Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bits and Pieces- Birth Story

I think the thing I love most about this birth story is how calm and relaxed the mother is and how that allows her to have a calm and rather painless birth. You can teach this all day long but it is beautiful to see it in action.

Love it! Enjoy!


My due date throughout my pregnancy was sketchy. I was still nursing Owen when I got pregnant so my cycles were on the long side. My due date ranged anywhere from October 18 to October 23, but my midwife settled on October 18 as the “official” date. Since Owen had come 2½ weeks early, this was a reasonable choice. She also assured me that she would not be quick to induce if I did happen to go overdue. That was a relief to me because even though no very pregnant woman wants to stay pregnant a day longer than she has to (!), I didn’t want my labor to be forced just because I was outside of the medical timeline. This left the whole month of October open as a possibility to have this baby!

I started having Braxton Hicks contractions at 4 months—not altogether unusual for a fourth baby. However, as my ninth month approached, they became quite frequent. I’m sure I was overly anxious, but there were many nights that I sat on the couch feeling my tightening belly and wondering if this could be “the night.” Every morning I would wake up still pregnant and a little grumpy about it, too!

I visited my midwife on a Wednesday morning 10 days before my due date and mentioned that though my baby was still wiggling around, he seemed to be quieter that particular morning. She told me not to get excited but that babies often settle down right before labor begins. The next morning, I felt the first “real one.” When “real” contractions hit, it’s an “ah-ha!” moment—the experience of labor comes rushing back and you feel silly for mistaking those Braxton Hicks for the real things. The problem was those “real” contractions continued through the morning and afternoon but stayed about 30 minutes apart. I was uncomfortable but not in regular, active labor. I puttered around all day—reading, taking the kids out to play (while I sat in a chair!), making pizza. My friend, Raya, called to see if the baby had been born yet, but I was too uncertain to tell her I thought I might be in labor.

I was really glad to see Brian come home from work! He was emotional support and another set of hands. The night was full of ambivalence. We kept saying things like, “If the baby is born tonight…,” and, “If I go to work tomorrow…,” and, “If we go out this weekend…”

After we put the kids to bed for the night, Brian and I decided to relax and play word games on the computer together. My sister-in-law, Sarah, and my friend, Lu, both instant messaged me to see if I had started having any signs of labor. I told them I was having painful contractions, but they were still far apart. They both told me they would be praying. Still not sure what to expect the rest of the night, I headed off to bed at 11:30.

I had a difficult time sleeping. Part of it was excitement. Part of it was fear that if I allowed myself to drift off I may wake up in the morning still pregnant! Part of it was Brian’s noisy snoring. (He was having no trouble sleeping!) Part of it was the fact that the contractions I had been having all day were quickly getting closer together. Around 1 am, I became wide awake and started timing them. They were 5-10 minutes apart! After visiting the bathroom for the 100th time that night, I decided to go downstairs to read. I figured if it was labor, I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. And if it wasn’t labor, I could catch up with a nap the next day.

I decided not to wake Brian. I figured I could labor on my own for awhile before getting him excited. I wanted him to be well rested before we made the hour trek to the hospital’s birthing center. I set a goal for myself to wait until 3 o’clock to wake him and to call my mom to come sleep-sit for the kids. Three o’clock came and went and the contractions were still 5-10 minutes apart! Then it was four o’clock and four thirty… Sometime in the night, I let Brian know there was no question I was in labor now, but that he should sleep until I needed him. At five o’clock, the contractions had slowed (ugh!) so I put down my book and decided to try to doze. As soon as I lay down, I had a whopper contraction grip me. I knew if they continued with such intensity, I would be back up within minutes, but the next thing I knew, I was waking up at 6 o’clock, having slept without one contraction! Talk about discouraging.

The alarm in our bedroom was set to go off soon so I trudged up the stairs to discuss options with Brian. We decided that he should go to work with the idea that I could call him home as soon as I felt I needed him. I also called my mom to put her on alert that I would probably need her sometime that day. At this point, I was a little down again. I knew these were labor contractions, but with them coming and going and varying their timing, I was afraid it would drag on for days. I got up to fix the kids some toast for breakfast—the easiest thing I could come up with that everyone would eat—and boom!, I had three contractions in a row!

