I hired a postpartum doula for this past pregnancy, and boy am I glad I did.
Janelle of Foi en la Femme stopped by today and made some amazing Moroccan Rfissa Soup, completed a “bone closing ceremony,” that helps realign and heal bones/joints that have been displaced thru pregnancy, prepared some of the most amazing tea Chris and I have ever had, and taught me how to do a traditional Bengkung bind using a special cloth made by Willow Wisteria (@willow.wisteria) of Art of Natural Wellness.
In addition to all that (and plenty more), she provided a whole plethora of info prior to Luca’s arrival that was informative and empowering- even for this highly assertive, seasoned momma of four!
I’ll be sharing a full breakdown of our time together eventually, but for now, here’s a fun sneak peak from today’s postpartum visit!
I highly encourage anyone looking to have a baby to “like” and follow her page. I cannot recommend her enough!
Happy Birthday, Luca!
Luca is my fourth son, so I have some experience when it comes to labor and delivery. I've learned to trust my body and lean into the evolution that has ensured a woman's body is perfected to bring forth life.
Can there be complications? Absolutely. This pregnancy was full of them. However, there is something visceral connecting women who have endured the right of passage that is motherhood, and I've learned to listen to the whispers of those who have gone before me.
In prior deliveries, I didn't know what I didn't know. I trusted medical professionals to inform me of best practices and how to navigate the trauma of birth. For as much as I loved my original OB, I was woefully unprepared for labor and delivery. After the absolute nightmare of Nico's delivery, I vowed to do things my way henceforward, and I'm so glad I did.
I changed practices from a traditional OB-GYN to a midwifery group, and I was immediately treated to tools and methods that had never been mentioned by my prior practice. I was interviewed and listened to, and my midwives really got to know me, my preferences, and my hopes for a calm and safe delivery.
When it came time to finally birth Luca, midwife Kamil was on-call, and I'm so glad she was. She and I had bonded over our sons (both special needs) and I'm pretty sure I saw her more than I'd seen anyone else during my pregnancy. She held me through a particularly rough contraction and I said, "I'm so glad you were on-call tonight." She whispered "Thank you for choosing me to be here tonight, Luca."
My heart just melted... even with the contractions.
Anyway, I'm most comfortable riding contractions on my knees with my hands propping me up almost at a 90 degree angle on the bed. Rather than crying out or talking myself through the pain, I'd focus on "breathing Luca out." I'd simply take several deep breaths and "push" on each exhale, feeling him move through my body. It was incredible, as I'd never gotten to experience that with my others.
I was calm, composed, and totally in control the entire time.
That said, there was a moment I was a bit panicked because of the two surgeries I'd had just a couple days prior to delivery. Both surgeons said that in order to give birth naturally, I *MUST* have an epidural. Given the circumstances, I agreed even though I had really wanted to go without an epidural as I'd done with Nico. The problem is, the first nurse in the room didn't want to do an epidural right away because procedure calls for two IV bags to drain before attempting one. This is to help prevent the new mom's heartrate from dropping. I explained to her what the surgeons had both said and why I wasn't a textbook delivery; exceptions can always be made. She was frustrated by my pushback which set Chris off his rocker.
Normally a very patient, even-tempered man, he demanded a doctor. He said he wasn't going to allow "procedures" to hold up pain management given the severity of my prior surgeries and the fact that my deliveries tended to be too short to wait for those "procedures." If I said I was going to be delivering Luca within the hour, then they'd better get ready to catch him within the hour because I know my body better than they do so get the damned doctor in.
I'm paraphrasing, but that's pretty much the gist of it.
She was annoyed, but sure enough, she went out and called for the anesthesiologist who came in and tried to explain why the two bags were standard. Again, Chris pushed back and advocated while I labored through several more contractions. As a result, the anesthesiologist relented and said, "Ok, we can put a pump on the IV to get at least one bag into her. That should take about 15 minutes and then we'll do the epidural." That was acceptable to both of us.
At this point, my midwife, Kamil, had returned (having just delivered another baby) and simply sat back and let me do my thing. She didn't try to coach me or anything because she knew I trusted myself to do what was best. So between contractions, which were coming every 3-5 minutes, we'd enjoy some ridiculous conversation between her, myself and Chris. The original nurse left (I'm pretty sure because she felt slighted by Chris whom she called "too spicy") and was replaced by a nurse named Michelle who was the sweetest thing ever. Just like Kamil, Michelle let me labor exactly how I wanted to and didn't try to intervene or shift my methods.
Chris stayed by my side the whole time, cheering me on and rubbing my back through each contraction.
Soon, anesthesiology came back in and set me up with an epidural. They laid me back so that the meds would have a chance to move into place before pushing. Alas, just as I had anticipated, it was too late.
