Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Fresh Story of Hyperion Justyce

I was 39 weeks and 1 day when I went into my OB's office and there I was only 1.5cm, thick, and long. I was devastated as I had tried everything. Castor Oil, evening primrose oil, red raspberry leaf tea, sex, walking, bouncing. Everything. So for the second time, he swept my membranes and my mother and I left. We walked around Walmart and I stopped at the grocery store and then home I went.

Having had gone through the sweeping before with no change, I just went about my business and once in bed, contractions started at 1am at 40 minutes apart. By 5am, my contractions were 15 minutes and strong. I couldn't sleep and as the day progressed, they went to 10 minutes and by the evening, I felt I couldn't do it anymore. Finally, my husband and I went in and while I was thinking I would be sent home, I was admitted at a 4-5 cm and stretchy.

I failed doing it naturally, but having not slept, I was too tired to try and got an epi. I almost forced a stadol, but thankfully my husband helped me remember that was the ONE thing I did not want. Finally, relaxed, my friend and husband and myself talked about many things. An hour and a half later, my water broke on its own and I was at 9cm fully effaced. I needed to push, but my doc wasn't there yet. But my body wouldn't wait, and after six pushes, my beautiful son was born.

Weighing 6lbs. 15.43oz and 20 inches long. He is beautiful , loves nursing, is intact and just a wonderful joy to our family.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Twin c-section followed by a VBAC story

I am from Ireland, and we had our first pregnancy there- boy/ girl twins conceived after 3 years of ttcing and 3 rounds of fertility treatment. The pregnancy went well and I planned a vaginal birth, but always knew with twins there was a chance of c-section (my hospital had a 40% c-section rate for twins, 13% overall c-section rate). I carried to 39 weeks- which is considered past term for twins-, when the twins showed some signs of distress on NSTs, and their growth arrested and placenta started breaking down. They needed to come out. I was unfavourable for induction (-2 station on Twin A, no dilation or effacement), but we tried anyway, in the hope of a vaginal birth.  It did nothing, not a single contraction. So after 2 days, it was decided a c-section was needed. I healed well and the overall experience was good, but that doesn't mean I want to repeat it! In Ireland, VBAC is the norm and so while we didn't think we could have more kids, I always thought I'd have a VBAC if I did get pregnant again- to be honest, the thought of an RCS didn't even cross my mind.

...then we moved to NW Arkansas, where my husband is from. I found myself pregnant with a very happy surprise baby, and upon doing some reading, realised VBACs were banned here! At first I was disappointed, but thought I might be ok with an RCS. I decided to stay with our family doctor for maternity care, as he also does OB stuff. I knew from friends that he did a lot of VBACs before the ban, so at my first appointment, when he explained that he tries to schedule RCS as close to the due date as possible, I mentioned I didn't really want one. He said that was ok, that I had plenty of time to decide. By my next (12 week) appointment, I had done my research and made up my mind that I really wanted a VBAC. I had considered how to achieve that- the nearest hospital and birthing center which allowed them was 2.5+ hours away on a good day, which I didn't want to risk considering I had no experience of how my labor would go. Home birth was an option I was toying with, but wasn't sure I was comfortable with, and my husband was completely against. So, my chosen option was one many warn against: VBAC in a VBAC ban hospital. I discussed this with my doctor, who went through the risks of both RCS and VBAC with me- giving equal time to both. He seemed supportive, but did say there could be issues if I was in hospital a long time, so best to come in dilated well already. So he kept “forgetting” to schedule the RCS.

Pregnancy went well until 30 weeks, when my blood pressure started to creep up (no other signs of pre-eclampsia). At first, the doctor just asked me to keep an eye on it at home, but after a while he got concerned. He requested an ultrasound at 36 weeks to check on baby and placenta, and frankly I was worried he'd use it to pull the big baby card, especially when the u/s tech estimated baby at 8.1 pounds already! But the doctor was fine with that- he said he was looking for info on the placenta and baby's health, not size, which can be off 1+ pounds at that gestation. I started having weekly NSTs which were ok, but got some swelling. Based on that, at my 40 week appointment (actually 39+4), and with baby still -2, 2cm dilated and somewhat soft ( asked about stripping membranes, he said he would if he could but I was too high still, he could not reach), the doctor said we should look at RCS if baby doesn't come out soon, and that if I was an RCS patient, he'd have taken baby the week before. We discussed dates and decided that unless things got worse, he'd do the RCS at 41+2. I felt a bit sad, but also realised that'd give me another two weeks, and tried to make my peace with that.

At 39+4, I went to bed and shortly after I went to sleep at 10pm, woke to a “popping” sound. A gush followed and I was pretty sure my waters had broken. Went to the bathroom and there was some more clear liquid. I started having contractions pretty much right away, but they started off light, so I let my husband and doula know what was happening and went back to bed. I had an appointment for another u/s the next morning anyway, so the idea was to just keep that, hoping I was in active labor by then. Believe it or not, I never discussed what to do when waters broke before labor with my doctor, I didn't think it would happen! Contractions picked up petty soon to a strong menstrual pain type, and moved closer together (6 minutes apart for several hours), but slowed down again once I got up. I rang the doctor when the office opened and he told me to go to the hospital.

So we went and met him there. Still -2, 3 cm dilated. He didn't want me to go back home due to the waters, but said we could wait a few hours before we did anything, to see if things started going again naturally. He gave orders not to check me vaginally so as to minimise risks of infection, and started an external CFM (his only request to me, discussed at prenatal visits, so I was ok with that). He also said the hospital's policy was c-section for anyone whose waters broke 18+ hours ago, but that we could “work with that”. I signed a load of forms, including a RCS refusal/ VBAC consent form, but refused to sign the RCS consent form they wanted me to sign “just in case of emergency, as you cannot sign if you have had pain medication”; as I pointed out to them, in case of true emergency, my husband could sign. There was no problem with that and indeed, throughout my stay not one nurse said anything derogatory about VBAC or tried to scare me- it was also noticeable that they had all read my birth preferences before coming into my room, which was nice.

Nothing started, so I consented to a very low pitocin drip. This started contractions, and my doula was a great help dealing with them. But several hours later, I had made only 1cm dilation progress and was still high and -2 station. Doctor asked to put an internal contraction monitor on for a bit, to see if the contractions were really as strong as I felt them (we left the external heart rate monitor on, as I didn't want to have a screw in my baby's head). They were. We had reached the 18 hour after waters breaking limit now, but as my waters were still clear and baby showed no signs of distress, doctor said he'll ignore hospital policy. Dr didn't want to put the pit up higher, so we waited. Soon after that, I went into transition labor. Hurray! Both doctor and doula said it would not be long now. I had very strong contractions one on top of the other for two hours, and it was hard to deal with, but I managed. After 2 hours, they checked me. 6cm... everyone was surprised, as we thought I should be getting ready to push. I couldn't take it anymore, so after discussing it with my husband and doula, I called the doctor back in to discuss pain medication (no-one had mentioned drugs to me before, as per my birth plan). I decided on an epidural to give me a break. The anesthetist recommended a low dose so I could still feel some minor pain/ pressure (as one of the signs of uterine rupture is pain between contractions), and so I could still move on the bed, get on all fours etc. It worked perfectly, and I got a bit of a break, even a little semi-nap (during which I swatted at the doctor, thinking he was my husband, when he tried to wake me).

