Morgan Justice Lee - www.mikeandjamie.net
Charlotte > Pregnancy Story
Let's just say that a bottle of red wine on your thirtieth birthday = instant pregnancy. With our son, I knew exactly when my last menstrual cycle had been, but no idea when we conceived, because he was our first and we had more "time and energy". Between working full-time, being a mom to a very biosterous 2-yo, and my husband having a busy time at work, there wasn't much time for keeping track of periods or doing the thing that makes the babies, so we happened to know exactly when this one was conceived, which was nice. We were not trying, but also not "not" trying either. I was three months into a year long internship that was the last part of the six year journey towards earning my PhD and had hoped to get pregnant when I was farther along with things, but such is life. I was exactly three weeks off cycle from our son's pregnancy, so I knew more or less what to expect, and at least had seasonably appropriate maternity clothes.
I realized I was pregnant the weekend after Thanksgiving. We had had a small gathering, just my parents and sibs and a few close friends. I thought I was tired from all of the cooking and cleaning and working so hard, but this was more than that. We were at Target that next week and I suggested to DH (dear husband) that maybe we should pick up a pregnancy test kit as I was a few days late and just couldn't shake the feeling of being completely exhausted. I didn't take it until the next morning, as they say the first urine of the day is the one that is the best indicator of pregnancy. When I was pregnant with DS (dear son) both lines came up immediately. When I peed on this stick, only the "valid test" line showed, so I figured I was not pregnant and put the stick on the back of the toilet. DH was in the shower, I was sitting on the floor chatting with him, and DS wandered in having just woken up and needed to go pee-pee. Of course, he wanted to see what this funny thing on the back of the toilet was, and as I was throwing it out (not exactly a good toy for a toddler), I glanced at it and saw two bright lines. My breath caught for a minute, I couldn't believe I was pregnant. For about half a nano-second, I panicked as I quickly calculated the dates and realized this baby would be born before my position ended, but then I was just filled with elation. DH and DS were so happy. (DS mostly b/c his father and I were, I doubt he had any understanding of what was happening). We had gotten pregnant very quickly with our son, and always wondered if we could repeat that feat. We were together for eight years before getting pregnant with DS and had used various methods of birth control that whole time. Good thing, because based on our "fertility compatibility" we would have six kids by now if not using protection!
With this pregnancy and birth, I knew I wanted to do things very differently than I had with my son. In the years since his birth, I had come in contact with an amazing group of women who had birthed their babies at home under the care of certified professional midwives, or "lay midwives". After reading tons of books and articles about midwifery and homebirth, I knew that this was the right choice for our family. DH was very supportive as he had felt so out of his element and stressed out in the hospital. Also, the inclusion of DS in this process was completely under our control. We got a few names of midwives practicing in CT and started making calls. The one midwife we really loved was going to be at a conference the week before my due date, so she suggested maybe I could have tandem care with another midwife she works with. They were both so amazing and we were very thankful for the way in which it worked out. Our one midwife would come to our home in the evenings for prenatals, and with the other, we would go to her home in New Haven on Saturday mornings and then get to spend the afternoon in one of our favorite cities (we lived there for three years). The visits would last from one to two hours, and in addition to taking my BP, heart rate, testing my urine, and listening to the baby, we would just talk. DS was always involved and really loved helping the midwives measure my growing belly, etc. Additionally, I could call them at any time with any question and know they would get back to me with a thoughtful answer ASAP.
The first trimester passed very quickly, I was nauseous and tired, but it wasn't so bad. I had some pretty intense headaches, for which I used accupuncture very successfully. The only time I threw up was the day in which I told my supervisors at work that I was pregnant and due before my internship ended. I tend to be a bit of a people-pleaser, so for me, this was difficult. Everyone was wonderfully supportive and we calculated that if I didn't take any vacation or sick time, I would end up square with my requirements. By the second trimester, I was feeling much better, but I was getting big much more quickly then I did with my son. While this is typical, we decided I should have an ultrasound at 16 weeks, to make sure there was only one baby and that my dates were accurate. We decided that we didn't really want to know the gender, and we would let the baby decide if they were ready to reveal themself. Everything was fine, the baby was measured as being 16 weeks 1 day, and during the scan, the baby had its legs crossed the entire time and its hands together in front of its face as though it were praying. We were happy to not know the gender. In addition to the ultrasound, the only other test I had done during the pregnancy was a routine blood screen, which came back with everything nice and normal. Based on information provided by my midwives, I was more active in managing my nutrition this pregnancy. In addition to my prenatal vitamins, I also took Omega-3 fish oil pills and acidophillis daily. I massively upped my protein intake and began having a daily glass of raspberry leaf, nettle, and oat straw tea (which DH was happy to keep brewed and ready). I exercised as much as I was able (mostly walking at work and dancing/playing with DS). I continued to get accupuncture treatments for headaches and stress. We spent a lot of time reading about homebirth and talking about how we wanted ours to be. We met with the midwives once a month and the second trimester passed as quickly as the first.
