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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day predictions

Idea stolen from a friend's blog (thanks, Kelley!) 

4 years ago: BJ was at BYU; I was working for Family Search, digitizing Family History books. We both lived south of Kiwanis Park and were in the same ward. I was the Relief Society president.  BJ and I were dating. Barely. By about a week. For the third time. It was an emotional roller coaster time period for us. But in good news, it was the last time we got back together and drama very quickly disappeared. So, 4 years ago was the beginning of the happiest period of life I've had. 

Today: We just built a house in Lehi. BJ works for Instructure developing iPod software for their software, Canvas. I stay home with our two daughters, Kessa and Abigail, who are both adorable. I'm learning how to become the perfect mom (because I have far to go still!) and the girls are very helpful in my quest. BJ is wishing there were more time in the day. So many programs to write. So many games to play. So many things he wants to do with family. BJ is an Elders Quorum teacher and I am calling-less. Probably because I just had a baby a month ago.

4 years from now: I assume we'll still be in Lehi. We didn't build a house just to move away quickly. I hope my yard will be beautifully landscaped and my garden well established. BJ will likely still be working at Instructure, but I won't be shocked if he's moved on to another company. Perhaps we'll even have honed our time management skills to let him get more done in his day. :)  Kessa will be almost 7 years old and will be in elementary school. (Woah.)  She'll be reading and learning math and will be making me feel like I need to start learning again so that she doesn't out-smart me. Abby will have just turned 4. So… preschool?  And she will be doing all sorts of amazing things and making me feel like I must be doing something right because she'll just be so darn smart.   We'll probably have one, <i>maybe</i> two more kids. Or at least probably be pregnant. We'll be on our 2nd or maybe 3rd iPhones (unless there is something more amazing out?). We'll have fallen in love with at least 5 new games and our game closet will be bulging. I'll be dreaming about finishing our basement, since my current craft/guest room will possibly be housing a child instead. (BJ thinks we will have finished it by then.)  BJ and I will both have accepted being in our 30s. All our siblings (except Teresa) will be married and there will finally be more grandkids. They won't be the lone grandkids on the Homer side and they won't be the youngest (or mostly-youngest) on the Lovell side. BJ will have written an app that makes more than $20/year on the App Store. ;)  BJ's parents will probably be on a mission. My parents might be on their second or even third mission. We'll be anxiously awaiting the … 4th? Way of Kings book. And we'll still be nerds.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Abigail's birth story; Carrie's view

Dearest Tianna,

Thank you for allowing me to take part in the memorable birth of Abigail. I was honored to be able to help you achieve the birth you and BJ had envisioned.

I arrived at your home around 5:45 pm on Thursday evening, January 26th 2012. Your home was peaceful, calm and organized. You, my dear, were glowing! So full of excitement, so calm but yet a bit anxious to get the show on the road. You wanted to wait for BJ and Jalin to arrive to eat dinner together, but after finding out they were 30 minutes from arriving, you went ahead and ate without them. I had such a great time playing puzzles and reading books with Kessa on the floor. What a sweet, remarkable child you have!

BJ and Jalin arrived shortly after you had finished your dinner as well as your sister in laws, mother and father in law. They were bringing in a box spring, mattress and dresser to set up a room for Jalin to stay for a few days to help you out after Abby arrived. Your mother in law and sister in law stayed for a bit and after a while, kisses were given and hugs were exchanged. Kessa was excited and ready to go to grandmas for a few days!

After about 30 minutes or so, we all started wondering,” Where is Heather?” I sent her a text and you made a phone call. She was waiting for a confirmation that you wanted to start a “natural induction” being you were already 6 cm dilated and 100% effaced and Abby was at a +2 station. I still am amazed at how calm and collected you were and how you were able to move so gracefully!

Heather arrived around 7:00. Heather and I headed upstairs to start setting up shop and you were down in the kitchen with BJ and Jalin. We gave you one dose of Gelsemium and Caullophylum, a natural homeopathic used to stimulate contractions. (Just for your information, one dose would not have started strong contractions. Typically, one needs 1 dose every hour until contractions are strong and regular- you went into labor all on your own!) After taking the homeopathic, we suggested you get changed so Heather could perform an exam and insert Evening Primrose Oil directly on your cervix to help soften and thin it out. While getting changed in the bathroom, your water broke and completely shocked you! Heather did an exam and found you were 8 cm dilated! Amazing! She did insert Evening Primrose Oil to help speed things along, but you didn’t need much of it! We rubbed your tummy with clary sage and fennel, another essential oil used to bring on contractions. We did this for about 30 minutes or so.

Around 8:00 or so, we went for a nice little walk down the stairs. By this time, contractions started picking up. We tried doing a hip press, but you hated it! All you wanted to do was sit on a birth ball! So, we ventured on upstairs. As you labored on the birth ball, we tried doing a knee press. Nope. That was a big no go as well! All you really wanted was your back to be massaged and to lean on BJ for support while the tub was filling up. After about 45 minutes of laboring on the ball, it was time for you to get into the warm birthing tub. This was very relaxing to you. You labored on your hands and knees, leaning over the tub while BJ softly, gently and lovingly whispered into your ear. The love and peace that I felt in that room was astounding. Even as I type your birth story, feelings of that day come rushing back. I have never in my life, aside from my own personal births, felt so connected to the spirit as I did as you labored to bring Abby into this world. I felt as though I had one foot here on earth and one foot in heaven. The love, peace, and tranquility I felt at Abby’s birth were amazing. I am in awe of you, Tianna. The love you and BJ have for each other is remarkable. Kessa and Abby are blessed to have you as parents.

You completely connected with your body and Abby and did not need any guidance to deliver Abby. Around 9:40, you felt the urge to push. You just did what felt natural. Abby was born at 9:54 pm in the comfort of your own room, in warm, soothing water. She was beautiful, peaceful and so quiet! I attribute that to you and the way you handled natural labor! You were so calm and relaxed during the entire process.

Thank you, Tianna and BJ for allowing me to be part of your birth team. All of my clients hold a special place in my heart and you are no exception. May God continue to bless you and your remarkable family. Much love to you all.


Carrie Valadez, your Birth Doula

Abigail's birth story; Jessa's view

Abigail Pearl's Birth Story 

Although Tianna invited me to be present during Abigail's birth, I was nervous about being there. Birth isn't something I have exactly experienced all that much. I began waiting downstairs on the couch while Tianna experienced contractions. I didn't exactly know my role, and I didn't want to be in anyone's way. Soon, though, the need for pictures became more and more frequent that I relocated into the birth room. 

As I sat there waiting and watching, taking the occasional picture, I realized that I was I experiencing something incredible! Tianna was giving birth to a child of God!! And she was spectacular! From the beginning of Tianna's contractions, she was fearless! The birthing process was relatively short, and Tianna made it look easy. 

Abigail finally arrived and she was beautiful. In that moment, I felt so close to Heavenly Father, and was very aware of his love for his children. A child of God had just arrived on earth! And it was obvious that her parents immediately felt the same love for her that her Heavenly Father feels for her. 

