Thursday, January 19, 2012

make sure your birth partner knows ...

One of my favorite parts of being a doula is helping your significant other to help you.  I promise every single one of them really truly wants to ... its just that most of them have no idea what to do.  Of course they know you better than anyone and love you to pieces, but that love often generates all sorts of worry and frustration as they witness what you are going through. 

(Which, might I add, is a great reason to have a doula:  bring someone to the party who has only your interests in mind -- not the hospital's -- without stressing over every little discomfort you may feel.  Doulas make a fantastic team with your birth partner!)

The basic things I tell these loved ones to do while you are laboring alone include the following:
  • Distract, distract, distract.  While you still can.  I promise labor will get to a point where you can't ignore it any more.  Until then, relax.  Have some fun.  Go for walk.
  • Move her!  At least every hour.  If you're trying to catch up on some rest, then just rotate from side to side.  It'll help that little one find the easiest way out.
  • Keep her hydrated.  Don't forget to drink.  Juice will add some energy and calories to get her through it.  Let her eat what she wants as well.
  • Use the bathroom.  Every couple of hours.  That baby is sitting on top of her bladder, and if it is full, it will keep the head off of the cervix and slow down dilation.
And of course, make sure this person knows how much you love them, and not to take anything you say in the next few hours too harshly.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

a tip on breaking your water ...

If by chance you get to the hospital and your water hasn't broken yet, many women are asked at one point or another if they'd like to have it broken. 

You'll probably shrug and have them do whatever they'd like unless you know why.

If you labor without that sack of water surrounding your little one, things will go much more quickly.  You baby's head is able to sit more thoroughly upon your cervix; that pressure is what gets it to open up.

But it will also be significantly more painful.  Your body will need to stretch out much more quickly to accomadate that little person, and it will do so without that super soft cushion of amniotic fluid.

So if you get asked, "Would you like us to break your water?"  You have to decide if you'd rather ease your way through that last leg of the marathon, or if you'd like body-busting sprint to the finish.  How ready are you to be done with it all?

a beautiful natural birth

I feel like the labor part of my daughter's birth started the day I went in for my 36 week check up. Up until that point, the midwives had declined checking my cervix and I had agreed, but at 36 weeks, with the amount of contractions, pressure, and changes I'd been feeling I was dying to know if I was progressing at all. I'd lost my mucus plug at a very early 29 weeks, so I thought surely something was happening; I just wanted to know how much.
The midwife checked me. I was at 5 1/2 cm. My midwife told me that surely I'd be back either later that day or maybe that weekend.

I went home, shocked and excited, and prepped everything for a rush to the hospital sometime in the next day or so.

And then I waited.
Three whole weeks.

Those three weeks felt like three years. I will never again ask an overdue woman any question relating to "no baby yet?" "still here?" "what does the doctor say?" or even the seemingly innocent "how are you feeling?" Those questions drove me bonkers and I just wanted everyone to leave me alone. If I wanted them to know how I was feeling, I would tell them, otherwise, don't ask me!

I started to get pretty stressed about it, actually, because back at 36 weeks when we felt delivery was imminent, Kent scheduled a trip to San Francisco with his new job. He would be leaving on November 6, the day after my due date. We figured Ellie would be 2 or 3 weeks old by then.
But she didn't come. And each day that passed, I got more and more discouraged. Some days I felt lots of contractions, but some days I actually felt better. Those were the worst days because I started to feel like maybe Ellie was never going to be born.

My midwives took pity on me, and the Saturday I turned 39 weeks (they weren't legally allowed to do it any earlier than that) they agreed to let me come in and have this baby.
That morning we woke Nicholas up early and took him to our friends the Jensens' house. He was super excited to go to their house, and he didn't seem phased at all that we were leaving him, which really helped ease my mother-guilt.

We were a bit early still for our 8:00 am induction appointment, so we stopped at a donut place on the way. I only nibbled on my donuts; I was too excited and nervous to eat much.

When we got to the hospital, it seemed pretty quiet. The nurses at the desk in L&D were just sitting there chatting, and I was assigned to the biggest suite. It was a beautiful room, with hardwood floors, lots of space, and an entire wall of windows. The nurses were slow to get things started. It was an entire hour before I was even handed a gown to change into, but looking back on it, I think the slow pace helped calm me down even more and it helped me get into the mindset I would need to get me through what was to come.

