Alex’s Birth Story

I’m so excited to finally be sharing Alex’s birth story!  He’s already nine weeks old, and I both can’t believe it’s been that long and can’t believe it’s only been that long.  Time definitely takes on another quality when you go into labor, and I’m convinced it doesn’t really return to normal afterward (probably because days and nights kind of merge together when you’re up every couple hours to nurse a newborn!).  I wanted to write and post this much sooner than now, but writing it felt overwhelming, probably because I was compelled to write down every detail.  It was also difficult to write because of my conflicting feelings in regards to the birth.

It’s super long (seriously long), but I’m not going to apologize.  I only mention it to warn you.  I wanted to write absolutely everything because this story is to make sure I don’t lose these memories.  I feel like they are seared into my brain, but I know my brain will eventually age (probably while I’m trying to keep up with a smart, energetic little boy) and they might grow hazy.

My birth experience with Alex was crazier than I ever could have imagined!  It was simultaneously everything I’d dreamed of and everything I’d feared.  Nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for how it all turned out!

Note: Some of the pictures might be a little graphic, though I actually tried to use the least graphic ones.  Just a warning in case you’re squeamish or easily offended.  🙂

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On Tuesday December 11 I decided to do some Christmas shopping.  Nothing crazy- just one store for a couple of hours.  We’d had our 39 week midwife visit the night before and discussed how we hoped our baby would be born when my family was here (they were supposed to all be here by the 19th, which was also the due date).  My midwife, Stacia, had joked that I probably shouldn’t go Christmas shopping for 10 hours or anything if I didn’t want to go into labor, but I thought only 2 hours should be safe.  The baby was very low and in a great position for birth, and our midwives both kept saying that they didn’t expect me to go much past my due date.  I had had a feeling for several months that the baby would be early, but thought it was probably just a paranoid reaction after being afraid of preterm labor when we thought my uterus might be bicornuate.

While in the store trying to find a sweater for my mom, I began to have some cramping that felt like menstrual cramps.  This had been happening on and off for a few weeks, but it seemed a little more intense this time.  I got a strong feeling that the baby was coming soon.  When I got into my car, the cramping stopped, but I still texted my mom that I felt like I was going to have a baby very soon and I got a little emotional on the drive home thinking about it.  We went to sushi with friends that night, per usual.  They asked me how I felt and I said I felt like I was about to have a baby. 🙂

Back at home that night, we decided to have sex.  We weren’t sure if we should since the last time we did (the previous Saturday morning), I’d had cramps all during church.  We knew that semen would soften my cervix and wanted to wait until our due date to have a lot of sex, but we figured a little beforehand would be fine…. Well, shortly after we’d done the deed, I began to have cramps again.  The baby was also kicking the crap out of my insides as the little dear liked to do each evening, so I got out of bed and came downstairs and made paper snowflakes (yes, that was the last “project” I did before giving birth, ha!).  After that, I read a birth blog where a woman had blogged several times during her labor, which was really cool and gave me the idea to blog while I was in labor too.  I finally crawled into bed around 1:30am, feeling really tired.

I was partially awake at 5:55am for some reason, enough to feel a “pop” from inside.  My first thought was: “I wonder if that was my water?  No, surely not!”  I thought about walking to the bathroom, but hesitated a few seconds, and that’s when I felt a gush of amniotic fluid.  And then another.  Good thing I’d put that shower curtain under my sheets!  I grabbed the towel I had stashed by the bed, shoved it between my legs, and waddled to the bathroom.  Water soaked the towel and went into the toilet.  There were flecks of pinkish white in it, but otherwise it was clear- good!  No meconium!  (I actually have a picture of what I saw in the toilet, but I decided to refrain from sharing, haha! You’re welcome.) I sat there for a moment, absorbing this turn of events.  I had never expected my water to break before contractions started, so I was surprised!  I also now knew that my family wouldn’t be present for the birth.  They were going to be so disappointed!  After giving myself a minute to adjust to what was happening, I crept back to our bed, still using the towel to absorb the periodic gushes of fluid.  I whispered “Dennis, my water broke.”  He struggled to escape a deep sleep, “Really??  Should I still go to work?”  he babbled.  “Uh… NO!”  Silly Dennis.  😛

I got back into bed and Dennis and I lay there holding each other for awhile, excited that this was finally happening but trying to remain calm.  For some reason I began to shake violently even though I didn’t feel cold or stressed.  I’m still not sure why it happened- maybe because of something in my amniotic fluid?  Contractions began almost right away as I lay there.  They felt a lot like the cramps I’d been having but had a definite beginning and end.  They were very mild, but I didn’t want Dennis to talk or move during them.  They started out 4 or 5 minutes apart and about 1 minute long and pretty much stayed that way all through early and active labor.  After about an hour, Dennis got up and called Stacia and Erin, our doula, to let them know what was going on.  I called my parents and sister and texted 3 of my friends to tell them it was go time!

We got out of bed and Dennis began to run around getting stuff ready.  The hose for the pool was still outside and frozen, so he had to thaw it out.  He also vacuumed (bless him!), something that always makes me feel better (clean floors- ah!).  I don’t remember exactly what I did- just some puttering around in my bathrobe and putting away clutter.  I found the pile of freshly-cut snowflakes from the night before and cleared them from the kitchen table.  I probably brushed my teeth.  I was so happy that we’d mostly gotten everything important done early.  I put on a big pad to catch the fluid that was still periodically gushing out.  I tried eating a little bit- some trail mix type stuff- but threw it up.  This was disappointing because I’d always planned to eat in early labor to keep my strength up.  😦  Stacia had told Dennis that since my water was broken I shouldn’t take any baths or get into the pool until active labor, but that I could take a shower.  I wanted to take one, but decided to wait until a little later (time morphed from there and I never took one).

From here on out I get a little fuzzy about times, but I do know that I wrote a blog around 9am, and I said that I was beginning to feel different even between contractions, kind of in a daze, and everything felt hazy.  Around 10am I was no longer able to text people.  I kept trying to figure out where in labor I might be based on how I was feeling and acting, though I didn’t want to assume I was farther along than I was.  When contractions first began, I felt completely normal unless I was actually having one, so I knew I was progressing past early labor when I began to feel so out of it all the time.  I was in the “labor land” that women always talk about!  Your body really does take you to another place when you’re in labor- a merciful place where time loses its meaning and pain is relative.  I made sure I let myself stay there and remain detached from everything else happening around me.

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The entire time I was in labor, I felt the contractions mostly in my lower back/pelvis area.   The baby was not posterior, so I wasn’t having the dreaded “back labor”.  In retrospect, I think I was feeling my pelvic bones moving apart.  The contractions were definitely happening in front as well, but I really don’t remember feeling them there because the sensations in my back were way more intense.  It felt right to lean forward during each one, which is what I did for the whole labor.  I spent some time in the kitchen where a heating vent blew air onto my feet and felt really good.  I could lean forward there and rest my forearms on the counter and move my hips.  About this time I started having Dennis put some counter pressure on my lower back/pelvis- it felt so good!  For the rest of labor, I always wanted someone to give me counter pressure during contractions.

Sometime around noon I got incredibly sleepy.  I was glad I’d had a few hours of sleep the night before, but really really wished I’d gone to bed a little earlier!  I moved to the living room where I tried leaning on my birth ball covered in a towel.  After that I leaned on a big cushy chair and pretty much slept between contractions, which was totally crazy!  Dennis was in the kitchen making himself some lunch- something with leeks in it.  The smell of those cooking leeks filled the house.  It seemed like it was taking forever and I just kept thinking: when is he going to be done cooking those leeks so he can come push on my back?!  That seemed like the longest part of labor for me.

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We weren’t sure when to call Stacia, Cynthia, and Erin to come over.  I wanted to labor alone with Dennis as long as possible.  Finally he called Stacia and she said she could come over just to check on the baby, and we said ok.  She arrived around 2:30 and ended up staying.  She sat with me during a few contractions and then told Dennis he might want to start filling up the pool.  I felt really excited when she said that because I figured it meant that I was in active labor or at least close.  I didn’t know for sure because I hadn’t had any internal checks yet, and I was ok with that.  Erin came around 3PM, I got into the pool around 3:30, and Cynthia, the assistant midwife, arrived shortly after.  The water felt so good!  I labored leaning on the side with my arms out of the water between contractions.  I think I was on my hands and knees a lot during contractions as well.   The temperature was sometimes perfect, sometimes too hot, and a couple times too chilly, but my birth team was great about adjusting the temperature when I asked them to.  We had a hose coming into the pool from the utility sink in our laundry room.

