Monday, May 16, 2011

My first birth story, part 1 — Mikko, June 2007: Labor at home

I hope no one got excited that this was my current birth story. I tried to be as clear in the title as possible. This new baby's still inside!

I feel like I've maybe done things a little backwards, giving you bits and pieces of Mikko's birth without ever posting his full birth story. I started this blog when he was three months old, and I never thought to go back and write this out for you. I had written it out for my friends and family around that same time, though (with Sam's contributions in italics), so I have it in its preserved freshness and hadn't actually read back through the whole thing since I first wrote it.

I had planned to edit this substantially, both for content and for length, but I kind of like the way I wrote it at the time. I'm even keeping my original photos and captions intact. I did add in some more recent links and notes, and I will make the concession of splitting it into two parts: home and hospital.

Here it is, then, from June 2007:


birth — pregnant belly pics artsy bump


The tale of my birthing time, 42 hours of labor and a home birth-turned-hospital transfer, culminating in the all-natural delivery of our little guy — 11-pound, 13-ounce, Mikko.

My disclaimer as I sit down to write this, several weeks after the event, is that even if I’d written this the day after, I don’t know that I’d remember all the details clearly. I was in a (helpful) foggy state that let time pass one sticky moment at a time. Concentrating only on the now, I tried not to analyze what had happened so far or predict what would happen in the future (and how much longer it would take). That way panic lay…. I know we annoyed some relatives by not being more update-friendly during the birthing time, but that was the reason — we really were trying not to think in terms of progress and minutes ticking away.

This all to say that I might not get details exactly right, and I might be incorrectly remembering even how I felt at particular moments. But, this is my story, and no one else can tell it for me, so here goes my attempt at telling the birth of Mikko, my firstborn son, who’s talking to me on my lap as I write, waving his hands around and tasting the air with his tongue, and reminding me that everything about his birth was worth it.

birth — 34 weeks pregnant belly pics silhouette with partner


[These bits in italics are me, Sam, the daddy, chiming in with a few recollections of my own from the 42 hours. I, however, promise to get all the details right, as my memory is so exquisite that I once made an elephant weep in self-pity.]


SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2007

Regular contractions began at 10 a.m. but weren’t intense enough to stop us from going about our daily business, as we had planned and as we had been advised. Little did we know it would be a couple days yet, and good thing we didn’t! We walked out of the apartment that afternoon to go to the post office one last time, and our neighbors across the street yelled down from their balcony, “Are you on your way to the hospital?” I laughed and said no and debated whether to tell them I was in labor but coming back after errands for a home birth. I just told them the baby was definitely coming soon and that my due date had already passed a day or so ago, and they were excited for us.

The rest of that day, Sam & I kept an eye on the clock every once in awhile to see if the waves were continuing and if they were getting closer together. I also napped for awhile while I still could do so comfortably. The contractions didn’t go away and they stayed regular, which made me happy and excited that I was actually, truly in my birthing time. I started listening to my Hypnobabies tracks. Hypnobabies is a version of self-hypnosis for childbirth, a method of deep relaxation and positive thinking.

{These will be my current notes. At this point in my original retelling, I launch into a huge long explanation of the awesomeness of Hypnobabies and how it persuaded me natural birth — and home birth — were possible. In the interest of attention spans, I will skip most of that for now, though I still heartily recommend it.}

Sam & I ended up going with Hypnobabies, because they have a very comprehensive home-study course (and, no, they didn’t hypnotize me to shill their products…buy Hypnobabies…buy Hypnobabies…). I had gotten an iPod recently so I could listen to my Hypnobabies CDs before bed and around the house, but during the birth I ended up just cycling through the two tracks I wanted out loud on my computer when I wanted them running.

birth — hypnobabies track list on itunes on computer
HYPNOBABIES SCRIPTS PLAYING ON MY iTUNES


Things were nice and calm. We had run our errands in the afternoon, pausing when I needed to let a wave run through me. I was surprised how much these early waves felt like menstrual cramps — it made sense to me after more thought, considering it was the same muscles involved. I somehow thought, though, from birth stories (especially women’s “horror stories”) that it would feel entirely foreign. The familiarity of the sensation was both a good thing (“I’ve done this before…”) and a bad (“Normally I’d be tanking up on ibuprofen right now!”).

