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Monday, July 21, 2014

Peter: the detailed birth story

The pre-labor story

This pregnancy, birth, and newborn phase can be summed up as follows: I finally get it.

This has been both a relief, a comfort, and a downright annoyance. With both Kessa and Abby I did not feel contractions until my water broke. That includes 22 hours of induction with Kessa. With Abby I went into the midwife at 38.5 weeks and found I was dilated to a 6, 100% effaced, with baby at a +1.  In her words, "How are you even walking?" My response, "Should I not be?" With Abby I eventually figured out what Braxton-Hicks contractions were, but they were so minor that I rarely noticed them, and even when I felt them, I was never certain until I felt my belly to see if it was hard. Even after my water spontaneously broke with her, I didn't feel a contraction for over a half an hour. But with both girls, once my water broke and I got the first contraction, it went from nothing to hard and heavy. And baby came 2-2.5 hours later.

Peter, however, was a different story. Heather (the midwife) told me over and over again to call/text her at the first sign of labor. She knew my history (and was my midwife for Abby), knew how fast I could go, and wanted every second to prepare that she could. So when one night, probably around 37 weeks, I actually started feeling contractions, I probably overreacted a little. I felt like a first time mom all over again. I laid on the couch for awhile, breathing through contractions, though I didn't need to, then I rushed to the store to buy last minute birth supplies that I had been procrastinating, even though I had guests coming in 30 minutes. I texted Heather to let her know. By the time I got back from the store, the contractions were gone and I was left slightly disappointed.

It probably didn't help that everyone assumed I'd go really early and were constantly asking me if I was trying to induce labor, wondering when that baby was coming, making plans for me not to be places. So I started to expect it, too. I started moving from being content to be pregnant and enjoying the benefits that came from that (things I'd lose once Peter was born), to becoming more and more impatient. The downfalls of pregnancy became more oppressing. Peter liked to kick at my SI joint. I'd get what felt like an electrical jolt down my right leg that would nearly knock me to the floor. Once or twice it actually did. My left side and back, along my ribs, constantly hurt. My tailbone ached from an old injury. Rolling over at night or getting out of bed was a hassle. I was starting to get worse sleep because I'd have to wake up in order to roll over. I was tired. I was cranky.

But Peter wasn't ready to come, and to keep me from doing anything drastic, I'm sure, he kept flipping to posterior. I'd go in for a checkup and he'd start out anterior, but by the end of them palpating my belly, he'd have flipped to posterior. The fact that he could move so easily was heartening; chances were great that when I did go into labor, he'd be able to quickly flip into position. But we didn't dare start anything ... just in case. When she'd do my internal check, she found that his head was not in a good position. It was often resting on my pubic bone instead of my cervix. Again, we had high hopes that he'd flip to anterior and his head position would right itself. So instead of being impatient (I had zero desire to back labor a posterior baby because of impatience), I spent a lot of time on my hands and knees. I planted and weeded my garden and flowerbeds. I scrubbed baseboards in my bathrooms. I hand mopped parts of my kitchen floor. Then I got on and found exercises to help turn him. So I did those.

One Sunday (just over 38 weeks) we were driving home from dinner at BJ's parents' house in Riverton when, just after a few contractions that I could feel, I felt an odd bubble in my vagina. I had never felt its like before and had a hard time describing it. I wondered if it was my water trying to break. I turned back to toss a water bottle back to Kessa and when I turned forward again, the bubble was gone. I checked and I was slightly wet. Had my water just broken? But only a tiny hole? Had I peed my pants without realizing it? (Sadly, that wouldn't have been surprising.) I didn't know. But the circumstances were suspicious. And, feeling like a first time mom again, I started wondering, "Is this it?" I called my mom to give her a heads up and warn her to pack her bags. My sister, Jalin, was visiting her and leaving the next day, and I had been forbidden from going into labor until the next day (Memorial Day) after Jalin left, but I figured Sunday night would be good enough. I texted Heather and we talked back and forth. I couldn't tell if I was leaking or not. There was no bloody show. We shooed the girls to bed, I sat on the birthing ball and did spinning babies exercises, and I texted everyone on my list to give them a heads up... just in case. By 11 pm I was exhausted and decided to go to sleep, just in case he made his appearance at 3 am.

I woke up the next morning completely dry and very disappointed. BJ didn't take the holiday off work. Between the two, I was a pretty grumpy momma that day. Sorry about that, girls.

