Violet Shalom

Since she is nearly 8 weeks old, I should probably put the words that have been swimming around in my head and organize them. I’ve composed her birth story many times when I’ve been driving, in the bath, or doing laundry.

The story truly begins when I found out I was pregnant. Sweet Violet’s pregnancy was a roller coaster. There were ups, downs, and surprises that I never saw coming. During the end of March and all of April, I listened to “You Know Better Than I” & “Homeward Bound” every day. It sums up how I now feel about those crazy 42 weeks!

I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of August. We had been trying so I peed on a stick and walked away when it didn’t turn positive immediately. I came back later and saw a line, but the line was faded and past the time limit. Took another test on 8/10 at 7:30am and it was positive! Aaaaaggghhh!!

I knew very early this time and it drove me insane. I took multiple tests trying to see if the line would get darker or appear more quickly. During this time, I tried to not to get too excited. I was incredibly anxious that the test was somehow wrong or that I would have a miscarriage. It wasn’t until the morning sickness came with a vengeance that I began to feel that the pregnancy was healthy.

I interviewed two home birth practices. It made things worse. The first practice was one that I always assumed I would home birth with. The midwife I spoke to answered all my questions in a way that immediately put me at ease. I had an extensive list of questions that ranged from would DH be able to catch the baby to what degree tear were they comfortable with repairing. I liked her frank answers! Then I interviewed another practice that I really liked. There were things I loved; the atmosphere of the office, the open arms for my kids, how close they were, and the fact they were much cheaper than the other practice. Since we were paying out-of-pocket, money was definitely a deciding issue. I wanted a doula and a birth photographer; neither things were negotiable to me. I had them picked out and contacted. I was not going to have another birth without either.

At the same time, I was also receiving shadow care from the same practice that I used for my first two babies. Lots of things went on and I ended up switching to a different practice. There were issues with getting my records. This caused a great deal of anxiety for me; since the end of summer, I had been having horrible dreams about the baby being born with birth defects. The anxiety from these dreams would wake me up in the middle of the night and follow me around all day. It was always the same defect and only with a blonde girl. I began to desperately hope the baby was a boy because then my dream would be wrong. When the tests came back without any inkling of potential problems, I began to relax. It was around then I really began to get excited about the pregnancy; until then, I was too focused on all the anxiety.

Things continued into fall and things began to get difficult. I wasn’t attending births any longer. Until that point, I didn’t realize how much that extra money per month was helping. Money was getting very tight and DH’s paychecks were getting smaller due to smaller commission checks. It came to the point that I realized I either could pay off some outstanding debts or pay the midwives for a home birth. I knew that I had to take care of the debt before anything else. It was a hard and bitter pill to swallow, knowing I wouldn’t be able to have a home birth. I cried, regrouped, and then cried some more. DH was willing to sell a kidney at this point, but I smacked myself back into reality and told myself things would be fine. Then I realized I had to contact the home birth midwives. I cried some more. I wrote email after email only to delete them. I tried to figure out a way to squirrel away money for 2 weeks before it became painfully obvious it wasn’t going to work. The midwife was loving and amazing. At least, that’s what DH told me. I never read the response to my email. I was too afraid and too ashamed. DH said she offered different options, but at that point I couldn’t fathom spending thousands of dollars on a home birth when we were having trouble paying bills. I cried some more and painfully said goodbye to my wonderful birth that I had daydreamed about.

Surprisingly, I began to feel better. The anxiety from the money situation had lessened greatly. I told myself I would still have an amazing birth. Then I realized I wouldn’t be able to have a water birth with the practice I was with (they aren’t offered). That realization knocked the wind out of me. Since witnessing my first water birth, I had been unable to picture myself giving birth any other way. Yeah, I cried some more. I did a lot of crying at the end of 2013. Advice about switching providers came back around and I found myself silently apologizing to all my doula mothers who had heard the same speak I was giving myself. “It’s okay to switch providers late in pregnancy. You want to choose a provider who offers and supports what you want out of your birth.” I knew if I wanted a water birth, I would have to go to North Fulton hospital and a new midwifery practice. On Christmas Eve, I switched again. My first appointment was as great as it could be with two kids who were flipping out. During my time with them, I also found out there were more issues with my records. Thankfully, things got fixed and I was able to relax again.

Then the Snowpocalypse of 2014 happened. DH was stranded in Atlanta for nearly 48 hours. When he got back to the office, he had a job offer for Jacksonville, FL. It seemed like a no-brainer! He was offered a significant raise, promotion, and all in a place where it is likely to never snow. He had been offered promotions before. They never materialized into legitimate job offers. This one was different. It was legit and they wanted him there in two weeks. They needed an answer fast.

