Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ashley Caleb's Birth Story

On March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, around 8:30am, just before I thought I would pass out or tear in two, or both… I thought: “Someone lied about this natural birth thing! If I live, I will track them down and kill them!!!”

I lived, but I'm strangely less motivated to murder with this beautiful little boy in my arms. I will, however, certainly inflict the most truthful account of Ash's birth on all of you. You are welcome.

Eric and I have spent almost every day for 21 months preparing for a natural birth. We began when I was pregnant with Milo. All of our energy the last trimester of our pregnancy with him was spent researching and preparing to reach our goal of an unmediated birth through the Bradley method. Instead, Milo's birth was induced and highly medicalized thanks to complications from gestational diabetes. As soon as I recovered I began working towards our goal once again. I dedicated myself to a strict exercise regimen and diet to help start this pregnancy at a lower weight and hopefully avoid diabetes, and continued with it throughout the pregnancy. I watched dozens of birth videos, poured over birth stories, and followed bloggers that I thought would help us be successful. Eric and I researched local hospitals, obstetricians, and midwives, re-read the Bradley books, and studied every birth documentary we could get our hands on. There was no reason why we should not reach our goal this time.

When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes this time we knew we may face an induction, but our midwife was confidant we would not be facing an IV-Pitocin-epidural birth experience like last time. I stayed active, took the herbs she suggested, and by 35 weeks my cervix was already dilating and very soft. We had a decent chance of nudging labor along if necessary. At my 38 week appointment on Tuesday, March 15th, I was 2-3 cm dilated and had been having long periods of contractions that were slightly more impressive than typical Braxton-hicks. My midwife stripped my membranes, though she said it would likely not work this time because she couldn't reach well. I believed her as I barely felt it. We would do it again next week.

Must be an old midwife jedi mind/uterus trick to ensure it will work.

I felt very little cramping and had no spotting that evening. Sure that I would not be having the baby this week, I went ahead and ignored my half packed bags again that night.

On Wednesday the 16th, I woke up at 6:30am for daycare and felt like someone had hit me with a baseball bat in the lower abdomen about 1000 times, then once in the head for good measure. My uterus was suspiciously silent though, not a single contraction. Calm before the storm? Or did we just piss it off by poking around at it?

After stumbling around in pain all morning, at around 11:30am I started losing a ton of bloody mucus. It was nothing like what I imagined, a little mucus and maybe some spotting. It was pink and purple chunks of mucus and who knows what else, and it just kept coming. I sat in the bathroom in shock. This had to be the bloody show. Oh God. We are not ready. I played chicken with my uterus and now I'm going to lose.

I'm not sure how to describe what happened next. It was almost like my brain turned into a computer compiling everything that HAD to happen before this baby arrived. Ninety percent of what I came up with probably didn't have to happen, like washing the sunroom windows or cleaning under the bed, but for me they were mandatory prerequisites to labor. The next 6 hours were a whirl wind of cleaning products, contractions and sheer panic. I never slowed long enough to time contractions, I needed to out run them. I assigned jobs to Eric until I felt he wasn't taking my urgency seriously. I knew I looked crazy, I knew organizing the entry closet was not a real priority, but in my world, right then, it all had to happen. I started crying and told him to get out. He still helped but just stayed out of my way.

By around 7:30pm I was spent. I showered and settled on the couch to see if my contractions were regular. They were 7 to 15 minutes apart, not painful, but a little pinchy. Four hours later I still did not fully believe this was it, I decided to go to bed to see if the contractions would stop. I laid there for 2 hours and while they slowed, they did not stop and could not be slept through. I gave up at 1:30am. I told Eric he should try to sleep and went back to timing.

When contractions were 5-8 minutes apart I was having to stop almost everything to breathe through them and sometimes lean against a wall. I woke Eric up and told him to call my mom and take Milo to her. This was it! Oh but first we had sex because who knew when we would get to again.

Eric got Milo ready and left for my mom's and I got in the shower to shave my legs and wash my hair. I thought contractions might be nearing 3 minutes apart, but I would rather have this baby in the shower than go to the hospital before I shave my legs. I think the biggest lesson of the day was that I have no concept of priority when I'm in labor.

I finished getting ready just as Eric got home. Contractions were even more intense now, but I still made him stop and take some last belly pictures before leaving the house at 6:00am.

On the way to the car I had a strong contraction that radiated down my thighs and I had to moan through it. It was amazing to me that they could get so strong, but that they just went away after. It was nothing like my Pitocin induction. This was like a million little battles and I was winning them all so far! I called the hospital on the way and told them I was in labor. I answered questions between contractions. I noticed that my body was beginning to push with them. If I tried to not push it hurt so bad, so I just let my body do it's thing. I could still breathe through them and I wouldn't consider them unbearable so I knew there was no way I was transitioning. The woman on the phone said it may be early for me to be coming in, but since I was already on my way to come in anyway. It was discouraging, I didn't want to face a whole day of contractions like this, but I tried to not think about it.