I was so glad that I was there. Not only did it change my perspective on giving birth, but it was apparent that this was more than a birth; this was a celebration! I have a new niece, Tianna and BJ have a new child, and Abigail has a body! From my perspective, this was something that not only we were rejoicing about, but that Heavenly Father was rejoicing about! Truly, this was an incredible experience.

Although I was technically there as Tianna's photographer, I secretly think I got more out of me being there than they did. I was so glad to be included in that special moment!

Abigail's birth story; abridged

And… for the short version.

Wednesday I went to my midwife's appointment to find out I was dilated to a 6, 100% effaced and baby was at a +1.  Or, in other words, I was very progressed.  I hadn't really been feeling contractions, so I was surprised.  We decided to schedule a natural induction, so that my sister, Jalin, could come and be there for the birth.

Thursday evening Heather (the midwife) and her team of three others showed up at my house for the home birth, as well as my doula, Carrie.  Jalin was there ready to blog the whole thing.  BJ's sister, Jessa, was there to photograph.  Just before we got the induction started, my water broke on its own.  Good thing everyone was already there, because only 2.5 hours later, Abigail was born!

I had about another 20-30 minutes without feeling any contractions, and then I went on a walk and they hit pretty hard and fast.  I only managed to down stairs, around the kitchen once, then back up to my room, stopping several times to breathe through contractions on the way.  I sat on the birth ball for 15ish minutes while I waited for the birthing tub to finish filling up, then got in there for the rest of the labor.

Carrie and the rest of the birth team did a fabulous job of helping me stay comfortable.  Someone (or sometimes up to three someones) was constantly massaging me and for most of it, someone kept a cold washcloth on my neck.  BJ was right there with me, holding my hand, kissing me, and telling me I was amazing.  It was very special to have him right there, focused on me, and keeping me strong.

I was able to breathe through contractions the whole way through.  Towards the end my breathing became more and more labored, and finally came the overwhelming urge to push.  Then out came Abigail!  I held her in the tub for awhile until my placenta came out, then we transferred to our bed where we were wrapped in towels to keep warm.  I was able to breastfeed fairly quickly and it was nice to be able to cuddle with BJ and Abby right away.

Would I do a home birth again?  Absolutely!

And you didn't think I could write an abridged story about anything, did you?  Well, ha!  Shows you!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Abigail's birth story; part 2

  • Disclaimer: Both this post and part 1 are long.  I'm a detail-oriented person.  Get over it.  In good news, this one has pictures!
  • Disclaimer the second: This is the actual labor story.  It includes pictures and details that some may feel includes TMI (but nothing explicit, don't worry).  If you're squeamish or uncomfortable about things like that, I suggest you skip this post.
  • tl;dr: For those of you who don't like long things like this, I plan on writing an abridged version, hopefully in the next day or two, leaving out most of the detail and just doing the basics.


Wednesday, January 25, I went in for a routine check up.  I was a day shy of 39 weeks.  (Or for you non-birth term people, I was a week and one day before my due date.)  Heather checked me and I was 100% effaced, dilated to a 6 and Abby was at a +1.  I asked Heather, "What does it mean that she's at a +1?"  Heather replied, "It means your baby is about to fall out."  Oh good.  But she also pointed out that I could go into labor that night, or not for 2 weeks.  Being that close didn't necessarily mean I was ready to go.  But she did tell me that she likes to offer to any woman that close a natural induction.  If my body wasn't ready, nothing would happen.  If my body was ready, then it'd help start natural labor.  She said normally they start at 5 or 6 pm and are holding a baby by midnight.  I told her I'd talk to BJ and let her know.

On the way home I called Jalin to see which she'd prefer, since she'd be the one driving 10 hours.  Do I get induced that night or Thursday night and give her a chance to actually drive down beforehand so she could actually be there for labor?  But with the risk that it might not take and she'd be down here for a week and never see baby because she'd have to get back because Brett was going out of town.  Or would she rather I don't get induced and just hope I didn't go into labor until Brett got home (my due date) so she could come down then and get a full week in, but risk not getting here until Abby was a week old.  She called Brett to see what he thought and he said, "Go get ready!  Leave today!"  So then I called BJ and asked his opinion.  We talked about the various options and decided that since I felt so strongly about needing support, it would be better to have Jalin there.  So we decided to schedule for Thursday evening.  I called up Heather and set it up for 6 pm.

I got home and immediately started calling people.  I did feel a little guilty calling other people before my mom, but I decided I should let people know who were actually doing stuff for the birth first.  Thanks Mom for still loving me despite hearing the news through the grapevine!  :D  Jalin was called so she could pack and drive the 10ish hours to get here.  Mom Homer was called to make sure she could still take Kessa.  Jessa was chatted at to see if she was available to take pictures.  Carrie was called to let her know that her doula-ing would be required (and in good news, she had time to prepare!)  And then I called my mom.  :)

I ran a few errands to get last-minute things I hadn't yet purchased (like an electrolyte energy drink) then came home and started cleaning.  Things weren't too bad, but I really wanted them to look nice for all those people being here.  Though, I did end up spending a lot of time just laying down and resting.

Thursday BJ went to work and Kessa and I cleaned up a bit more and played and rested.  Jalin got here, I think, around 11 am.  We did a few more things, but were mostly just lazy and let the girls play.  (Jalin brought her two youngest kids, Tamra and Aimee.)  Eventually Jalin took her kids to her sister-in-law's house (thanks again, Melanie!) to spend the night and I made a simple stir fry dinner.  BJ stopped by Riverton on his way home to help his dad bring down a bed for our guest room (we procrastinated that one till the last minute, didn't we?).  Carrie showed up a little before 6, but no one else did.  6:20 rolls around and we're still the only ones there.  Finally BJ, his dad, mom and Teresa showed up with the bed, a dresser and a fun chair for our loft.  They got the bed set up while I did a couple of last minute things with Carrie (like setting up the liners under the birth pool and mattress) and then they took off back home with Kessa in tow.  Somewhere in there Jessa showed up (poor girl got lost) and eventually Jalin showed up, too.  Around 6:30 or so when Heather still wasn't there, I decided to call and make sure we had, in fact, scheduled it.  Because it isn't like Heather to be late.   I woke her up from a nap and turns out there had been a miscommunication and she had thought we had tentatively set it up, but that I was going to call back and confirm first.  Oops.  So she headed out right then.

Heather got here as well as Eva and Lisa, two midwives-in-training and they started to set their things up.  Lisa gave me some homeopathic pills to put under my tongue to help get contractions going.  About 7:30, before they started everything, I figured going to the bathroom would be a good idea.  So I did.  When I was done, I leaned back on the toilet and suddenly showered the toilet room with water.  I was quite surprised for a few reasons.  1) That had never, ever happened to me before.  What the heck just happened?  2) I was sure I was done going to the bathroom, so certainly that couldn't have been pee.  Which means 3) did my water just break?!  That's insane because a) what amazing timing is that?! and b) neither my mom nor my sister had ever had their water break spontaneously.  They always had to have it artificially ruptured while in labor.  As Jalin puts it, "We have leather bags."  (one of my remaining fears was that partway through labor I was going to have to make the decision of artificially breaking my water.  And that was just too close to the situation at Kessa's birth.  I feared it'd bring back those same fears, which I did not want at this labor.) So I had not at all expected to have my water break on its own.  And right before being induced, too?  So wait, I'm going to labor on my own, but at the most ideal time when everyone that's going to be there is already there?  I get to do the entire labor with my support team?!  Sweet.

