It was almost 4am and it didn’t feel like we were anywhere close to meeting our baby…
After 9 hours of active labor I was exhausted and discouraged. Since I had to get back in bed for my penicillin dose and to be monitored for a few minutes, I asked the nurse to examine me to see what kind of progress I’d made since I was 4.5 cm in triage over 8 hours ago. “Surely I’ll be close to 8 cm and entering transition! Surely!” After checking me, she said she was having a hard time distinguishing how dilated I was and called another nurse in. This nurse examined me and told me the bad news: I was only 5cm dilated. After dilating 3 cm in an hour, I only made .5 cm of progress in almost 9 hours!! I started to sob.
Daniel was able to calm me down and get me prepared to start our rhythm of walking the halls. I started to feel disoriented. We didn’t get too far down the hall before I felt nauseous and we went back to the room. I barely made it inside before I started to vomit. I wanted to be on my hands and knees and after a strong contraction, I would throw up. I felt horrible, but I knew that I always throw up as I’m entering transition so maybe things were finally going somewhere! I tried to stay on my feet because that’s how I had the strongest contractions–with Daniel holding me upright while I breathed through them.
My memory starts to get fuzzy here and I’m not sure exactly what time it was when this was happening. But I got back into the bed on my side for a few contractions (still throwing up after each one.) Each contraction was between 2.5 and 3 minutes long. Then I started to feel the urge to push. Daniel was holding one of my legs up as I rested on my side and I remember mumbling to him that I needed Dr. B to come in. When she arrived, she examined me and advised me not to push because I was STILL only 6.5 cm dilated and she didn’t want me to tear my cervix. “What am I supposed to do?!” I asked her. She advised me that I probably had a long way to go and that I could try some different positions to make more progress. When she stood up to leave, I begged her not to go. “Please! Just stay five more minutes! Something’s different. I know I’m about to have this baby! Please stay for a couple more contractions!” I think she thought I was nuts, but she sweetly complied.
My mom left the room to reheat the socks filled with rice in the microwave for my back labor. I got up to use the bathroom. On the way back to the bed I had a strong contraction while standing up and holding on to Daniel. Then I wanted to be on my side in the bed with my legs around one of these peanut shaped birthing balls they had at the hospital. As soon as I hoisted my leg around the birthing ball, Gwen’s positioning changed and she wanted to meet the world! I yelled, “I’m pushing! I can’t help it! She’s crowning!” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Dr. B stand up, wash her hands, and get her gloves on. I tried very hard not to push since the idea of tearing my cervix was terrifying and about 30 seconds prior I had been 3.5 cm away from ready to push, but there’s no stopping your body from pushing when it wants to! I felt Gwen’s head come out and Dr. B told me to give a good strong push which was what my body wanted to do anyway and it felt like Gwen’s shoulders and body jumped out.
Dr. B passed me my beautiful baby girl right away and I remember being out of my mind in awe of my new daughter and saying, “Gwen! I love you so much! You’re so beautiful!” over and over again. The relief and the joy!
All of this took approximately 3 minutes because my mom then returned from heating up the rice sock in the microwave for 2 minutes and missed all the excitement. Our nurse also had stepped out for a minute and heard someone say that I had delivered to which she said, “No, you must have that wrong. I was just in there and she was only 6.5 cm.” Dr. B. encouraged me and said, “Well, you knew your body! I’m glad you told me to stay!”
Gwen started nursing and I snuggled her while I delivered the placenta and then got stitched up for one small tear. Daniel picked up his phone to text family that Gwen had arrived and he realized that it was May 30th, St. Joan of Arc’s Day and Corpus Christi!***
After several minutes of nursing, I was exhausted (and had lost lots of blood which is typical for me), so I needed Daniel’s help holding her while she finished nursing. Usually, I am exhilarated after delivery and can’t imagine sleep because I just want to gaze at my baby forever, but I was so worn out that I had to hand Gwen over to Daniel and then I immediately fell asleep. My blood pressure was very low for a few more hours and I was faint and light-headed, so they made us wait until I was more stable to move us to a recovery room. I have not bounced back as quickly as I did after Lucy was born. Probably a combination of a long labor, blood loss, and a little fever that my household has been passing around. But I’m starting to feel like myself again and our friends and family are taking such good care of us–bringing us food and keeping the older kids entertained while we get to know Gwen.
She is such a sweet, precious baby! She reminds me so much of her big sister in her calm temperament and she has figured out her days and nights in record time. Although she wakes to nurse every 1-3 hours at night, she’s sleepy all night long and goes straight back to sleep after eating for 10 minutes. Champ! And my sweet husband has been taking “first shift” most nights between 9 and midnight so that I can start the night with some uninterrupted sleep.
Daniel has dubbed her our “happiest baby yet.” There’s something slightly elvish about her little adorable face and I can’t wait to learn more about her as she grows and reveals her personality. Big brother adores her has been making up songs about her: “We love Gwen so much much much” and “Sittin’ in the backseat with my Gweeeeen!” However, any big changes in life make Benjamin’s more, ahem, challenging personality traits emerge. Big sister Lucy wants to kiss her baby sister all day and I have to keep an eagle eye on her to make sure she doesn’t try to “hold you, Gwen!” Yesterday was the first day that felt a little like normalcy with three kids. Despite the exhaustion and craziness, I have to pinch myself that I get to live life with these precious little people.
So our Gwen Stellamaris (Fair Star of the Sea), named after my confirmation saint, St. Gwen, and after Our Lady, the Star of the Sea, was born at 7:41am, 7lbs and 4oz, wailing and bright pink! With a full head of jet black hair and grey-blue eyes, she’s gorgeous. May she ever be a beautiful light for Our Lady and Our Lord! We love her so!
***In a sad, but beautiful turn of events, the sacristan at our parish, Lena, passed away later in the day. She was in her 90s and had been the sacristan since she was 14 years old–over 75 years! Her favorite saint was St. Joan. Gwen’s godmother, Julia, had been helping to care for her as she declined. Julia came to see Baby Gwen at the hospital just before receiving the news that Lena had passed away.