Friday, May 4, 2012

When A Birth Teacher Gives Birth - Birth Story

I thought it was really interesting to read a birth story from a birth teacher.  I always feel some performance anxiety during my pregnancies- like if I don't have a natural birth or if I beg for an epidural or for somebody to make it all better, then I will get kicked out of the crunchy- wunchy club.  
Alas- I HAVE wanted an epidural and nobody kicked me out of that imaginary club.  

So, enjoy this birth story, it has lots of interesting lessons and thoughts from a somewhat different perspective.  
(Photo shared from one of our readers.  Not the baby in this story.)
 ~~~

The Birth of Leapgirl

Let the record show, first, that I had been predicting a 2/29 birthday since
the day I calculated EB's due date (which was 3/6). I don't know why this
feels like such a coup when really it's only a coincidence, but all the cousins on my
husband's side were born on either the 10th or the 29th of their months,
including our son EA, and I figured this one (#6 in the family) would fit the mold. Still, I wasn't
totally convinced I was right, even when my husband R informed me that a
low-pressure system would be coming in on 2/28. (Barometric changes, for
those of you who are wondering what that has to do with anything, can cause
the water to break- it's the same principle behind people with fluid in
their joints who can sense storms coming in).

Anyway, I wasn't holding my breath. I'd been having Braxton-Hicks
contractions for many months, some of them pretty regular, so I had a lot of
practice forgetting that I was going to have to go through active labor,
too. On Monday evening 2/27, I had two contractions that were legitimately
painful. I cried as we got ready for bed: "I'm not ready, I don't want to
call the babysitter in the middle of the night and have EA wake up to find
us gone!" R, as always, was a voice of reason: "If we have to leave
tonight, we'll wake him up and tell him. He's a part of this family too."
Once calmed, I had no more contractions.

Still, the next morning before R left for work, he said "I want
you to pack your hospital bag TODAY." I guess he knew something I didn't. I
put my birth art pendant necklace, too, just in case. I also printed out
all the babysitters' phone numbers so R could go down
the list until we found one that was available, when the time came. But all my prep work was sure to guarantee that today was NOT the day, right? After all, I was still a full week before my due date.
Then I took EA to his regular Tuesday music class. On the way in to the building, I
visited the bathroom and discovered that my mucus plug had come out.
"Interesting," I thought. But knowing that it's the least reliable sign of
labor, I didn't think it was very important, except from an educational
standpoint: "Oh, okay, now I know what that's all about."

After music, I stood around the lawn outside the building with
another mom so that our boys could run around in the sunshine. And of course
we talked about birth, and babies, and pregnancy, and after about an hour of
that, I felt my water break. Just a trickle, but it was unmistakable. Do not
pass go, do not collect $200! It was then just about 11:00AM.

After getting over the initial shock that YES, we were going to have a baby
that very day, I hugged my friend goodbye and called R: "I don't want to
alarm you, but my water just broke." I said I'd drive EA home, and that I
wasn't having any contractions yet, but that if they got strong in the 20 minute drive, I
promised to pull over. He, in turn, promised that he wasn't alarmed.

R met us at home, having decided to let his coworkers finish the day's
work. We ate lunch (still no contractions) and started packing.
We tried to put EA down for a nap but it was clear that he understood that
the baby was on its way, so we could not convince him to go to sleep. Around
1PM, I started having some regular contractions, but they weren't painful or
close together. Still, we asked the sitter to come over so that she could
entertain him and we could focus on the labor. I'm pretty sure I tried to
wash some dishes or something; I know I pulled our sheets off the bed and
got clean ones out for the sitter to sleep on. At 2:30 she arrived. Pretty
shortly thereafter, I started to have some emotional hang-ups about labor: I
was afraid that I wouldn't be able to do it again, and I thought for a
moment that if I didn't leave right away, I wouldn't want to go at all. I
thought these were signs of late labor, so by 4ish we headed to the
hospital. This was an eye-opener, and it reminded me why we prepare couples
for this experience. I learned a lot from my time in the hospital and I hope
you do, too.

Upon check-in, we learned that my blood pressure was elevated, which was
totally unexpected. My BP was always perfect during both my pregnancies. To
her credit, the nurse assured me that the diastolic number was low, so there
was no need to do anything except continue to check it regularly (it was
140/80). But HBP is a tricky self-fulfilling prophecy (if you're anxious
that it's high, that anxiety can make it stay high), so it took some mental
effort to forget about it. 

The nurse also asked me what my plans for pain
management were. I gestured to R and said "You're looking at him." She
responded with "Well, you can change your mind. You have the right to change
your mind." R and I shared a private wink. "Do you have any sort of a
birth plan?" she wanted to know. Our students know why I don't advocate
showing up at the hospital with a written plan to hand out, and this nurse
confirmed my reasons perfectly: "Good", she said, when we told her we had no
birth plan. "Because then you'd be headed straight to c-section." HA! My
point exactly: when nurses think you've got a rigid expectation for birth,
they treat you differently. 

I, of course, dug in my heels and defended my
right to have birth preferences, whether or not they are written down. She
conceded this point. (We also admitted to her that we are natural childbirth
educators). It quickly became clear that talking to people was making my
contractions stop. They had been 7 minutes apart and getting stronger at
home, and now I was barely registering them. The nurse wanted the midwife to
