Friday, November 21, 2014

Lilla's Natural Birth ~ Part Two

So there I am, after weeks of false labor, sitting in the bathroom at 2 am, a tad over 40 weeks pregnant, contractions, bloody show, the works, and I'm trying to talk myself out of this being It. I had given my family and friends false alarms in the past weeks and did not want to do that again. How foolish. This girl, on her fourth baby, giving her backup crew false alarms?! Disgrace. So I wasn't going to do that again. 

I went back to bed. For like 2.3 seconds and then popped back up again in much too much pain to lay down. Contractions - I got out my contraction timing app - were coming inconsistently from 5 to 7 to sometimes even 12 minutes apart. They would last 40 to 90 seconds and I could still walk through them. I paced the house and finished up my very last minute hospital packing. 

As the minutes wore on I was still in doubt about this being real labor because the contraction pattern wasn't that stellar...then again they were getting more intense with each one. And I was walking and they weren't stopping, something that never happened during those bouts of prodromal labor. 

I rubbed some Clary Sage oil (if you don't know about my essential oil obsession by now you've been in a cave somewhere...I'm obnoxious...I love them) on my lower abdomen to strengthen and regulate the contractions and within about 30 minutes it worked. They were convincing enough for me to text my mom in Chicago and wake up Ira. This was at about 4 am. 

"Ira..." I shook the snoring giant out of his sleep, "I'm having good contractions and some other decent signs." (He will not allow the words mucous plug to come from my mouth in his presence. Baby.) He was groggy and I had to wake him up about three times before he was really alert. 

He took a shower. I paced.
He rubbed my back, wide-eyed. I swayed. 
He made coffee. I woke the kids. 
He broke the coffee maker. I said it didn't matter.
He gathered the hospital bags. I supported myself on the kitchen counter and tried to relax through some pretty fantastic contractions. {"Fantastic" meaning they hurt like hell.}
He putzed with the coffee maker more. I said, "IF YOU TOUCH THE COFFEE MAKER ONE MORE TIME..."

There was a point while I was getting the boys dressed in their closet that I had one of those contractions; the kind that just about bring you to your knees. Except I couldn't go to pieces because it was just Britt and I in the closet and I just couldn't do that to him. So I bent over the sock bin as that wave rocked me for a good minute and a half. Britt didn't notice, he was too busy with his monologue about which "Big Brother" shirt would be best for the day. And if you know Britt at all you know there are lots if words that can be said about this topic. So. Many Words.

As soon as I emerged from the closet I was a changed woman {dramatic, I know} because from then on I knew this was IT. This was so, so very IT. I'm in labor and not just a little in labor...a lot in labor. So I waited for another contraction and as soon as it was over I texted the friend I had lined up for childcare and called the midwife. It was about 5 am at this point.

The midwife answered, groggily, "Hello? This is Diana."
"Hi. This is Ashley..."
"Oh..." (pause...rubbing eyes, sitting up in bed as I imagine it.) "Is it TIME?" She sounded excited. That made me smile. 
"Well...I think so." Still tentative. Silly me. "Here's what's going on: contractions every three to four minutes and I'm getting to the point that I can't talk through them."
"So. I think it's probably time that you get to the birthing center." She says, with a hint of 'you stupid girl' in her voice. Just a hint.
"Okay. Yeah." I say. "I can be there in about an hour."
"I'll be there." She says..."hurry."

We herded three giddy children to the minivan in the still dark morning. But because they were, in fact, three giddy children and I was slowing down quite a bit because of back-to-back contractions we didn't get out of the house until about 30 minutes after I was hoping to. The contractions slowed when I got into the car - blessedly, because when they hit while I was sitting it was everything I could do to stay seated and not go into wild-woman mode with the kids in the car. I only had one while we were on our way to drop them off. 

Kid-free and on our way to the birth center {a 15 minute drive}the contractions got more serious. I'm not sure how to describe them. It was like my insides were turning into the tightest, strongest solid lead ball. And my hurt. That's all I'll say about that.