I had two nurses; one was in training, and they pretty much let me do my own thing. Once they saw that I was with the midwives, they automatically assumed that I was planning on doing this without pain meds, and although that was merely my hope going in (I had a "we'll see what happens" attitude about it), having everyone in the mindset that I was going to do it naturally really gave me the support that allowed me to do it in the end.

My midwife Pam started me on Pitocin at 10 am. Over the next 5 hours they continued to increase the pitocin, I rotated between the birthing ball and the rocking chair, and Kent and I watched extreme home makeover on TV. I was contracting every two minutes or so. I was uncomfortable, but not in much pain. And the pitocin wasn't really progressing me. I was still at a stubborn 5 1/2 cm.

So at 3 pm, my midwife and I decided that she should break my water. The very next contraction was a bit stronger, and the one after that left me breathless.
Yep, things were definitely moving along now. Pam and the nurses left me and Kent and said they'd be back in 20 minutes to check on me again.

With each contraction I felt my resolve weakening. This was pain. This was tough. And I didn't think I had it in me. I started to tell Kent that I couldn't do it, that I wanted the epidural.

He was SO good, helping me in the way I needed it most--just being by me and telling me to calm down and slow down my breathing. I really struggled with that; I kept nearly hyperventilating. But everytime Kent told me to breathe slower, I was able to refocus and make it just a little bit longer. I really needed him there by my side--I remember feeling like there had to be some way he could just make it all go away, and even though he couldn't do that, somehow just having him next to me was very comforting.

Before we'd gone in that morning, I had explained to Kent that I really really wanted to try and have this baby without the epidural. I told him that I needed him to encourage me, to push me to keep going.

It wasn't until afterwards that I realized what it was that I'd asked him to do.

There I was, in a very lonely, helpless, powerless place, pleading for relief, and he had to stand there and tell me to keep going.

I am so so grateful that he did.

He told me to just wait and see what they said when they checked me again. When the nurses came back I told them I probably wanted the epidural, but they also encouraged me to wait until Pam came back and checked me.

But Pam never got another chance to check me. Before she arrived I decided that I wanted to try and go to the bathroom, because I knew that an empty bladder would help things along. Getting to the bathroom took probably a full 10 minutes, because I had to stop and breathe through every contraction. The nurses showed Kent how to put counterpressure on my lower back, and that felt SO good. He continued to massage my back as I sat on the toilet and because we were already in there, I asked the nurses if I could get in the shower. With each contraction part of me would go numb, either my arms or my legs, and I was shaking.

But as they prepped the shower, I suddenly felt that urge to push. It was small at first, and I kind of doubted it, I mean, it had only been about 40 minutes since Pam broke my water and I had been at 5 or 6 cm. But then it came again, and the nurses turned off the water and sent me back over to the bed.

Once I got to the bed, I felt restless. I wanted to be on my side. I wanted to kneel. I wanted to do anything and everything except lay on my back. I wanted this to be over with already.
But then the urge to push came again, and much stronger, and I found myself on my back and the nurses were breaking down the bed.

Within moments, I was pushing. I don't remember anyone really telling me much--the nurses weren't counting or telling me when to push. It was all very instinctual. In fact, it would have been hard for me to follow directions anyway. I couldn't do anything but exactly what my body was telling me to do.

And it was hard. I screamed. A lot. But I couldn't stop myself--it was almost a surreal experience; I kind of felt like I was just sitting back and letting my body take over. I pushed three or four times, and then Kent told me he could see the baby's head, that she was right there. I remember telling him that I couldn't do it, that I was done, and he just told me that I was doing it, that it was almost over, that I was doing great.

I pushed again, and in my head I decided that I was done. She wasn't coming. I wasn't going to give birth after all. I didn't want to do it anymore.

But when the next contraction hit, I pushed with all my soul. I was getting that baby out right then and there. And she was here. The relief was instantaneous. It was done!

I laughed, I caught my breath, and my daughter's warm little body was placed on my bare stomach. She was beautiful, she was quiet, and she was BIG. 8 1/2 lbs. She wasn't turning pink as fast as they wanted, so the nurses took her over to the warming bed to rub her down with towels. She didn't like that, so she started to really cry, which "pinked" her up very quick, so they brought her back to me once Pam was done repairing my tearing. Besides being a big baby, as Ellie was born she punched her fist up next to her head, so the tearing was pretty bad.