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I was 34 weeks pregnant. It sounded insane. We talked about it. We agreed it was truly an amazing opportunity. I told him it would be career suicide with this company to turn it down. We decided to go for it. He made the call and accepted the offer. I was supposed to start looking for a place to live and arrange the move. It became horribly real and I bawled. It was an awful ugly cry that resulted in DH offering to cancel the entire thing. I sobbed about how I wouldn’t have my doula or my circle of friends to support me. He offered to search high and low for a FL doula. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I refused saying it wouldn’t be the same and it wouldn’t be my doula. Oh, it hurt. It hurt to have to give up so much. I had given up my dream of a home birth, doula, and birth photographer. I was leaving my people who understood me so well. I had half-baked dreams of staying up here until the baby was born. I looked into it for about an hour before realizing it wouldn’t work either. Time to switch providers for the 5th time.

When DH first breathed the word Jacksonville, I immediately typed in “midwives in Jacksonville, FL” in Google. I was elated to see birth centers and home birth midwives among the top 5. I quickly emailed two birth centers after checking out their pages. It was a bit of a balm for a hurting heart to see two birth centers, both that offered water birth. However, I was worried I would have a hard time being a late transfer: my due date was April 15th and we were moving in on March 5th. The Birth Center of Jacksonville replied quickly and reassured me they had room and would take me. That began an email correspondence that took away all my fears about switching. I scheduled my first appointment for the March 7th!

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I walked in and felt at home. It was lovely and smelled fabulous. Cecilia sat down and went over the paperwork with me, explaining it as she did. There were toys and books for my boy to play with and they weren’t fazed by his crazy self. I met Shea and instantly knew she was the midwife I had been waiting for and dreaming of. Through the rest of my pregnancy, she remained that person. She introduced me to several people and my first official Jacksonville friend. It’s official because she said she was now my first friend in FL. 😉

After this, I felt confident that I would be okay without a doula, but I still wanted one. I felt like I would need someone before the midwives got there. We weren’t sure what we were going to do with my older two. I knew DH may end up taking care of them, leaving me on my own unless I had a doula. I had contacted someone before moving, but after asking around, along with my own interactions with her, I decided it would not be a good fit. Cass, my official friend, told me of one of her friends named Kara who was just beginning as a doula. I called her and clicked. We met at Starbucks and I loved her. She was upbeat, positive, and I knew I would welcome her presence during labor. She was upfront and told me that she would be out-of-town the last week of April. I laughed and reminded her my due date was April 15th and my last baby had been born at 38 weeks. I didn’t see myself going past 40 weeks. Oh, sweet naive past self, bless your heart.

March 30, 2014.

March 30, 2014.

April 18, 2014.

April 18, 2014.

 

Things had fallen into place it seemed. I had a kick ass birth team assembled, I had survived a move, and I was feeling great! 38 weeks passed. So did 39 and 40. Shea and I were amazed. The baby had been engaged since around 38 weeks; her head was well below my pubic bone. She was LOA and doing great. I was having prodromal labor, which I had with my son. His was due to him being posterior. With Violet, I practiced Optimal Fetal Positioning techniques from 24 weeks on. I was determined to not have a malpositioned baby. The start and stop contractions play a game on your mind. You get excited only to be let down. I tried to ignore them for the most part. There were a few that caught my breath and gave me a little hope, but they’d soon go away. I began to worry Kara wouldn’t be able to make it. We began talking about back-ups because she was leaving soon. I’m not sure who was more bummed at the aspect of Kara not being at my birth: me or her!

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41 weeks came. People got on my nerves. I disabled my Facebook wall. I disabled tagging. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone who was going to utter the words “When are you gonna have that baby?!” or “Have you had that baby yet?”

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I began to get nervous. My daughter was 41w3d and was induced. Would I get induced again? Did this mean having a hospital birth after all? Sometime near the end of March, Shea had asked me if I was having a home birth or coming to the birth center. I told her I thought home birth required me to pay the entire fee out-of-pocket. She said nope! It’s included. The only difference in the birth kit would be buying a pool if I wanted a water birth. I brought it up to DH and he was 110% on board. It solved a lot of logistical problems and we decided to go for it. We didn’t tell anyone. Partially because I was afraid of jinxing it and partially because I didn’t want to hear anything but positive, supportive comments.

Until that point, I hadn’t wanted any cervix checks. They’re a let down and I didn’t want them to mess with my head like they had during my previous labors. When I got one, I was relieved to be dilating and effacing. I had set myself up to be prepared to hear “no change”. Thankfully, I was wrong. At 41 weeks, I had a BPP  to check on Violet and make sure she was doing well. She passed with flying colors and the nurse scheduled my next BPP for 42 weeks on 4/30. Shea went out-of-town for a week for a conference and I was on pins and needles that Violet would decide to come when she was gone! Nope, kid stayed put and waited on Shea! Then Sunday came and Kara left. I had been having off and on contractions the entire weekend and was really hoping to go into labor before she left. Someone had different plans.

