Monday, October 21, 2013

Sophia's Birth!

This blog post is probably just for a select few! It is long (although shorter than my personal version, which has stretched to 8 pages), but some of my friends may be interested in more of the details of our birth story.

Our baby was due on October 22 (my adjusted date) although I’d be 40 weeks on October 26. The 32 week sonogram calculated all our baby’s measurements at 9 days ahead. Still, everyone said babies arrive on their own timing, usually within two weeks on either side of the due date, and to not take that too much into account.

On October 10, we were finally able to present our adoption papers in court, and on October 11 I met with office staff on my final planned day to be in my Baby Home office. All I was waiting for in my mind was for Jake’s mom to arrive on October 15, and then I’d be happy with a baby anytime! But exactly 9 days before her due date, baby had other ideas!

On October 10, 2013, I had told someone on Facebook: “As uncomfortable as it's getting, I'm happy with baby staying in the oven a bit longer.” But on Friday the 11th, I couldn’t sleep well after hearing Jake get up at 6am. That wasn’t uncommon at all for those last weeks, but this time was different because I had a bad stomachache and felt a little feverish. It was hard to finish the day at the Baby Home but I was determined to meet with everyone and get through my last big check-list. Later, I was glad I did!

I didn’t go to youth group, just feeling miserable at home and missing Jake’s company. I didn’t sleep well at all that night, just very uncomfortable, feeling something like gas pains. Saturday morning I wasn’t much better and napped on the couch with the help of a heating pad Jake fixed up for me and the hot water bottle I’d bought for labor. That afternoon we went to the Saturday market, our usual deal, and then after a shorter nap than I wanted, got up to go to a church leadership meeting and then an Open House/Despedida (farewell) for our beloved Cochabamba International Church Founder & Pastor Graham Porter. At least I wouldn’t have to make dinner that way, and it was a nice distraction. It’s hard to feel miserable and groan when you are smiling and talking to others! At one point in the evening, I told Jake the discomfort came and went, although I still suspected nothing.

By that night, I had changed my tune, replying to a wall post on Facebook: “Ten more days till the due date, but now I think that a little earlier would be fine by me!!!” That night I read about baby’s development at 38 weeks (the milestone of the day before), we watched a video from “The Pink Kit” (a childbirth preparation course my midwife sent me), I chose my dress for church the next morning, and then took a nice long shower—the only thing that gave relief. Jake talked to my belly, telling the baby, “Come out with your hands UP!” until he saw my face and modified the order to “Uh, I mean, come out with your hands DOWN!” (In the end, the baby came out with her hands crossed over her body, ha!)

We eventually went to bed minutes before midnight. After a trip to the bathroom, I checked the clock. 1:55am. As I lay there, I guess I was tossing and turning a bit trying to go back to sleep because Jake asked me if I was okay and I replied yes, just trying to get comfortable. Jake turned over and immediately went back to sleep. Literally not 2 minutes later, I felt a great whoosh of warm fluid and my eyes flew open. I couldn’t believe it! I starting shaking Jake’s shoulder, no longer whispering now, “Something just came out of me, a LOT…! Oh my goodness, oh my goodness…” as I struggled to sit up quickly and head to the bathroom to investigate. It was easy to see there was enough liquid to constitute a membrane rupture (not just leaking) and there was the mucous plug that had been holding my baby in all these months. Jake wisely thought to check the clock and said it was 2:25am.

I brought in the book I had been reading a couple days prior, when feeling too poorly to go to youth group, quickly looking up what I’d read about the start of labor and what the breaking of the bag actually meant as far as timing. I wanted to read something that would confirm I just had a leak and that labor could still be far off, but nope—seemed pretty serious! Only 8% of labors start with the bag breaking so I wasn’t expecting this, but that’s what we had here. I hadn’t even had a single Braxton-Hicks contraction that I knew of!

I realized that it felt like I was having cramps, so Jake offered to move the heating pad and convertor box into the bedroom. He then went back to sleep around 3:30 and I gave a valiant effort, being really sleepy after just two hours of sleep, but finally gave up around 4:35am when the cramps felt more like…contractions! I watched the sky brighten into a sunrise, trying to fathom that TODAY could be the day we met our baby.

