Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ziyan's Birth Story

First, as we all know, I birthed Zayd. That was one of, if not the singular most, pivotal moment in my life. I learned more about what I am capable of in those 22 hours and I have used that as a power ever since.  I learned about the sacrifice and beauty of doing for your children what needs to be done. And about the ultimate reward that my children can be/are. His birth felt miraculous.

Then I birthed Zahra just the next year. That experience, so close on the heels of Zayd, felt natural, peaceful and beautiful. I didn't have any fear because I had walked the journey before. Her birth was beautiful and everything I could have wanted to give her as she entered the world.

With Ziyan, I feel like his birth was hard-won. I fought for his birth through a labor that kept challenging me. More specifically, I felt like the labor, in the end, wanted me to challenge it. And I did. How fitting is that as an ending to the years-long campaign I have been running for third baby. I spent years trying to convince Sam that I really really wanted a third baby. And then I spent three days birthing him. Of course. I shouldn't want it any other way.

With Ziyan, I almost went into labor at 37 weeks and 2 days. I had a good three hours of real contractions at the St. Anthony hotel after spending nearly 17 hours hosting one heck of a 40th birthday bash for my dear husband. Had that been the actual birth, it would have been a messy one. The birth box hadn't arrived. We hadn't finished preparing...anything. I had a few critical things to do at work. And did I mention I was at a five-star hotel?? I was terrified that Z3 would enter the world without a preemie outfit, a birth tub liner, or those fancy clamps and scissors you use to cut the umbilical cord. (We were planning a home birth this time around and there is a lot more preparing that one must actually do. Though I will say not having to pack a bag is a definite bonus.) Needless to say, I did not go into active labor at 37w2d...I went into labor at 38w2d. I had managed to eek out just a little more time and also, maybe, to run that time into the ground with how much I accomplished in those seven little days.

Here is an abridged version of Ziyan's labor story. The birth was short and, as I look back, just as miraculous and beautiful as my first two. The labor was, frankly, hard won. This is a story of a labor of love, and sometimes one of desperation. This is the story of my home birth.

Before I had any inkling that Z3 was on the move, I woke feeling flu-ish on Saturday morning. Headache, sore throat and aching teeth that made me pop a benadryl and take to bed. I slept through the morning while Sam manned the lentil and lolly. Then we had a lazy day around the house. I thought I was sick. I have no idea if slowing down for one day has anything to do with how the next three days unfolded but I can kind of imagine my uterus talking to the rest of my body (similar to Inside Out) and giving a pep talk about how I was as rested as I had been in 90 days and we should get going.

Either way, by 11pm,  was tracking one minute contractions about five minutes apart, sometimes spacing to seven. They hurt and I had to use light coping mechanisms, but it felt just like the early labor of Zayd and Zahra. I tracked contractions all night, falling asleep for 40 minutes once either during a lull or when exhaustion took over and I fell asleep despite my contractions. At 4:15am I called my parents and told them I was in moderate labor, still at 1mx5m but getting stronger. I could no longer lie down and set about eating as much food as I could. Labor makes you hungry! At 6:30 I called the midwife and proudly announced that today was the day! I would keep her posted. Sam blew up the tub, we alerted the sitters, we prepared. We arranged for the midwife to come by after church. So, around 2pm, and 15 hours into this rodeo, how was I doing? I was at a whopping 4cm. That seemed wrong but I tried not to be too dismayed. 15 hours of labor ain't nothing. I couldn't imagine taking more than the 22 it took for Zayd so either way, I was meeting my baby today. My mom and I went to Babies R Us to spend the extremely generous giftcard my office had gifted to us. I had 6 ROCKING contractions during our 30 minute trip while hiding in the aisles and trying not to be noticed as I moaned. After that, I felt like I was on a roll and enlisted my neighbor family ladies to walk the river with me while eating Lick ice cream. (Did I mention that I ate a LOT that day??) We did but my contractions started to space and become more unpredictable. Now, they were still getting stronger but not closer together and not longer. Curses. 

BUT! That's ok, right? I have had all of my babies at night, this baby is just waiting for bedtime. I can wait, too. And bedtime came, and they were worse. Lovingly, Zayd would chant "Allahu" with me through my more primal chants. I am not sure what made him do it but it was so loving and so Zayd. Z3 should surely have been encouraged to come meet this kind big brother and the wild free-spirited sister who were ready to teach him everything about the world.

While my parents worked to entertain Z1 and Z2 I worked on laboring. I asked the big kids to draw me pictures of the baby for me to focus on. Zayd was so excited for his first task as a big brother to this new baby and promptly set to work. Twice that night supportive and inspirational images came under my door to help me through my labor. I hung both the firetruck and the bus right above the birth pool as my meditation visuals.