Laying on the bed, just before induction.
So I went out to find everyone else and said, "So, I'm not 100% sure, but I'm at least 90% sure that my water just broke."  Everyone looked at me in surprise.  So I explained what happened and they all laughed at the awesome timing.  I was still feeling great, hadn't felt a contraction yet, and I felt remarkably lucky and amazed by the whole thing.  Heather had me get on the bed to check me and said I was dilated to an 8 on one side and a 9 on the other.  (I didn't realize that you could be dilated to different amounts.)  She decided to carry on with the induction anyway, but a shorter form of it, just to help labor progress more quickly.  I laid down on my bed while Heather put some capsules of evening primrose in my cervix to help it soften faster then taught Carrie how to massage my belly.  I laid on my side while she rubbed clary sage and fennel essential oils into my belly.  (While Heather was doing it and showing Carrie, Carrie was massaging my feet, too.)  It was interesting because with the amniotic fluid level down, my belly was much more defined.  It almost peaked from Abby's spine.


See how funny my belly is shaped?
Turns out amniotic fluid makes things
nice and round.
At one point while Heather was doing the massage (or maybe back when she was checking me?) we were talking about how progressed I was and how I was still so happy and laughing and just so myself.  Well, I wasn't feeling any contractions!  Why shouldn't I be happy and laughing?  Remember how excited I was for this?  Then Heather asked, "Did you just feel that contraction?"  [blink]  "That was a contraction?  I just thought it was the baby moving."  "Well, she moved, too, but it was during a contraction."  Huh.  Who knew?  I really wasn't feeling anything other than baby moving around.  I was definitely ok with this.  I think Jalin was jealous, though, because by the time she was that far along there was no more laughing and joking.  (Sorry, Jalin!) By this point we started speculating on if there was any truth to Damian's claims as kids that I was adopted.  Or Dad's claims that I was found under a rock.  Because so far, my labor was nothing like anything mom or Jalin ever experienced.

Leaning on Carrie during my first real contraction
(that I could feel, anyway)
At 8:10 (thanks Jalin for keeping track of times!) they told me to go on a walk.  Prior to my water breaking, the plan was to go outside for an hour walk.  Of course it was raining hard, so we had planned on going down to the church to walk (I knew it was open because there was a RS activity there that night).  So I put on my chacos and started getting ready to go outside.  At that point Carrie stepped in and suggested that maybe we just walk around downstairs in the kitchen.  I was good with not going out into the rain, so I agreed.  And thank heavens for her because by the time we made it down the stairs, I was definitely feeling the contractions.  She had me lean against her so that I could relax while breathing through the contractions.  At that point I was suddenly grateful for all of my practice breathing.  I was able to logically think about balloon breathing and lifting my uterus with my breath in order to make the contraction faster and more efficient.  And by focusing on my breath instead of on the contraction, it was pretty easy to get through.

Leaning on BJ while Carrie provided physical relief.
Once it passed we started walking, and we didn't get far at all before I was then leaning on BJ while Carrie started doing a hip press.  I didn't like that; it just didn't feel right.  So I told her and she stopped.  I liked leaning against BJ better for three reasons: 1) he's taller than Carrie, so I could just rest my head on his shoulder instead of leaning down onto Carrie's and 2) I know BJ a lot better, so it felt much more comfortable leaning against him for comfort and 3) it left Carrie open to give me the physical support I needed. The contraction stopped and we walked a little more.  At the top of the stairs we stopped again.  And again before we even made it to the bedroom.  We didn't time the contractions, but it was very clear that they were coming quickly without much time in between.

On the birthing ball so I could relax my legs.
I had told Carrie downstairs that it was too hard to stand up.  I felt like I needed to relax my legs, but I couldn't because I was standing on them.  So as soon as we got up to the bedroom, I sat on the birthing ball* with BJ in front of me to lean on.  Then Carrie sat behind me on the birthing stool and massaged my back.  I'll probably say this twenty times, but holy cow, I loved the massage all through labor.  It was just so wonderful and relaxing.  BJ was also fantastic.  He spent all of his time just focused on me and telling me how amazing I was, how excited he was for Abby to be here and how proud of me he was for all the work I was doing to get her here.  He reminded me to relax and just spoke words of comfort and peace.  He whispered how much he loved me.  He held my hand and stroked my face.  And periodically he would say things that would just make me laugh or smile.  I remember very clearly being in the middle of a contraction and smiling at him and thinking, "This is insane.  I'm genuinely smiling in the middle of a contraction!"

See?  A smile during a contraction!
Around 8:30 I started feeling like I needed to poop, which I learned with Kessa was a cue that my body was getting ready to push.  So I told them that I was starting to feel, just a little bit, an urge to push.  But I kept thinking about parts of my HypnoBirthing book that talked about pushing and how it's counter-productive.  How "purple pushing" was a bi-product of drugging moms and using forceps and vacuums to pull out babies.  And when they stopped using them, they just figured that the baby needed help coming out still, so moms were encouraged to push till their face turned purple.  But really, when you push like that, your sphincter muscles tighten up, and actually make it harder for the baby to come out and increase your chances of tearing.  And as a counter-argument to the idea that babies need help coming out, they cited instances of moms in comas that birth babies without anyone even knowing they're in labor.  I just kept thinking about how my body could push out that baby without me actually having to push.  So I kept reminding myself to keep my sphincters loose (which you can do by keeping your throat and jaw open and loose and relaxing your body) and let my body tell me what to do instead of letting culture tell me what to do.

BJ holding my hand in the tub.
After a few minutes on the birthing ball, I started watching the tub.  They started filling it up with water back when Carrie was massaging my belly, but it was big and took awhile to fill.  With every contraction I thought more and more longingly of sitting in the water.  I watched it every time my eyes were open.  (As a side note, I found that whenever a contraction came, I would close my eyes and focus on breathing through it.  Sometimes it was hard to consciously recognize when it was over.  But I quickly learned that my eyes would slowly open when it was done.  I think that was a cue for everyone else, too.  When my eyes were open, they could talk to me, but when my eyes closed, it was like the whole room just stopped.  Later in labor I just kept my eyes closed for most of it, though they'd still flicker open momentarily when the contraction was over and sporadically between contractions.)  Finally I asked if the tub was full enough and they said it was, so I hopped on in at 8:40.  (Ok, not really.  I slowly walked over with the help of BJ and Carrie and slowly lowered myself in.)

