Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What helped me during my [natural] labor

From the get go, I wanted a natural birth and by natural, I mean no drugs, no interventions, a let-my-body-do-its-thing birth. Here are the things that were helpful in achieving this:

Read- a lot. To get my head in the game, to be all in, I read. If you read my labor & delivery story, you may have noticed I wrote "I had read that..." a few times. I hadn't noticed this until my last entry how many times it occurred, but it's true. I read as much as I could about birth. The process of birth, what happens at each stage during birth, many different scenarios, possible complications...

I remember my first meeting with my midwife. She was (and still is) very straight forward. When I told her I wanted a natural birth she asked me, "How hard are you willing to work?"


That was not what I expected, but it is true. It's called labor for a reason. It is not easy. It is work. Your head needs to be in it or you'll start asking for medicine as soon as you feel the slightest bit scared.

In all my reading that I did, I soaked in as many empowering birth stories as I could. They weren't all easy births, many had set backs or difficulties, but a woman's body is an amazing thing. It was designed to give birth! And then afterwards, it feeds that living thing!! (Even only being a Mama for three weeks, I feel like a superhero- making, carrying, birthing and feeding another human being with my body. That is powerful stuff!)

I read Ina's Spiritual Midwifery and her Guide to Childbirth. I also read Sheila Kitzinger's The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth and The Mama Natural Week-to-week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth, by Genevieve Howland was great, too. (I even brought it to the hospital with me.)

Watch birth stories. I remember telling some ladies at church that I'd been watching births, and my friend Cathy exclaimed, "Oh, honey! Why?!" She couldn't believe it, and to many, that may sound traumatizing.  I wanted to see the reality of birth. I wasn't going to believe what I'd seen on tv or in the movies. It's not all yelling and screaming. Many births I watched didn't look like the Mama was in much pain. (Not saying that she wasn't, but she was probably mentally prepared for the task at hand.) YouTube was a place I looked up birth videos and MamaNatural.com.

Take a birthing class. I was skeptical at first about taking a Lamaze class, but my midwife recommended it. I have to say that it was good for my husband to hear a lot that I had read about. We watched some birth stories in the class and it made my husband really nervous. For me, it just gave me more confidence in what my body was capable of doing. If all these women can get through those contractions, can endure the long labor and all the pain that goes with it, so can I.

Learning how to breathe through the contractions is what I took away from Lamaze. I felt really silly sitting on the floor next to my husband during class, with my eyes closed, practicing breathing, but that's what got me through the first stage of labor. During a contraction, I closed my eyes and did the "candle breathing" as it's called. I didn't focus on anything else, except breathing.

Jump in the tub. The Jacuzzi tub in my labor and delivery room was amazing! Water alleviates back pain, especially if the tub has jets. Turn them on! The warm water is so soothing, too. At my hospital, they were able to continue fetal monitoring while I was in the tub, so I didn't have to get in and out to be checked. If you're giving birth in a hospital, make sure you get to tour the facility. Be familiar with it, so you aren't surprised by something that is or isn't there. 

Surround yourself with people who encourage your choice for a natural birth. As soon as people find out you're pregnant, all the Mamas in your life will tell you their stories and experiences, whether you ask them to or not. To me, one of the most amazing things about child birth is that every single birth is different. Just because your Mom or sister had a long, hard labor, doesn't mean you will. You need to choose people that will help you through the process.

There are so many choices to make during labor: Do I want my water broken or wait for it to happen on its own? Do I want to be medically induced or try some natural induction methods? Do I want an epidural? Do I want to labor in bed, in a tub or walk around? (This is where a birth plan comes in...)

Pick a healthcare provider that is on your side. Whether it is an OB or midwife, you want someone that knows your wishes for birth and won't push interventions on you that you don't want (break your water, give you Pitocin or an epidural, which may lead to a C-section if they don't work the way they're supposed to). My midwife, Kim, was exactly what I wanted and exactly what I needed to get through my labor and delivery.

