Welcoming Catalina (a home birth story)
Spoiler alert: It's a GIRL!
It’s been two months now and I’m finally writing about our sweet little girl, Catalina. After the experience we had with Atlas’ birth, the challenges we faced afterwards with a 4 month NICU stay and life with a preemie, we spent a large part of this last pregnancy walking on eggshells. We were so scared that we would have another preemie since we still had no idea what caused Atlas to come at 27 weeks.
This time around we ended up deciding to be under the care of a wonderful midwife, Melissa. It was something I had in the back of my head to look into, but after butting heads with and feeling bullied by OB’s I just couldn’t do it anymore. Because I had a preemie the doctors I saw were so pushy about a weekly shot (Makena) that that supposedly helps to prevent preterm labor. After looking into it myself and reading the insert (always read the insert!) I decided that it wasn’t something I wanted to do. They didn’t like that at all. It went so far as to one OB calling me on the phone and pretty aggressively listing all the things that could happen if I had a preterm birth. She ignored me when I tried to tell her I understood because, hello I had a preemie, and kept listing the risks from learning disabilities to death. She basically told me if I didn't get this shot I was risking my child's life. I hung up on her with tears in my eyes questioning my research and my gut feeling. After that I was done and so happy to be in the care of my midwife who let me decide how I wanted my pregnancy and my care to go.
My pregnancy with Catalina wasn’t easy on me physically. For one I’m a busy body. I want to be productive and multitasking. I don’t sit around well. Those first few months I was stuck in bed nauseated beyond belief. Atlas watched a lot of TV those days while I just sat in bed next to him trying to sleep to escape the nausea. As my pregnancy progressed my blood pressure started climbing and so did my blood sugars. So I watched my carbs and my sugars and did my best to stress less. I was also watching my fat intake due to my gallbladder issues. When you’re pregnant and have to watch carbs, sugar and fat and you already don’t eat meat? I was so grumpy and felt so restricted.
I made many, many visits to the Chiropractor which was my favorite part of each week because my back felt so much better afterwards. I can't recommend chiropractic care enough! Other than all of that baby girl was growing and developing perfectly. And she stayed put until 2 days before her due date. Having only been pregnant up to 27 weeks last time it seemed like I was pregnant for an eternity in comparison and I was begging her to come a little early. I was miserable. I am not a glowy pregnant woman. I am grumpy, hungry and uncomfortable. I spent weeks telling her to GTFO, but that little girl is so worth it.
One of the reasons we went with a midwife this time around was because I wanted to have a home birth. I had Atlas in the car so how different could it be, right? Starting around 34 weeks I was having braxton hicks contractions all the time off and on. It was so frustrating because I could never tell if they were the real deal. Finally on March 11th at about 5am I started feeling them again. They started out the same, but kept going this time and they actually hurt a little bit rather than just feeling light tightening of my abdomen. Luckily my mom was off work and at our house, my sister was staying with us anticipating the birth and Blaine was already off on his FMLA leave. So everyone was here, ready to be my support team and meet this baby!
I texted Melissa, my midwife, around 6:30 in the morning to let her know just in case it was really time. I had some breakfast, sat on my exercise ball and just hung out with my family wondering if I was going to meet our baby soon. Did I mention we never found out the gender and this whole time Blaine and I were sure it would be a boy? Ha.
Melissa came over a bit later and I basically spent the whole day sitting on the birthing ball or lying in bed trying to nap and gather some energy for what was about to happen. I did take a few walks around the block to try and get things going around lunchtime because my contractions seemed to be stalled. I even did some lunges as I walked as suggested by a friend, but I was still stuck without much progress. All throughout the day I remember squatting and bracing myself whenever a contraction happened. It was definitely the most comfortable way to cope with the pain. I kept telling myself to let each one do it’s job and get me closer to having the baby.
Things didn’t really start getting serious until that night. Finally. I remember just lying in bed for hours as the contractions started getting worse. I would do my best to nap because at that point they hurt, but I could usually nap in between and I was so tired from being up early and just being in labor all day. Around 8pm they started setting up the birthing tub. I was determined to have a water birth, it just sounded so warm and cozy. While they were sitting on the tub I was working through my contractions while sitting on the toilet which happened to be the most comfortable place because I could sit without a lot of pressure. Every time I’d have a contraction I’d call for Blaine and he would come running so that I could hug his waist and at this point they were hurting pretty bad.
I got in the tub and it felt so good. So warm and just so much more comfortable than I had been feeling previously. I labored in the tub for maybe an hour before it really felt like I had to push. I forgot how crazy that uncontrollable urge to push is. My body was doing all the work, all I had to do was let it. But I spent probably half an hour pushing in the tub and nothing was happening. I found it so hard to get comfortable and I was getting so tired.
I remember just saying I couldn’t do it anymore and I was tired. Exhausted. I just wanted to go to sleep. I was in this weird zone where I was kind of half asleep and everything around me was a blur. We got me out of the tub and I sat on the toilet before going and lying down in bed. Melissa suggested I try lying on my left side. Blaine laid behind me to support me through the contractions. I don’t know how to describe how intense this part was. The pushing, the exhaustion, wanting to give up, wanting the baby to just get the fuck out, really.