The next day they gave me a birthing tub. BJ filled the sides and bottom with air so it would be ready anytime. The next morning it was half deflated; the tub had a leak. So I took it back to the birthing center and exchanged it for another one. While I was there I asked Heather to check me again. She did and found Peter to be in a much better position. "I definitely wouldn't say he's in a bad position. I also wouldn't say he's in an ideal position. But I will say that he's in a good position." She gave me the option to do a natural induction or to wait for things to start naturally. I was also dilated to a 6.5 and at least 80% effaced. Over the next few days I started to lose my mucus plug.

I was torn. On the one hand, part of me wanted to do it naturally. I wanted to know if he'd come early or late. I wanted to know what my body tended to do when left to its own devices. Abby came a week early, just before a scheduled natural induction. Like, 2 minutes before. It was convenient. On the other hand, if I waited, I knew my mom wouldn't be able to be there. She lives too far away. I also had a slight fear that I'd spend much of labor without my team there, and that would worry me, considering how fast my labors are. What if they didn't get there in time?

Convenience, peace of mind, the desire to have my mommy there, and impatience won out and we scheduled the induction for Friday afternoon. I let everyone know and got to work cleaning my house and getting all the birth supplies set up.

Birth day, pre-labor

Friday morning I had a pre-natal massage scheduled. When I told them I was being induced, they switched it to be a "labor stimulating" massage. I really liked it. I still couldn't feel contractions, though the masseuse could. I just prayed that it wouldn't stimulate labor too soon as it was in SLC and I still had to drive home. And I had to stop by my Aunt Grace's house on the way to pick up the girls. I had no desire to go into labor at any point during that. Though, I did carry a chux pad and depends-style underwear in my car for a couple of weeks prior, just in case. But to my immense relief, all went as planned.

Friday afternoon came and everyone started showing up. We had to push back the induction a few hours due to another birth earlier that morning. Where my labor could be changed, time-wise, I was happy to let Heather (midwife) finish up the previous birth, change clothes, clean up, eat lunch, etc.

Everyone joked about how it was a party. And really, it kind of was. There were 13 adults and 1 child (Kessa) in my bedroom for the birth.  There was the birth team: Heather (my midwife), Karla (a CNM), and 3 students. Then there was my hired help: Carrie (doula), and Cali (photographer). And then there was my family, aka my moral support team: BJ, my mom, BJ's mom, Resa (BJ's sister), and Chelsea (soon-to-be sister-in-law). And, of course, me. There was a snack table in the loft (they request snacks, just in case the labor is long; they don't want to have to leave me to go seek out food). We set up chairs in the bedroom (I wasn't gonna make everyone sit on the floor or the bed, which was covered with plastic under the sheet). I had bought the girls a bunch of new toys, so if they got bored watching my almost-silently labor, they had something to do besides cause problems, so the kitchen table was covered with play dough, bubbles, glitter chalk, and a plastic golf set. It kind of was a party. Let's consider it an elaborate 0th birthday party for Peter. :)

Heather was on the phone doing some business while her team was setting up. At one point Karla asked if I would be comfortable just having her break my water and we could get things going right then instead of waiting for Heather. I'm pretty sure she asked because she was pretty new to the practice and I didn't know her very well, so she was asking if it would bother me if she did the breaking instead of Heather. Honestly, I wouldn't have cared who did it. But I immediately pushed back, not because of her, but because I hadn't expected it to start with breaking my water.

When we planned Abby's induction, they told me they'd do massage, oils, pressure points, etc. then send me on about an hour walk to get things going. If my body was ready, it'd respond. If it wasn't, it wouldn't. Which, after my 24-hour induction with Kessa, sounded pretty great. And then 5 minutes before we got started, my water broke spontaneously. They still did the massage and oils, then sent me to walk around the house, which lasted maybe 5 minutes before contractions kicked in full force. I had expected something similar. (Honestly, I secretly hoped and almost expected that my water would again break spontaneously, even though I knew that to be a very unlikely outcome.)

For a moment I had a moment of panicked flashbacks of Kessa's induction. When they broke my water with her, it was after 22 hours of failed induction methods. It was the point of no return, with no guarantee that it would even work. I ended up having 2 hours of sheer pain (I'm sure because I was scared instead of being relaxed), enhanced by Pitocin contractions. I did not want that experience again. But there was a lot of things going on in setting up and it was really easy to get side tracked and never really answer the question.

Instead I grabbed my Hypnobirthing book, sat on my birth ball, and read the breathing chapter again, to help myself remember the breathing techniques. I knew I was going to need them soon. I felt a little silly, like I was cramming for a test, but I really wanted it fresh in my mind.

