Monday, May 2, 2011

Birth Story

Well 6.5 weeks later, here's the story. I debated about posting this on the blog because it is really special to me, but I finally decided to share it since it is so special to me. I love birth and I love reading other's birth stories so I figured I could go ahead and let mine be read too. Funny, when Wesley was born I felt like you could have had an auditorium full of people in there watching me and it wouldn't have mattered but I never felt like sharing the story afterward. With Reese, it was a very private moment with just Eric and me, a midwife, and one nurse in the room at the time but I'm excited to share the story. Funny how things turn out... Anyway here it is.

Every day past March 12 brought more crazy hormones, desperation and crying. I knew that the due date was simply an estimate—in fact I felt rather certain that I would be pregnant past my due date. However, when the day came and went I felt sad. I felt like I needed the baby out out out! Physically, I felt ok. I felt much better than I did at the same point in my pregnancy with Wesley. My anxiety came from the fact that I had my mother-in-law in town for a limited time only and I wanted her help more for after the baby than before. (Although it turned out I needed her just as much before). Also, I was feeling anxious about how I would cope once Marilyn left and Eric returned to work. I was sure I could manage that week much better if the baby was a week old instead of 2 days old.

On Monday morning, March 14, I gagged down half a bottle of castor oil completely expecting to go to the hospital in labor in only a few short hours. That’s what happened for other people. Well not for me. Instead I just felt like I had stomach flu all day and a few bad bouts of diarrhea.  I took the other half the bottle in the afternoon—a truly desperate act—hoping that it would be the catalyst I needed. It wasn’t. I cried a little (or a maybe kind of a lot) and accepted the fact that the baby would not be coming on Pi Day (3.14) and I should just make the most of the last moments of pregnancy.

I had decided that we would go bowling the next day. Well Tuesday morning around 3:45 I started having some contractions. Nothing too terribly strong, just what felt like early labor. I felt so relieved to be contracting finally! I tried really hard not to get my hopes up and reminded myself that it could be false labor and could stop anytime. As it kept going I couldn’t help but be excited. Until 9:45 a.m. Then there were no more contractions. I tried to be tough, but by 11 a.m. I was a hopelessly hormonal weepy mess. Why couldn’t the baby just come? Marilyn stayed with Wesley while Eric took me out on a long slow walk. If I tried to talk or look at anyone I would cry, so it was a very quiet walk for a while. I finally pulled myself together and decided that we should stick to the plan and go bowling. I felt like my misery was extending out over the rest of the family and I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer. I would have a good time if it killed me!

So we went bowling. I wished that we could have spent hours and hours in that dumb bowling alley, but we got there at 4 p.m. and they let us know that they would be kicking us out at 5 p.m. for the league play. Fine. Whatever. I bowled a rockin 35 or something. You try bowling 40.5 weeks pregnant. (I’m going to pretend like that was the reason for my pathetic score and hope you believe that I ever bowl better than about 40).

We finished bowling and decided we hadn’t killed quite enough time having fun, so we headed out to the library. By this point, I was completely exhausted. I parked myself in the rocking chair by the toy box in the kids section of the library and thanked my Heavenly Father for that toy box full of trucks. Wesley sat happily playing with the trucks while I sat rocking and pondering my enormous squirming belly. Marilyn and Eric perused for books like normal people do at libraries. Around 5:45 p.m. I had a really good strong contraction in that library rocking chair. It made my heart sing. At least there was some hope that the baby would find her way out. Someday. Soon-ish.

I continued having contractions through the evening that increased in intensity and length. I refused to time them. Once I felt like they were strong enough to make me want to yell, then I would time them. I told Marilyn and Eric that in a perfect world, I would go to bed, have labor through the night, wake Eric around 5 or 6 a.m. to go to the hospital and I would have the baby before Wesley even woke up in the morning. I went to bed hopeful, but expecting that-- best case scenario-- I would be in labor all the next day and the baby would come late in the evening.