I only pushed for maybe 15 minutes before they started saying they could see the head. Her head was starting to emerge, but went back in after the contraction was over. I remember Melissa asking if I wanted to feel it and I said no which makes me laugh now. I was so in the zone and so ready to get it over with that I’m sure I snapped at everyone at least once. It was almost 11pm at this point and I had been in labor much longer than I expected.
Once her head was out I pushed harder than I ever thought possible and she just kind of shot out all at once. Melissa caught her and I instantly heard the baby crying. I remember kind of just collapsing my head for a second out of exhaustion then reaching down to grab our baby. At that point I just collapsed. I was thinking I should be in total bliss snuggling this baby, but I could barely move. Then we realized we should check to see if it was a boy or a girl. So we moved the towel that was covering her, lifted her leg to look and... Girl! What? I was shocked, but too tired to react much. As soon as we saw I remember Blaine saying “Catalina” and that was that. We had a couple of girl names and no boy names so it was meant to be. I honestly feel like I just laid there for hours on the bed with Catalina on my chest and a towel over us both. I didn’t even want to think about moving due to just pure all encompassing exhaustion.
Everything after she arrived was a total blur so I'm pretty sure I'm mixing up the timeline. At some point it seemed like she was kind of moving around like she was looking for food. I helped her find my breast and she immediately latched on. We just sat there like that for the longest time. Then it was time to kind of get her stats and let Melissa check her out to make sure everything was ok. That’s when we found out that little girl wasn’t so little and weighed 9lbs 8oz and was 21” long. That’s what I was terrified of going into a home birth: a giant baby. And there she was.
Melissa was stitching me up while we did some more snuggling. It wasn’t until it was taking forever and she was talking to me that I realized that I tore so bad. Second degree tears and close to 20 stitches. And I did it without an epidural and I honestly didn’t notice or feel it happen. I was just so focused on pushing and then focused on the baby. I was sore after, but definitely wasn’t in a lot of pain at all immediately after. The human body is so crazy. I’ll complain about a hang nail or a headache all day, but 2nd degree tears after giving birth to a 9.5 lb baby? Eh, it’s cool.
I think Melissa finally left around 2 or 3 in the morning after helping me get out of bed and to the bathroom to try to pee and to get in the shower and just quickly rinse off. That night Blaine and I finally got the tiniest amount of sleep. We switched off doing skin to skin with her and I was instructed to try to get up to go to the bathroom often because my muscles were so shot I wasn’t able to pee.
Around 6am Melissa came back over because I still wasn’t able to pee. We tried a catheter, but apparently childbirth does crazy things down there as far as swelling, etc. so she was having trouble. I won’t go into detail, it’s pretty boring anyway.
We snuggled our sweet baby, I breastfed her some more and we just basked in the newborn goodness. I only got out of bed to try and pee once in a while and I was finally able to just barely. But it was progress!
Then my sister noticed that Catalina's breathing was off. Newborn do all sorts of weird breathing, but she seemed to be breathing pretty rapidly. We sent videos to Melissa and she came over to check her out eventually telling us that unfortunately we had to head to the ER. With our less than 24 hour old baby that we had at home because we wanted to avoid hospitals. I can’t even tell you how heartbroken I was that it was happening. I sat on a poppy pillow on the way to the hospital (I was supposed to be on bed rest for the next few days!) and just cried. Why was this happening? Could we not have a normal experience? We just wanted to be home with our family and our new baby. It was almost like a tease and that our home birth was for nothing.
And then she was admitted. Our little girl had somehow inhaled some fluid and developed pneumonia which led her to a one week stay in the NICU. I honestly don’t have the energy to go over that part in depth. It was a pretty standard stay for antibiotics and monitoring. My stomach sinks thinking about it because I was so devastated that once again we were a NICU family. I remember every time we came home for something Atlas would ask about his “sister baby”. The first night we came home and he asked Blaine and I both just broke down. We gave him a sister and then immediately took her away to where he couldn't see her and he was so confused. But after a week we were finally able to go home and I hope to never set foot in a NICU ever again.
That first week home was hell for me emotionally. I was so stressed out and anxious out of my mind about her breathing because sometimes she would have chest retractions just like she was having the day she was admitted. We ended up in the ER one more time because she was having them again and I wasn’t going to risk it. Luckily they checked her and she was fine and has been ever since.
Life with two is wonderful. Especially since Blaine has been home the whole time to bond with her as well. She’s such a sweet, easy baby. I don’t know if she’s really that much easier than Atlas, who was still pretty easy for the most part, or if it’s because both of us are home so no one gets too overwhelmed.
Either way we’re loving life with this sweet little girl. I just love her to death and seriously spend every day just soaking up little moments knowing that this is likely our last baby and every milestone we hit will be the last time. That’s the big difference between the first and the second baby. The first time you’re so excited to hit every mile stone. The second you know it goes by so fast that you want time to slow down. I can’t believe she’s already two months old. She started smiling at around 6 weeks and it's the best thing ever. It’s honestly just going by too fast for me. Atlas seems so big now and is the sweetest older brother. We’re so happy to have Catalina in our lives and be a family of four now. We are so happy and life is good. So good.
Warning: if you don't love birth photos don't scroll. There's nothing too crazy graphic down there, but I thought I'd put this disclaimer for anyone who might be uncomfortable. Also the photos were taken by two different cameras, mostly at night, so the colors