Several hours later- some 28 hours after waters broke and contractions started-, I was almost fully dilated (only a lip around the cervix), but still high, a 0 station We let the epi wear off and I started pushing as I had the urge, but baby would not come down. Pushing was exhausting, and I felt I could not go on. Baby's heart rate decals started to last longer after contractions finished. Doctor started to get concerned and said we would need to look at a RCS soon, but he'd like to try one more thing: ventose delivery. It would probably not work as baby was still so high, and could involve an episiostomy, but it would really be a shame not to at least try, and end up with an RCS after all this. He would not try for too long- probably only 2 contractions worth- but it was worth a try. I cried a bit, I was so exhausted and felt my VBAC slipping away. My doula and husband kept me sane, and stopped me from crying as I needed all the energy I could get for pushing. After 2 contractions, there was some hope so we kept on going, and eventually- after a severe episiostomy, baby came out, head one push, body the next, more than 30 hours after my waters broke and contractions started. It was the most amazing feeling physically and mentally, feeling that head pop out. Doctor clamped the cord (husband didn't want to), and my wonderful VBAC daughter was put on my chest, where they did all their little tests while the doctor stitched me up. The doctor finally got to go home, some 15 hours into his supposed day off 

 I started breastfeeding and Rachel has been attached to me boob pretty much permanently since- she is 10 months now!  The day after my VBAC, I had quite a few nursing students visiting with their mentors- I guess I was a bit of an “event”, and ask questions about c-section vs VBAC experience. There is really no comparison. I was sore down there for a while, but it is nothing compared to the post c-section pain. With my VBAC, I got to hold and carry my toddler twins 3 hours after birth of their little sister.  I am not saying it was easy- the doctor said that would have been a difficult and long birth even for a FTM-  but it was so worth it, for baby and me and all my family.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Her Own Birth Story

And now, for your reading pleasure, allow me to present the story of Xiola. She wanted her own story, and she made sure her Mama had one to tell. I hope you enjoy the story of Cat's second daughters birth. 


Sunday, September 25 at around 5:30 am I woke up having mild contractions.  I had been having these off and on for weeks now, so didn't think much of them.  Still, I couldn't get in a comfortable position to sleep anymore as they were very crampy.  I got up and took a shower, thinking they'd slow down and I could go back to bed.  I was 2 days past my due date.  Well, they got closer together while I was in the shower and were lasting fairly long (45 seconds or longer), so I got out and decided to get a few things done before waking Jason.  I went into the kitchen and did the dishes and basically just puttered around trying to keep myself busy.  Jason came out to check on me and I told him what was going on.  He convinced me to try and lie down for awhile, but still I couldn't get comfortable.  So more puttering around…;)  Finally I needed some help through some of the more intense rushes and Jason got up with me.  I really wasn't in a lot of pain, but the pressure was becoming quite intense.  I called our midwife and told her what was going on, but also told her that I didn't need her just yet.  Our 2 year old, Lola,  had come so quickly once I crossed over into active labor that we wanted Toni to be prepared just in case the same thing happened.  At around 1 pm she called back to check in and I told her they were coming every 2 minutes, but hadn't really kicked over yet.  She decided to wait awhile, and then come over and check me.  She called her assistant, Nancy, who had a longer drive and they arrived around 3:00 p.m. – I was 5 cms, but still a bit thick.  I was getting tired by this time, but was determined to keep my labor going.  I got in the tub for awhile, which helped with the discomfort, but also started slowing down my contractions. We decided to walk around the property in hopes that they turned over into active labor soon.  They were getting stronger and the next time Toni checked me I was close to 7 cms.  We thought we were in the homestretch.  After awhile they started slowing down again, so I kept myself upright and walking.  By this time it was getting late.  I needed to lie down for a bit, but every time I stopped walking the contractions would slow down.  At midnight Toni convinced me that I needed some rest.  Jason and I laid down for awhile, but I was so scared that my contractions would stall out that I couldn't really sleep.  

At 3:30 am Toni checked me again and I was digressing.  I was back to a stretchy 5 cms.  I had hit a wall with exhaustion and we all decided that I needed sleep and rest.  My water was still intact, so there was no rush.  There wasn't going to be a baby that night.  It was very discouraging and I broke down sobbing, feeling like a failure.  Nancy came over to me as Jason helped Toni load her stuff back up in the van, and sat with me while I cried.  I had been working hard for close to 20 hours and was suffering from sheer exhaustion.  Nancy then made a statement that changed the course of my thoughts.  She told me to let go of how easy and quick Lola's birth was, that this wasn't going to be the same thing and that I just needed to allow it to happen the way it was going to.  It stopped me in my tracks.  I hadn't realized how much I was carrying around the thoughts that my homebirth with Lola was easy, quick and fairly painless.  I just assumed this baby would come the same way.

My mom had taken Lola while everything was going on, so I called her and asked her to come back.  I needed my family around me that day.  My sister had stayed throughout the night, so when my mom got there we made food and basically just hung out.  I went to the store with my mom as I really wanted to get out of the house.  We talked a lot about what was going on, why my labor had stalled, etc...  I was looking deep inside myself for an answer and Nancy's words kept coming back to me.  I realized I wasn't allowing my baby to have her own story.  I wanted the same kind of birth I'd had with Lola, so was unwilling to accept the fact that this was taking a lot longer.  I wasn't honoring Xiola or myself in the process.  I had also given up my power in the birth.  I allowed Lola to be taken out of the house, when I really wanted her home.  I wasn't letting my body do what it needed as I was afraid of stalling, which of course caused it to happen anyway.  And I wasn't making my own needs be heard.  I realized I just needed to let go of everything and allow what was coming to do so in its own time.  This was Xiola's and my birth experience and I needed to feel it that way both physically and spiritually. 

Once I came to these realizations, I began to feel less discouraged.  I nurtured my last few hours with my baby girl inside me.  I enjoyed the time I was spending with my family and realized that this could very well be the last day that Lola was still the baby.  So we showered her with attention.  By the time I went to bed that night I was feeling at peace with everything.

Early the next morning, I woke up at 3:30 am having to use the bathroom.  I felt some familiar twinges and decided once again, to get in the shower.  This time I felt more than mild contractions and my body began emptying itself in preparation.  I knew this had to be what I was waiting for.  I got out of the shower and decided that I wanted to take a bath instead.  These contractions were not slowing down, not even in the tub.  I got out and went into the kitchen to busy myself, but couldn't walk through the pains.  I woke up Jason and asked him to fill the birth tub for me as I really wanted to float.  After filling the tub he went back to bed to get some rest, but within 20 minutes I was moaning and needed his strength with me.  I had started timing my rushes and they were every 2 minutes like clockwork.  I asked Jason to call Toni and my mom.  When Toni got there she checked me and I was 6 cms and very thin.  This was it, finally!

I figured because I had gone so quickly with Lola, that at 6 cms I was almost in the homestretch with Xiola…was I ever wrong.  My contractions started becoming more intense and I was beginning to feel them in my back more.  Xiola had tried to stay posterior during the last few weeks, but Toni was picking up her heart tones low and in the front so we naturally assumed she was in the correct position.  I kept getting in and out of the tub as the water felt really good and helped me manage the contractions when I needed a break, but I couldn't stay in the water as I was very restless and wanted to walk around a lot as well.  I was beyond talking through the pains and would lean against Jason, feeling his strength run through my body.  We went outside to be alone for awhile and I found that with every contraction I wanted to squat.  I knew Xiola was still pretty high, so I wanted to bring her down and the squatting felt good.  Jason put my hair up for me and brought me water and cool washcloths.  It was hot outside, but I didn't mind.  He tried to keep me in the shade, but I needed to wander.  This went on for a couple hours, walking and squatting.  At one point Lola came out with my mom.  I didn't want her to see me in so much pain, but during one contraction I couldn't stop myself from moaning.  She ran over to me afterwards and hugged me and told me she loved me.  Then she took a towel from Jason and wanted to wipe off my face.  It was really sweet and she wasn't scared at all.  I felt good knowing that we had prepared her so well and that she as able to be there with us to experience her sister's arrival. 

