Expecting our Little Brother in November!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Birth Story

In the days before the birth I was definitely having some things that could be considered "prelabor", and I totally attribute them to getting acupuncture. My friend Craig the acupuncturist guaranteed me that his patients never go more than a few days past their due dates, and I had no reason to doubt him.

So I went on my due date, Tuesday, to get acupuncture and get a chiropractic adjustment, and this set off a string of pretty consistent Braxton Hicks contractions. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I continued to have Braxton Hicks contractions often, to feel extremely uncomfortable, to get up many times each night to pee and feeling uncomfortable, etc. We went to walk around UConn on Wednesday (?) night, and while I walked around as briskly as I could with a 9 month pregnant belly, the contractions became slightly more painful, but they would go back to just tightening as soon as I stopped walking.

On Thursday I went again for acupuncture and a chiropractic adjustment, and Thursday night the Braxton Hicks contractions continued, and I woke up several times over the night. At 4 am I realized I'd woken to pee at 2, 2:30, 3, 3:30, and 4 . . . even that was a bit much for me. I felt even more uncomfortable than normal, and thought MAYBE I was in the beginning of labor, and that, either way, I couldn't really sleep any more.

So I got up and went downstairs to watch Harry Potter, time the contractions I was feeling on the contraction master, and go online. After a few minutes of timing contractions, I took this herbal supplement that Craig (acupuncturist) had given me. Sometime after this (or maybe before, I can't quite remember), the contractions started to definitely get more painful--not just like tightening, but like something more. I couldn't sit still and started to pace around, bounce on the birth ball, and lean over our overchair during the contractions. At 5:00 or so, I started to think MAYBE this was actual labor, and at 5:40, I started texting my family to let them know--since the plan was for everyone to be here.

First I texted my sister Lauren since she lived in Brooklyn and had to take a train to my parents house (an hour to an hour and a half) and then they all had to drive another hour and a half up here. After I texted her, she called me.

"I'm pretty sure this is it." I said.
"Should I call out of work and get on a train?" she asked me.
"Well," I said, "definitely call out of work and start getting ready to go, but call me back again before you get on a train to make sure."

Next I texted my sister Marilyn, but she didn't call me back for a while. Just before 6, I called my Mom to let her know--and to tell her that Lauren was already on her way.

At 6, I woke up James. "I'm in labor!"
"What, really?" he said. He was pretty excited because all week he had been going to work instead of not going to work, and every morning he would ask my sleeping self:
"Okay, are you in labor?"
And I would say no. So this morning when I was in labor was pretty awesome for him.

I left him up there to go back and text my sister again. She called me back a bit later and I told her that this was it, and she should go get my sister, and she said: "Okay I'll go right now." And off she went.

James did a nice long qigong practice, thinking he would need his energy and concentration for a long day of labor. I was downstairs and the contractions started to get more intense and I started to think that I wanted his support. I went back upstairs and tried laying on my side in bed like we'd practiced in our Bradley class, and "relaxing" through a contraction. However, when the contraction hit, I could NOT stay down there.

It's interesting because I COULD say that trying to lay or sit through a contraction was excruciating, but it just wasn't like that. What I mean is that it was way less comfortable laying or sitting than it was standing, or leaning over. But the intensity of the word uncomfortable isn't right, and yet PAINFUL doesn't really hit it either. Yes it was painful, but it is such an event that you (well I) didn't think PAIN. I was excited to finally have the baby and this was the crazy rollercoaster to get me there. It was obviously uncomfortable, and I guess it WAS painful, but I brought forth life. Considering the miracle, the sensations were understandable and bearable and just part of that miracle, you know?

Anyway, so I tried laying down and relaxing through a contraction but as soon as it hit, I jumped back up and said: "NO WAY," and left James alone to practice to go back downstairs and labor by myself for another 15-20 mins. I was down there wondering what was taking him so long to get up. Finally I went back up to find him laying in bed after practicing, which he usually does for a few minutes before getting up for the day.

"You should start filling up the birth tub," I said.
"Already?" he asked me. "You could be in labor for 12 hours, we shouldn't fill it up yet."
"Okay, well, get up I need you."