Around 4:45 Heather came in, checked me, and asked if I was ready to break my water. At least this time I was prepared for the question. I told her I hadn't been expecting to start with breaking my water; that wasn't what we had done with Abby. She said that we could induce like that again, but warned that even when they were done with their part, it could take several hours of me walking and such to get labor started. She said she'd be happy to do that, but that if we chose that route, they'd get me started, then her birth team would go home until labor started to progress more. Then everyone left the room so BJ and I could talk privately.

I was torn. On the one hand, everyone was already there. I was ready and prepared to have the baby. I was already dilated to a 6.5 and 100% effaced. On the other hand, part of me wanted to do the whole thing naturally. I wanted to know if I tended to go early or not. I felt like I should be scared of breaking my water, because of Kessa's birth and because I was worried about having to make that decision for Abby's birth. I felt like I should be freaking out at having to make the decision. But the thing is... I wasn't. Neither was BJ. So we talked it out and decided to just do it.

Everyone gathered back into my room as I lay on the bed, several chux pads underneath me, as Heather broke my water. It gushed up my back, and despite taking precautions to prevent it, we ended up with amniotic fluid on my bed. Just a small patch, though. And thankfully I had put a giant piece of plastic under my sheet, so the mattress was safe. I quickly dilated to a 7 after that. They then helped me into the very attractive adult diaper and told me to walk around while rubbing my belly clockwise. To help making the rubbing easier, I diluted some clary sage oil (which is supposed to help induce contractions) into some olive oil (for a carrier oil) and rubbed that onto my belly.

I started pacing my room, the nursery, the hall, and very soon became bored with upstairs. Everyone else had long since realized that this part was boring, so they'd gone down to the kitchen to play with the girls and their new toys. I like being with people, so I went downstairs, too. Just as I was about to turn into the family room, I noticed my dad on the couch. My dad is a very Victorian kind of guy, and I was wearing a sleep bra and a tank top, pulled up so my belly would show, and a lava lava. I wasn't sure if he'd be comfortable like that. So I sent BJ to warn him. BJ walked into the family room and said, "Dad, your daughter is coming down the stairs. Her belly is showing. Be ok with it." Hah! But instead of putting him on the spot, I turned right instead and paced the hall between the stairs and the office.

Honestly, this part was ridiculously boring for me. There were no contractions to focus on. At least that I could feel. I was pacing the same hall back and forth. It wasn't even a good walk with changing scenery. It was like 10 steps, then turn. I was amused to find that every time I walked from the office back toward the stairs, water would gush out more than any other time. I went back upstairs, then back down randomly. BJ and Carrie dutifully followed me along like baby ducklings following their mother. At one point upstairs, as I was coming out of my circuit in the nursery I mentioned that I was bored. BJ suggested I do jumping jacks. Carrie was horrified and said that hurt her just to think of doing that while in labor. So I started joking that maybe I should do something on the Wii. Surely something on Wii Fit would be appropriate. BJ suggested biking. I suggested hula hoop. Carrie approved of the latter. But being the boring person I am, just laughed and continued walking. Looking back, I wish I had done it if only for the story. :D I went back downstairs to find that my dad was gone. Apparently he had gone up to his room to nap. So my pacing started to include the family room, dining room and kitchen. As I walked around the table one time, where everyone was playing with play dough (Resa made a chess board!) I mentioned how bored I was. The reaction was priceless. Jaws dropped, eyes popped, "Tianna! You are in labor! How can you be bored?!"

Sometimes I wonder if my labor experiences are unique. I know that I'm fairly unique among my personal acquaintance. This story proves that. Most stories I hear/read include the mother feeling early labor contractions. I just... don't. But historically, before the push for drama-riddled birth... was my experience more common? Or did I just do something very right in the pre-mortal life to earn such an awesome blessing? Because apparently someone with her water broken shouldn't be bored while pacing for more than a half an hour. But let me tell you—it was boring.

At one point BJ asked if I wanted him to play the piano, or if I'd rather have his constant presence. (With Kessa, he couldn't even direct his attention elsewhere without me wanting to die, so it was very sweet of him to ask.) I figured a change in atmosphere wouldn't hurt, and I didn't need his constant attention at the time, so I agreed. So at 5:07 I paced to John Schmidt's "Morning Light".