So, when I turned on the Hypnobabies "Your Baby's Beautiful Birthing Day" audio CD and the woman said something in her sing-songy lulling voice about going to my "special secret place" I said, "Screw my secret place." Ira looked at me with wide-eyes and a grin and stepped heavily on the gas pedal. {For the record, this is the first time my Hypnobabies coping tactics didn't seem so appealing to me. All of the time leading up to this they were very helpful and soothing.}

I texted the midwife as we pulled into the hospital parking lot and found a close spot. I declined the service of a wheelchair because at this point walking - even through the massive hospital lobby - was more attractive to me than being confined to a seat for any longer. The car ride was close to excruciating. So I made as little a spectacle of myself as possible while waddling slowly through the lobby and stopping at 1-2 minute intervals to work through contractions. When we walked through the birth center doors it was 6:20 in the morning. Much later than it should have been. 

I got to my gorgeous birthing room - so pretty and restful and the place that I had been envisioning myself giving birth for the past four months - and just couldn't believe I was there. For the big event. I was so happy...til another wave hit and I about threw the nurse taking my vitals to the wall so I could stand and sway through it. I think I had about three contractions in the birthing room and then the midwife checked me for dilation. Imagine my surprise when she proclaimed me 8-9 centimeters. wonder I had been a writhing mess in the car...I had been in transition. 

 I texted my friend who was going to act as my birth doula - "8-9 centimeters!" She happened to be working a night shift in the hospital I was in but didn't get off til about 7:30. I wasn't sure she'd make it.

"Do you want to get in the tub?" She motioned to the jetted tub, huge and luxurious and waiting. 
"Yes." I said. 

And the rest is quite a blur. 

As soon as I hit that water a force hit me that was like nothing I've ever felt. It was all of the strength in me. It was closing tight and opening wide and made me feel huge and powerful and tiny and like I wanted to escape it and embrace it all at the same time. 

I could not sit. I had to get on all fours in that tub and did whatever it took to get through that feeling. And Ira was awesome through it all. He was right there to put pressure on my back or rub my shoulder or give me a sip of cool water. He was everything I needed. It was at this point that I started making noise. Like...real noise. Like pushing. And I didn't mean to.

I vaguely remember a hushed conversation between the midwife and the nurse assisting her. "We need to get her out of the tub." They didn't want me to birth in the water. "She's ready. She's...we...we're gonna have a baby in the tub." They seemed resigned to it when I had a break in my contractions and I could relax for a minute.

I managed to get out of the tub and lumber over to the bed. I got into a side-lying position and the freight train hit. I started roaring - I could hear myself sometimes and I was surprised by how loud my voice was and by how much it didn't matter. When a contraction came it was like a locomotive moving down and out of me. There was no conscious decision to "push." No one had to command me to "push now" or tell me how to. My body did it without a thought as to what I was doing or how I was doing it. 

The midwife told me a couple of times to "slow down!" and I said, "I cannot slow down...this is just happening." And that's what it felt like. Like if someone offered me all the wealth in the world if I stopped pushing, or held a gun to my head and said "don't push" I just wouldn't be able to stop. 

I think I had about 3 contractions in the bed. Overwhelming, huge, mind-numbing contractions where I think all I could say is, "this is big, this is big..." that was my chant. And then there was a lull in the contractions that lasted about 3 minutes. It was like a breath of fresh air. I just lay there, looking around, sipping my water, and telling Ira he was doing good.

We waited. I said, "this is a good rest."

And then another built and I felt it. That infamous Ring of Fire everyone talks about. And it So they've named that aptly. 

And as the ring of fire lit me up, my sweet friend burst through the door in an "is this a movie?" type way. She hopped onto the bed and I felt her cool hand put pressure on my leg like we practiced in our hypnobabies practice. And I was so glad she was there to see the baby come. 

My water still hadn't broken at this point but when she started to crown and I bore down in those final  contractions I felt that gush and as her head was born, my water broke. I remember my midwife saying, "This is pretty cool."