In the evening, we decided to call the midwife answering service to page the on-call midwife since it was a Sunday and to give our families a heads-up, all before it got too late to reasonably call people (especially those on Eastern time). M was the midwife on call (T, her partner midwife, was at another birth), and she asked some questions about progress and told us to get some rest and call back when we needed to. She would let the midwifery students know to get some rest as well so they would be ready. We then called my parents, Sam's parents, and Sam's sister, Natalie, who lives nearby. We told them it was early yet but that they could start praying for us.

{As I've mentioned, this is the story we disseminated to our family and friends. I really, really did NOT want to tell anyone we were in labor, but Sam had promised his mom to call and gotten her promise in return not to bug us during the labor, under penalty of all sorts of ouchy things. No calling for status updates, no sending worrying thoughts our way — just pray in your own state and leave us be. My mother-in-law actually agreed to this and carried it out. But the thing about giving my in-laws a privilege is that I then felt obligated to give my family the same one, and my parents had not agreed and would not agree to leave us alone. So we got all sorts of chiding emails and panicky voice mails that were really annoying and guilt-inducing whenever we'd have a break from our concentration to check in on them. Suffice it to say, no one's getting told this time, except Natalie, who will be watching Mikko, and she is sworn to secrecy.}

M - midwife with newborn
M, ONE OF OUR MIDWIVES. (IGNORE THE DISTRACTING LITTLE KID IN THE PICTURE. HE’S NOT BORN YET. WE FORGOT TO TAKE ANY PICTURES OF THE MIDWIVES UNTIL OUR POSTPARTUM VISITS.)


Midwife and families duly notified, Sam & I settled in for the night. We decided to fill the birthing tub (a very comfy, inflatable kiddie pool) and relax in there. I knew sometimes it was not advised to get into the water too soon, but I really wanted to, because I knew it would help me continue to feel calm.

birth — filling the birthing tub with hose of water kiddy pool
FILLING THE BIRTHING TUB


I had started to have strong pressure in my back with every wave, and I remembered from reading labor support books and webpages that counterpressure on the back can help relieve that pressure. I asked Sam to press hard on my lower back during a contraction, and it definitely helped, so I asked him from then on with each contraction — yes, for all the rest of the labor, minus the pushing phase! What a wonderful birth support partner he was, because he did it! He soon found a wooden massage tool we have that helped him press hard without wearing himself out too quickly. Whenever a wave began, I’d lean over and say, “Push,” and then I’d direct him, “Higher,” or “Lower,” or “Harder,” as necessary. When the wave eased off, I’d say, “OK,” and sit back to rest.

birth — counterpressure on back during labor by partner
SAM PRESSES ON MY BACK TO COUNTER THE PRESSURE. (WE RECREATED MANY OF THE LABOR PHOTOS, THIS ONE INCLUDED AND THE ONE ABOVE EXCLUDED, BECAUSE WE DIDN’T TAKE ANY DURING MOST OF THE TIME. FOR SOME REASON, WITHOUT DISCUSSING IT, BOTH OF US FELT UNCOMFORTABLE DOCUMENTING THE TIME PASSING. WHEN THE BIRTH ITSELF FINALLY CAME, WE HANDED OFF THE CAMERAS TO THE MIDWIVES.)


While we were in the tub for hours that night, we watched the British show Coupling on DVD and enjoyed laughing like crazy. Toward the end of this quiet, dark, alone time of our birthing, I began to find it hard to be distracted by the DVD and we ended up turning it off around the time we called the midwife again, and turning on the Hypnobabies scripts instead. I also got out of the water — it felt nice to relax in it, but it wasn’t doing anything for the pressure in my back. It was very intense — not what I would call pain, but now this was nothing like my menstrual experiences — I didn’t like the sensation and coped through it by having Sam do his magical counterpressure. With that, I had something to focus on and somehow deflect some of the intensity, much as biting on something can help relieve tooth discomfort.

birth — sitting in birthing tub during labor
THIS IS THE REAL BIKINI I WORE. IT’S MY BIRTHDAY SUIT. (I CRACK ME UP.)


Even when the midwife used the terms “back labor” and “posterior position,” I couldn’t allow myself to believe that’s what was happening with me. I had been assured that my baby was in the optimal position to birth easily, and I truly believed that, even at this point. I figured this was just a quirk of how I labored and maybe had something to do with my propensity for back pain at other times. This really makes little sense, but there you are. As it turns out, the midwife (gasp) was right — whether he was fully posterior is debatable, because he came out facing the right way but seemed to be trying to turn just prior to that, but at any rate his head was asynclitic (tilted), and clearly he wasn’t in an optimal position, as the subsequent length of labor would attest. His head wasn’t engaged well and wasn’t putting even pressure on the cervix to soften and dilate it, but we wouldn’t realize that right away.

