We met Vivian at 5:02pm on a rainy Thursday afternoon. She was and is beautiful. Her long slender fingers and tiny feet are distinctly her own, while something about her round cheeks and chin resembles her brother. She has dimples just outside the corners of her mouth, visible when she purses her lips, and there may an elusive third dimple hiding in her left cheek. She has a little bit of very dark brown hair, and her eyes are that dark dark blue-grey of newborns that could easily change colors or stay the same.
Her arrival was blessedly fast and uncomplicated. I had spent the morning out and about with Creedence. We went to story-time at the library, and then he had a friend over. They were in his room jumping on his bed, and I was in the kitchen listening to The National while trying to come up with something to make for lunch. I had a sudden, definite contraction. I looked at the clock on the microwave, as I had created a habit of checking the time whenever I thought I was having a contraction, just in case things got interesting. It was 12:30pm. No big deal. I'd had lots of contractions earlier in the month without anything coming of it.
I decided on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which is basically not deciding anything. The friend went home, and the firstborn and I sat down to eat. As per our custom, I got out my phone to call Steve over lunch. I saw he had just texted me, "Any contractions?" I suspect he was bored working on campus. I'd had three more in the hour that had passed since the first one, so I responded, "Yes." He called right away. I told him what was going on, and that I'd keep him informed if they kept up. I was trying really hard to not get too excited. It seemed strange that I would go into labor right then, anyways. I expected my labor to be Creedence's, where it was pretty clear upon waking one day that I was going to give birth soon.
Within 15 minutes of our phone call, I had two very intense contractions. I told Steve he should come home. He did right away, and was very excited with what could be happening very soon. I was still in disbelief. We talked to my midwife, who said to start carefully tracking the contractions and head to the hospital when they reached 5-7 minutes apart. I pulled up the tracking app on my phone, changed into comfy clothes, and turned up The National so I could hear it as I paced around. I wanted get in the shower, but felt like things might be picking up too quickly, so I didn't really know what to do with myself. Steve was running around loading up the car with the car seat, finally packing his go-bag (mine, the baby's, and Creedo's had been packed since New Year's), and coordinating care for Creedence.
After about 45 minutes of tracking, the contractions had become five minutes apart or less. They were really strong. Eventually I found the most comfortable position for me was to stand and sway, bent over at the kitchen counter right by the music, with my head down on my arms. Watching my phone time the contractions helped me at first too. It was something productive to do during the contractions, but as I saw how close they were getting, I started to panic. This was for real. There was no stopping this, only going forward. The baby was coming out today, probably soon, and it was going to hurt a lot. I was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. I want to have this baby out and meet her, so excited to finally hold her- but this labor thing is terrible, lets just forget it all and go back to when I wasn't hurting and everything was fine. I planned on laboring naturally- why, why, why on earth did I think that was a good idea? I knew I was strong and capable and that I could do this very hard thing, but I didn't want to anymore. I was fearful. I was crying. Steve gave me a blessing, and we decided it was time to go to the hospital.
By 3pm, I was in a hospital robe, laying on a bed in the one room that this hospital prepared for natural births. I had been worried for months that I wouldn't get this room when it was time. I wanted to labor in the jetted tub, and use the birth ball, etc. Luckily, it was free for me. However, by the time I settled in there, my fear had dissipated and I was angry and aggressive and didn't want to move at all. I've realized that this is how, when it comes down to really dealing with labor pain, I cope. My "fight" reflex must kick in once I have my good cry and face the fact that "flight" simply isn't an option. I was shaking all over, hyperventilating, and couldn't get calm in between contractions. My hands and face were numb. I was at 5cm dilation and knew there was some work yet to do. I also knew from Creedo's birth that relaxing and regrouping in-between contractions was essential for me to keep it together, and for keeping the baby's heart rate down, so I requested IV pain meds right away.
On the other hand, I was so mad that the nurse was poking me with a needle. Didn't she know I was in labor? Hello!?? After two attempts on one arm, the nurse asked me to flip over to lay on my other side, so she could try to get an IV in my other arm. Again, I'm angry and mostly ignore her, but eventually I flip over. Meanwhile, the midwife had shown up and was joining Steve in coaching me through the contractions. Steve was talking me through them, reminding me to not clench my fists or jaw, and I was doing what the books all call "vocalizing." I would call it "repeatedly moaning my "relax, open" mantra with a good measure of general yelling."
We'd been there about an hour when they finally were able to get me something via IV. After that, I calmed down enough to let the midwife to check me. I was still 5cm dilated. This was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted her to say that I was almost done. We decided to break my water to see if that helped me to keep progressing. It did. Things grew very intense. Lots of yelling. At one point I suddenly felt the baby move down, and I announced that I was now pushing. I'm very glad that the midwife and nurses trusted me to know when to push and didn't try to stop me or check me or anything, and that I was right in knowing when to start pushing. The room got busy with people preparing the last minute things for the baby, and the midwife took up her catching position. However, she kept calling me Marie as she was encouraging me, and so mid-push I got fed up with that and shouted at her, "My name is MARIA!" and pounded a fist on the mattress. Not my most gracious moment, but she and Steve got a laugh out of it.
After about 15 minutes of pushing, the baby was born. Just like with Creedence's birth, it was such an instant switch from intense pain to intense happiness as soon as she was out. She was placed on me immediately. We had some lovely skin-on-skin time to count fingers and toes and just caress her tiny-ness. She weighed in at 7lbs 5oz, 19 inches long. She is more than a pound lighter than Creedence, and it is just amazing how big of a difference that makes. I didn't tear at all, just had a few of what they call skid marks (a small miracle that has made recovery so much easier).
Steve cut the cord, and I finished birthing without too much trouble. There was some concern about hemorrhaging, a little altercation between me and yet another nurse who made the mistake of coming at me with a needle of Pitocin, but my trusty midwife patiently convinced me of the necessity and got us taken care of. Soon I was fine and able to nurse.Vivian latched on and had a good feeding within the first half hour of life (contractions while nursing are truly awful, but I'm glad to report that a week later those are almost gone completely). I was so glad it was all done! I wasn't pregnant anymore. I finally had my baby. She was healthy, I was healthy. It was very intense, but from start to finish, it went by so fast and so smoothly. So many blessings in one afternoon.
Since we've had Vivian home, each day and night has been different. In general, she sleeps better than Creedence already. As a newborn, he slept restlessly and rarely without being held and she doesn't seem to be that picky. We are enjoying getting to know her and watching her brother try to interact with her. He has been all hugs and kisses towards her so far. He's a great big brother to his darling sister.