Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest Contributor: My Third Son's Birth

Over the next week, we welcome some posts from a guest contributor. Amy contacted me a few weeks ago to share her birth stories. She has Type I diabetes and three sons, all born vaginally and with minimal intervention. Her stories have been a real encouragement to us, and we hope you enjoy reading about her journey!

First of all, when we found out that we were expecting a baby at the end of March we always joked about the baby being born on my husband's birthday, April 2nd. Sharing birthdays is kind of a trademark of my family. I share a birthday with my dad and my brother. But we didn’t actually think that would happen! I was pretty sure he would be a March baby. According to my due dates my first son was born at 39 weeks 5 days and my second son was born at 37 weeks 6 days. I didn’t imagine that I would go past my due date this time.

What I did expect was to have several episodes of contractions before the actual birth, and my third son certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard. With my first son, I experienced four different episodes of contractions on different days within the two weeks leading up to his birth. With my second, I had 10 consecutive days of contractions, several hours every night. They are not Braxton-Hicks, mind you. They are regular, timeable, painful contractions of varying intensities. I’ve just resigned myself to the reality that this is how I labor.

On Sunday March 20th I had a few hours of contractions in the evening after the boys had gone to bed. Nothing really alarming about that, as I assumed I would have several days or even weeks of these, but it was exciting because I knew we were getting closer to the birth! From Monday through Wednesday of that week I had sporadic contractions.

On Thursday the 24th things changed. I thought something might be happening because these contractions lasted all throughout the day, about 10 minutes apart, and they were intense. I needed to focus on breathing through them and even get down on my hands and knees sometimes. I didn’t want my husband to go back to work, because I wanted him to stay with me. I needed him for support and I didn’t want him to have to drive back home from work if I truly was in labor. He was only be a few minutes away, but if you’ve never experienced a fast labor you have no idea how insane they can be. Sometimes you don’t even have a few minutes to spare.

Of course he did go back to work, my contractions continued, and I called our doula later that evening to see what she thought. I’m used to having bouts of contractions before the actual birth day, but I’ve never had them all throughout the day like this, so I thought perhaps this would turn into the real thing very soon. Amanda suggested that I take a shower and then lay down for about an hour, timing the contractions and noting any changes. Taking a shower would hopefully relax me enough to get everything going if it was for real, or to calm the contractions if it wasn’t. After my shower the contractions didn’t exactly go away, but they didn’t get closer together or more intense. When my husband got home we went to bed.

The next morning everything started up again. Contractions 10 minutes apart pretty much all day long, sometimes longer depending on what I was doing. This lasted for the next week. I will admit that I was miserable. My husband will admit that too, because he was home with me on vacation all week! I spent a lot of time emailing/texting/calling Amanda. We decided not to go to church on Sunday the 27th, partly because I felt terrible and partly because I didn’t want to kick into active labor while I was an hour away from my planned place of birth.

Late Monday night (March 28th), I felt like something was different. My contractions were different, sometimes they were closer together or sometimes very intense. I did not want to go to the hospital if it wasn’t the real thing, but we thought that we might as well go in and see what would happen. We called Amanda and met up at the hospital. I hadn’t had any exams up until this point. I always decline them late in pregnancy because honestly there really is no point to them and they can introduce bacteria to the area. The exam found that I was 4cm dilated, 90% effaced, and the baby was -2. That wasn't bad, but it didn’t mean I was in labor either.

I was on the monitors for a little while and then I was free to walk the halls or do whatever I wanted. We walked around the halls for awhile, contractions were sometimes every few minutes, sometimes much farther apart. My husband and Amanda helped me through every contraction and we all just enjoyed one another's company. I was in some pain and decided to take a shower to get relaxed and relieve some of my aches and pains. It had been a few hours after I got out of the shower so Laura came in to check me again and nothing had changed. It was a huge letdown. Reluctantly we packed up and headed home. It was really early on Tuesday morning and I didn’t sleep at all the rest of the night because my contractions and general discomfort kept me awake.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I had the same contractions and pain. I did decide to go to the chiropractor twice. I thought that the baby might be a funky position, still head down but maybe positioned in a strange way. My regular chiropractor’s sister is also a chiropractor who is trained in the Webster technique (most often used to turn breech babies), so I went to her and had a few adjustments.