[Sam: In the old days, a husband would pace outside in the waiting room while his child was being born; in these enlightened days the husband is right there in the thick of things, but still mostly useless. So I was glad to have something practical and concrete to do, pushing on Lauren's back. I got to feel some of the intensity of the moment by being physically connected to her through the whole experience, awake with her through most of it, and aware of it all. I was also glad that we'd planned a home birth, because my other job was emotional support, and, unlike a new father I'd met the week before, my style of encouragement is not to yell "you can do it" again and again. {True story.} My style of intimacy is more quiet: in looks, touches, small jokes, evoking memories and connectedness. I don't know that I could have done that with hospital staff running about, the railing of a hospital bed between us, the interruptions, the unfamiliarity of it all. In fact, when we had to transfer to the hospital, that's exactly what happened; I became more observer than participant, more of a sideshow to the vital roles that everyone else seemed to have. So it was good to have this time alone together, in our room, chatting away about life and parenthood and the future, as Mrs. Pim the cat trotted about. And to my surprise, at no point did Lauren ever lose her sense of humor; even in the midst of the intensity there was room for a little levity, a shared smile, a sense of presence.] {Seriously, how could I not love this man?}


MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2007

So, it was about 5 a.m. when we called M back. We had been intermittently timing contractions, not obsessing about it, but noting the times every once in awhile. From coming every 5-6 minutes at the start, they now were every 3 or so, and lasting about 90 seconds to 2 minutes long — that to us sounded like the birth would be very soon. {Har har.} M sounded distinctly underwhelmed by this news — she wanted to speak with me personally and seemed to indicate that there was no need for her and the students to rush over. I figured, Well, she’s just expecting that this will be a typical long first-time birth, but I’m a Hypnobabies birther! I will surprise her! I chalked some of her lack of enthusiasm up to tiredness, and indeed I did feel bad waking anyone at 5 in the morning. But I felt it would be irresponsible to wait longer, since the standard is to call when contractions are 4-5 minutes apart lasting longer than a minute. I didn’t want to be accused of trying to be an unassisted birth hero (although I wasn’t at all scared of the idea of unassisted birth — I had dreams of the baby sliding effortlessly out into the birthing tub and my hands, and Sam and me laughing as he scrambled to unlock the door for the surprised midwives who arrived just minutes late on the scene).

birth — bouncing on birthing ball during labor
BOUNCING ON MY BIRTH BALL. COME ON DOWN, BABY.


We still had a couple hours before anyone arrived, but at this point I retreated to my bedroom and alternated between my nest of pillows on the bed (crinkly and slippery because we had covered them with garbage bags and then thrift-store pillowcases on top) {Speaking of which, this was annoying — I think I'll leave our pillows — gasp! — unprotected this time until maybe at the very end. They're all crappy pillows anyway.} and my yoga ball on the bedroom floor. {I always call it a birthing ball, but I figured my family would have no idea what the heck that was.} I felt like bouncing on it helped keep me calm and feeling like I was doing something to move the baby down. It also distracted me somewhat from the pressure during the waves, although I still wanted Sam to press on my back with each one whenever he was around.

He went out to let each arrival in — one of the midwifery students first, then the midwife and the other student. M, K, and L all were very respectful of my need for space and to feel like this was my home and my birth, and they generously remained in the living room for much of the birthing time. I felt a little disconnected and so like a very strange hostess indeed — these were guests in my home, and yet I mostly hid away from them, coming out half-dressed from my bedroom every once in awhile to gaze loopily around, and then I would disappear into the only bathroom to shower for ages, calling out a garbled reassurance that anyone who had to pee could feel free. That’s the strange part of a home birth, I guess, although I think it’s the strange part of birth in general. I felt very unfettered by convention, by modesty, by expectations — I just had to let go and give this birthing thing my all, and anything else would just have to wait.

