Friday, December 14, 2012

Birth Story Friday

A little backstory. My 1st daughter, Andrea, was a big baby induction and after 20+ hours of labor and 3+ hours of pushing she was born via emergency c/s under general anesthesia after a failed induction and a plummeting heartrate. I was so out of it for several hours after her birth. I met her when she was about 2 hours old and barely remember any of it.

My 2nd baby, my son Grady, was born 10 years later. I knew I wanted to VBAC and thought I knew enough to get it done. I switched providers at 30 weeks to get a VBAC "friendly" OB. At 39 weeks he said the baby is too big, either get induced or we'll schedule a c/s. I was induced at just shy of 39 weeks. After laboring all day the pitocin didn't do a thing. I went home that evening. Went back 2 days later and got cervidil overnight and pitocin first thing in the morning. That night I was wheeled in for a c/s after having gotten fully dilated and pushed for 3+ hours with no progress. The c/s itself was much less painful to recover from but the emotional toll it took on me was worse.

My 3rd baby, my 2nd daughter Clara, was born 2 years later. I was involved in ICAN by this time and had read every book I could get my hands on and every piece of research related to natural birth and VBAC's. I was truly informed. I picked my OB based not just on the fact that he was VBAC friendly but he was/is not the kind of dr to "force" any woman to do anything. He makes suggestions based on the information he has but knows it is your choice. My water broke at 36 weeks with her. I went to the hospital and walked my labor in. She was born after only a couple hours of active labor. She was born vaginally AND surprise breech. I was on cloud 9 after her birth. It wasn't perfect, there were things done that I didn't agree with (a just in case episiotomy once it was realized she was breech for one thing) but after the first two births I'd take it!!!

And this brings us to Noah's birth. I was seeing the same OB I used for my 3rd baby. Around 32 weeks I started freaking out. I knew I didn't want to give birth in the hospital, I just couldn't handle it knowing everything I now know about birth. I wanted to not be on display while having my baby because when my 3rd was born one thing that really bothered me was all the nurses and the dr all standing around while I was pushing. They were demanding my attention by asking questions and it took my focus off my contractions and made them harder to handle each time they took my attention. I didn't want to be "held hostage" for 24 hours at the hospital, I wanted to be able to go home when I wanted. I didn't want to wear belts and be bothered by monitors. I wanted a midwife that would be WITH me the whole time, take the time to check the baby's heart rate with a monitor that wasn't attached to my belly all the time. I wanted something natural, I knew it had to be different this time. I can't describe the feeling to you that I just HAD to do it different. I talked to Scott and we decided to hire a midwife and stay home to have our baby. At the moment I hired her I felt a complete relief wash over me and I knew I had made the right decision.
Sunday August 19th is when early labor started, although I didn’t really know for sure. I started having contractions but they were nothing more than just Braxton hicks type contractions and they were only every half hour and half a minute long. I started timing them about 4:30 on Sunday and decided at 11:30pm to go to bed and see if they died out. They must have petered out because the next thing I knew it was 4:40 Monday morning and something had awoken me.

I wasn’t sure if it was a contraction or if I just woke up so I went back to sleep. At 5am I woke up to a pretty painful contraction that had me jumping out of bed. It was much different in intensity than the ones from the night before. I got out of bed, well it was more like I jumped out of bed. I went in and talked to Scott for a minute and told him to get some sleep because this could be the real thing.
I went downstairs to time the contractions and see where I stood and try to get comfortable. The first two were 7 minutes apart and the next couple were 5 minutes apart. At 5:17am I called my midwife to tell her this was probably it and she could tell by my vocalizing through one I was having on the phone with her that it was definitely much different than the night before when I had talked to her. She said she would call her assistant and they would be on their way. They are a 2 hour + drive from us.

