The newest addition arrived in fine style on Memorial Day. We named her Charlotte Bernadette for our friend, Charles Bernard Kitowski III, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007. The circumstances surrounding her name are remarkable. A boy would have automatically been named Charles since all of our departed male relatives now have namesakes, but a girl presented a little bit of difficulty in terms of namesakes because women in our family simply don't die.
One name at the top of my girl list was Ann-Charlotte, but since Charlotte is the female derivative of Charles, we began thinking we might name a girl for him. I'd never considered Bernadette, but I thought it was pretty so that name combination quickly rose to the top. I'm kind of ashamed to say that I didn't think about her being born on Memorial Day. Her due date was June 5th and I was consumed with worry that she was going to be born on the birthdays of two relatives I dislike (missed both). There were a few other names I was considering including the original Ann-Charlotte, but when she was born on a beautiful Memorial Day morning, there was simply no other option. You don't ignore the signs.
And now for the gory details. Gentlemen, you have been forewarned.
My mom and stepdad made an impromptu trip to see us, only planning to stay for the day. Somehow I convinced them to spend the night and leave in the morning. 4:30 am, I woke up with those strange slightly burning contractions that everyone will tell you to go back to sleep for, but which Jethro and I know could very well Mean Something.
"Jethro. Something's Happening."
"Mpff Mpff. Ok. Let me know."
I went to the restroom to pee and felt somehow drippier than usual. It seemed to be a little blood and some clear fluid. CLEAR FLUID???!!!
"Jethro. Jethro. JETHRO!"
"Mhhh? Huhh? Huuh? What?"
"I think my water broke. I'm calling the midwife."
"Ok. I'll get the bags."
I called the midwife and told her everything. She asked about contractions and I said they weren't bad but that didn't actually mean anything the last two times I gave birth. She said she'd head right over.
I went to go wake up Gwennie and Emma. They scrambled around like newbie firefighters at their first big blaze.
I went to wake up my mom and stepdad. Turned out I only thought my water had broken. Woosh.
"Ok. Let's go. Nobody panic. BUT STOP WASTING TIME!!!! WHERE IS GWENDOLYN???!!!"
With Gwen finally on board we set off.
Jethro was the picture of calm. But he did turn on the hazard lights.
THE BIRTHING CENTER
We got to the birthing center and it was quite dark. I'd been afraid we'd beat them there. But the student midwife arrived within minutes and we got settled.
The main midwife arrived and checked me and I was only 4 cm dilated which surprised me a little. I thought I would have been further along. But I was actually pleased because I hadn't missed my window of opportunity to have a water birth.
They said they'd start the tub when I was around 7 cm. I said fine, but to check back fairly often since I go quickly. I know they didn't quite believe me since I wasn't having terribly strong contractions, but they humored me. I surprised them by being at 7 cm about half an hour later.
While the midwives may not have considered them strong contractions, I did. As soon as I hit 7 cm, they got much harder. I can't even begin to describe how good the water felt. All that pressure that had been on my back was lifted. The light was dim, everyone moved slowly and softly. Jethro sat beside me, quietly holding my hand. Muscles relaxed, I almost fell asleep. The contractions stopped for a little while, but soon picked back up again. They were painful, but not unbearable. I breathed through them easily, giving the impression that I was good at this kind of thing and not the deranged hysteric I was about to become.
The contractions got harder and I asked to be checked again. I was at 9.5 cm and completely effaced. She was still a little high up and they said if I pushed a little I'd dilate the rest of the way.
I don't like pushing. And then I couldn't stop pushing. And then I couldn't get her head out.
It wasn't that long. Maybe half an hour. But during labor and delivery you are just not moving in regular time. The labor was about 5 hours long, but seemed to take minutes. The delivery was 30 minutes long but seemed to take hours.
I kept screaming that I couldn't get her head out. I prayed and thrashed and yelled and begged, probably just like a man if men could give birth. Finally the midwife told me to sit up and hyper extend my legs. I panicked some more because usually they don't tell you what to do. But I did what she said and the baby's head finally popped out. As soon as her head was out, I knew it was over. Nothing is as bad as a head. She was born right away after that and they gave her right to me.
I was still crying from trying to get her head out, but it turned right into crying because she was so sweet. Her eyes were open and she just cuddled softly right into my arms with her little face pressed softly against my neck. The water was still warm over both of us and we just sat and rested for a few minutes.
Maybe the third baby is different. I was overcome with love for her immediately. With my others I guess I was too panicked or maybe even too young for that feeling to overshadow me completely right at birth (it did eventually, accompanied by much weeping and feelings of inadequacy). But at a birthing center where everyone is concentrating on this moment and not worried about other things going on at a hospital, it was amazing. The pain was real and terrifying, but once it was over, there was nothing but a sweet little baby to be cuddled and loved by everyone.
I did need a couple of stitches which were taken care of fairly quickly. She came out face up, shoulders out, which, while not technically breech, is a position that is not optimal and the midwives said is the most painful. I said, "Good, because that's what I'm telling everyone anyway."
The student midwife was so cute. She told me how nice it was that I kept reaching down to feel the baby's head and how encouraging that must have been for me. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I'd been trying to rip her out with my bare hands. You just can't know some things unless you've been through them yourself.
But Baby Charley is a joy and a love. I have a million nicknames for her and her sweet sisters are besotted. Even Jethro, stoic that he is, is enamored. He asks to hold her and I'm reluctant to let her go, which I must say is new for us. I thought she would be the last, but she makes me want another. And I think that's high praise for any baby.