I felt Luca move into "push position." I turned to Kamil and I said, "I'm pretty sure it's time to push." She laughed and said, "I thought we'd have another hour or so!" She checked me, though, because she trusted that I knew what I was talking about. Sure enough, it was time to push. Not only was I fully dilated, he was less than a knuckle away from crowning.
With Michelle to the left of me and Chris to the right, Kamil got ready to catch as she said, "Alright, on the next contraction, let's push!"
And so I did, and I immediately felt him crown. I pushed again and I heard Kamil quietly say to Michelle "There's meconium." Chris didn't understand what that meant, but I did and I immediately felt the fires of motivation churn to a fever pitch as I pushed again. Luca had to get out, and he had to get out NOW, so with one final push, Luca (weighing in at 9lbs even!) slipped into Kamil's waiting arms and was taken straight away to the waiting NICU team. They had already been on hand due to the surgeries I'd had prior to delivery, but the focus was more on clearing his airway of meconium than checking for anything else.
Chris was still not sure why I was suddenly panicked, so I briefly explained what meconium was and why it's dangerous at delivery. Sure enough, Luca had breathed in enough to send him up to the NICU for treatment and observation.
However, God is good and both Chris and I were able to hold him before that happened. Luca, yet another miracle from God... this one more than 10 years in the making. I still can't believe it which is probably why I keep marveling at it. God truly is faithful and so unfathomably generous.
Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet Luca. Rest up and get better soon so we can finally introduce you to your big brothers!
Luca's Birth: A Prologue
Our beautiful baby boy, Luca Benjamin, a miracle more than 10 years in the making, was welcomed into our arms earlier this week by the grace and ever-faithful love of our unfathomably merciful God.
In my prior post, I had mentioned needing emergency surgery that snatched away our hopes for a calm and natural birth. That surgery was a temporary band-aid meant to help us get through the final weeks of pregnancy, but God had other plans.
On Super Bowl Sunday, still reeling from excruciating pain, I found myself back in the ER. Again I was told I needed emergency surgery- this one much more extensive and significantly more invasive. It was a truly terrifying prospect, especially given how close to labor and delivery I was. I asked if there was any possibility of postponing surgery until after delivery, but the surgeon said I'd be putting myself at even greater risk as parts of my body had already begun necrotizing. The band-aid had failed; it was either surgically remove the dying tissue now or risk my life and the life of Luca.
Chris and I are of the same mindset- the best way around a hard situation is to dive in and head straight on through. Knowing how overwhelming this news was, he asked the surgeon to give us a few minutes. He knows that I process overwhelming news like this in two steps:
I've always been this way, and Chris immediately recognized that I was rapidly moving into Freak Out Phase as the surgeon explained what was happening. He asked the doctor to step out of the room so that I had the space and privacy to let out the tsunami. He sat next to me on the bed and let me unleash it all. He pulled me into himself, letting me rage and cry and spill out every fear he knew I had. He knew each and every one because they matched his own. He understood what this sort of surgery meant and how dangerous it was so close to Luca's delivery. But he also understood that there was no other option, and so he repeated what he said to me just a few days prior, and he forced me to look him square in the eyes as he said it. And he repeated it, several times, because he wanted me to not only understand, but to believe him.
But oh... the pain in his voice. The thing is that I 100% believed him. Even now, I know he meant every word. But such a truth... such a generous, selfless capital "T" Truth... it comes at great cost, and I could hear the depths of that sacrifice aching alongside my own broken heart. I touched his face and he pulled me into his arms again. We allowed ourselves to crash against the rocks as the tempest of our grief and fears tossed us mercilessly forward.
We only consent to be victims of our feelings for the briefest of times, though. Once we poured ourselves out, we got to work planning the logistics of moving forward. We didn't have much time, because the surgeon had already made clear that he was heading to the Operating Room to begin prepping his team. That left Chris and I about 20 minutes to sort out next steps, and we had to do so while nurses came in to do blood draws, COVID test swabs, and explain consent forms.
Since we knew I'd be at the hospital for several days post-op, he got to work figuring out care for the kids. Luckily, our older boys were set, but Nico was a different story. He mobilized key members of our support network so they knew what was happening and could chip in to help with Nico. He also alerted his bosses that his work schedule would be shifting to accommodate daycare pick up/drop off. He also started updating family members on where I was in terms of health and recovery. As for me, when not having blood drawn or signing consent forms, I was updating my midwifery group and doula on complications they'd now need to be ready for and connecting them to the new surgical team that would be taking over my life for the next few weeks.
It was a whirlwind of texting, emails and phone calls, but somehow, we got it taken care of just as transport came to wheel me down to the operating room. Chris followed me as far as he could, kissed me, and said he'd be waiting for me when I got into Recovery. He also slipped me my rosary so that I'd have it through the procedure.
