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...