The Beard Birth Chronicles | One

‘Tis the season for birthdays around here.

In the Beard house, we celebrate four birthdays between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Avi, our youngest, just celebrated his third birthday, and to be honest, the reality of how fast the time goes is hitting me a little harder than I expected. We have had a baby in the house for the last eleven years, and realizing we are moving swiftly out of that phase of life is bittersweet. 

My big three year old!

Celebrating my kids’ birthdays always gets me thinking back to the day they were born. Each one was so special and unique. I asked if you guys would be interested in hearing my birth stories, and I was taken aback at the response! I had no idea you would all be so interested! 

Although I put the question out there on Avi’s birthday, I thought I probably should start with Chai’s birth since she was my first. It works out though, because her birthday is actually the next one coming up! 

When it All Began

Justin and I found out we were pregnant while we were living in Nigeria. It was kind of comical, because although I suspected I might be pregnant, I had no clue how to find out. I told my friend my friend I suspected that I might be pregnant and that I didn’t know what to do and she was like, “Just go get a test.” We had no idea where to get one, so she sent out for one, and sure enough, that evening we were emailing our parents the good news. 

Being pregnant in a foreign country was really interesting. When I am pregnant, my sense of smell is heightened to superpower levels, which made living next to a burning garbage pile really difficult. Also, my dear friend Ifolo would cook dog food in the kitchen, which essentially involved throwing all our old leftovers together in a pot and cooking them until they were half burned. It didn’t bother me much before I was pregnant, but holy smokes did it make me gag after. I always had a policy of trying to eat everything I was served while living in Nigeria, which involved some pretty exotic fare (I was once served raw goat meat and ate it). That was probably one of the worst things I ate while pregnant, but I’m here to tell the story. We had six huge mango trees on the school compound, and right when I found out I was pregnant, the mangoes were ripening in abundance. Pregnancy also suddenly turned mangoes into the most revolting smell imaginable for me. Our counter tops were covered in mangoes, and just looking at them made me want to throw up! 

Exploring Birth Options

We came back to America for summer break from teaching when I was about three months pregnant, and we began to explore our birthing options. We were broke missionaries with no insurance, so we weren’t sure what was available to us. Some of our dear friends who were missionaries to India told us how they had a home birth and used a midwife who accepted donations. Before that, home birth was not even on my radar, so the whole concept was a little intimidating, but the price was right, so I began to look into it more. The first time I met Freida, I knew I had made the right choice. 

Freida Miller is the most badass Mennonite midwife you’ll ever meet. She lives in Amish country, which was an hour and a half drive from where we lived, but was absolutely worth it. Justin and I would usually make a day of our appointments as the area is stunningly beautiful. Even though we had to go down there for appointments, she came to us for the birth, so it worked out. 

I was due with our baby on December 30th. We wanted to be surprised with Chai and never got an ultrasound to find out the gender. Everything was new and surprising anyway, so it added an extra element of anticipation. 

It was such an interesting time of transition in our life. Up until that point, Justin and I had been living abroad for four years and had fully intended to go back to Nigeria. God had other plans and closed that door tight. I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with the Nigerian Embassy, but they made our life very difficult. During that time of trying to go back to Nigeria, our passports were tied up, which lead to our plane tickets expiring, and we were sleeping on an air mattress because we had given our bed away. Let me tell you, sleeping on an air mattress for weeks on end while pregnant and living in limbo was not my favorite part of that pregnancy!  Finally, one day I called it. I said,”That’s it! We are staying in America and our first order of business is buying a bed!” That day we bought a bed and our plans to go back to Nigeria were placed on hold indefinitely. I’m so thankful for my parents who opened up their home to us during that time. They were also going through transition, moving houses and working out of state, so it actually worked out really well for all of us to help each other out. 

Being pregnant for the first time, I had so much to learn! I read every pregnancy book I could get my hands on. Two of my favorites were Super Natural Childbirth, and The Bradly Method Book. Justin and I would joke after reading The Bradly Method Book that in order to successfully use the Bradly Method you must have to be naked to give birth. Literally every photo of women giving birth in that book were naked. After reading the Bradly Method, I felt so ready. It was very informative, and knowing what to prepare for definitely left me feeling empowered with the tools to properly prepare me for what was going to happen. 

Our most exciting Christmas gift almost ready to arrive by our Charlie Brown Christmas tree

Here She Comes

On December 18th, I lost my mucus plug – yep, this is a birth story, so if you are squeamish, now would be a good time to check out. I started feeling weird, but my due date wasn’t until the 30th, which wasn’t until after Christmas! I didn’t think much about it, because I read that you can lose your plug up to two weeks before actually giving birth. 

That night around midnight I think I had my first contraction, but never having given birth before I wasn’t really sure. They weren’t consistent so I tried to get some sleep. My brother was leaving town early that morning and so I got up around 5 AM to say goodbye. At that time the contractions started to become more regular. While Justin slept, I took a soak in the tub and worked on a crossword puzzle to pass the time. By the time Justin woke up, I was pretty sure I was in labor. 