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Whenever I had a contraction, my birth team would take turns providing counter pressure on my lower back/upper pelvis.  Between contractions, Erin got a bowl of cold water and put cool washcloths on my forehead, back, and neck.  That felt really good!  I was so warm and so absorbed in what I was doing that for the most part I didn’t want anyone to touch me.  That surprised me a little bit.  I just felt like I wanted to put absolutely all of my attention on what was happening inside my body.

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The wee stocking I made 🙂

I hadn’t had any internal checks during my pregnancy or labor.  I hadn’t really wanted checks during labor because, if I wasn’t very dilated yet, I didn’t want to hear a disappointing number and feel discouraged.  I know that dilation doesn’t necessarily happen in a linear fashion, but in the midst of labor I might not remember that very rational thought and just think “Oh no, this is going to take forever- I can’t do it!”.  I could tell, though, that I was progressing just by the sounds I was making.  I’d begun to make sounds pretty early on, and the longer I was in labor the louder my sounds became.  I kept them low in tone, but I increased the volume and duration to match my contractions.  I remember at one point thinking, “Wow, I’m amazed that I’m able to make that loud of a sound for that long!”  I don’t think my contractions ever really got longer, except maybe at transition, but when they got more intense the period of time that I felt I needed to make a sound during one got longer, if that makes sense.  I was relieved that I didn’t feel too self-conscious to be vocal.  That was something I had worried about, along with whether or not I’d feel comfortable being naked in front of several people.  I needn’t have worried!  I had a bikini ready to wear in the pool, but when it came time to get in, I just threw my bathrobe out of the way and jumped right in; I didn’t care!

We videotaped some parts of the labor.  I haven't looked at it yet.

We videotaped some parts of the labor. I haven’t looked at it yet.

Dennis’ parents stopped by in the early evening with some food.  Stacia met them at the door and told them that it would be about an hour until Baby arrived!  I couldn’t believe that it was possible, but I was excited.  About this time as well, Stacia talked to us about whether my husband was going to be in or out of the pool to catch the baby.  She said she anticipated that there was still some time left before the birth, but she wanted to talk to us while I was still lucid.  I really didn’t feel very lucid at that point, but I figured she knew I’d be less lucid later on.  That was around 6:00 or 7:00pm.

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Dennis was feeling really excited and was looking into my eyes and kissing me and telling me how happy he was that we were about to meet our baby and how well I was doing, how proud he was of me.  He was so emotional.  That’s one of my favorite parts of laboring in the pool, though at the time I was just so focused on the work that I still had to do that it was tough for me to join him in his pre-celebration.  Erin was also really happy and told me that this was just how she had imagined that labor would go for me.  I remember feeling really proud of myself for how I’d handled labor so far, but I just wanted to get to the end and THEN be really happy!  I had no idea what was still ahead (and neither did anyone else, apparently).

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In most of the birth stories that I read in preparation for labor, I noticed a common theme in which each woman would reach a point, usually during transition, where she would doubt herself.  Sometimes those “I can’t do it” thoughts would only be in her head, but often she would vocalize them, usually to her husband.  A lot of women beg for the hospital or pain meds at this time.  I had warned my husband and family ahead of time that at some point I would probably say that it was too hard or that I couldn’t do it and that I just needed them to encourage me because I KNEW I COULD do it.  To my surprise, I never really reached the point where I felt that labor was impossible to handle.  I do think I know when I passed through transition, though, because I remember, after one particularly long and intense contraction, thinking “Wow, this is really intense!  I wonder how much more intense it’s going to get??”  There might have been a few contractions that were also closer together.

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That must have been the most difficult part though because then I began to think about pushing.  I decided to try it a little on the next contraction, just to see how it felt.  It felt ok…  At that point, though, it was definitely just a thought, not an urge…. Until it WAS!  After a few contractions of “thinking” about pushing, I was definitely pushing and I Could. Not. Stop.  When they say that your body takes over and pushes and there is nothing you can do about it, they aren’t kidding!  I’ve heard it compared to vomiting and that’s a pretty apt description!  As long as I pushed, I felt ok.

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After a few pushing contractions, Stacia told me that she could tell that the baby wasn’t moving down.  I still am amazed that she could tell so much from the outside.  She asked to check me and I agreed.  She found that I was about 9.5 centimeters dilated, but still had a cervical lip that I’d been pushing against and it was getting swollen.  She asked me to try NOT pushing for 3 contractions to see if it would move…..  WHAT??!!  Not push- are you KIDDING me??  I didn’t see how it was possible.  Erin explained to me, though, a way to breathe to keep myself from pushing.  It was a very very fast “hoo hoo hoo” sort of panting breathing.  So I tried it.  Man, not pushing was really rough, but I did the breathing and didn’t push.  I’d lose control a few times during each contraction and my body would push, but I’d just get things back under control and do the panting again.  Erin told me that’s exactly what I should be doing, so I felt really good about it.  Erin was so encouraging and supportive the entire time.  She was truly an emotional bolster, and I loved loved loved having her there!

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After 3 contractions of the horrible not-pushing, Stacia checked me again.  The lip was still there.  She wanted to keep her hand inside during a contraction and try to push it out of the way, and I said ok.  I kind of floated on my back in the pool with Dennis holding me under the arms and Erin and Cynthia holding my legs.  Stacia kept apologizing for the unpleasantness of her hand inside me during a contraction, but the funny thing was that it really didn’t hurt at all.  If anything it felt better.  I still haven’t figured that one out….  In any case, it worked!  I was fully dilated!  Back to pushing, for real this time.  I think that was around 9:00 or 9:30?

At about 10:30, the baby still unfortunately had not moved down and Stacia suggested getting out of the pool to try other positions.  …….And this was the point at which my lovely straightforward home water birth turned into a very difficult complicated birth……….

I had to go to the bathroom anyway, so I tried pushing on the toilet for awhile.  Dennis sat in there in the dark with me, as did Erin for awhile.  Stacia came in periodically with a flashlight to check the progress.  There wasn’t much.  We didn’t know exactly why the baby wasn’t coming down.  Stacia said that when he did come out we’d probably see what had been the problem, a hand by the face or something like that.  Finally Stacia suggested that we go upstairs and have me try pushing in the McRobert’s position.  This is the only back-lying position she would ever recommend.  We had talked about it during our prenatal visits.  Basically, you lie there like a cockroach with your legs up and knees pulled back toward your head.  This position allows the birth canal to be open, but also lets you get some rest.  Stacia herself had given birth to both of her children in this position.

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So we tried McRobert’s.  And we tried the birth stool.  And we tried the toilet again.  I was in the bathroom alone when I heard Stacia telling Dennis that they would have my try for a few more contractions and then begin talking about hospital transfer…  I felt so mad just hearing those words!!  At that point, I did NOT feel like giving up on my homebirth dream and I was DETERMINED to get that baby out right then and there!  When the next contraction came, I pushed and pushed and pushed for all I was worth and even tried to stretch my perineum with my fingers.  They came away bloody.  I didn’t know where they blood was coming from, and I didn’t care!  I just wanted to get the baby out, and my thoughts were no longer on the preservation of my body.  People, if willpower alone could have brought the baby into the world at that moment, it would have happened!  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

I finally came out of the bathroom, feeling slightly defeated but still not ready to give up.  I was willing to do anything and everything that Stacia suggested.  I tried the McRobert’s position again, my birth team falling asleep between my contractions and then waking up to hold my legs while I pushed and pushed and pushed.  I remember kind of feeling badly for them.  It had been many hours at that point, and I knew they must be exhausted.  It’s odd that I was worried about them being exhausted, right?!  I remember Dennis on my left and Erin on my right, with Stacia and Cynthia down near the end of the bed.  Erin kept telling me how amazing I was, how strong I was.  She was really such a wonderful emotional support the entire time.  Dennis was trying to make sure I got some liquids in me between contractions.  I really had to pee, but hadn’t been able to for hours.  Finally Stacia put in a catheter just to drain my bladder.  I was pretty dehydrated at that point even though I was trying to take sips of water, tea, and an electrolyte drink whenever they were offered to me.

I pushed on hands and knees, I pushed leaning on the birthing ball, I pushed leaning on Dennis, I pushed in a full supported squat.  So many times everyone seemed really excited and told me they could see more of the baby’s head during a contraction- “We could see a lemon-sized portion of the head that time!  You are SO close! Push your baby out, Lydia!” –and I would keep trying to move the baby down.  I think they were really just trying to encourage me because Dennis told me later that it always looked about the same to him during those hours of pushing.