These 10 days wore me down and caused a lot of anxiety within me about how we would know when to go to the hospital or if we would even make it. I had also had a feeling all along that this baby was of a similar build to my second son, who weighed a large 8lbs. 14oz. at just shy of 38 weeks. Now I was 40 weeks, so this baby could be a pound or more heavier than that. That was making me nervous too. Even though I know of plenty of women who have given birth to larger babies vaginally with no problems (in fact, my second son's birth was easy), I sometimes still let the whole “big baby” scare tactics get to me. I know that fear and anxiety can inhibit labor so I tried to let go of the fears I had and also prayed for God to take them away and replace my thoughts with truth and peace. I’ll be honest, that didn’t really ever happen, because I was holding on too tight.

My due date, March 31, came and went. I was proud of myself for successfully avoiding an induction and standing up for myself to a doctor I barely knew. Most doctors would recommend induction at 38 weeks, but I made it clear that we would NOT agree to an induction unless there was something wrong with the baby or myself. Fortunately, there wasn't.

By now it was April - April Fool’s Day to be exact. The day started out like every day had throughout the past week. Contractions were 10 minutes apart for the most part. I sat around being a bum, complaining about my circumstances, while my husband pretty much ran the house and gracefully dealt with me :) In the afternoon my contractions started to get a little closer together, about 6-8 minutes apart. They still felt the same but we thought that we should really keep an eye on them. Later on in the evening they were about 4-5 minutes apart and I started to wonder if this could be it. Maybe I was actually going to have a more normal labor this time and this was my early labor!

I still wasn’t sure if we should go to the hospital or not, and after what happened earlier in the week I did not want to go back to the hospital unless I was REALLY sure. I wasn't convinced yet. But the thought didn’t leave my mind all day. Looking back I think it was God prompting me to go in to the hospital even though it seemed different than my other births. He knew we would actually need to be at the hospital right when active labor kicked in if we had any hope of actually birthing the baby there!

About 9:45pm we decided that we should go to the hospital. We called my husband’s dad to come over and stay at our house, and we called Amanda to meet us at the hospital. I was having consistent, intense contractions but it still felt strange to be driving to the hospital when I could still think straight and things really didn’t feel *that* bad. My husband called my mom to let her know that we thought this might be the real thing, and she began to six hour drive to meet us. He also called Amelia to ask her to pray for me. We called our doctor as well, but he was out of town as we thought he would be. He had told us to call anyway. I liked the doctor on call more than any of the other doctors in the practice, aside from my own, so I felt alright with our doctor being out of town.

We arrived at the hospital around 10:30pm, and Amanda was there waiting for us. We entered through the ER and then we escorted up to L&D. I can’t even explain how strange this all felt to me compared to my other births. This was downright weird! No urge to push, and no "can't-think-straight" or "can't-do-this-anymore" feeling at the hospital entrance. And I was a little excited, thinking that I would have at least progressed a little bit from earlier in the week and would truly be in labor this time.

The nurse examined me and found me to be exactly the same as earlier in the week. How could that even be possible?! I was so discouraged. I felt like maybe we had made the wrong decision about when to come in. As we all sat around in the room while I was on the monitors I expressed my discouragement and fears to my husband and Amanda. I was in so much pain, I was afraid we would be sent back home, and I didn’t think I could take this any longer. At one point I said, “I am in so much pain. You have to tell me I can do this!” I needed support and encouragement from my husband and Amanda and of course they did not disappoint. I can’t tell you how much it meant to even just have their encouraging words. Of course they did so much more as well. I can’t imagine birthing without them. I didn’t even know what to do, I was pretty distraught at this point.

We decided to walk the halls in hopes that my labor would progress. Sometime before midnight we started walking. I remember walking past the clock right at 12am and telling my husband, “Happy Birthday!" Maybe the baby and his father would share a birthday after all. I was still having contractions of course, every few minutes. They were bad and whenever one hit we stopped and I leaned against the wall. I swayed either side to side or back and forth while Amanda squeezed my hips together or put pressure on my back or whatever it is that she does that is seriously amazing.

[If you’ve read through all my birth stories and still haven’t considered finding a doula for your next birth (or recommending it to others), what are you waiting for?! A doula’s support is absolutely invaluable no matter what kind of birth you are planning.]

At 12:37am we went back to our room. I went to the bathroom and then sat in a chair and leaned over the bed during contractions. I was still struggling with the pain and my fears. Sometime around 1am the nurse came back to check me again. I tried to be optimistic, and hoped that I had progressed and we could all consider me "in labor." Thinking back on this, I realize how silly it was for me to be waiting for the nurse to declare that I was in labor based on a vaginal exam! I WAS in labor, whether a vaginal exam proved that or not, according to all other emotional and physical indicators. After the exam Laura said I was still (still….STILL!!) at 4cm, and everything was the same.

