So much to write down, so little time ... We are in that cozy cocoon of living simply from one feeding to the next, totally caught up in the wonders of umbilical cords falling off, remarking on the color of baby poo, counting bumps and ridges under soft baby hair, and catching smiles from a contented little face. It's a lovely time, and oh-so-fleeting. Though it leaves no time for the real world!
Arden has been home now since the evening of Christmas Eve, and I'm still pinching myself to make sure it's all for real. He continues to show a lot of yellow in his skin, and to be a lot quieter than Nicky or Rowen were. He's a bit like Max in that respect, but sleepier than Max ever was. When he's awake, he's very alert and calmly looks all around him, taking in his new home and family. He has a most remarkable gaze.
The midwife was by today to check on his growth, but the records from the hospital have not yet arrived, so we have nothing to compare his new weight to. There's a bit of concern about his weight (as in, is he gaining enough) and his navel will need to be looked at again to see if it continues to heal properly, but another midwife will come by on Monday and we'll have more knowledge to work with then.
It's funny - after months of being warned that he's big, than bigger than normal, than so big that we had to get special tests run ... Arden turned out to be a wee little fellow after all. At only 7.3 lbs and approximately 19.5 inches, he's the smallest of the four. All those measurements ... wrong. The one they were right on, but which they retracted, was the amniotic fluid. There must've been gallons of water in there! The midwife and nurse present at the birth couldn't believe it. LOL. Just goes to show that no matter how much we may think we know about the quiet miracles, like growing a baby, Mother Nature will always have the last word.
Since time is rather a difficult commodity to come by these days, I'll break his story down into chunks. I doubt it'll be too interesting for anyone, but I'd like him to know about it when he's older (if he's interested!).
The Labor and Birth
Niek and I were admitted to the maternity ward at IJsselland around 7 am on December 20th. They applied 1 dose of hormone cream to my cervix after monitoring Arden's heart/activity rates for about an hour. A half hour after that, I was allowed up to begin pacing - nothing like a bit of a nudge from gravity. I must've worn ruts into the linoleum in our room, but by the time the 1 pm check-up came, there was no additional dilation, though the attending GYN said the cervix felt a lot 'softer' to him and he deemed it worth the try of applying 2 doses of the cream to my cervix after further monitoring Arden's heart and activity rates. Even before I was allowed to get up and pace some more, I felt this time was going to be different. I walked and walked - only pausing when my back began to bother me too much to continue, but then springing up after a few minutes to walk some more. Luckily, it was a slow day on the ward and I was able to pace one of the corridors endlessly without annoying anyone. By 3 pm, my back was bothering me rather a lot and I decided to sit and rock instead, which did a lot for the back pain while still taking advantage of gravity and motion. By 3:15 pm, I began timing my contractions but still didn't say anything about them - I've "lost" contractions so many times in the past with the other kids that I didn't want to jinx myself. By the time the 5:00 pm check came, I knew I was having contractions that would allow us to proceed to the next stage - no way they were going to send me home to wait it out.
More time was spent hooked up to the fetal monitor, and the contractions were pretty close together though not too severe. Still, it's tiring having your body continually wracked by spasms without much of a break in between to rest. That was a result of the hormonal gel - if it works, it triggers contractions, but they are unregulated (as in a normal spontaneous labor, where you get several minutes between each spasm). I was also having trouble with coughing due to my leftover bronchitis and the fact that I had to lay down for the fetal monitoring. Still, everything was going very well and I was feeling ready to take it to the next level.
We were moved into the delivery room around 6:30 pm, which coincided with a shift change. The young male attending we had was replaced by a familiar and comforting face - Marloes, a midwife who had seen us shortly after we lost Arden's twin, and whose compassion and gentleness made a deep impact on us both. Our nurse was also a dear - very sweet as well as funny. We felt we were in good hands. Marloes decided to put me on an IV to regulate and increase the contractions. The ones I was having were not strong enough to actually birth the baby, and the fact that they came on one after the other without a break would become exhausting. We reviewed our birth wishes with them - everything from the cutting of the cord to handling the remains of the lost twin - and settled in for the duration.
Having had the same sort of IV with Nicky, Niek and I knew what to expect and were not at all surprised when the 'gentle' spasms became wracking and painful - but with a decent interval in between in which to recover. The medication used in them also makes me nauseous, but we were ready for that, too. I was able to get up for a little while, which took the strain off my back but made me feel like it was time to start pushing before that was actually the case. So, back into bed. The contraction-measuring device wasn't well calibrated, so unfortunately the nurse was under the assumption that the contractions were still not strong enough - nonetheless, she listened to Niek when he asked her to notch the IV back a bit. Thank heavens! Meanwhile, my breathing exercises and pain management tricks were working reasonably well. If it hadn't been for that rotten cough, I think it wouldn't have been any problem at all. Around 9 pm I told the midwife that the urge to push was growing, even though I was laying down, and she watched my belly through a couple of contractions and said that I wasn't ready. I kept on puffing my way through the contractions, sort of looking inward to feel when they would be strong enough. Awhile later the nurse asked me to turn on my side because Arden's heart rate had begun to drop. On my side, he would get a better blood flow. As soon as I turned, the pain in my back became - in my opinion - intolerable. Niek pushed on my lower back as we'd learned in haptonomy, and the level became tolerable (though barely!). And I started throwing up! That was a first for me! In the process of vomiting really violently, I realized my body had begun to push even if I hadn't, and I could feel Arden already making his entrance. Luckily at that moment Marloes returned and ordered me to turn on my back and stop pushing. I could comply with the first, but not with the latter - I really wasn't doing the pushing. I moved my breathing up into my chest, as we'd practiced, but the baby kept coming out and then he was already there! Thank heavens he was small enough not to get 'caught' as Max did from overly-large shoulders!
Marloes and the nurse immediately popped Arden onto my belly and I quickly pulled him up into my arms, asking everyone and no one if he was okay, if I'd hurt him by it going so fast, and essentially babbling like a woman who's just given birth. He let out a couple of mighty yells and then quickly snuggled into my arms. Niek and I were amazed. We may have four children, but that moment of birth is just incredible. Marloes was spectacular about following all of our requests, and we were able to wait for the cord to stop pulsing before Niek cut it, we kept Arden right in our arms the whole while, we could put him on the breast immediately, etc. It may not have been a home birth, but it certainly was the next best thing.
The delivery of the placenta was a bit trickier and took almost two more hours to occur. To finally get it out, I had to push while Marloes pushed very hard on my belly. When it finally came out, we were able to say goodbye to our lost baby which was difficult and emotional and sad, but also such a release. Everyone's gentleness and compassion made for a very supportive environment.
After that, we were left alone - Niek, Arden, and myself - for over an hour to just enjoy being together after all these months of waiting and worry. It was very private and special. Arden nursed a little bit, Niek and I stared till our eyes were popping ... it just didn't seem possible that this moment had finally arrived and that we were all together.
By then it was after midnight. I had a shower and then was wheeled off to the ward room for new mothers & babies while Niek was free to go home and hopefully catch a few winks of sleep. In the ward room, Arden quickly made his preferences clear - he was happy to sleep through the night, but only in my arms. That was happily arranged, and we snoozed and visited with each other all night long. I tried a few times to nurse him more, but he wasn't interested until around 6 am, when he did a reasonably good job but was certainly not the guzzle guts that his siblings were. Morning found us curled up asleep together, very much the picture of happy content.