Yes, it had been hours and hours by now.  I remember looking at the clock and realizing that it was no longer December 12, but December 13.  My baby wouldn’t be born on 12-12-12.  Funny that this should be something to greatly disappoint me at that point, but somehow it made it all so much worse.

Finally Stacia began to talk to me about hospital transfer.  My birth plan had stated that I didn’t want any talk of transfer unless it was under the strong advisement of Stacia.  I knew that she had been thinking about it for awhile. I also knew that we had tried just about everything we could and that I was really exhausted and weak from not having eaten anything for almost 24 hours.  I had been keeping fluids down, but then I vomited during a contraction and lost what must have been everything in my stomach at that point.  It was time to get some help.  Stacia talked to us about what they would probably do at the hospital.  She said they would probably want to do an episiotomy and then assist the delivery with either vacuum or forceps.  She said she would do an episiotomy there in our home except she wasn’t sure that that was the only issue.  If the baby was stuck on bone and not just tissue (if he had an elbow up, for example, that was keeping him from coming through my pelvis), an episiotomy alone would not do the job.  The irony of actually asking my midwife for an episiotomy was not lost on me.  I remember her response to the episiotomy question when we first interviewed her: “Eckh!”

Once a transfer was decided on, everyone began to scurry around getting ready.  Stacia called ahead to the hospital to let them know we were coming, and Dennis began to gather the things we needed.  Of course I hadn’t packed a hospital bag, so they were asking me what I wanted to take.  It was difficult to think clearly about packing when I was still having regular pushing contractions.  I requested my bathrobe, the boy and girl blankets I’d made for the baby, and my chapstick (I believe I requested this several times to make sure I got it, haha!).  Cynthia was to stay behind and clean up while Stacia and Erin went to the hospital with us.  Erin sat by me on the bed with kindness in her eyes, and I remember just looking up at her and saying “I’m so disappointed.”  She said, “I know, this is hard.  But remember that it’s not over yet.”

I felt a little stunned that this was the thing that was making us transfer.  I had anticipated pain upon pushing, I had accepted the fact that I might tear upon crowning, and I had even come to terms with facing the famous “ring of fire”.  What I had never never imagined is that I would not even be able to move the baby far enough down to feel perineal pain or burning or to fully crown.  It was incredibly frustrating.  I’d been pushing all night and I just wanted to have my baby at home, but as we made transfer preparations that dream slipped away.  I’d been in labor for 24 hours.

I was a little concerned about the car ride- HOW was I supposed to sit in a car for 20 minutes with a baby’s head trying to come out of my vagina?!?  I mean, his head was right there, my perineum was bulging and swollen, and I could NOT sit without sitting on his head.  I walked out of our house wearing some mesh panties and a giant pad, my bathrobe, and snow boots.  It occurred to me that I must look ridiculous.  Oh, and I couldn’t really stand up and walk straight, thanks to aforementioned baby head.  Half walking, half leaning on Dennis, I made it to the car.  We had talked about me kneeling on the floor in front of the seat, but with the carseat in the back, there was no room to move my seat back (my car is kinda small), so I knelt backwards on the front seat leaning my torso on Dennis as he drove.  When a contraction started (I had 3 during the ride), I would grip the bars on the headrest of my seat and, bearing down with all my might, push and push and push.  I hated that I was still pushing!  If I couldn’t push the baby out without help I wanted to rest until we got the hospital, but I literally was powerless to stop.  The incredible birthing force would not relent in spite of my exhausted and spent body.  Each contraction, I could feel the baby’s head move down, and I actually reached down a few times to make sure it wasn’t all the way out!  I wondered how it would be to have the baby right there in the car!

Finally we pulled up in front of the hospital at about 6:30am.  Dennis told me he would let me out and then go park the car.  “HOW am I supposed to walk into that hospital??” I wondered, when out of the blue a man in scrubs appeared with a wheelchair.  I climbed onto it backwards just like I had been in the car, gripping the IV pole as he quickly wheeled me in the doors and into an elevator, where I had another massive contraction.  The unearthly roaring sound I made while I pushed echoed through the elevator and was released into the lobby when the doors opened.

The wheelchair-pusher stopped me in front of a desk, where they asked me to, yes, fill out some paperwork- ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?  I’m busy pushing out a baby here!  Right on cue, I had another contraction and my roars filled the waiting room.  The phrase “pushing in public” popped into my head, and I remember thinking that this was probably one of the things I’d laugh about later. J I almost laughed about it right then with Dennis and Erin when they appeared and, I think, took over the paperwork for me because I don’t remember doing much more than sign my name in the messiest way possible.

I guess they could tell that I was definitely having a baby because we got into a room very quickly.  The doctors and nurses began to poke and prod me, trying to figure out what the situation was, and they were not as gentle as Stacia had been.  They found out I hadn’t peed since Stacia catheterized me, so they catheterized me a second time to drain my bladder.  My pee was really concentrated.  I was really dehydrated, and so was the baby based on the way his heartbeat pattern looked on the monitor (his heartbeat was always good and strong during the entire labor, thankfully), so they gave me an IV.  They actually hoped that hydrating me would give my uterus some extra ooph to produce more powerful contractions and get the baby out.  I guess it didn’t work that way.

Shortly after we arrived, there was a shift change.  The new shift did everything the first shift had done all over again.  Poked and prodded.

The hospital staff was really nice, though.  They looked at our birth plan and tried to honor our requests as best as they could.  They saw that I wanted a dim environment with music, so they actually played music for me and dimmed the lights.  I count that as a kindness that I’ll never forget.  I guess there was one crabby nurse who seemed kinda mad that we homebirth transfer people had to come ruin her day, but I didn’t notice.  I did notice the one really nice nurse.

I felt so out of it during this time.  I literally was in such a dim hazy place that I felt like I wasn’t really there.  I rolled onto my side on the bed and fell asleep.  When a contraction came, I’d roll over onto my back again, throw off all my blankets, and call for someone to come hold my legs back.  Normally I would have wanted to be anywhere other than on my back, but I was too exhausted at that point not to be lying down.  I tried pushing on my side and they said it seemed to work well for me, but the hip pain after the contraction was excruciating.  I had hip pain in my sides after each pushing contraction, especially if I didn’t push until the contraction was completely passed (in hindsight maybe it was my pelvis expanding?), but while on my side it was much much worse.

During this time I threw up again when I stopped pushing before my contraction completely ended.  It was like if I didn’t direct the energy downward it had to go somewhere.

Finally the doctors on the second shift had examined me and determined that I need an episiotomy and forceps assistance.  I guess the baby’s head was too “stuck” for the vacuum.  I was ok with this.  The doctor mentioned something about the baby’s head being wedged behind my pubic bone, but that there was plenty of room posteriorly if they could just move the head in that direction.  Then they talked to me about pain medication.  At first I said no way, but they let me know that the main reason I needed it would be for the stitches I’d get afterward.  I talked it over with my birth team and the anesthesiologist and decided to get an epidural without the narcotic part.  I think.  That’s the best I understand it, anyway.  They wanted to go ahead and put the spinal in because that way if I needed a C-section they could just top me off instead of having to put me under general anesthesia.  I was so out of it that I had a tough time understanding exactly what I was and was not getting, but I did know that having a C-section while completely out would pretty much be worse worse case scenario.  I really never thought I was headed for a C-section, but if it ever did come to that, I definitely wanted to be awake for it!  I was concerned about the effect of the epidural upon the baby, but was reminded that the baby would hopefully not be in there for more than a few minutes after I got it.  Also, it’s not like an epidural was going to slow down my labor because I was already past that part.  I was taking medicine for what was basically a surgery, not for the natural labor process, and that’s the only thing that makes me feel better about having ANY drugs involved in the birth.

So then it was time to put the epidural in.  HOW in the world was I supposed to sit still while they did it if I had a contraction during the process??  I was really quite worried about this, but I obediently “sat” on the edge of the bed (I think a nurse was pretty much holding me up as I put the barest minimum of my butt on the bed.  Remember, there was still a baby head there.) as the anesthesiologist inserted the numbing stuff and then the needle.  Sure, it stung, but whatever.  I immediately felt a tingling warmth go through my legs.  It was nice to feel warm for the first time since we’d arrived at the hospital.  Right away I had another contraction, but only barely felt it and didn’t have the urge to push during it.  And that’s the last contraction I felt.

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Getting ready to finally push out our baby!