As soon as I hung up the phone with her they started getting even closer, down to 3 minutes and then 2 minutes and by the time I got upstairs to Scott again they were about a minute and a half apart. I was having a very hard time with them as they seemed to be doubling up, some were double peaking and they were just really painful. I was trying every position I could think of to see if anything helped. I can say for absolute certainty the worst was the one time during labor that I sat on the toilet to pee and I had a contraction that it was by far the worst position/contraction I had the entire time.

I tried kneeling on all fours, laying down on my side, sitting on my birth ball, leaning against Scott and rocking my hips, no, no, and double no. The only thing that worked and kept them even tolerable was walking, almost like a speed walk when they peaked. I was pacing like a wild animal, frantic like. DH was filling up the pool in our bedroom and trying to help me out as best he could but there was just nothing he could do for me. I told him a couple times in between contractions to please just don’t let me freak out.

As a contraction would start I would remind myself to not tense up and to not scream, to put effort into making growling noises instead and to keep my lips loose and not tighten them. I was flashing back to everything I had ever read about what to do and what not to do when you’re contracting to keep everything loosened up and keep control. I’d say we’re now around 6am. I knew I couldn’t do too many more hours with contractions this intense but since I didn’t know how this was going to go I was just trying to keep focused on one contraction at a time and get through each one and remind myself that it was one less I’d have to have later, something my wonderful natural birth mommas have taught me over the years to focus on and it came in very handy.

I started sweating buckets. I turned on a fan and wished so badly that I could somehow carry it with me as I paced. In between the contractions I would stand in front of the fan and try to absorb all the cool air I could. I was searching for my shorts but couldn’t find them so Scott had the brilliant idea for me to just take my pants off. I say brilliant because honestly it hadn’t crossed my own mind so to me at that moment it was genius. Within 5 minutes I was pacing with my shirt off as well. I could not cool off.

I started making my way towards the pool with full intentions to dive in head first. About 3 steps from the pool my water very loudly popped and slammed to the floor, it was 6:17am. I looked down to see if it was clear and it was. Scott promptly started cleaning up the soaking wet carpet. I made the last few steps to the pool and JUMPED in. It was so hot though that I asked Scott to turn on the cold water in the hose that was still working to fill the pool. It was heaven!

I knelt on my hands and knees and put the hose over my shoulder to spill cold water down my back and knew this was it, this was where I was going to spend eternity because at this moment that hose and it’s cold water were the only thing keeping me alive. Dramatic? Yes, absolutely. But at the time it’s seriously all I could think about. I started using the hose to soak my hair, to splash on my face, I took a couple drinks out of it, it was HEAVEN!

The first contraction I had when I was in the pool was different, my body was pushing, not too hard at first but the sounds I was making gave it away and pain had changed to pressure. The 2nd contraction I had in the pool it was beyond obvious that I was pushing, the shear force of my body bearing down had me in awe. I looked at the clock and realized there was absolutely no way my midwife was going to make it for this birth. I told Scott my body was pushing and I saw him glance at the clock as well. At this point he was hauling water out of the pool with an ice cream bucket and dumping it in the bathroom across the hall because I wouldn’t let him turn off the cold water that was my lifeline and the pool was filling up too fast.
He hauled bucket after bucket of water just to keep me comfortable! A few pushy contractions in the pool and I could feel the baby moving down ever so slightly.

I had a couple more pushy contractions, they felt great in comparison to the contractions pre-water breaking. They were intense and hard but weren’t a sharp pain, there was power behind them, a force that I couldn’t control. There’s no great way to explain the feeling when your body takes over with a force you’ve never known before to do exactly what it needs to do to get your baby out. I could feel it then, I felt his head start to emerge. I told Scott that the baby was getting ready to come out and he should get ready. He said he couldn’t see anything at that point and I felt his head go back up inside. I knew that was okay though, at this point, time was either moving like molasses in December or the time between contractions was increasing somewhat. Between that contraction and the next I was repeating out loud “Take it slow. You don’t want to tear. Just take it slowly!”

