Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Baby #3's birth story - more thoughts

After thinking about my blog for awhile, I realized that I left out some important details. I don’t want to forget these things so here they are.

Almost as soon as I learned that I was pregnant, I called my midwifery group that I'd used with #2. I requested the midwives that had been at his birth. I wasn’t thrilled with everything that had happened, but figured we could work it out. I couldn't get them, they were on vacation when I was due, but I was assigned two of the most experienced midwives in the group. As soon as I met them, I loved them. I had a great first visit with my primary midwife. We chatted and laughed and had a long visit. She was finishing my sentences. We were on the exact same page on everything important to me. I so looked forward to our visits. I could talk about pregnancy and birth and babies all day, every day (just ask my husband!) and finally had some people who were as excited about it as I was.

Fast forward several months. We had to move from Canada to the States. I was 30 weeks pregnant and devastated to lose my midwives that I’d bonded with so well. I told my husband that I HAD to find a new midwife ASAP and I would not give up on my plan to birth at home (unless there was medical indication to do so). That would just be too much. Before leaving Canada, I posted on a board on Facebook asking for recommendations for a midwife in the area that we would be living. I got only one response, but she recommended a few different midwives. I emailed all of them and got only one reply.

We met with her a few days after arriving here. I had anticipated a 45-60 minute meeting, as my appointments in Canada had been (and I was thrilled with that, compared to the 5-10 minutes that I saw my doctor for my first pregnancy!) She spent about 3 hours with us I think, just with us getting to know each other. I really appreciated her taking the time with us so that we could get to know each other, especially with so little time remaining in my pregnancy.

I liked her as soon as I saw her. The more we talked, the more we liked her. Then she mentioned church and we learned that we shared the same faith. I was thrilled. I’d left my home, my friends, my family, my church, my midwives, my country… I’d been pushed entirely out of my comfort zone, and here I was, sitting on a futon in this midwife’s office and feeling totally at home. God had definitely set up our meeting!

I had already basically written my birth plan. I found it funny and wonderful that the opening paragraph of my birth plan was said to me almost word for word by my midwife during our first meeting and she’d never read it. It talked about how I view the role of my midwife as similar to that of a lifeguard: to stand by the side and make sure everything is going okay, and jump in if there is a problem. Almost every point on my birth plan was standard care for her. I was thrilled to hear this.

So this is why I was so happy to see her when I was in labour :) I know that God had everyone there that was supposed to be there.

The second thing I wanted to record is this.

I struggled during the birth, as many birthing women do. As I birthed his head and shoulders, it felt like I was dying. My doula-mind was saying to me, “You feel like you’re dying. This is great! That means that the baby is almost here!” Meanwhile, my body was saying to me, “This is too much, I can’t do this!”

I was meditating on this. Why must we go through this process of feeling so close to death in order to bring forth life? Perhaps it was the memory of being in the water that spurred my epiphany. It was like a baptism for me. I went in a mother of two and emerged a mother of three. I went in broken, with memories of an intense birth, difficult delivery, and traumatic postpartum. I came out healed, with memories of another intense yet good birth, with no complications, surrounded by people I loved and who loved me. I can still remember what happened with my previous births, but the pain isn’t there when I think about it.

There is no less selfless act than to give up your life for another. In giving birth, I thought I was dying. At some point though, I stopped caring about that. I just wanted to make sure that he got out and was okay.

I had really worked during this pregnancy to practice self-hypnosis. I wanted to be able to get out of my own way. As Ina May puts it, to let my inner monkey do it. To stop analyzing every little thing and trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing and instead, just do whatever my body told me to do. I didn’t totally stop analyzing. I heard the midwife mention a purple line and knew what that meant. (I even wanted to ask for a picture so I could see but then another contraction hit and I forgot about it.) I felt sick and knew transition was coming. I knew exactly how the double hip press worked to open up my pelvis and take the pressure off my back. Yet this time, I was able to analyze all that and more and it didn’t bog me down. I still let my monkey do what it needed to do. I didn’t get in my body’s way. To put it another way, I died to myself (my thoughts, will, emotions) and just let God and my baby and my body work together to give birth. (Not that I didn’t still need reminders at times ;) )

You can laugh at me; maybe I’m making a big deal out of something that isn’t. However, there’s no denying that I feel different now. I felt totally different literally the instant that he was born. I now have a beautiful birth memory to cherish. I honestly can’t think of a single major thing that I would change if I could have a do-over. I know it doesn’t mean as much to everyone (at least they say it doesn’t) but it means a lot to me. You ask a 90-something year old woman what her births were like and she’ll tell you, in detail! Birth matters :)

Now the real work begins. Now I will die to my wants and needs every day for this wee one, at least for awhile. At least, I’ll do my best to do so :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

He's here!!! Baby #3's Birth Story!

