Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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.

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