I did manage to sleep from about 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. but by that point the contractions were gnarly enough I couldn’t even pretend to sleep.  Lying on my side made them completely terrible and being giantly pregnant, that meant the only other position I could get in that would allow me to remain in bed was sitting. So I sat up and starting timing. Seven or eight minutes apart, but they were definitely getting strong. I was so elated. Call me crazy, but those who know me well know that I love birth. I am amazed and inspired by the process. I feel that there is nothing more sacred and God-like that we can do in life than birth. As I sat in bed breathing and praying and contracting, I felt so peaceful. A daughter was coming to me. Soon. Really really soon.

Here’s where the TMI part starts, so if you are squeamish, just skip to the part about “And then she was born!”

I went to the bathroom around 4 a.m. (without turning on the lights or even flushing because I didn’t want to wake anyone) and it seemed like things felt a little different than usual. At about 4:30-ish I went to the bathroom again and I felt prompted to turn on the light. I was a bit freaked out to discover a lot of blood in the toilet. I checked and sure enough, I was bleeding fairly heavily. My contractions were still 5 or 6 minutes apart but I wasn’t sure what the heck all the blood was about and decided it would be best to wake up Eric and go to the hospital.

Throughout the whole pregnancy I had been praying to know for certain when to go to the hospital. With Wesley, I had gone to the hospital when I met all the criteria they told me about in my birthing class and I was only dilated 1 cm. My spirits were crushed then and I really didn’t want to repeat that experience. I certainly would not have gone to the hospital when my contractions were still so far apart, but I didn’t remember anything about blood in any of my birthing literature so I just decided to go.

We didn’t hurry. I told Eric to go ahead and take a shower and we ate breakfast. I tried to make myself look a little presentable (since there are always pictures of you immediately after birth—how cruel) and pack the last minute things in between contractions. We woke Marilyn to let her know we were on our way and headed out. Thank goodness she was there so we didn’t have to call someone to come stay with Wesley. The 15 minute drive to the hospital seemed so long. And I didn’t remember it being so bumpy before! As we drove in the car, the contractions slowed back to 6 minutes apart. I found myself getting discouraged and really hoped that I wasn’t pulling a false alarm, but I felt like puking every contraction so I figured it wasn’t completely false labor.

We get to the hospital and check in right around 6 a.m. I had to stop a few times along the walk to the maternity ward so I could hold on to Eric and breathe through contractions. (And tell people that NO I do not want a wheelchair I’m FINE). At the maternity desk as I checked in I was sure they thought I was crazy. I was standing there talking to them just fine—not out of breath or grimacing in pain or anything. Surely I could not be in active labor. The nurse said to follow her down the hall to the triage room—it must have been right at about 4 or 5 minutes after I got there because another contraction hit hard. I got down on my hands and knees because that was the best way for me to deal with them at that moment. I heard Eric say, “Yeah she’s fine.” And the nurse said incredulously, “So this is normal?” If I wasn’t in the thick of a massive contraction I think I could have slapped her. Seriously? Are you honestly a labor and delivery nurse and have never seen a woman stop in the hall for a contraction?? And hands and knees is pretty much a textbook labor position so yeah. NORMAL. My goodness.

Eventually I make it to the triage room and get in the gown. I go to the bathroom before she checks my progress and sure enough there is still more blood. I’m a little freaked by that but the nurse doesn’t seem concerned. Not that her lack of concern meant anything to me; I had already decided she had no idea what she was doing. Anyway, I finally get on the table and she says I’m at an 8. FOR REAL?? I was hoping for a 5 or 6. I couldn’t believe I had already dilated that far! Apparently, if your water hasn’t broken you do bleed quite a bit when you are that far into labor. I didn’t have that experience with Wesley because they broke my water when I was at about 5 cm.