{I've been obsessing about how our downstairs bathroom is unfinished — as in, toiletless — and it seriously wasn't until about two days ago that I remembered we had only one bathroom for the last birth, and I monopolized it, and yet it all worked out. Well — for me, at least. It would be nice to have a separate bathroom for the midwives, Natalie, and Mikko to use without coming upstairs into my birthing space and potentially bothering me, but it's not necessary. Nice to remember that, and kind of a sign of how we take privilege — even the relatively new privilege of having two toilets — for granted.}

M asked if I wanted a vaginal exam to see how far dilated I was. I hadn’t wanted one philosophically speaking — I knew that they aren’t a good indicator of progress or of how far there is yet to go. They tell you where you’re at, but they don’t tell you how long you have left to labor. It maybe would be nice (maybe) to have some such indicator of the future, but dilation isn’t it. I knew that, and I knew I would be discouraged if I wasn’t very far along, but in the moment, I felt like I needed to know, and I also knew that M was eager to have a baseline. The exam was one of the worst parts of the labor, which I really wasn’t expecting. No one in the midwifery practice is rough, and I usually can relax myself very thoroughly for any such exams, but for whatever reason, I could barely stand to get through it, particularly when M wanted to keep her hand in through a contraction to see what the head was doing. I remember yelling out, “Why?!” in a very plaintive voice, which I think made people laugh. I really didn’t like the idea and just wanted it over — the pain of the prodding, the invasion of my body, the intensity of the contraction — why would anyone want them all combined?

The conclusion was that I was 5-6 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced (I might be getting some of these numbers wrong, but that’s close). This was both good news (I’m not a 2!) and bad (I’d been hoping I was complete or nearly there). And that, my friends, is the problem with measuring dilation. It really didn’t tell us much — I was somewhere in the middle, something I’d already known. Sigh.

The rest of the day was spent in a blur of laboring. Here are things I remember, in no particular order. I was really trying not to gauge progress too much, because whenever I thought of how much time had passed, I worried that that much time might still remain. I wanted to stay in the moment and not panic, and I think I managed to do that for the most part.

I remember Sam & I looked up online what famous people were born on June 4, our baby’s birthday, or so we thought. At any given time, I expected our baby to come out within the next hour, and I couldn’t figure out what was taking so long.

[Sam: We were excited to learn, courtesy Wikipedia, that our child would share a birthdate with Quinten Hann, Australian snooker player. But alas...]

The shower was my friend. I spent hours and hours in it, and the blessed hot water heater that pumps to the whole apartment building magically held out. Thank you, God! It really spared me, because I had been told not to get back in the pool. Sam drained it with the siphon pump and turned it upright to dry, and it seemed so sad to me that it was standing there, unused and unbirthed in. I was glad we had labored in it that night, but I felt vaguely guilty now that I had done the wrong thing. The midwives were concerned that sitting down would not be helpful for getting the baby down and engaged and dilation kicking along. I really wanted hot water, though, so I became the non-stop showering lady. They had to come into the bathroom to check the baby’s heartbeat with the portable Doppler. I would turn off the water and peel back the shower curtain to stand, dripping, while I was gooped up and got to listen to the baby’s heart — always strong and consistent, which was such a blessing throughout that long labor. I never had any worries that the baby was fine. After I was released, I would turn the water back on to wash off the goop and stand under the spray once more.

When I was getting really tired, I would kneel in the tub, but then the water would be too far away unless I brought down the handheld showerhead and sprayed it directly on my lower back. When I felt more energetic and was trying to be a good birther, I did lunges with one leg up on the bathtub ledge, leaning back and forth into it through a contraction.

{You can guess this was really a workout — a marathon combined with calisthenics or some such nonsense. I really like my current midwife's recommendation of an hour in the pool, a half-hour out, much better. Not to mention the fact that she simply doesn't do vaginal exams.}

birth supplies for homebirth
WE GATHERED ALL OUR BIRTHING SUPPLIES WELL IN ADVANCE AND SADLY DIDN’T GET TO USE MANY OF THEM ONCE WE TRANSFERRED. WELL, AT LEAST WE AVOIDED A LOT OF LAUNDRY.


I sang songs to my baby, to reassure him and me. {I used the masculine pronouns in the story because I now knew it was a boy; at the time, I did not.} I sang, in particular, “Mahalo,” a gentle Laurie Berkner song {still one of Mikko's favoritest songs — is this coincidence?}, and hymns, and for some reason, I had “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie” going through my head ALL DAY. I couldn’t decide if that was a bad sign, being about death and all. I tried at one point to change the tune, and all I could think of to replace it was “Bird on a Wire,” the version by Judy Collins — I got to the line about “like a babe stillborn” and almost choked. That was out. “American Pie” it was. I couldn’t shake that thing. I still sing “Mahalo” to my baby as a lullaby, but I have yet to sing “American Pie” to him!