I started leaking fluid and we thought maybe my water had broke.  I went over to the fence and hung on it during a particularly painful rush.  Fluid began pouring out of me and I kept saying I was peeing all over myself.  Jason kept telling me he didn't think it was urine.  After awhile Toni checked again and I was at 8 cms, but she still felt the bag intact.  She thought I might have a leak higher up as every time I would squat, more fluid would come out.   I was happy to be so close to seeing my baby girl.  Then Toni decided to check Xiola's heart along my side…she suspected she was too far to the side by this point as I had been laboring for a few hours and was feeling it all in my back.  My cervix was opening, but she didn't feel her head as far down as it should be if she was in the correct position.  Sure enough, there was a very loud, steady heartbeat.  She was trying to stay posterior and that was why I was feeling so much pain in my back.  That's when I realized the real work was about to begin.

I really wanted back in the tub, so Jason put more warm water in while I tried to find a comfortable position.  I did a lot of hands and knees in hopes that Xiola would rotate to the front.  It was during this that both Toni and Jason noticed with every contraction my lower back was wonder it hurt so bad!  Toni started doing counter pressure in hopes that Xiola would move.  I really wanted to stay in the water, but she convinced me to get out for awhile and use the birthing ball.  So off to the bedroom we went where I laid across the ball while Toni massaged my lower back during each contraction.  Jason held my hand during it all and made sure I had plenty of water.  There came a point where I needed to lie down and that's when transition hit.  I started shaking; the contractions were coming one on top of the other.  I wasn't getting a break.  At one point I looked up at Jason and told him they hurt and just wouldn't stop.  Toni rubbed my legs and told me I was in transition and was 9 cms.  Even throughout all the pain however, I never felt like I couldn't manage them.  I started chanting, "Open open" with each one and visualizing my cervix opening up and allowing my baby to come through.  I willed myself to surrender to each rush.  I talked to Xiola, telling her not to be afraid, that we were together on this and would help each other through it.  I asked her to rotate forward so it would be easier on us both.  I sent all the love I was feeling to her and went inside myself to gather strength.  All of a sudden I wanted back in the water.  I knew I would not be leaving it without my baby in my arms.

I climbed into the tub again for the last time and was so thankful for the relief the water provided.  I was going through the most intense contractions and did a lot of moaning and yelling.  The water felt good against my skin and it made a huge difference in the intensity of my rushes when I could float through them.  Lola came over and put soothing water on my head and face.  Her little hands felt so good against my skin.  The rushes were not stopping and I began having trouble finding a position that was working for me.  I knew that opening my mouth and allowing the sounds to flow out of me would help; I also made a conscious effort to keep my face relaxed.  I knew that by doing this the rest of my body would follow suit as much as possible.  I stayed low in the water as it felt good against my skin.  My body started feeling like I needed to push, so I gave a few tentative pushes in hopes that she'd move down more.  I told Toni that I was beginning to feel like something was happening.  She told me to start pushing whenever I wanted to.  I was still moaning and chanting through my contractions, and trying to push at the same time.  It felt like it was going so slowly.  That's when Jason and Toni told me to use my breath and not to moan through the contractions anymore.  Jason coached me through it and I remember during one particularly good push hearing him say, "Breath Cat."  Right after this, I took a deep breath and pushed with everything I had in me.  I could immediately feel the shift in energy within my body.  After that contraction I sat back and all of a sudden went somewhere else.  I put my head down on a cool washcloth, sank down into the water and felt like I was leaving my body.  I became completely relaxed.  I didn't fall asleep; I just went somewhere that was so peaceful and so happy.  The warm water against my skin felt good, and I felt as if I was in a trance.  I have never been that relaxed before.  It was the most intensely spiritual feeling I had ever experienced.  Everything was right in the world and I felt both powerful and humble at the same time.  I felt apart of everything and yet on my own.  I was aware of everyone in the room, but was beyond their energy.  I was gathering up my Mama Bear strength and heard Toni say I was getting a nice long break.  I didn't move, I just let these waves of euphoria rush over me and I realized that it was going to take all my energy on the next contraction, but I felt good about it.  It was an intense moment of clarity that words can't even begin to describe.

The next wave started building in me and I got into position on my knees and held onto the side of the tub.  I looked up at Jason and told him I loved him.  Then it all hit me and I took a deep breath and pushed.  I realized that while I was pushing I had begun to growl like the Mama Bear strength I was feeling.  It was really intense and felt so right.  I felt Xiola move straight through the birth canal and begin crowning.  She retreated a bit as the contraction subsided, but I was ready for it.  I reached down and felt my sac bulging, and right behind it was her head.  I don't know if I smiled on the outside, but inside I was beaming.  Jason said he heard Toni saying a quiet prayer for me and he felt very touched by her selflessness and love she was sending me.  I was in my own world and the next rush was coming.  I knew I was going to push her out.  I felt the burning; I heard the excitement in everyone's voices as her head came out, all of them encouraging me.  I heard my own voice, deep and primal.   I reached down and there was my baby's head.  Toni asked if I was going to catch her myself and I immediately said no.  I had found a position that worked and didn't want to move from it.  Then the oddest sensation I'd ever felt in birth came.  While I felt her head outside my body, I could feel her feet kicking me and her squirming on the inside of me trying to find her way out.  I almost felt a little sad as I realized that would be the last time I would feel her inside me.  Then all of a sudden she was out and a huge wave of emotion settled over me.  Toni announced that she was born in the caul!  I could not believe it.  Both my girls were blessed with this at birth.  I didn't realize it at the time, but during those last intense contractions, my little Lola was being held in my mother's arms and she was chanting over and over, "I love you mommy, I love you mommy…"  She was giving me and her sister her strength and all that innocent love.  As soon as Xiola emerged I heard Lola's little voice start yelling to everyone, "A baby!  A baby came out of mommy's body!"  She was feeling the energy in the room and was ecstatic.

I turned over and Toni handed me my Xiola.  I immediately felt for her cord as I wanted to wait until it quit pulsing before cutting it.  I didn't vocalize this desire to anyone, but just allowed it to happen.  Xiola's cord was the biggest cord I had ever seen.  It was super fat!  At the base of her belly button it was almost the diameter of a half dollar!   Even Toni was shocked and said she wasn't sure the clamp would fit!  After a couple minutes I was ready for it to be clamped and Toni managed to get the clamp on, but just barely. Lola went over by Jason and watched as he cut the cord.  Xiola was very calm and peaceful in the water.  We wrapped towels around her as Toni checked out her cord and made sure she had clear air passages.  Our sweet little girl just looked around while I held her in my arms.  She seemed at peace with everything going on.  It was so amazing.  I wanted to deliver the placenta out of the water, so I handed Xiola to her daddy so I could get out of the tub.  Toni and Nancy helped me to the bedroom where I took off my wet bathing suit top and climbed into bed.  Lola hopped in next to me and snuggled up close.  They handed Xiola to me and she immediately started nursing.  About 15 minutes later I delivered the biggest placenta I'd ever seen.  Went well with her cord!!  I had a tiny nick that didn't require any attention.  I felt great.  All was right with the world.  Lola was on one side of me and my darling son, Jonathon was on the other side kneeling on the floor.  Jason was standing there as was my sister, my nephew and my mom, while Toni and Nancy were busy with me.  I felt so much love in that room at that moment.  I had all my children snuggled up with me and my family surrounding me.  It really doesn't get any better than that.

Jason and I had such an intense connection throughout everything.  We rarely spoke to each other but he always anticipated my needs before I even thought them.  During several particularly intense contractions, I gathered strength just by looking into his eyes.  He was with me through every step.  He spiritually felt every rush and held me up both physically and spiritually during the entire process.  It was like a cleansing for us, a primitive ritual that God sent us through.  I have never felt more in-love with my husband than during all this.  He was my rock, my guide, and my partner.  I am so grateful to have him by my side.  