If it so happens that you need an intervention and you need an unplanned C-section, at the end of it all, a healthy Baby and healthy Mama are all that matter.

I am one of the crazies that wanted to experience child birth the way it is- raw and intense. That's not how everyone feels. Many Mamas opt for an epidural. It is each Mama's choice and birth, however it is, is a beautiful thing. <3

Friday, May 19, 2017

My labor & delivery story, Part 4: I thought for sure I was having a boy

My midwife, Kim, said, "Fill up you lungs, hold your breath and push like you've never been so constipated in your life."

I pushed about three times per contraction. Kim said I could push a fourth time or rest. I preferred to rest.

I still felt like I wasn't open enough, but she told me to push. Pressure increased and Kim said, "Give me your right hand. Feel that? That's your baby's head."

I couldn't believe it! I was so close!

After about twenty minutes of pushing, out came the head. One more contraction and out came the body. The body was easier than the head!

The next thing I heard was Renee exclaim, "It's a girl!"
"What?!" I said in disbelief. We hadn't found out what we were having, but I thought for sure I was going to have a boy.

Kim had to unwrap the umbilical cord from around the baby's waist and made a comment about her jumping rope. After a minute, Kim asked Renee to cut the cord.

Next, Kim started pushing on my abdomen, which hurt quite a bit, to help my uterus expel the placenta. I felt a jelly like object come out and Kim held it up proudly. "Look at that! A placenta is one of the most amazing things. You can take it home and use it as fertilizer in your garden or for the tree you're going to plant for the baby."

Kim wiped off the baby, who was on my chest, then kissed my forehead. "You did excellent, my dear! You were born to have babies!" Then she congratulated Renee and gave her a hug. I needed just two stitches, which hurt a bit, and then got cleaned up.

Our baby girl was born at 6:34pm, weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces and was 20" long. (About 5 1/2 hours after my water broke!)

Renee was taking pictures with her camera, so I asked her to use my phone, too. She didn't know how to use it, so at first she took some selfies and then little videos of me and the Baby, (I saved the videos because they are fun to watch and remember) then finally, she took some pictures.

Twenty minutes after Baby arrived, my husband walked in the room. He couldn't believe he missed the birth. I remember him saying, "What?? Really?!" When he was told he had a girl. I still remember the smile on his face- it didn't ever go away.

Renee had been undergoing radiation treatment at the time, but had to cancel her appointment for that afternoon because she was with me. She left shortly after her son got there. Later, she told me she was getting shaky because she was really hungry. She hadn't eaten since lunch time and it was almost seven o'clock at night. Renee gave me a hug and kiss and said she was thankful she could see her second granddaughter be born.

Another nurse came in and asked if I wanted to take a shower. I rinsed off and then after a bit of story swapping with my husband, and skin to skin time with our baby girl, we went down to our recovery room on the maternity floor.

It was about 9 o'clock when we got to our room and I was really hungry! It was too late to order room service, so we got sandwiches delivered from Jimmy John's. Because Renee drove me to the hospital, my car was still at my sister-in-law's, and because my labor was so fast, my husband's coworker ended up driving them right to the hospital instead of dropping my husband off to get his truck, so delivery was our only option.

It took us until the next morning to decide on a name.

Our baby girl was named Cecilia Rose. It wasn't the name that I thought I'd pick, but again, I wasn't even expecting a girl.

She is so precious and sweet. We think it fits her perfectly. <3

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My labor & delivery story, Part 3: Steadily more intense

We went right to triage and up to the labor and delivery floor. The nurses strapped me up to the monitor for fifteen minutes. One nurse put in an IV site, just for emergency reasons, if something were to happen and I needed one.

Kim got there after a bit and asked, "Are you ready to get in the tub?"
I asked, "Has it been fifteen minutes? The nurses said I needed twenty minutes of monitoring."
"They listen to me. I'm the boss. You're ready for the tub," Kim replied.