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

OK, I didn’t really scream, but probably just because I was so despondent at this point. I was so overwhelmed. I had already been at the hospital longer than I had been first and second births combined, I was having contractions every few minutes, I was in pain, and I was confused at what was going on.

Having been our nurse earlier in the week, Laura knew my birth history and knew that we were a little nervous to go home in case we wouldn’t have enough time to get back. She told us that she could feel my bag of waters and thought that if my water broke then things would probably start progressing pretty quickly. She said we could stay at the hospital a few more hours if we wanted to. Maybe my water would break in that time, or things would otherwise progress, and we could talk to the doctor in the morning to see what she thought.

Laura left the room and we just sat around. I was so disappointed and confused about what to do. No one was pressuring us to do anything, so that was good. I just felt like I couldn’t take it any longer. I think one reason that I was in so much pain and feeling so terribly was because I was only thinking about my labor based on how far dilated I was. The mind/body connection is very strong, and what you think about something or how you perceive it can affect your pain level and how you feel physically.

With my first son, I never had any exam until I arrived at the hospital and I was fully dilated. With my second, because of the pre-term labor incident, I knew that I was at least 5cm dilated throughout the last four weeks of my pregnancy. When I got to the hospital I’m not even sure that they had to check to see how far dilated I was. They just looked and saw that he was coming! So I didn’t have any point of reference to think, “I’m 4cm right now, but that means that soon my labor will be over because I usually progress quickly from here” or anything like that. I thought, if I can’t even handle myself at 4cm then I’m certainly not going to be able to do this once I start progressing. I thought I had hours ahead of me - hours of much more intense contractions and pain. And those thoughts I had affected the way I felt things physically. As with my labor with my first , I should have paid more attention to my emotional sign posts. If I feel like I just can’t do it anymore then I am VERY close to the end no matter what anyone else is telling me or how far dilated I am! If I can’t even think straight, I am VERY close to the end. If I had realized those things then I think I would have handled everything better.

By then it was around 1:15am. We were sitting around discussing things and probably all praying that something would happen. I was lying in bed on my side because lying on my back was extremely uncomfortable during contractions.

At 1:20am, I had a contraction that was way different than the others. I was clenching the handrail of the bed, I couldn’t even get my thoughts together enough to remember to relax, and I weakly told them that I thought that contraction was different.

A few minutes later, BAM! another one and now I am quite sure that something has changed! I started crying and they encouraged me to get out of bed in order to handle everything better. Someone pushed the call button for the nurse. I tried to move over to the chair and sit down but then said that I did NOT want to sit down. Instead I just leaned onto the bed while standing. The nurse was not responding to the call button but I did not want either my husband or Amanda to go get her because I needed them with me.

I tried to relax and sway during contractions while Amanda applied pressure to my back and my husband was right there next to me. I felt like I couldn’t do it (and that thought completely freaked me out since I was only 4cm dilated), but my husband kept telling me that I was doing great. With the few contractions I had while leaning on the bed I felt just the slightest urge to push at the peak of them, which also freaked me out because I was only 4cm and thought that couldn’t possibly be right. So I didn’t say anything about that at the time. I reluctantly let my husband run to get the nurse while Amanda stayed with me.

Laura came in around 1:35am and didn’t hesitate to examine me while I was standing up. I told her there was no way I was getting back into the bed, and some nurses won’t do that, but Laura was great! She said I was 5-6cm with a bulging bag of waters. On the one hand that was good since it meant that things were progressing (not that we didn’t realize that already), but on the other hand I thought, “5-6cm, you have got to be kidding me. I really cannot do this for much longer, let alone HOURS." I was still mistakenly thinking that I had hours to go based on the faulty idea that all women dilate 1cm per hour. At some point I think I tried to breathlessly say between the contractions that I felt like I needed to push. We quickly got ready to move to a birthing room and Laura went to call the doctor.

We moved to the birthing room around 1:40am. The bed was still raised pretty high and I begged them to lower it as quickly as possible because I knew I needed to get up onto that bed immediately. Another contraction would be coming soon and I needed something to lean on. I climbed up onto the bed and knelt down leaning myself up against the head of the bed, which was raised.