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Giving it everything I had…

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Waiting for the next contraction…

I’m sure it was only a few minutes before everyone was assembled and ready for me to deliver my baby, but it was nice to relax for a few minutes and not push for the first time since the night before!  I was numbed from the waist down, but I could still feel things, if that makes sense.  It definitely took the edge off, but I still felt everything that was going on down below.  They told me that they were going to help with the forceps but that I needed to push as well.  “You’re still going to push your baby out,” the doctor said, and those are the words I remember most.  They made me feel that I still had some control over the delivery and took some of the sting out of needing assistance.  First, the doctor (a woman doctor, which makes me happy somehow) inserted the huge salad-tong-looking forceps (that hurt!) and then we waited for the next contraction, my feet in the dreaded stirrups.  A nurse with her hand on my tummy and an eye on the monitor had to tell me when one was coming (kind of a buzz-kill).  The first contraction came and I pushed and pushed with everyone cheering me on.  I definitely gave it my all, and Dennis later told me that the doctor was putting so much force on the forceps that her arms were shaking.  That kind of freaks me out, so I’m glad I didn’t notice at the time.  The next contraction came and I knew this was it.  I pushed and pushed and I kept pushing, not caring whether I was contracting or not.  This baby had to come out!  I know I had been putting my everything, my 100%, into pushing for the last 12 hours (YES, 12!), but I think I probably reached even deeper and put about 120% into those final pushes.  I heard someone say “The head! …now the shoulders….” And then, accompanied by the most amazing sensation, I pushed/they pulled my baby out… of my butt!   That’s what it felt like, anyway- like that baby had literally been in my butt this whole time!  As the doctor lifted my baby up and out, I  Could. Not. Believe. How big and long that baby was!!  And the head- it was HUGE!  “That was what I was trying to push out??” I thought.

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Here’s where his head is coming out!!

And then I had my baby on my chest.  Well, on my tummy really, because the cord was kinda short.  The baby was screaming from the beginning and had a big beautiful pouting lower lip (that was the second thing I noticed, along with how heavy he felt).  It was a moment of shock and awe.  I heard someone say something about girl or boy and then it occurred to me to check.  I lifted him up to look and Dennis said, “It’s a boy!”  A boy!  We had a son!  And his name was Alexander.  He was bloody and slippery and crying and beautiful!

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I knew he would have the coniest conehead ever, and he certainly didn’t disappoint! Funny how quickly it changes, though. Also, I’m SO glad Erin was snapping these pictures for us or I never would have seen the look on Dennis’ face!

We had asked the doctors to please wait until the cord stopped pulsing to cut it.  It seemed like only a couple of minutes when they told us it had stopped pulsing, but they were really patient and waited a few more minutes still until we gave them to go-ahead.  I know from looking at the time stamp on the pictures that it was cut about 15 minutes after his birth.  Dennis was given the honor of cutting the cord as we had requested in our birth plan.

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They wanted to take Alex to the warming table to doing the Apgar and stuff.  I really kind of wish they had just left him on me, but I didn’t ask at that time.  Dennis was with him the whole time, though, and Alex recognized his voice and looked for him.

They pulled on my cord a bit to speed the delivery of the placenta, something I also didn’t want, but I’m not sure if they could wait because they were eager to get me stitched up.  I know that usually tears, at least minor ones, can wait until all that is finished, but I had a fourth-degree episiotomy.  For those of you fortunate enough to not know what that is, it’s basically the most extensive one they can do.  The cut went all the way from my vagina to my rectum, and extended through several layers of tissue. L  I thought they said that the stitching would take only 10 minutes, but they must have been talking about how long they’d have Alex over at the warming table because the stitching seemed to last FOREVER!  I don’t want to sound like a big baby, but it was really horrible!  I know I was numbed, but I still felt it really well!  It was a stinging/stabbing sensation over and over.  My feet were still in those stupid stirrups, and I was freezing cold.  I could stop shaking, and I couldn’t put a blanket over my legs to warm myself until they were finished.  Erin appeared by my head and reminded me to do my labor breathing- haha!  I thought it was funny that I had a tougher time with this than with labor, and I was glad I’d had the epidural to take the edge off at least.

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Notice how pale I am. This is when things got kinda sketchy.

Somewhere around that time I began to feel kind of funny and my hearing suddenly went dim, like my ears had gotten plugged.  I said, “Um, my ears feel plugged up!” to whomever was listening.  The nurses looked at the monitors and went into a small flurry of action because my heart rate had gone up to about 120 and my blood pressure was extremely low- 60/30 or something like that.  I was losing a ton of blood.  They gave me pitocin through my IV and I stabilized.  My husband said it was pretty scary.  I lost about twice the normal amount of blood, which I guess makes sense because I had so many things happen that can contribute to abnormal blood loss: a long labor, forceps delivery, cord traction and episiotomy.  I think that letting the placenta deliver naturally and leaving Alex on my chest and maybe having him nurse right away would have helped.  They had told me to massage my breasts, but when the stitching began to hurt a lot I quit.  I should have kept it up, but oh well.

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Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Alex was back on my chest.  It bothered me for weeks that I had no idea how long he was away from me or how long it was before he got a chance to nurse, but I finally looked at the timestamps on the pictures and saw that it was only about 30 minutes.  That’s not too bad, I guess, and Dennis was with him that entire time, but it still felt like way too long.

When all the chaos finally subsided- when I was all stitched up, Alex was back with me, and I was finally able to cover up and get warm again- that’s when Dennis and I finally stood  there together looking at the peaceful sleeping face of our son- OUR SON!  And I finally cried, with joy.

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Alexander Josip was born on Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 9:38 am.  He weighed 8 pounds, was 21 inches long, and had a 14 inch head!

What had caused the problems with delivery?  The best Stacia could tell, from watching the delivery and looking at the pattern of swelling on his head after he was out, was that he was asynclitic, meaning that his head, though facing the right direction and tucked well, was tilted a little to the side.  This meant that he was presenting a larger diameter of an already large head and I just couldn’t push it out that way without assistance.

During our two-day hospital stay and the weeks that have followed, I have had a lot of emotions to deal with concerning the way Alex’s birth ended.  I wish I could write that I am completely at peace with having to go to the hospital and that I don’t really care how he was born as long as he was healthy, but I have to be honest and say that I’m not at that place yet.  The birth story does matter, and it’s something that you cannot just forget or push aside.  I was SO confident that I would give birth at home and SO sure that everything would go well, that my disappointment was acute.  I’ll save more discussion of my feelings surrounding his birth for another time, though.

Nevertheless, I AM so happy for a healthy baby!  I always imagined that the only reason for transfer would be in case of an emergency, which to me would mean that something was wrong with my baby.  Praise God, he was fine the entire time, and for that I am so grateful.  It would have been so scary if something had been wrong with him.  As it was, I never felt afraid, it never felt like an emergency, and we were able to take our time and make our decisions thoughtfully.

I am also VERY thankful that Alex and I were able to experience a vaginal birth and reap all the associated benefits.  I really never ever thought that we were in danger of having a cesarean section, but it could have easily happened.  A few weeks later, when Stacia was doing a prenatal visit in our home, she was telling my family that they should have been there to see how amazing I was (that comment alone made me feel pretty good! :)).  She then told them that anyone else would have had a cesarean.  It was only because of all my hours and hours and hours of pushing that I was able to push Alex down far enough to have a vaginal birth.  I was pretty much floored when I heard this, and I had to struggle to keep from crying because hearing that made me feel like I had accomplished something during all of that pushing that I thought was fruitless.  I had fought for a vaginal birth and I had earned it for us!  That made me feel SO good!  🙂  As acute as my disappointment has been over losing the home birth I’d dreamed of, having to give up a vaginal birth as well would have been so much more difficult to come to terms with, so I thank God for that blessing!

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After my first post-labor shower

Giving birth was simultaneously the most difficult thing I’ve done and the most wonderful time of my life!  I was on a birth high for days, and so was Dennis.  I felt like he and I bonded emotionally in a way that I’d never expected or even hoped for.  Sometimes I wish I could go back and experience it again because all the bad was more than worth the good.  We completely fell in love with our son during those first few emotionally charged days the three of us spent alone before family arrived, and we continue to do so now.  He has brought us an incredible amount of joy already, and we are so proud of our strong sweet boy as we see him grow up little by little each day. 🙂

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38 Weeks, 6 Days: Labor is Closer!