4/29. Last "belly pic"!

4/29. Last “belly pic”!

At nearly 41w5d (4/28), I got a frantic phone call from the midwife who was taking over while Shea was gone. The nurse had screwed up; I was supposed to be getting BPPs every 3 days. She told me I needed to go in today. I called DH and burst into tears. He came home and we all went up to the hospital. Since I didn’t have an appointment, I had to be worked into triage. My BP was good, unlike two weeks ago when it had been high. Went back into an exam room and encountered my first problem: the tech.

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Went into the office on 4/29 to talk about a game plan. We decided to try to strip my membranes, which didn’t really happen due to the cervix position and the fact her head was so low! We decided to try Labor Enhancer and B&B Labor Formula. I took some that night and had contractions, but they stopped when I went to bed.

4/29. The picture that showed me all my new stretch marks.

4/29. The picture that showed me all my new stretch marks.

Woke up that morning to a huge glob of mucus and I knew my cervix had significant change. Shea confirmed this with a quick cervix check. I took some more of the tinctures and some nasty castor oil and nothing. Shea and her apprentice, Angie, went to grab some food and encouraged me to be positive. DH, DS, and I went for a walk, ate some lunch, and then it was time to go get DD from school.

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At 3:44pm I sent Shea a text that said “They are much more intense. And start very suddenly.” She replied that she was in the parking lot, to let her know when to come up because she didn’t want me to feel like a watched pot. At 3:48 I told her to come up and active labor was in full swing. Actually, it felt like it picked up and ran straight into transition.

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This is how I spent a good bit of my labor. I was listening to HypBirth tracks, which made an amazing difference. I had been listening to a mix of these tracks and Hynobabies for a few months. At first, the contractions matched up rather nicely to the labor tracks. They’d last roughly the same time as each timed segment. All I did was hit pause and play. At some point, however, they no longer aligned. I switched to the next track aka longer contractions, less time between them. It got to the point when nothing was aligning and I was angrily skipping to the part of the track that had the directions like “Relax your shoulders. Relax your bottom.” etc. At some point, DH got home with the kids. I don’t really know when or even remember him coming in the room. I know at one point, DD brought me a cup of blue Gatorade that I swear I drank all at once. It tasted delicious.

I remember getting up at some point and going to the bathroom to sit on the toilet. I remember telling Shea and Angie that I didn’t “give a damn about the goddamn bear!” that the Hypbirth track kept mentioning. I think I also went on to say how I didn’t care about fresh-baked bread and whatever other illustrations the track tried to have you imagine. The one mental image that helped was when you’re told to imagine a circle of women. The circle widens as a new woman comes and joins hands with the existing women. I pictured close friends who had been nothing but encouraging and supportive. It helped me on such a deep level to know these women were thinking of me and holding my space, though a state away.

Our bathroom was nearly pitch black and I liked it. I liked how cool it was in there as well. I know at some point someone asked me if I wanted to get the water and I managed to say yes. They began filling the pool and I swear it felt like it took forever. I got in and it felt amazing. DD was my fantastic little helper. She held my drink so I could have some and made sure I had cold wash cloths. I don’t know how long I was in there, but I did get out because I had to pee.  I think it was at this point in the bathroom that I had Lee take the kids to the neighbor’s. Looking back, I must have been in the bathroom for a while for DH to get the kids to the neighbor’s and come back. I vaguely remember him saying something about “The kids are at…” and then blocking him out.

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I remember walking out from the bathroom and laying on the bed because the 7 feet or so to the pool was unbearable during contractions that felt like they were coming right on top of each other. Laying down on the bed felt better for about a minute and then the contractions hit again. I just laid there moaning. It alternated between “Ouch” and “Fuck.” It was a lovely chorus of “Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch.” and “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.” There were “It hurts.” peppered in. I do remember those. DH also was applying counter pressure to my lower back. One time he pressed too hard. I do remember yelling something at him and the pressure decreased immediately.

At some point, while laying on the bed, I realized I hadn’t had any contractions in a while. It was the gorgeous “rest and be thankful” stage. Let me tell you, I was really freakin’ grateful. I decided to get up and go pee again. It was at that moment, I again mentally apologized to every laboring woman I’d ever suggested sitting on the toilet to. I’m so sorry, ya’ll. I am so sorry. It hurt. It hurt a lot. And I knew she was about to come. I could feel her. I thought about my friend Ashley and mentally reminded myself I did not want to have my baby in the toilet, despite the fact I cleaned it yesterday.

I got in that miracle water again. Oh, it was so amazing.

