Friday, January 14, 2011

Connor's Birth Story

My official "due date", for what it's worth, was December 26th. I didn't go on maternity leave until I was 37 weeks because I figured that I'd go around a week past my due date, as I had in the past. The end of the school term came and went. Christmas came and went. New Year's came and went. Friends and family were speculating as to when he would be sister's birthday was January 3rd...maybe that day? Both of my boys before him were born on a Tuesday. I commented to my doula that I thought he would be born the Tuesday after Christmas, since it was after my due date and, of course, a Tuesday. But he didn't come on anyone's schedule or particular day! He did, however, come on a Tuesday. On Jan. 2nd, my midwife came by the house to talk about post-date issues. She discussed large babies (potentially over 10 lbs) and the possibility of me having polyhydramnios. I'm not the professional (yet!), but I felt confident that, although I was huge, I didn't have either. I was measuring smaller than I was with Gavin, who was over 10 lbs, and I had only gained a total of 20 lbs the entire pregnancy. Despite my gut feeling that all was well, I let my mind get the better of me, wondering if everything was alright in there, hoping that my baby was healthy, etc. It's stressful to go not only past your due date, but then past the latest point that you've ever given birth! That night I had a breakdown, crying and stressed. I woke up the next morning, and just had the feeling nothing was going to happen that day. I prayed and asked God to please keep my baby and my body healthy, and to let me deliver safely at home as planned. And I had peace. I knew He would let it happen in His time. I went to bed that night and told Travis "It'll be tomorrow. It's Tuesday!" Despite my feeling that it would be the next day, I stayed up and watched "Inception" with Travis, then went to bed at around 11:30pm.

I woke up at 3:30am on Jan. 4th at 41 weeks, 2 days with a crampy uterus. I had been having prodromal stuff for a couple of days, so initially I didn't think anything of it. Then I felt wetness. I had to pee, though, so I wondered if I hadn't peed. Then more wetness, rapidly growing. I rolled out of bed faster than I had in months, trying not to get the sheets wet...success! I wobbled to the bathroom as fast as I could, and by the time I got there my pj pants were soaked. I checked the fluid...clear. Yay! It WOULD be today! I changed and went and woke Travis up. "Babe, my water broke!" "Is this a dream?" "Nope, it's for real. He's coming today!" I was having mild, achy contractions every so often, but nothing really laborish. I called my midwife, Detrah, at about 3:45 to let her know my water had broken, and let her know I'd call when things kicked up a notch. Then I called my doula, Melanie, to let her know the same. Travis and I double-made the bed with a plastic sheet in between, then he laid on the sofa and I sat in the recliner to try to rest. I dozed off and on between contractions, and eventually fell asleep.

At around 7:00, a contraction woke me up. They were getting stronger. Travis was still asleep. I got up and drank some water and made coffee for Travis. I woke him up, and the first thing he said was that he felt sick to his stomach. I asked if I should make him some tea and toast, and he said "No". I told him to speak now or forever hold his peace, because pretty soon I won't be giving a hoot how he feels! I made him some tea. Detrah sent me a text asking how things were, and I told her. She said she'd be over shortly. Melanie arrived at about 8:00 as I was starting to make my Groaning Cake. I had a cup of yogurt for breakfast. We talked and I contracted from time to time, stopping to lean on the counter as Mel rubbed my back. Then it was back to cooking and chatting. Travis, however, was having a miserable time. He actually vomited, then went back to bed for a little while. Detrah arrived at about 8:30 just as the boys were getting up. When I got the cake in the oven, she took my vitals and listened to the baby. All was well. Only thing was that things weren't really intensifying. In fact, they seemed to be slowing a bit. Despite all of my attempts to get him to turn, he had remained posterior for the last couple of months...a fact that really influenced the course of this birth.

