Ryan has headed off to mutual for awhile, so I have decided to write some more about Charlotte's birth and the following days.
So in my last post, I am delivering Charlotte. I share the intensity, the adrenaline, the power, the pride of myself as the most powerful animal on earth for a couple moments in time.
This post is the softening, the processing, the shifting.
Several hours after Charlotte's birth, my placenta has been delivered, I'm all stitched up, I am hooked to an IV because of my high loss of blood, and I've been given several shots in the thigh because my uterus wasn't hardening to stimulate blood clotting. (You thought the fun stopped at the birth of the baby? ;) For the most part, so did I..)
And now, Charlotte is in a bassinet on one side of me, and Ryan is in bed on the other side of me. My midwife and apprentice doulas surround us, one still rubbing my arm and holding my hand. They tuck us in bed and say their good nights for the evening. They depart and close the door of our room, the same room of Charlotte's arrival hours earlier.
Our new family is alone together for the first time.
The adrenaline rush of the last 24 hours begins a mild settling, and all I can do is weep. I cannot find a place to start processing the enormous whirlwind of birth.
Ryan and I huddle close together in bed, grab hands, and I request that we take turns noting the highlights of the day. Everything else is just too much for me. We share softly, our foreheads close together, appreciating the moments that the other found so special. Then we decide to have Ryan administer priesthood blessings for Charlotte and myself. He comes around the bed and places his large hands on Charlotte's tiny head. He gives her her first blessing on Earth, blessing her with safety and a quick recovery. Then he reaches over her and places his hands on my head, offering me similar blessings of a quick and healthy recovery, and expressing Heavenly Father's love for me and what I have just done.
Afterwards, Ryan retreats to the bathroom to finish getting ready for bed, and he can overhear me talking softly to Charlotte. That is the first moment she and I had. I felt like I should greet her properly and help comfort her after all her hard work and long day as well. I don't remember anything of what I said, but Ryan says he loved listening to me; it melted his heart to hear my voice whispering to her. He remembers very distinctly that I talked with her openly about my birthing experience with her and telling her that I've been through other really hard times in life. Then I told her through my tears:
The world is very hard sometimes. But we will make the best of it. I will teach you what I've done.
The next day, Ryan and I are ready to go home. We sit on the bed and talk with both my midwives, of which my primary midwife stayed up all night at the birth center, taking care of us and finishing up my clinical records.
We arrive home and welcome Charlotte to her house! My mom shows up several hours later.
The next several days are a tumble of emotions and continual transformation of my body. So grueling. With the intensity of delivery, that seems like a likely finish line. But this movie can't roll the credits yet. We can't leave out the swelling and the itching and the engorgement. My crotch hurt, my belly hurt, my chest hurt, and my hormones are like an unsupervised field day at an elementary school - just a free for all of unpredictable and irrational swings. Oh and also, this baby must eat, so take off your shirt and expose your breast and push baby's face onto you and ....."AHHHH!!! THAT HURTS SO BAD!" My friend Jo told me this summer that the early days of breastfeeding are toe-curlingly painful. Indeed. Yes.
And due to all these changes, for the first three days, I felt so disconnected from Charlotte. All I associated her with was pain. And when she came close to me, that only meant more discomfort to me. Ryan later recalled to me that each time she was brought to me for nursing, I would begin shaking and could hardly hold her. I would watch as Ryan held her, and lifted her, and talked with her, and loved her. And I couldn't yet do that; I couldn't even kiss her because of cold sores that had arrived from all the stress inside my body. I felt lower and lower. I remember reading my Book of Mormon in these first couple of days and feeling a sweet, sweet peace. Just a small comfort to my soul that all would be well.
And each passing day, a new pain would arrive. On the evening of the third day, I began to experience stinging symptoms of a UTI. Oh joy! Welcome to the party! If there is any other intolerable consequence of child birth, please join us! Luckily, Mr. Hemorrhoid did not come to my party. But nevertheless, I just cried. There was just no release. One thing after the next. I physically and emotionally could not keep up with all that was happening to me. And I couldn't even feel comfortable or connected to this baby I just delivered. My best friend Chelsea, who is now a doula in Idaho, reassured me of this normalcy in so many new mothers. And Joelle and Steffanie also comforted me and helped me feel better about this transition. I felt extreme gratitude for the support and understanding of my friends.
Ultimately, however, because of all the pain I was in, we had to call my midwife, and she came over to my house at 10:30 that evening. She and I sat and talked for quite awhile, and she brought pills from her own cupboard to help me. She was so understanding and loving. I wish she could be the midwife for everyone.
Then on the fourth day, a switch. For one, I had my placenta encapsulated, and I had begun taking the pills, which are not only extremely nutritious but largely help with recovery. It absolutely leveled out my hormones and helped me emotionally cope so much better.
And the prized moment, indicating this shift- I was in my bedroom, all alone with Charlotte, deciding that I would like to try nursing in complete privacy. Just to allow myself a little more space. Processing is best done in solidarity for me. I remember Charlotte in her pink-striped footies. Thumper jammies, as Ryan family calls them. She was wrapped in the absolute softest pink polka-dot blanket. The touch of it to my skin is exquisite. My own baby blanket was folded at the foot of my bed, just as it has been my whole life. And I had my "spa" station playing on Pandora. I settled comfortably against my pillows and brought Charlotte to me to begin nursing. I braced the pain, breathed deeply, reactively flexed my feet with such vigor. And after a little time, we were off - she was latched and swallowing rhythmically.
And there I held her, letting her entire hand grip my finger so tightly. Her cheeks moving with the sucking and swallowing. Her eyes closed and soft. Her whole face tender right against me. And I just sat in the whiteness of my room, the sun coming in the window on my back, our white down comforter cushioning and enfolding me, and the melodic music floating around us. And I just watched her, letting myself feel proud to be her vessel of nutrients, feeling very satisfied and achieved. And ultimately, I felt connected to her. I felt like this was my little being. To love, and nourish, and hold.
And that moment was our beginning.
And some photos my midwife texted to me last night of the delivery:
That braid in my hair is Ryan's doing. After 10 hours of laboring, I was tired of sweeping my hair out of my face, so he braided it for me.
Look at Charlotte's little hand clinging to my bra. I LOVE it! Her head is green, because my midwife applied chlorophyll to help my body widen and loosen for her head's grand entrance.