check me before she'd admit me, in case this was not active labor. In a
first-time mom, this pattern would not necessarily have warranted a hospital
admission, but I was certain I'd progress quickly. 

ML was the CNM on call,
and she agreed that I should stay, or at least not go too far away. We decided to have dinner at
the cafeteria before they closed at 6 (seriously- Mercy makes pretty decent
food, for a hospital). Soup and rice for me, grilled chicken sandwich and
fries for R. And fries for me. And peanut M & Ms. Hey, a girl's gotta
keep her strength up, you know? We headed down the hall to the orthopedic
massage clinic where I work, because I
knew my friend would just be finishing her shift. 

Her eyes got wide
when she realized why we were both at the hospital in the evening. She
laughed at how calm we were, but I recognized that my contractions were
slowing again during the visit. This made me a little nervous, so we went
back to the room. Time was now somewhere around 7PM. More walking. More
talking, too- this time to a mom whose 1-month-old was being treated in the
NICU for breathing difficulty, and to a dad whose wife and daughter I knew
from EA's gym class (their second baby had been born the day before).
Again, my contractions became lighter and less frequent each time I stopped
to have a conversation.

And so time passed, until 9 or 10ish. Time for another round of fetal
monitoring. And again, something unexpected: the nurse said baby was "having
some variables," meaning that the heart rate was decelerating and staying
slow for a while after the contraction was over. My worst fear, and the cause of many,
many unnecessary c-sections. At the very least, it was another reason for
anxiety, which can slow labor; at the very most, it might have truly been a sign of distress.
Again, this nurse was a voice of reason. She
reminded me that it could be caused by the umbilical cord being in a bad
spot, a simple issue which might be solved by changing position. 

But oh, the
power of the electronic fetal monitor. I moved a little bit, but it was
impossible to stop listening to that slowing heartbeat. It took up my entire
consciousness and I stopped paying attention to what position would feel
best for my body. I asked the nurse if my 20 minutes were up yet, and could
I be unhooked so I could get back to walking the halls (I figured that baby
would like being upright the best). But alas- when heart rate decelerations
are detected, the monitor stays ON. No walking about. "And by the way," she
said, "walking won't make you go into labor. When we tell couples to walk
around the floor, it's just to kill time."

WHAT WHAT WHAT? Was she seriously trying to tell me that walking won't
progress labor? If I weren't ALREADY in labor, I'd agree with her. Walking
won't cause labor to start if the body and baby aren't ready. But I'm here!
We're doing this! And gravity is a constant: at the very least, getting out
of bed will help the baby put more pressure on the cervix, which will help
it to open. Which is what labor is, lady. Imagine, though, a first-time mom
with no preparation hearing those words. Do you think they might have an
impact on her ability to take an active role in her baby's birth? 

At that
point I put a lot more effort into finding a better position in the bed. And
I will forever be grateful that I found one; rolling over one more time, the
heart rate stabilized, and after a while I was able to be unhooked from the
monitor and put my attention back to laboring. ML came back at
around midnight and confirmed that the heart rate was nothing to worry
about; she also checked me and said I was 3cm dilated.

Even with so little dilation, I quickly entered late, active,
take-all-my-concentration, difficult-to-change-positions labor. I didn't
walk around after that. R reminded me to vocalize through the
contractions, and my moans kept getting louder and louder. In fact my voice
was very hoarse the next day.  I feel terrible for any other moms laboring
at the same time who might have heard me! I wanted R's warm hand on my
belly and I was very short with him: "NO, not pressure, just warmth. NO, not
in that spot; down here." 

He was a trooper; the best coach I could have
asked for. I also shook violently with chills, and they had to put warm
blankets on me. I think this phase lasted for several hours; Rick thinks it
was maybe only 10 contractions. I think it was much harder and lasted longer
than the end of my first labor, with shorter or no breaks between
contractions. R thinks I was expecting this labor to be easier, and it
wasn't, which is skewing my memory of both of them. He's probably right. In
any case, at some point between 2:00 and 2:30 I was transitioning. Lots of
shouting "NO NO NO NO!" (as if I had a choice in the matter; this baby was
getting pushed out with or without me). I remember the time because I had
been on my side, and when I turned face up to get into a pushing position, I
glanced at the clock.

Pushing must not have been too difficult, because looking back, the time of
birth was 2:39AM. Pretty quick. I had a lip of cervix that hadn't quite
dilated, but ML got it out of the way when she checked me. But I
wasn't in a great position- I didn't think I had the strength to pull my
knees up to my shoulders, even though everyone in the room was telling me to
do that. Even though we teach all our students to do that. ML asked me if I
wanted to feel the baby crowning and I
shouted "NO THANK YOU!" 

I still can't believe I was so polite at such a
moment. She said I was sitting on my baby and I needed to push harder to get
the shoulder out. That felt like it took forever, but it was really only one
or two more contractions. And all of a sudden it was over and there a was a
baby on my chest! "What is it, Dad? What did we have?" I asked R. And he
answered "It's EB!" which is his mother's name, a name we had chosen
for a girl long before we even got married. We just held onto it until we
needed it. And I kept saying over and over "A girl! We made a girl!" She was
7 pounds, 1 ounce and 19 1/2 inches long. R had his shirt off right away
for some skin-to-skin contact. And just like that, we were four.

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