As soon as Ellie was in my arms again I brought her up to nurse. She latched immediately, and she nursed for an entire 45 minutes! After the struggle we had starting breastfeeding with my son, this was amazing!

One of the nurses came in and told me that she had some bad news. I was worried she meant something was wrong with me or the baby, but she just said, "I have to prick your finger to draw some blood." I laughed. After what I'd just done, a finger prick was nothing. So I told her, "go ahead, prick all my fingers if you need to."

As the room quieted down and the nurses cleaned up, I felt this overwhelming sense of "did I really just do that?" I kept telling Kent "I did it. I just had this baby. I did it!"

That hour from my water breaking to Ellie being born was the most intense, difficult, painful hour of my life. But I am planning on doing it again when I have my next baby, because the recovery was incredible. I was walking within an hour after Ellie was born. I was able to sit up, eat my dinner, walk myself to the bathroom, hold Ellie--it was great! I remember after my son was born it took a few days before I was able to get out of bed on my own; the epidural was so hard to recover from. But with this birth, by the next morning I was up and out of bed, ready to leave the hospital and go home. I felt like myself again, even better because I wasn't pregnant anymore. And the recovery once we got home, instead of taking a week or so, seemed to only take a day or two. I needed less pain relief and less rest.

We moved across the country only four weeks after Ellie was born. It was hard, but I knew I could do it. In fact, the most lasting emotion I gained from this birth has been power. I feel like a more powerful version of myself. I did something I didn't think I could ever do, and I did it well. Now I am braver, more confident, and happier with who I am.

Plus I have the most darling little girl in the whole world to show for it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

how did you do it natural?

I wish everyone could be a doula before they have their own babies.

Or at least have more experience with birth ... I guess in the olden days family and friends helped out in each others' births, but now that's pretty hard to come by.  If you ever get the opportunity, go to a birth!

The birth of my little girl was wonderful.  I've had a few people ask how in the world did I do it without anything??  Well honestly, anyone can.  Your body knows how.  You just go with it.

After contemplating things a little more, I've come up with a few tips that worked great for me:
  • First and foremost:  birth is 100% do-able.  Our bodies were made to do it, and we as women do know how.  We know better than doctors do.  Don't ignore their experienced advice, but do not doubt yourself.
  • Hire a doula.
  • Make sure your birth partner is positive and confident.  If he/she is not, definitely hire a doula.
  • Ignore labor until you can't ignore it any more.
  • Find some way to relax.  Either fork out some dough to do a hypnobirthing or bradley method class, or just figure it out on your own.  For me, it was moving and deep, slow breathing.  The stronger the contraction, the deeper the breath I took.  I decided if I could still breathe, then I was doing just fine.
  • With each contraction, do some sort of downward motion with your body, and whisper outloud or in your head, "Open open open open!"  The thought translates physically ... give it a try.
  • Don't pay attention to the clock.  Everyone else in the room will do it for you.  Just get through the contraction, and rest or joke around between them.
  • Try to smile.  It will make you and everyone else in the room feel better.  Set the exapmle for how you want everyone else to behave ... I promise, you're not dying.
  • Underestimate your progress.  It's always better to be pleasantly surprised.
  • Worried your baby will just fall out?  You'll feel it before it comes.  That urge to push is something else!
  • Worried about the ring of fire?  Yes, it's intense.  So try to back off on the pushing, give your skin a chance to stretch out a bit.  But if you're like me and the urge to push completely overrides that burning sensation, then don't worry about it ... a couple of stitches are fine.
  • I'm sure you've heard this over and over again, but it's true ... once that little on is lying on top of your belly, all the pain will be completely forgotten.  And if you did it without drugs, you'll be amazed at how you feel like normal almost instantly.  Besides a slight case of the shakes.  :)
Above all, have a good idea of what you expect from the experience, do all you can to make it happen, and then just let everything go and enjoy the ride.  I promise it will be one you will never forget!

birth of my daughter

Oh, what a birth.
The arrival of this little one was so much easier than my son's ... I suppose that's pretty typical for a second birth.  My body had done this once before, we weren't as nervous as we were before, and we had a lot of prayers sent our way.  What a difference.

I wasn't scared at all for this birth. Being a doula and having been through a lot of births lately, I felt confident and knew what I wanted. My husband Mark did too; he had recently attended a seminar on adjusting pregnant women, which ended up being as much of a natural childbirth class as it was an adjusting class. He said I could have it in the car if I wanted.