And then there she was: warm and squirming and herself. She was just her little self. On my belly instead of in it. Perfect, pink, with all her fingers and toes. My little surprise girl.

It was 7:04 am. Less than 45 minutes from the time we walked in the door of the birth center. We named her Elizabeth Joy with the nickname of Lilla. 
And the stats for all my stat-lovers {I love me some stats}: 8 lbs 12 oz and 21 3/4 inches long. Head: 14"

After her birth I had a hemorrhage which really isn't my favorite memory and I won't go into detail as I did for the birth story. But I did want to say something quick about my birth team. They were flawless in caring for me during this time. Never did I have the thought that I wished I were under the care of a physician. The midwife was quick and sure and did everything for me that needed to be done. Medications - check. Manual interventions - check. Talking me through it - check. Tenderness - check. She had it all.
And my doula was irreplaceable at this point. We actually were able to use some hypnosis principles at this time because the pain got pretty intense and the situation was scary. The words she said as she sat with me on the bed and held my hand kept me grounded and in touch with reality. 

So. There we have it. My fourth baby and very first natural birth experience. And it was awesome and powerful and big. Here's what I have to say to anyone who says, "I just couldn't do it" : 
Yes. You can. You can do it. We can all do it. We were built to do it. 

You want to know something that I didn't realize until just a few days ago when I started thinking about writing this story? I never once thought about an epidural. Because that was one of my most frequently asked questions: "What if you want an epidural?" It never even entered my mind. Maybe because, once I realized I was in labor, it went so quickly that I didn't have time to wish for one. But when it's not an option I guess it's something you don't even think about.

One last thought. Yes. Contractions hurt. Yes. They are most intense pain you'll probably ever feel in your life. But they don't last forever. They aren't even the entirety of your labor. They come in waves and those waves have ebbs and flows and peaks and valleys. The peaks are blinding but the valleys are complete rest. There is no pain when the contraction has passed. That's what makes it doable.

I'll quit rambling now. I really wish I had gotten my act together enough to get photos for you. But I just don't have the time to sit around blissfully editing photos. So this is the photo-less birth story and we're all just going to have to be happy with that. {Insert smiley face here.} We all know that I'm a better writer than photographer anyway. 

Thanks for letting me air my journey and give voice to my thoughts. 

Now to go nurse a baby...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lilla's Natural Birth ~ Part One

From the start I knew baby number four's labor and birth would be different from my other three. Pitocin'd, epidural'd inductions with both boys (which went wonderfully as inductions go) and a natural start but epidural finish with Evie were all I knew of childbirth. But when I found myself pregnant for the fourth time I had this desire to see myself do childbirth without pain medication...or "au natural" as people like to quip. I just knew my body could do it without all of the interventions and I was excited to experience that.

I was thrilled when the hospital where I work opened a brand new (completely gorgeous) low-risk birthing center run exclusively by midwives. I began seeing my midwife around the 20 week mark and was so pleased with the extra mile she seemed to go in her care. "If I were a midwife I'd want to be her." Is what I told the husband after just about every appointment. She was the mama I needed and the friend whose hand I could hold and the expert with the opinions that mattered.

Week 37 of my pregnancy I began having false labor. This business that would wake me up almost like clockwork around three in the morning. Contractions that would come at regular intervals and felt like The Real Thing for hours until...they didn't anymore. I would get up to manage the pain thinking, this could be it! and as soon as I got up they would slow and then stop.

Here's a little tidbit about me: I'm not a patient, long-suffering lady. I'm...well, I'm a bear when I'm pregnant. A snarling, short tempered, hairy beast.

So. When those contractions would come and get my hopes all up and interrupt my coveted slumber and then just S T O P (Girls, they would just STOP. Just like that. The end. No labor. No baby.) it woke the hibernating mama bear and pissed her off royally. The bear would roam the house by day in a frustrated rage and then toss in bed by night cursing her body. I didn't handle it with grace. Not proud to admit.

