Friday, April 15, 2011

Baby Jules!

In the past few years I have told the stories here of the birth of each of my daughters (here and here), and since tomorrow is my son's birthday, I figured I better dust off my blogger password and post his story too before I get accused of favoritism. So kick back and get comfy; this is a long one.

Doug and I moved to Utah in late 1993 so that he could work full time with a company he had part ownership of. We rented a big rambling house that had a firepole (no really, it did) from the main floor to the basement. The house was kinda rundown but was in a great location, right in town yet totally secluded on a few acres between the Logan River and a canal. Kurtis (our nephew) was four and had just come to live with us. And after trying for a few years and thinking it wasn't going to happen, all of a sudden at the end of the summer of 1994, I was pregnant.

Despite a few moments of sheer panic, omg! a BABY is actually going to be coming OUT of my body!!!!! Doug and I were thrilled and early on decided to have a home birth. I did a ton of reading (books, no internet back then in the dark ages) based upon a few suggestions from some friends of ours who raved about how wonderful their home birth had been. I asked around and somehow came across the name of a midwife. We met with her and after asking her just a few of the questions on our list, Doug and I both knew we loved and trusted her completely.

However, most everyone we knew thought we were cuckoo. We fielded many calls from friends and family who were worried about me and questioning our sanity. My mom was so uncomfortable with the whole concept that she wouldn't even discuss the birth with me, which made me very sad. And when we chose not to have an ultrasound it got worse. However, Doug and I knew what kind of a birth we wanted and so we ignored all the drama. Through our midwife Chris and her assistant Alissa (who assisted in Sophie's birth too and is still a very dear friend), I had met many other couples who felt as we did, and so they became our support system.

So anyway, I had a great pregnancy, and I know it's not popular to say this but I loved every bit of it. I felt great, didn't care about the parts that weren't so great, didn't freak out about how much weight I gained for once in my life, and I felt so peaceful. I loved the feeling of a baby inside me even when he made me pee all the time and then gave me heartburn too. I didn't have any morning sickness although I did have a few seasick moments early on. I recall being in a hotel room during a car trip we were taking and watching the video for Sheryl Crowe's song, All I Wanna Do (the original version, before they cropped out the creepy guy watching her perform) and feeling like I was in a boat on the ocean, I am still reminded of that feeling whenever I hear that song!

My due date was 'around' April 1st but I wasn't paying much attention to the dates; I could tell we weren't even close. However, I think everyone we knew called us that day, hoping for an April Fool's baby. About a week later the Braxton Hicks started, they were pretty strong and usually lasted every evening for several hours. I was paying close attention to my instincts though, which initially were only off by two days, heh. On April 13th we called Chris. She stayed all evening while I had pretty serious contractions and even though I was still sure I was going to have the baby that night, she knew otherwise. And about an hour later everything stopped and everyone went home. Ack!

The next day I walked and cleaned all day, and the contractions started again that evening, but I didn't think it was going to happen that night so I did what I could to ignore them. The next day I walked around outside as much as I could again and when the contractions started that night I knew it was time. The first few hours were fine, we were all talking and laughing. Doug held my hand the whole time, but as I progressed I finally had to tell him to stop looking at me with the big puppy dog pity eyes; I was fine! That was the only thing that bugged me, well besides being left out of the conversation while I was having a contraction, by the time I was done they had moved on to another topic and I was perpetually behind.

I think I labored like this for about 6 hours, pretty tough but I was doing the Bradley Method, deep breathing and relaxing completely during each contraction so they were manageable, even if I couldn't chat during them;) Finally there was a change around 2 am, I could feel it. It was time to push and so that's what I did. It took me awhile to get the hang of it (if you don't already know, you don't wanna know now) and after an hour or so, there was no progression. Chris checked me again and told us that the top of the baby's head was not at the opening of my uterus. She said she had seen this before and that sometimes the uterus is tipped back so that even though the baby is in the right place, the opening of the uterus isn't and that it was like trying to put on a turtleneck, shoulders first. If I been in a hospital this would have probably turned into a c-section or at the very least a vacuum assisted birth, but Chris said to NOT push during the next few contractions and that the baby would then be moved to the opening of the uterus. At this point I was like, whatever, so I didn't push when my uterus wanted me to and I think I can safely say that this was the hardest thing that I have ever done in my whole entire life. Not physically, although there was that too, but there was something so emotionally visceral about the need to push and not doing it and I don't even think I can explain it better than that, it was just so intense.

After the longest forty-five minutes of my life, the baby got into position (it worked!) and after another half hour or so, there he was; all screaming and poopy (he had meconium on the way out) and red and wrinkled and with a little conehead from being in the birth canal for so long. Doug kept saying "it's a baby, it's a baby" like he had never seen a baby come out of me before, and we were both crying. It was the first best moment of my life. It took us awhile but finally we decided to see if it was a boy or girl since even though I had thought it was a boy, we didn't really know. Then we just laughed because we realized that we didn't care about that. It didn't matter, the baby was out!

We named him Julien for Doug's grandfather, Jules who was really Julius (we chickened out on both Julius and Jules) and spelled it with an 'e' instead of an 'a' because we knew we were going to call him Jules anyway, and somehow that made sense. It's possible that I might have still been in the haze of labor and love and a new baby, because a few days later I considered either going with Julius after all or at least spelling Julien with an 'a'. But we ended up leaving it and everyone always spells it with an 'a'. Sigh.

