Hardest pregnancy, best labor, shortest birth story.
Meet Apolonija Eglė
This pregnancy was hard. Oh, so so so hard. In case you’re wondering why I’ve only posted four times on this blog since last April (YIKES), that’s why. All the nausea, all the exhaustion,all the sciatica, all the heartburn, all the back pain. We unexpectedly found out I was pregnant the day after Easter (surprise! and here I thought I was just hung over from sharing cocktails with the sibs) and the rest of that summer is a big, foggy blur in my memory. I slept. A LOT. I managed to find a combination of drugs that helped with the vicious all-day-sickness enough so that, for the first time ever, I didn’t actually lose weight during my first trimester. My body felt like it progressively fell apart as the weeks ticked by, though, so I was convinced – absolutely convinced! – that I’d go into labor early.
My due date was December 14th and I not-so-secretly hoped I’d give birth on the 12th. How fun would it be to follow Aido 11/11 birthday with a 12/12 birth?! That week things seemed to get moving just enough to keep me excited. First the doctor informed me that I was already solidly dilated (SCORE) and she was sure I’d go soon. Then I had my first evening of contractions on the 11th that had me completely convinced I’d get my 12/12 birth day. This was followed by a completely quiet night and a morning full of Povi vomiting. Yayyyy. Obviously not an ideal day to give birth.
Then I had another night of contractions. And another. These weren’t easy contractions, either. They were uncomfortable enough to keep me moving around and grimacing – especially since I wanted to get things going! But every single evening, after a good (read: exhausting) five hours or so of contractions, everything would completely stop around 11 pm. Predromal labor sucks so much. Looking back, I’m realizing this was just the start of many lousy evenings, since Apolonija stayed consistently fussy between 6-11 pm until we figured out she has a soy intolerance. -_-
A few weeks earlier I finally decided that I absolutely didn’t want to go into the week of Christmas still pregnant. The idea of being in the hospital for the holidays, potentially missing hanging out with family, and having to deal with my parents watching the kids while hosting out-of-town-family just seemed…not fun. Since Povi was born nine days late, this was a distinct possibility. After way too much back and forth and with much trepidation, I decided to schedule an induction for a few days past my due date. I’d never been induced before and I was ridiculously nervous about it leading to other unwanted interventions, but I also really, really, really wanted a peaceful Christmas. My doctor assured me I was a perfect candidate for an induction and that if I changed my mind, I could cancel it. When my due date came and went, I felt immediate relief that I had an induction scheduled and there was an end in sight. Although – not going to lie – I was also a little pissed at my body that I’d spent so many nights with contractions, yet wouldn’t get that “It’s go time!” moment. The night before the induction, I took one last photo of these goobers as a gang of four, all-boy cousins.
It was a strange feeling driving into the hospital without being in active labor, yet knowing that this was it. But it was nice, too. We were able to talk and laugh while driving. Usually the drive is SO insanely painful, so I’m glad to have skipped over that part. When we got to the hospital at 2pm on the 18th, everything was pretty quiet. We were able to go to the room almost immediately. While I changed into a gown, Vincas hopped around the room organizing our things and hung up a long strand of Christmas lights over the window that a previous patient had left behind. The room felt so cozy and ready for action. It took over an hour for all the paperwork to be processed and then ages for the nurses to get my IV in. Two different nurses kept stabbing me multiple times and prodding around in my veins, yet somehow missing them. This had never happened before and it left both of my wrists/tops of hands bruised and throbbing painfully – not a nice beginning. In the nurses’ defense, I think the room was really cold, making my veins harder to find.
Once they began the induction, I was all ready for the pain to start. LET’S DO THIS. Surprisingly, no pain. Hours trickled by. Still no pain. I asked the nurses twice, is anything even happening? To my completely shock, I was informed that apparently I was having active contractions. Not just active, but close together. And other than a strong, gasp-through-it contraction maybe once every half hour or so, I wasn’t feeling ANYTHING. (and just to clarify, I wasn’t on any pain meds or epidural yet) Apparently that week of predomal labor got my body desensitized to pain! Vincas and I spent about four hours peacefully watching the first two Harry Potter movies, taking silly selfies, and chatting about how our life was about to change again. Finally a nurse came in and said that my contractions were close enough that they’d like to break my waters. I agreed, but asked to go ahead and get the epidural beforehand, since I knew things would start moving quickly once they did so.