Travis and I walked around the block, briskly as I had only one or two contractions the entire time. I sat and rocked on my birth ball. I was given blue cohosh and acupressure. "Holy cow, is that stuff tinctured in vodka?? That burned all the way down!" I drank and ate some cake (which was fabulous!), but didn't feel much like eating. I took some Goldenseal. I took on several contractions with my foot up on a chair in a modified lunge. I joked that I felt like the guys in those Captain Morgan commercials. :) Detrah lifted my belly with a rebozo with contractions. THAT made a difference, as it had with Gavin's birth. He didn't turn, but things began to feel different. We walked around the block again. I commented when we got back "Yeah, there was NO power-walking this time!" I had several really decent contractions during the walk. Detrah went home for lunch, as my contractions were still on the slow side. She recommended that I do some positional things to help him turn, like elbows and knees with contractions and/or with a leg up a la Captain Morgan. She also measured out some black and blue cohosh and left it, with the instructions to take it if I felt the need. I took the tinctures shortly after she left and did the positions during contractions, and noticed more changes. Things were definitely starting to pick up. The boys mostly played quietly or watched cartoons, and occasionally came out into the main room to see what was going on. Trav and Mel took turns catering to them...they were bottomless pits that day!! They ate CONSTANTLY. It seemed that they were less interested in the fact that their brother was being born than what they were going to eat next! :) Lord help my grocery budget when they're teenagers...

When Detrah got back, she checked me and the baby again...and again, all was well. I was really glad that my labor was picking up, but it was really uncomfortable. As soon as contractions started intensifying, I noticed a big difference in these contractions and the ones that I had with Gavin. With Gavin's birth, being vocal was distracting to me. I was very "in myself", and quiet. This time I felt the need to be vocal. Mel was right there all the time, reminding me to relax my jaw and relax my mouth, and make low sounds. It helped. Trav and I decided to go for another walk. This time I was contracting every 2-3 houses! I had to stop walking and "slow dance" with Travis with contractions...there was no walking thru them. Trav explained to our 2-doors-down neighbor that I was in labor, as she laughed and said that she figured. She asked if we would be going to the hospital soon. No, we're having him at home. That was her next question, she said, then wished us luck as we waddled along. Our mail lady saw us on the next street over. When she reached our house, I was sitting at the desk with my head in my hands...she rang the doorbell and talked to Travis for a minute, then also wished us luck and headed on her way. My favorite place to be was sitting in this very chair at the desk in front of the computer. When I had a contraction, I stood and leaned on the nearest person or the desk in front of me, rocking and moaning away. Lots of drinking water, tried a graham cracker and almost vomited. Food = bad idea. They got me a barf bucket. I labored on. Detrah asked if I felt ready to get in the water. Not yet, I said. I didn't want to get too relaxed like with Gavin's birth. I was on a roll, and didn't want it to slow down again!

At around 4:30, I had a couple of really rough contractions, accompanied by more dry heaving. As I stood and leaned on a person, my legs were actually shaking with the intensity of the contractions. During one, I heard the door open but didn't think anything of it. When I looked up after that contraction was done, I saw Alex looking at me, the other midwife who works with Detrah. "Oh, hi!" was my only greeting, as I sat down and resumed my position at the desk with my head in my hands. After the next one, I announced that I was ready for the water. I had asked Travis a couple of weeks ago to get a hose ready for attaching to the sink to fill the birth pool. He said after the fact that he didn't know what got into him, but he went out the front door and brought in the hose attached to the outside spigot! He got three blank stares from three bewildered women, then Detrah said "We need HOT water." Travis said "I knew that!" and went and got the other hose from the backyard and brought it in. For the record, the high was in the 50's that day! By about 4:45, the La Bassine was filled and I got in. It felt SO good! I remember saying "Oh, Lord have mercy!" with a huge sigh of relief. But OH, did labor pick up! Sitting in the tub felt miserable, so I leaned over the side of the tub instead, which felt only slightly less miserable. I just cannot get over how different this labor bone on bone, not necessarily more painful, just more intense. As I leaned over the side, Trav and Mel were right there, reminding me to relax, to breathe, to make low sounds...all things that I needed reminding of.