So he started to get up, and went to call the midwife. This was about 7, now. Her phone went to voicemail, so he came up to ask me what he should do, and started to realize I was in pretty active labor. At this point I was bending to lean on the bed or a chair with each contraction, and trying to breathe deeply though them.

"I guess I will call Cindy," he said (our midwife's apprentice), "and have her get in touch with Kim (our midwife)."
"Worst case scenario, you can drive over to Kim's and get her," I said. Our midwife lives about five minutes from us, so I was totally not above resorting to this.

Another contraction hit me. "I want you to fill up the tub NOW," I said. "I want to get in it." This was maybe five or ten minutes after I first asked him to fill it, but it was enough time for him to start taking me seriously. We got the tub liner in, and arranged, and James started to fill it up. Then he started to change the sheets on the bed, put the plastic sheets over, and then put the sheets for the birth on top.

Each time a contraction would hit, I would tell him to come push on me. I wanted pressure on my back and on my low abdomen, too. He would squeeze me while I leaned over, or tried to bend my back straight and put pressure on my back myself. Then when the contraction was over, he would go back to what he was doing. At some point this got frantic, where he realized that there was only a few minutes for him to get all this done before another contraction would come.

In the meantime, he was also communicating with our midwives and families. The apprentice, Cindy, was on her way over, and she had talked to Kim. They decided that she would do an exam to see how dilated I was, and then she'd let Kim know.

At some point, James talked to Kim, too, and she asked how I was doing, how he was doing. "Is she able to talk through the contractions?" Kim asked him.
"Uhhhh, no," he said, "she is pretty focused at this point ..."

So Cindy got to our house, apparently at 7:35, and came upstairs--I greeted her and a minute later a contraction hit--I bent over the bed and breathed through it as James pressed on me--at this point I was definitely starting to make some "vocalizations" (ie, moaning) through them. I remember when the contraction was done I stood up and looked at Cindy.

She was like: "Oh, am I making you feel self-conscious?"
And I was like: "No not at all, I'm looking at you like, 'Well, what do you think?'"
"I'm not sure what I think," she said, "I'd like to check you."
"Okay," I said. "After the next contraction how about?"

So after the next contraction, I took off my pants and underwear and laid on the bed and Cindy put her hand inside to see how my cervix was doing. As she was doing this, another contraction hit me, and I said: "Another one is coming!"
"I'd like to feel your cervix while it is happening to see what happens, if that is okay," she said.
"Ahhh, okay," I said, even though, as I'd previously mentioned, laying down seemed unbearable to me at that point.
After the contraction was done, she let me get up, and said: "Well, you are well effaced and dilated." She didn't give me a number of centimeters, which turned out to be because she thought I was already 8-9 centimeters but she thought that that couldn't be right, so she just didn't say anything. But she did go call our main midwife and tell her she'd better get over there.

This was definitely the beginning of what they call "labor land" when you really lose touch of what is going on outside and your focus turns inward. I was aware of everyone and what they were saying, but my memory wasn't recording time or events--not in the same way as everyone else.

Something people don't realize about natural birth is that pain causes the release of endorphins, and more pain releases more endorphins, and endorphins are not only more powerful than morphine, but they cause a state of dissociation that puts a barrier up between you and the pain. I honestly think that medicated childbirth is probably more scary and painful in a lot of ways because you don't have this natural high, natural painkiller--and I really think it is stronger.

So now I am working off of the midwife's notes because I was in laborland. At some point I was in the birth tub. I got in to soothe me during the contractions, and the water was really warm. James ran back and forth bringing cold water into the tub--and later, taking some water out so it didn't overflow. The water felt good but I started to feel overheated, so I got out again.

Apparently my water broke at 8:00, and at this moment I thought to myself that I was in transition. We learned in the Bradley class that transition is marked by emotional upset, and when my water broke, I was already in very intense labor and was in the middle of a contraction, and it broke with the classic splash sound like in the movies. I was leaning over the birth tub and James was pushing on me, and when the water broke I saw there was meconium in it.

For those that don't know, meconium is the baby's first poop, and if they do it before they are born, they can breathe it in, which can cause serious problems. So when I saw that meconium I got really upset. "There's meconium." I said, and I started crying and leaning on James. I sort of bawled for like a minute, and James held me and said it was okay, and that Little James was fine, and it was okay.