December 9, just 10 days from our due date!  Everything is so exciting now because I know that birth can happen any time and that the more time goes on, the closer we are to meeting our baby.  🙂  My sister and her boyfriend were here for the weekend, so that was really fun!  It also pushed us to go ahead and finish up all the big stuff we had to do before Baby is born.  We still have some little things we wouldn’t mind finishing, but I think both my husband and I feel pretty relaxed now and ok with the baby coming at any time.  I would like for my mom and sister to be here, mostly because I know that they really want to be.  I’m sure that I’ll really appreciate their support as well when the time comes, but the thought of it just being me and my husband doesn’t bother me at all.  Our midwife talked to me at her visit last Wednesday about when to call her and that she wouldn’t want us to be panicking that she wouldn’t get there in time…. Yeah, that doesn’t worry me at all.  I would almost feel fine about no one but my husband being there, but because I’ve never had a baby before or even seen a birth I feel that it’s smart to have someone there to know what’s normal and what’s not.  Our midwife will also know what to do in case something is not normal.  But I definitely don’t worry about her not arriving in time (such as if I had a crazy fast birth or something, not that I expect that at all).

The midwife also told me that she doesn’t expect this baby to be born much past the due date (she knocked on wood as she said it, lol).  Her reasons for thinking this are that that baby is in a great position and already very low, I’ve been contracting for months now, and I’m not a large person (I guess that makes babies more likely to want to be born so they can start getting some milk and keep growing 🙂 ).  I don’t have a whole lot of water, she said, but the baby has a very reactive heartbeat (it goes up every time he moves) and is still moving around a ton, both signs that Baby is doing just fine.  I’ve been feeling a bit paranoid about my water levels, and I’m really trying to drink enough water every day.

For a few nights, Baby was kicking me so brutally that it was becoming an extremely painful experience!  I was getting clobbered in the ribs, belly button, round ligament, sciatic nerve, bladder, and cervix- sometimes all at once.  I kinda dreaded going to bed because I knew I’d be attacked from the inside again as soon as I lay down.  One night it was so awful and I was so frustrated that I finally just sat up in bed and cried.  My midwife suggested not eating late (and indeed, I had eaten a whole plate of food right before bed the night it was really bad).  I tried her suggestion, and I think it might have helped some.  Either that or baby is finally accepting the lack of space and settling down a bit.  I’m still getting plenty of movement, night and day, but it has felt a little gentler lately.  Whew.

I keep feeling like the baby may be early, but we are getting so close to the end of “early”, so maybe not.  Still, there are some new things happening that I feel signal labor is closer.  Yesterday morning we had sex and afterward I had some quite crampy contractions all during church and lunch.  Braxton Hicks have been feeling lower down and crampier at times for the past week ever since I really noticed how much Baby has dropped, but yesterday’s were just a little bit stronger and more noticeable.  We had a choir concert for church and I really loved it when the crescendo of the voices matched the peak of my contraction- makes me wish I could have a choir sing to my labor- ha!  😀  By last night, however, most of the crampiness was gone.  I feel like I have a tough time telling whether I’m having cramps because something is happening with my cervix or because I need to poop (yeah, we’re going to talk about that).  Pooping is feeling a little different lately, and sometimes quite painful, probably because the baby’s head is so far down in my pelvis that he is totally crowding all my vaginal and rectal space.   Silly baby 🙂

This morning after breakfast we watched a little TV with my sis and her boyfriend and the whole time (a couple of hours) I had rather painful Braxton-Hicks-like contractions, but it only hurt on my right side.  I assumed it was my right round ligament being all tight, or maybe the baby was in a position that pressed against my ligament during a contraction.  Either way, I felt a little distracted from the TV by what I was feeling.  I sat on my exercise ball and moved my hips in circles for a long time.  I experienced this same feeling last Wednesday night while I was trying to go to sleep- every Braxton Hicks (and I was having a lot of them) made my right side hurt like a fire poker.  I finally got up from bed, walked around the house, did hip circles while sitting on my exercise ball (and I feel super tired in an almost drugged way the whole time, which was weird), the cat pose exercises my chiropractor gave me to do, and finally was able to get to sleep.  I assumed that was my round ligament too, but who knows.  I love for these cramps and pains to be a sign that something is happening with my cervix!  I’ve done some self-checks lately, but while I’m able to feel the baby’s head with no effort at all, I can only just barely reach what I think is the very edge of my cervix.  I can tell that it’s extremely soft, but I can’t get to the middle of it to see if I’m dilated at all.  Oh well.  That will happen when it will.  I think as soon as my family is all here we’ll start having as much sex as we can to help my cervix soften up really well.  It’s tempting to start doing stuff like that now, but I really have no reason to rush the start of labor (as if I could), so I’ll just wait.

My nipples are really leaky tonight too.

One thing I’ve found strange lately has been the lack of cervical mucus.  I thought I’d have TONS of it at this point in pregnancy, but I’ve had even less than I did earlier.  So weird.  I’m hoping at least that will make it really easy to tell if I lose my mucus plug.

I put plastic under the sheets on our bed (just a simple shower curtain), a towel beside the bed, and have begun sitting on a towel in my car- all ready in case my water breaks in a gush!  I kinda down expect it to, though, because my mom’s never broke before labor.  Hers never broke spontaneously, actually, because during both her births they ruptured it in the hospital.  It will be interesting to see when mine breaks.  I wouldn’t mind it staying intact during the first part of labor if it will make things a little easier on me.

I feel that I’ve done just about as much preparing for birth as I can do.  I’m still reading Birthing From Within, so that would probably be a good book to finish, but even if I don’t it’s ok.  I’ve also ordered a belly mold kit that I’d like to be able to do, but there will hopefully be another baby if we don’t get the chance.  I think my husband and I are both starting to feel pretty ready to give birth so we can see our baby…. bring it on, labor!

Time For More Birth Videos!

I think it’s time.  More birth videos, and I’ve found a couple great ones!  Get your tissues out before watching these, especially if you’re preggers.  😛

Sweet water birth– the labor and birth is about half the video, and the last part is all the joyful celebration after- very cute!

Another water birth showing a lot of what happened right after the birth.  The baby’s older sister is just adorable in this video, and I loved seeing the placenta and the herbal bath mom and baby take afterward (something I’m planning to do).

Last night our doula loaned us More Business of Being Born, and we watched one of the five segment, the one about celebrity moms. It may sound like it would be… I don’t know, not so great, but it was FANTASTIC! I’d definitely recommend it for anyone wanting some good labor vibes and exposure to positive birth experiences. My husband actually ended up saying he is jealous because he won’t get to experience this in the way I will….. And he looked at me with all kinds of awe and love all over his face. Wow, thinking of labor and birth as a privilege instead of a chore is a really powerful thought!

36 Weeks, 5 Days: Engagement, Birth Pool, and Thanksgiving

Time is kinda flying by now.  And standing still.   I vacillate between wanting the baby to come RIGHT NOW and wanting to hold off until everything is “ready” (which will never really happen).

Our midwives visited Wednesday, and will come at least once a week from now until Baby arrives- it’s the big time now!  Everything was good:

  • I’ll get the ridiculous one over with right away… Our midwife took her shoes off at the front door! 🙂  Not sure if it was the fun sign I posted or the millions of shoes in the entryway, but it worked and I was relieved.  Even more so when she put them back on and I noticed they were really dirty, leaving dirt clods everywhere.  What cracked me and my husband up was that she somehow bypassed the huge tiled hallway space available and had her feet on the carpet while putting on her dirty shoes!  We waited until they pulled out of the driveway and then my husband had to vacuum that spot.  It’s ok, though.  At least she didn’t track that all through the house!  I feel a tad more respected now 🙂

  • Baby has dropped!  That’s right, we’re in a GREAT position and engaged at about zero station.  I couldn’t really tell from looking at my belly or anything, but I guess I am having a little better time breathing during those nighttime Braxton Hicks.  And someone at church last week did comment  that I was carrying super low.  Our midwife told me that Baby could descend further at this point, into +1 or +2 station (or is that the other way around at -1 or -2?….), but then I’d just be super uncomfortable for the last month of pregnancy, so the way things are now are really the best we could ask for.  Did my chiropractic visits help this happen?  I guess we’ll never know, but they couldn’t have hurt.  My pelvis is getting looser and I’m going longer between visits now.  My round ligament is still tight and I can kinda tell because Baby has begun to punch it- ouch!
  • We got our birth pool!!!  Yay!  The mom who was “in line”  to use it before us gave birth the day before they came, so it worked out perfectly.  We had to blow it up to finish drying it out, so we got a good look at it.  It looks so nice and I’m excited that I get to birth in it if I want to!

