I'm so happy to be able to share another birth story written in the mama's own words here. But even more, I'm so happy I had the chance to meet Miriam and Travis (and of course Lyra!). I'm feeling a little sappy about it at the moment, because this sweet little family just relocated outside of the state, and I can confidently say it's Fairbanks' loss. In addition to being a badass mama, Miriam is in the process of becoming a doula to serve other women through their childbearing year. And she's just really, really great. (Case in point: not everyone can successfully pull off playfully comparing parenting to Stockholm Syndrome.)
Before I turn the reins over to Miriam, I wanted to share just one fond recollection I have from this birth: Miriam had the best labor playlist I've ever heard, hands down.
Here are Miriam's words, written shortly after Lyra's birth in 2015 and originally published on her blog, Of Moose and Miriam.
It has been six weeks since the birth of my little stomach dweller, and it has been a whirlwind. My mom arrived a week before my due date, just in time to help me with my last few nesting chores. And also we binge watched a lot of "Call the Midwife" and "X-files." I'm pretty sure Lyra recognizes the X-files theme song now, to be honest. I was thrilled to have someone to hang out with me during the day, and Travis was thrilled to have someone else I could voice my complaints to. At this point, I was convinced Lyra would be late. In addition, I was hormonal about how I would soon have to share my baby and miss my baby kicks from the inside. Not rational, but neither is pregnancy. Also, I could not sleep; I could not waddle very fast anymore; I had to pee approximately 45,673 times per day; even looking at food gave me heartburn; and my random contractions that I'd been having for months were getting more painful but staying completely unproductive.
I could not sleep the night before my due date. Travis was scheduled to work a day shift and his family was due to arrive at midnight. Once I gave up on sleep around four in the morning, I got up and began pacing around the house while Travis got ready for work. I started having quite a lot of contractions but they barely hurt and I'd been playing this game of random contractions for a while.
Side note: we found out during a trip to the hospital at 34 weeks that I have a super irritable uterus. Luckily we didn't have an early baby, we just tricked my uterus with some nifty meds. Basically the meds kicked on my flight or fight reflex and said, "Hey uterus, calm the hell down, don't drop that baby yet, we need to escape from some lions first." But, back to my due date...
I sent Travis to work and I decided to time contractions just to be sure. I assured him it was a false alarm but said I'd update him if necessary. After an hour or so of my usual slightly painful contractions every 3 or 4 minutes, I woke up my mother and insisted she vacuum my floors just in case I was in labor. I should have realized I was definitely in labor as I was forcing my mother to vacuum my house at six in the morning, but I was in denial. I had a gut feeling that when I went into labor, I'd have a fast labor, but I kept convincing myself that as a first-time mom, that couldn't be the case. But I called Travis anyway and told him he should get his crew lined up and then head home so we could just pop into the birth center when they opened to find out if I was in labor or not. My contractions started to get more painful than they'd ever been before so I timed them again and they were only 2 minutes apart. At this point I started to panic a bit and tried to finish packing my bag in between contractions and ordering my mother around. I also called Travis crying and told him to hurry up.
I did hypnobirthing but had a hard time staying relaxed since I didn't have a break between contractions so I didn't really utilize it fully. I do credit hypnobirthing for making the car ride bearable. When we got to the birth center I found out I was 4 cm and definitely in labor. My midwives told me it probably would be a while and we probably would want to wait a while to call our birth photographer. After an hour or two, contractions were getting very intense and I was worried about my ability to handle them later on if I wasn't very dilated yet and they were already this bad. However, the policy on cervical checks was only once every 4 hours so I had no idea if I was making progress. In hindsight I was already in transition and progressing very quickly. My midwives recognized this, though, and got me set up in the tub. Previously, they told us to hold off on the tub until I was further into labor. They said something like, "You know, you might want to go ahead and tell your birth photographer to get here."
My water broke while I was in the tub. It was definitely a weird sensation. I felt a big pop and then kept feeling like I was peeing uncontrollably with every contraction for an hour or so. It is only in hindsight that I had the realization that it was my waters and not pee. The midwives told me things would get "more intense" now that my water had broken. Indeed. I think it was for the "more intense" comment that I called my midwife a dirty liar. I changed my mind about having more children while in labor. I decided adoption was a pretty swell idea. Also I very much regretted not having the option of drugs and pain relief. In the end I'm glad I did everything fully naturally, but at the time I was pretty upset with past Miriam for making rash decisions. My labor went fast enough I might not have had the option for drugs anyway.
At some point, the midwives verified I was 10 cm and I started pushing. And pushing....and pushing. I pushed in the tub; on 2 different types of birthing stools; on the toilet; laying on my side; laying on my back; on all fours; on all fours with a leg pulled up in a lunge; squatting....they ran out of ideas for new positions. I pushed for so long we ended up calling for an ambulance to transfer to the hospital. In the end that wasn't needed and the paramedics sat around having tea while I gave birth at the birth center. This was why I was able to get 'decent' pictures immediately after Lyra was born; I'd been wrangled back into clothing for transferring. Most of labor I spent unclothed...except while delivering my child, ironically.
Lyra did fantastic throughout the entire labor. Her heartbeat was strong the whole time. That and the fact I kept making very slow progress while pushing were the only reasons we got to stay at the birth center. But I could tell I was a difficult customer when I had 3 midwives and an assistant attending.