We got to the Dominican Hospital soon before 7:00am. I had to stop twice from the car to the front doors of the hospital for contractions, and two more times from the doors to our room. It took me forever to change into my gown between contractions. I was starting to feel a little panicked. These were a lot of work. I had to grab onto stuff and breathe and moan, but the staff was treating me like I was in early labor. I paced between contractions and leaned against the wall during, relaxing everything and letting my body press down. The nurse was so nice, she was very up beat and I felt silly working so hard in front of her. I was sure she was thinking “Wow if you think this is hard…” But I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t sit either, I felt like I was sitting on his head. I got on my knees at the foot of the bed for a few contractions, which were now making my whole body shake. I was still answering questions about my medical history and such. I finally asked “should I feel like I need to push?” The nurse’s look should have been answer enough, “Um… no.”

She had me get up on the bed and checked my cervix. All she could feel was my bag of water bulging through, so she got the charge nurse. The charge nurse checked me and then grabbed an OB who confirmed, I was 9 cm dilated. I could not believe it! It was like winning the lottery! That's it, I'm almost done, I did the hard part already! According to Bradley, labor is hard work, transition is the worst, but when you are pushing you are finally getting to do something and I remember several women in the books stopping between pushing contractions and saying "Oh I like this better." YEAH! Let me push!

She had me get up on the bed and checked my cervix. All she could feel was my bag of water bulging through, so she got the charge nurse. The charge nurse checked me and then grabbed an OB who confirmed, I was 9 cm dilated. I could not believe it! It was like winning the lottery! That’s it, I’m almost done, I did the hard part already! According to Bradley, labor is hard work, transition is the worst, but when you are pushing you are finally getting to do something and I remember several women in the books stopping between pushing contractions and saying “Oh I like this better.” YEAH! Let me push!

My midwife finally came in but I was barely aware. I was just trying to survive. I was getting scared, everything was moving too fast. The nurses were excited. "Ok let's have this baby!" "This will go so fast!" And many comments on how calm I was, the "calmest 9 cm I've ever seen" one nurse said. I didn't know what to say, I appreciated their enthusiasm and compliments, but I was beginning to lose it. No where near calm. I suppose I was calm the way a deer staring down headlights is calm.

Everyone prepared for my midwife to break my water, and the moment she did my body started to bear down. I can't emphasize enough how involuntary this pushing was, or the immense power behind it. It was like I was exploding from the inside, only there was a bowling ball keeping it all in and all that pressure was behind it.

In that first horrible moment, a thousand thoughts came to me at once, like a really fucked up enlightenment. First I was pissed off at Bradley for writing that awful book and making me believe that I could do this. This was SO FUCKING BAD! Who were those evil women who said pushing wasn't so bad, just hard work, and actually chatted between pushes? Who could possibly encourage anyone else to do this and not go straight to hell?

I was hating them all, I was livid that I had been fooled... then I realized that it was too late. I had to push and I couldn't fight this. It was going to hurt and it was going to suck, but I took a breath and pushed with everything I had for what felt like an eternity. It was terrifying, I couldn't stop to breathe anymore. I thought I was going to pass out. I was sure the baby was stuck and I was going to die. Everyone kept saying he was right there and to push a little harder and finally, when I thought there was no harder, I gave just a little more and his head popped out. A second passed, no relief, my body bore down again and I pushed with it. It was so hard to push through something that hurt so much but I did anyway and he wriggled out and they placed him on my belly. It was 8:32am, Ashley Caleb was here. He weighed 8 pounds and was 21 1/2 inches long.

Someone told me to open my eyes and I reached down to grab him. I just kept saying that I couldn't believe he was here. They gave him a little oxygen because he was purple, but he never left my arms. I kissed him and was just so happy to finally be holding him.

I pushed out the placenta and the nurses all gathered around it because it was so big and had all these extra lobes. I hadn't torn at all. I was bleeding quite a bit so I was given Pitocin, Cytotec, and they massaged my uterus for quite some time.

I was so happy, but at the same time I was in shock over what had just happened. I was trying to decide how I felt about it all. I thought I would feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment over having given birth naturally, but I didn't. I couldn't believe I had put myself through that voluntarily. I wasn't sure I could ever do it again. I could tell from everyone around me that I had done a good job. Eric was beaming. I overheard a nurse say "What a great birth to start the day with!" And Ash, who had still never left my arms and was now happily nursing, was healthy and staring up at me with bright clear eyes.

I have decided that it was hard, but I brought him into this world the safest way possible. I took no risks with his health or mine. Physically, I felt amazing very soon after. No soreness or pain or medications to get out of my system. I have a lot to share about our hospital stay and my recovery, but you will just have to wait for another post because right now I have a hungry little baby to tend to.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Baby II Week 37 & 38: This was fun, we can stop now.

