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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jesper Elias

This post is long overdue! I have been agonizing over my need to write Jesper's birth story down before I forget everything, but that anxious need is daily buffeted by five little men who need their mama in many varied ways.  This motherhood thing sure is demanding when you add an infant to the mix.  But, finally, with five minutes here and 20 minutes there I've been able to piece this behemoth-of-a-story together with my usual photographic overload so that the whole world can have access to the awesomeness that is Jesper's birth story.  {Short video of Jesper's arrival at bottom of post.}

Let's start on his due date, April 7th . . . .

Monday, April 7, 2014

D-Day, 40 weeks, Full Term, Ready to Pop!  Mary arrived on the 5th to help prepare for Jesper's birth.  April 7th came and went with not a peep or a stir from Jesper.  I guess he missed the memo that it was his due date.  This wasn't unexpected, though.  I was a couple of days overdue with Karsten and Oskar as well.

Tuesday, April 8 to Sunday, April 13, 2014

Waiting, waiting, waiting.  And more waiting.  Anxiously.  With increased aggravation and impatience on my part.  I don't do waiting very well.  I do instant gratification superbly, though!  ;)  During these days, we went on a couple of hikes, applied a lot of Clary Sage essential oil, and attempted breast pumping in order to induce labor.  None of it worked, much to my chagrin, and I watched April 16th marching closer and closer with great trepidation.  Why April 16th, you ask?  Well, that was the day we planned to bless Jesper here at home.  The only day that we would be able to keep with tradition and have my dad and Dan's dad there to help with the blessing.  One day.  Not much flexibility for our tenacious, belligerent, womb-loving Jesper.  Mary had to leave for her Gilbert, AZ, temple shifts on Thursday the 10th and Friday the 11th, then she and Larry drove back to California on Saturday the 12th and spent a night up in Orange County to see some of their kids up there before coming back to our place on Sunday the 13th.

That's a lot of rambling itinerary, I know.  If it didn't stick, here's the gist of it - Mary was here, then gone, then here again.  All while Jesper lazily floated about my uterus.

Monday, April 14, 2014

I had an appointment with my midwife, Karly, today.  I asked her to strip my membranes.  She said she could, but that I might also want to try Castor Oil if I was really wanting an almost-guaranteed induction method.  I cringed at that.  Castor Oil has never really been on the plate for me.  It's a last resort that I basically figure I'll never resort to.  I don't like throwing up.  And that's putting it mildly.  I can't stand to even feel nauseated because all my life I've passed out while throwing up, sometimes resulting in very embarrassing situations and trips to the ER for stitches, etc.  It's not pretty, just ask my mom/brother/roommates/husband.  So the idea of intentionally taking something like Castor Oil that might cause me to feel nauseated and would assuredly give me stomach issues and diarrhea . . . well, it just wasn't in my plans for this birth. Also, I wanted another water birth!  It doesn't take a genius to know that water birth + diarrhea is not really a great idea.  Ew.  BUT, nor had I ever in my wildest dreams imagined that I might still be pregnant at 41 weeks!  That was just unheard of for me and you'd think with four births under my belt I might have at least some idea what to expect, with just the tiniest bit of certainty.  Right?  Or so I thought, anyway.  But here I was, 41 weeks pregnant, irritable as all get out, large and heavy, hot and tight-bellied, just reeking of desperation.

And so, after Karly stripped what membranes she could reach (she has really tiny hands), we stopped at the health food store, picked up some Castor Oil, drove home, set out 2 oz. in two shot glasses, and got to work.  Oh, Dan also ran down to Stater Bros. and picked up some pomegranate juice for me to chase the Castor Oil down with.  That ended up being the perfect selection for how acidic it was - it cut right through all the oil coating my mouth and teeth.  Oh gag.  Just writing this is bringing back bad memories.  People, Castor Oil?  Don't do it.  It is NAS-TY.  Gah!  I chugged 2 oz., then shoved one of the glasses into Dan's hand and bravely commanded him to give me another ounce.  Karly had said that 4 oz. was the norm, but that maybe I should start with 2 because of my fear of being nauseated.  I settled for middle of the road. :) Anyway, I took the foul stuff at 3pm, then went to lie down in bed.  Dan and Grandpa Larry took the boys swimming over at Mary and Larry's hotel pool.  At about 5:30pm, after experiencing gradually increasing stomach cramps, nausea, dizziness, sweats and chills, and shakiness, I shot out of bed and raced for the toilet where I swear my bowels emptied more than I ever possibly could have put in there.  I sat there, miserable, pretty sure I was going to be throwing up soon, too.  I called Dan and told him he needed to come home because I wasn't feeling well at all and needed him in case I did pass out.  Mary was still in the house with me, but I know she wouldn't have been able to support my dead weight if I did end up passing out.  I had one more super awful trip to the toilet before my body settled into a rhythm of bowel contractions that were very promising in nature as far as labor was concerned.  Practically living in the bathroom for the next five hours was not very fun, though.  I still cannot believe how much my body was able to eliminate during that time.  It was insanity.  Once the sweats passed and I knew I wouldn't throw up, I hooked myself up to the breast pump and spent two hours pumping and going to the toilet.  Sounds like a party, right?  I was just so afraid that all this would be for naught.  I really, REALLY wanted it to make a difference.  And in the end, it did.  At 11pm, after maintaining a constant text conversation with Karly throughout the evening, I asked her to come and break my water.  I was definitely in active labor.  Woo hoo!  Things had picked up.  I also called Amanda and asked her if she wanted to come now or if she wanted me to call her again after Karly showed up.  She said she'd come right down.