As I took off my gown and just had a sleep nursing bra on I thought, "Renee is going to see a lot more of me than she ever has before."

I was in the tub for a while, but can't say for how long. Time passed by fast. Contractions got steadily more intense. I just did my candle breathing I learned from Lamaze and held onto the two bars on the sides of the tub. I bent my knees and would move my feet to try to get through each contraction.

Renee finally got a hold of my husband. I heard her ask, "Where are you? Colleen is in labor! Do you want to talk to her?"

She handed me the phone and I heard my husband say, "Hey babe, how's it going?" in a softer, more gentle voice than usual.
I said, "I'm OK. Where are you?" Then a contraction started and I couldn't talk.
He asked, "Are you there?"
"Yes, I'm having a contraction."
"You sound like you're doing really well. I'm proud of you. You're doing great. I love you."
"I love you, too."

During my labor, I occasionally heard the nurses say, "You're doing awesome" or "great breathing." Maybe that would be helpful for some people, but I really just wanted quiet and to focus on breathing through each contraction. Renee sat on the couch crocheting a prayer shawl. She knew I was doing well on my own. She would get me water when I asked for it and gave me some chapstick to use.

One time, Kim was right next to the tub as I opened my eyes. She asked me if I liked the smell of lavender. I said yes and she put some essential oil on my temples and on a tissue that floated in the water directly under my chin.

After a bit, I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. I remember reading that you should keep your bladder empty to help during labor. I couldn't remember how long it had been since I'd gone to the bathroom. The nurses had a large, warm towel for me and after my next contraction, I shuffled over to the bathroom.

I don't know how long I sat on the toilet for, but Kim brought a stool over and sat right in front of me.  I was slightly bent forward with my hands on my thighs. Kim told me to slow my breathing down and then I started to moan and groan. There was a lot of pressure and I felt like I needed to push, but I didn't feel dilated enough to do so. Kim had to keep reminding me to moan lower in my throat, to not strain or tense up.

I was getting really sweaty. I was dripping onto the floor and my hands started sliding down my legs. I wanted to lay down and get more comfortable. I shuffled over to the bed and laid on my left side. I knew I didn't want to labor on my back and I didn't want to squat because I read that may increase chances of tearing.

Kim had ice cold wash cloths and put them on my neck and head. They felt so nice! When I had really close contractions and the urge to push, Kim said I could. She then asked Renee to be the towel lady and take over putting new cold cloths on my forehead. Renee didn't feel like she had done much, but having her be there was a comfort. I didn't want to be there alone in this moment.

I held onto the handle on the side of the bed. When Kim said to push during my next contraction, I just held on tighter.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My labor & delivery story, Part 2: I don't think he's going to make it in time...

My contractions started up on the drive to Erie and every bump was pretty bad.

My husband said they were going to leave the job site at 3:00, so when I noticed the dashboard clock read 3:05, I wondered if he'd gotten my message. I called him again, leaving another voicemail.

Almost to the office, the nurse I spoke to earlier called me asking where I was. My midwife had been waiting for me. I quickly explained that I couldn't find anyone to take me to the office, so I started driving until my mother-in-law got a hold of me, making me a half hour later than expected. (At this point, we were only five minutes away from the office.)

Before I had left for Erie, I had put on a Depends, (I had bought a package a couple weeks earlier because I had read that other women found them convenient for recovery after labor) but now was completely soaked. I wrapped my towel around my waist and we headed to the office. I didn't care. I was uncomfortable and wet. I told Renee, "I hope I'm more than 2 cm [dilated], I don't want to have to drive all the way home."

When we got upstairs, the receptionist asked if I had an appointment. I said calmly, "My water just broke and Kim wants to check me."
Renee chimed in, "She's in labor!"

We got called back and Kim said, "It's always fun when they come in with a towel wrapped around their waist!"
Renee, again, said, "She's in labor."
But because I sat there quiet and calm, Kim replied, "No, she's not. Look at her. OK, my dear, let's see where we're at." After a minute she said, "You are at 6 cm. You are going to go to the hospital, right up to labor and delivery."