Julien was born near dawn on Easter Sunday (not a huge holiday for a non-practicing Jew and a near athiest but everyone around us thought it was special). As Chris, Alissa and Doug cleaned up around me (vinyl mattress covers are VERY handy for a home birth) the cameraman arrived. Yes, cameraman. I had agreed to participate in a short documentary that a friend of Alissa's was doing about the differences in how babies breastfeed after medicated vs. unmedicated births. In probably the only few un-self-conscious minutes of my life, someone that I did not know videotaped me while I was breastfeeding my first baby. Julien was actually sucking his fingers within 2 seconds of his birth, while still crying but after a bit he settled down and after I took his fingers out of his mouth he latched on like a pro. I have never seen this video and since I am back to being my usual self conscious self, I don't really want to.

So there you are, the story of Julien's birth. He will be sixteen tomorrow and I often feel like I might burst with pride and love for him. He is an artist, a musician, a writer, creative, sensitive, responsible, a wee bit moody, a bit shy, very thoughtful and handsome.

A few more thoughts:

Living near the water while pregnant was very interesting; The sound of the river was very relaxing during labor and especially during all those evenings of faux labor, but it also made me feel like I had to pee about a 100% more often than I already did.

I watched the entire OJ Simpson trial while pregnant and I think deep down, Julien must be an expert on that case.

During the labor, Doug complained that his arm really hurt from throwing a heavy rock into the river earlier that day while we were walking around. Everyone looked at him and he still says he could tell we were ALL thinking, shut up.

Chris showed us the placenta and how it was starting to break down, so Julien was obviously significantly overdue. We kept the placenta in the freezer for a few weeks or so, then planted in the flower garden which is supposed to be good luck.

Around 6am Kurtis came in. He had slept through the whole thing! His eyes were all big; he left right away and came back with a little stuffed animal and set it down next to Julien. That was the 2nd time I cried in a day.

Kurtis with Julien who is crying in the next photo that was taken;) And yes, Kurtis is wearing Power Ranger gloves and his Batman cape.

Julien's finger sucking at birth was a sign to come, he was a devoted thumb sucker until he went to kindergarten and got a bit of teasing. I felt a bit sad when he stopped.

I loved every single minute of our home birth even the crazy part when I couldn't push. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people who cared about me, who weren't on any kind of schedule and it was really nice to be in my own queen sized bed!!!!

I can't say enough about The Bradley Method which got me through 2 more wonderful but very different home births.

And even though I haven't seen them since we moved away 8 years ago, I still feel an incredible closeness to Chris, Alissa and Kezia who did the documentary and was with us during the whole fake out labor and then the real one too. Yay for Facebook!

Chris and Julien, April, 1995


SamArtDog said...

Hi Tracy!
So nice to see you back here in lala blogland again. Though I miss your stories, even the chicken ones, this one about Jules is a pure pleasure. I miss your paintings, too; they made the landscape look a lot better. But you do what you gotta do. Happy Spring to you and Doug and the kids. And the chickens.

Ruth Armitage said...

Hi Tracy,
Happy Birthday to Julien :) Great to hear your birth story... I always think about those times on my kids' birthdays too. We had a midwife with our first baby and I loved the experience! Being a mother has its definite highs, doesn't it?
best, Ruth

Natalya Khorover Aikens said...

happy birthday Jules!
what is it about birth stories? i just love them, just read all three of yours...
nice to see you back here!

Tracy Helgeson said...

SamArtDog, well I might be dipping my toes back in here. I just needed a break I think after nearly 5 years of a lot of jabbering;) I will update about the chickens soon....

Thanks Ruth, glad you enjoyed the birth story. I never really thought I want to be a mother until one day when I did want to be one! Glad you had a midwife, I am feeling rather sad about how far away from natural giving birth has gotten.

Thanks Natalya, glad you enjoyed the birth stories, it was much fun to write them, and I am thinking about coming back here more often;)

Jane said...

Julien looks so much like you!

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Anonymous said...

Tracy, It’s 4:30 am Brit time, and I can’t sleep, so thought I would catch up on some of my favourite blogs. And then popped your blog and your birth story. Just wonderful. Never having had children myself I found your storytelling of the birth of Julien compelling. And mentioning the OJ trial really propelled me back into a different universe of when I lived in Arlington Virginia…seems like a lifetime ago. You are such a compelling writer and I too have missed your blog posts and your lovely paintings. I particularly miss your people series and seeing photos of your paintings drying in various stages in your studio.

Martha Marshall said...

Our birth stories never fade away. Funny how the contractions do, but the stories don't.

I think it's a wonderful gift for your kids that you wrote yours down.

Happy birthday to Julien!

Diane Hoeptner said...

Happy Birthday Julien!! You sure do know how to spin a yarn, Girl! Fascinating and evocative...If you ever decide to chuck the art thing, a career in writing maybe just the ticket. (: Wonderful!!

Jason and Kristin said...

Oh, I love that story! I still picture him as a 6 year old. It's so fun to see him all grown up.

Denise Rose said...

GREAT story Tracy and thanks so much for sharing it and the photos of your wonderful son!

Brad Teare said...

Great to hear from you Tracy. I myself am taking a bit of a break from painting to do another comic (with accompanying screenplay). But it is great to see you new work!

sarahfburns said...

Beautiful post Tracy, I relate to so much in your experience, I too loved being pregnant and had an amazing home birth. The whole experience was the most powerful thing that ever happened to me, reading your story brought up a tear when you wrote what your husband said -"It's a baby!" - that just kind of sums it all up.