A picture I took around 5:30am, October 13, of the sunrise over our city

I tried to time contractions at some point but was terrible at it, just so distracted that this was really IT, and sometimes by the pain. A few minutes till 6am, I struggled with a few long contractions right in a row that got me a little panicked about my ability to breathe through them and stay calm, so I decided to take another hot shower. Jake heard me in the bathroom and woke, asking if it was time to call Katrina, via Elena. (Katrina had only arrived from New Zealand 9 days ago and was still looking into getting a cell phone.) I checked the clock and agreed, not wanting to wake them too early knowing we probably had a full day and even night of labor ahead. 

Jake pointed out that she was coming on a cool date: October 13, 2013. Later we heard of 6 or 7 other baby girls born to friends or friends of friends on this day!

It was great to see Katrina and Elena, who accompanied her. I was trying to sweep the floor and prepare a labor drink before things got more intense. Katrina said I should eat so I made oatmeal for everyone, our Sunday morning special, although by the time it was done I wasn’t much in the mood and only had a few bites.

Katrina checked the baby’s position (Left Occipital Lateral), said that she couldn’t move her head, which meant it was well down, and that baby seemed a “nice size” - neither too big nor too small. Her heart rate was great, yeah! According to Katrina’s wonderful record, the contractions were 4-6 minutes apart lasting 30 seconds to 1 minute.

 Jake took over making the drink when the contractions were distracting me too much

Jake was working away to prepare the birthing—or in this case, laboring—pool with limited resources and no trial run. He did such a good job!! He didn’t have the right valves for the air pump or a proper sink attachment and hose for filling, but he rigged up what he needed using a cloth diaper sprayer that former CDA volunteer Erin Sidmore gave us with a donation of cloth diapers. 

At 9am, Katrina said I was dilated to 3, 80% effaced, and baby’s head was well applied! I realized I had been in labor over 6 hours and it was passing in the blink of an eye. 

The next couple of hours were a combination of laboring while standing and leaning over a countertop or chair or Jake, on all fours on the bed, and getting in and out of the shower. I was going to the bathroom constantly and everyone was great about constantly passing me things to drink: water, raspberry leaf tea, and the lemon-aid drink before it was frozen into popsicles (which were WONDERFUL later on!).

Katrina applying pressure to my lower back during a contraction 

At 10, Katrina okayed Jake filling the pool completely, a process he had calculated to take 55 minutes. Yay!

I was feeling very sleepy and tired and kept trying to lie down on my side and rest in between contractions, but it was a miserable cycle because it seemed like that would only produce another one! Katrina kept saying I was finding good positions and doing well with my breathing. That was encouraging to hear because I was just kind of going with the flow, not giving anything much conscious thought. Or, maybe, being swept along! It was a little surprising and tiring to feel things just increase in intensity and length, with no long breaks.

That is… Till I got in the pool! Around 11 I got in and what blessed relief!! That’s the most amazing pool I have EVER been in. It was SUPER comfortable, being so deep, with such strong sides! The water temp was amazing, too—so nice and hot. Right away I was able to rest more. The contractions spread out a little and were shorter—something that concerned Jake, but I was too glad to care. Now I was able to doze in between and get some much needed rest and energy after so little sleep the past couple of nights. I didn't feel tired the rest of the day, actually.


 The AMAZING birth pool

The only thing with the pool was my body was working so hard I sometimes felt like I was overheating, even as I enjoyed the heat for pain relief. My helpers kept rotating out cool cloths from the fridge, cool drinks, and ice chips, all of which helped immensely, as well as being fanned with a file folder Jake found.

At 12:40pm, Katrina said I needed to get out to bring the contractions closer together again. I tried to go out in the living room and be with the others and check stuff on the computer, but that didn’t last for long. I started to ask Jake to talk to me, grasping for any sort of distraction! I just had to have something else to focus on besides the pain. I stayed in the bedroom from now on. 