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  • Everything is good with me and the baby.  My midwife mentioned fluid intake again, but said she isn’t worried.  I told her I’ve been making sure I get at least a minimum of 8 cups/day (although I think I should be drinking more and probably actually am). I drink half my water at night because every time I get up to pee (every 1-2.5 hours) I feel so thirsty!   The only reason she mentions it is that she can easily see from the outside of my tummy how the baby is lying, especially when I’m contracting.  I wonder though if part of that is just that I have no fat layer to smooth things out?  It’s just skin, uterus, baby.  Anyway, I’m sure she has had moms like me before, so I’ll just keep paying close attention to my fluid intake and trust her that everything is fine.
  • We talked about some other stuff (our midwife really likes to talk in long-winded paragraphs- hopefully she knows how to shut it when I’m in labor 🙂 ), including the newborn screening test.  My husband thinks we should do it.  The only negatives: heel poke, extra $98 cost, and the possibility of false positives.  The last negative is the only one I really don’t like, but I guess we’re going to do it, and I’m fine with that.  The only thing we have to decide is whether we want our midwife to do it or a pediatrician.  I don’t really want to have to take the baby out to a doctor in those first few weeks, but my husband  thinks insurance may cover the test if we do.  The whole pediatrician thing is something we still need to decide on, though- do we want to establish a relationship with one right away or wait until/if Baby actually needs to see one?  I’m not feeling like a huge fan of pediatricians right now, but we do have some recommendations for some non-traditional options.  I just need to check them out.
  • We showed our midwife the birth plan we wrote, and she seemed really happy that we wrote one (which made me feel relieved because I was feeling kinda anxious about it, for some odd reason).  She read through it and talked about each point.  She had a few minor suggestions (if I transferred to a hospital for a cesarean, for example, I’d probably have a spinal instead of an epidural), but for the most part I didn’t change anything.  Most of what she said was explaining how she agreed with what we’d written (her particular biases are against  induction, separation of mom and baby, and… one other one that I can’t remember) and would never do anything differently, which is what I’d figured.  She took awhile with her explanations, and the whole visit lasted about 2 hours instead of 1!
  • Both midwives keep telling us that they don’t think my labor will be very long.  Their reasons are they that think we have a great attitude and a particularly healthy pregnancy.  They see that we don’t expect it to be easy (we know it will be hard work and will probably hurt), but we also are relaxed about it.  I appreciate the vote of confidence 🙂
  • I haven’t had any internal checks my whole pregnancy, but our midwife told us that my husband or I could check me if we want- both to feel the baby’s head and check for cervical dilation- and she described what to look for.  I can VERY easily feel Baby’s head through my vaginal wall, near my pubic bone!!!  It is the coolest thing ever, and also crazy weird.  It really made me feel like Baby is so close to our outside world and helped me picture how birth will happen.  Try as I might, though, I couldn’t reach my cervix.  I guess that means it’s still very high and posterior.  Apparently it does that during pregnancy to protect itself and will then move down/anterior closer to delivery.  I never knew that before.  I’ll maybe try to find it again in a week, just out of curiosity, though I know that being dilated or not dilated at this point will really be no indication of when labor is to begin.  I used to to cervical self-checks all the time when we were TTC.  After I got pregnant, I did feel my cervix once and was shocked at how different it felt- not nose-like anymore, but gushy like puckered lips!  I was a little taken aback.  It was also very high and I could barely reach it (pre-pregnancy my cervix was always very low and super easy to find- right where the baby’s head is felt now, actually!).  I think that was first trimester.  During second trimester I looked for it once again and couldn’t reach it.  Anyway, maybe my husband would be able to check since he wouldn’t also have to do contortions around a huge belly, but he surprisingly declined and thought it would be “weird”, saying maybe another day….  Ok, whatever.

For Thanksgiving we went to my husband’s brother’s house.  I felt soooo out of it all day!  Just super sleepy and tired, and couldn’t figure out why.  I felt badly for not being very sociable or helpful.  My niece kept wanting me to play with her and I did, but then I’d have to take a break to sit in a chair with a back.  I felt so zoned out.  I actually took about a 2 hour nap in their guest room after lunch while everyone else watched the football game (which didn’t interest me at all).  Anyway, during the night my throat felt super dry and scratchy, and the next morning (yesterday) I woke up coughing weirdly and feeling rather sick.  So I guess that explains my extreme tiredness.  I also hadn’t taken all my vitamins the day before, and as soon as I took them yesterday and drank my tea, I magically felt sooo much better!  It was like some kind of miracle cure.  I actually feel quite normal and well today, but I still stayed home from church because I was so tired this morning I couldn’t seem to wake myself up enough to know if I was well or not.  I feel like such a lazy bum for staying home, but maybe it’s good that I did.  I might take a nap in a few minutes.  I couldn’t sleep again last night and can’t wait for my next chiro adjustment on Monday so I can zonk out before 2 am…..

Writing a Birth Plan

This week, in my mostly crippled state, I’ve set out to accomplish sitting-down goals.  Writing our birth plan is one.  I had a few resources from our birth class which were really helpful.  If you’re writing your birth plan, I would suggest finding some sort of template to use as your starting point, such as this one, and then personalizing your plan from there.

I considered reading the book “Creating your birth plan: The Definitive Guide to a Safe and Empowering Birth” by Marsden Wagner M.D, M.S. , but decided to just write it based on what I already know is important to me and my husband.  I’ve done enough research in the past few years and felt like more reading about possible interventions and things would be a little much at this point.  Plus, I had a difficult enough time fitting it all on two pages.  🙂

I tried to include the things that were most important to us for each stage of labor and delivery and also addressed situations such as cesarean section and NICU admission.  Those are my “just in case” sections so that if we find ourselves with a real emergency we can at least have peace of mind that the choices we can still make are written down.  I feel like the whole birth plan is an odd mix of things that apply to a home birth and things that don’t.  We’ll have to explain to our doula and midwife when we show it to them that we understand that most of our wishes are standard practice for a home birth but that we felt we needed to have some written record of what we want in case we should find ourselves in a different environment.

So, without further ado, here it is (names removed for privacy):

Birth Plan for the Family of (Me and My Husband)

Dear Birth Team- we are so thankful that we are able to take advantage of your care and expertise as we welcome our baby into the world.  We’ve put together a short summary of our wishes regarding labor and birth.  Thank you for helping us to have a safe and positive birth experience. 🙂

Basic Information

  • Birth Team
    • Midwife- (name and #)
    • Assistant Midwife- (name)
    • Doula- (name and #)
    • Family Support- (my mother’s name), (my sister’s name)
    • Desired back-up Doctor and Hospital– (name of Dr and hospital)
    • Maternal History– This is my first baby.  After years of personal research and study, I’ve chosen to give birth at home after a healthy pregnancy because I know that I will feel most comfortable in this environment and will be more likely to have a low-intervention labor and delivery. I realize that sometimes complications arise during birth that would necessitate being in a medical environment, but would prefer to remain at home if at all possible.

 

Starting Labor

  • We wish to allow labor to begin spontaneously before 42 weeks.  After 42 weeks, we would consider the use of natural home induction.  We do not wish to do a medical induction unless advised by (midwife).
  • If (my) water breaks before labor begins, we wish to allow labor to begin spontaneously unless (midwife) advises otherwise.

 

Environment

  • I highly value my privacy and would like to have only the members of the team listed above present while I labor. I prefer dim lighting, candles, soft music, and subtle pleasant smells.  During early labor I would like friendly conversation to distract me from contractions, but during active labor when concentration becomes more difficult, I would like to hear softer voices and more limited conversation.  I may or may not want music at this point, and I may not be able to tolerate a lot of physical touch stimuli or close physical presence, but I will appreciate knowing that attentive support is close by.  I may want to spend some periods of time alone with (my husband).
  • I wish to be able to freely eat, drink, and move about during labor.

 

Early Labor

  • If labor begins in the evening, I will attempt to sleep or rest.  If labor begins in the morning, I will go about my daily activities and may want to begin a predetermined “labor project”.
  • We would prefer to use natural stimulation for a slow labor: walking, nipple stimulation, etc. 

 

Pain Management

  • We do not plan to use an epidural or IV narcotics.  The only circumstances under which we would consider an epidural would be:
  1. Caesarean section (after all other options were exhausted)
  2. Extreme exhaustion rendering (me) unable to continue to labor and have a vaginal birth without the rest afforded by an epidural (this would need to be under the strong advice of Stacia and all other options would need to have been exhausted).
  • We would like to use natural pain management techniques such as: breathing, relaxation, changing positions, bath or shower, cold wash cloths, massage, counter-pressure, and visualization.  I would like to have access to a birth ball, a birthing tub, and a shower.  If the things I am instinctively doing seem to be working for me, I would like to be given space and verbal and/or physical encouragement to continue using them.  If I seem to be unable to find relief on my own, I am open to suggestions from my support team. 
  • I will very much appreciate and respond well to verbal encouragement and affirmation during labor, and do not want “negatives” such as the mention of drugs, passage of time, or hospital transfer to be a part of the conversation.  I believe in my ability to birth naturally, and knowing that my birth team believes in me as well will be extremely helpful. 