Everyone just there, supporting me through a contraction.
I knelt in the water and leaned against the side of the tub with my arms, putting my head on the side of the pool and holding BJ's hands.  I stayed that way for almost 2 hours.  Later Carrie told me that she couldn't believe I stayed in the same position the entire time.  But it was the only one that made sense to me!  It's funny how your body tells you where you should be while in labor.  I remember someone suggesting that I could sit down in the tub and rest my back against the wall and I remember thinking, "Are you crazy?  That just doesn't even sound comfortable.  At all.  Don't you realize I'd be sitting on my baby's head?"  I didn't say anything, though.  I just ignored the suggestion.  And yes, kneeling in one position for 2 hours does make your legs fall asleep, in case anyone is curious.  Oh sure, I moved from kneeling down to kneeling up periodically, but my knees were still bent.  I find it entertaining that kneeling was the most comfortable, since kneeling outside of water (say, at the temple) makes me black out.  Apparently water must help blood circulation, though, because I never felt light-headed.  But after awhile I realized my legs were asleep.  It's a really weird feeling, btw, having your legs fall asleep underwater.  The tingling is there but it's… muted.  It didn't hurt, nor was it really uncomfortable.  But it was definitely asleep. I can't really explain it.  If you really want to understand, go kneel in your bathtub for an hour or two.  :)  So periodically I'd stretch out my legs behind me, one at a time, between contractions.

This video is very dark, but that's because the lights were out.
The pictures all look light, but that's only thanks to flash.
The noise at the beginning are Abby's heart tones.
Then you get to hear me vocalizing through contractions.
It wasn't long in the tub before I realized that simple breathing wasn't going to get me through anymore.  The contractions were getting tighter, longer, stronger and more intense.  So once again I went back to what I'd read in my book and latched onto the idea of vocalized breathing.  Basically, when I breathed out, I added my vocal cords to my breath.  Kind of like a moan, I guess.  Using your vocal cords also helps keep your sphincters open and relaxed, so it helps speed up labor.  Amazingly, I could feel some of the tension drain out of me every time I breathed.  The contractions were physically easier to deal with every time I vocalized.  It was amazing.  It was apparently obvious to everyone else, too when my breathing became more and more vocalized.  Jalin noted on the blog at 8:57 that I was getting more labored in my breathing.  I remember when they really started to get hard and my vocalizing was at its loudest that Carrie told me that these are the contractions that really count.

In which we take a short break to talk about my support team

BJ kissing me, or maybe whispering
In fact, let's take a moment to talk about my support team.  Holy cow, they were amazing.  First there was BJ, right there in front of me the whole time.  There for me to rest my head against, to hold my hand, and to remind me to relax.  There to make me smile.  Once during a contraction he wasn't talking and I realized I just needed to hear his voice, so I asked him to say something.  I think I caught him off guard with nothing to say.  I expected him to start describing a field of wild flowers or maybe a waterfall or something, because he had been doing that and that's what he did during Kessa's labor.  Instead he started singing Jingle Bells.  Middle of a contraction and I busted up laughing.  A small laugh, mind you, but definitely a laugh.  I told him with a smile to stop and rolled my eyes.  "But it made you smile!"  "It made me think of Kessa."  "Yes, but that made you smile!"  Which is true, it did.

Getting massage through a contraction.
I often hear stories about women who in labor don't want their husbands doing anything.  If the husband tries to talk or help, they get mad.  I've heard of women yelling at their husbands during labor.  I really and truly cannot fathom doing that.  Probably in part because I never yell at BJ outside of labor, so why would I during labor?  It's just not my personality.  And in part because I need BJ.  He is my pillar and strength always.  So during one of the hardest events of my life, of course I need him there to support me.  I can't even imagine labor without him right there with me.  But I can empathize the tiniest bit.  During Kessa's labor, I hadn't eaten for 22+ hours.  I was starving.  I was exhausted physically.  More than anything, I craved a turkey and swiss sandwich.  I asked for one probably every 20 minutes.  So in prep for this birth, I bought turkey and swiss, just in case.  I mean, if they were going to let me eat in labor, why not be prepared?   But the biggest difference in this case was that I had eaten a real dinner at 6.  I wasn't famished.  I still had energy.  So when BJ at one point asked if I wanted my turkey and swiss sandwich yet, the idea was so strange and foreign that I couldn't fathom why he was even asking such a ridiculous question.  Not to mention that it was in the middle of a contraction, so I couldn't really tell him so.  Instead I just swatted my hand at him and scrunched up my face in disgust while shaking my head quickly. Later Jalin told me that they had been wondering what BJ did to make me so mad.  Haha.  Seconds later I had totally forgotten it.

Carrie and Abigail
Next up?  Carrie.  Why did I ever even question hiring a doula?  Goodness.  Anyone out there considering hiring a doula, just do it.  You won't regret it.  (Unless you get a bad doula.  But that's not my fault.)  Heck, I'll even link you to her website just because I loved her that much.  She was right there with me the entire time.  Though, most of the time I couldn't see her because she was behind me giving me massage and pressure.  But periodically she'd whisper words of encouragement and praise, reminding me she was right there with me.  Here and there when I needed something, she'd be the first one to jump and run to get it.  She kept cold wash cloths on my neck and back.  She kept my water bottle filled (I think I emptied it 3 or 4 times during those 2.5 hours) and reminded me to stay hydrated.  After labor she spent probably an hour massaging my legs, helping them relax during the after-pains.  She consistently asked what I needed and how I was doing.  She jumped on any little thing she could do to make things easier for me.  She had music playing in the background and had people change it whenever a song came on that she didn't think was appropriate for the situation.  It later got changed to one of BJ's pandora stations.  For the most part, I think the music worked great and Carrie knew exactly when to skip a song.  Though, I do remember her once changing Enya in the middle of a contraction, so I couldn't talk, but I wanted to say, "No!  I like Enya!  Keep her!"  haha.  I got over it, though.  She also brought battery-operated candles that were scented vanilla to put on the window sill.  (Oh, the lights were off for the majority, if not all, of labor.)

Heather and Abigail
Heather was quiet through most of it.  I think.  Honestly, I didn't keep track of who was where for most of it.  I was rather self-focused.  (And I don't feel bad at all about it!)  I know she spent some time out in the loft and some time in with me.  I remember seeing her sitting in a chair next to the tub, offering to check me if I wanted, but it was up to me.  And I remember thinking, "Maybe I should let her check me, just so everyone knows where we're at" while at the same time thinking, "but when in the world would I have her do it?  It's not very comfortable, y'know."  At that point I was near the end.  And contractions were coming very close together.  I didn't get much of a break in between them and I could feel a tiny bit lingering between.  So getting checked just didn't sound appealing.  So I mostly just ignored the suggestion.  Turns out, when I don't know how to answer someone's suggestions, I just ignore them.  Sorry, everyone!  It didn't surprise me that she wasn't super active in labor.  I had quite the support team around me.  There probably wasn't even room for Heather.  Plus, she teaches a lot.  She lets her students learn by experience.  She does it all the time at appointments (with my permission—and I love it, because as she teaches them, I get to learn, too!) so it didn't surprise me when she did it during labor, too.  I knew she was always near, watching for problems, and that was enough.  I remember while I was pushing Abby out, Heather was right there making sure everything was going perfectly.  She gave me suggestions.  She reminded me to listen to my body.  She made sure her assistants were documenting everything they needed to. Just her presence throughout and her active role at the end were very comforting to me.