The anesthesiologist came and we had a nice chat. I was nervous from my previous epidural experience and had asked for the nicest anesthesiologist at the hospital PLEEEASE. Last time, with Aidas, my epidural ended up being way WAY too strong – it went all the way up to my chest, made it feel like an elephant was sitting on me, didn’t wear off for hours and hours after the birth, and I experienced some pretty horrible claustrophobia during labor, although it was delightful not to have any pain. The nurses had switched my epidural on and off several times to try to help me get comfortable, but nothing seemed to help. The anesthesiologist finally ended up coming into the room and yelling at me that I either had to deal with the claustrophobia, or deal with the pain. It was <not> nice and I was a bit scarred from the experience. I really really preferred the claustrophobia to the pain, though, so I had mentally prepared myself to deal with it better.
Thankfully, the anesthesiologist was SO kind. He went over everything with me, told me he’d work with me to make it as comfortable as possible, and then put the needle in. I’m not gonna lie: it hurt like hell. (which I don’t remember being the case during Aido labor) I’m guessing it hurt so badly this time because of my additional nervousness and prooobably because I wasn’t distracted by active contractions. I would go so far as to say it was the most painful part of the entire birthing process this time around.
The epidural worked perfectly in terms of numbing my body, although I still found myself shaking uncomfortably (another side effect I had had with Aido epidural) and had to fight off twinges of claustrophobia again – mostly in my fingers and toes. Thankfully, though, the claustrophobia wasn’t nearly as bad. It helped tremendously to have a fun movie to watch (during Aido birth we forgot to bring a laptop and had to endure endless commercials). Vincas also stroked my arm, which sounds weird but was hugely helpful in terms of me focusing on something other than heaviness and un-feeling-ness of my body.
I always get an odd satisfaction from having my water broken. Maybe because I’ve never gotten to experience the whole “Oh no my water just broke in the middle of a store and now I’m in labor” moment? Either way, it really feels like a “jump ahead two levels” sort of move in the whole labor game. This time around, when they broke it, the midwife couldn’t help but comment that HOLY COW THAT’S A LOT OF FLUID. A lot of fluid. “No wonder you were so uncomfortable!” was the next comment. Apparently it was the most fluid that midwife had possibly seen…ever? So, go me! Apparently I like to set records. The nurse came back later and confided that it was a “FULL LITER OF FLUID.”
We continued to watch the movie and chat – when I asked Vincas just now what some of his memories of the birth were, he immediately grinned and said WATCHING HARRY POTTER. I mean – no kids climbing all over us and getting to zone out a bit with movies? That WAS delightful.
We made it all the way to the middle of the fourth movie when a nurse popped her head into the room to ask if I was feeling any urges to push yet. I honestly hadn’t even thought about it yet. Ironically, within minutes of her asking, though, suddenly I REALLY REALLY needed to push. It was so unexpected and so urgent, I remember wondering if the midwife would even make it. The nurses quickly came back when we paged them and began readying the room. It was just before midnight and I had the sudden thought that, hey! I might not have gotten 12/12 for a birth date, but it looked like I might get 12/19/19 – which is almost as cool. #thingsIcareabout
It’s always at that point that I have the “OH CRAP, THIS IS REAL” thought. The baby is almost here and I’ll get to find out who’s been living inside me all this time. I can’t even describe how full of anticipation I feel at that moment: about to meet my newest child, getting to know if our boy strong household would continue or if we’d have a girl join the mix, and what name we’ll choose (we always go into the hospital with a long list of names, although our top girl name had been going strong for over four years at this point).
I have a track record of pushing for ridiculously long lengths of time. 5.5 hours of pushing to get Povi out (we only just managed to squeak out of getting a c-section by virtue of his wonderfully steady heartbeat) and 2.5 hours for Aidas. Because of that, I always gear myself up and tell myself it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve found that it’s always helpful for me to request a mirror, because it helps me to see what’s happening and have more patience. I also alternate between concentrating really hard (this will be the push! No, now THIS will be the push) and glancing up at Vincas to see if his face will indicate my progress. With an epidural, there’s usually some chatting with the midwife, too, which helps distract me. If you’ve never gone the Team Green route, there’s always that excitement, too. All of the nursing staff and midwives couldn’t wait to find out if we were having a third boy, or a first girl.
