Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Remembering Ramsey's birth

In celebration of Ramsey's birthday tomorrow I thought I would re-post his birth story. This was written a few years ago, and I enjoyed reading through it again. I completely forgot he was 5 days early, no wonder I wasn't ready!  One thing I've remembered recently with my 5th birth approaching is that 1.5 hours before birthing Ramsey I was carrying loads of wood upstairs to stock for the day's fire, and went outside to start the pull-start generator so there would be ample water and power.  I don't want to do that now!  I'm trying to convince my husband that that is unusual for a woman so close to birth.  
Enjoy! ~  Be warned, it's long.

The Birth of Ramsey Chad Wilder Greavette
February 19, 2009

Our third child entered the world with his own kind of drama. In retrospect, we really should have named him ‘Loki’ (Norse god of mischief) or Hellar. But Ramsey means ‘strong’, and he’s continued to be the 'wild child' in his own way!

Pregnancy is a time of (almost) pure joy for me. I love the new sacredness of every day and the hum of purpose in my body. I love the way time slows down in mounting anticipation, and the rapid changing of my form. We already had two lovely children and hoped for more, but it still came as a surprise as I reviewed my charts one day to realize I was, in fact, pregnant! I had been ovulating, I was aware, but my other fertility symptoms indicated that a pregnancy would be unlikely. I was still breastfeeding and was not quite ready to be pregnant again. I wasn’t unhappy at first, and my husband’s response was just a laugh. However, this surprise still took me a bit off-guard. I wanted to keep the pregnancy a secret for awhile so I could sort out my feelings and come to accept idea. Unfortunately that didn’t work out well and my family found out earlier than I wanted. (Little sister read my diary!) This really made me upset, and I actually refused to talk about it for awhile. I needed space to think, to grow, to accept this wee one already forming. Coming to terms with this proved to be a continual process for me throughout the pregnancy, and yet somehow this element of surprise only added to the mystery and beauty of having a child.

Ironically, despite struggling emotionally, it proved to be my easiest pregnancy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had the usual over-zealous Braxton Hicks contractions (irritable uterus), but I wasn’t sick and had no complications. Of course, I had excellent care with my midwives, and enjoyed seeing the student midwife, Melissa, along with Barbara, who I had used with Evangeline’s pregnancy as well. I had a very intervention-free pregnancy; I had no ultrasound and felt very comfortable refusing most tests, trusting my knowledge and intuition. Ramsey was a bit of a mystery in utero, his movements were unremarkable compared to the other two, he spent some time posterior, but other than that he was almost boring. I was free to enjoy life as it was, and couldn’t complain about my condition at all. I had been apprehensive about the February due date, but actually found it ‘got me through’ the long winter. I enjoyed my time with my two small children (Axel, almost 4 and Evangeline, almost 2). As I approached my due date and swelled with life, my excitement mounted. I anticipated and planned a ‘perfect homebirth’ and I finally felt ready to welcome this baby.

I was thoroughly excited about a homebirth. I had considered one for my second pregnancy, but due to several factors NOT including safety I chose to birth at the hospital. One of these factors was the very strong feelings of my husband, who I lovingly call ‘birth-phobic’. One would think that by the third child a man would be accepting, even comfortable with birth, especially in this enlightened age, but not my man. The drama, excitement, intensity, graphic female content and abundance of foreign fluids are enough to make my physically strong man’s head swim and stomach turn. This might make some women feel angry or unsupported, but I love him anyway. He's a great husband and father, but as a birth partner, not so much!   I’ve more than come to terms with this; in fact, it’s allowed me to revel in total freedom the pleasures and pain of birth, and claim all the glory and praise for bringing our children into the world to myself (except for one small part, ha ha)!