We kept hot water on the burners all day long, and in the crockpot. I walked the apartment, mostly the triangle of the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom, to leave the living room to the other ladies. I alternated between turning on and off the burners, because I kept thinking it was ridiculous to have them on all day when I wasn’t allowed to get back in the tub anyway and maybe never would be, but then I would think, “But what if we need them!” And, anyway, it all felt deliciously Little House to me, to have Sam in charge of boiling water for the birth.

birth — heating boiling water on the stove during labor


In my nesting frenzy, I had frozen Emergen-C in ice cube trays. Sam dutifully brought me yummy orange ice cubes throughout the day. They didn’t freeze as hard as just water, so they were pleasant to suck on and scrape carvings off with my teeth. I was hoping for the energy boost they would give me, more so than plain water, though I kept a Nalgene bottle available to sip from.

Sam also kept me supplied with light snacks. The midwives kept encouraging me to eat and drink to keep up my strength. I was all for this in theory. I thoroughly disagree with outdated hospital policies that keep women from ingesting calories and hydration in what is perhaps the most physically demanding event of their life. Would you run a marathon on an empty stomach and without any water stations?

BUT — while I had no objection to trying to eat, I couldn’t keep a thing down. I ended up throwing up six times, all told — every thing I ingested came back the same way. The last time I threw up, shortly before the hospital transfer, I was down to just bile. I was completely emptied. Even so, I brought my trusty metal mixing bowl with me in the car, just in case, and even up to my room.

birth — emergen-c ice cubes during labor
EMERGEN-C FROZEN TREATS, TASTY GOING DOWN OR UP


{My current midwife has some ideas about how to avoid a repeat of the vomit chain — less acid, more protein, and more eating in general.}

I tried to stay positive about the vomiting, and indeed I didn’t feel too upset about it. Normally I get quite upset when I throw up — it doesn’t usually make me feel better physically, and I feel much worse emotionally, so I do anything I can to avoid it. But it felt less like an illness in this case (since it wasn’t) and more like the intensity just forced everything out of its way. There was no room for anything but this birthing power.

The midwives would say, “That’s good for another centimeter!” when I would throw up, too, which was a cheerful thought. It turns out that it’s not true (or not in my case), but it’s a pleasant thing to tell a birthing mama, particularly one who’s puking repeatedly.

So, things I momentarily ate: fruit popsicles, apple slices with peanut butter, orange slices, grapes, homeopathic treatments from K, half a Subway veggie sub (that was on Sunday; we’d stopped on the way back from the post office). It all tasted good going down! What a waste of perfectly yummy food.

[Sam: I'm not sure if it was the lack of sleep or nervous energy or what, but my stomach was all aflutter and food did not sound good to me. I finally nibbled on some crackers and cheese and a few grapes after K insisted I get something in me in case things continued slowly. I hope that I didn't contribute to Lauren's nausea with my thinking "who'd want to eat that?" when I'd make her something.]

Because I was so dehydrated, eventually I needed an IV for the energy. It took both arms and several tries to find a good vein — I have small, deep veins anyway, and now my dehydration was making it so much worse to locate a useable one. In hindsight, I should probably have had a heplock put in right away, but at home births it’s not the standard to assume you’ll need IV intervention. I had to lie very still while they were looking for veins, under the assumption that I could afterwards resume moving (and showering — I asked, sheepishly!), but once it was in, it was in in such a precarious vein that I had to remain still for two bags of fluids to pump in. So I took a little nap while I was rejuiced and tried to keep that arm perfectly still. Every once in awhile, a couple people would help me waddle to the toilet, holding my IV bag up for me. Needing to pee was a good sign that I was getting some fluids in finally.

I had a bowl of cold water with ice cubes that Sam kept supplied and several washcloths to alternate on my head, cooling me down. I needed the coolness on my neck and forehead during a contraction and then couldn’t stand it in between and would whip it off. When we were still planning the birth there, M said we needed to turn the heat up for it to be warm enough for the baby. Earlier, I had told the ladies in the living room that they could open the front door for some air if they wanted, but they declined. I couldn’t figure out why no one else was boiling hot until I found out later I had a fever from the dehydration.

birth — resting between contractions with cloths on head
ACTUALLY AT THE HOSPITAL, BUT THIS IS BASICALLY HOW I LOOKED ALL DAY — LIKE A GUMBY.