By 2pm, I was fully effaced and 6-7 cm dilated, baby at pelvic position -1. I was allowed back in the pool, now to worry when “transition” (or “transmission”, as Jake likes to say) would hit. Well, it must’ve come and gone without me noticing, because just 10 minutes later, something else changed and all of a sudden I was making a new deep guttural sound and my body was taking over pushing, a very strange, almost overwhelming feeling. Katrina seemed happy about it though, encouraging me and telling me to go with it. Eventually, as this continued, I asked her if it was already okay to push. I didn’t want to crown in the pool. We couldn’t have the baby there due to the contamination of our water here. I figured she’d know and get me out before then, but I was just unsure because I wondered where transition was or where it went…! Katrina’s answer was a great surprise: yes, I was free to push! Well, okay then!! As hard as that sensation was, at least we were moving along. What a good baby, making her way right on down!

Our medical backup person for the birth was Tia Adelaida, a nurse and Casa de Amor staff member since our first days in 2004. She was called now, so I knew we were getting close!!

I really needed Jake’s support by then, as much physically (to grip onto) as emotionally. By now though, I was feeling a little chilled and didn’t want to be fanned or use cold cloths. I started to get leg cramps as I kneeled for each contraction, so Jake started feeding me another lemon labor popsicle which melted nicely over the hot water.

By 4pm, the baby’s head was close. At 4:10pm, Katrina said we should move to the bathroom/toilet for a couple of contractions and hard pushing. At one point, Jake couldn’t get his hand to me quickly enough and I tore the towel rod right out of the wall, whoops!

At 4:35, we went back to the bedroom and got set up on the side of the bed. We did a supported squat position, with Jake sitting on the bed and me standing/sitting/squatting over him, as needed. I was getting so desperate to see the baby and finally be done with the exhausting, painful pushing, I wished the contractions would come closer together. They seemed to have spaced out, which seemed even worse when Katrina didn’t like the fetal heart rate readings and started to insist that the baby needed to be born ASAP. I’ve heard the birthing part described as a “ring of fire”. I think that would’ve been fine! To me, it felt like I was pushing myself inside out and EVERYTHING hurt. Katrina assured me that I was stretching fine though. Tia Adelaida and Katrina kept telling me to make lower sounds, and push lower down. Elena was poised to make pictures.

Minutes before 4:55, Katrina said she would have to do an episiotomy if the baby didn't appear in the next contraction. Talk about incentive!! (I didn’t know what had happened until later, when Jake said she couldn’t get a heart reading.) Katrina helped the baby's head out, and I tore instead. And not having known exactly which push would produce the baby, it was a complete shock when all of a sudden this mass of limbs was swiftly passed up to me! Later on, I realized I had noticed her head with the cord wrapped around it, and Katrina swiftly freeing her, but still for some reason it was a surprise when she was all of a sudden in my arms.

Holding the baby, I was helped to lie back on our prepared bed.  Seems like it was Jake who asked if someone had noticed the time, and I think Katrina answered 4:55pm. She was born less than 3 hours after 6-7 cm dilation, and exactly 14 ½ hours after the water broke! I was so pleased that labor never stalled out. She made her way down so nicely!

(Cool side note: looking at missed calls on my cell phone later, we noticed that my Mom had called at 4:56pm. Adjusting that time to the clock in our bedroom, she had called at exactly 4:55!!)

I wanted to focus completely on the baby but the pain was pretty horrific. I wasn’t expecting so much AFTER labor and delivery! But everything was still going well and the mood in the room was joyous. The baby’s Apgar at birth was 8, and then five minutes later, a 10. She pinked up very quickly—didn’t even look like a newborn once the vernix soaked in—and was very alert and wide-eyed. She had a little "ridge" on the top of her head from pressure being born but it went away within the first hour and then she had a gorgeous round head.

Minutes after birth, meeting our daughter!

The placenta came after 25 minutes and when it stopped pulsating Jake cut the cord. What a neat moment. I was so proud of him! 

 Cutting the cord! My hands are visible at the sides, Katrina's hand at the top, and Jake's at the bottom

Then Jake took the baby while Katrina stitched me up, assisted by Adelaida. 

First moments with Daddy

 She pinked up so quickly!

Jake and Elena went to IC to look for ice cream, my one request!, while Katrina helped me nurse for the first time. We had a jolly time when the others got back, eating together on the bed. Elena made grilled cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread for me, and rarely has anything tasted so delicious! (She also made lunch for the others this day, re-organized our pantry, and helped with many other things as she waited to make pictures.)