At 9:30 am, I had a contraction strong enough that I had to concentrate to get through it. I was afraid to be alone with just the little ones so I called Brian and asked him to start preparing to come home. He had a 15-minute drive to return the work truck and then a 25-minute drive home. When he got home, we ate an early lunch and he entertained the kids while I laid down to rest. As I was drifting off, I kept hearing, “Where’s Mama?” Occasionally, I would feel a pat or a bit of breath on my cheek. Again, I woke up from sleep, having had NO contractions. I was fed up!

We decided to gather the crew together and take a walk around the neighborhood. It was a beautiful day for October—sunny and mild. I was barely out the door when the contractions started coming fast. I was able to relax and concentrate through each one, but it was difficult to maintain composure on a public street! Brian asked if I would rather go home, but I decided to keep walking since I seemed to finally be progressing. The kids had no idea what was going on. They kept stopping and asking me to look at leaves, feel the bark on the trees, watch the ants on the sidewalk, things we usually do on our nature walks. By the time we had circled the block a couple of times, I knew labor was steady enough to head to the hospital. As we continued to walk, Brian used his cell phone to call my mom to come over and we told the kids that this was the day their baby brother would arrive.

During the hour drive to the hospital, I was upbeat and talkative. During contractions, I had to hug my body pillow and close my eyes. I found that shutting my eyes helped me concentrate on relaxing all the muscles in my body. Relaxing my muscles reduced my tension which reduced my pain. As soon as the tightening ending, I was fine. All through the pregnancy, I had back pain—much more so than with the other pregnancies. My contractions followed the same trend. Even though they could be felt all over my abdomen, the majority of the pain was in my back.

We arrived at the hospital at 2:45 pm. As we walked into Admissions, we passed another very pregnant woman in a wheelchair, holding her back and breathing heavily. We commented that someone else would be having a baby that day, too. After getting my admissions papers, we headed up to the fifth floor birthing center. I was offered a wheelchair, but declined, knowing I was perfectly okay to walk. One nurse sat in the birth center’s nurses’ station so we walked up to her. She stared back at me with a blank look and said, “May I help you?”

I gave her a puzzled look, handed her my admissions papers, and said, “I have admissions papers.”

“For what?”

I stood there almost 9 months pregnant with my mouth hanging open! Brian jumped to my rescue. “She’s in labor,” he said.

“Oh,” says the nurse. “You’re here to be checked for labor!”

She ushered me into a bathroom to give a urine sample and sent Brian into a triage room—the same area where we ran into trouble with my previous labor! He could hear her discussing me with a second nurse. “She says she’s being admitted.”

“When is she due?”

“In 10 days.”

“Is she even having contractions?”

I emerged from the restroom oblivious to the conversation and the second nurse hooked me up to a fetal monitor. I was still talkative and smiling. My regular midwife was not on call that weekend and I found out the other midwife in the practice, Carol, would be with me during my labor. I was a little nervous since I didn’t know her or her philosophy nearly as well. She arrived on the scene within a few minutes, asked a few questions, and decided to check my cervix. “You’re 5-6 centimeters with a bulging bag of water!” The nurse seemed surprised. (Apparently the nurses had convinced themselves I was too calm to be in labor.) In the meantime, I found out that the other very pregnant woman we had seen downstairs in admissions was being sent home because she was 0 centimeters dilated! I guess demeanor isn’t everything!

Carol reviewed my birth plan, said it seemed reasonable, and went to get a LDRP (Labor/Delivery/Recovery/Postpartum) room ready. I gathered my things, took my chart from the nurse, and ambled after her. She laughed, “Here she comes! You seem like you’re out for a hike instead of in active labor!” My new nurse, Heather said, “And she’s even carrying her own chart!”

After getting me settled in my room, Carol talked to me about my options. Knowing I desired a natural labor, she suggested walking around the unit or relaxing in my room’s Jacuzzi tub. She pointed out that my contractions were still not coming as often as expected at this stage, “but obviously it is working.” She also said that since my water bag was bulging, she could break it and kick labor into higher gear. She left it up to me, though, saying she was prepared to stick around as long as it took to have a baby. Brian and I talked about it and decided that we would let my body continue to labor at its own pace since that fit with our plan to have things as natural as possible.