We kept the phone turned off but checked our email from time to time. Sam sent out short updates, but I couldn’t bring myself to analyze what was happening any further than that. I really didn’t want to recount everything that had happened and speculate on progress, because it would take me out of my zone of being in the present only.

I prayed all day, and really felt wrapped in God’s protection. I kept reminding myself of the verse: God will deliver her through childbearing (1 Tim. 2:15), which I chose to interpret very literally (as some theologians do). I also really liked a saying I had read in Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, something like, “Every wave comes to shore.” (That’s what I remembered it as, at any rate.) When a contraction would crest, I would repeat that to myself, waiting for it to ebb and to feel my body relax again. It helped remind me that no contraction lasted forever, and that I would get to rest again soon.

{This is one reason I was so thrilled to get to meet her this Mother's Day! You can enter a giveaway for her latest book, Birth Matters, autographed, on my review site — I bought it at her book signing.}

In general, Sam & I were able to nap off and on all day. We needed to conserve our strength, and we didn’t know how much longer it had to last. I had the Hypnobabies tracks playing most of the day, although at some point I let them go silent and just thought reassuring affirmations to myself as needed. I didn’t do all my deep relaxation exercises and different cues and techniques as much as I thought I would, or at least not as precisely, but my overall attitude was one of calm optimism, so I think the methods soaked in even though I maybe wasn’t being an A+ Hypnobabies student in the moments of the birthing time. Case in point, Sam & I were able to rest between contractions and then spring into position when a wave would start. I would lie on my side in between waves, then struggle into a hands-and-knees position on the bed as one began to flow, tucking my head down into a pillow. This was supposed to free the baby to dislodge from my pelvis and get into a better position to turn before heading back down. I would wake Sam up to push on my back. After each wave, we would roll back over and fall back asleep.

birth — partner taking a rest during labor
SAM GETS SOME REST.


M and K said the head could be felt down in my pelvis but wasn’t truly engaged. It wasn’t pressing on my cervix very hard or very evenly, which was slowing up the dilation. I needed to walk, lunge, kneel — all to encourage the baby to line up more directly and get ready to get out. We didn’t know what was holding it up. Sam reminded me of a birth I had read about and told him about, a woman whose baby did not want to turn to a better position. She had been very discouraged, until she birthed the baby positioned as it was, and found out the cord was too short for the baby to have turned — that if the baby had turned, she would have strangled herself. We considered that our baby, too, might have a reason to stay where he was, but it would just mean more time. And who knew how much more.

{In retrospect, his size, too, likely had a lot to do with how long it took for him to find a good path.}

Sam & I went out twice to walk on the beach. I had to put on clothes, so I wore a swingy skirt and a hoodie over my black tank top. I put water sandals on over my white socks. I wasn’t winning any fashion awards, but at least I was very clean from all my showering. I envisioned the baby falling out on the sand, and figured a skirt would let that happen as needed. Walking was slow going. I think I was advised to walk through the contractions, but I stopped and swayed during them, gasping for Sam to press my back. Walking was much harder than staying indoors and bouncing on my yoga ball, but I got the feeling that the midwives were getting less than impressed with my bouncing, my napping, my showering, and my kneeling, and wanted me to try some good old, full-on gravity. I wanted to be a good birther, or at least appear to be — I was getting pretty tired, and walking didn’t sound like much fun, but I dutifully paced the apartment and took these two walks out to the beach.

{Did I mention I am very obedient?}

birth — walking along the beach hand in hand with partner — pregnancy pics belly bump 34 weeks
NOT FROM THE ACTUAL BIRTH, BUT IT IS A VERY PREGNANT ME AND MY LOVELY HUSBAND ENJOYING THE PEACE OF THE BEACH


Several people passed us, but it was a strangely empty day for June. It was a weekday morning and then afternoon (or evening? I don’t remember), so the only people out were joggers or walkers. Most gave us strange looks, although a couple women pushing strollers gave us “Is she doing what we think she’s doing?” sort of looks. One woman walking with her husband walked right up to me as we sat on a log and stared out at the ocean (not walking again, but I needed the moment of peace) — I was worried about why until she said, “It will come out soon, don’t worry!” and smiled and continued on her way. I called, “Thanks, I hope so!” back to her.