So, all parties converged on the Bagel home.  Karly arrived just before midnight.  Amanda a little bit before her, and Debra (Karly's assistant) a few minutes after.  We started filling up the birth tub, Karly took my vitals, and at 12:40am, Karly broke my water for me and I hopped into the warm water.  A few minutes later, Dan and Mary woke up the big boys - Soren, Anders, and Karsten - so they could witness the birth of their baby brother.  Apart from being a little groggy, Soren and Anders were fine and even seemed a little excited.  Karsten, on the other hand, was not happy at being awake and became especially distressed when he heard the low moaning sound I make to help me stay relaxed through painful contractions.  Before this birth, he and I had talked a lot about how much he wanted to get in the birth tub with me as I labored.  I was fine with that, but I made sure he knew exactly what labor would be like, even going so far as to imitate my labor sounds at random times throughout the day so the boys would get used to the noise.  Eventually, Karsten went to the bathroom and put on his swim trunks.  Then he found some "castle guys" (Imaginext figurines) to play with and hopped in with me.  He would still stare at me worriedly each time a new contraction rolled through, but he seemed much more chipper and even cuddled with me at one point.  Soren grabbed my little point-and-shoot camera as soon as he came out.  We had settled earlier that he would be my videographer.  Anders grabbed his pillow to keep himself warm and settled on the ground right nearby the birth tub.  He and Soren were the best spectators/cheerleaders a birthing mama could ask for!  It was just amazing to be surrounded by all these people I love so much.

Throughout all this socializing, contractions were constant and getting stronger and more painful.  And I began to have some pretty awful back labor.  Because of this last, Karly suspected that the baby might be posterior, though from what she could feel of his head, there didn't seem to be any indication that that was the case.  As my back labor went from bad to worse, however, she decided to play it safe and have me get out and labor a bit in the side-lying position on the couch.  This is the WORST position as far as pain, but it does really help the baby to rotate. So, at 2:05am, I got out of the hot tub and into the frying pan; I gathered my determination and hauled my swollen self over to the couch.  And there I labored miserably - first on one side, then the other, still experiencing terrible back pain and now awful leg cramps, too - for about 30 minutes, after which Karly checked and found the baby to STILL be in a perfect anterior position.  Go figure.  She gave me the go-ahead to get back in the birth tub as she shook her head and puzzled over the fact that I was having horrific back labor without a posterior baby.  Boo.  That's all I have to say about that.  Boo.  Boo.  Boo.  Not fair.  I could have easily handled the pain that was going on in the front of me, but my back was a totally different story.  It was excruciating and I lost it a couple of times, keening high pitched screeches and panting rapidly until Karly deposited some Arnica beneath my tongue and talked me through calming down.  This labor was NOT easy.  Oskar was a cakewalk compared with Jesper.

Back in the birth tub now, Dan was staying right in front of me, keeping a cool washcloth on my head at all times in order to prevent nausea and vomiting.  Mary had given him a bowl of ice and water and two washcloths to rotate so I'd always have a cold one.  Contractions were so, so painful and there didn't seem to be any real break between one and the next.  It was just so hard and I kept begging Karly to tell me WHEN I was going to get to push.

Then, relief!  Blessed, wonderful relief.  At 2:57am, I felt Jesper settle into the birth canal and the urge to push would no longer be denied.  I bore down with everything I had in my exhausted body.  I growled my way through six. whole. minutes. of pushing, stopping a moment to feel Jesper's full head of hair when his noggin crowned, fully appreciating the burning ring of fire because it meant that my baby was almost there and this whole ordeal would be over.  At 3:03am, I felt the wonderful sensation of his shoulders giving way and his body slithering out into the warm water of the birth tub.  I found his armpits and scooped him up and . . . . GAH!  He was stuck, too!  Just like Oskar, Jesper was all tangled up in his umbilical cord and wouldn't "swoop" up to my chest the way I have ALWAYS wanted one of my babies to be able to be birthed!  In my frenzied state of mind, I just kept tugging this way and that until Karly and Dan's voices broke through the craze, "Liz, down, bring the baby back down.  Lower the baby, Liz!"  Yeah.  Lovely.  Eventually, though, and with Karly's help, he made it onto my chest and I rejoiced over this new little life and the fact that my labor was over.  Let the hormones flood.  I was relieved and happy as could be.  Everyone gathered 'round.  Karsten was asking in his sweet little voice, "So, can I hold baby Jesper now, Mom?"  Karly had to show him the umbilical cord and explain to him that baby Jesper was still attached to mommy.