The surgical team was fantastic. They understood my anxiety was through the roof and they all understood what was at stake. One doctor in particular, Susan, held me as they began the sedation process and acknowledged- with what felt like sacred reverence- the impossible situation I'd found myself in. As she held me, she put her head against mine and said that she was so sorry this had to be done. Even now, a week later, her empathy overwhelms me with gratitude.
Chris made it to Recovery before I did and was there when they wheeled me in. Still enjoying the benefits of sedation, we got in about an hour of pain-free time together before it was time for him to head home to take care of Nico. The surgeon had warned us both that the next several weeks would be hell, and the man wasn't kidding.
I was in the hospital from Sunday morning through Tuesday afternoon, and in that time, I was on a rotating cocktail of Morphine, Fentanyl, Dilaudid, and Percocet. As someone who refuses to take even Tylenol for kidney stones, being on such a strong menu of opioids/narcotics- ESPECIALLY whilst pregnant- scared the crap out of me. My doctors and nurses all swore it was necessary, and given the incredible pain I was in, I partially relented. I agreed to the pain meds on a reduced schedule. Rather than taking them every two hours, I stretched myself to 6 hours. The pain was unlike anything I've ever experienced and would never wish it on anyone. But I persisted, because that is what mothers do.
Finally, it was time for discharge Tuesday afternoon (Valentine's Day). Chris came for me, and after a brief scare regarding contractions, we were able to go home. The pain was still impossibly intense, and I called my friend, Sam, to help as I labored through some of the involuntary post-operative spasms that felt an awful lot like giving birth. Even she said that had she not known I'd had surgery days prior, she would've been calling 9-1-1 expecting me to deliver Luca in the bathtub.
Eventually, the involuntary spasms subsided and I was able to redress (though the process repeated several more times that night). I told Sam (and my brother who had stopped by to help) to go home but that I'd call with any updates. I was still refusing to take the cocktail of pain medications because I refused to put Luca into harm's way, so I'd take the bare minimum and try to sleep it off.
Alas, I only made it one day before recognizing the tell-tale signs of real labor.
Wednesday, February 15th at about 10PM, I made the call to get to the hospital. Luca was coming and for as much as we had wanted to give my body a chance to heal from the prior two surgeries, it was not meant to be. We packed Nico into the car, dropped him off to our friends, Sam and Brett, and immediately headed for the hospital where my midwife was already waiting.
Part II: Happy Birthday, Luca!
More on Chris Being Perfect
It's been a really emotional week for me. I have been struggling hard with some end of pregnancy health problems that culminated in me needing emergency surgery on Friday. Luca, thank God, is totally fine, but the hopes we had for a calm, natural birth have gone straight out the window. We'll now have a team on stand-by the moment I call and say it's "Go Time."
And that's okay. I've always rolled my eyes at the idea of doing a birth plan because there is simply no way to account for the myriad ways things can change last minute. I'm very much a believer that we can (and do) make God laugh when we tell Him our plans for things.
Anyway, in addition to being in a ton of pain from the surgery, itself, I was struggling with guilt over not being home with the kids. Everything (EVERYTHING) fell to Chris. And when I left for the hospital, it wasn't pretty. Vince and Nate both could plainly see the terrible state I was in, and it was scary for them. Vince had trouble sleeping, Nate cried, and that's to say nothing of how poor Nico was processing Mommy leaving. Chris was left to pick up those pieces by himself, and of course, he did it as he does so many other things- perfectly.
He made sure Nate had guidance on processing those big emotions. He redirected Vince away from coping through a cell phone to still recognizing his responsibilities for school and as "big brother." He was sympathetic towards their anxiety, but didn't let them use it as an excuse to stop doing things that were necessary for their health and well-being. I was so grateful, as I always am, that I can trust him to not only take care of the boys, but use even hard situations as opportunities for growth as men.
And then there was his support of me while I was in the hospital (Thursday through Friday afternoon). The level of pain was excruciating, and any semblance of dignity went straight out the window. Never once did I feel embarrassed or ashamed, and it's because I trust him so completely. He helped me to the bathroom, helped me maneuver in the bed (because any sort of movement, no matter how small, was next to impossible), and he helped me answer questions from the staff when I was too blinded by pain to respond appropriately. He was always close enough to keep his hand on me or let me reach out for him because he knows how important touch is for me. God, I love this man.
The biggest thing, though, was how he handled some heartbreaking news we received while there. We still haven't processed it fully, but suffice to say it took my breath away. Somehow, he IMMEDIATELY knew what to say to redirect my psyche away from depression. And the crazy thing is that the news was likely harder for him to hear than it was for me. Regardless, he set his own feelings aside and comforted me. If I'm being honest, that just made me cry harder because I understood what he was doing and recognized the level of love it takes to do that. Lord, I cannot thank You enough for the gift of him. He truly is remarkable and I pray to always love him as fully (moreso, even) than he loves me.