Well, it all began on a lovely Tuesday morning. There went the plug. I immediately began doing laundry, Mark vacuumed the house, and we tidied things up in preparation for her arrival. I then hurried off to my doctor's appointment for some halting news. "You are dilated to a two, but her head has turned sideways. I think you will have a couple more days." Wah-waaah.

So back to the house I went, and we decided to take off to Knott's Berry Farm to get a good walk in for me and some fun for our two year old.
My "braxton hicks" contractions were starting to feel more like those lovely monthly cramps.  Nothing intense, but a change nonetheless.  Still ... I kept that to myself and decided that if labor was coming, it was coming.  I would just go about my business and ignore it until I just couldn't any more.

The rest of the day was spent with Mark consistently asking how I felt, with me consistently shrugging and saying about the same -- although a bit more blood did make an appearance -- and our boy goofing around, playing in the hot tub and enjoying his last few moments as the complete center of attention.

After he was asleep and I had some time to focus on myself, I realized these contractions were feeling different ... but nothing too crazy, so it couldn't be real labor, right? Just in case I phoned my divine friend to warn her to keep her phone on that night, as she might be getting our two year old before the sun came up.

As we layed around, we decided to time them, just out of curiosity. 6-10 minutes apart. But they weren't really intense, so it couldn't be labor ... at least that's what I kept telling myself.  I felt sure that if I went to bed they would slow down or go away, and so we decided to attempt some shut eye. But I needed a couple of things from my wonderful husband beforehand ... an adjustment, and a priesthood blessing. And so he lined me all up between contractions with those magic hands of his and massaged the bajeezes out of my back. And then he gave me the most wonderful blessing I can remember. I am so grateful to be married to such an incredible chiropractic priesthood holder ... I fought a few tears, and then we decided to try to get some rest.

But those contractions kept waking me up. Finally, around 3:30 am I told Mark I just couldn't lie there any more, so I jumped up and he did as well. We went downstairs and watched infomercials while I paced, rocked, and bounced on my birthing ball while Mark timed. They were about every 3-5 minutes apart, and Mark asked what I was waiting for. I explained that I did not want to wake up my friend or our little man, and decided that I could make it till he was up and fed and taken care of. Then we could go.

So almost exactly at six, we heard our son crack open his door and sneak down the stairs. For once, that was perfectly fine with me.

Mark fed him and dressed him while I took a shower to try to relax through a few more contractions. We finished up at about the same time, and all piled into the car. Once at our friends', Mark simply hoisted the entire car seat out with the little man still in it and carried him up to their front door.

I started crying.

Just a little. I guess it really hit me that our last moments of just my boy and me had truly ended. Next time I saw that big-headed sweetheart of mine, I would be forever trying to split my time. He was no longer the sole focus of my attention.

When Mark returned, he seemed a little worried that labor was starting to kill me ... but once I explained the tears he calmly and a logically reminded me how good the whole situation would be for everyone. Of course he was right, but still ... it felt good to cry a little.

And so on we went for our twenty minute drive to the hospital. It wasn't so bad, no screaming or squeezing the crap out of Mark; mostly a lot of deep breathing and grimacing whenever we hit a bump. Before long we were there, and made our trek up to the third floor. I was still able to walk through the contractions, but I was starting to feel a little bit like jello.

The check-in process took some time. I don't think the gal in the office believed I was actually in labor. We filled out the necessary paperwork between contractions. At one point she asked me why I believed I was in labor. "Contractions," I told her, and she just nodded. I secretly wondered if she was right and I was just over-playing it, but that sounded like the worst thing in the world, and I didn't entertain the thought for long.

Our doula Elizabeth met us in the hallway on our way to the room. Having her there, I felt a second wind. I was excited to have her knowledge added to my own, and felt ready to get to work.

Apparently the hospital was quite busy that morning; a dangerously pre-term baby was born, and the fire inspector was on the way. It took about 45 minutes for a nurse to come in and get us all settled. But that was fine with me; my one fear with this labor was that the nurses might make me stay in bed the whole time ... I definitely did not want to be trapped. And so while we waited I paced, squatted, lunged, and did everything I could think of to create space and help that little gal get in the best position to make her entrance smoothly. Mark and Elizabeth were wonderful; always watching me, providing a little conversation and some laughs between contractions, and all sorts of physical support.

