Helen’s Birth Story

Dear sisters,

Birth stories are a tradition here. Find Calvin’s here, Thaddeus’s here, and Eve’s here.

It’s time to write up Helen’s birth story. I’ve had enough time to settle into being a stay at home mom to feel like I can use naptime for writing and there’s a bit of a calm before our storm of moving into our new house next week. More on that later.

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Helen at 5 days old. Babies are pretty incredible.

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Helen’s birth is intertwined with our move to Fort Collins, CO. Kevin got this job way back in February, but asked to delay his start date to September 1st so we could have the baby in La Crosse under his USGS health care. There were pros and cons to this. The biggest con being moving with a very young baby, and a recently post partum mom. That sounded hard. So, we spent the month of July hoping and praying Helen would come early. When I hit 36 weeks around July 11ish, every morning Kevin asked, “Is today the day? Do you feel anything??” Around 36 weeks I started feeling lots of Braxton Hicks contractions, so I was never sure if they’d turn into anything real. Turns out Helen wanted to wait until 39 weeks 4 days and arrived on July 26th at 2pm on the dot.

July 26th also happened to be closing day for selling our house. I woke up knowing Cal and I had to be out of the house from 9-10am so the buyer could walk through and inspect the house. I decided going to the library would be our best option, since I was so tired of being pregnant and Cal could entertain himself fairly well there. Around 8:30am I noticed a few Braxton-Hicks-ish contractions that were lower than before, with a bit of an ache to them. I started thinking it could be labor. We got the library around 8:55am and stood waiting for the doors to open. I remember Cal counting as loud as he could to 10 because I told him we had to wait. He charmed all of the patrons waiting with us. As soon as the doors were open we booked it to the children’s room where Cal said hi to our friends there, Dana and Brooke. At this point, I was getting more certain these were real contractions, and I told them Helen could arrive that day! I remember anxiety and excitement as they played with Calvin so I could think about whether this was real labor and what my plan would be. It was kind of perfect to have some time to talk with them about what was coming and watch Calvin play, I enjoyed having supportive friends be around at the beginning of such a momentous day. I decided around 9:20am to call Kevin and have him come pick up Calvin to take him to our in home daycare. It was SUCH a relief knowing Cal would spend the day with Wendy and his friends at daycare while I labored. I had spent many a night praying that I wouldn’t go into labor so he wouldn’t be thrown out of his ordinary daily life.

Kevin was ecstatic and drove super quickly over to the library. When he arrived the next decision was whether I should drive home on my own, or have someone drive me. Contractions were coming every 10 minutes-ish, lasting around 30-40 seconds, but weren’t too painful. I was confident I could drive home, but had Kevin drive behind me to make sure nothing happened. Then he headed to Wendy’s to drop Cal off and came back to get me (this would take him approximately 50 minutes). As soon as I got in the car to drive home, a contraction hit, and by the time I got home 7  minutes later I was having another contraction. Things were speeding up. I didn’t want it to go too quickly, I remembered how intense Cal’s labor was, so I got in our nice deep tub (how I miss it!) and lay there timing contractions on my phone until Kevin got home around 10:45am. At that point, they were coming regularly every 4-5 minutes, for about a minute each time. It was really happening! While I was soaking, I got a text from our realtor saying the buyer had noticed some loose shingles from a recent storm. Could we get those checked out and fixed? I texted back, “Does it have to be today? I’m in labor.” Luckily it could wait, but it was a funny reminder of all that was going on. After some discussion, we decided we’d call to alert the labor and delivery ward around 11:15am, when it would have been about an hour of contractions every 5 minutes.

We made it to the hospital by 11:30am, the contractions were coming quickly, but I still felt like a fairly normal person in between contractions, so I guessed I wasn’t too far along. The nurses and midwife got me right into the birthing center room I wanted and hooked me up for monitoring. They were assuming I would come in almost completely ready, like I had with Calvin (I showed up 9 cms and basically ready to push), but I guessed I was around 3 or 4cm. I was right! The midwife said I was a “stretchy 4.” We decided my labor strategy should be upright for a bit, to allow me to progress more, so I sat on a birthing ball and stood in the shower for the next hour. I don’t like laboring upright. My body moves through labor so quickly that I feel weak and shaky and being upright is more painful. I like being in water and the tub feels like a safe place. The nurses could tell I was frustrated with being told to stay upright, so one persnickety nurse told me I needed to calm down and center myself, and after about 15-20 minutes on the birthing ball with Kevin supporting me from behind, she said I could go into the small tub in the bathroom. I remember feeling a bit peeved that they were trying to control how I labored. I did just fine on my own at home, but I’m a people pleaser and don’t really like conflict, especially when I’m in intense pain.

