Meet Clara Joan

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I am crazy about my little Clara! Her middle name, Joan, is after my grandma and has such special meaning to me. She looks so much like Liam did, so we have another Alex clone here. Good thing he's cute! 

Being the second baby, caring for a newborn doesn't seem nearly as stressful this time around. Perhaps because I have been around the block before, but some of the credit goes to her sweet, easygoing nature. As long as she is in someone's arms and involved in whatever is going on, she is happy. So thanks to that, and the fact that Liam has been an angel with her, this transition to two kids has been so much easier than I expected! Don't get my wrong, there are definitely moments when I feel way in over my head, that neither child is getting the love and attention they need. But it is wonderful and these little rugrats have brought so much love and complete joy. I can't wait until Clara is able to be Liam's little playmate, he is anxious for her to grow up already! But not yet because these newborn cuddles are heavenly. 

Birth Story- Clara Joan

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I can't believe how long it has taken me to put this on here! I wrote it out just a few days after, but never got around to looking through it again. Nap time is usually comprised of me running around like a chicken with its' head cut off, trying to do everything and anything. Or snoozing or eating chocolate. You know, priorities. 

Anyway, it was totally the kind of birth I prayed like crazy for. This time I read Ina May's book, and it really changed my perspective on what the labor/birth experience can be like. It can be enjoyed! I didn't know if it was possible, but a lot of women seemed to think so, so why not me? It is one of the most sacred experiences, and I wanted to remember it fondly instead of mostly remembering the pain and fear of it.

FYI, this is ridiculously long. You have been warned. (Also I don't know why this is coming up in different font sizes and it is driving me nuts!)

To start off, I lost my mucous plug at 38 weeks to the day, which got me really excited at the idea of having the baby early! I remember with Liam the contractions started right after losing my mucous plug. So I was expecting something like that. At first I laid low, but right when 39 weeks hit I really put things into gear! Lots and lots of stairs (ahem the 21 flights of our apartment building), squats, bouncing on the birthing ball, etc.. But turns out baby didn’t give a dang about all of that, and stayed snug (and high) in my ribs.

At 39.5 weeks I had a doctor’s appointment, when she mentioned that she is going out of town for the next week. “But the good news is” she said, “you are still nice and tight and baby is nice and high, so likely you will still be pregnant when I get back!” ...GOOD NEWS?! I think not. It didn’t help that she recommended Dr. Huguet as her replacement if I did go into labor, who was my doctor for Liam. I did not like her one bit. To say the least I left feeling very discouraged.

My main worry at this point was that the baby would come late, each day marking one less day I would have the help of my mom. She arrived on the morning of the 24th, the day before my due date. I had little contractions here and there throughout the day, but nothing real. These would make me excited, so I would jump up and run some stairs or do some other exercises to hopefully get labor really started.  Ironically exercise seemed to drive them away. Usually they came on when I was sitting down and relaxed.

On the drive home we saw the biggest full moon I had ever seen- it looked like it was so close! My mom joked “don’t look away Victoria, it will put you into labor!” I guess she was right! Liam was also born on a full moon.

That night I was up off and on with contractions, but nothing too painful until around 3:30AM. After a couple in bed I got up to go to the bathroom and had a couple more contractions there. I got back in bed, and when I heard Alex stirring I told him I am having pretty strong ones and needed his help. For the next hour we cuddled and he helped me focus on breathing. I was a little panicky that they were already starting off like this. I couldn't even do visual imagery, and went straight to focus on breathing. I thought, I am such a wuss this early on! They were still pretty spread out though, around 7 minutes but long- averaging 1:45 min.

However we were excited because we figured this could be it! And decided once the contractions got 5min apart we would call Dorothe (the doula.) So we decided to get up- I got ready, we finished packing last minute things for the hospital, and I sat on the birthing ball to get things rolling. But it seemed that getting up actually slowed the contractions down. Much to my dismay they were getting further and further apart.

By 10:15, I stopped timing the contractions all together and Alex went to work because at this point they were inconsistent (some being 20 min apart) and using the timer was only making me frustrated. However, each one (when it finally came) was strong. I would have to stop what I was doing, close my eyes, and focus. With each contraction I tried to do what Ina May taught in her book, to make each one count by visualizing the baby moving down and the cervix opening, staying relaxed as possible the whole time.

Hannah and her boys came over for lunch. We had a great talk while the boys played, and it seemed that contractions were getting somewhat closer together although I really had no idea since I wasn’t timing. They said each time I would get pale and once again, I'd have to stop what I was doing. After lunch we figured we should go to Hannah's house and go walking to see if that would help progress. At this point it was about 3pm and I was getting seriously bummed about the fact that it would be a loong night of likely no sleep (for the 2nd night in a row) like it was with Liam.