I was worried but I also knew that I was in the middle of a road I couldn't turn back on, and I needed to stay focused and get the job done. So after my minute of sobbing and worry I pulled myself together and just decided to move past it.

Apparently ten minutes later I started to "sound pushy"--meaning that I had an "ugh" sound during the contraction. Again, I was making a lot of noise during the contractions, but it wasn't because it was PAINFUL (though obviously it kind of was), it was more like there was this crazy thing happening inside me and I had to let it out. I honestly didn't think I would be a person who made a lot of noise while I was in labor but I did. I yelled. But oh well, it's what I was doing. I seriously was not in control, I was just along on this ride of my birth, just like James and James were. I didn't feel like I had any more say in the situation than they did.

My main midwife, Kim, got there a few minutes later--it was now 8:15. They suggested that I go sit on the toilet to help the baby come down. So I waddled over there and sat myself down. This felt especially good because I was feeling like I had to poop and though I was prepared to poop while I had the baby, since apparently this is really common, I felt a little more free to do so on the toilet. So I was on the toilet for awhile, and I did poop a little, and the baby's head did come down.

According to the midwives I was already pushing at this point, but I never thought so. It didn't feel like pushing to me--again, I was just there and trying to let my body do its thing. I would sit on the toilet but would stand up over it during a contraction and sort of squat. Again, sitting or laying down at all during the labor did not feel good.

Mariclare got there while I was on the toilet. She was a little freaked out (apparently) so James (apparently) went to talk to her and calm her down. He gave her the video camera and told her I was making noise but everything was okay.

From this point I have the record from the video camera but the way it happened from inside me was different (I feel like I keep saying that). But at least I have a clearer idea of exactly what happened from this point.

So I got off of the toilet and was leaning/hanging on James during the contractions, and the midwives said that they had brought the birth ball into the bedroom and asked if I wanted to come lean on it while I was laboring. So I waddled back into the bedroom. James' Mom got to our house at this moment and I remember being worried that she would see me naked, LOL! I had a tank top on but hadn't put anything back on my bottom half since I got out of the birth tub. Anyway, she stayed downstairs, but I remember walking back to the room quickly so that she wouldn't see me from the bottom of the stairs--I find my concern so funny at this point.

So I went back into the bedroom and labored for a bit while leaning on the birth ball which was on my bed. At some point I wanted to start squatting. I guess this was when I started feeling like I was pushing, but honestly I still didn't feel like I was "pushing", and just now I remembered learning in the Bradley class how to hold my breath and push with my chin tucked down, and it is SO funny because I never once thought of this during labor. My body was just doing it--I know I keep saying that but it's just so true.

So then I was squatting, holding on to the side of the bed--the midwives apparently put a pad under me, and eventually a mirror--I'm realizing now how cool it was that they just did whatever I wanted to do--they made suggestions but it sort of felt like they just followed me around with their stuff and took care of me whereever I was and whatever I was doing there. It's not until this moment I'm really realizing how different things would have been under a "managed care" mentality. Most of the time, I was just doing the only thing I could do--I couldn't imagine someone telling me to do something else.

So I was squatting over the mirror and really started feeling pushy (but only in retrospect)--but I wasn't looking at the mirror. So when they said they could see his head, I honestly didn't even believe them. But I guess I felt like he was getting close because there was one contraction where there was a serious burning feeling in my cervix.

At this point, they asked me if I wanted to get back in the birth tub, so I could have a waterbirth, and catch my own baby. It was that burning feeling I was thinking of when I said: "Okay, maybe it would feel good."

It took me two contractions to get from the side of the bed about two feet away into the birth tub. I didn't want to put my legs together too much because I didn't want to push him back in. When I got into the water, it did feel really soothing--and the midwives said that if I put my hand down, I could feel his head. I touched this soft and squishy thing, and asked if it was really his head and they told me it was but I honestly didn't really believe them. On the one hand, it felt too soft and squishy to be the hard round head that had been pushed into my ribs and then pelvis for months.

And honestly, on the other hand, I just didn't believe that I was so close to having him. Labor hadn't been that difficult. How could I be already at the end? Wasn't it supposed to be way harder than this? There is a moment on the birth video after they told me that it was indeed his head, when all that is running through my head, and I have the funniest look of disbelief and "woah" on my face.