They wanted to save the big beautiful comfy tub for delivery right at the end. Silly people. I never made it there. Instead, I labored for about another 40 minutes in the small tub in the dark, feeling more and more intense contractions. During one check in I mentioned that it felt like I might be able to start pushing soon. They helped me out of the tub onto the bed so the midwife could check me. This was around 1:55pm. Lo and behold, I was 10 cm and ready to go. They had just started turning on the water in the big beautiful tub and the midwife told them not to bother. On the next contraction I could push and have our baby! I think I said something like, “Oh no, I hate pushing.”

There is no comfortable way to have a baby, and whatever type of delivery you have, you’re going to think it might be better to have it a different way. With both of my babies I’ve had to push very little: twice (for Calvin) and once (for Helen). After such a rapid labor, my body is not open enough, so I tear. Welp, I gave that giant push during the next contraction, felt her head come out, and had a bit of a harder time getting the body out. I remember the midwife yelling, “Someone hold this leg!” about my right leg. I had pushed it out of Kevin’s hold (he got distracted by trying to help massage Helen out of my belly). He grabbed my leg and one of the other nurses came to my face and said, “One more big push Jewel!!” I gave it my all and she was out. There had been meconium in the bag of waters, so I didn’t get skin to skin right away. She was whisked away to be cleaned up and sucked out. I remember saying something like, “Praise the Lord.” a few times as I felt a wave of relief. We’d been waiting and waiting for her and labor is no fun. I was so glad to have it over. Before Calvin’s birth I remember feeling curious about labor, certain I could do it naturally and eager to prove myself. Before Helen’s birth I knew I could do it again, but felt more apprehensive about the overall intensity of labor. I didn’t need to prove myself this time, I just wanted it to be over.

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She came out face first, so was very bruised for the first 24 hours! Poor thing. Soaking up our skin to skin time.

After holding Helen and having her nurse for the first time. Kevin left to get Calvin around 3pm. He was back by 3:40pmish and I had ordered a meal for us to share. Calvin was so excited to meet Helen and explore our big hospital room. He loved cuddling up with me on the big bed and watching tv. He stayed until around 7pm, then he and Kevin headed home for the night and I stayed with Helen.

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This is motherhood. Nursing your newborn while cuddling your toddler. Wanting to make sure you meet the needs of all of your children.

It was an intense first night. Helen nursed every 30-45 minutes, not settling down until around 2am. I slept fitfully with her in my arms on our bed, and luckily the nurses didn’t scold me at all that she was always in my arms when they came to check on me (I was obviously sleeping with her). Around 1:30am an orderly came rushing into the room and turned on all the lights, thinking he had to clean the room. He was mightily embarrassed when he realized the room was still occupied. Lucky for him I was awake, if he had woken me up I would have been more angry.

The next day Kevin and Calvin came over early in the morning with Dunkin’ Donuts, stayed for awhile, then went off on an errand: picking up our large check from selling our home! It was another reminder of how many balls we had in the air. When we came home from the hospital, we had 2 weeks before moving day. Those next 4 weeks were the most intense of my life. I got mastitis 3 times over 10 days, moved out of our house, moved into an apartment.

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Selfie with Helen at 3 days old :-).

The highlights were getting meals from our friends and my library coworkers (so wonderful!!), and visits from both sets of grandparents. Kevin’s parents were a big help getting us packed up in La Crosse over 5 days, my parents came to Colorado to help us move in and settle down. We couldn’t have done it and stayed as sane as we did without all of that help!

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Curly hair after her first bath!

It feels like forever ago that we’ve been in Wisconsin. Within our first week of living in Colorado we had bought a new minivan (perfect for shuttling us all around as well as guests who come visit us!), moved into our apartment, and bought a new home. We close on the house tomorrow! I’ll post some pictures eventually, we’re so excited.

I can’t wait to introduce Helen to farflung relatives and friends in the next year. Feel free to come visit us, we’re only an hour from Denver, which is an easy airport to fly to, and we have a nice guest room in our beautiful new home!!

Love to you all,
Jewel

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