The moment finally came – it’s so crazy, but one reason I LOVE epidurals is that you get to really be in the moment and appreciate what’s happening, rather than be exhausted by pain. This time around, I remember feeling that “plop” feeling of “SHOULDERS OOOOUT AND HERE’S THE BABY!” No pain, just satisfaction of YESSSSSssss! I did it! Then suddenly Vincas was grinning and (after a dramatic pause as he checked and rechecked) saying “IT’S A GIRL!” Later, Vincas told me that the nurse and midwife burst into tears, they were so excited for us (we had guiltily admitted earlier in the night that we would love for this baby to be a girl).
I’m always taken aback by how tiny and perfect babies are when they’re born. So warm and you just want to snuggle them, despite all the gloop they’re covered in. You’re kissing them and checking every detail and every finger and toe and then kissing them again. I couldn’t stop grinning when they plopped that ridiculous newborn hospital hat with the bow on her head to keep her warm. Later my mom admitted that she had no idea what that hat was (with four nephews, she’d never seen the bow hat before) and couldn’t figure out if that meant we had a girl or if it was just a weird hat.
Every baby I birth seems completely different to me in those first 24 hours than the preceding siblings. Povi had a perfect round face and wide open eyes that seemed very old and wise (it was only later, looking back at photographs, that I realized how swollen he was from the long labor and IVs). Aidas came out with the funniest bird beak nose and wrinkly frown. Apolonija had the reddest face and biggest, squashiest nose. She also had a dimple I immediately spotted and that still pops out when she smiles. Her hair was the longest and darkest of the three.
Apolonija weighed in at 8 lbs, 12 ounces, landing her squarely between heavy-weight Povi (9 lbs, 3 ounces) and tiny-in-comparison-Aidas (7 lbs, 8 ounces). In Lithuanian her name is pronounced uh-pah-LUH-nee-uh and her nickname will be Nia (NEE-uh). We’ve had several people ask why we don’t spell her nickname the traditionally Lithuanian “Nija” and it was a back and forth for a while, but both of us liked the -ia spelling and Vincas liked the idea of her having an “easier” nickname that won’t get muddled every single time.
St. Apollonia (the traditional Greek spelling) is the patron saint of dentists and we fell in love with the name way back before we were even married. I vividly remember driving back from Vinco family’s apple orchard and lightheartedly discussing future baby names when Vincas asked me if I’d ever consider the name Apolonija. I laughed, realized he was serious, then said NEVER. But he brought it up again later and the more I heard it, the more I loved it. So completely unique, phonetically pleasing, full of nickname possibilities (which I always love!), and a fun link to the work Vincas loves. Her middle name, Eglė, is a Fir tree/Christmas tree in Lithuanian (so a nod to the Christmas season), the main character in one of my FAVORITE old Lithuanian stories, and is also my mom’s middle name (only right for her to have a namesake, since my sister’s youngest’s middle name is my Dad’s first name).
It took a few days, but the boys are now completely obsessed with their sister. Every single morning Povilas dashes into our room, looking all over for her. He bursts into the biggest smile and catapults her way, kissing her profusely and reminding me that “Aš MYLIU Baby Nia!” (I LOVE Baby Nia) Aidas worriedly asks after her whenever she’s out of sight and comes running to me whenever he hears her crying. Even Zissou has appointed himself her dog-guard and hilariously stands over her if she’s on the floor, as if asking “Did you MEAN to leave the baby here?”
With every baby I have, I’m newly shocked by how quickly they grow and change. <3 She’s newly five months old and finally the happiest baby in the world, now that we’ve figured out her dietary issues. Vincas teases me when I express amazement at her quick development, but she began wriggle-crawling at just over three months, figured out how to roll both ways before four months, and today (5 months plus 2 days) squawked angrily at me the entire time I ate each meal because I didn’t want to share. I walked into the room yesterday to find Povi coaching her on how to make sounds (“P-p-povi! M-m-Mama! D-d-dottie! T-t-teta Torij!” <– can you tell who his favorite people are?) and she already seems to wrestle with the boys (grabbing at their hair when they’re teasing her).
Apolonija Egle, I can’t wait to watch you grow! <3