 I wasn’t due until the following Tuesday (the 24th) and never been early, so I was not thinking labour when I woke up early on Thursday morning.  For a couple days I’d had really strong Braxton Hicks contractions that ended almost painfully, and I had been crampy and strange-feeling beyond the usual pre-labour I feel for weeks. I felt like I'd been ready to launch into labour since Sunday night when I had light contractions through the night, but really felt like I needed to hold off until a few key things came together. On Wednesday evening I went to La Leche League because I knew it would be the last meeting before the baby came. It was fun to chat with the ladies about the upcoming birth. Also on Wednesday my sisters Genieve and Kaitlyn had flown in from St. Louis and Japan respectively, along with Genieve’s two children.  As of their arrival I mentally gave myself 'permission' to birth anytime, as everyone had gathered.  I wanted them both present for the birth, as well as my sister-in-law Sarah (to take photos) and my mom. This birth was to be a bit of a party; I was really looking forward to having it photographed and shared by everyone. My other two births were very quick and straightforward (3.5 and 4.5 hours) and I thought this birth would be a great opportunity for my family to be part of a normal, healthy birth in a home setting. I had spent a lot of time and effort preparing and decorating our bedroom and bathroom, and made a really lovely space that was bright and open and perfect for a 'birthing nest'. It was important to me to have a welcoming place to birth a baby, a beautiful spot that I felt good about and would not be distracting with clutter and unfinished spots.

At 5am on Thursday morning, I woke up with contractions.  It was February 19.  The contractions felt strong and they got me out of bed right away. There really was no buildup, aside from the pre-labour I’d had for a few days. It just began. They came in no clear pattern, some were strong and long, some were short and light and they were irregular or bunched together. I felt incapable of timing them, which I think began my denial. Already I found myself struggling with the stronger ones, but I really didn’t believe they were real. I’d never had this uncertainty with my other labours. During them I had been able to welcome the contractions, relax through them, absorb them and work with them. This time I could feel myself trying to get away and resist their intensity, and my efforts and movements didn't seem to help. Somehow, this was confusing. Maybe if I knew I was in labour I could have settled down and focused. Instead I listened to my iPod, played on the internet, did some chores around the house. During contractions I would sway, relax, or move to a crawling position. They were very tight and quite long, and at the peak I was really agonizing through them. I was uncomfortable! For some reason, though, I didn’t FEEL like I was in labour; between each contraction I just kept postponing calling anyone. Surely they’ll stop, or, it wasn’t that bad. Because of my previous short labours I was under strict instructions to call everyone right away, especially my midwives Melissa and Barbara. But I wanted to be alone until I knew it wasn’t going away. I guess I’d had so much ‘false labour’ and pre-labour in the past, I was mentally convinced this too, wasn’t real labour. As dawn approached I started to worry about the day beginning. The kids would wake up and Chad would go to work. If this was real, how could I keep labouring with a 4 year old and 2 year old running around? This wasn't how I imagined it, this couldn't be it. Besides, between contractions I felt totally normal.

Closer to 6:30 am I paged my student midwife, Melissa. She understood my confusion and suggested a shower and to call her back in half an hour. I was happy with this suggestion, and glad I didn’t feel pressured to admit to anything. First I brought up a good load of wood for the fires (we heat with wood) and started the generator (we are off-grid but use a generator to fill our water tanks). I ate a hearty breakfast. In the shower I relaxed and contractions melted away. See? It wasn't labour. Silly me.

After the shower my memory gets blurry. I got out and got ready for the day, dressing and putting makeup on. It was 7am. Axel and Evangeline were up and joined me upstairs. Chad was hovering around anxiously, wanting me to tell him I wasn’t in labour. He was getting ready for work, hoping to leave soon. He kept asking what was going on and I kept snapping, ‘I don’t know!’ Instinctively I asked for his assistance in making the bed up for birth, and this freaked him out a bit. I mentally noted that the contractions had returned with a vengeance. They were very difficult to work through; I was getting breathy and a bit panicky during them. I couldn't focus and I was getting easily annoyed. Finally I conceded; I was in labour. In the midst I paused to tell Axel that we would probably have the baby today, who had been hoping for a baby brother and wanted to name him ‘Diablo’. Perhaps it would take all day though, my confused mind still couldn’t tell. And I still couldn’t understand how I could be in labour with the kids up, or have a baby now that it was daybreak. I felt irritated with the kids and remembered I all I had to get ready, so I sent them downstairs to have breakfast with Chad. Until now I had kept postponing filling the bathtub, even though our tub takes forever to fill. Finally I realized, 'this is it'; it hit me like a brick wall. I was going to have the baby: soon. I urgently paged Melissa, and while waiting for her to call, called my family. I spoke to Sarah, who was to take photographs and coming from Toronto. I had a short, emotional conversation with my dad, asking him to send my mother and sister. Finally Melissa called back as I finished a wild contraction, and I exhaled breathlessly, ‘come, NOW!’ It was 7:57 am.
Things were coming really fast now. During contractions I was on the floor groaning and panting and between them I was making the bed up, filling the tub and starting a wash, all upstairs in our loft-style bedroom. Chad was desperately trying to leave and getting upset that no one was here yet. He didn't want to be around for the labour and had wanted to be called when it was closer.