By the third trimester, I was really getting big. I felt great, and continued to work full time. I tried to rest as much as possible, and I was in the bath at least once every day. Starting at 34 weeks, we began to see the midwives more frequently, at first every two weeks and then every week starting a month from my estimated due date which was August 7, 2007. I hardly had any of the normal pregnancy discomforts, no heart burn, no constipation, no swelling, etc. I think the herb tea and additional supplements really helped keep many of those symptoms away. We began to get everything together for the birth. At first, I didn't think I wanted a birth pool, but as I got bigger and bigger and was having a hard time relaxing in the tub, we decided to get one (La Bassine). At 36 weeks we had our home visit so that our midwives could meet the people who would be there during the birth and make sure that we had everything ready for the baby. Throughout the pregnancy I had really gone back and forth about who I would want to be around while I was birthing. At times it seemed like having a full, jovial house was the way to go, but more and more as I got closer to my due date, I wanted only a few necessary people to be there, DH, DS, the midwives, and our very good friends and neighbors to look after DS.
For me, the idea of DS becoming a big brother was one of the most appealing aspects of this pregnancy. We talked about the baby from the beginning, he was at all of my prenatal visits and helped with all of my "tests". We watched lots of movies of gentle homebirths. One of my favorite memories was of watching one set of clips with DS from Brazil of women squatting and giving birth as though it were absolutely nothing. The next video had a western women on her back (at home) kind of moaning through her birth, although it was still very peaceful in comparison to a hospital birth. At one point DS turned to me and said, "mama, she needs to stand up." What an amazing amount of understanding in such a small child. We talked endlessly about the birth, DS probably knows more about the female reproductive system than most Americans. One morning at breakfast he asked his father, "Do you have a placenta?" of course, the answer was no, but then DS followed with, "I have a placenta, but it doesn't talk, it just feeds my baby." DS was always asking if my nursies had milk yet (he weaned at 21 months so remembered nursing). We talked about what the birth would be like, that mama would make loud sounds, and we would practice so he wouldn't be scared. The plan was to see how he and I felt while I was in labor and to include him if possible/willing. We talked about whether the baby would be a boy or a girl and DS always insisted he was having a sister. We talked about how the baby would be born in August, and he said he wanted the baby to have his birthday which is the 15th, but not of August (DS was born in July). We could not have asked for more from him, he was helpful and sweet and so interested in the whole process.
At 37 weeks a few things happened that made me think this baby might come on the early side. It dropped really low into my pelvis, and I started losing my plug. I had been having strong Braxton Hicks contractions, and these intensified, especially in the evenings. I also began having severe bouts of nausea. My pelvic area was awful, it was so lose and sore. I started getting chiropractic treatments to help with my lower back pain and pelvic discomfort. For the next month, things continued this way. Lots of leaking plug, lots of contractions, LOTS of having to pee, but no labor. The time my one midwife was out of town came and went, and then the day my other midwife was away for a wedding came and went. I finished working a few days before my due date, we were having an August heat wave and I was so hot and uncomfortable, I finally took the extra sick days I had been storing. We did everything we could think to do, lots of walking, cuddling, laughing, eating labor inducing foods, and nothing. We pulled DS from full-time day care to two half days per week and he and I spent some really lovely days together. By 40 weeks, I was very, very uncomfortable. I had been napping almost daily and spending lots of time floating in the birth pool, which was so soothing. At that weeks visit, the midwife checked me and said I was 1cm dilated, and about 60% effaced. The 40th week came and went. I felt very solitary, and didn't want to be around anyone but DH and DS. I was having a hard time mentally staying calm, and even had a few scares where I felt like the baby hadn't moved for a while and feared it had died. Unlike when I was pregnant with DS, I read stories this time of babies who had died in utero or been stillborn. I felt like in order to fully accept the responsibility of this birth, I needed to accept that death was a part of the process. However, sometimes I think these stories really got to me.
I was at 41 weeks and ready to get the show on the road. It was a Monday and on Wednesday, our neighbors were leaving for vacation, not to return until Sunday. I felt like they were to people I wanted to have looking after DS. So, I went in for some accupuncture to see if that would help that afternoon. That evening DH and I cuddled and to read the rest of this story, you have to go to the birth story.