By bedtime, after my second 40 minute nap, I was spent, but still rocking painful contractions on a completely irregular schedule. At midnight, my sweet neighbor walked over to give me a pep talk as I wondered aloud what could possibly be happening inside my body.

It was a hard and trying day and I spent all 24 hours of it in labor with no fruit to bear. Besides all of that, I spent my day mostly surrounded by the ladies who I love and who obviously already loved this sweet third Z. They brought food, and jokes, and love. That is how labor should be. That is how womanhood should be. Despite what was a very long labor (that day), I received the gifts you are supposed to get from such an experience. I suppose I even had the benefit of receiving them for an extra long time.

I didn't get anymore long stretches of sleep, but did fall asleep for seven minutes out of every twelve minutes for a few hours that night. I rocked a one minute contraction pattern of 7 min then 90 seconds then 3 minutes apart...sleep...repeat. Everytime I lept up from a dead sleep, I was convinced the baby was coming. So, at 5:30am I summoned the midwife.

There's both so much to say and nothing worth mentioning about the next nine hours. I was at 6cm 31 hours into this labor. No tears were shed...I just had to work harder. I did circuits on and off the curb up and down my neighborhood street. I had a total of 15 contractions out there, in the misty rain, for any neighbor to see. I sat through eight contractions without getting up. It turns out that is nearly impossible. I choose (i.e. felt like I had to) mark each one as proof that I had done it and that baby was one contraction closer. But, as I insisted to the midwife, I am goal oriented, and I needed numbers and goals to keep moving forward. Somewhere in there (HOURS after being deemed a lowly 6) I achieved an almost as lowly 7cm. What on earth. So, I decided that we would do NONE of the things which made the contractions feel better. No back pressure, no bouncing, no rocking, none of it. All of that "coping" was getting in the way of progressing and I wanted to meet this baby. And, maybe even more, I wanted to get some sleep. I was on my last reserve and needed to earn my way into the tub. When I look back on it, it is perplexing how there is nothing you can control and yet so much that you can do in an effort to gain that control. And, in the really perplexing part, that all of the work to gain kind of works. (I am sure that wasn't the lesson I was meant to learn...that is my personal bias.)

At 39 hours in, I had spent probably thirty really intense minutes relentlessly pursuing each contraction. I paced, did lunges, and walked "stairs" on two yoga blocks. When each contraction came, I challenged each one to be worse than the one before. It was a head space where they couldn't hurt bad enough and then they hurt so bad I didn't know what to do. (In hindsight, I knew exactly what to do and I was doing it...but I had a moment where I was more exhausted than excited. I had doubt.) My water broke. Sweet goodness, I knew what that meant. My water has spontaneously broken with the lentil and lolly within an hour or so of having my babies. Usually I was pretty darn close to 10cm but no one was checking. That meant tub time.

And this is where I think I had my second hard moment. The tub wasn't full and I was in the throes of incomprehensible labor now. This is exactly where I had been when arriving at the birth center with the lentil and lolly BUT this was different. This time, I hadn't had 22 or so hours to get my zen on, I was still warrioring my way through labor. I expected to get in the tub and be zen. Immediately. But my head wasn't there yet. I just needed a few minutes, but the time for minutes of break were hours gone. There would be no more breaks...but there would be a baby. I pulled myself together and contemplated pushing, then held off for one more contraction. Then, I found my meditation visuals band I remembered why I was doing all of this labor, because the result is an amazing little person you get to love until the end of time. The result is blissful and beautiful and the greatest gift I could ever receive. I kept my eyes on the prize, and for now, that was Zayd's adorable bus and firetruck creations: happy, colorful, and somehow zen. Six minutes later, I gave birth to a sweet baby boy in my bedroom, in a warm tub of water, exactly the way I imagined. I pulled him up to me and held him in his first seconds of life. And I closed my eyes and spent a full two minutes quietly holding my sweet son and celebrating all that I had done and all that lays before us.

I was probably stronger in this labor than in the ones before, but I don't feel like I had the same grace. That is actually hard for me. I wouldn't have done it any other way, and when balancing the scales three days of labor versus two more weeks of pregnancy...I think I would choose and long-fought labor every time. I learned in this labor what I almost learned in the first two: that while your body knows exactly what to do, before you are in it, you actually don't know anything at all.

Below are some shots of Ziyan's first hour of life shot by my lovely neighbor-friend.

Here is Ziyan's newborn screen done right from the comfort of mommy's bed. He weighed in a 6 pounds 14 ounces and 20 inches long - our biggest baby ever even though he was two weeks early!

And here are the shots of our happy family basking in the joy of meeting our long-awaited Z3!

Good night sweet lovely.

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