I was nearing the end. It was probably 8:00. I was kneeling on the floor of the laundry room trying to fill the washing machine. Why was I starting a wash? There, on the floor, I knew I had to get down to business. During a contraction I pounded the floor with my fist, saying 'get here, get here!' Was I talking about my help, or the baby? Transition! No ‘I can’t do this’; just ‘I can’t do this alone’! That contraction ended differently, I felt pressure mounting in my bottom. The baby was coming; I couldn’t deny it any longer. My right-brain took over, and I realized I likely would be alone. Quickly I headed for the toilet, racing through the bedroom to the open en-suite. I was desperate for someone to show up. Chad came upstairs to check on me and seeing me bent over on the toilet he yelled about going to the hospital now, realizing how close I was and that we were alone. I yelled back about having a baby NOW! He went back downstairs mad as a hornet. This was his worst nightmare, being alone with a birthing woman! The toilet felt awful during a contraction, so I got up and whipped my bottoms off. There were only seconds between contractions, and with the next one I fell to the bathroom floor, and contracted on my hands and knees. I was beside the tub, and put my hand in the water hoping to get in it to find some relief, but it was too hot. As the next contraction mounted I realized I was having the baby right then and started saying to myself, ‘Ok, I’m having the baby, I can do this, I’m having a baby’. This was calming and I called to mind the basic instructions of ‘how to catch a baby’. I was able to pant through two contractions. I was a bit thrilled that the panting worked to get me through two contractions without pushing. I grabbed a towel from the towel bar and threw it under me so I didn’t have the baby on the linoleum. With the next contraction my first push became undeniable and I groaned loudly with exertion. I looked down and watched my water break like a spray- no meconium- and I reached to feel the head crowning and support myself. Strangely I didn't feel the 'ring of fire', just the incredible overwhelming pressure. My pushing was involuntary and irresistible. I had crouched low to the floor with the first one like a cat ready to pounce, but then sat more upright, resting my bum on my heels and kneeling. Chad came bounding up the stairs because he heard me yelling/groaning. He stood in the bedroom, watching, furious and immobile. While I waited for the next contraction we exchanged ‘words’ on what was happening. He swore and I reassured him I was ‘just going to have the baby right now’. I was calm but panting with the effort and exhilaration. With the next uncontrollable and overwhelming contraction and push I groaned loudly with exertion and the incredible sensations of pressure and pain The head was born. I kept my hand resting on the side of it. There was a bubble of sac beside the head, and it looked funny but I guessed what it was. While I was loud with the contractions, I didn't scream uncontrollably like I did with Evangeline, perhaps because I had more control because I was alone. Chad swore again, and I again assured him everything was fine. I panted, "We're having the baby, we're having the baby'. I waited for the next contraction, knowing the wait was fine, but still it felt like forever. Finally with the third contraction the whole body slithered (or shot) out with so much relief and a huge groan. I reached down both numbly and automatically (I was kneeling but sitting on my heels) and grabbed the baby and brought it quickly up to my chest. What an incredible feeling- to be the only hands that touch that slimy, hot wet body, to grab your child because no one else is going to, and to pull them to your chest. I asked for a towel, which Chad tossed to me, not moving any closer. I was so calm, so mentally organized as well as euphoric. It was all instinctive, yet rational. I turned the baby to face away from me with head down to drain any fluid and rubbed his back and head a bit to stimulate him, then lowered him to check for the cord. It was wrapped 2 or 3 times around his neck and once around his body. I unwound it easily, then brought him back up to my chest and continued rubbing him and checked for mucous. He made some noises, I could see he was breathing and pinking up, and he cried briefly. I asked for the hat my midwife Barb knit. I thought
about asking for the bulb syringe in the homebirth kit but knew it would be too much for him. Once the hat was on and I felt the baby was warm I relaxed and started laughing and crying. I said to Chad we’d ‘had an unassisted birth! We had an unassisted birth!’ Chad insisted it wasn’t funny, and where the 'f'**' was everybody. After a moment he asked cautiously if it was ok, and I said he was great, and asked if he wanted to know what it was. He said ‘no!’ but I moved the towel and lifted the leg and laughed that we had another boy. Axel was right! Chad asked if I was bleeding and I said 'no', but as I said it I felt a small gush and thought it was probably the placenta detaching. He went downstairs to get the kids. I stayed where I was and held and cuddled the baby, I was comfortable and knew I didn't need to move. As I turned him to face me and wiped off his face, he blinked several times and gazed up at me so innocently that I laughed and whispered, ‘oh you are a little devil, aren’t you?’ His fist sight was me! I tried to get him to suckle, but he wasn't interested yet. In the silence I realized what had just happened; I delivered my own baby and my dear helpless husband had watched the whole thing. Later he claimed to be too mad to faint or be sick, which I appreciate!