Heather, Carrie, Abigail, Molly and Lisa.
Eva not pictured as she had to rush to another birth.
Her assistants were also amazing.  Eva was the most active, as she's training to be a midwife.  Then there was Lisa who was actively involved, but I rarely saw.  Then there was Molly who kind of took the lead in a lot of things.  Which makes sense, because she was at the majority of my prenatals.  She came late.  I knew she was coming, but was very self-absorbed when she came.  I remember once opening my eyes between contractions and seeing her kneeling next to the tub.  It surprised me, because I hadn't heard her come in at all.  Honestly, I have no idea who did what, but I know they were all involved and wonderful.  I remember at one point holding BJ's hand while one person massaged my shoulders, another massaged my lower back and another put pressure on my tailbone, because it was starting to ache.  I remember thinking, "Man.  This isn't so bad.  I'm being totally spoiled here."  I had probably 3+ hours of constant massage that night.

Then there was Jalin and Jessa.  Neither of them were physically supporting me (like I said, there probably wasn't room around me).  But Jalin sat where I could see her and kept my blog updated, which I had really, really wanted.  I really appreciate looking back on all the live posts from Kessa's birth and wanted that again with Abby.  She commented at the right times and stayed silent during the right times.  (Except that once when her phone rang.  Hah!)  Jessa was in and out periodically, taking pictures and doing homework.  I'm pretty sure that the further along it went, the more she stayed in the room, to be sure not to miss anything.  And man, I'm glad she was there.  She got some great pictures.  Thanks, Jessa!  (Jalin took some, too, when Jessa wasn't there.)  With both of them I remember opening my eyes between contractions and making eye contact at various times.  I remember their encouraging and excited smiles.  I remember feeling a rush of peace and love every time I caught their eyes.  It's amazing what a simple look can convey.  (I'm also glad Jessa was there because she's scared of labor thanks to media and horror stories, and I wanted her to see that labor didn't have to be all about screaming and terror.  I'm glad that everything went so smoothly so she could have a different perspective to draw upon when she's at that point in her life.)

Back to our regular scheduled programming… the last of labor

It started getting intense.  Breathing was getting quite heavy.  I stopped opening my eyes in between contractions for the most part.  I started to lose a bit of faith and started dreading what was coming.  I was ready to be done.  (My guess?  I was in transition.)  I kept reminding myself that my body COULD do this.  And it would.  I even told myself I was probably in transition, which is the hardest part.  I tried really hard not to vocalize any negative comments, because I wanted to focus on the positive.  I wanted to stay relaxed and positive.  I wanted to work WITH the contractions, not against them.  So I started focusing more and more on the contractions.  During a contraction, when it was starting to just get too hard, even with vocalizing, I would remind myself to relax my body.  I can't tell you how many times I totally surprised myself when I would remind myself to relax only to realize that I was relaxed.  Without even needing to consciously relax, when a contraction came, my body just automatically relaxed.  Apparently listening to all those scripts and practicing relaxing really did work!  My body was just trained to do it.  Very few times did I have to consciously relax.  But in a way, that was bad.  Because I didn't have anything to focus on during the contraction.  So instead I focused more and more on the breathing.  Of lifting my uterus with deep breaths.  Of vocalizing.  Of counting how long my breaths were.

We did it!
BJ, at one point, kissed me (or I kissed him?  I don't remember) and that sparked some conversation.  The conclusion was that it's good to kiss doing labor.  Kiss 'em in; kiss 'em out.  :)  But I discovered that when I just needed something else to focus on, kissing him was a perfect fill.  (And now no one can claim that a doula takes the supportive role away from the husband.)

Jessa, at one point, asked me on a scale of 1-10, how much it hurt.  I didn't want to answer for two reasons.  1) In HypnoBirthing, they tell you to never answer that question.  Because as soon as you think of it as pain and label it, it becomes pain.  2) My brain was not in the mood to think about it and come up with some sort of logical answer to the question.  It wasn't working in logic mode.  It was working in "in the moment" mode.  To switch gears seemed completely counter-intuitive.  So I just kind of waved her off and said, "I'm not going to answer that."  I think Jalin and Jessa interpreted that as, "Man, she must be at the top of the scale!"  But that wasn't it at all.  I simply just didn't have an answer for them.  The birth assistants started trying to come up with the best word to describe contractions.  "Pain isn't the right word," they explained.  They tried out a few different words and finally concluded on "intense."  They asked me if I agreed that it was the right word.  Again, I wasn't in the right mindset to debate grammar and choice of words, so I just agreed with them.  "This is intense."  Because, well, it was.  Honestly, though, I still don't know what the best word was.  I'm still not sure that I'd say pain was the right word.  And it was definitely intense.  Pressure doesn't seem to be adequate.  I'm not sure there is a word to describe it.

I was definitely ready to be done, though.  I started expressing my wish to just be done.  It was probably around 9ish or so that I started saying I wanted to be done.  I remember Carrie telling me that I was doing great and that she was sure that I'd be done by midnight.  I had no idea what time it was, but I knew that midnight was still hours away.  And instead of being heartened by the fact, I was dismayed.  "Midnight," I told her, "is way too far away."  And I prayed fervently that it wouldn't take that long.  Since I wasn't letting Heather check me, I would randomly reach down and feel for myself.  I could definitely feel a head, but it just seemed so far away.  I was starting to really feel the urge to bear down and just get her out, though I think most of that was just a desire to be done, not an actual need to push.  I just wanted her to be right there, ready to crown.  But instead she was at least 2/3rds of my finger length away!  Which, looking at my finger now, isn't that far.  But it sure seemed like it at the time!

Every time I felt the urge to bear down, I would try to do so with breathing and as relaxed as possible.  And every time I'd start to push a little, I'd feel this gush of liquid, and then the urge would be gone.  At first I wondered if I was peeing in the tub, which sounded gross, but I didn't really care and it wouldn't surprise me, considering all the water I was drinking.  But then I realized that it was probably just more amniotic fluid.  That the initial breakage and subsequent leakage didn't get it all out.  And that to get the baby out, the fluid had to come out first.  This happened several times.