After one or two more contractions, I had a little break from contractions. Maybe like 3 minutes. I relaxed in the water while the midwives tried to get everything set up. They put a mirror on the bottom of the tub to see what was going on with me. After this little break, it was time to push him out. In one or two more contractions, his head was out. I reached down to feel it and I was almost panicky--I wanted it to be over, and I also was worried about his head being out underwater while his body was still in me.

"Get him out!" I said. But the midwives told me to wait and I would push him out on my next contraction. This was honestly the only contraction where I actively and intentionally "pushed". I wanted him out. So I pushed and all of a sudden he popped out! They brought him up through my legs so I could sit down and pick him up. This was 9:06am.

It was absolutely insane to see him. I just kept saying "My Baby! My Baby!", and James and Mariclare were crying. He didn't cry at first, but his eyes and face were moving so I knew he was alive. The midwives moved his arms around and rubbed his back, and finally they told me to rub his back from the bottom up, and I rubbed him way vigorously and he took his first breath and everyone cheered.

He was very gurgly and I was worried about him--they suctioned him and then I asked them to suction him again. But eventually he started to breathe better. Because of this slow start, his 1 minute apgar was only 5, but then his 5 minute one was an 8.

He was 8 lbs, 7 ozs, and 23 inches long, and beautiful.


I can honestly say that giving birth was far easier than I thought it would be. I attribute my fast and easy labor mostly to one thing--a lack of fear. I was able to get out of my own way and let my body do what it was made to do.

I had spent many years retraining and reconditioning my mind's perception of what birth was. I cleared out the scary pictures painted by movies and popular shows like Birth Story, and replaced it with positive messages about birth, the power of the woman's body, the ease and benefit of natural birthing . . . I worked hard to release any fear of birthing and instead turn birth into something that I was excited to face--a completely unique experience--a once in a lifetime opportunity to look into my soul and find out that I was strong.

One of the best movies for this was The Business of Being Born--the births that they show in here were SO relaxing and inspiring. But my favorite favorite resource was the book Journey Into Motherhood. It is a collection of inspiring natural birth stories, written by Moms. All of these stories are different--some in the hospital, some at home, some with midwives, some with doctors, some unassisted, some planned, some unplanned, with different approaches and using different preparation methods, but they have a common message.

Birth is normal.
There is a reward that comes from birthing naturally that is worth pursuing.
Birth is not something to be afraid of.
Women are powerful.
Women's bodies know what to do.

I read this book over and over and over. While I was reading, I let these stories wash over and into my mind, take away the fear and replace it with power. Take away the misconceptions and replace them with knowledge. Take away the reticence and replace it with excitement. And replace the nervousness with confidence.

By the time I went into labor, I was the powerful woman I had read about--the Mother. I could make a baby, and I could give him life. In doing so, I would find a further power and confidence that would make me into someone capable of caring for another person. I am powerful, I am wise, and I will guide and raise this child.


Ash said...

Teddy is taking a nap so I can finally comment. I LOVED this. I loved how you felt, I love how you were so empowered and I loved how you gave birth. WOW! Be proud of yourself. Even though it is natural it doesn't mean it is easy and what you did is awesome! You also wrote it out beautifully. Make sure that this is saved and printed out. You'll like looking back on it in the weeks and years to come I am sure:)

Alyssa said...

What an awesome post and amazing birth story. I agree with Ash - print it out and keep it to look back on.

Emmy said...

Wow, what a great birth! Good job, mama!! Thanks for sharing.

justadrienne said...

Aww thanks for reading guys! I know it was long so it means a lot that you read the whole thing.

Holly E. G. said...

I've only been lurking for a few weeks now, but I have to say, it was impossible to NOT read the whole thing. What an inspiring story!! I know it wasn't your intention, but I can't help feeling ripped off by how pushy and bossy my midwives were. And I'm so glad you included the link to the book, I want to read it, and rid myself of fear as you have done. You are such an inspiration to me, thank-you for sharing your story!

justadrienne said...

Thanks Holly I'm glad you were inspired! Even among midwives, you definitely have to shop around to find one that works for you. We interviewed three different nurse midwifes before finding our midwife, who is a certified professional midwife. We really needed to get out of the hospital to have the birth we wanted, though I'm sure there are great nurse-midwives if you look, as well.

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