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Now We Are Four

Anybody miss me?

Let me just say that I'm so, so glad that this was our second birth and not our first. Even after all the fun of the extended prelabor with Sam, this one tops it by a mile, and if it were my only experience with birth, it might have put me off the whole process altogether.

It was scary. It was painful. It was overwhelming, and unnerving, and long. Even so, it was worth every moment in the end, and if I had it to do all over again, I'd relive every minute in a heartbeat just to get to the point where I could finally, finally, gaze into the eyes of my second son. Yes, son!

On October 19, in the wee hours of the morning, we were all privileged to meet and become the thrilled family of one Gabriel Owen Richmond. Everybody, meet my little boy.

Sleeping Gabe

Where to begin? I'm hard-pressed to nail down a moment where I was sure things were beginning. After last time, I was extremely skeptical of my ability to judge when I was actually in labor. To boot, I'd been having frequent Braxton-Hicks for so long that I wasn't sure I'd know when things were changing. I thought I'd go earlier than forty weeks, but part of me worried that I'd screw up and not call Andrea until it was too late for her to make it in time.

On Thursday the fourteenth, I was in a flurry of nesting behavior, running around all over God's creation, trying to get organized and ready for the birth. We were in WalMart, browsing the toy selection (and surreptitiously trying to scope out a "big brother" gift for Sam) when I began having a string of contractions that centered right in my cervix. There was an unbelievable amount of pressure there, and I had sudden visions of my water exploding all over the floor in the middle of a crowd of shoppers. I hurriedly got Sam out of the store via a bribe of a lollipop; at home, on the couch, the contractions lasted for another few hours at three minutes apart before dying away. I shrugged and assumed things might be starting...but I wasn't convinced.

On Friday the fifteenth, things started back up the same way. My cervix felt positively sore, and the contractions were regular. An email from Joy, one of the midwives from Sam's birth, convinced me that I should probably at least let Andrea know what was going on, so I called her. She advised me to rest, and she reassured me that many second-time mothers experience early labor primarily in the cervix. It looked like things were gearing up to happen...but I still wasn't convinced.

On Saturday the sixteenth, I had only a few contractions. The cynical part of my brain seized the opportunity to do the "Ha-ha! I told you so!" dance for the rest of my mind.

In laborSaturday night, I went to bed as myself, and on Sunday, I awoke as Turbo Demoness, Mistress of Pain and Clorox. I was contracting, yes, but I was more focused on the fact that everywhere around me were piles of filth, and every person around me was working diligently to create more filth! I raged about the house all morning, mopping, doing dishes, and screaming at everybody in the house. I managed to scare poor Sam out of his wits with my tirade; I told him to pick up his Legos before he left his room and threatened to take any Legos I found on the floor, but he interpreted it as a command not to leave his room or else lose all his toys. Eric found him there much later, trying to sweep his floor with a toy broom and refusing to leave: "Mommy says clean!"

Andrea came by the house to repeat my Group B Strep screening test (the first sample got discarded due to a clerical error). She consoled me and told me to get out of the house. We went out for pizza for lunch, and I began contracting in earnest. I still wasn't convinced, though, and I was still wearing my Demoness horns; we came home, I yelled some more, and then I fled to the bedroom to be alone. In the meantime, Eric tried to puzzle my conflicting requests that he make enchiladas for dinner ("Put me into labor, already!") but that he not leave the house. He didn't dare risk my wrath by arguing, so he made enchiladas from scratch - as in flour tortillas from scratch, sauce from scratch, and so on. It was quite good, but my contractions spaced back out again. ("Ha-ha!" says the brain.) I cleaned more, then went to bed and hallucinated my way through the night full of pain. At one point, while attempting to weather a contraction on the toilet, I dreamed that some higher power would be willing to end my labor if I would just name the baby "Alivia."

In laborMonday came, and Eric went to work, with the admonition to stay near his desk and his phone. I tried to take Andrea's suggestion of resting; I really did. Late in the afternoon, though, I had a sudden, overwhelming urge to bake. I couldn't help myself! I began to mix, stir, and cook, and I soon had a baked pumpkin in the oven and three loaves of pumpkin bread ready to go in after that. Clearly, I had lost my mind. Sam began to act very concerned, both at my activity and the fact that every five minutes or so, I was having to squat and moan. He vocalized with me, which actually helped keep me focused. Eventually, at five o'clock, I called Eric and suggested that perhaps he might want to make his way home. Then I called Andrea.

There was a problem. Andrea was at work, and she needed to find somebody to cover for her. That would take about an hour, but the backup midwife was several cities away and wouldn't be able to come to me in the meantime. Cue a third midwife, Rosie. She was in town, and Andrea called her and asked if she'd be able to come and sit with me. I was so grateful to have somebody there that I didn't care that I'd never met the woman before; she brought her baby girl, and Sam was delighted to have company.

In the poolWhile we waited for her to arrive, I had suggested to Eric that we start filling the pool. It was slow-going, but I eventually hopped in even though it wouldn't cover my stomach. The warmth and buoyancy helped immensely, and I labored there for a few hours. Andrea arrived, and she and Rosie checked me periodically while I did my best to deal with the hard labor. I had incredible pressure in my back, and I needed somebody to push on the small of my back with every contraction, or else I couldn't deal well at all.