Toni was beyond amazing.  Her love and strength were such a blessing to us during everything this labor had to offer.  She was constantly supportive and respectful of our needs.  I am so grateful to have been lead to her and am so blessed to have her in our lives.  She will forever be a part of our family.  We can only hope she realizes how important her role is in our lives as well as those other families she's supported in her midwifery practice.  She is a unique individual who has definitely found her calling in life.

My labor was about 9.5 hours long, with 34 minutes of pushing.  Xiola weighed in at 8 lbs, 9 oz and 21" long.  Both my girls were born in the birthing tub and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Giving birth in the water is such a beautiful and peaceful way for a new little soul to enter the world. 

Xiola gave us a bit of a scare at first when she lost more than a pound within 2 days, but she seemed to have retained a lot of fluid and once that was expelled and my milk came in she's been gaining weight at a steady pace.  She is such a good little baby, hardly ever cries and is very curious about her surroundings.  Her brother and sister love her so much, as do her daddy and I.  When Lola wakes up in the mornings, one of the first things out of her mouth is, "Where's my Xiola?"  She is eager to help me with the baby and kisses her and hugs her a lot.  I feel so blessed to have my children all healthy and happy.  And while Xiola's birth was harder than Lola's, it was just perfect for Xiola.  I wouldn't have wanted it to be any other way.  It is our own unique experience and that is a blessing in itself.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In Her Own Time

My dear friend Cat has shared her birth stories with us. I have been lucky enough to hear these from Cat herself before, and I'm so glad she has sent them for everyone to read!  I hope you enjoy as much as I did!!


I only pushed twice before Lola shot into the world. After a long couple of weeks with less-than-enthusiastic contractions, my daughter suddenly decided she was in a hurry, and my active labor was quick. She didn’t come out slowly, like most babies: first the head and then the shoulders, and finally the tiny body. She came into the world all at once. It was as if she wasn’t going to let anything stop her. Not even her own cord could get in her way.

I gave birth to my first child, Jonathon, when I was in my early twenties. Throughout my first pregnancy I was scared and overwhelmed, but very excited. While Jonathon’s birth was one of the most intense and thrilling experiences of my life, laboring in the hospital was less than satisfactory. My doctor broke my water; they hooked me up to an internal fetal monitor, making it impossible for me to walk around. Fourteen hours and a routine episiotomy later, I delivered my son. Jonathon’s father cut the cord and then there he was—in my arms, my beautiful boy. I was thrilled with my new baby, but couldn’t help wondering if I’d missed out on something….

I hadn’t been emotionally comfortable in a hospital setting, and I knew there had to be a better way. Over the next few years I researched labor and delivery, reading every book I could get my hands on. I studied everything from routine hospital births to unassisted ocean births. It was when I began reading Mothering magazine that I decided to give birth at home with my next baby. I didn’t know at the time that it wouldn’t happen for another 16 years.

Jumping ahead to a new life and new marriage, I was 36 when I tried to conceive my second child. I was having ovulation problems, and had undergone fertility treatments for almost a year when my husband Jason and I decided we needed a break from the emotional roller coaster. We were both getting nervous about long-term consequences of the continuous Clomid doses, and we were both tired of being disappointed month after month. We took a breather to find our balance. We were happy raising Jonathon, and knew we were blessed even if another child wasn’t meant to be. We didn’t stop trying; we just stopped thinking about trying. Well, to be totally honest, I have to admit that I never really gave up thinking about getting pregnant; I just stopped obsessing over it and gave my emotions a break. It was nice to let go and get back to “us” for a while.

After about three months, we were mentally and emotionally prepared to begin treatments again. This time we would have my husband tested as well. I knew he was uncomfortable with the idea, but I also knew that having a baby was just as important to him as it was to me. He was willing to do whatever was needed to get some answers.

I don’t know if it was luck or relaxation… I like to believe it’s because we finally grounded ourselves, and that a precious little soul decided it was time. The day before Jason went to his doctor’s appointment, two lines on a home pregnancy test confirmed what we had barely dared to suspect—we were pregnant! We were thrilled with the news, and in shock that we actually did it. No drugs, no monitoring, just two people and a lot of love. I kept thanking the baby over and over for choosing us. I called everyone I knew and announced that there was finally going to be a baby! Our dream was coming true.

Because of my research, we knew we wanted a home birth. I had worked in the local health food store the year before, and one of my best friends from there was able to guide us to a wonderful midwife, April. I couldn’t believe the difference it made to have her come to our home for my prenatal visits, as opposed to going to the doctor’s office. She took her time and would stay for a couple hours, talking with us about any concerns, hopes, dreams or fears we had. She gently poked and prodded my growing belly, checking both the baby and me. She carefully showed my husband and me just where our baby’s head, shoulders and butt were at each visit. After my appointments I would feel radiant with confidence that both the baby and I were doing well. I fully trusted my midwife’s assessments.
In contrast, the doctor I was seeing at the same time would come into the exam room, listen to baby’s heart, check my blood pressure and tell me he’d see me again in a few weeks. The whole thing would last ten minutes, at most. I was never reassured or comfortable. We were only seeing him because of my age, and we wanted to get the appropriate tests to make sure everything was going OK. It was a huge waste of our time.

Everyone has their own comfort levels, and every decision is personal and should be honored; but for us it was such a relief to finally separate ourselves from the doctor and rely solely on my midwife and her wisdom. My family and I formed a very close friendship with her, and we trusted her explicitly. She became family. I realized that we were in the best of hands and that it was OK to let go of my age-related concerns. I had a great pregnancy, and it was only the last couple of weeks that I felt uncomfortable.

Every day throughout the last few weeks, I experienced contractions off and on, some Braxton-Hicks and some more painful contractions, but nothing that was leading into true labor. After a night of being sure it was time, only to have the contractions stop at four centimeters dilation, I was getting really frustrated. Despite all the time it took to get pregnant, these last couple of weeks seemed the longest part of our journey. I knew this was normal, but I didn’t care; I was sure I was the most pregnant woman ever… and I ­wasn’t even past my due date yet! I was ready to see my baby.

We had decided on a water birth, so the birthing tub sat in our home, empty, waiting. My mom and sister had flown in to support us through the birth, and April was standing by offering words of encouragement and patience, but Lola wasn’t quite ready for her debut. My poor husband never knew if he should stay home from work or not. I was trying to be patient and to have faith in my body, but some days were harder than others.

The day after my due date, April came over to conduct a blessing ceremony and foot wash with me. The ceremony was simple; she shared a few words of blessings and washed my feet, thanking me for allowing her to participate in this sacred event and assuring me she would be there to help guide my baby into the world. It was very moving, and when she proceeded to dry my feet with her long hair, my tears started to flow. The love I was receiving from her and everyone else in the room pulled me into such a serene space, at peace with my body and our baby. I was able to let go of any impatience and discomfort, and finally find balance. I released any concept of a due date and decided to enjoy the last few days I’d have my daughter all to myself. So with this new attitude in place, I didn’t think much about it when the contractions started again—I was certain it was more false labor.

It was March 23rd, two days past my due date, and the Academy Awards were on. We had just sat down with some burritos when I started to feel crampy again. Peter O’Toole was awarded an honorary Oscar. My mom told us that the night she and my dad saw his Academy Award winning performance in Lawrence of Arabia was the night she’d gone into labor with me. She said maybe it was a good sign. We all laughed and carried on with the evening as usual. I didn’t say anything about the cramps I was having; they were like the others I’d had all week, so I didn’t want to get everyone excited. At about 11:00 p.m. we decided to go to bed.