With the next contraction my body pushed, I beared down with it but didn’t do any more than it demanded. I felt his head start coming out, it felt great, but I could also feel that fire, the ring of fire I’ve heard about but had never felt before. It hurt and burned but Scott was doing a perfect job of cheering me on and telling me what all he saw. He was saying, “there’s the head, yep, there’s the forehead, there’s the eyebrows, the baby’s got blonde eyebrows, there’s his nose, his mouth” and then my body stopped pushing and the contraction ended. It seemed like forever until the next contraction but I made myself be patient and not push until my body told me it was time.
I reached down and felt his head for myself, it was then that I realized I’M DOING THIS, I’M BIRTHING MY BABY, no one is delivering him, it’s all me! In that instant I was overwhelmed and empowered and could have done absolutely anything! With the next contraction my body pushed with a force that could have moved a mountain, I felt my baby making his way out of my body. Scott reached down and held him as he emerged into the water and brought him up. As soon as he was clear of the water he let out a wonderful yell that was music to my ears. Scott handed him to me and grabbed a towel to lay over him as I sat there with eyes the size of half dollars trying to grasp the fullness of what I had just done.

Scott informed me just before he handed him to me that we had another son. All I could do was stare at him in wild amazement. Scott went downstairs to tell my mom, who had come just 15 minutes earlier to pick up the little kids, that she could come up and meet her new grandson. Grady and my mom came upstairs to see the baby. Mom said she had heard his cry from downstairs and I think she was in complete shock that we had actually just had the baby.

I looked at the clock again and realized that it was going to be a little bit before the midwife arrived and I should probably get myself and my son out of the cooled off pool pretty quickly. Scott worked to get a tarp laid out on the floor with a comforter on it so I could move to there and birth the placenta. He held our son as I worked to get into a position where I could get that done but since there wasn’t any contractions yet I wasn’t having any luck. I decided to try to get our new baby to latch on to bring about contractions and after a little bit that finally worked and I could feel a contraction. It was about 20-30 minutes after he was born that I finally pushed the placenta out. We just put it in a bucket and sat there and held the baby.
Scott talked to the midwife on the phone and she told him to get a cord clamp out and get a knife and pour rubbing alcohol over it and cut the cord so that’s what he did. I got up, cleaned off and moved to the recliner with the baby and started nursing him. Scott started cleaning up the mess we had left behind. Had I not known any better I would have sworn he was a midwife and had helped deliver hundreds of babies and knew exactly what he was doing. He was my rock, my absolute necessity during this birth. He took care of me and our son and worked tirelessly to make me as comfortable as he could. He cleaned up everything and not once did he complain or growl about any of it, he seemed to instinctively know what I needed and what needed to be done. I fell in love with him more deeply than I could have ever imagined that morning. The midwife arrived about 45 minutes after the baby was born and in the meantime Scott and I had decided to name him Noah Joseph. We had liked the name Noah already and when Scott pointed out the correlation between him being born in the water and the biblical Noah we knew then it was the perfect name for our little man.

The midwife examined us. She did Noah as he lay against my chest skin to skin, getting all warmed up. It was so nice that no one was trying to take my baby away from me. After a while they weighed him and he was 9lb 14oz and 22.5”!!! I could NOT believe it. After he was done she checked me all over, no tears, my patience with pushing had paid off!!!

I knew hiring a midwife that lived that far away from me (2 hours) was taking a chance. I was okay with that. Well, it would've been nicer had I had a legal option close to me but we knew what we were getting in to and it was THAT important to me to have my baby in the comfort and safety of my own home!

