Karina Joelle Rich
This morning I was laying in bed, with my 5 week old baby asleep on my stomach, and my 18 month old asleep on my shoulder...and I was thinking about how they both came out of my body. And its still a mystery to me. Nobody knows how a human soul is knit with a baby's body inside the mother's womb. And nobody really knows how God gives the baby in the womb wisdom, to know when it is time to come down to the entrance and be born. I never knew that pregnancy and birthing would be like this - a powerful work being done inside of me...a work that I do, but also a work that is done in me by Someone else.
Sometimes I wonder how something so awkward and uncomfortable as pregnancy could be so beautiful and glorious at the same time. Sometimes I wonder how the pain and hard work of labor can be an experience of so much peace. But it can be. Birthing can be peaceful. It can be an experience you enjoy and a memory you cherish. I want my daughters to know this. I want them to grow up glad that they are women, glad to be in a woman's body, glad to do the work of a woman. Because we were born to love this way: with all the strength and tenderness and joy of a woman who has just birthed her child.
When Karina is older, I will tell her how she was born. I will tell her that six days before she was due, I couldn't sleep because my pregnant body was incredibly uncomfortable. So I crawled out of bed, trying not to wake Jevon (my husband) or Cali (my first daughter), and went into the bathroom, and belly danced in front of the mirror for awhile. It is great fun belly dancing with a gianormous belly, and it does wonders for your back after carrying a baby all day. And I sang to myself, "Oh sing for joy to God our strength." Suddenly I felt the baby moving down, really deep, and it felt great. I was so happy. I went to bed and slept. I supposed that must be what people mean when they say "the baby dropped".
Thursday afternoon I had my last prenatal with Paula. She checked me and said I was only a centimeter dilated, maybe, and about 60% effaced. I was surprised that was all I was dilated, because I just had this feeling that the baby was coming soon. After that appointment my mom and I went to Walmart together. She had come from Oregon with three of my brothers to be with us when the baby was born. It took forever to do our shopping that night. I wandered around, following my mom, arguing sweetly for fun, about what food we needed, and wondering why I hurt so bad. I just figured it was from the exam, even though Paula was gentle, maybe I was a little sore. It hurt worse and worse all night, but I never even thought I could be in labor. We got home sort of late and ate a meal that someone had sent over for us. And the whole time I kept thinking, "man, why am I SO sore?" It felt nothing like how my beginning contractions felt with Cali. I noticed the pain was sort of coming and going, but I just figured that was because the baby was moving and putting pressure different ways.
It wasn't until everyone else was in bed, and I was getting my vitamins and brushing my teeth, when I started to get a clue (finally) "hey, maybe this is really labor". I decided to take the cell phone to bed with me and use the clock on it to time the pains and see if they might be regular contractions. They were about ten minutes apart. But Jevon was already sleeping, so I just tried to get some rest. That was about 9:30. From 9:30 to about midnight I mostly labored in bed, trying to sleep between contractions. I never could sleep through them. Sometimes I would get up and walk around, or squat, or dance and then go back to bed. Then I got tired of being by myself, and it hurt worse than it had hurt with Cali, and I decided to wake Jevon up. But right then, I was having a contraction, and my water broke. It totally startled me because my water didn't break like that with Cali. This time it just popped and water was going everywhere, but I was wearing sort of water resistant fleece pajama pants so they were filling up with water. It felt so wierd. "Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow, oh wow! Jevon, I need a towel. Quick! get a towel!" I woke him out of deep sleep and he was completely confused.
"Hm? Towel? What kind of towel? What's going on?"
After awhile he figured out that my water broke and ran for a towel, and I ran to the bathroom, and the contractions started coming fast and hard. I sat in our tiny bathtub trying to relax, singing softly to myself "oh sing for joy to God our strength", while Jevon and mom ran around calling Paula, the midwife, tacking a curtain over the livingroom doorway (for privacy for me), and starting to fill up the aquadoula (portable labor tub) in the livingroom, taking turns checking on me. It ended up kind of crazy for them, because everything went so fast they didn't have much time and had to run around alot. Jevon sort of wishes I had woke him up sooner, but I had no idea things would go that fast. After they got the curtain up, I sat in the livingroom rocking back and forth on the stool of the glider rocking chair, and mom and Jevon took turns sitting behind me on the rocking chair, rubbing my back or holding me through contractions. Paula and Amy got there; they were talking to me a little and quietly taking my blood pressure and all that, but I didn't really pay attention because I was already really focused. The lights were dim, and the house was quiet. My brothers were sleeping, except Amos, who came downstairs and went into our bedroom to be with Cali in case she woke up. It felt good to be at home. I am so glad we did not have to drive anywhere.
In this quirky old farm house, the water runs really slow, sometimes just stops flowing, and the hot water heater runs out kind of soon, too. So the aqua-doula tub was only a little full and not very warm. After I threw up really hard, the contractions were so painful, and I suddenly hated being on the stool, even though it had felt good at first. So I asked if I could get in the water even though it wasn't very deep. They said sure. And I didn't care that it was still shallow; the water was a HUGE relief. Then I was vaguely aware that someone (mom and Amy) was carrying buckets of water and dumping them in the pool, and someone poured in a hot pot full from the stove, to warm it up. Paula was standing beside me, and when a contraction came she would quietly pour water over my whole belly. And Jevon was behind me; he was sort of massaging my back, but I was relaxing in the water and sort of kept floating away. So then he held me with one hand and massaged with the other. I just focused on relaxing and prayed silently, because it was really intense. I think I might have started making "oh" noises as I breathed through contractions; I can't remember when I started doing that. It felt good to have my mouth open like an "O" and it felt good to make noise freely.
