Friday, April 26, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

JoJo's Birth Story

Two weeks ago today, I left the boys with Grandpa and headed up to my midwife's office for my weekly appointment; I told them I'd be back in a couple of hours, kissed them goodbye, and asked them to behave well while I was gone. Less than 8 hours later, I was holding their sister in my arms and Nana & Opa were putting them to bed.

At my midwife appointment, it was determined that my body had progressed to the point that labor was imminent. We talked about 'the plan', since it looked like I would be going into labor in the next day or so. I voiced concern about laboring at home with the boys and being 30-45 minutes from anyone who could help; my midwife could see that I was letting the idea of being in labor at home, alone with two toddlers, get the best of me. She suggested that we consider the option of 'inducing' labor then, which would only consist of breaking my (already bulging) bag of waters and allowing us to labor in the hospital instead of on the highway and to stay in one place instead of trying to move and cope with contractions in the car. Husby and I had already discussed this option that morning, so I readily agreed and headed over to Labor & Delivery.

At about noon, I was admitted to the hospital. Alone. Husby still needed to leave work, pick up my Dad, and bring him to collect my car (which had the only seats for the boys). Our doulas were also on their way, but as I had feared, I was on my own for more than an hour before my 'team' began to assemble. Fortunately, I wasn't technically in labor yet, and was able to answer all of the nurses questions and enjoy a last few minutes of calm before the storm.

Since I was planning an unmedicated birth, I was able to talk the nurses into letting me go without an IV. After Eli's birth, and all the craziness associated with my IV, I was relieved that I didn't have to worry about it. It was understood by all that they had permission to do what was needed in case of an emergency (start an IV, stick me in the thigh, knock me out, whatever), but I was able to be without needles and plastic in my arms for my labor. What a relief!

I was also allowed to wear my own clothes, which I had planned specifically for the type of labor that I wanted. Instead of a hospital gown, which is fairly restricting and uncomfortable, I donned a super soft bikini top and simple black wrap skirt, with a tank top added for some modesty at first. Everything I was wearing could be quickly removed if and when that became necessary, and yet I felt more like myself than some invalid in an institution. (Perception is a huge factor for me in labor!)

At about 12:30, my team was ready and my midwife arrived to break my water. Since I wasn't having steady contractions yet (or really, any at all to speak of), we set out to walk the halls and get Baby Girl moved down into a better birthing position. Without the cushion of her bag of waters, I could feel her head come down as we walked ... and walked ... and walked ... lap upon lap around the Labor & Delivery and Recovery units. Nurses waved and joked with us as we passed them again and again, snacking on some grapes and crackers to keep our energy up.

With a couple of stops back at our room to rest and check my blood pressure, we spent more than 2 hours trying (and failing) to get contractions started. Our doulas suggested a side-lying release to help get my body into a better position, and helped me twist around on the bed to try it out. Right around the same time, we got a new (much friendlier) nurse, who was excited that we were planning to birth "the way they do back home" - she was a midwife in Australia, where epidurals are unheard of and "natural" is also "normal". I loved her immediately, and the stress in the room dissipated instantly. 

We were passing 3 o'clock, and starting the get a little nervous that nothing was happening, when my first contractions hit. I had just sat up from the side-lying release, swung my legs over the side of the bed, and mentioned to our doulas that nothing felt different - and suddenly was hit with three strong contractions in a row. Husby sat on the stool at the side of the bed and I was able to lean into him to work through them. He gently stroked my arms and encouraged me to relax into the pressure.

We knew we wanted to labor (and possibly birth) in the tub, and our nurse set to work getting it all set up. It was suggested that I try to empty my bladder before things got moving too quickly, so Husby and I moved into the bathroom for a few minutes. On the toilet, I was beginning to moan softly to help focus my energy during the peak of a contraction. When started to feel a bit nauseous, and our doulas came to the rescue, spraying oils around the room that calmed both my stomach and my mind. Contractions continued to get stronger, and I asked that the tub be filled so that I could get in soon (I knew it would take 10-15 minutes to fill, and didn't want to wait much longer than that). My midwife asked that she be allowed to check my dilation before I got into the water, just to make sure things were moving like we thought they were, and then stepped out to put on her scrubs. A few contractions later she was back, and we moved to the bed for a check. I had been at 4cm when she broke my water, and as soon as she tried to check my cervix it "melted" into a 7+. She held it there for a contraction, making sure it would stay and continue progressing, and said I was nearly to 8cm by the time she was done. 

With confirmation that things really were moving quickly, I was anxious to get some relief. Before we had moved to the bed, I had begun to fight with myself in my head, arguing for and against some pain medication as the intensity of contractions built. But as soon as I was enveloped in the soothing water those thoughts melted away - the weightlessness and warmth made the contractions exponentially easier to cope through. In the water, my need to vocalize was much less, and my team remarked that they hardly knew when I was contracting - I sat mostly still and fairly quiet between and during each contraction for quite a while. In our peaceful, darkened room, soft music played in the background and labor took over my whole self.

After a few minutes, my midwife suggested changing positions to keep things moving along; I shifted from sitting with my back against the side of the tub to leaning over the edge into Husby's lap. He put a pillow down for me to rest my head, and lightly rubbed my head and arms.

Rocking felt better than being still now, and the movement of the water worked with me to keep a steady rhythm both in and around my contractions. I was told that I could try a mini-push at the peak of a contraction just to see what happened; I tried a couple of times, but the heat of the water was overwhelming and we knew I needed to get out to cool off.

In between what were now very powerful contractions, Husby and my midwife help me move to the bed. I knelt facing the back, my arms draped over the raised head, and tried to push through a few more contractions. The intensity was overwhelming, and I couldn't get on top of my contractions long enough to push effectively.

I heard myself ask if they could just pull her out since I couldn't do it, and then Husby's voice was in my ear reminding me that I was doing it, and she was so close. The team was trying to talk me through flipping over to see if I could push better on my back or side, but before I could process what was being said I had repositioned myself to lay on my left side, just as I had ended up with Eli. My pushes were much more productive this way, and soon I was being alerted to her impending exit. I could feel her descending  but it felt like she was moving much slower than I wanted her to; I stepped up my pushing, and was quickly warned to slow down. There were oils and compresses being applied to help lessen the sting of stretching, but the pressure of her head was too much and I couldn't keep from pushing for very long. Her head slowly emerged, and everyone cheered - except for me, who didn't feel any of the much anticipated relief. One, and then two, agonizing pushes later, her shoulders were born, and then the rest of her in one massive, final push. 

We had been out of the tub for less than 10 minutes, and my baby girl was being placed in my arms. The bliss! The joy! The hilarity of double-checking to see that my girl was, in fact, a girl! "My girl! There's my girl!" was all I could say, and she snuggled into me, all covered in vernix and slippery and wonderful. Her Daddy kissed my forehead, telling me he was so proud of me. "We did it," I whispered to him. "She's here." The look in his eyes said it all - we were both overjoyed and relieved.

Her color was beautiful, and her cries were strong. Husby cut her cord after it had stopped pulsing, and she stayed with me until I began to shiver. I handed her off to snuggle her Daddy while piles of warm blankets were brought in to help me regulate my temperature.

Her placenta was delivered with one small push, and my bleeding was under control with very little help from massage, so I was bundled up and soon had my girl back in my arms.

This was it. We had a daughter. We were a family of five. And we couldn't have been happier.


Photos courtesy of our wonderful doulas:
Sister Doulas - Kaitlin & Vanessa Manville
Midwife: Aliza Chkaiban