I was shocked. My contractions had been getting worse, but I didn't think I was that far along. Kim then told me they'd do fifteen minutes of fetal monitoring and then she wanted me in the Jacuzzi tub. (I had told Renee on the way to the office that I was bummed that I couldn't use the tub in the room because my water broke.) Kim said it was OK.

As Kim was about to leave the room, Renee said, "Her husband is three hours away!"
Kim replied, "I don't think he's going to make it in time."

Before we headed to the hospital, as customary, I had to check out. I handed the receptionist my paper and parking ticket to be validated. She said, "OK, you saw Kim today and you have an appointment with her tomorrow at ten."
Renee leaned in again and said, "No- she's having a baby today!"

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My labor & delivery story, Part 1: "I hope your water doesn't break!"

Tuesday morning, my husband left for work early- 4:15 am- to go out east for the day to finish a job with his coworker, Pat. As my husband kissed me goodbye he asked, "Are you feeling OK?"
"Yeah, I feel fine," I replied, and he was off.

Tuesday was also my last day of teaching art at school. Being the last day, I decided to use my "Dress Down Birthday coupon" since I didn't want to waste the opportunity to wear jeans.

My third grade class has been the most interested in my impending delivery, always spending the first five minutes of each class asking me questions about the Baby. "Do you think it's a boy or a girl?" ... "What are you going to name it?" Along with many name suggestions.

This class, a student named Carter shared first by saying, "I hope your water doesn't break!" I replied, "Yes, I hope my water doesn't break, too!" A couple students had puzzled looks on their faces because they had never heard of that before. I tried to explain, "There is fluid all around the Baby and it protects the Baby. When the water breaks or starts to leak, then that means the Baby will come soon."

After about fifteen minutes of the students working, I felt a warm gush run down my jeans. My water just broke! I kept looking down to see if it was visible, if it looked like I just peed my pants. I shuffled myself to the door and told the class, "I will be right back."
"You're leaving us?!" they asked.
I repeated myself. "I will be right back."

I walked down to the computer lab where the principal's office is adjacent and asked the sixth grade teacher, Mr. Johnson, if the principal was in her office. (All of the sixth graders were in the computer lab and I didn't want them to see any evidence of what had happened.) The principal, Karen, came out to the hallway and I whispered, "I think my water just broke."
She looked at me, gave me a hug and said, "Go home!"

I drove home and tried not to get too excited or nervous. This was not how I pictured things to go. I remember asking my midwife, Kim, what to do if my water broke. She said, "You don't want that to happen... then you are more likely to have the kind of labor and delivery you don't want. " (Meaning, I may need to be induced if labor doesn't start, which if I didn't deliver within 24 hours, I would need to get a C-section because the Baby isn't protected and is at risk for getting an infection.) I also remember her telling me to walk around the house sans pants for an hour if my water does break, to ensure that's what is really happening.

I got out of my soaked jeans and put a bath towel around me, like a giant diaper, with clothes pins holding it up, and got things ready: bags for the hospital and clothes for my husband. (I really didn't want to be trickling amniotic fluid all over the house... who was going to clean that up?)

I tried to call my husband, but he didn't have cell service, so I left him a message. After an hour, I loaded up the car and called my midwife. A nurse answered and said to come into the office to get checked out. Next, I called my mother-in-law, Renee, but she didn't answer. I needed to get to Erie (45 minutes away), but I didn't have anyone to take me, so I got in the car and started driving. I called my Mom to let her know what was happening, not sure when Baby was coming. I hadn't had any contractions yet. I couldn't believe this was all happening.

After about fifteen minutes of driving, Renee called me. "Where are you? Turn around! I'm driving you!" I turned around and drove back into town, where she was watching my niece and nephew at my sister-in-law's house. I left my car there, Renee loaded all my bags into her car, me sitting on a garbage bag and a towel, we headed to Erie.