I was moaning and saying I needed to push, but of course the nurses did not want me pushing until the doctor arrived. Everyone tried to encourage me to breathe lightly through my contractions but there is just no way to do that when your body is pushing the baby out anyway. Amanda calmly told me to just do my best and that I was doing a good job. They asked me if I wanted antibiotics (I was GBS+ this time) and I declined. I had planned to decline anyway, and I knew they wouldn’t have had time to get them in me even if I had wanted them! They asked me if they could put in an IV and I said no. Hello! Can you not see that I am about to push a baby out here? There is no time for that! I told them that I could not hold back from pushing, whether they were prepared or not.

I pushed a few times? I’m not exactly sure how long it lasted, but it couldn’t have been long since he was born seven minutes after we got to the birthing room. At 1:47am our son was born. The nurses caught him and his waters broke as he came out. Since his waters broke when his head came out, it took me a second to realize that his head was actually out. I thought it might have just been the waters breaking. His body did not come out right away on the same contraction as his head did, most likely due to the fact that one of his arms had come out with his head. The nurses were very concerned about that and wanted me to turn over so that they could “help” get him out. I did not want to turn over onto my back, but when I heard them say he was “stuck,” I immediately thought they meant his shoulders were stuck (which is a very serious situation!) so I turned over. His shoulders were not stuck and I think the rest of his body would have come without their help within the next contraction or two, but they were not willing to wait and I wasn’t in the right mind to be able to argue with them. We talked with my doctor about this later, and he agreed that the shoulders were not stuck.

My baby was handed to me and I held him on my chest. I was relieved that he was here, yet stunned after what I had just been through. It’s hard to explain, but I felt like something happened *to* me as opposed to me being an active participant in my labor and birth. It was terrifying! Not because of the pain, but because of the quickness and my own mental state at that point. I was paying too close attention to my dilation as opposed to other labor markers. I immediately thought, “I am NEVER doing this again, that was ridiculous!” I seriously felt like I was in shock, it was so incredibly crazy.

But now that I am three months out from the birth I think the emotions I had at the time have died down a bit. I think it’s true when people say that you don’t remember the pain after it is all said and done. Besides, it is up to God whether we have more children anyway. Most likely we will, and I will be glad to go through it all again if that is the case (although I certainly won't complain if my next labor happens to be just a little bit more “normal”).

My husband and I both thought that he looked exactly like our second son, and in fact for the first week of his life I think I called him by our second son's name more often than not! When he was first born he was bluish, but nothing to be very concerned about as he pinked up quickly while I held him. After a few minutes he started turning blue again so they decided to cut the umbilical cord. It was much sooner than we wanted it to be cut. They took him over to the warmer, where my husband tells me that he pinked back up right away.

Soon after this the nurses weighed him. We all discussed how much we thought he weighed and we all (even the nurses) guessed somewhere around 8 ½ pounds from just looking at him. Then one of the nurses picked him up to carry him to the scale and she said she thought he must weigh more because he felt heavy. We were shocked when he weighed 9lbs. 11.6oz! I knew he was going to have our second son's build :) I was glad that I chose to decline the growth ultrasounds in my third trimester because if they had thought that he would be larger than normal I am sure it could have been used as another “reason” that I needed to be induced. But it’s amazing what our bodies are capable of when we let them do what God designed them to do, unhindered by unnecessary interventions and negative (and untrue) thoughts such as “this baby is going to be too big to deliver." His birth was not difficult at all and recovery was easy (aside from the afterbirth pains - those are seriously killer!).

My son began nursing and the doctor arrived around 2:10am. The doctor was there for the delivery of the placenta and to put in some stitches. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do, or how big or small the baby is, I always tear.

So we’re now 2 for 3 on the nurses catching our babies. Although I do hope that our doctor will actually be there next time! Our first son’s birth was the only one he was there for and it was the least hectic. The baby's blood sugar was checked at 2:45am and it was 67, which is just right for a newborn! Around 3:45am Amanda left and we got ready to move to our postpartum room.

So, was my third birth as quick as my others? Well it all depends on how long you consider me to have been in labor:

Do I count from when I started having regular contractions? Then that would be over a week.
Do I count from when my contractions seemed to be getting closer together? Then that would be around 12 hours, even though I didn’t progress dilation wise for 11 ½ hours of that.
Do I count from when I went into active labor? Then that would be 27 minutes.

So I just say it was long and short.

April 2nd will always be a special day in our home and I’m expecting a great gift on my next birthday since I've set the bar pretty high.

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