bloom.  Another huge help for me was reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.  I didn’t do any sort of childbirth classes like hypnobirthing or lamaze, but the wisdom in that book really centered me and gave me confidence in my ability to give birth.   Matty and my mom were, of course, invaluable and I will be forever grateful to have such an amazing support system, both before and after Joseph’s birth.

joe r&j

2 Responses to “The Birth of Joseph Matthew”

  1. Mom August 22, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    It was truly a peaceful, lovely event. You were amazing – strong and focused.

  2. Suzanne Hopkins August 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    I couldn’t help but laugh about your “cervex opening like a flower is bullshit” comment. I am reading that right now and felt the same way; but that was just while reading and NOT experiencing the actual pain yet.

    Lovely story as always!

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