Right before we left I told them I would be back in 5 min as I quickly ran another round of stairs. But as I was leaving, probably the strongest contraction I'd had up until that point hit, leaving me dizzy. I decided not to do the stairs, and asked my mom to drive the car for me. That ended up being a good decision- because a couple contractions came on during the ride.

When we got there, the boys got to their usual playing. Mom and Hannah were raking the yard and I began pacing. That seemed to get the contractions coming consistently! The boys kept riding up to me in their little bikes, wondering what I was looking for and really confused why I would take so long to respond. At this point the contractions were taking my breath away, but I kept pacing. At 6pm I texted Alex that contractions were reeeally strong but to finish at work. I didn't want to get his (or my) hopes up! He asked me how far apart they were, so I reluctantly told him I would start timing again. To my surprise they were coming 5 min apart! I texted him and my doula. He left work and Dorothe said she was an hour away and would leave right away.

I went inside to talk to Hannah and my mom about the plan, which was difficult because I was also trying to maintain focus and kept having to walk out mid conversation. By the time Alex got there I was starting to fall apart and immediately grabbed him for support while he helped me through a few difficult contractions. Trying to figure out what to do with Liam, where to meet the doula, worried about the car ride home, etc was too much to think about in that moment. It felt so chaotic and overwhelming. I left it to them, and they decided to leave Liam there with my mom, while we ran back to our apartment to meet with Dorothe and grab our hospital things.

The car ride was difficult as I expected, every little bump and sudden stop made focusing so hard! Alex was my rock though, keeping me calm while leading us in counting together for breathing. Once we got inside the apartment, I instantly felt at ease. Finally I could relax! We turned on the calming playlist I had put together earlier, and while he made last minute preparations I walked around with a large blanket- swaying silently and calmly throughout contractions. He kept asking "did you just have another one?" And I would just nod. Concentrating was much easier now, and therefore the pressure was much more manageable.

When Dorothe arrived at 7, I was sitting indian style on the ground, leaning on the couch. She would time my contractions, which often I kept mistaking for back labor  and pressure from the baby descending/moving. Oh the back pain! It was the worst part by far. She said they were spread out (about 7 minutes), but I asked her to check my cervix anyway. Unfortunately she couldn't tell for sure how far dilated I was because it seemed that one side of the cervix was behind the baby's head. "You could be a 2 or a 7 for all I know, and I don't want to give you false information." Not what I wanted to hear!

At this point even the slightest movement would bring on a contraction, or pain from her moving. Like I said it was rather difficult to tell when they started or stopped, or which was which. Dorothe called a midwife with more experience to come and she arrived about 30 minutes later. While waiting, I was pacing and starting to feel like we needed to leave for the hospital. The midwife arrived and checked me. In a very nonchalant tone she said, “pode ir ao hospital.... oito centimetros” ("you can go to the hospital. 8cm.") 8!?!?! I was totally elated and immediately fist pumped the air with a huge laugh. I wasn’t such a wuss after all- these contractions had been working for me all along, despite the distance between them!

Everyone started rushing around grabbing everything, and it was decided that I would drive with Dorothe to the hospital while Alex picked up my mom and dropped off Liam’s things. I have to say, I was pretty pleasant- joking with everybody, couldn’t stop giggling, etc until a contraction came on and I would get dead silent and still. I would sit there like that with everyone staring at me (like just outside the elevator where concerned passerbys were clearly alarmed), but I didn’t really care and took my time. I didn’t try to push through it.. I was at an 8 people!! This baby was coming tonight!

During the car ride I excitedly texted my family and friends to update them. I joked with Dorothe and also spent a good amount of time silently praying for help with the part that was coming- dealing with the craziness of the hospital. I prayed that I would be able to remain calm, despite their stupid bureaucracy, and overall chaos of being in a place with lots of things going on. Thank heavens the doctor (another substitute suggested) was already there and greeted us in the waiting room. I took a seat while she and Dorothe started on paperwork. About 10 minutes later Alex and my mom arrived. I was in the zone- and didn’t care what was around me or what was happening when a contraction came on. It didn’t matter if we were walking somewhere or someone was about to put an IV in me- everything stopped while I focused. They could wait, this was more important so that I could remain calm and in control. And honestly, it was totally fine! I was amazed at how much we can mentally channel "pain" into "pressure".

They took me in a wheelchair to a room with a bunch of people, where they had to put an IV in. The nurse kept taking her sweet time. About 3 times in a row she finally got everything ready, and then a contraction would come and I’d wave her away. Eventhough Dorothe told her I could have this baby any time so please hurry up, that I was probably 9 or 10 centimeters by now, I don’t think she believed her because how calm I was. During these contractions I felt the baby’s head pushing down, felt like it was pushing against the seat below me! At this point I was praying like crazy to help me through the next stage that I was terrified of- pushing.

