God Will Add (Or, Ram and Bull)
At first, thoughts of birth/healthcare were overwhelming. We hoped for a simple, loving, safe experience. Our family members were granted peace of mind knowing we’d be in a hospital blocks from our house. Throughout the pregnancy, I did yoga in the mornings, walked on lunch breaks, and swam with James at the Y in the evenings. We felt healthy and strong, although I didn't eat super carefully. I failed my first glucose test and was very scared about Gestational Diabetes, also had Group B Strep, which can be encouraged by excess sugar in the diet. I wanted to try giving birth without drugs, but we promised we wouldn't be mad if things changed.
My belly was big & blood pressure was high as I took my 45 high school choir students to their District Festival performance. They joked that my labor would start in the middle of this important event. Thankfully, it didn't.
Two nights after our due date, James and I watched “The Muppets.” We love Flight of the Conchords and I'm always inspired by Jim Henson, so homerun. I had a feeling the baby would come the next day but wouldn't say it out loud.
We fell asleep late, and shortly after I woke with a terrible pain in my back. I tiptoed to the living room and began stretching. With my second cat-cow came a huge GUSH!
“James! It’s happening!” I yelled from the bathroom. The force of the fluid subsided, I took a shower, he finished packing a bag we would barely open in the hospital.
Groggy from one hour of sleep, stunned by the reality of it all.
Group B. Strep meant straight to the hospital as soon as the water was broken for antibiotics. They say labors tend to happen in waves, and we were on the tail end of one. We were admitted into a small delivery room (the last one) about 2am. We distributed our typed birth plan, stating my desire to stay as natural as possible. James turned “Graceland” on the iPod. Over the course of the night, we heard the moaning of a woman next door who had been in labor for over 24 hours.
I could feel my labor happening fast.
I hate needles, and was very anxious about the IV, and once inserted, I tried not to look at or think about it! Those late-night hours crept by, contractions becoming stronger. I felt hot and cold and sick and all sorts of things. I tried to labor on the birth ball, walk around our room a bit. We were so tired.
Two days earlier, two friends had given birth by cesarean to their new darlings. I was beginning to envy relief. The pain was strong, and I was dog tired! We’d close our eyes between each contraction, try to let sleep wash over us. I told James I couldn't do it anymore, and he said he believed I could. The next time nurse Jessica came in, I asked for drugs.
“Oh, it is so hard right now, but I really think you’ll feel better if you stick to your birth plan and do it without the pain medication.”
She checked me again, and felt a full head of hair- enough encouragement for me to power through.
Still, baby was faced sunny-side up, heading straight for my tailbone. The nurses had me in many different positions on the hospital bed, trying to move about the room a bit, but we couldn't turn the baby. I felt James there, light as air, steady.
I looked at James, my partner, my strength. “Josephine James is her name.” I said. “You were so amazing, staying by me this entire time.” He hadn't left my side, not even once.
“No,” he blushed, “Josephine Emily!”
I laughed, overcome with love for us, for the new star of our lives. Josephine: “God will Add.”
Heart on Her Tongue, Heart on My Sleeve
Early the next morning, our bouncy pediatrician visited to inspect our little darling. I beamed. Of course she was perfect, with her Duvernay nose and the cutest toned shape to her arms.
“She looks great! There’s just one thing... a little heart-shaped tongue.”
“What’s a heart-shaped tongue?” I was so tired.
“That little thing under her tongue, it’s just a little short. It’s a genetic trait. We'll just have to see how breastfeeding goes. If it’s going well, it probably won’t be a problem.”
I didn't want any problems. If I learned one thing while pregnant, it’s that I wanted to breastfeed my child. It had to go well. It hurt, but I thought it was supposed to at first. “It’s going well. I think she’s getting enough.” I didn't want to admit I my eyes were following the second hand. Ten minutes of toe-cringing pain.
Our favorite part was bringing her home. Amidst the first blissful days at home, the pain continued. The longest two weeks of my life- feeding the little angel every two hours. Guilt for the dread.
Thankfully, we were set up with a web of local resources. The latch looked great. Little JJ had a significant tongue-tie, and was working her hard little gums to get what she needed.
Surgery might help. Thankful not to have to worry about the circumcision indecision, but this seemed worse. We were warned by some that the procedure could be traumatic, painful. More internet searches, conversations with family and friends, nightmares. Without a frenectomy, there was a chance of a speech impediment and still needing surgery later. Trauma, though?
Am I selfish? Committed to breastfeed, but already at the end of my rope at one week? The scream-provoking pain I felt during childbirth was nothing compared to this silent, steady treatment.
Finally, James & I agreed that it was best to do it now. With a referral to the ENT in town, we scheduled to have our daughter snipped.
The morning of her frenectomy, I was trembling and teary. James’ strong right hand clasping mine. James’ strong left hand swinging her in the car seat. I had entered a different time-zone. One where I'd known her forever, and we'd been in agony just that long.
Our little tiny perfect baby, would we hurt her? What if the procedure didn’t change a thing, and it was all for naught?
The best doctor I ever met listened intentionally with bright blue eyes. His smile understood our apprehension and my despair. We held her, she fussed a bit as he inspected her little heart-shaped tongue. With assurance, told us it was time and called the nurse. In a swift motion, he snipped. Nothing from her, not a peep. No trauma.
I pulled her to my breast, eyes locked with James as a tiny drop of blood leaked from her little lips. We left within ten more minutes with a sleeping baby.
Changes in nursing weren't immediate, she didn’t learn the new range of motion for a few weeks. We continued working with an amazing lactation consultant until nursing was going strong.
The rest of our breastfeeding journey is another story. Bittersweet, but mostly sweet. Now, she’s singing her ABC’s and teaching me something new everyday. We continue to clash like we did on her birthday, but I'm learning patience and love grows. She’s going to be a sister, too!
With our baby due May 1, we are preparing for a home-birth. A midwife visits us at home regularly, and little Josey lifts up her shirt so she can listen to her belly, too. I am looking forward to a completely new experience, ready to trust myself more than last time, and ready for what decisions this new baby may bring.
I think back on that day in the doctor’s office, James swinging the car seat. I felt like I'd known her forever. Everyone says, "they'll change everything," and we'll barely remember life without each of our precious kids. I believe it. Can’t wait to meet the next new soul in our journey.