Friday, June 22, 2012
Here's the story of O's birth. As we prepared for the birth with exercises, classes, thoughts fears and intentions, we hoped we would have a good story to share with our son each year on his birthday. We talked to people with traumatic experiences or just births that didn't go how they wanted, and it was a struggle for them to frame the story so their child could enjoy hearing it. We lucked out: things went differently than we expected, but they went well, and it's a good story!
First, my pregnancy was a bit different than I expected. I've always been moderately thin (a little belly pooch), small-breasted, etc. In pregnancy, I got enormous, all in the belly. I got lots of the comments that pregnant women love: "are you having twins?" "Wow, you're huge!" My breasts fluctuated through lots of changes. I remember driving down the freeway and getting a pain in my breast so strong that I grabbed it. A truck driver saw me and honked nice and loud. Lovely.
Our plan was a natural waterbirth-hypnobirth. My mom, a hypnotherapist, helped me prepare for the hypnobirth with relaxation and visualization tracks on my ipod. I bought into some but not all of the hypnobirthing philosophy. Helping my body open up and relax with visualizations seemed quite logical, as did keeping the room calm and reducing distractions. Reframing the language around birth also made sense. But thinking that there would be "only pressure, no pain", or that there would be no need to push did not sound quite realistic. Maybe my realism was a self-fulfilling prophecy, I don't know. I took what I could from it, and it definitely helped me prepare for birth beforehand.
Being two weeks late, as far as the OHSU midwives would let me go, I was reluctantly induced. I had tried acupuncture twice (for $150 a pop) and twice my labor started, but then petered out. Much reassurance was given that the midwives would try mechanical induction methods first that Pitocin would be the last resort, and even then, it would be slow and monitored. We went in on a Wednesday morning, full of anticipation, still trying to encourage/cajole my body into starting on its own.
They began with a foley bulb, which is a tube put into your cervix with a water balloon that slowly inflates and expands the cervix. It only halfway worked. I got Misoprostil, the artificial prostoglandin which dilates the cervix, in two four hour sessions. A day and night of small contractions that I tried to imagine were getting bigger and closer together was frustrating. So was trying to sleep in a hospital bed. Finally, Thursday morning, the midwives said it was time for Pitocin. I was resigned to it. We asked if we could have breakfast and a shower first. I got my shower, but then my body kicked into gear on its own. I only got to have a few bites of huevos rancheros before I realized that it was finally happening. No huevos for me.
Shannon called our doula Venessa, and she arrived shortly. Quickly she and Shannon became a seamless team. I would have a contraction and I would yell, and she would encourage me to vocalize while Shannon rubbed my back or held onto me. I suppose I was having back labor, because as the intensity increased, I demanded the hip-squeeze, and eventually the butt squeeze. I required that they use all their strength to squeeze my hips together. They kept me super hydrated with water, Recharge (we brought a whole case to the hospital), protein drinks and fruit. They took turns with breaks so smoothly that I barely noticed when one was gone. They helped me in and out of the bathtub, down the hall, up and down but hardly ever on the bed.
The midwives/nurses filled up the water birth tub for me, which is quite an ordeal. The tub takes up most of the room, and they use a hose from the shower in the bathroom. Shannon and I went in. It felt soooo good in between contractions, but the water actually seemed to intensify the contractions for me. We got in and out a few times and I started to fear the contractions. The midwife wanted me to increase the intensity and shorten the distance between my contractions, so we just kept moving and hardly ever sat down or laid down on the bed. She also heard me vocalizing and suggested that I mellow it out, leave room for my contractions to intensify even more and have a voice left. I tried to take this in stride, but was slightly discouraged when she kept telling me I needed to get them stronger and closer together. Ultimately, my body dilated fully with contractions 4-6 minutes apart! It was sort of surprising to everyone involved. Of course I had nothing to compare to, nor did I have any sense of time.
I had planned to avoid an epidural if at all possible (that goes for a C-section too, of course). Halfway into labor, I thought "I can see why people get epidurals, and I see nothing wrong with it at all." The only thing that kept me from asking for one was that I HATE needles and the idea of something being stabbed into my spine was worse than the idea of the pain. What kept me going during labor was my team, for sure. I don't think I actually have a high tolerance for pain; I just relied on Shannon and Venessa to be my strength. Really, I physically leaned on them, sometimes putting all my 172 pounds around Shannon's neck. Also, all the preparation--the classes, the reading, the yoga and visualization--served to keep me from going to a place of fear, and it allowed me to stay in the moment. That and the pain of one contraction was all-consuming to the point that I didn't have chance to think too much.
When my water finally broke, I didn't notice that Venessa slipped out of the room for a moment. I was absorbed by the fact that water was gushing out of me, all over my legs, my slippers, the floor; everywhere I went I leaked. When she came back she had a nurse with her. After a while she calmly told me that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, and that the midwife would come in to check it out, but it was probably fine. The midwife came and was just as calm and reassuring. She said that it happened in 30% of births, and it could mean nothing at all. It did change our plan. I could continue to labor in the water tub, but I couldn't give birth there. And there would need to be a pediatric team in the room when I crowned, in case there was an issue with the baby. The concern is if the baby had gotten meconium in his lungs. I said fine, get rid of the tub. They checked me and I only had a lip of cervix left, SOOO CLOSE!
A bit more contracting and gushing, and then there was a midwife/nurse shift change. The new midwife checked me and I was there! I started pushing, in the bed, on my side, using Shannon as an anchor, in a headlock. In retrospect, we really could've used the bar over the bed, but never thought to ask. I pushed for a good two hours, being directed to focus the energy down and out. I thought, well, there's no way out now but to push. At least if I keep pushing, I won't have to be pregnant any more. Oh, and I get a baby! When people were saying "here he comes", "there's his head", I thought they were just being nice. It seemed like he couldn't really be coming out already, but boom, there he was, placed on my chest, all bright and heavy and breathing! He was vigorous, though had some mucus to be cleared out. I never even noticed the pediatric team, waiting in the wings. Someone could come up to me on the street and say "hey, I was at your birth. I watched a baby come out your yoni" and I wouldn't know who they were.
I think I remember saying "is this real?" We talked to him, he suckled slightly, we caressed him and gazed in amazement, and then I noticed that other things were going on down there. My body wasn't contracting to get the placenta out. After all that natural labor, I ended up getting more misoprostil, Pitocin stabbed into my leg, and eventually a narcotic anesthetic in an IV, because the midwife had to manually remove my placenta. It didn't matter though, because he was out of me, and I had snuggled him, and during that operation, he was snuggling with Shannon, skin to skin, bonding. I felt elated, triumphant, and pretty tired. He nursed successfully, our family came in and gazed in amazement, he weighed in at a whopping 9 pounds 3 ounces, and the journey had begun.