Since Noah's birth I have told the story many times and so many people are genuinely curious about what led us to this decision and how you know what to do in the situation we had where the attendant didn't make it in time. The thing is I have endlessly researched and read about birth, everything from natural birth to complications. I have a growing library of books about birth, I've gone to conferences about birth, watched videos about birth, sat in on online chats with midwives about birth, I've basically become obsessed about birth and how we can do it so much better than we do it now here in the US. I took supplements suggested by my midwife to help be my healthiest and to help with other things. I did exercises specifically designed to keep baby in the best position for birth. I kept my gestational diabetes under control so my baby wasn't at risk. So, it wasn't just "luck" that we had a good birth and that it was safe, we worked very hard to make sure it was safe that way we could enjoy it instead of fear it!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Birth Story Friday: Rainbows and Unicorns HBAC

My first birth, a long homebirth turned c-section, is posted last week. I call this my Rainbows and Unicorns HBAC because it was as ridiculously perfect as a birth can get. I don't know how I got so lucky

My water broke Monday morning, but I had no more than 2 or 3 contractions in a row over the next 24 hours, despite my best efforts to get labor started naturally. So Tuesday afternoon I took castor oil, which worked pretty quickly. 2 hours later I was in labor, starting off with contractions 2 minutes apart. It was pretty intense skipping the early labor part, and getting my oldest out of there and everything (well, the pool) set up was a bit stressful. Contractions did eventually space out, thankfully, but they were strong. I went from 3cms to 10cms in about 3 hours.

The thing about progressing that fast is I was afraid I wasn't doing it. With my first, labor was strong and long, but somewhat irregular and I had lots of back labor. This time it was strong and regular with a bit of back labor. I was dealing with things ok, but it felt like I was progressing quickly and I was so afraid I wasn't. That sounds a bit convoluted, but hearing my dilation progress so quickly with so little trauma (I was dealing with it much better than the first time around) really upped my confidence.

Also, compared to Evie's, it didn't hurt that much. Sure, it hurt, but it wasn't that bad. At no point did I have the burning sensation in my bones that sent me running to the hospital with Evie. I never even went through transition. I've talked to so many moms and read so many stories about reaching the point when you feel you're going to die, or that you can't do it, or that you'll split in two; it never happened.

The hardest part was pushing against a cervical lip, and then my midwife holding it back. It took something like 10 contractions with her fingers in there to move past it, which sucked, but once it was gone everything changed. The urge to push felt great, but it wasn't overwhelming and it wasn't uncontrollable. I just really wanted to push. Not pushing during a pushing contraction sucked, even when it was only long enough for me to stop a push, catch my breath, and start another one. And those contractions were LONG. The joy of homebirth is that you don't have people yelling at you how to push, but I was still doing something like 4-5 pushes per contraction. Also I'm apparently a stealth pusher. It wasn't until the 2nd or 3rd in a series that I made any noise at all.

Pushing took an hour and a half after that lip was gone, and it was hard work. Having had a c-section I wasn't totally confident that I could do it, and for a long time I wasn't making much progress. This was probably when his head was molding and it was normal, but I felt that hour and it was a long hour. Then, suddenly, he was coming through. Crowning was amazing. The ring of fire was nowhere near as bad as I feared, though it was intense. Yay water birth. The truly amazing thing was I knew I'd birth on my hands and knees, and I saw myself catching, but I didn't know how that'd work out logistically. Well, for the record, it was on my knees, face on the side of the pool, and hands reaching down to feel his head come out.

Pushing a head into my hands was the single coolest experience of my life. Feeling his hair THEN his forehead THEN his ear (as opposed to Evie's forehead and ear coming first), his cheek all slide out of me was amazing. That was when I realized there was a real person in there, and he was almost out! I felt him kick and turn, which was really unpleasant, then pushed out the shoulders and chest and pulled him out of my body myself. That moment was incredible, I don't think I can explain how amazing it was.

I did it

His apgars were probably 8 and then 10, and he was so calm after birth. It was just this amazing ecstatic peaceful entrance. Literally, I had my ideal birth.

Tavian Miles Alexander
9lbs 13oz 22" long 14" head
And no stitching needed!