Fast forward to today when I was finally released from the hospital. I'm obviously still in a ton of pain, but it was Nate's 1st Confession and obviously I wasn't gonna miss that for anything other than the birth of Luca. Ha ha!
So tonight, we all got ready to celebrate as a family. Since I'm still incapable of moving around much, Chris handled 99.9% of everything. I snapped a few photos of him dressing Nate and it was all I could do not to cry from appreciation. Nate was dressed in the same suit I'd gotten for Vince when he received. Chris helped him "suit up" and noted he'd need a tie clip/pin, something I didn't have and wouldn't have even thought of. So Chris went to his stash and pulled out a few options. In the end, he chose to let Nate borrow his grandfather's diamond tie pin. He showed Nate how it was used and explained it would help keep his tie in place. Again, it was such a sweet father/son moment and my breath caught in prayer as I once more thanked God that my boys have him to look up to and learn from.
And when we got home, he was adamant about me taking my meds and going to bed. Normally I try to fit in some sort of cleaning/organizing, but he wouldn't allow it. It was strictly "get in the bathtub, relax, take your meds and go to bed." Yes, I'm an adult, but as he points out, I'm a super stubborn one, and he tends to be the only one I allow to out-stubborn me.
I really do love this man, and I appreciate the many, MANY ways he has made our family so wonderful. God is good in all the ways, friends. Always do your best to acknowledge them and give thanks for His goodness.
I love my husband, people. It sometimes feels outright insane to me how much I love him because it's just not something I've ever really witnessed or experienced growing up.
Growing up, I'd heard the saying "I love you more every day" and always thought that was such a silly phrase. Something impossible or only really obtained when you are like 80. In my mind (and experience), "love" was a fleeting feeling that couldn't be relied on. It was useful to set the stage for practicalities like marriage and family, but something reliable? Something to lean into and grow with and be changed by?
Nah. That's fairytale nonsense.
Until Chris. And I can't figure out if it's because my friendship with Chris set the stage for our relationship or if it's just that we're so well-paired. Regardless, I adore this man, and I can honestly say that I somehow manage to love him more each and every day.
I was talking to some friends of mine today. We're on a group chat- just the three of us. We check in on each other once a week. We used to work together, but over the last couple months, major changes set us each on different paths. One of us is still at the office, one of us is on maternity leave (that'd be me), and one of us left altogether and is now a stay at home mom to her new baby girl.
They were teasing me about still being pregnant with Luca and how this should be the last time I'd ever "have to be pregnant" again. Truth be told, I despise (DESPISE) being pregnant. I know some women are all hearts and flowers during this stage, but I abhor just about every part of it. God forgive me, because I know plenty of women who would kill to be in this position (I used to be one of them!), but truth is true. I hate pregnancy in all its stages.
That said, I love children. I always said if I could skip the pregnancy part, I'd have like 10 kids by now, especially knowing that Chris is on-board. He has always been upfront about his desire for a large family, and it's something that's always endeared him to me.
Chris and I have had this conversation several times, even throughout this pregnancy. He's still on board for trying again, but also recognizes the physical/psychological/emotional toll pregnancy takes on me. He swears that if I decided to stop at Luca, he'd be content with our family as is. However, if I were to entertain the notion of trying again, he'd be just as happy.
I said that trying to make a call like that while in the midst of a particularly rough pregnancy probably wasn't the best time to do so. I suggested we revisit after I've had a few months to recoup.
The truth, though, is that I already know what my answer is going to be. It's the same answer I've always had to situations like this: leave it up to God. Because I love this man, I know I'd be willing to do this all over again to bring forth another child. I'd endure the sleepless nights, the chronic pain, the inability to breathe, the exhaustive appointments, the non-stop peeing, and all the other irritating and physically demanding parts of creating and growing life. I'd do it all to give him (and my boys) the gift of another heart to love and be loved by. While my boys don't recognize the gift that subsequent siblings are, eventually, they will.
And this is what I mean when I say that love will legitimately make us do insane things. I'm almost 40. I always said I wanted to be done having kids by 40, and Luca's arriving under the wire. Being open to life and the Will of God means being open to things that I hadn't foreseen or hadn't thought I wanted for myself. And for Chris, I know that I will absolutely be willing to try again, but in leaving it to God, He'll have the final say. So when I get pressure from others about Luca being my last, I always just roll my eyes.
Their fears around parenthood/pregnancy/etc are their baggage, not mine, and I'm grateful to have a husband I love enough (and who loves me enough) to trust that God'll work out the details that are best for our family.
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