Since my water had broken, I hadn't had my cervix checked at all. But somewhere around 5 pm, I said something along the lines of "Against all reason and practicality, do you think you could check me? I said I didn't want to know, but I'm not sure how much longer that I can do this." I got a couple of chuckles, and a check. I was 9 with a lip. I was given some arnica to help with any possible swelling. A little while later, another doppler check of the baby, who was still doing great. Around 5:35, another contraction came, and what started as a low moan ended up as me yelling "PUSHING!!!" Now, I don't know if it was because of his positioning, or because of a cumulative effect of herbs or what, but WOW. I had one pushing contraction, a brief break, then what seemed like the longest contraction ever. Voices around me told me not to push unless I was having a contraction and to bring the energy down, but it felt like one never-ending contraction, and I told them so. I'd push and breathe and push and breathe, yelling while pushing, Trav telling me in a slightly panicked voice to breathe...I wanted to tell him that if I was making sound then I had oxygen, so don't worry, but I couldn't talk...just breathe, then push and yell. I could feel him moving down, but it seemed like it was taking forever. I asked if his head was out yet...he was crowning. There was no "ring of fire" or anything like that. It all seemed to be happening so slowly yet so quickly and I didn't want to tear but it felt like back-to-back contractions and the only thing that made sense to do was to keep vocalizing to keep from holding my breath and pushing with all I had...that might slow things down. About 10 minutes into pushing, his head was out and I had a break in the contractions. Hallelujah! Then one more contraction...a quick move to my hands and knees...I thought one push would do it, but nope. Without even thinking, I went to a half-crouch like kneeling a la Captain Morgan (left leg up felt totally wrong, but right leg up felt right, so I stayed that way), a push, a yell, and at 5:48pm voila!! Baby! I reached down and pulled him up out of the water, then sat leaning against the side of the tub. We did it! And he was beautiful! A full head of hair, Apgar of 10 right off the bat, gave couple of little cries, but then just looked at me. Love at first sight? Absolutely. Travis was a bit teary, the boys came in and checked out their brother and pronounced him "really cool". Gavin kept saying "Connor came out of your tummy?!" over and over again. A couple of minutes later my placenta separated, but it was a little stubborn in coming out. I took some herbs to help it come, then when the bleeding got to the point of making Detrah a little concerned, I got up and out of the water and headed to the bed. A lot of uterus massaging, a shot of pitocin in the leg, and about 15 minutes after Connor was born, our placenta came as well. After the family checked him out, Trav cut the cord and he snuggled up and started nursing. After he nursed on both sides, Detrah checked me and the bleeding status. Not a tear in sight!! I couldn't believe it!

Shortly thereafter, I took a shower and used the bathroom and then headed back to bed. I remember that strange, empty feeling and how weird it felt to just breathe without a baby in there. After I was settled in, Detrah did the newborn exam, which checked out just fine. He came in at 9 lbs, 10 oz and 20.5 inches long! Thank God for a baby under 10 lbs! While he was getting checked out, Mel heated up some shepherd's pie that I had made and made sure that I was eating and drinking and the rest of the family was fed. Then Connor came and laid on my chest to get warm while everyone finished cleaning the house. Before everyone left at around 8:30, Detrah came and sat on the bed and prayed with us, thanking God for a safe birth. So far, this has been my fastest and easiest recovery. Connor took right to nursing and we haven't had a single problem.

Looking back on this birth, it taught me a lot. Occasionally I get comments and questions asking why I choose to birth at home as long as the pregnancy is healthy. When I give my answer as to why we feel that it's the right choice for us, I almost always end my comment with the fact that each birth is as individual as the baby and the mom involved (and hence what works for me might not work for someone else). That really hit home to me this time. I think that I had sort of assumed that this birth would be even "better" than Gavin's...that I could tweak this and change that from last time and have a "perfect" birth. Well, it turned out to be just a totally different birth, individual in it's own right. Different baby, different position, different time in my life, different birth. With Gavin, I was in hard, active labor for what seemed like an eternity (only about 10 hours in reality). With Connor, labor was very stop-and-go for a majority of the time, and I was really in hard, active labor for only about 4 hours. I had practiced up on my Hypnobirthing, and it just wasn't feeling right this time. The bottom just can't predict birth! I love the fact that his birth was different, though. I can't even compare it to my others, each one is very different. And I love the fact that I just trusted my body and did what felt right, be it vocalizing or position changes during pushing. Detrah said after the fact that he was a little "sticky" coming out, and I have no doubt in my mind that my feeling the need to change positions quickly was just my body telling me what to do to get him out safely. It's a good thing when you know that you can trust your baby, trust your body, and trust birth.