This was my 3rd baby, 2nd homebirth, and 1st waterbirth (I’m into numbers LOL).

We are staying with my husband’s father and step-mom for awhile so the plan was to birth in their sunroom. The house is over 100 years old with old floors, except for the sunroom which has concrete under it so that’s where the birth pool was set up. (Someone commented at one point that considering the age of the house, it's quite possible that mine wasn't the first baby born in it! That was a neat thought.) In attendance were my midwife, her mom (an l&d nurse), her assistant, my husband, my mom, and my doula. My father-in-law and stepmom-in-law were in the kitchen adjacent to the sunroom. Our older two boys were in bed and slept through the whole thing.

I was at 39 weeks and 3 days when he was born. I had prodomal labour a week before he was born for 2 days so my mom decided to come (she lives 10 hours away). I started getting pressure in my back while on my way from one store to the next and started getting contractions in the 2nd store. My mom and I finished our shopping and went home. I was in a hurry to go. I kept hearing that with prodromal labour, and a 3rd baby, once it got going for "real", it'd probably go quick. I didn't want to be one of those women who birth in a department store bathroom. I wanted to be at home, in my warm tub of water, with my midwife.

My mom walked into the house and told Hubby that I was in labour. He came out and asked me what the contractions felt like. I answered, “different”. As in, different from the prodromal labour – that had been intense, but this was intense – strong contractions – but also a lot of pressure in my back and uterus which I recognized immediately from my first two labours.

I’m funny – I don’t get early labour! Even with my first, I woke up at 28 weeks in active labour. Contractions were 1.5-2 minutes long and 30-60 seconds between them. The L&D nurse said that was impossible... until she saw it on the chart. I was dilated to 3 by the time I got to the hospital about an hour later. Then I was induced at 9 days past my EDD and 3 cm and labour came on full force right away. With my second, I woke up at 4 am in active labour. Anyways, as soon as I said different, he knew what that meant.

He called the midwife and doula and started setting up the pool. I think the midwife arrived about an hour after I got home so 2 hours into labour. I had no awareness of the passage of time though, so I could be way off on that. (This was on purpose. I didn’t want to get hung up on “oh no, it took 3 hours to dilate 1 cm” or anything like that so I told everyone not to tell me what time it was and just didn’t pay attention to time.) I was SO happy to see her. It was like, "Okay, I can relax and have this baby now that she's here."

Midwife checking baby's hearttones. I'm contracting and working hard.
I hadn’t wanted any internal exams, but she needed to know whether to call her assistant to come, and as soon as she suggested it, I wanted to know where I was at so I agreed. I was 6-7 cm between contractions and 8 cm during contractions. Head well applied, bag of water bulging. I was so excited to hear this as I’d stalled at 7 cm both previous times, but as soon as I got past 7 cm, I went FAST (from 7-10 in 15 minutes with #1 and 7-10 in about 1/2 hour I think with #2).

Smiling between contractions - my last belly picture
I got right in the water as soon as it was ready. It was a very intense labour. Being in the water didn't help much during the contractions but did feel good in between. My mom had a hot water bottle on my back and she and various people (hubby, midwife, her assistant, and my doula all took turns) were doing the double hip press which felt amazing, almost totally relieved the pressure in my back.

I had practiced hypnobirthing during this pregnancy. It helped immensely during the braxton hicks and prodromal labour - I had NO pain at all during these when I did the self-hypnosis techniques. I did have pain when I didn't do the relaxation. It helped (to a lesser extent) during the actual labour contractions too. Last time around I was panicking and tensing up. This time, despite the intense pressure, I was much calmer. I definitely felt pain, but it didn't overwhelm me as much. The relaxation techniques worked very well between contractions too. Instead of spending the time between them in fear of the next contraction, I just relaxed and enjoyed the respite.
I started having an urge to push. My midwife asked if I had a sharp pain by my pubic bone and I did. She said not to push because I wasn't fully dilated yet so I just relaxed and waited. After awhile, my body was pushing on its own. It was neat to feel that as I’d never really had an urge to push with my first two – I was just told that I was fully dilated with a lip and I could push now so I did. This time, I couldn’t keep from pushing.