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I didn’t have contractions, or at least none like before, this time around. I could feel her moving down. I reached down and could feel her head. What amazed me throughout labor was how clear my mind was. I could think! Things weren’t foggy. I understood what my body was doing and I had real thoughts. With Noah, the IV meds made me feel like I was stumbling around in a thick, horror film like fog. This labor was a bright, sunny meadow with delicious breezes and flowers. Yes. There was that much of a difference.

An inner dialogue began. It went something like this:

“I could push now. {pushes a little} Damn. That hurt. I’m never pushing again. My legs are tired. I’m tired. I could push and have a baby. But I don’t want to push. I’m not pushing. I can feel her head. She’s almost here. It’s almost over. You could push and have a baby. {pushes a little} I don’t like pushing. I’m not pushing. IF YOU PUSH YOU COULD HAVE A BABY. I DON’T WANT TO PUSH! {good, long push} OMG. She is crowning.”

 It was at that point I think I uttered the only words I said in the pool until she was actually born: “She’s coming.” Suddenly, there was a flurry of activity. Shea and Angie were at the side of the pool, I heard things being opened and two flashlights appeared out of nowhere.

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To my amazement, there was no “ring of fire”. I don’t know if it was because of the water or because I pushed when I wanted to and let her descend mostly on her own before even attempting pushing. I felt her head come out and then had a brief moment of panic. I remember telling Shea or Angie to help me with her shoulders. They couldn’t really given the odd position I was in, plus it was hard to see. Shea later told me she touched her shoulder and she slid out.

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I only pushed for about 15 minutes. Violet Shalom was born at 7:10pm, April 30, 2014. She weighed a whopping 10lbs, 3oz. & was 22″ long! I was so happy she was finally here! I didn’t stay in the tub very long; I wanted to get out and get dry. The placenta came out easily. I want to say someone, possibly myself, cracked a comment about how it was so much easier without bones.

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DH held her while I got out of the tub and into bed. Angie checked and proclaimed with a touch of awe in her voice, “NO tears!” I was a bit shocked as well! I was bleeding more than they liked, so I smelled something in a glass jar. I don’t know what it was, only that it smelled good. Lots of palpitating to feel around. Got into the bathroom to try to pee and felt like I had forgotten how to pee. It was unnerving. I couldn’t pee. It didn’t matter what I did. They asked if I was okay with getting some pitocin. I agreed and Angie administered the shot. Bleeding still wasn’t to their liking and they did some more checking. Angie spotted a piece of membrane from the placenta and went fishing. Okay, really she just clasped it with some metal thing and it slid out. Fishing sounds more interesting. I took some cytotec orally because my body had still decided blood wasn’t necessary for survival. It calmed down and I was tucked snuggly into bed. Shea brought me some food that I think I scarfed down. Angie brought me some OJ with liquid iron in it. Jenn snapped some wonderful photos of the Bigs meeting Violet. I’m not sure when exactly DH went to get them or if someone else went to get them? Hmm.

Our first, and so far only, picture as a family of 5.

Our first, and so far only, picture as a family of 5.

I love this so so so much.

I love this so so so much.

At some point, Jenn dropped her camera and one of her lenses broke. I think this happened when Shea was weighing Violet. They weighed her at the foot of the bed and I wish I had a picture of her and Lee’s face. They were in shock.

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It was magical. Being able to crawl into my own bed, surrounded by all my things…it’s an experience I can’t fully explain. It’s been almost 2 months and it still feels like someone else’s birth story. It was healing on so many different aspects. It fixed a part of me I didn’t realize was in need of repair. I’m still in awe that I did it. I had the birth I had been fantasizing about since May 2012. The players changed, but I’ve come to believe the people who were meant to be there were.

 

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We’ve had our good days and our bad days. Violet is a wonderful baby. She’s a snuggle bug, great sleeper, and a great (and painless!) eater after her lip tie was taken care of. Her middle name truly fits. “According to Strong’s Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full.” (thank you Google)

Her birth was peaceful and brought me an inner peace I needed. She completes our family in a way I couldn’t have imagined.

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Midwife & birth assistants: Shea, Angie, Jenn
Birth Photos by Jennifer Nash

Sample of Labor Playlist*:
You Know Better Than I Dallyn Vail Bayles
Homeward Bound Kristene Mueller (Thank you, Zoe!)
Here Comes The Sun The Beatles
Defying Gravity 
Glee Cast
Points of Authority/99 Problems/Encore Jay Z & Linkin Park
When You Believe Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston
Diamonds On The Inside Ben Harper
Lullaby Dixie Chicks
Isn’t She Lovely Glee Cast
Don’t Stop Believing Glee Cast
Raise Your Glass P!nk
Sharp Dressed Man ZZ Top
Little Miss Sugarland

*Obviously, I have the most eclectic mix of music known to man. There was also Elvis, The Temptations, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, and many others. This playlist was mainly played during the lovely prodromal labor and while I was waiting for active labor to start. Once the active labor started, I switched to HypBirth.

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