My husband immediately fell asleep, but I wasn’t feeling too great. I got up to use the bathroom, sure that the burritos were the cause of my discomfort. The cramps were getting stronger, so I decided to take a shower and try to relax. I let the hot water massage my lower back, knowing that if it was false labor the water would relax me enough to slow down the contractions. It felt good, and afterwards I laid down again but the cramps kept coming.

I still wouldn’t allow myself to believe this was it, so I got up and took another shower. While the water once again felt good, it wasn’t helping the discomfort as much as the first shower had. I started to get more excited. I lay down again and felt a definite change with the next contraction… it took my breath away! I reached out and squeezed Jason’s arm, unable to talk through the pain. Realizing what was happening, he got up and helped me walk through the next several contractions. He was my rock and my balance. I would wrap my arms around his neck and he would hold me up, gently stroking my back. Finally I told him we should call the midwife. By now it was almost 1:00 a.m.

While I woke up my mom and sister to tell them that April was on her way, Jason began filling the tub. Everyone was excited. The contractions were coming every 30 seconds, and getting stronger. My midwife arrived about 1:45 a.m. and checked me. I was dilated to five centimeters and fully effaced! Yay!
I was given the go ahead to get into the tub… I practically ran to it. It felt incredible to sink down into that warm water. I had been moaning throughout my contractions, and now April reminded me to visualize my cervix opening up. As my “oh’s” became a chant of “open… open…” I began thinking how relatively calm I was still feeling. I never “checked out” or got at all dreamy with my contractions. I was handling them vocally, even singing through a couple of them. I’m not saying it didn’t hurt, because it did! But they were not overwhelming me.
I was thankful to be in the water, as it was helping me handle the contractions. I was feeling very balanced, and I waited for the desperate feeling of the transition stage to hit. Since it hadn’t come yet, I figured I still had a lot of time before baby was ready to make her entrance. Almost immediately after this thought, my contractions became more demanding… within seconds I was feeling the urge to push. The time was 2:35 a.m.; I’d been in the tub for about half an hour. I asked my mom to go wake up my son so he could be present. I was happy that she and my sister could be there with us, and I was feeling so much love for everyone in the room.

The pressure was building and I told my midwife that I ­couldn’t hold back, so she checked me and said that any time I was ready I could go ahead and bear down. But I already was! My body was working just like it should. My midwife saw my unbroken bag of waters bulging and said that Lola’s head was right there too. The only thing going through my mind right then was that I had to get this baby out. So with my next push, I gave it all I had. I felt the rush of water as my bag broke and said, “Here comes the water!” At the same time, April swooped Lola up out of the tub and said, “No, here is your baby!” She came out all at once, like a bullet. The time was 2:37. The membrane from the water sac was still covering her body; she was born en caul.

Jason had been saying throughout our pregnancy that she would be born in her bag of water, and he was right! I looked down and saw her big eyes looking around from inside the sac, and noticed a bubble around her nose and mouth. The midwife pulled the membrane away from her face and there was my beautiful little girl, just looking up at me. She was breathing fine and already turning pink. I looked up at my husband and saw his face covered in tears. A feeling of serenity filled me. She was finally here, and she was perfect.
I was marveling at the beauty of my new daughter, oblivious to what was going on around me, when suddenly the midwife asked, “Where’s your cord?” I laughed and said I didn’t know, but then I saw real concern on her face. About four inches of umbilical cord was hanging from my daughter, and the other end was coming out of me. The tub had a lot of blood in the water. Apparently our new daughter was in such a hurry to get out that she broke her own cord! April immediately clamped Lola’s end and said I needed to get out of the tub. I asked her if Lola was OK and she reassured me that the baby was perfect; it was me she was concerned about. I felt very calm and allowed myself to be guided to the bedroom. There was no way to be sure that all the blood was from the cord, and she wanted to get me in bed to check for tears and hemorrhaging. She also wanted to get the placenta out to make sure it hadn’t pulled away from my uterus when the cord broke.

Once they got me settled the midwife clamped the cord and went to work, checking my yoni for tears and making sure I wasn’t losing any more blood. I had the smallest of nicks and we delivered a healthy placenta within 15 minutes. She concluded that the blood had in fact come from the pulsating cord and that I was in perfect health. When she measured the cord, adding the few inches from Lola’s end of it, she figured it to be around 16-18 inches in length. Although she didn’t talk to me about it at the time, she thought that if it had been extremely short, that would explain why it had snapped. Since it wasn’t too short, she could only guess at what caused it to break. She was just thankful that it didn’t pull off from Lola’s navel, or snap before she was through the birth canal, thereby cutting off her oxygen supply. In 20 years as a midwife, she had never had anything like this happen. I’m sure we caused her a few new gray hairs that night!

Through all of this I was feeling great and kept reassuring everyone that I was fine. I even exclaimed, “Let’s do this again!” causing everyone in the room to laugh. (The next day she asked me if I remembered saying that, and if I really wanted to go through it again. I told her, of course! She said that is usually not one of the first things she hears from a mom who’s just gone through labor, and she laughed again.) The adrenaline was surging through my system. I was thrilled with our gorgeous girl, and very happy that we were able to realize our dream of delivering at home, in water. I was so thankful that we were both healthy and happy. Most of all I was grateful that we had decided to trust our midwife so much. If we had given birth in the hospital, I’m sure labor would have lasted longer, and upon discovering the broken cord they would have taken Lola away while they assessed the situation. As it was, Lola never left my arms and no one panicked. April handled it with a wonderful calmness that kept everyone at ease. We will be forever grateful to her for being there with us and guiding our daughter into the world with such love and peace.

Lola weighed in at a healthy seven pounds, eight ounces, and was very alert. She knew exactly what to do when I put her on my breast, and she ate with gusto. We all felt very blessed that early morning. After a couple hours, April went home to research anything she could find on umbilical cords breaking at birth. She heard from one midwife who said she’d experienced something similar several years before, but no one else had ever gone thorough something quite like this. Thankfully there were no ramifications from it.

The balance I achieved right before giving birth is still strong, and I love every minute of being a new mom again. Lola and I went through an incredible journey together, but it was only the beginning. I love watching her learn and feeling her love. Her smiles light up a room and I realize once again that the most important things in the world are right there in that smile. Even with all this goodness, I can’t help but wonder if the details of her birth are mere hints to what we have in store as she gets older. How many cords will she snap on the road to growing up? How much symbolic blood will I lose as I guide her to adulthood? No matter what, I’m going to be there, patiently helping her through each process, experiencing all her joys as well as her sorrows, and learning some valuable lessons on staying balanced along the way.

hA Mother’s Guidance: My strongest advice for an expectant mom is to make sure that she is completely comfortable with her surroundings, and to maintain control of her environment. Sometimes hospital personnel or family members can be intimidating, but I believe that if the mother (or her primary support person) remains in charge of the situation, it will help her relax more during labor.
Fear is probably the biggest barrier to overcome in labor. It can be especially difficult with first babies, because you don’t really know what to expect. You can read everything, but until you go through it you never really know. But trust your body. During Lola’s birth I was very aware that my body was working the way it was supposed to. I would whisper to my belly, “It’s OK Lola, we are doing this together.”

Finally, make sure you have 100% trust in whoever you have chosen to be with you in the birthing room. This includes any and all doctors, family members and friends. If you don’t like your doctor while you are pregnant, it will be that much more difficult to deliver. A woman has every right to change practitioners, and should never be made to feel guilty or intimidated into staying with someone she doesn’t completely trust. The same goes for family and friends who want to be with her. If she just wants her partner, then she needs to be able to say that. My sister just had her first baby, and during labor she had her husband’s entire family in the labor room with them. She wasn’t progressing, and she finally looked around and realized that she couldn’t relax because of everyone in the room. So they kicked everyone out, and an hour later had a beautiful little boy. I was comfortable having my mother, sister and son with us, but I had also set down some guidelines on what my needs were and how each one could help them be met. It was a wonderful and empowering experience.