Anyway, the nurse then said the weirdest thing to me. “Unfortunately, it looks like you are going to have this baby really soon.” Why in the world would that be unfortunate??? Unfortunate for whom, exactly? I don’t know why she paused there, because what she was trying to communicate was that ALL the rooms were full and I would have to birth there in the teensy triage room—to which I replied, “What? This room sucks! (pause for a contraction) I don’t want to have a baby in here. Is this even a birthing bed?” “Well,” says the oh-so-endearing-and-helpful nurse, “it’s a birthing stretcher.” And then I snarkily reply, “I’ve never even heard of that. And I think it sucks.” I’m not going to pretend that I was being pleasant at that point. I was pretty much ready to kill the chick. Poor girl.  I’m sure she wasn’t as bad as she was in my head right then. I was in active labor, what can I say. And I wasn’t horrible. Just a little snarky.

Thankfully they had just finished cleaning a c-section recovery room and I can move in there. I stand in the hallway for an eternity or so while they wheel in carts of stuff you apparently need to cram in a tiny room to make it more crowded, or rather, that you need for birth. By that point I was getting fairly oblivious to what was going on and very much in my birthing zone. I was really really ready to meet my baby. My body was rearin’ to go and I needed to get a baby out. About an hour after we got there we get into the room. I crawl onto the bed and say to my midwife Jennifer, “Do you know my dilation right now?” Well I really had crawled onto the bed so she had a pretty clear view of what was going on and she said, “Ooh yeah. You are dilated to 10. Go ahead and push now.”

Again, WHAT? So that’s why I was feeling so ready to have the baby. I really couldn’t believe I was already there though. I didn’t really feel the urge to push which was unexpected for me. With Wesley I felt my body start needing to push when I was only at a 7. I tried to start pushing but I told Jennifer that I felt unnatural pushing where I was and I also thought I was going to poop on her if I kept trying. I thought it would work better to move to the toilet. It did. Thanks to my doula friend for that little tip. I sat there pushy pushy pushing and probably cutting off circulation to Eric’s fingers in the process (he’s the best labor partner ever by the way). A different nurse comes in and says she’s replacing whats-her-name whose shift had just ended and I think I might have said “Thank goodness” out loud, even though I meant to only say it in my head. Then soon enough people start saying, “There’s the head! Oh and LOTS of hair!!” and Jennifer tells me matter of factly to get off the toilet and go back toward the bed. I know she’s right, but I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to get myself there with a head between my legs. She takes one arm and Eric takes the other and they help me slowly shuffle over to the side of the bed where I kneel down and push like crazy. Then I shifted into more of a squat and said, “I can’t do this.” Honestly at that moment I was pretty sure that it would be ok to just stay pregnant. I was sure that the baby would not fit through that spot and that I didn’t need to make that happen and if I did I would die. Jennifer was behind me ready to catch the baby and in a very calm and stern voice said, “Yes you can.” Those were the three words I needed. No more, no less. I pushed and there was her head, push, there’s the baby!

We were both there, alive. She was screaming her brains out and I was smiling and cooing at her. Funny how quickly the tables turn. I was screaming mad only moments earlier but seeing my tiny sweet little girl made it all worthwhile.

It was such a beautiful birth. Absolutely everything I could have hoped for. I hadn’t clicked with Jennifer the one time I had seen her in my prenatal visits so I wasn’t totally excited that she was the one on call, but the moment she walked into the triage room I felt right at home with her. She was perfect for me in the moment. She let me do whatever was intuitive for me and gave me encouragement without being annoying. She was very positive and helpful and exactly what I wanted in a midwife right then. Reese was born an hour and a half after I got to the hospital. The Lord definitely answered my prayer of knowing when to go to the hospital. If I had waited until my contractions were 2 or 3 minutes apart like I thought I should, I might have had the baby in the car.

All in all it was a beautiful, miraculous, spiritual, perfect birth. I’m so grateful to my Heavenly Father to be able to share in the creative process and feel the power of the human body. It’s truly amazing.