All that to say - when I hit 40 weeks (Oct 27) and still had no sign of baby other than this infuriating prodromal labor phenomenon I was a bit of a mad woman. I saw my midwife at 40 weeks and 1 day. The non-stress test was great and baby was happy as a pretty little clam in her water world. I think my left eye started to twitch neurotically when the midwife said, "She's floating really high, not even engaged. You're a little dilated. Everything's perfect." with a big smile on her face. Irritating woman.

She offered the membrane sweep and I said "yes please" and she did quite a thorough job of sweeping those membranes right out. Big ouch. And then she looked me in the eye, rubbed my belly and said with eyes full of sympathy, "Want me to do it again?" Blessed woman. I absolutely wanted her to do it again. She gave me a 10 minute breather - in which I had a tearful conversation with my husband - and came back to repeat her magic a second time.

Another belly rub and a confident assurance that she thought she had done what needed to be done to kick- start my labor and I was out the door. Before she sent me away she gave me instructions for the day: go have lunch, take a brisk hour-long walk and then relax. "Put on soothing music, take a warm bath with good-smelling oils and tell your body, 'if I have a baby today, wonderful! if I don't, wonderful!' She will come when she comes." And that was that. I left the birthing center feeling large, weepy, and gloriously crampy.

We stopped for sandwiches on the way home. I took my walk and those cramps kept coming. I got myself in the bathtub, turned off all the lights and diffused some of my essential oils. I listened to my Hypnobabies track and dozed and replayed all of the good things my midwife had said in my last appointments.

She said once my body finally did go into labor it would be beautiful and meaningful and everything I had hoped for. She reminded me that I chose this route for a reason and that experiencing birth this way was what I wanted (this was said when I was dangerously close to asking about the prospect of pitocin induction...I think she could see it in my eyes. Told you she was good.). She said that although baby was never engaged or even close to being in the birth canal that that was pretty typical of a fourth baby and she may not even engage until I began to push...and that was okay. She said babies who do that have gorgeous heads because they never have time to get smooshed. She said my body had the perfect structure to have a quick and easy birth and not to worry. I thought about all of those good things and tried to tame mama bear as much as possible.

Beck - my oldest - had soccer practice that night and so we headed out as a family to the soccer fields. And I strapped on my walking shoes and became That Pregnant Lady who had fire in her eyes and relentlessly walked around and around and around that walking track. Everyone I passed wisely kept their mouths shut and gave me knowing looks and let me do my work. I walked. I walked through some good contractions and I just breathed in the air and took in the gilded leaves on the trees and told baby, "it's okay to come's okay."

We got home around seven and I made dinner, slowly. The cramps were intensifying and some became what I would call strong braxton hicks but nothing really impressive. Nothing to even compare to my false labor that I'd been dealing with. So I ate a piece of toast, wandered around the house, packed our bags (again), called my parents and said, "maybe tonight, maybe not" (again), cried to my husband (again), and ultimately went to bed pregnant. Again.

I figured even if this was it I should probably sleep a bit while I could. And I did sleep. From about 10:30 until 2 am. When something woke me up. A contraction. A good one. But it wasn't much different from all of those other middle-of-the-night wake up calls when nothing real was happening. Except for my visit to the bathroom. That's when things went from groggy, "here we go with false labor again." to "oooohhh...maybe this is IT."

My mucous plug made quite a flashy appearance. (Good Lord, I hope none of my high school boyfriends are reading this. Or any boys for that matter...) I had never seen this impressive bit before, having lost it with my previous babies when I was in active labor and pretty far along. I just never noticed it confined to my hospital bed.

So there I was. In my bathroom, staring at my undies and breathing through a decent contraction at two in the morning on Wednesday, October 29th. I was 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant. And all I could think was, "Aw, this probably isn't it. I shouldn't bother anyone."

{This story is getting quite lengthy. So I'm going to break it into two parts. Part #2 goes quite quickly so it shouldn't be nearly as long. 'Til next time...}