Over time, though, I began to get frustrated. Eric noticed before I did that the contractions seemed to be spacing out, but eventually it became an undeniable fact. I don't think things would have stopped, but the water definitely seemed to be having a slowing effect. Sam got exhausted and Eric took him to bed. I had enough time between contractions to regain my mental focus, and with that came a determination to make sure things kept going. At nine-thirty, I decided to get out of the water.

I spent the next few hours laboring in any position that seemed to help make things stronger. I sat backwards on the toilet, leaning over a pile of pillows; I squatted beside the bed, braced against the mattress. Andrea checked me, and even though I'd been having some pushing urges, I was still only about seven or eight centimeters dilated. By eleven, I felt exhausted, so I lay on the plastic-layered bed and nodded off between contractions, struggling to hands and knees during them. All the while, Andrea had been checking the baby's heart tones, and we were starting to see a few drops during contractions, but everything perked right up afterwards.

Sometime around midnight, my water broke in a huge gush. I was so tired that I could barely rouse enough to ask whether the fluid was clear, but I quickly came to alertness when Andrea said, "There's some staining." Apparently, Gabriel had decided to have his first bowel movement without the benefit of a diaper or solid ground. Meconium staining in the amniotic fluid is a sign of possible fetal distress, and an air of tension began to build. Andrea checked heart tones again.

"They're still dropping," she said. She gave me an internal exam, and found that I still wasn't quite fully dilated, and Gabe's head was coming at my cervix sideways, facing my hip. We began to try various positions in an attempt to see what position would help Gabe's heart rate stay steadiest. Unfortunately for me, the position that worked best for him was the worst for me: flat on my back, lithotomy-style.

Hey, I'd have pushed standing on my head if that's what he needed. It was still the most painful, out of control sensation I've ever experienced in my life. I was scared for the baby, I was scared for me, and I was scared of the expressions on everybody's faces around me. There was some talk of transferring to the hospital if his heart kept dropping. I kept wanting to ask if we should get in the car, but every time I tried to ask, another contraction would hit...and then another...and then another. They were piling up, and I was pushing. It hurt in unimaginable ways, but I couldn't stop. I hollered as I felt burning, tearing, and then...

Just bornGabriel was there, all warm and soft and screaming his little head off. Where Sam had been quietly blue and peaceful at his birth, Gabe was obviously very ticked off at the world for making him leave his little home. I later learned that he had the cord around his neck, but just loosely enough that Andrea was able to help the rest of his body through the "noose." It helped that his cord was roughly a mile long, leaving plenty of room to spare.

Sam slept through the whole thing, miraculously. I sent Eric to wake him when Gabe was out, but Sam refused to leave the warmth of his bed. He eventually got up a bit later, while we were getting ready to weigh and measure Gabe. It was about three o'clock, around an hour after the birth, and everybody was exhausted but jazzed. He weighed eight pounds and four ounces, which surprised all of us, as he looked much smaller. (In fact, Andrea took her scale downstairs and recalibrated it with a bag of sugar to make sure it was right.) After checking my tear (first-degree; no stairs for a few days) and the rest of Gabe's body, cleaning the mess, and making sure everything was going well, Andrea and Rosie left, and we all tried to go to sleep.

We're a family of four. I can hardly believe it! The level of testosterone in this house just jumped another notch, but I think I'm prepared to deal with that. "My boys" has a very nice ring to it. "These are my men." I can definitely get used to the sound of that.

Gabriel is my changeling baby. He doesn't look like Sam did at birth at all. He has dark hair, darker eyes that are perhaps more grey than blue now, and a squarer face. Where Sam nursed with a perpetually suspicious look on his face when he was very small, Gabriel maintains a look of constant surprise and slight amusement. He's mild-mannered, calm, and snuggly, and he's already shown a strong liking for being kissed on his face. I can't wait to see what else there is to learn about this boy.

So. Sam and Gabe. Samuel and Gabriel. Welcome to the next chapter of my life; I think it's going to be a real page-turner.

Weighing Gabe Swaddled

First nursing

previous one year ago:
I don't much think about working on his academics until we run into another child whose parent has obviously had Stanford Preschool on the brain.
two years ago:
On Sunday, all of us went out to a pumpkin patch for hayrides, pumpkin picking, a costume contest, and treats.
three years ago:
Suddenly the dolphin woke up and swam right over to us. He looked for all the world as though he was checking out this brightly-clad baby human standing before him.
four years ago:
Don't get me wrong; I enjoy a bit of electro-acoustic music as much as the next guy.
five years ago:
I walked into work this morning and a coworker looked at me and said, "You don't look so good. Are you pregnant?"
In the ears:

On the Bookshelf:
Rereading Winter's Heart

Gratuitous Sam

Papou, Sam, and Gabe

Sam holding Gabe

Meeting Gabe for the first time


©1999-2003 C. Richmond.