So I just haven't felt like blogging much; honestly, I'm getting to the point where doing anything at all is a huge deal. I'm barely exercising, which hasn't been great for my blood sugar. I've been cooking only a couple times week, Eric is eating a lot of sandwiches. I'm slowly moving into fall apart mode. Emotionally I'm great, but my body is mess. Baby will not get off my sciatic nerve and I spend a lot of time limping and cursing. At 38 weeks exactly I began swelling. Feet, face, hands... I know where this is going and it just gets uglier and uglier. This is when I consider throwing myself a flight of stairs, nothing from this point til birth is flattering or fun. I believe that it is at this point that Eric also considers throwing me down a flight of stairs. Thank God we don't have stairs.

I have now dilated to a 2-3 cm and today I had my membranes stripped. I bet Eric loved the part when the midwife pulled her hand out and spread her fingers to show off all the blood and mucus. If you know what mucus plug looks like, you know how gross this is. This wasn't our regular midwife, and we hope we don't get her on d-day. She is very nice, but she referred to Pitocin as a vitamin and said we can't video tape the birth if she is delivering. Lame. Fortunately if we do induce, we will definitely have our midwife.

So speaking of the induction, if we do it will be on the 28th, which is great because it goes a long with my obsession with 28. Hopefully I go into labor on my own though, I really would love for my water to break all dramatic!

I am having lots of contractions, sometimes they are very regular (15 min apart for 5 hours one day) and intense. I didn't feel them this much last time and they give me hope that I will be able to go into labor on my own, or at least be able to be induced more easily.

We took our maternity/family portraits. We tried and JCPenney's and after they made us wait 45 minutes and then couldn't even get a decent shot of Milo (tip: toddlers don't sit for the camera and smile! What photographer doesn't know this?) so we just left. My wonderful aunt took these, she is so talented. Here are my favorites, sorry there are so many!

I'm 37 weeks and 6 days here. I've gained 30 pounds. No I don't want to talk about it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Baby II Week 34, 35 & 36: Pregnant Women Should Come with Warnings

Oh this is pathetic of me, another 3 weeks gone and again no blog. Sorry, no excuse this time really. I have gained around 28 pounds, quite the jump! I am experiencing a little swelling in my hands and feet, but my wedding ring is still holding on for dear life. I'm currently obsessed with milk and peanut butter.

Let's just start deep I guess. I'm not an angry person, but I don't believe I care about other people's feelings as much as I maybe should, and how what I say will make them feel. That's normal me. Pregnant me should come with a warning. I think it's only fair to at least alert the public that with every week I have less patience and care even less about other's feelings. I nearly chased an annoying insurance guy out of the house with a frying pan last night, I opted to hurt his feelings instead. Maybe the Surgeon General will come out with a warning for me to wear.

As long as we are all focused on how I feel and my opinions, I have another to share. As we get closer to having this baby I'm having more and more people suggest we have sex to get labor going. I get this a lot, and usually I laugh and say "oh that's not a problem for us," or something like that... but after hearing it SO much it finally got Eric and I thinking, is everyone giving up sex in pregnancy and just going back at it again when necessary? I'm now officially annoyed by the suggestion, because it implies we aren't getting it on already and unless your doctor has strapped an "out of order" sign around your waist (not that you would have a waist at this point) why wouldn't you be? Eric and I have brainstormed and have come up with nothing. So... WARNING: If you suggest we have sex (which is like suggesting we breathe) I'm going to assume you don't have a healthy sex life, pity your husband, and I'm sure other judgmental thoughts. I also may spontaneously share too much information about OUR sex life. Just a heads up!

Enough with annoyances, lets talk baby!

We met another midwife at the practice and we love her. She is laid back, attentive, has a sense of humor and looks like she washes her hair. I approve. I had another ultrasound and the results were not spectacular. With the sudden weight gain (8 pounds in 8 days) and struggle with my blood sugar, I thought there was a good chance that I was no longer carrying an average sized baby. Mother's instincts for the win! He measured over 7 pounds at 35 weeks, average is closer to 5. My amniotic fluid levels are also high, very high, which I also half expected. I still insist that in a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy we should not be making weight estimates and talk induction without serious cause, but once again I'm having to accept I am not having a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy... but at least I'm coping far better this time!

I told my midwife we were doing a natural childbirth refresher course on March 19th and she laughed at me and said "Oh you are having this baby before then." Last time I would have been upset by the idea of trying to have the baby before my body decided it was time, but right now I feel ok about trying to nudge labor along. But this time, NO pitocin. If we can't get him to pack his bags and move out through stripping my membranes, herbs, and other non chemical forms of induction, I want to wait it out. My midwife thinks it will go well though, we are looking at inducing at 38 weeks. My cervix is very soft, I'm 1 cm dilated, and baby's head is very low, she was touching it during my exam. Unlike before, I'm feeling really good and relaxed about this, and that alone should contribute to a more positive outcome!

In the meantime, I am still hitting the gym for turbo kickboxing, walking daily, and taking the awful herbs my midwife suggested. I'm taking black cohosh, partridge berry, and black haw 4 times a day. I put it in tea... it tastes like bourbon and Aqua Net hair spray... Mmmmmm.

Now, pictures!

34 weeks, 21 pounds gained.

35 weeks, 25 pounds gained. Heading to the gym.

omg right?

36 weeks, 23 pounds gained.