 

Approach to Additional Interventions

  • We would like to avoid interventions such as artificial breaking of waters, continuous monitoring, IV fluids, vacuum or forceps extraction, episiotomy, pain medication, medical labor augmentation, & cesarean section.  If interventions are recommended, we would like to discuss the consequences of choosing or not choosing the intervention.

 

Pushing Stage

  • I would like to push spontaneously and use positions that encourage my body to open.  I do not wish to push in the lithotomy position.  I would like the option for a water birth.
  • I am open to perineal support and/or lubricating oils and warm compresses to lessen the possibility of tearing.  I would like give my perineum time to naturally stretch around my baby. 
  • We would like for (my husband) to catch our baby for (me) or (my husband) to discover the sex of the baby.

 

Third Stage

  • We would like to allow the cord to cease pulsation and/or the placenta to be delivered before cutting the cord ([husband]would like to have the honor of cutting the cord). 
  • We would like to allow natural expulsion of the placenta.  Please do not dispose of our placenta as we wish to save it for encapsulation! 
  • I prefer local anesthesia for the suturing of any tears.

 

After the Baby’s Birth

  • We wish for our baby to be immediately placed on (my) chest for a minimum one hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact, and all assessment and care during that time period to be delayed or done without removing the baby.  We would like for (me) and Baby to take an herbal bath.
  • We prefer natural expulsion of amniotic fluid and suctioning of mouth, nose, and deeper airways to be done only if medically necessary. 
  • I would like to be allowed to immediately begin breastfeeding if Baby is interested and do not consent to the use of formula.

 

Newborn Care Procedures

  • If our baby is a boy, we DO NOT wish to have him circumcised!
  • We do not give permission for antibiotics, vaccines, or a vitamin K injection to be administered to our baby.
  • We wish to use either an oral dose of vitamin K or to forego vitamin K.
  • We wish to decline antibiotic eye treatment for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea (I do not have these infections).
  • We would like to do the PKU test.

 

Rhogam

  • (My) blood type is O- and (my husband’s) is O+
  • We would like to test Baby’s blood type and, if Baby is O+, do a Kleihauer-Betke test.
  • If the Kleihauer-Betke indicates blood mixing, (I) will have the Rhogam injection.  If no blood mixing is indicated, (I) will decline Rhogam.

 

For a Cesarean Birth

  • We wish to reserve cesarean birth as a last possible option and want (my husband) to be present during the operation.
  • We would like minimal drugs (epidural only).
  • Following a cesarean birth, we wish for our baby to be warmed by skin-to-skin contact with (me) or (my husband).  We want (my) arms to be free so she may touch Baby as soon as possible.  (My husband) should stay with Baby while (I) am unable and should be allowed to warm Baby using skin-to-skin contact.
  • We wish for Baby to be allowed to breastfeed in the recovery room and do not give our consent for formula, sugar water, or pacifiers to be given.

 

NICU Admission

  • We want NICU admission to be a last possible option.
  • If (me) and Baby must be separated, we want (my husband) to stay with Baby and to provide skin-to-skin contact.
  • I would like to breastfeed or provide pumped breastmilk.

I tried to use neutral language (i.e. “we don’t wish to” instead of “you’d better not”), imagining how the plan would be viewed by any health professional, especially one who doesn’t know us or is not as familiar with a natural birth.  It’s difficult to be very clear about your wishes but respectful of the medical staff at the same time, and it makes me doubly relieved that we will probably never need to show this to anyone but our home birth midwife and doula.  Whew. 🙂

I realize that everyone’s plan will be different based on individual preferences, viewpoints, and birth setting, but hopefully our plan can give you some idea of the things you can include in yours.  I also realize that it’s impossible to include every scenario or list every preference on a birth plan (without making it into a book), but I hope that ours at least conveys the most important things to us and will give anyone a feeling for the kind of birth we’d like to have.

 

Red Raspberry Pregnancy Tea Recipe

I’m going to share with you my recipe and method for making pregnancy tea.  I also want to share the incredible benefits of this tea.  It’s so good for you, so easy to make, and I think it’s even delicious!  Overall win!

The information I received from my midwife states that drinking 2-3 cups of this tea per day (I try to drink 4 cups) is purported to substantially increase your health throughout your pregnancy as well as lessen pain and bleeding during birth (sign me up for that!).  It will also be extremely beneficial when taken postpartum as it helps to tone the uterus and build a healthy milk supply.  The reason this tea is so beneficial is that it provides your body with some very important vitamins and minerals in a form that your body can easily assimilate.

Some sources will tell you that red raspberry tea is unsafe to drink during the first trimester.  My midwife never told me anything like this, and my doula said that she usually recommends a cup for each trimester (1/day during the first, 2/day during the second, etc).  If you have any questions, however, please consult with your midwife or care provider.  I drank some red raspberry tea during my first trimester, but didn’t begin in earnest until late in the second.  This was due more to laziness than caution. 😉

The main components of the tea are:

Red Raspberry Leaves– Contains vitamins A, B,and E, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and an acid neutralizer.  Nourishes, strengthens, and tones the uterus.  Has been shown in studies to shorten labor (and my midwives can provide anecdotal evidence of this as well), help reduce premature labor, and lessen bleeding after birth.

Stinging Nettle– It is a blood-cleansing and building herb with a high iron content and vitamin K.  Very nourishing to the kidneys and liver and will help to relieve (or prevent altogether) vascular problems common during pregnancy.  Helps build a good milk supply. (Also, in case you were wondering, stinging nettle loses its sting when dried or cooked 🙂 )

Optional components that I have added:

Alfalfa– Contains vitamins A, B12, D, and E as well as calcium and phosphorus.  Great for the milk supply.

Rose Hips– Contains the entire vitamin C complex.  Good for vascular problems (hemorrhoids, varicose veins) and to boost the immune system.  Recommended for Rh- women (of which I am one) and for fighting off infections.

Spearmint– Soothing to the stomach, aids in digestion, may help normalize blood sugar, and lends a pleasant taste to the mixture.  A little goes a long way.

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There are some very good pregnancy teas that you can buy, but if you’re going to be making and drinking a lot of it (and if you want to put only certain things in), it’s easy (and probably more cost effective) to buy some bulk herbs and make your own.  I bought my herbs back in July from iherb.com and spent $58.99 for a large organic bag of each of the five herbs I use.  I didn’t begin using them right away, so I still have plenty left.

The first few times I made the tea, it was a mess of trying to measure out some from this bag, some from that bag, etc, so I came up with a much easier method.

Using the amount guidelines given by my midwife, I mix up this recipe all at once in a lidded bowl:

  • 2 cups red raspberry leaves
  • 2 cups stinging nettle leaf
  • 1/2 cup alfalfa
  • 1/4 cup spearmint
  • 1/4 cup rosehips

Then, when I’m ready to make tea, I can just mix the herbs up a bit (I feel like the rose hips want to sink to the bottom), and put a handful into each quart jar (or a handful per every 4 cups of water).  I use canning jars to steep and store my tea in, simply because that’s what I had on hand and I like that they are a quart each, which is 4 cups and the amount I’d like to try to drink each day.  You could use any other pickle jar though or whatever glass or non-metal container you have.

Here’s my array of stuff I use when I make tea….

I like to make at least 2 days worth at a time so I’m not making it every day (and my smaller pan will hold enough water for 2 jars), but you can make more in advance and store your tea in the fridge for up to 5 days until you’re ready to drink it.  When I make more at a time, it helps keep me from skipping days of drinking my tea.  If I do skip days, I really notice the difference!  Once, after not drinking it for 2 days, I got cramps in both legs which disappeared when I started back up again.  Drinking the tea also helps me get my fluid requirements- I’m done with my jar and I’ve had half of what I need for the day!

After you put your handful of herbs into the jar, pour in almost-boiling water.  I’ve never had a problem with my jar cracking, but if you’re worried about it you can place the handle side of a butter knife into the jar before pouring to diffuse the heat.  Steep the tea, covered, for 20 minutes.

When done steeping, strain the tea (I use the same 4-cup measuring cup I used for pouring the water in) and discard the herbs (I put mine down the garbage disposal, but it always seems so wasteful.  I’m sure if you have a compost pile or garden that would be a great place to put them!).