We called Freida and she said to keep her posted on how things were going. Since it was my first labor, it would be a while until she was needed and from everything I had seen on TV or in movies, it would be long and awful. 

We put on a Christmas movie to pass the time and Justin ran out to the store to pick up a few things. Of course while he was gone, around 10:45, my water broke! Everything was going so smoothly until that point. Then it all got real! All of a sudden I was actually in labor, whereas before there was still a little doubt in my mind since it was ten whole days early for our baby’s arrival! 

Once my water broke, everything changed. I needed silence. Justin asked if I wanted to put on the playlist I created, to which the answer was a resounding (or rather, a whispered) “No!” The phone kept ringing with family looking for updates, and I couldn’t handle the the ringer or the conversation. I’m usually such a laid back person, but every sound took away my focus and made me insane. I did not see that coming. 

Chai getting weighed.

Then things really started moving. The pain started – laying on my back was excruciating. We called Freida and she said to get in water to help ease the contractions and that she would head over. I got in the tub and and it was pure magic. The pain lessened and I was preparing for the long haul. In my mind, I had hours and hours to go, so when I thought of the pain I thought, “This is okay – it’s going to to get way worse.” Freida walked in while I was in the tub and asked me why I was pushing. I told her I absolutely was not pushing, because you had to wait till you were ten centimeters dilated before you could push. That was one thing I remembered while I was in labor, don’t push until you are ten centimeters. 

After Freida watched me for a second, she realized that my body was involuntarily pushing this baby out whether I was ready or not. She said, “Alright, it’s time to push.”

I was in shock. “No, you just got here. I have hours and hours to go.” I couldn’t believe it was time, but to be fair I had lost all track of time at that point anyway. 

After getting out of the water, I waddled out to the living room which had been completely transformed by then. It was covered in all sorts of sanitary medical  paraphernalia and Freida had brought a birthing stool which sat in the middle of it all. We hadn’t really talked about using it, but I was happy it was there. It has handles you can hold to support you while you squat to push your baby out. I didn’t anticipate that laying on my back would be so painful, because on TV that’s how everyone gives birth, so I was beyond delighted to have the opportunity to try a different position. 

It took about fifteen minutes of focused pushing and out came our baby… girl! Justin was so mesmerized by her face that he didn’t immediately check the gender, and all I could do was shout, “Is it a boy or a girl?!” Chai Blossom was born around four in the afternoon, and it was the most amazing moment looking into her bright eyes and meeting her face to face for the first time. We couldn’t help but laugh, because just as the Bradly Method book predicted, you did in fact need to be naked to have a successful birth. 

Our first family photo. 
A more accurate photo of the moment.  

Eleven years ago, I knew how to be a great mom. I had the list of all the things I was going to do and all the things I wasn’t going to do. Then this tiny human came into my world and everything I thought I knew got thrown out the window. I wasn’t going go use a pacifier or co-sleep, but the very first night I was calling to Justin to find the pacifiers we received at the baby shower while co-sleeping with our baby, so there’s that! I had so much to learn and I still do. We also took Chai to a Christmas party when she was all of three days old… oh how we live and we learn. 

Postpartum Depression

That Christmas we hit all of the Christmas parties with our teeny tiny human, which was not my best choice. Being a new mom who didn’t have a mom, or really anyone in my life at that time encouraging me to slow down, I didn’t know how important rest was. On Christmas Day, postpartum depression hit like a ton of bricks. You know how you tend to feel a little sad on Christmas day when you realize Christmas is over?

Chai’s first Christmas

That feeling led to all. the. tears. In every picture of me from that Christmas, my eyes and face are red from crying. I had no idea what postpartum depression was. I hadn’t heard anything about it in all of my pregnancy books and birth books. I thought I was literally going crazy. I pretty much couldn’t stop crying and feeling sad for over two weeks. Justin is a good man. He really did try to help me in every which way that he could, but I would say that going through postpartum depression was one of the hardest things about my first experience with childbirth. Whenever I visit a new mom after she has a baby, I always make sure to ask whether she is experiencing any sort of depression and to let her know it’s okay. That is something I’m passionate about discussing, because I was hit so hard, with no grid or understanding for what was going on, and felt so much shame about it. There is no reason to feel shame over postpartum depression. It is an absolutely natural process of your hormones bouncing all around trying to get back in balance. I feel that mine was exacerbated because I hit the ground running during an already busy and tiring season instead of resting after giving birth to Chai.  

All. The. Crying. 

This has gotten quite long, and if you’ve made it this far, you truly deserve a pat on the back! I hope that my story will encourage you and if you have any questions about home birth, postpartum depression, or being a new mom, I am happy to help! 

I will be writing out the rest of my birth stories in the near future, so if you are interested, I recommend subscribing to my blog so you don’t miss a thing! 

Thanks for joining me on this journey!

-Jess 

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