Born on the 4th

Bébé has arrived ! Born on the 4th of July like a real little American!

(Fair warning: I talk about the birth, but not in greater detail than what you’ve probably already seen in a Hollywood movie).

Though I had mixed feelings about him having a holiday birthday, I knew I couldn’t really control when he showed up. However, that didn’t stop me from trying a few “tricks” to see if it would help him make an appearance a bit earlier than scheduled.

So Thursday the 3rd, I ate an entire pineapple. And bounced on an exercise ball. Not violently, just a bit while sending some emails. Better for my back anyway! I walked up and down the stairs a few times. At best, I figured it would mean the fireworks on his birthday would compensate a little for the fact he can never be president of the USA. (Fun fact: Malia Obama is born on the 4th of July. So was Calvin Coolidge). At worst, I got a little workout and some vitamin C.

My husband came home that night to find me crying, upset it hadn’t worked, and on top of that, I had been super bored all week, so I was in a pretty rotten mood. I had this big to do list at the beginning of my maternity leave, and nearly everything was checked off. The nursery was set up. The freezer was stocked. My bag was packed. I had watched so much TV my brain was just refusing any more. I could still drive, but tried not to, since his squirming could sometimes distract me quite a bit, and my hips still hurt, so I was in the apartment all the time. But I prepared myself for another few weeks of the same, trying to think of a big project to keep me occupied a little longer. Maybe I would ask my brother-in-law to drive me somewhere the next day, or make a really involved, long recipe like macarons.

Despite all the pineapple and hoping, I was still a little surprised to wake up at 5am on the 4th with contractions 20 minutes apart. I figured we had a few hours ahead of us at home, waiting for things to either get started or stop completely. So I got out the exercise ball and started making breakfast. However, by 7am the contractions were already at 3 minutes apart and incredibly intense, so off to the hospital we went. It took another two and a half hours to get a room and an epidural, which I had neither wanted nor not wanted originally, preferring to wait and see how things happened the day of. The suddenness and intensity of the contractions, and the fact that I was laboring mostly in my back so I had very little relief between contractions, meant I ended up really wanting one. A few normal but unexpected things (vomiting and legs literally trembling from the pain) really drained my energy very quickly as well. I used the breathing I learned in class, which doesn’t actually help with the pain, but none of the positions we practiced, because of my legs just not supporting me. I mostly just lay curled up on my side. So I don’t regret getting an epidural at all, since I could barely speak those first few hours of labor! My husband had worried the past few weeks that my competitive spirit or American pride would keep me from asking for one, but I assured him I would if the pain meant I couldn’t focus on the actual business of getting him out. I knew being relaxed and focused is key, no matter how you achieve it. I had pictured being able to achieve it with the things I learned in class, but I never ruled out other options. I had an anti-plan birth plan: this way would be cool, but let’s just see what happens and we’ll go from there!

After they broke my water (fun fact: despite what Hollywood would have you believe, only like 15% of women have their water break naturally), things happened very quickly. Bébé was getting a little stressed out, so they called my doctor and he ended up coming in to deliver him by ventouse. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but in France, just a midwife delivers, unless there’s a medical intervention like a cesarian, forceps, or ventouse. I’m glad that at least my doctor was available and it wasn’t the one on call who I didn’t know. Also, I’m glad I had a super nice male midwife who spoke in the calmest voice ever. I pushed for about 20 minutes (still uncomfortable, even with an epidural), then my husband had to leave during the few minutes they used the ventouse (though it might have been a bit longer, I was not really looking at the clock at this point!), then he came back in to cut the cord. He said it was very strange to leave the room with me pushing, then come back to see a baby on my chest!

It took about 8 hours total, from that first contraction to the moment he was in my arms, which, for a first baby, is apparently pretty fast. While my ideas about labor very open, on a practical level I had still prepared more for a longer, natural process (or at least without needing the doctor). But I suppose quick and intense is not the worst way to give birth. There were no scary complications and we both came out of it 100% healthy. While my husband wasn’t there for the exact moment of birth, he was there within minutes and, after a half hour or so of cuddling, was the one who carried him out to go do the different tests.

So now we’re all at home, slowly adapting to a rhythm of living that is controlled by this tiny person rather than our own whims. Though we did manage a spontaneous walk around the park the other evening, the rest of our day is planned based on how much he decides to sleep between feedings (I’m breastfeeding). I’m hoping to catch up on blogs and everything next week! Though if it’s another two or three or more, I won’t stress too much. Just know I’m still reading everything, though probably at 2am and I don’t have an extra hand to type out a comment!

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