Lyra Beatrix finally made her entrance after about 11 hours of labor (5 of that was pushing!). Lyra was an incredibly alert baby as soon as she was born at 5:15 pm. Her eyes were immediately open and this really cool shade of dark gray. I had no idea babies could have that color of eyes. She was 7 lb 4 oz, smaller than I thought she'd be, but I'm so glad she wasn't bigger. She was 20.5 inches, a long baby! And she has long legs and feet, I have trouble finding her socks that fit. Her poor little head was majorly coney and pretty bruised, but no lasting harm done. Everyone says I was a very nice and quiet laboring mother, I have no idea where that alternate personality came from! I only swore a couple times, anyone who knows me knows how crazy that is!
Overall, the experience was exactly what I hoped for. It would have been great to spend a little less time pushing and to have more spaced out contractions, but we were really fortunate to have a quick and complication free labor and delivery on my due date.
Labor really set me up for parenting. I thought pushing lying down on my back would be counter productive and I would hate it. And I ended up delivering that way. Partially because I was so exhausted that it was the best position to be in. Another side note here: Travis calls this pushing position "the Mitt Romney," as he misunderstood the actual name the the midwives kept calling it. And since then, I've changed pretty much every plan I've had for Lyra. She got some jaundice after several days and wasn't eating well; there went my plan of no bottles for a while. We gave her a pacifier around 2 weeks old when we hadn't planned on using one. I struggled cleaning the cloth diapers I was set on using so we are using disposables instead. I planned on her sleeping in her bassinet but she often sleeps in our bed; something I said I'd never do. I just really like snuggles and so does she. So yeah...welcome to parenthood, apparently. But she's been a good easy baby overall.
The last few weeks haven't been easy, but they haven't been the hardest weeks ever. The fatigue and sleep deprivation was overrated in my experience so far. I'm tired, but not a debilitating amount. Honestly, working nights was much worse.
Breastfeeding was a huge challenge. Lyra had jaundice at first and once my milk came in, we had immediate oversupply problems. Even though everyone says you're lucky to have a problem like that, you're not. It is still a problem. It has taken 6 weeks to be comfortable and be able to nurse normally without having to pump and/or catch insane amounts of leakage. We're still working on perfecting it. And I have 400 oz of breastmilk in my freezer. Plus 100 oz that I donated. That's a total of about 34 lbs of milk, around 4 gallons.
The messiness of parenthood was not overstated. I've had to catch my wildly out of control breastmilk in a wine glass. At one point I sent my mom into a fit of hysterical, turn-her-whole-face-purple laughter when I hung a couple of those bibs with pockets from my boobs to catch milk, saying I was going to patent that invention. I've been covered in projectile exorcist style spit up several times and had boogers sneezed on me. Once I caught projectile poop during a diaper change. Not to mention all the drool and spit. Lyra has this habit the past few days of licking my neck even when she isn't hungry. I think she thinks she's a puppy. Babies are weirdos.
Postpartum hormones are no joke. Happy tears, stressed tears, odd random tears, lots of tears! There were a few days straight I couldn't look at Lyra without crying because, "I love her so much" emotions overwhelmed me. "Raw" is the best word to describe the first postpartum days.
***Present Miriam checking in here. I can't believe I have a 14 month old. Life feels like it is back to normal but simultaneously completely different than it used to be. It still blows my mind a little that a whole other person exists now. I have a wildly fearless, fiercely independent, adorable, and scary smart toddler now! I can't really adequately sum up a year in a few words but I can say it's been quite the adventure.
Sarah here. Here's Lyra exactly one year later, photographed on her first birthday.
I also have to share a few things Miriam emailed to me later. It's possibly some of my favorite post-birth writing ever.
"So I got the word from you and the midwives that Lyra's birth was 'triumphant.' Birth was triumphant for me because I definitely had been doubting myself in the back of my mind after pushing for so long. The turning point I had when I realized she was actually arriving is still vivid. And side note here, during that moment you were the first person I really believed was being serious and not exaggerating when you said I was almost done. I figure my mom and Travis clearly didn't know what they were talking about (haha poor family who I never listen to) and the midwives just wanted to keep me motivated for more pushing. But when you said told me that Lyra was really almost there, that gave me my last bit of motivation because I felt you had no stake in when or how Lyra arrived. So just so you know, you were a very important part of my birth experience aside from the pictures. Just saying, next time you should probably include a selfie because sometimes I look in my birth book and I'm like, "Geez, where was Sarah?" ;)
Aside from that, what struck me was how supported I felt while simultaneously knowing I had to birth Lyra alone. Travis was my rock who had my back (mostly literally); my mom was there as moral support (it was one of those rare times, possibly the first time, that she couldn't step in and mom away my pain); and the midwives were there in my face for some focusing talks. So I never felt like I had anything but the best support, but I did have that moment where I realized there was no turning back; I was on my own to birth Lyra and no one else could actually do it for me. And it is awe-inspiring to realize I built and birthed an entire separate little human being from scratch. I appreciate everything about my body now that I really know how much hard work was put into it. And frankly I feel like such a warrior badass momma goddess every time I look at that huge noggin of hers. You can quote me on that."