After pushing for a bit, my legs kept cramping. I fought it for awhile, not wanting to give up on my desire to birth on hands and knees (I birthed my first two on my back), but finally had to give up and flip over. At least in the water, gravity didn’t have the negative effect it would have had on land.

I pushed for awhile but didn’t seem to make much progress. My midwife checked me and I had a cervical lip (same as both my other births) so she moved it out of the way (according to Hubby - I remember her checking me but I don’t remember the lip) and then I could feel him moving. I thought I was dying and then thought well if I’m dying anyways, I might as well push him out first.

I kept saying owwwww and my wonderful midwife told me to say “out” instead. That helped a lot. She also said something like “You can keep yelling but you’ll just end up with a sore throat tomorrow. It’s better if you can channel that energy down and use it to push.” So I did what she suggested (I still had a sore throat the next day though).

When his head crowned, she reminded me to reach down and feel my baby. It was unreal. She reminded me again after his head was born to touch him. Then I pushed the rest of him out (thinking for sure this would kill me!) and she told me he’s here, bring him up to you. I was so out of it and grateful that she reminded me that I wanted to catch him myself and bring him up to my chest if my positioning allowed me to do so. If I was on hands and knees then she would have had to catch him and hand him to me. Because I was sitting in the pool, I could catch him myself :D

My doula from my 2nd's birth (who was unable to attend this one because I moved 10 hours away) asked me what it felt like to catch him myself, compared to having someone else catch him. I told her that with the first two, it was like I'd waited 9 months for Christmas only to have someone else unwrap my present for me. This time, I got to unwrap my own present. I loved it.

[Photo removed to protect the identity of my midwife]

He was born after just 5 hours of labour. I have no clue how long I pushed for.

He was COVERED in vernex! That is a creamy substance that protects their skin in the womb. It's more common to see lots of it on preterm babies. It doesn't need to be washed off, I just rubbed it into his skin and it helps protect his skin after he's born too. My first, I think, had very little at 10 days past EDD. My 2nd had none that I can recall at 39 weeks. This one was covered head to toe with vernex at 39 weeks and 3 days. That sure surprised me, I wasn't expecting to see that.

Immediately after he was born, I felt amazing. I’d done it! The water surrounding me kept me warm (I get so cold after birthing!) and I think it lessened some of the painful sensations that come after birthing.

His cord was kind of short so I had a hard time balancing him with his head above the water as the cord kept pulling. After a little bit, I birthed the placenta. They put it in a plastic bucket and floated it beside us until it was time to cut the cord. Hubby cut the cord and marveled again at how thick and hard to cut it is. His placenta was so little! I'd guess it was maybe 1/2 to 3/4 the size of my 2nd's (I never saw my 1st's placenta). My doula encapsulated his placenta for me - I haven't taken any yet though.

He nursed for a short while and then we got out of the pool. I sat beside it on a chair and put my feet up on the edge of the pool. They piled me up with a hot water bottle and blankets as I was shivering hard. My doula hand-fed me eggs and toast and my mom brought me some Evergreen Wheatgrass Juice.

Best wheatgrass in the world! Well, at least North America where it's distributed :D

After a bit, my father-in-law took the baby so I could move to the bathroom and into my postpartum herbal bath. Then the baby joined me. He wasn’t happy in the bath after a bit and kept rooting so I nursed him again. Everybody left hubby, baby and I alone for a bit and that was a special time.

Postpartum Herbal Bath
Then we moved to my bed where my midwife checked me for tears (none!) and did the newborn exam. He was 8 lbs even, 21 1/4” long, and had a 14 cm head. I was tucked into bed (it was about 6 am by this point, 3 hours after he was born) and had a good sleep, cuddling with my new baby.

After my first birth, it took me about 2 weeks to get over the initial “I’m never doing this again!” feeling. It took 3 months to get to that point after #2 (in fact, I cried when I learned I was pregnant because I didn’t want to go through that again yet) and about 2 seconds after #3.  It was so wonderful and peaceful (despite my yelling – sorry ;) ). It was the first birth that I felt totally safe and was not upset with anything that happened. Nothing was done to me without my consent, I was fully supported, and my baby wasn’t taken away after. It was very healing and empowering.

Every time I walk into the sunroom, I think about it and remember how loved I felt during his birth and I feel it all over again. It’s a wonderful feeling :) Just looking at these photos, I want to drive over to my midwife's house and hug her and thank her for supporting me in a way that made it so special.