With everyone peeking over my shoulder at a wide-eyed Jesper and Amanda clicking away to capture the moment of this room full of love and excitement, I tried to birth the placenta.  It wouldn't come.  I tried again a few minutes later with another contraction.  It still wouldn't come.  So Karly broke up the party and held Jesper while Dan helped me to the couch where a few minutes later I birthed Jesper's former housing.  And a few minutes after that, Dan did the honors with the cord.  Karly then took the placenta over to the boys where she proceeded to instruct them in the different parts as she stretched it this way and that, twisting it inside-out and showing off the "tree of life" that nourished Jesper for nine months.  In the meantime, over in my neck of the living room, Jesper was worming his way down to the breast and learning to latch.  As I got acquainted with my new baby boy, the room was abuzz with commotion.  The three boys were rehashing the birth and watching Karly and Debra.  Karly and Debra were all business, organizing birth implements, draining the birth tub (containing a HUGE meconium poop that Jesper expelled when he emerged from the womb), and cleaning up.  Oskar woke up and joined the party.  Mary was feeding me a scrambled egg tortilla wrap.  When I finished said egg wrap, we moved from the living room back to the bedroom and Karly weighed, measured, and examined Jesper.  She also footprinted him and then turned him over to Dan for his first diaper change and clothing.  I looked on and dealt (not very well) with my intense afterbirth contractions.

As we put kids back to bed and people trickled out into other parts of the house or back to their homes, Amanda slowed down with the camera. Finally (after my billions of demands), she was able to put it down altogether and come hold and meet Jesper.  We tucked in with our shoulders and heads bowed together and talked about how she was feeling being at Jesper's birth after what happened with Elias.  She said the hardest part was hearing him cry for the first time since she never got to hear Elias cry.  That made me emotional.  In fact, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about Elias as I look at Jesper.  They were destined to be best friends, a little gang of two.  Now their friendship will have to wait a bit.  And that just stinks.  Whenever Jesper's newborn eyes wander and stare into the distance and he gets one of his precious little grins on his face, I always ask him if he sees his buddy Elias.  And I can't help but stroke Jesper's cheeks, thinking about Elias and how fragile life and these bodies are.  It's a little frightening, and at the same time, not.  Frightening if I imagine losing one of my own kids, but not so much if I think about dying myself.  As if death has lost its threat by being so universally inescapable.

Amanda also gave us a huge gift bag containing presents from her and her mom: a darling crocheted newsboy cap, an awesome crocheted cocoon for photographing Jesper (which I have already used . . . that post will be coming soon . . . I hope), a darling blanket made by Amanda (she also made one for Oskar when he was born and, by Joe, he loves that thing!), a sweet little teddy from Elias to his best bud, and a cute little ice pack that has already been put to good use a couple of times fighting migraines.


We finally let Amanda go home (the poor girl had photographed my entire birth while plagued with nausea!) and I tried to suppress the emotional high I was riding long enough to take a nap and recharge.  Dan was already fast asleep with baby Jesper in his arms, head dangling over our newborn son, soft snores the only sound in the room.  And so we settled into our new life with five little boys . . . .

Final score:

Birth - fast and furious at about 4 hours from start to finish
Jesper Elias Agle
April 15, 2014, 3:03am
9lbs, 3oz
22 inches long
15cm head circumference
Looks like . . . an Agle (or so everyone says, anyway :D).  Initially we thought he looked a lot like Karsten, but he's definitely coming into his very own look.  And it's a cute one.

A couple of notes about the following video:

1. Soren thought Jesper would be coming out the back into Karly's hands.  But, though you get to start out with a lovely view of my derriere, he's pretty darn quick about swinging to the front to catch the action when he realizes his mistake.

2. Yes, I snapped at Dan.  I'm so mean.  I'm not a nice laborer and Dan is super patient to put up with my waspish nature throughout my travail.  I mean, super patient.


Huge, HUGE thanks to Miss Amanda for all these fantastic pictures!  She did an A-MAZING job capturing the entire story of Jesper's birth and she did so regardless of the physical and emotional drain on herself.  Best friends just don't come better than her.  I love you, Amandy!

And, of course, massive thanks to our Karly midwife!  Thanks for making sure Jesper arrived safely!

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Marcia said...

Soren did an amazing job of filming. He held the camera very still. The children's comments and picture taking and playing were so funny while you were laboring away. Good job!

lindsey. said...

Oh Liz. I don't know where to start. I just loved every bit of this and became increasingly emotional as your story went on. It is just beautiful. All of it. But I think my favorite part were the pictures of you & Dan. As I think you know, I have long admired the true partnership you two share. To see him supporting you as you labor was powerful. I am filled with even more love for all of you - and I already loved you guys A LOT! Thank you so much for sharing the story of Jesper. Love you, you amazing woman you!

Courtney @ Ordinary Happily Ever After said...

Congratulations! We'll be greeting our new little one in September. I do miss the magic of home births. I'm so glad it went well for you!

Lisa said...

I have been anxiously awaiting this post! He is so handsome and you are one amazing momma! Love ya!

Rachel Scoresby said...

Oh, Auntie, your newest is so precious. Thank you for sharing the whole story with us -- I read and loved it all. I hope Jesper and I get to meet in person one of these days.