I did not take any classes to prepare for this birth. Although I learned Lamaze techniques before my son’s birth, I found that the breathing wasn’t really helpful for me. With my second pregnancy I did a lot of meditation, and found Robert Bradley’s book Husband Coached Childbirth to be very helpful. The relaxation techniques were great; I especially liked the suggestion that if you relax your
face, the rest of you will follow. I also read Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, and The Birth Book by William and Martha Sears. I would highly recommend both of these books. Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin was also a very good resource for me.

I also stayed active during my pregnancy. The last month I was still swimming three times a week with my husband on his lunch breaks.
My midwife taught me that by opening my mouth and chanting or moaning, I would help my cervix open. During the last phase, when the contractions were almost on top of each other, I would focus on a picture we have hanging on the wall and chant, “Open, open…” while imagining my cervix opening up. That was the biggest help of all in handling the pain.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An 'Easy' Birth, despite the difficult circumstances

I don't have my own blog with this published, but here it is. I've been very hesitant to openly share or publish a birth story of how my first child came into the world because there is more than enough negativity about birth already out there. I often share bits and pieces, specific events and moments from my daughter's birth with friends, but I've only told the whole story once. It was a year and a half after delivery, and I still had to find myself an emotionally detached place to tell it from in order to share. I did realize, at that real life red tent, that my daughter's birth story might be a little different than many of the other negative birth stories I've heard; it's not really a matter of how awful birth was, but how easily she came into the world, despite the awful circumstances.
My daughter was the much cherished result of roughly a year and a half of trying to conceive. My mother had given birth to me via an unmedicated, midwife attended hospital birth that would have been a homebirth if she'd been lower risk. She has always been very open with me about how I was born and, probably due to that, I was a little shocked when I got pregnant, went looking for a midwife, and found that in the U.S., in the modern day, only a tiny fraction of births are midwife attended, even less are in the hospital, and the vast majority are via managed medical care of some kind. Furthermore, our insurance did not cover midwifery care, and I soon found myself visiting an OB that I wasn't really comfortable with, but he was an OB, and I was starting to believe that was what I needed. I can't remember what came first anymore, the birth plan or the hospital tour, but as I approached my third trimester I was told that I would deliver like he decided I would deliver and there would be no birth plans allowed, and my husband and I took a tour of the hospital I had planned to deliver in where the nurses explained that the maternity ward was empty that Sunday afternoon because the doctors generally all induce or schedule the c-sections during the week so they don't have to be there during the weekend (this maternity ward was truly abandoned, with only one postpartum room occupied and that by a woman having trouble recovering post-cesarean who had apparently been there since her weekday surgery). After those two things, my husband and I made a joint decision to run, not walk, to the free standing birth center and a midwife. 

Around the time I transfered care, I suddenly found myself seated in a pool of fluid of unknown origin while out of town visiting family. It was recommended that I visit a local maternity ward for a simple check to see if this was amniotic fluid. While trying to decipher the records from my OBs office, no less than 5 different estimated due dates were found ranging from mid May into June. Regardless of which one was correct, this was March. The midwife (yes, midwife) on call at the hospital met us in triage and immediately began discussing an emergency C-section with us. In retrospect, I should have thought this suspicious since there had been no check of any kind to see if my membranes had, in fact, ruptured at the point he began prepping me for a section. When the fluid was checked, the initial strip was not positive. In fact, several strips came up negative before, finally, after repeatedly rubbing one over and inside me, while pressing on my stomach, one came up positive. Baby's heart tones were fine, and I had no fever, so I was offered an induction instead of a section. I refused both in favor of waiting to see if I went into labor on my own, deeply afraid of forcing out a preemie. I could go into great detail about this part, but I will leave it at that the result of this was that I was bullied, badgered, threatened, and lied to about my rights, eventually resulting in my caving in and allowing an attempted induction. I was strapped to a hospital bed and denied food and water except for one hour in the evenings for a week, while receiving pitocin all day and cervadil all night until, finally, someone who clearly had not read my chart gave me a cervical exam and told me I was barely dilated, but my waters were bulging and offered to break them to speed things up. I began asking a number of questions. Very quickly I was told I had to have an immediate c-section or leave. I was more than happy to take the second option. 

I went home after that, continued to see my new midwife and plan a birth center birth for my baby. I was put on bed rest since I was now considered at risk for premature labor after "my water had broken" and spent the better part of the next two months laying in bed, bored out of my mind and sore from laying in the same position most of 24 hours a day. Ultrasounds to check fluid levels were a regular thing, despite the fact that they were always fine, from the first to the last one I received. I'm thankful I never went in dehydrated. I wanted to take classes, but was told there wasn't time, and I needed to be resting anyways. I tried to hire a doula, but of the only two I could find in my area, one's email and voicemail inboxes were full and the other kindly returned my calls roughly a month after my daughter was born. Regardless, I was not planning to go back into a hospital, and I had a midwife now. I didn't worry about it. 

The last week in April, I was taken off bed rest. Thrilled, I hopped in my mothers car and we went out to do all the last minute stuff that I hadn't gotten done while I was on bed rest. After only a few hours on my feet again, contractions started. Absolutely elated, I timed a couple, found them to be around half an hour apart, shrugged it off, and continued on my way. As we finished up grocery shopping, something seemed different, so I timed a few more. Down to ten minutes apart now. I called my husband. He called his boss. Everyone was ready. By late that evening we were down to closer to 5 to 7 minutes apart. Baby had to be coming any time now, right? I called my midwife, we drove to the birth center, and she did a vaginal exam. I was 2cm dilated. She sent me to walk around for an hour and then we'd check again. Did that. Still 2cm. A little disappointed, but still expecting baby any time that night, we went home and went to bed. Contractions continued, creeping down another minute or so closer every 12 hours to a day, for several days. There were more checks, warm baths, a sedative to help me rest in hopes that it would kick start labor, lots and lots of walking, nipple stimulation, hip circles on a birth ball, etc. No dice. Then, finally, I awoke in the early morning, well before dawn, vaguely aware that my water had just broken. For real this time. I was so okay with it, at peace with it, and excited to see my baby, I just tapped my husband and sleepily told him my water had broken. After a second to realize what I said, he was instantly fully awake and just as excited as I was. A few more phone calls were made, breakfast was started, my birth bag was double checked and loaded into the car, then I called my midwife. 

The voice on the other end of the phone, once the answering service transfered me, was not my midwife. In fact, it was someone I don't believe I had ever met who sounded very unhappy to have been woken up so early in the morning. This was my midwife's partner. I told her my water had broken and she told me to meet her at the birth center. My contractions had stopped for a few after my membranes ruptured, but were now back and down around 3 minutes apart, though not super intense. I ate my breakfast and then we headed to the birth center, fully expecting to have some monitoring, then settle into a birth room, find a comfortable spot for labor, and have a baby. About halfway to the birth center, labor picked up. When we arrived, the midwife was not there. Half an hour later, the midwife was not there. I was starting to freak out. My labor was making a rapid move from 110% bearable to can't stand unassisted during contractions. The midwife arrived to me bent over the car, groaning between contractions and freaking out between them afraid we were going to have to have the baby in the parking lot. She immediately made a comment about me being a drama queen and how I couldn't be that far along. She grumbled about the time and the other things she needed to do from car to inside the birth center. I desperately had to use the restroom and dripped some amniotic fluid on the floor getting there. I was berated for making a mess that she would now be stuck cleaning up. She then took my blood pressure, which was, surprise, surprise, a bit high. I was told I needed to relax and get that down or she wasn't going to deal with me and I'd have to go to the hospital. She checked again, still high. Once again, no big surprise. She repeated that I had to get it down or she was sending me to the hospital, that she didn't need that kind of problem. Huge shock, I know, but with this woman standing over me, berating me for not relaxing enough and threatening me with one of the top 5 things I was afraid of, my blood pressure remained high. I was told to leave. I couldn't walk at this point and had to crawl to the door. I threw up repeatedly. She gave me a bowl and repeated that we had to leave. She had to clean up before it was time to open the birth center for the day. My husband helped me out to our car and loaded me up. 