Finally two nurses came in, and they were incredible. Right off the bat, I knew I would like them. They were fine with everything I wanted to do. I showed them my birth preferences I had all typed out, and they asked how my doctor felt about them. I told them he said it should be fine, and to show it to them as they would be the ones with me through the labor. They laughed at that, but agreed.

So the nurses said they'd like to keep me on the monitor for a little while to make sure my little one handled the contractions alright, and then checked me.

I was at a seven.

YES. I felt relieved and a little surprised, but didn't have much time to dwell on it as another contraction came on. I decided not to get too excited or to look at the clock much ... just breath through the contractions as they came along. Elizabeth told me she had never seen anyone that far along and so ... with it. It's sure nice to have a doula around to give you a little confidence. 

I braced myself to start losing it as I thought back on my training. But until then, I would just keep breathing. Mark eventually asked me if I wanted to stay lying down or get up. I asked him to get the birthing ball (which is just a big exercise ball to sit on ... creates all sorts of movement in your hips without having to put forth much effort). So off to the car he went, while Elizabeth and I worked through a few more contractions.

Eventually our nurse came back again and hooked me back up to the monitors and checked me. I was at a nine. She had the other nurse notify the doctor, and told us to call her if anything changed; like my water breaking (which it still hadn't) or any crazy pressure.
So I decided to try the bathroom one last time, (empty bladders leave all sorts of space) and that walk to the bathroom about did me in. I didn't stay long before I was up and Mark was holding onto me through some intense contractions. I started shaking and sweating and feeling incredibly flushed ... and decided I needed to make my way back to the bed. That little walk brought on a monster contraction that ended with a hint of that undeniable, all-consuming urge to push. Mark and Elizabeth noticed and weren't surprised one bit when I whispered what I felt, and Mark headed out to the hall to tell our nurses. They all came in just as another contraction came on. Wow. I couldn't believe how hard I wanted to push ... and then suddenly a lot started to happen at once. The nurse began demanding I get on the bed or that baby was going to be born on the floor. My water broke all over myself and Mark as he tried to help me get up into bed. All sorts of nurses came in the room, and lights were turned up. And everyone seemed to be saying one thing: "Don't push!!"
They all had little tips too; "High breaths", "Don't look down," "Keep it short," and so on and so on. I wanted to yell, "You people are CRAZY if you expect me to do that!" But instead I just listened to Mark. He was right by my head whispering, "Just do what you're doing. Keep doing what you want to do, you're doing just right."
Mark later told me he thought it was funny that I just completely ignored the nurses ... but in all honesty I didn't. I did try to stifle the urge to push; but it is impossible! There was no way I could ignore it. I tried some of their breathing suggestions, but they always ended in a grunt. Oops. Suddenly a nurse told me to lie on my side. "It'll be easier on you; hopefully less tearing," and then Mark was saying, "Oh I see her, I see her, she's right there!" Then the nurse again: "Mama, give me your hand. Would you like to feel your baby's head?" And then another contractions, more hollering at me to not push, and more of my light-breath-grunt ridiculousness, and then it just didn't end ... the contraction didn't stop, it got stronger and lighter and stronger and lighter, and then burning ... but that was quickly pushed aside by that larger-than-life urge to push, and then people are exclaiming and then the urge gets stronger and then WHOOSH!
There she is, lying on my thigh. I'm shaking and almost laughing. Mark and the nurse placed her on my lower abdomen, but as they didn't want to cut the cord without the doctor there, and as the cord was wrapped around her little body and the placenta hadn't been delivered yet, that was about as far as she reached. I asked if she was still a girl, and Mark confirmed. I then said, "Oh sweetheart we did it!" And the placenta was delivered and they moved her up closer to me. Mark and I oogled her while the nurses all waited for the doctor to come in before deciding what to do.

Our doctor made his arrival about ten or fifteen minutes after she was born. He stitched me up (just a little tear), had Mark cut the cord, and left. And there we were. Three hours of labor in the hospital. Six minutes of pushing. And it was all over at 10:57 a.m.

She was here. Our newest little member, with all her dark hair and big eyes and olive skin. She wasn't even swollen. I don't think either one of us felt she could be any more perfect.
Welcome to the world, Miss Belen Christine Gunn. We are sure glad you have joined us.