[Sam: It still amazes me that we can walk out our front door onto the beach. These were definitely some of my favorite times of the birth, just being out where the sun was shining, the wind was blowing, the waves were lapping, and feeling so much in tune with God's creation at the moment of new creation. It was helpful to step out of the surroundings of our individual life and sort of open ourselves to the ideal of bringing forth a new participant in the world as a whole, a person who would play on that beach and walk in the sea froth and eat in restaurants along the shore.]

Sam bent down as we reached the steps, and I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. It looked like he was looking for something he had dropped, as he rummaged around the rocks piled below the seawall. Then he leaped back up to the steps and held out an interesting, smooth rock. He told me it was my birthing stone. I held it during the rest of the labor, squeezing it in my palm.

{Did I mention that he's awesome?}

birthing stone given by birth partner during labor
MY BIRTHING STONE FROM SAM, MY PERFECT BIRTH PARTNER


I did lunges, as instructed, on the steps leading down to the beach. Sam said my skirt was whipping in the wind around my legs and out behind me as I bent into the stairs, holding the railing and concentrating on turning that baby around. I could almost imagine him spinning inside as I bent forward and back, opening my pelvis to provide as much space as he needed to turn.

But the thing was, I hadn’t “progressed.” And here’s again where dilation exams suck mightily. Because it was now evening, and no baby, so another exam showed that I was…still at 6 cm. Erg. What had I been doing all day? I had become more effaced — 95% or so. But the dilation had been the same since the three midwives had arrived that morning, so whatever had happened over the previous night as we watched “Coupling” in the birthing tub was all that had happened so far.

At this rate, M said, it could be 10 hours more before I was complete — and then I still had to push. See, this is what I mean by exams being utter crap, because they can’t give you a rate. They can’t tell you how long it will take to go from 6 to 10, even if you’ve been 6 for a whole day.

The midwives offered to break my waters to see if that would help move things along. I had not wanted my waters broken, in my philosophical pre-birth mindset, but now I was willing to try anything, even at the risk of having the contractions be more intense. But, the thing is, they really weren’t, at least not initially. They had really slowed down and spaced out from where they had been that morning when I’d called. I was no longer timing them, but they had regressed to at least 5-15 minutes apart at various times throughout the day, if not farther. Every once in awhile in the shower, I would feel the contractions speeding up and coming one on top of the other, but then that intensity would pass and the time would move on in its slow, misty pace.

I tried to make my last shower post-water breaking last as long as possible, because I really didn’t feel like the AROM had made any difference. I couldn’t feel a discernible change in pressure or timing, and I scarcely wanted to admit that to the midwives, to Sam, or to myself.

I was checked once more, and sure enough, I was still at 6 cm. Sigh.

So this was the bad part, the sad part. M recommended transfer. It could be several hours yet before I got to 10 cm, considering how slowly things were apparently progressing. She said we should think about getting some pitocin to speed up the contractions, which would also suggest an epidural, since pitocin usually makes contractions much less bearable. The epidural would give me the added advantage of being able to sleep while the dilation happened without my efforts. I could completely relax and let my body open, giving myself some needed rest to get through the pushing phase when it was time. M stepped out of our bedroom to give Sam & me a chance to discuss our options.

This was the only time I let myself cry. I had kept my emotions under control the whole time so far, but I allowed myself a little time to break down and be hugged by Sam and just feel sad. I knew that emotions affect our physical comfort, so I had had to stay calm during the whole labor to keep myself feeling under control physically. I had learned this lesson during my miscarriage — five months after it had started in March, my August period started out with excruciating pain. I was so scared and so upset — we had been trying to conceive again, and here was proof that something was still wrong, that this wrenching experience was still not over physically — and I was sobbing in the shower. I had to emotionally calm myself — put my fear and sadness away — to be able to physically relax and allow the pain to recede.

So this whole labor, I had followed the lesson I had learned then, and kept myself cheerful and calm. But now, with the ruining of all my plans for a peaceful home birth, I allowed myself a few minutes just to be sad, to grieve the loss of my dream. I feared what lay ahead — the agony of pitocin, the failure of accepting an epidural after all my hard work to avoid medicating my baby, the foreignness of a hospital stay, and the potential for escalating interventions, perhaps culminating in a c-section. Sam was willing to stick it out at home, but I was trusting what my midwife had told me. We both felt like we had energy at that point, but we really weren’t sure that we could last another 10 hours and then still have strength in reserve to get through the pushing stage successfully. I saw the transfer as the intelligent decision at this point, that the rest and pitocin might actually help me avoid an emergency situation and a c-section.