I remember that I was more aware of my body than I have probably ever been in my entire life. And I noticed that whenever I would get a little tense, or a little afraid, or be tempted to resist the pain, my body would stop working. I mean, the baby would stop coming. Labor would literally slow down. So I knew that I needed to trust God, to just relax and surrender. And I did. I never really felt "an urge to push" or a need to push. I could feel my body bearing down, so I knew that my body was pushing, but I just relaxed and surrendered to it. I had prayed so much that God would allow me to birth this child gently, and I did birth her gently. I mean it hurt like crazy, but it was incredible because I just felt the powerful work that was being done in me and let it be done. I didn't force it, or rush it, or resist it, or slow it down. I just let it be done in me. I focused on relaxing.
I was surprised to feel a slight stinging begin, because I knew that meant the baby was coming into the birth canal already. I told Paula "it stings", and I heard her say softly to Amy, "okay, its time for gloves", and then she said to me, "okay Danica, your body will tell you what to do now. You are doing great." I prayed to God silently, because I knew that if I was afraid, it would hinder this work of birthing, and I was afraid of tearing because of how bad I tore with Cali. This was the only part of labor I had been kind of afraid of. But I knew I had to trust, and let God replace my fear with faith and expectation. So I relaxed, and trusted. Suddenly, without really thinking about it, I sort of stood up part way and squatted, and since Jevon was there for me I held on to his shoulders, staying low in the water. It was deep enough now so Icould do that. After another contraction, Paula told me I could reach in with my hand and feel my baby's head. So I did, and it was crazy amazing; I almost started crying because I could feel it. It was soft. It was my baby. It gave me strength to endure a tiny bit longer. I had turned around now; Jevon was holding me up sort of; I was still kinda half standing, and I saw the baby's head crowning. That's the only time I intentionally decided "I'm going to push a tiny bit, gently", so I did, and the baby's head came out. Paula was trying to do something. I heard her say softly (to my mom or Jevon, I think) that she was trying to get the umbilical cord to slip over...it was around the baby's neck. She told me later that she never got it to slide over, but that I had just moved somehow. And however I moved made a little more room so the baby slid out the rest of the way on her own. That's one of the wonderful things about being at home; you can just move however you feel like you need to, and often a different position is all that is needed to help the baby come out. Then I said "where's my baby?" and I looked down, and there she was, sort of spinning in the water, and Paula scooped her up and layed her on me. And I just sat there staring at her with my blurry contacts-less eyes. She wasn't crying at first; just looking around. "hi baby; how are you? are you okay?"
"she's okay" Paula said.
I heard Jevon say it was a girl, but I was so surprised I almost didn't believe it and had to see for myself. "you are a girl," I said, "you fooled me for nine months!" My arms were really tired and started slipping down; I couldn't really see where the water started because I didn't have my contacts in, and I accidently got a little water in her face. So Jevon held up my arms after that. Because of the nucal cord and because of the water I got in her face, Paula saw that her nostrils were flaring a little bit, trying to get more oxygen. So she just passed some oxygen under her nose to enrich the air and make it an easier transition for her.
I asked what time it was, and was really surprised to hear that it was only 2:30 something. the baby was born at 2:28 am...barely more than two hours from when my water broke.
She was 7 lbs 6 oz, and 19.5 inches. Her eyes were very dark and blue. Her head was so perfect and round, (not cone-shaped like a newborn). We were helped out of the tub and layed down; she started breastfeeding right away. Paula announced that it was time for a nap, and immediately went to sleep on our couch. All of rested together there in the livingroom. Later they helped the baby and me move to the guest room bed where my mom usually slept, because we didn't want to go in our bedroom and wake up Cali. In the morning, Jevon brought her in to meet her new baby sister. She caught her breath in surprise and amazement, pointed at the baby, and leaned so far over she would have fallen out of Jevon's arms if he hadn't been ready for her sudden movement. She kept pointing and touching the baby; she wanted to scoop her up and carry her away. But Jevon whisked her way in the kitchen to distract her with breakfast. He brought me a big plate of french toast and strawberries and sat with me while I ate. It felt so good to eat. It felt good to be with him.
Karina got her name the day after she was born, while I was taking an herbal bath with her in my arms. Jevon was just sitting on the floor next to us, and that's when we named her. We called her Karina Joelle. Karina means "pure", and Joelle means "Jehova is God". Jesus said "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." It is our prayer for Karina, that she will walk in the way of that blessing.
I don't know when to end this story, because this story doesn't end. Every day and night she is with me; right now she is sleeping on my lap while I write this. The days after she was born, she stayed skin to skin with me almost all the time. It was easy to bond with her, because of just being at home and having her always so close. My brothers loved to hold her, too. She took a lot of naps laying on my brothers or my mom. At night I listen to her breathing. In the day I feel her weight and warmth in the sling, am always conscious of her little movements and sounds. She likes to suck on her tongue while she sleeps in the sling. Its kind of funny. She is starting to look around more and more, starting to focus on faces. And the days have been crazy; if you were to come to my house today you would see unfolded laundry and Cali's toys out on the floor. If you talk to Jevon or me, we might seem a little bit out of it...that would be from missing some sleep. But life is good, and I feel incredibly blessed, to have my family close. Jevon and Cali and Karina and I are together; we have each other to love.
I want to thank everyone...my man and my mama and Amy and Paula!!!!!!...thank you for being there for me...thank you for making it possible for Karina to be born this way, at home, gently and peacefully...I feel very much in debt to all of you for your kindness. Thank you also Allison for doing everything you do that makes Paula able to do what she does! And thank you God...my Strength...I always will sing about You. Thank you for this journey of birth.