Finally after probably 20 minutes of what should have taken 2, they wheeled me up to the room I would deliver in. Alex and my mom were still downstairs filling out paperwork and trying to convince the hospital to let my mom in. I immediately sat under the shower while Dorothe blew up the kiddy pool and started filling it up. Finally Alex arrived, and eventhough he was fully dressed I asked (aka demanded) him to get in the pool with me and he helped me through those intense contractions. Namely the back labor, goodness I thought my back would break with the pressure! I remember thinking if it wasn’t for the blasted back pain, I would probably be enjoying this! The doctor checked me, and said I was at a 10 and could push whenever I felt like it.

This was the part I was most nervous for, since it was the scariest part (for me) with Liam’s birth. I never felt the urge to push, and only felt complete terror about it. Everyone just told me to wait, and that the urge would come naturally. They all were walking around, talking amongst themselves in the other room. It was nice to not have them all hovering over me. Through each contraction, I waited hoping to feel that urge. We waited for a while- maybe an hour? Well, I still didn’t and these contractions were getting really old! I figured urge or not, there was no other way for this to end. So I started gently pushing throughout the contractions, testing it out. After a few of those a rush of water came bursting out, finally my water broke! This seemed to get everyone’s attention, and soon the room was full and the doctor was sitting in a chair right outside the pool.

A contraction (or maybe 2?) later, I pushed more forcibly and instinctively started to scream (the first time I'd been vocal this entire time- Alex said it was like "maxing out on bench press" haha). I never felt the urge, but this was the point where I knew there was no going back. With that one push Clara shot right out. The doctor caught her and immediately brought her to my chest. I just kept repeating things like “Oh my baby! My baby girl!! ...Mom, she’s here!!” Clara was so blue, it made me a little nervous and had the cord wrapped around her neck (luckily not tight) a couple times and around her arm. The doctor joked that she came out wrapped like a present. Thankfully with a little rubbing the blue quickly faded and she turned more pink. After a few minutes they had me get on a stretcher bed, but Clara stayed with me. She didn’t care to nurse right away, and seemed to be completely peaceful and sleepy. She was almost the exactly same weight and height as Liam- just a bit shy of 3 kilos and 50 centimeters long.

Right after standing up I started shaking violently and uncontrollably, just like I did with Liam. The doctor checked, and no need for stitches- yay!! They let the chord pulse all the blood out, and Alex eventually cut it. Unfortunately this time the placenta didn’t come out as easily as last time- after they waited a while (maybe 30 minutes?) and with light tugging, I had to push rather hard to expel it. Ouch! Not exactly what you want to do after pushing a baby out! But it was over, and my little princess was finally here. I was on cloud nine.

I still can't believe that my contractions never got closer than 5 minutes apart. Eventhough they were consistently strong, the time in between to rest made it absolutely manageable. It was peaceful and better than I even hoped for. Overall, it was such an empowering experience! Unlike last time when I grimaced every time I thought about birthing another child. And the timing, although I was crazy impatient, ended up being perfect. My mom was able to be there (that didn't work out last time) and I still had lots of time to be spoiled afterwards:) The whole experience was such a blessing!

Clara slept that entire night and didn’t wake up once! I wish I could too, but with the after birth contractions (holy cow- WAY more painful this time around!!) I texted my family and friends, and snacked on the supply I packed with me. Thank heavens I did, because the only food the hospital offered was hot chocolate! Another funny thing was when they finally let me shower after the birth, the nurse asked “where is your soap?” I was so confused.. Soap?! That is something I didn’t pack. She left for 10 minutes to find some. Silly Brazil. They also didn’t have any newborn hats or even blankets (I had packed a swaddle blanket, but that simply wasn’t enough) so I ended up using my robe to keep her warm. So weird!

In Brazil they like you to stay in the hospital for 48 hours, but luckily the doctor gave me special permission to leave after a day. I was anxious to get out of there! My mom kept Liam up for us, and I was so so excited to see him when I got home. He might have been just as excited to see me, which made me ridiculously happy! Liam has been marvelous with Clara. In the beginning he didn’t seem interested at all, which was fine with me. Better than jealous I suppose? But he has warmed up and thinks she is pretty awesome. I usually have her napping in my room, and whenever he hears her crying he gets all concerned and yells to me, “baby!!!” He also likes to hold her, which he takes very seriously and it cracks me up. He sits there still as can be, and then usually yells “ALL DONE” a couple minutes later.

I’m so beyond grateful to have these two special babies in my home. My very own prince and princess!

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