Jake and Elena eventually weighed the baby on a scale borrowed from the Baby Home, announcing an even 3 kilos (6 pounds, 9.8 ounces). Even though she was early, I’m still shocked by how small she was! I don’t think any baby on the Thompson side has ever weighed less than 8 pounds! But she also has a beautiful head of hair, another rarity on my side. Jake declared she didn’t look like either of us—what’s with that, he said?! Most of us think she looks like him.

Katrina did a medical check of the baby right there in between Jake and me on the bed, which was really neat to observe! We all listened to her heartbeat. Someone chose clothes for her and we dressed her for the first time. At some point I took a couple paracetamol. Seemed ironic after such a good, drug-free birth, but I was struggling.

Katrina then said it would be a good time for me to shower. She was so sweet serving me, bringing me clothes and helping with everything.

Elena took our first family pictures, and then at 9:10pm Katrina said she and Elena would go downstairs to wait for their ride. We were alone as a new family! The baby dozed off after at least four hours of being awake. Sophia and I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night, but it was a happy fog of getting to know our baby and the reality of her early arrival sinking in.  

Studying our new baby

Jake’s mom arrived two days later and has been a huge help! I was really taken aback by how hard mobility would be, barely shuffling along, unable to stand in the kitchen for more than a few minutes at a time, difficulty sitting comfortably. I made our lunch the first day and Jake made our dinner, and then I have never been so grateful for those who brought us meals!! What a huge, huge help.

 Joining us for dinner. Looks just like the sonogram picture, doesn't she?!

I’ve also been grateful for Katrina’s continued support the first week. She visited us almost daily to check in and see how we were doing and to help with nursing, something new for me after so many bottle fed babies at Casa de Amor! 

The day after the birth, Katrina took in a blood sample from the umbilical cord. Sophia has O+ blood, same as her Dad, and mine is O-. So Katrina gave me the Anti-D shot so that my body doesn’t produce antibodies against the positive RH factor, which could affect future babies.

Yesterday, one week later, I picked up where we left off, going to church! (Hard to believe that just the week before I played piano with the team!) That was mine and Sophia’s first time outside and out of the house. My legs felt weak on the 3 flights of stairs, but it was wonderful to get out and we had a great time at church introducing her to friends. I can finally walk at a more normal pace and gait now, at least for a little bit.

Jake and his Mom Thea after church - baby's first outing!

Sophia nurses like a champ since Day 3 and a very painfully cracked nipple is healing. We don’t have much of a schedule yet, but she generally nurses around midnight and again in the early morning. We often see dad off to work! (Jake got the first three days off after Sophia's arrival, which was so great!!)

The best part of these early days is watching the interaction and love between Jake and his baby, his DAUGHTER! There are no more concerns about bonding. Same as in the womb, Sophia quiets down to hear his voice, and he has helped me get her back to sleep after night-time feeding sessions multiple times. God must be chuckling! I’ve known and cared for dozens of babies, and yet this being Jake’s first, his help and insight has been invaluable. It’s like we’re on even ground with this, my first “white baby”. (Let’s just say she’s a little feistier than my laid-back Bolivian babies!) Oh, and I can’t fail to mention my gladness at the sense of humor he brings during these first days full of intense, new experiences.

Chilling on the couch, October 18, 2013

God has truly blessed us beyond words this first year of marriage!! Our home birth was actually better than I had hoped for or imagined, and life with baby Sophia is sweet!


  1. Great post! Love all the details!

  2. Wow what a GREAT story!! Loved reading it Jen, and can't wait to meet her next year in March :-D

    Blessings to you, Jake, Sophia (CUTEST name btw) and every one else at HDA!

    LOVE from Denmark

  3. Wow, Jen! What a great story! I LOVE reading birth stories, especially home birth ones. :) You were a brave and dedicated trooper through the whole thing! I could relate to so much of your story from the actual labor part, to the challenge of nursing those first few days, to the surprise of how intensely birthing a baby wears a mama out. Sounds like things are going pretty smoothly for your new little family, now, though, and I am so thrilled for you and Jake! Many blessings to you all from Taos!


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