Later, I saw in my chart that they had written “transfer for pain management,” and that kind of frustrated me. I was doing just fine and was not in pain, and that was not why I was transferring. I didn’t much like any better that I was one more statistic transferring for “failure to progress,” but that’s the best explanation that can be summed up in a tidy little phrase.

[Sam: The transfer felt something like having planned an elaborate wedding ceremony and then at the last second getting married in a Vegas elopement. All the work that we had done, the shopping for secondhand sheets and pillowcases, the gathering of supplies, all the things whose sole purpose was to usher our baby into the world were now sitting around us abandoned, unused, never to be seared into our memories. In the end the only things of ours that were ever touched by the messiness of birth was a pair of Lauren's socks. Even the water bottles we'd brought to keep Lauren hydrated were replaced by a hospital water jug. It was like going on vacation and picking up the wrong suitcase, and you had to keep going on your way but in someone else's clothes.]

birth — homebirth supplies towels and flashlights
ALL THOSE CAREFULLY COLLECTED BIRTHING TOWELS LEFT ABANDONED AND UNNEEDED


{I have to say it's felt both cathartic and a little superstitious to re-prepare the same home birth linens and supplies I had gathered for last time. They are all cleaned and packed carefully into two big containers, waiting.}



Stay tuned for Part 2: "A hospital transfer."

6 comments:

Kate said...

Thank you for sharing!!! It hits home to me... We attempted a home birth for our second, transferred to the hospital, and she was born 10 minutes later. We were determined to try again! Our son was born three weeks ago after a wonderful labor and delivery at home. Please feel free to check out our journey:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLKQycBIcnk

Best wishes,
Kate :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Kate: Oh, my gosh, Kate, I was laughing and crying through that whole video. What a beautiful, joyous story — I needed that inspiration right now. Congratulations to you on your newest little one! I love his name, too, by the way. :)

Maria said...

I had to open the comments in a new window so I can write as I read. I just started reading and I already a)love your writing style in this b) love your hubby both for his humor (ha, the elephant) and support of his wife and c) ahh the birthday suit, LOL!!

Good to know that emergen-c is tasty coming back up too, LOLOL.

Oh and the baby falling out on the sand, oh my! Very jealous that you are so close to the beach!

I'm anxious to hear the rest off the story, and to hear how you feel about your midwives.

Momma Jorje said...

I'm with Maria. I knew I wouldn't remember everything I wanted to say, so I wrote comments AS I read. :-)

I *love* that first photo! Absolutely stunning!

Gotta love the bikini!

Sasha had been in the proper, anterior position for the last month (at least) of pregnancy, but when labor came, posterior it was! I wish the right person had heard sooner that I was having "back labor" because once the right nurse heard it, she INSISTED I get on my knees and lean forward on a huge stack of pillows. We immediately could hear Sasha spin, literally! (through the monitor) - It was amazing and I was finally ready to push!

Ah, the levity! I can count on my husband for that as well. Le sigh.

I can't believe you haven't sung American Pie to Mikko! I had planned to sing "Black Velvet" to my first born, but the ONLY song I could think of was "Silent Night" - did I mention it was MAY?! Today is her 21st birthday!!

I also loathe to vomit and avoid it at all costs!

I hope to, at least, labor at home for LONGER this time. I woke Elmo to take me to the hospital around midnight last time. Neither of us had much sleep the night before. Had he been awake during that early labor, I think I would have remained more calm and comfortable at home.

Looking forward to Part II...

Amy @ Anktangle said...

Oh my, Lauren! As you know, I also had an epic birthing time, so I can SO totally relate to some of what you're going through in this story. I remember those infernal cervical checks with no NO change, and thinking, "You've gotta be f-ing kidding me!"

Anyway...it's lovely to read your story and I'm very excited for part two!

Lisa C said...

I've been reading your birthing story intermittently all day. I got to the end of this part, and was ready for more, and the next chance I got to read, there was the second part! Yay! Not quite finished yet, but just wanted to say that I love your bikini top, LOL. You crack me up, too.

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