The jar will be super hot, so use a hot pad or mitt!

I then rinse out the jar (under cold water because it’s too hot to touch otherwise) to get out the remaining herb bits (especially the rose hips which sink to the bottom) and use a smaller strainer to strain the tea back into the jar (this will help remove the little herb pieces that escaped the first straining).  You could strain again if you want to be really super picky about stray herb pieces in your tea, but I decided that’s just a waste of time.

There you have it- a beautiful amber jar of delicious nutritious pregnancy tea!  It’s called pregnancy tea, but really if you research these herbs you’ll find all kinds of non-pregnancy benefits as well.  I just might keep drinking this tea the rest of my life!  And I’m pretty much serious about that.  I’ve actually begun to look forward to drinking this stuff.  You may drink it cold, room temperature, or hot.  I really like it hot or room temp (if I’ve stored it in the fridge I’ll take it out to cool down before I drink it).

Happy tea drinking! 🙂

 

 

Please note that I am not affiliated with any of the websites or companies that I refer to or provide links to from my blog. I do not profit in any way when you do business with them. The only reason I provide links or refer to where I purchased something is because my goal is to make it as simple as possible for my readers to duplicate what I have done, if they so desire. That is all.

34 Weeks AGAIN: Midwife Home Visit, Fluids, & Engagement

Our midwife made her first home visit last night!  She and her assistant came, and we showed them the painted nursery and where we plan to put the pool.  They ooohed and aaaahed over the nursery (fun because we hadn’t shown it to anyone yet) and liked the pool arrangement idea because it’s in the living room but behind the couch- that means I can have my support team in the room with me but maybe not feel so much “on display” if everyone isn’t sitting on the couch facing me. 🙂  I like that.

Let me turn aside and make a rant here….  We don’t wear shoes in the house.  We never have.  We have nearly white carpets and also we just think it’s gross to wear shoes inside.  Usually when people come over they notice that we’re not wearing shoes or that there is a small collection of shoes at the door and respectfully remove theirs as well.  When the midwives visited, the assistant midwife took hers off right away, but our main midwife just never noticed, never removed her shoes while we traipsed around….  my husband would have made a request had he notice right away, but he didn’t.  I tried tried tried to just be chill about it, but it was in the back of my mind the entire time and really bugged me.  She’s not a detail person, our midwife, so I’m really not surprised the shoe thing totally escaped her, though she does go into other people’s houses a lot and you’d think she would have learned to think of it…  We need to introduce the idea in some tactful way, because if people are dirtying my carpets with their shoes while I’m in labor I’m truly going to have to say something- and maybe not in a tactful way, from what I hear of the social skills of laboring women, lol!  Ok, just had to get that out there.  End of rant. 😛

So we talked about a lot of stuff during the visit- including some stuff that doesn’t apply to us at this point, but at least it’s good to know.

  • We now know that our midwife isn’t induction-happy and has let women go to 43 weeks and have a natural birth- super!  We also talked about the home induction methods that she can use (long explanation about stripping membranes- that always makes me cringe) and under what circumstances she would immediately ask us to pursue a hospital induction based on what has happened with her clients in the past (pre-eclampsia, liver disease).
  • We talked about pediatricians and she made several recommendations, both for conventional doctors and non-traditional.  We’ll have to discuss whether or not we want to begin seeing a pediatrician right away or wait until/if we really need one.  Our midwife will do visits and checks on the baby for the first 6-8 weeks and would tell us if there was a problem we needed to see anyone else about.  It would be nice to have a pre-existing relationship with a pediatrician in case we really needed one, but I’m not at all fond of the idea of taking the baby in multiple times in the first few days/weeks just to be weighed and stuff.  I want to chill out at home and hibernate with my squishy newborn!
  • It’s funny- our midwife has never once asked me any questions about my weight, but told me last night that my weight gain has been “perfect” (incredibly nice to hear after I worried in the beginning that it wouldn’t be enough!).  I don’t know how she knows except by looking at me….  then my husband piped up with a number, so I ended up trying to tell her how much I’ve gained.  It’s tricky because I’m not really sure myself- somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds I guess, but it’s honestly different every time I weigh, even within a day, so I don’t have a hard and fast number.  She said that was just what she’d wanted for me, though, so I feel really good 🙂
  • Baby is basically still in the same position: head down, trunk to my left, legs and feet all over the place across my tummy and on the right.  (Best convo ever- MW: “That’s a foot there.”  Husband: “But I thought this was a foot.”  MW: “Well… there are two feet!”  Me: “Excellent!”)  I had been wondering if Baby was moving his back around from left to right or if I was just feeling more on the right side because he’s growing and just filling more of the space.  I guess it’s the latter.
  • Baby isn’t engaged yet- not a problem at this point, but the midwife would like to see engagement by her next visit (36 weeks).  The head is still quite high; she could basically put the side of her hand underneath where the baby’s head is.  Move down,  Baby!
  • The one piece of advice she said she could give me would be to watch my fluid intake.  She said I have just an average amount of amniotic fluid at this point and need to make sure I’m getting enough each fluids day so it doesn’t go low.  Yeesh.  I knew I’d been slacking off on my tea and water the last few days and was kicking myself for it because then I had to hear a caution.  At least it’s not a problem yet.
  • Once I get to 36 weeks, I can have a homebirth (just 2 weeks to go!).  Before that, I’d have to go to the hospital, but there’s no reason to think I’ll go into labor before then!
  • Our pool will be delivered hopefully by the first of December, so we can blow it up and try it out different places to see what we like. 🙂  Fun!
  • Discussion about car seats.  Least interesting topic of the night.  I let my husband take care of the car seat installation in my car- it barely fits in my little Rupert (that’s my car’s name), and I’m now driving around with the base in there!

I think that about sums up the visit.  Now on to the worried/obsessive thoughts inside my head….

  • Even though I knew that the discussion of fluid intake was only meant to prevent a problem from happening and didn’t mean that there was a problem already, my first reaction was to begin to freak out a little bit.  I know that low fluid can be a serious problem.
  • Even though Baby doesn’t need to be engaged yet, I can’t help but wonder what will happen if he still isn’t in a couple weeks.  What can you do to make a baby engage?  What happens if Baby never does?
  • After the midwife left and I began googling “medium fluid levels” (look at how paranoid I am!), I also begin to realize that SOMETIMES when I have a Braxton Hicks, that is also the time I get that short-of-breath feeling and I also have been getting some heart palpitations- both during a BH and when baby kicks sometimes.  My radar is finely tuned in to heart palps after my experience just prior to this pregnancy and I hate that feeling!  So I begin to google that.  Turns out a lot of women report the same experience, and it looks like it can be caused by the baby (or uterus, during a Braxton Hicks) hitting the vagus nerve.  I was then wishing I’d made this connection just a couple of hours earlier so that I could ask about it.

So yeah, I spent a couple of hours beginning to feel anxious about those things.  I could feel myself sinking into a worry hole…  You know what though- I’ve decided that I’m JUST NOT GOING TO WORRY!  Thinking back to second trimester and all the worrying I did over my possibly bicornuate uterus and all the Braxton Hicks- well, I just don’t want to go there again!  The third trimester has been WONDERFUL so far because I’ve just relaxed about the pregnancy and enjoyed the ride, even the bumpy parts.  The best I can do is take good care of myself, listen to my body, and bring any remaining concerns to my midwife at our next visit (or before if they’re urgent).  The part I really need to listen to is the part where she told me (for the second visit in a row) that I’ve had a really good pregnancy, a really healthy pregnancy, and that the pregnancy has gone really well.  She doesn’t foresee any problems, doesn’t think I’ll have a difficult labor, doesn’t think I’ll deliver really late.  Hearing those things really does make me feel good. 🙂  I am truly blessed that everything has gone so well, that all of my fears have been for naught, and that the baby appears to be so healthy!

Oh yeah- are you ready for this?- I’m actually at 34 weeks TODAY, not two days ago.  I know, this must be blowing your mind.  I’ve been counting the weeks on the Mondays, which are actually the weeks since my last menstrual period.  My midwife, however, has calculated my due date as December 19, which is actually a Wednesday.  It’s just because of the way she counts it up, and it’s only 2 days difference, so I really don’t care either way.  Having a due date later rather than sooner is actually good because it puts that much less pressure on- both from myself and from other people (I have actually now begun to tell people “Christmas time” when they ask about a due date because I don’t want to start getting endless questions about “where’s that baby?” right at 40 weeks).  😉  I will still count the weeks on Mondays since that’s how I’ve been doing it all along, but just know that my “due date” will be at 40+2  🙂

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