After a minute Chad brought up Axel and Evangeline to meet the baby. They came right over to meet him and seemed genuinely awestruck, but not confused or concerned.  Probably 10 minutes passed before midwives arrived. Melissa came up first and stopped suddenly to stare with confusion and then shock as she shrieked, then rushed over with a huge hug. Barb came up behind and her and hugged me as well. I laughed and cried with them. After marveling and laughing they lay me back to help me deliver the placenta. Finally my mom and sister and girlfriend Annie arrived. They were each confused when they saw me lying back (in labour?), and it took a minute to see the baby in my arms. Chad had greeted them at the door with 'a**-holes, a**holes, that's what you are, what took you so long?'

I was easily cleaned up and moved to the bed. Everything went perfectly- I had no hemorrhaging or tearing and I felt great. We had delayed cutting the cord until the placenta delivered, and I had kept my bladder empty throughout the morning to help the uterus contract after. All our carefully laid plans to prevent the hemorrhage I'd experienced in each previous birth worked so well- I had minimal bleeding and wasn't faint.

We guessed the time of birth was 8:15, just 3 hours from when I awoke. The baby weighed 7lbs 5 oz and was 50 cm long. He had an incredibly long umbilical cord- almost 4 feet!

During the birth I didn't panic even when I realized I would be alone. I sort of ‘took control’ and was clear headed, giving myself instructions. When I was pregnant with Evangeline I prepared for an ‘emergency childbirth’ because Axel's labour was only 3.5 hours long from the first contraction. With the other births the pushing phase had left me feeling train-wrecked and completely out of control, but this one had so much more consciousness. It was an awesome, crazy experience. I wouldn't plan it that way again, but I’m so glad it happened. I love that Chad was there and saw the whole thing. I can easily find the humor in his swearing and anger- I had thought to myself during the birth, 'if he can swear during the birth of his child, then I should be so bothered by his swearing in general'. But it was wonderful! He's not exactly a convert, but I'm very proud of him.
The baby was calm and content and a lazy nurser for a couple days. He wasn't hungry and had a fair bit of mucous. But once the mucous came out and my milk came in his latch improved. I had so much company and help- the atmosphere was pretty euphoric for awhile. The kids adjusted well- the arrival of the baby was as uneventful as it could possibly be. See mommy, have breakfast, see baby! My recovery couldn’t have been better, I had minimal soreness, my strength quickly returned and I really felt fantastic. Praise God birth was designed to work when left to happen as it should!

What a struggle we had naming him. We were reluctant to pick something we weren’t firmly attached to, and the baby wasn’t giving us any indication of what he wanted to be called! At two weeks old we finally named him: Ramsey Chad Wilder Greavette. I insisted that 'Chad' be included, as my husband was the only one who witnessed his birth! Ramsey has turned out to be a bit of a wild child- our first two children were unbelievable calm and content as babies, but Ramsey has made his presence known, being tongue-tied, colicky and struggling with over-active let-down! We love him for his strong character and determination, though, and our family is abuzz with energy and love.

Ramsey has surely been a surprise from his beginning to ‘end’. The news of the birth spread rapidly around our small town, as well as various interpretations. (One has Chad huddled in a corner saying, 'why are you doing this to me?!’ In others he heroically delivered me on the kitchen floor.) I'm so pleased and proud and secretly thrilled with all the events, my only regret is it wasn't photographed or experienced by more people. But that's both the worst and the best part of an unassisted birth, isn't it?

Ramsey and I still on the bathroom floor after the midwives arrived.


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