Everyone focused during crowning.
Poor BJ didn't get to see anything
till they handedher to me.
But the urge was getting stronger every time.  I started kneeling up higher.  They started to fill the tub up more.  I think to raise the water level, since I was getting higher (and in a water birth baby has to stay completely immersed until she's completely out and ready to come out of the water for good.) and to get it warmer, which they failed at because at first they started to put straight cold water in and didn't realize it until I started saying, "Cold!" and when they put a new cold compress on my neck, I eloquently said, "Not that, THAT!" and gestured at the water.  They quickly fixed it. But I think it distracted them at just the wrong moment because just then I realized that I was gonna push, no matter what I wanted and did just that.  But I knew that they were all distracted with the water, but I also knew that they needed to redirect their attention.  So through the push I grunted, "PUSHING!!!!" (and yes, when I recall that word, it is definitely in caps and italics.)  At first no one paid me any mind, because pushing usually takes awhile, but they didn't realize that I had been dealing with that urge for awhile.  I felt Abby's head come out and reached down to feel it.  I felt the Ring of Fire and remembered from a birthing blog that you can reduce tearing by pressing on the side of the head that burns the most to relieve pressure on the perineum.  So I did.  And then I heard Molly exclaim, "She's crowning!"  (Perhaps I should have chosen a better word?)  At which point the room exploded in movement.  Heather was suddenly directing everyone and leaning over to catch the baby.  Everyone else was doing who knows what.  I just remember a sudden flurry of activity.  Jalin was suddenly right there by the tub.  Jessa was up taking pictures.  Poor BJ was in front of me and couldn't see a thing.  And once the urge to push was gone, I sat there with Abigail's head half out of me, my hand on her head, thinking, "Oh hey, this isn't so bad. I could do this again.  Wait… am I really thinking this mid-crown?!"  And then the next contraction came and my vocalized breathing became more of a yell as I pushed the rest of her head out and I changed my mind about doing it again.  But during that moment between contractions, it really and truly didn't hurt.  And it was just magical that I could actually feel her head right there and I wasn't in any pain.

There's Eva on the left!
And me holding my brand new baby.
With Kessa, I remember getting the head out, and the rest was a piece of cake.  The rest of her body just slithered out.  I don't remember pushing the placenta out.  I don't remember any afterbirth contractions.  I remember wincing through stitches (Kessa's hand was on her face) but it didn't take long.  But maybe that's because I was holding Kessa and admiring her?  But then again, I remember when she came out just feeling this huge relief that it was finally over and just being ready to collapse and go to sleep.  And when Claudia, my midwife then, told me she was going to pass Kessa through my legs and help me turn over so I could hold her, I remember being slightly surprised.  I had forgotten for a moment that I now had a baby.  I was so relieved to be done that the relief overwhelmed that instant bond and love I thought I would feel.  I held her and loved her, but instead of thinking, "Man, she was worth that," I thought, "Man, I'm so glad that's over.  Oh look, a baby!"

So much love. How can you put it into words?
With Abby, her head came out and I remember having to push the rest of her body out.  (9:56 pm) It wasn't as intense, but it was still memorable.  I remember easily turning over and them handing me to her.  And I remember looking at her face and thinking, "This is my baby!  We did it!  She's here!"  I couldn't stop looking at her and kissing her and just loving her.  I was so overwhelmed by her spirit that I momentarily forgot labor and thought only of her.  It was a beautiful moment.

Mommy and Daddy admiring Abby.
I stayed in the tub just holding and loving Abigail for about 15 minutes or so before they started fussing over my placenta and made me push it out.  (But I didn't wanna.  I was done with pushing.  Turns out, it was easy, though.)  And then I started bleeding and they were a little concerned about the amount of blood I was losing, so they gave me this truly awful concoction of apple cider vinegar, honey and cayenne pepper.  Ugh.  They didn't even warn me what was in it.  Just told me to open my mouth and stuck a dropper in.  Oh my goodness gracious.  I about died. I swear it about burned a hole in my tongue.  I gasped for water and drank probably half of my water bottle in one fell swoop.  And then they gave me more!!!  They were simply not nice in that moment.  (Later Eva, who gave it to me, told me that she drinks that every morning with double the cayenne and that she had no sympathy for me.  I think she's insane.)

And then I remember afterbirth contractions kicking in.  I remember after about 15 minutes in the tub I got out and BJ held Abby while they helped me into bed where I got Abby back and we were covered in towels and blankets.  And I remember thinking, "I thought I was done!  Why does my tummy still hurt?"  And then they reminded me that I was having afterbirth contractions and that they were good, because they'd help shrink my uterus back to its normal size.  And that if they hurt, I could treat them like normal contractions and breathe through them.  But I didn't want to focus on breathing!  I had a baby now!  I wanted labor to be done so I could just lay there and stare at her!  I really was annoyed at the whole affair.  And then I still had to get stitches and it took longer and was more painful than with Kessa.  (They think her hand was up by her face.  But since she crowned so fast, no one saw for sure.)

But really, when it comes down to a choice of 1) not remembering much of the after-labor stuff, but also not getting that immediate bond and rush of awe and 2) remembering all the after-labor pains and annoyances but also being overwhelmed with amazement and love, I choose the latter.

Checking heart tones while she laid there contentedly
Right after Abby was born, they handed her up to me and I sat back in the tub just holding her (with a towel on her to keep her warm) and loving her.  I kept kissing her and talking to her.  And the whole time she just laid there with her eyes closed, completely content with the world.  It took her 2 full minutes before she ever even made a sound, and that was more of a squawk than a cry.  Several people expressed concern over how quiet and calm she was being.  (What, aren't babies supposed to cry their lungs out the second they hit air?)  But Heather was really chill about it.  She just kept checking her heart rate, which was good, and kept saying, "As long as her heart rate is good, I don't care if she cries or not."  I loved it.  It seemed so fitting.  After a relatively calm and relaxed labor, Abigail was born calm and relaxed.  I had heard of that happening; that it's common for babies born during a calm labor to be calm themselves.  So part of me expected it and part of me glowed with pride over my perfect baby.  (Lest you hate me, she has now proven that she has quite the well-developed set of lungs.)

The after stuff

Daddy holding Abby while we all sat
wrapped in towels to keep warm.
They let BJ, Abby and I just lay in bed for quite awhile after she was born.  They used that time to clean up.  (That's a very common question I get about home births.  Who cleans up?  In every case I've heard of, it's the midwife and her staff.)  They washed all my towels we used.  They drained and took down the birthing tub.  (And discovered that there was an air leak on the bottom, which meant that by the end of labor, I had had no padding beneath me.  I was basically sitting on the carpet with plastic under me.)  They prepared after-birth stuff for me, like ice packs, herbal stuff, etc.  Carrie sat with me and massaged my legs while we talked and I stared at Abby.  (Turns out, afterbirth pains make me tense up and make my legs ache.  When she massaged them, it helped me relax through them.)

Cutting the cord, probably an hour or so
after birth.
After probably an hour or so, I agreed to let them do the newborn exam and stitch me up.  Oh. did I mention that the cord was still attached the whole time?  They had the placenta wrapped in a chux pad on the bed with us.  We got to watch them do the placenta exam to make sure it was all in one piece.  It was fascinating.  Neither BJ nor I even saw my placenta with Kessa.  She told us it was a little calcified, but nothing scary.  She said it was enough that it was time for baby to come, but not super badly calcified.  So Molly and Lisa (Eva had to rush off to another birth down in Springville just after Abigail was born) cut the cord and did their stuff with Abby (weighing, measuring, eye drops, vitamin K, y'know.  All that stuff) while Heather stitched me up.  Jalin sat on one side of me, supporting my leg while Carrie sat on the other, doing the same.  I won't go into details, but I will say that I hate stitches.  Honestly, that was the most painful part of labor and the part I will remember as being the worst of the whole ordeal.  Goal for next birth?  Figure out how to avoid tearing.