Sitting in the position a car puts you in with a seat belt across my lower belly was miserable. It was about the worst possible labor position imaginable. For me, this was more actually considerably less comfortable than the much loathed laying on back in hospital bed position you hear so much about (not that that was so great either). This was the main part of my labor where I seriously considered an epidural, though, as luck would have it, we didn't happen to have an anesthesiologist riding in the back seat. I realized later that this was probably made much worse by the fact that I was, as it turns out, in transition. 

We got to the hospital and I was forcibly seated in a wheelchair that I absolutely did not want to be in (see note above about being seated). I was taken to the maternity ward where my husband was told he could not come with me to the delivery room, and that they would come and get him once I was "settled" there. I've never seen my husband come so close to a fist fight. We both got very upset at this, I started trying to get out of the wheelchair, and a nurse told the orderly that he could go with me if it was that much of a problem. I was taken to a room, placed on the bed, strapped down, an IV inserted against my very clearly expressed wishes, and made to sign a bunch of stuff I wasn't allowed to hold, much less read (I probably should have put up more fight against this, but I was starting for feel like I should push and I was ready to do almost anything to make people shut up and go away at this point). My midwife (mine, not her partner), showed up around this time. Whatever else I can say about this mess, she was a godsend at this moment, coming in and ushering everyone out. She calmed me down and I told her I needed to push. After a quick cervical check, she confirmed I was fully dilated and told me to push when I was ready. 

Through pushing I was able to relax again for the most part, as odd as that sounds, chatting and joking between contractions. The pushing went very slowly, probably thanks to a combination of being on my back, having a ten pound baby, and being a first time mother. After maybe two hours, the midwife got a mirror for me so I could see what I was doing. I had initially been very uncomfortable with this, feeling like I didn't want to see the descent, but seeing my baby's head, knowing she was right there and almost out, gave me renewed energy. She was born very shortly after that, placed on my belly (her cord was short and she couldn't reach my chest initially). She was so beautiful, warm and snuggly. She's been a cuddly girl from birth, happiest snuggled up to mama. I got to hold her for a few minutes before the cord was cut and she was taken away from me. She nursed for a few minutes right after the cord was cut, but after that a nurse plucked her from my chest and took her somewhere else. This part is a little hazy as, about now, while I'm mostly nude, in stirrups, being stitched up, a nurse felt it was a good time to bring in all the family that was waiting in the waiting room. I don't think I've ever been so uncomfortable in my life. My mother wasn't allowed to be with me when I wanted her in labor, but my father in law got to see my perineum being stitched back together without my permission after. At some point during this, my daughter was taken to the nursery. 

After stitches, my midwife left and I was taken to a postpartum recovery room. We were not allowed to see my daughter, no one would bring her back, tell us why she was taken away, when she would be back, or even if she was okay. One nurse even went so far as to hint she didn't make it. I spent a good deal of this time trying to mentally distance myself from this baby I had just delivered who was, clearly, gone or not going to make it. For several hours we sat waiting, periodically pestering staff or trying to go find her in the nursery. I don't even want to know what my blood pressure was at this point (it was totally normal, bordering on low, when my midwife checked it at the hospital, by the way). Finally, at the next shift change, I asked again about my baby, and was told nonchalantly that they knew I needed rest after delivering that gigantic baby (she was just under 10 pounds), but if I wanted her back now she could be brought to my room. 

Now, many hours after her birth, for the first time I really got to hold and look at my baby for more than a few moments. She was already bundled up, bathed, fed, and asleep, but she was okay and she was back with us. She is now a happy, healthy, very active toddler who is soon to be a big sister. She was delivered after around two hours of active labor and just under three hours of pushing. Despite all the commotion, she arrived via a quick and medically uneventful labor. Mama sustained a minor tear, somewhere between first and second degree, but, by intention or accident, was given a extra stitch which has lead to the need for some far more extensive repair as the labia healed together. Bonding was somewhat difficult, probably in no small part because mama started mourning the loss of baby before getting to really start bonding with her, but things have evened out over time for the most part. Baby number two is expected to arrive in the summer of 2011 and, barring major complications, will be born at home surrounded by his or her family at attended by a midwife chosen for not only my comfort with, her but also comfort with her backup. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Welcome to the World, Lucas Eli!

~*~*~*~This story comes to us through an email submission! YAY! Keep 'em coming!~*~*~*~

