Saturday, September 30, 2006

the first weeks

jenny, andy and maia drew a beautiful chalk-art welcome for noah on our sidewalk. it was so nice to come home to our friends, who cooked, cleaned and helped in so many ways during noah's first few days. aaron was off work for a few weeks and it was so great to have time to relax together and get to know our new little boy. although i tried to take it easy, it was hard to stay inside on the beautiful spring days in late april and early may. noah enjoyed a lot of little outings while he was still super tiny, including a lovely taize service at church, which he really seemed to enjoy!

noah's birth

my labor began around 4:30am on monday, april 24, eight days after noah's easter sunday due date. i woke up to mild contractions and took a shower while i got used to the idea that noah would be born soon. after my shower i got back into bed and tried to go back to sleep, which didn't work. as the contractions strengthened, i woke aaron and told him what was happening. we lay in bed together for a while, then got up and tried to have breakfast. aaron began charting the contractions as i tried unsuccessfully to eat. after breakfast i took a bath, hoping the hot water would calm me and ease the pain. it did a bit, but by then i was really uncomfortable and also getting scared. i called christina in beverly who encouraged me to call the midwives and head to the birth center, where i'd probably be more comfortable. i was hesitant since i'd hoped to wait out a big part of my labor at home, like i'd read about in ina may's stories. but in those stories the women are taking walks and playing cards, enjoying their time in labor, while already i felt like i couldn't do anything else except breathe! but christina also reminded me that women have been having babies for thousands of years, and that i could do it too. at about 10:30am we gathered our stuff and headed to the birth center. our friend jenny, who we'd asked to be at the birth with us, followed in a few hours.

i got into the big tub at the birth center right away, which felt really good. but already i was in hard labor, feeling scared and in lots of pain. i thought labor would be easier, or at least slower! i labored for a few hours, and then my midwife catriona checked my dilation--only about 3.5! she suggested that breaking my water manually might speed things up a bit, so we tried that. as my water spilled into the bath, catriona found a lot of meconium (baby poo) in the fluid--enough that it made her worry about noah's respiratory health during birth. she broke the news that we would need to transfer to the hospital so that respiratory technicians could be on hand immediately following the birth to clean out noah's lungs. big bummer! i was really sad to have to leave the birth center and to let go of the idyllic image i'd had of giving birth in that beautiful room. catriona also told us then that when she'd done the internal exam she found that noah's position was "occiput posterior" or "sunny side-up," meaning that his back was to my back instead of along my belly. she told us that position often leads to long, painful labor ("back labor") and that pushing would be hard too since the bigger part of noah's head would be presenting. this explained why i'd felt so much pain in my back, asking aaron, catriona or jenny to press on my lower back each time i had a contraction, or not wanting to be get out of the tub, where i was able to sit and press my back against its side. this news was also a major disappointment and source of anxiety. but catriona said that lots of women are still able to give birth vaginally to o.p. babies, and that she still thought i could do it. so we gathered our things and headed to the hospital (which meant a very very slow walk to the car, stopping every few feet for contractions, and a very uncomfortable drive the few blocks to the hospital).

at the hospital i was able to get right into the tub in the birthing room, which helped again but not as much. by this time i was in so much pain i couldn't do anything but try not to wish i were dead. i had no idea labor could be so painful. (i shouldn't write this down, as it might make me not want to have more babies! but already my memory fails me and it's hard to conjure up just how intense this experience was. which i'm sure is a good thing.) the nurse offered me some kind of mild drug that she said might ease the pain a bit. i aquiesced, hopeful that the pain would go away, but the drug just made me sleepy in between contractions (which maybe in retrospect was helpful). but i was still only about 6cm dilated by 7 or 8pm, and i was more exhausted and wrecked than i thought possible. i finally decided to get an epidural, which was really scary to me--but i couldn't imagine lasting any longer in hopes of pushing noah out without a bit of help. the epidural, though i still think they're scary and not ideal, was really really helpful at that point. i was able to rest for a few hours while my body continued contracting and dilating on its own. it was so bizarre to be laying there contracting, while aaron, jenny, catriona and i chatted about boats, babies, food, whatever! drugs are so crazy.

i think it was around 11 or midnight when i was dilated fully, and my doctor encouraged me to start pushing. another bizarre experience, considering with the epidural i couldn't feel anything below my belly. it was really hard to isolate the muscles i needed for pushing, or to know whether my efforts were accomplishing anything at all. everyone was so encouraging, and in some ways i remembering the pushing stage as a really nice communal experience. but after a few hours with no real results, the doctor and o.b. conferred about the possibility of trying forceps to help noah's head out. they decided that forceps would be too risky and that the only alternative left was a cesearean section. this news was super sad for me, the real end to the dream i'd had of a beautiful, natural birth. i cried for a while, but i really trusted my doctors and midwife catriona, who said she agreed with their assessment. so around 2:30am we headed to the operating room.

both catriona and aaron came in with me, which was really nice. i'd never had surgery before, and aside from the fact that i was about to see my newborn baby, the whole surgery thing was a really bizarre experience. the lights were super bright, there were about a thousand people running around, my belly was being sliced open, and i got the chills big time. my jaw would not stop chattering and later it was really sore. but aaron and catriona were by my sides, and aaron went around the curtain and cut noah's umbilical cord when he came out. he followed noah over to the respiratory technicians and then went with noah and the nurses to get cleaned and dressed while i was sewed (i.e. stapled) up. crazy. the whole thing probably took 15 minutes. noah barnes was born at 2:43am on tuesday, april 25. he weighed 9 pounds, 6 ounces and was 23 inches long.

after surgery i was wheeled into our room where aaron, noah and jenny were waiting. aaron handed noah to me and he nursed right away. what a wild thing! he knew exactly what to do. he seemed so bright and alert from the very start, his eyes wide open, checking out his new world. and still people describe him as bright, alert, interactive, wise. he must have been wide-eyed on the inside too.

we stayed in the hospital until thursday afternoon. while we were there we had lots of visitors and didn't get much sleep! mother andrea came and blessed noah, anointing him with oil. since i was bedridden, aaron was in charge of diapering, and he still says he taught me how to do it since i was a deadbeat mom at the beginning. he and noah bonded a lot in those first few days. maybe that's a benefit of c-sections?

first diapering with dad

tiny fingers

are you my mother?

sleeping with dad

going home

the beginning

noah began in july of 2005, as a desire between me and aaron to share our love with another little person. during a bandstra family trip to smithers, BC in august, we weren't sure if i was pregnant or not. two nauseating 14-hour drives later and we found out i was! when i went to work the morning we found out, i left the positive pregnancy test on the bathroom counter with the directions on how to read the results. a few hours later my brother jeremy, who was living with us then, called me at work and yelled, "jess!" "what?" i asked calmly. "are you pregnant?" he demanded, and when i told him it was true he shouted with joy.

our first ultrasound, november 2005

belly pictures, up until the day before noah's birth (lying on our lawn with maia cowan)