Midwife means “with woman” and Carol was good at her job! She would come in the room and chat quietly with me or even sit silently when I needed to be quiet. Instead of relying on monitors, she would feel my belly during a contraction to measure its strength. She asked me why I thought many women feel the need to carry on and make people feel sorry for them while they are in labor. I wasn’t sure how to answer because I couldn’t imagine being loud or laboring in any other way. She said, “I had four children and labored just like you are laboring. I try to empathize with those women, but sometimes…”

Around 4:30, Heather suggested I try the Jacuzzi tub. She said she had used it during her labor and enjoyed it. I’ve heard that immersing in water can reduce labor pain, but I didn’t realize the extent of that truth until I tried it. I’m not sure if it was caused by the weightlessness that came from floating or an improved ability to relax in the warmth, but immediately the contractions were less uncomfortable. With my belly entirely covered by the water, I could still feel all the pressure, but the pain decreased. Time went by quickly while I was in the tub. The contractions started coming closer together and I sensed that I was in transition though I was still able to talk and relax in-between. Carol came in again and suggested she check my cervix. I was at an 8. Carol put a cool rag on my neck. That helped me relax so Brian continued cooling it and reapplying it.

I was beginning to feel a lot of pressure and the need to leave the tub. The contractions were coming so close together at this point, though, that it took awhile to time my departure! I took my time getting out and walking to the bed. The room was dim. Carol and Heather were talking in hushed tones so as not to disturb the peaceful atmosphere in the room.

I labored for a short time sitting upright on the bed. Concentrating on my labor was taking up all my brain space at this point so I don’t recall as much detail from here on out. (Brian filled in for me what I don’t remember!) Though I still felt fine between contractions, they came so close to together, I stayed quiet to keep on top of it. If I lost concentration, I started to tense up which made it hurt more. I remember reading while I was pregnant that if you start to feel as though you can’t do it anymore, you are getting close to delivering. Once or twice, I felt this, but I reminded myself that it was almost over. Really the only part I had trouble with was the intensity at the peak of each contraction.

Carol asked me if I was ready to have my water broken and “have this baby.” Knowing how close I was, I agreed. Heather monitored the baby’s heartbeat with a hand-held Doppler while Carol broke my water. The fluid was clear with no meconium and Baby tolerated the procedure like a champ. Brian continued to apply a cool wet cloth to my neck and face.

I was unable to talk by now. I communicated only by nodding or shaking my head. I’m sure I was physically able to talk, but it would have thrown off my concentration. I was in a semi-sitting position. I know that it is best to be upright while laboring, but this was actually more comfortable and I was progressing well so I decided not to change. Heather asked Carol if she needed to break the bed down for delivery, but since I would have to be disturbed, Carol whispered that she would try to deliver the way it was.

Carol checked me again and said I had a bit of a cervical lip, but that it would probably melt away as I began to push. I started to feel increasing pressure and then the amazing urge to push. After the first push, Brian said, “You’re almost done.” I was surprised since I had just started, but it was encouraging because the pushing urge was so intense! With the second push, his head was out. I was clinging to Brian’s hand (and trying not to squeeze too hard) when Carol said, “Okay, Dad, are you ready?” With the third push, Brian was able to grab the baby’s shoulders and upper back and help deliver him! Less than ten minutes after I started pushing, Benjamin was born. I reached down and pulled Ben onto my belly myself. It was 7:33 pm on October 10.

There was no tearing so I felt very little pain as soon as labor ended. I wasn’t even sore. I kept Benjamin on my stomach while Brian cut the cord and while they wiped him off and evaluated him. I nursed him while Carol delivered the placenta. The room was still dim and peaceful, and I was euphoric (and hungry!).

When Ben was about an hour old, they weighed him and he came in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces. We were surprised since the other kids were so much bigger (even Owen who came early). He was 21 inches long. He had a perfectly round head, dark hair, and very long eyelashes!

I am so pleased with my labor and delivery. This was my most satisfying birth of the four. I may have started off nervous about not knowing Carol, but Brian and I agreed that we are glad she delivered Benjamin because she was in tune to what I needed and eager to help me achieve the birth I desired. We appreciated her lack of hurry and her laid-back manner.

While I’m not up for it again anytime soon, Benjamin’s birth story proved to me labor doesn’t have to be frantic but can follow its own timetable and be calm and enjoyable.

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