She weighed 8 lb. 5 oz.
They helped me get up to change clothes and use the bathroom while BJ had Abby.  Carrie and … Jalin, I think? changed the sheets on our bed.  (Jessa had gone home by this point.)  After all that was over we took some pictures of them with Abby (I'm still sad that we didn't get one with Eva in it) then they gave her back, finished up the last of their packing and they all left right around midnight.

I didn't even have to get out of bed (well, except to go to the bathroom).  I just waved them goodbye, then cuddled up to go to sleep.  (Though, sleep escaped me because my body was still pumping with adrenaline.  I mostly just stared and cuddled with Abby, feeding her whenever she woke up, half sleeping between feedings for the first half of the night, then finally getting real sleep for the last half.)  I never had to deal with nurses waking me up to take my vitals.  I was able to walk without assistance (it took me 3 days to do that with Kessa).  I never had to waddle out to my car with a big bag of stuff, nor have the hospital staff check to make sure our car seat was in our car.  I just went to sleep, then woke up to go down into my own kitchen to eat freshly cooked waffles and bacon and eggs.  Then I got to sit (well, lay) on my comfortable couches and move around freely whenever I wanted.  I had everything I wanted right there.  I never had to groan because I wanted something I hadn't thought to pack.  I loved it.

So my thoughts on home birth now that it's over?  I loved it.  I loved never having to drive while in labor.  I loved being in the comfort of my own home the whole time.  I loved having everyone come to me.  It felt much more like everyone was there to support me instead of me going to their workplace.  My favorite part was definitely all the support.  I feel like labor is one of the few times when a girl is allowed to be totally selfish.  And I absolutely loved knowing that all of those people were there for me.  That their entire focus was making sure I was as comfortable as possible, and looking out for my and Abby's safety.  How can all of that love and support not make a person feel so good?  That's what I'm going to remember the most about this birth.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.

The End

And as a funny post script (can you do that outside of letters?), guess how long it took BJ to get his laptop out?  :)

Ok, ok.  It was at least an hour and a half,
maybe even two hours later.  And for what it's worth,
I got on my iPod around the same time to announce
the birth to the Facebook world.

Other perspectives
Also, I've asked several of the people who were there to write up their version of the birth story.  The more I talk to them, the more I realize we all saw things a little differently.  As they come in, I'll post them and link them here.  I think it'll be a fun keepsake for Abigail later.

*I've had several people ask me what a birthing ball is and what purpose it serves.  Basically it's a giant rubber ball.  The same kind you can exercise on.  When you sit on it, it promotes good posture, rolling your hips forward.  That opens up your pelvis wider and also puts the baby's head directly over the cervix.  Gravity and contractions press the baby up against the cervix more directly and speed up dilation and effacement.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Abigail's birth story; part 1

Disclaimer: I really shouldn't have to give this warning. If you read my blog, you should already know this. But I like details.  This will be long.  It's being written largely for my records, so I can always refer back to it.  I'm trying to include everything I can think of (as concisely as I can).  If you don't like long posts, don't read this one.  Or the next.  (Though, the next will have pictures.  Sorry for the lack thereof in this one.  :D)

Pregnancy and labor prep

After Kessa's good, but-not-what-I-had-wanted birth, I started to look into birth center births.  I looked into the few I could find in Orem, but just didn't love them.  Almost by accident I stumbled upon Birthing Your Way and immediately felt good about it.  But Kessa was only a few months old, and I was not ready for another baby, so it got filed away.  Several months later we started trying to get pregnant again, but to no avail.  It took 13 heartbreaking months of wondering what was wrong, and if we would be able to get pregnant again before that wonderful day when the pregnancy test came back positive!

From the very beginning, this pregnancy was different from Kessa's.  With Kessa I was remarkably nauseous until about halfway through the second trimester.  I remember being excited when I went from throwing up 2-3 times per day to once every 2-3 days.  With Abby, I threw up about a dozen times in the first two trimesters.  (At one point I was even keeping count, because it was so rare!)  Instead I was exhausted.  For a few months I was so tired that if I stood up and moved I'd feel like I was about to pass out. So I spent a lot of time laying down, feeling just fine, but knowing if I got up I'd get light-headed.  I felt silly just laying there when I felt just fine.  The light-headedness eventually passed and turned into simple exhaustion.  Climbing a flight of stairs would leave me winded for 5 minutes.  I felt so out of shape.  Because the two pregnancies were so different, I was convinced this one was a boy.  Imagine my surprise when the ultrasound tech assured me that she was, in fact, a girl.

BJ got a new job up in Salt Lake county, so we started looking at buying a house.  We wanted to live closer to Point of the Mountain so that both valleys would be accessible for jobs over the next decade or so, as it's common in his field to switch jobs several times in a career.  As we didn't know where we would be living, the birth center choice was halted again.  Eventually we chose to build in Lehi and I discovered that Birthing Your Way was just as far from me as it had been in Orem.  Just in the opposite direction.  As another plus, it was only a few minutes from the American Fork hospital, just in case of an emergency transfer.  So I went in and met Heather, the midwife there, and when I still felt really good about it, I set up my prenatal care.

We lived in Riverton with BJ's parents for all of my second trimester, plus a little in the first and third while our house was built.  At some point in there I started realizing that while I loved the care I was receiving, I didn't actually have a lot of desire to birth at the birthing center.  It was still a foreign place, comfort-wise, and if it was during the day, other people would still be there (though separated from me).  I didn't love the idea of driving while in labor.  I didn't love the idea of having to call someone in the middle of the night to come watch Kessa if I went into labor then.  And then either having to drop her off somewhere or waiting for someone to come.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that a home birth would be more comfortable for me.  Even if an emergency transfer were necessary, I was still decently close to the hospital.  So it was decided.

At the very end of November we moved into our new house.  Thank goodness for movers!  With our stairs and how exhausted I got (though by that point, I had a little more stamina. I could go two staircases before I got winded! :D) I was very grateful to let someone else move all our boxes.  BJ and I spent December and January unpacking, organizing and cleaning.  We gathered everything we'd need for the home birth and set it up in our bedroom.  I washed and sorted all of our newborn clothes.  We prepped Kessa for getting a new baby sister.

But the closer labor came, the more I thought about it, and the more nervous I got.  I wasn't nervous about it being at home, mind you, I was nervous about labor itself.  I remembered Kessa's labor and how painful it was.  It was short, sure (only 2 hours of actual pain!), but I had no warm up contractions, I had Pitocin contractions, and man, it HURT.  I was nervous, and almost scared, about going through that again, no matter where the location.  I mentioned that to Heather at one of my prenatals and she lent me a HypnoBabies CD with a Fear Release script.  That reminded me that I really should review all of my HypnoBirthing books and practice relaxing again.  I started listening to Rainbow Relaxation every night.  I took a bath listening to the Deepening script (which I thought was the Fear Release, but apparently I was wrong).  And most importantly, I started reading my HypnoBirthing book again.  The more I read, the more I was reminded about how natural birth is and how it shouldn't be scary.  My holistic side was re-centered.