I knew I wanted a natural birth about halfway into my pregnancy. When asked, I told people that I would "try" to breastfeed. I went to the library to check out some pregnancy books and the clerk told me about The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I became completely absorbed after reading the first chapter. After reading it I was certain I needed to have a natural birth. Besides, my mom did it, my grandmas did it, women have been doing it since the beginning of hard could it be? I rented the Business of Being Born and watched it twice. Right after watching that I changed my provider from Dr. P and Central Washington Hospital, to the Midwives at the Childbirth Center. I was so impressed with their model of care. They seemed so knowledgeable and EXCITED for me at the same time! Something my O.B. lacked. I always felt like just another pregnant patient after my O.B. appointments. After meeting with the midwives, I felt beautiful and powerful and that they truly cared about me as a person and my baby. My appointments were a whole hour! How nice it was to just get to sit and have every question answered and to be encouraged!By the time I was 5 months pregnant, I was dead set on a drug free birth and would ABSOLUTELY breastfeed my baby. No doubt about it.
Our little miracle finally arrived on September 13, 2010, 6 days "overdue." Here is my story!
Jake and I had tried everything, EVERYTHING to jump start labor but it just wasn't happening. Being almost a week past my due date I was starting to wonder if this baby was ever going to come out. I needed to take my mind off the suspense so we took a drive up to Leavenworth to walk around, browse the shops, etc. On the way up, the rear passenger tire blew out on the highway! I must have looked hilarious to traffic passing by with my giant belly, heaving myself over the guardrail, but I had seen too many cop shows about rubber-neckers slamming into vehicles sitting on the shoulder! I wasn't taking any chances...
Anyway, the tow truck came and we were rescued by my Dad and stepmom, Karen, who drove us the rest of the way to Leavenworth. I reached into my purse and was surprised to find that my hand lotion had exploded all over my wallet, keys, and cell phone. So that was fun. I started to think, "An exploding tire and exploding lotion...could these be signs? Could I be next?!" The day wore on and no such luck with labor. That night, Jake and I decided to try "the Costco speed bumps." I had heard through a friend of my brother that driving over them had caused her to go into labor. I thought, "Well, why not?" Not like I had anything better to do. So off we went in my rediculously uncomfortable piece of junk sports car, the Cougar. It was actually pretty fun driving in circles around the store and I actually started to feel a little cramping during the process! HOORAY! Or so I thought...The cramps went away soon as we left.
On the way home Jake made a hilarious comment about a crappy dinner I had made a few days back...I think "slop" was the technical term he used...this sent me into a fit of uncontrollable giggles which turned into deep belly laughs, the kind where you start actually crying. I literally couldn't stop laughing for a good hour! In hindsight it really wasn't even that funny, so I am SURE it was the hormones raging through my body..but voila! I went into labor that night! So now if anyone asks what the trick is to kick-starting labor, (I know, I know...none of the tricks work unless the baby is ready blah blah blah) I tell them: Have a tire blowout, take a bumpy ride, and laugh until your sides split.
The contractions woke me up at 2 a.m. on the dot and started out fairly strong. I stumbled to the bathroom and I "think" I heard my water break but I just couldn't be sure if that was it, or if I had just leaked urine, (a fairly common occurrence at almost 41 weeks). I tried to go lie back down but I was far more comfortable standing and walking around. I let my hubby sleep cause I still wasn't sure if this was the real thing. I timed the contractions for about 2 1/2 hours...they were 4-5 minutes apart and lasted 45 seconds-1 minute. They didn't really feel like I had expected them to. It was more of a dull, heavy pressure, kind of like a bowling ball was sitting on my cervix. Not necessarily sharp pains like I had imagined. I woke Jake up at about 4:30 and whispered "I think we are gonna have a baby today!" I remember his sleepy murmers and then sitting up wide-eyed with a huge smile after he realized what I had said. He wrote down the times of each of my contractions and how long they lasted, made sure the birth bag had all the last minute stuff in it, put the car seat in, all the while helping me to relax and breathe through the surges. Whatta man. ;)
I called the Midwife answer service and told the operator that I was sure I was in labor, and she immediately paged the midwife on call. It happened to be Kristin, a fill-in from Bellingham who I had only seen once, because Laurie (my main midwife) was on vacation. I knew there was a possibility that Laurie would not be delivering my baby, so I was mentally prepared. Laurie is an excellent and skilled midwife, but I considered myself lucky because Kristin was a better match for me personality-wise. So she called me back and had me wait to come to the birthing center until my contractions were less than 4 minutes apart and more than 1 minute long. I did pelvic rotations on my exercise ball (which really didn't feel good at all), had a hot shower, and paced my living room floor. I also sat in my recliner and tried to sleep a little, to no avail. Walking around was the only thing that felt good. Sure enough, by 8am they were about 3 minutes apart and growing quickly in strength. I guess I just didn't feel my Early labor because I was in alot of pain, throwing up, labor breathing, etc right from the start. I called my mom and she got the pleasure of hearing my lovely vomiting noises as I tried to tell her, in broken sentences, that I was indeed going to have the baby that day.
We left for the birthing center at 9:20 am in the rediculously uncomfortable piece of junk Cougar. I will just say it was interesting trying to get in and out of the thing! The bucket seats DID NOT feel good on my pelvis. I remember my legs feeling shaky because I was trying to hold myself up off my pelvis all the way to the Birthing center. Tracy, my dear birth assistant, greeted me and helped me get settled in. Everyone seemed surprised that I was having a daytime labor! i tried to lie on the bed but that seemed to make the contractions 10 times worse, so I continued my pacing. Kristin checked me about 30 minutes later and I was dilated to 6! I laughed because I was so proud that I had done all that at home. She asked if I would like to get in the tub..."UH, YEAH?!" was my gracious response. IMMEDIATELY all that pressure and gravity and pain was just lifted off! What an immense relief. It was almost like having an epidural. (Not that I would know, but I can guess.) I still felt the contractions and it was still pretty painful, but just a different kind of pain. More like tightening and pressure rather than dead weight and sharp cramping. Jake and Tracy fed me ice cubes and put cold wash cloths on my head and helped me to visualize by body being totally open and the baby coming out smoothly and quickly. They really helped me to just relax and trust myself that my body definitely knows what its doing and doesn't need any help! I lied back in the water, closed my eyes, listened to my music, and swayed my hips back and forth and just PRAYED for God to give me peace and comfort. I spend the next few hours in this quiet state of meditation and prayer. I just KNOW that God was there because I felt absolutely no fear. All I felt was excitement and calm at the same time.
Whenever Kristin went to check my blood pressure, the reading was the same or lower than it had been at all my prenatal appointments. (Which is fantastic because one of my biggest worries was being transferred to the hospital for high blood pressure...and after all the research I had done, the hospital was the LAST place I wanted to be. ) Laurie had been keeping a close eye on my moderately high blood pressure through out my pregnancy, and told me there was a real chance of transfer. But by the grace of God my b/p stayed right below the cutoff. Coincidence? No.
So, after about 1 1/2 hours of being in the tub I started feeling the urge to push. Kristin checked me again to make sure I was fully dilated and sure enough..I was ready. She was a dream of a midwife, staying absolutely silent except to sneak in every 20 minutes or so to re-check my b/p and the baby's heartbeat. She just let me go with my own instincts and push when I needed to, and rest when I needed to. A woman giving birth naturally really doesn't need anyone to tell her when to push or when not to! Amazing concept! Between urges I breathed deeply and made every effort to stay calm and collected. I tried different positions...lying back, kneeling, leaning against the tub...I just DID NOT want to get out of the water. And I wasn't made to.
When I felt the baby wiggle his way down through me was my moment when I just let go, gave in, and said to myself, "This baby knows exactly what he is doing and I just need to let him do it, there is nothing stopping him!" About five minutes later he was crowning. I don't remember the exact feeling of it, but Jake told me I screamed bloody murder as the baby's little head came out. (I prefer to call it a guttural groan.) I think all my fears crept up at that moment and I was afraid I was going to rip open...but the screaming wasn't necessarily from the pain. I just did whatever my body and senses told me to do to get the baby out, and out he came at 1:48 p.m.! Its true you just forget all about the pain the minute that perfect little baby is in your arms! And that's what Lucas was...perfect! He was immediately put on my chest, Jake stroked his back, and we told him what a great job he did. All I could do was stare at him! He "pinked up" right away with a little stimulation. We waited until the cord stopped pulsating to have Jake cut it. We weren't about to cut our baby's iron supply short!
We made our way to the bed and just bonded together as a new family of three for a while...then I started feeling more contractions and pushed out the placenta. (No, I did not look at it, keep it, or eat it!) Kristin was a bit concerned that I was losing a lot of blood and mentioned that I might need a little pitocin to slow it down. I was like "sure give me all the drugs you want now that the baby is out!" All was well though, and I didn't need any pitocin. I even came away with from the whole thing with just one "microtear" that didn't need any stitches or special attention. I couldn't believe it... my first baby, no pain medication, 10 pounds 6 ounces, and barely a tear! Clearly I was not the only one in charge of my birth! Granted, I was well prepared and had practiced my breathing, relaxation, and visualization every day...but it was truly by the grace of God that Lucas was born so smoothly and without incident. I think the visualization was the key for me...where your mind goes the body will follow.
Lucas latched on at 35 minutes and nursed beautifully from the start.  It wasn't until that moment the the tears just FLOODED. I had had the birth experience that I so desperately desired. My baby knew exactly how to breastfeed. He had received best possible start in life. We were a brand new family of 3. All was (is!) right in the world. Hello oxytocin!
We called all the family members and basked in their excitement and happiness. I was up and around after a couple of hours. My family came to meet Lucas at the center and we were able to take him home within 6 hours of his birth.
I understand that sometimes a natural birth just isn't possible and thank God we have surgeons to do the small percent of c-sections that are truly needed. But I now feel I need to make it my mission to open the eyes of our society to see what birth truly is...not the horror stories on TLC! There is just nothing to be afraid of and every woman deserves this empowering right of passage. So here's to new adventures!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sarah's first hospital birth, and the hospitals first waterbith

After three home waterbirths, Sarah plans a hospital birth for her fourth child. After worry and anticipation, a baby boy was gently born into his mother's hands. And click here for the beautiful piece on YouTube, one that's been in my "favorites" for a few months ;)