But I couldn't shake the fact that as much as I didn't want it to, and even doing all the same prep and more last time, Kessa's birth really and truly did hurt.  As much as I'd love to say it was just a bunch of pressure, it was actually pain.  And I couldn't quite convince myself that this one would be any different.  Then one day, I had an epiphany.  With Kessa's birth, I was scared.  It wasn't going at all like I wanted.  I was induced 2 weeks early and I wasn't prepared.  I hadn't expected an induction.  I learned the news by myself while BJ was at a movie.  I couldn't even call him to come be with me while they did all the tests.  Then I was in the hospital, failing at induction, starving to death, for 22 hours.  My tailbone hurt from sitting so much.  I was exhausted.  I was frustrated.  And then I was presented with the option of going home or breaking my water.  I wanted to choose going home.  I didn't feel like I was ready for labor and my body sure wasn't acting ready, but on the other hand, I was completely spent, mentally, emotionally and physically.  I had put everything into preparing for labor for 22 hours.  What if I went home for the weekend and came back Monday only to have to do it all again?  After much discussion and prayer we decided to go ahead and break my water.  But it scared me.  Once my water was broken, there was no going back.  It had to happen.  Which meant my chances for a c-section would increase dramatically.  I remember crying.  I remember trying frantically to get my emotions under control.  With all that fear and stress built up, it's no wonder I couldn't relax through contractions.  With the pitocin on top of my contractions, it's no wonder it hurt so bad.

In one swift moment of memory, I realized that although I had had a pain-med free birth, it wasn't the natural birth I had wanted.  At all.  It also opened the realization that this birth would be different.  I knew Heather had very different opinions and if the same situation presented itself, she would handle it differently.  Instead of just inducing me, she would try to increase my amniotic fluid first.  If that didn't work, she would try to naturally induce me... try to get my body to go into labor on its own instead of forcing it on me.  It would be a lot more gentle and a lot less scary.  And in that moment, I realized, with excitement, that I really could have my ideal birth.  This labor could really be natural.  And maybe, just maybe, I could perfect my relaxation techniques to really get through without pain.  Or at the very least without the debilitating pain that haunted my memories.  And suddenly, instead of being nervous and scared about labor, I was truly excited.  That shocked me.  I remember telling BJ that I was excited about labor.  And that that was weird.  I mean, not being scared is one thing, but being excited?  That's just not normal.  But I was going to run with it anyway and hope it lasted, because I liked that feeling a lot better than my previous nervousness.

Meanwhile, I was being sad that my mom couldn't be there.  She was at Kessa's birth, largely by accident.  It hadn't been planned, but when she was there when we made the decision to break my water, my dad had the car so it was a choice between having my mommy there or making her sit out in the waiting room.  At that point, my modesty didn't care who was there, so I invited her to stay and she did.  And turns out, I was glad for her presence.  But she couldn't be here for Abby's birth.  All growing up my sister had tried to be my second mom.  I had resented it at the time, but now that we're grown and friends, I realized that she could, once again, play the part of second mom.  I invited her to come, and she excitedly accepted and made plans.  But the problem was, she lives 10+ hours away.  So even if I called her when labor started, she probably wouldn't get there in time unless I had a really long labor.  And if I had a really long labor, she wouldn't be there for support during most of it, when I needed her.  As I read my HypnoBirthing book, I was reminded of my longing for a support system like women used to have during birth.  When moms and grandmas and sisters and friends were all there to support the mom and help with labor and birth.  Like in the play Seven Brides for Seven Brothers when she has her baby upstairs and the boys are all downstairs waiting, but the 6 other girls there were all part of the birth and were running up and down the stairs getting things.  But there are always 3 or so that you don't see, and I expect they were all upstairs sitting with the mom, helping her through contractions, massaging her, encouraging her, and just being there.  I wanted that, and yet the two people I wanted there most probably wouldn't be able to be there.

Around the same time Heather hosted a luncheon at the birth center.  Moms who had birthed with her at the center and at home, two current clients (myself being one of them), a couple of other midwives, three doulas and some staff came.  It was a cozy group.  I didn't really expect to learn much, but I wanted to be surrounded by people who didn't think I was crazy for having a home birth, if even for just an hour or two.  Imagine my surprise when I really did learn something.  See, I had heard of doulas before, and only good things.  But I hadn't ever considered spending even more money on a doula when I'd have Heather and BJ right there with me.  What more could a doula do?  And so I asked them, "What does a doula do that a midwife wouldn't?" Mostly because I was curious, not because I was interested.  All three doulas gave their two cents on the matter, as did another midwife.  The main point was that the midwife was there to make sure everything was running smoothly and to recognize problems and fix them or make the decision to transfer me.  In general, births run smoothly and she can be there to support the mom and do counter-pressure and such, but there are times when the health and safety of mom and baby take priority over the comfort and support of mom.  And that's where a doula comes in.  Her main priority is the comfort of mom.  To support her physically and emotionally.  One doula even brought up the point that back in the day, birth was a joyous event where a giant support team of women would come to help, support, and celebrate with the mother.

Their words spoke so much peace to my soul.  I realized that even though my mom couldn't be there and my sister probably wouldn't, I could still have that support.  I realized that even if my mom and sister could be there, they didn't have the experience of a natural birth the way I wanted it.  They had both birthed most of their babies naturally, but in a hospital setting, on their backs.  They hadn't attended other births or the classes I had been using to prepare.  They didn't have the training that I wanted.  So while I wanted their support, I also wanted trained support.  Guaranteed trained support.  That would also free up BJ to be able to focus solely on my emotions and helping me relax.  He largely did that with Kessa, but he also had to focus on my physical comfort, too.  He had to support me in the tub and pour water on my belly.  He applied counter pressure to my hips the entire time I was pushing.  Having a doula to do all of that would free him to focus on my mental and emotional needs.  So I came home and told him what I learned, what I was feeling, and asked if we could afford it.  (Which is funny, because I do the budgeting, not him.)  We talked about it and he agreed that it was worth it financially if I wanted that support.  So I emailed a couple of doulas to find out what their rates are and ask a few questions.  Within a few hours I had talked to one of them, Carrie, on the phone and had a lot of my questions answered and concerns addressed.  So we decided to hire her.

So with the comfort of a doula, the peace of mind of having everything ready to go in our room, and the knowledge that this one would be different, I really was excited and ready for labor.  It was a wonderful feeling to be excited and anticipate her birth.  Up until that point I had firmly declared that I was not yet ready. I had too much to do and I was enjoying getting sleep at night.  But after that epiphany, I was able to quickly finish the things I had left to do, and really just be excited.  I'm sure that attitude went really far in how labor actually went.

To be continued...