Maybe around 5:20 or 5:30 I finally started to feel contractions. This is when labor became real for me. Up until this point I was only a passive participant. I did what I was told, but I wasn't really a part of it. But as soon as that first contraction hit that I had to stop walking and talking through, it became real. I became an active participant. It wasn't intense. It was just there. It demanded my focus, but didn't cause me any pain. After a couple of those downstairs I decided to go back upstairs so I could sit down. I rocked on my birth ball, but didn't like being on it during contractions. When I felt one coming, I would kneel down on the floor and lean up against the ball or against the tub wall. With my hands clasped while kneeling, I kind of felt like I was praying. And in a way, I was. I wasn't actively praying, but I was turning myself over to my subconscious self and opening myself up to one of the most spiritual events a woman can participate in.

Between contractions I chit chatted with Cali who had been upstairs working on her YW lesson. Occasionally someone on the birth team would pop in to check on me. Sometimes they'd check the baby's heart. Sometimes they'd ask how far apart and how long contractions were. We had to guess. Finally I opened the iBirth app I downloaded on my phone during Abby's pregnancy and turned on the contraction timer. I had always wondered how far apart my contractions were and how long they lasted, but we'd never timed them before.

With Abby's birth, I was very withdrawn. I didn't really talk. If someone asked if I wanted something that I didn't want, I simply wouldn't answer. No one even knew I was pushing until Abby was crowning and I yelled "Pushing!" Even then they just thought, "Oh, good. She's finally reached the pushing stage." It wasn't until one of the student midwives happened to notice she was crowning that they all figured out what was happening. And then she was born during the next contraction. I also tore in two different directions and it was miserable. My goal this birth was to be more in touch with reality and keep everyone abreast of what was going on.

I started with the contraction timer. BJ knew when contractions would start because I'd cut off mid-sentence, close my eyes, and rest my head on my arms against the side of the tub. Then when the contraction ended, instead of just laying there resting and ignoring everything else, I would say "Ok" or "Done."

We started timing at 5:45 pm. They were, on average, 2 minutes long and about 4 minutes apart (from start to start, so really, 2 minutes in between). After a few more contractions I decided I really wanted the buoyancy of the water, so I asked them to start filling up the tub. At 6:00 I got in. It was wonderful. It truly is amazing how water can take away intensity, simply by nullifying gravity's effects. Instead of my uterus contracting and pulling down simultaneously, I only had contractions. Bliss.

This pattern continued for about a half an hour. Breathe through a contraction, time it, relax for a couple of minutes. Repeat. Kessa would come in occasionally. Once she told me that I was doing a great job and that she loved me. It was super sweet. She would ask questions, I would answer. But even with her I would stop mid-sentence to focus on a contraction, then finish answering when it was over.

I hadn't practiced relaxing and breathing as much this time around, so I found that I had to actively focus on relaxing. I would often find myself mid-contraction very tense and would have to force myself to relax. Instead of just dealing with it, I reached out. After a contraction I told BJ, "I'm having a hard time relaxing. I need you to remind me to relax during contractions." Without skipping a beat he asked me what parts of my body I found the most tense. My legs and shoulders. From then on, he would remind me during contractions to relax those, and other, parts of my body. It was very helpful, because I would become so focused on the contraction itself that I stopped paying attention to my state of relaxation until he spoke up. Sometimes I'd even forget the breathing techniques until he reminded me to relax.

Just like with Abby, BJ was my rock. Having Carrie be able to focus on my physical comfort left BJ to focus on my mental and emotional needs. He whispered to me. He comforted me. He told me I was doing great. He told me he loved me. And when I needed more of a distraction, I would kiss him. It really is amazing how much that really does help. ;)

Kneeling upright for a long time makes your legs fall asleep, as I'm sure you can imagine. With Abby, I refused to try other positions. They just didn't even sound comfortable. This time I wanted to be more open to suggestions, so when my legs started to fall asleep and I ceased to be comfortable, I flipped over and sat, resting my back and head against the tub wall behind me between contractions. But when the next one started, I immediately turned back to kneeling. I just didn't like laboring while sitting. I'm definitely an upright kneeling laborer. I repeated that 2 or 3 times, but mostly just stayed on my knees.

I was most worried about pushing. I feel like that's where I failed the most with Abby. I wanted to trust my body so much that I went too far and didn't help it along. I didn't listen to it when it told me to bear down. I thought I was doing it right, but I went from never pushing to my body saying, "Fine! If you won't work with me, I'll just do this myself." When I pushed her out, it was purely reflexive. I didn't have a choice.  Which is, I think, why I tore so badly. So this time I focused more on what my contractions felt like and how effective my breathing was. And this time, I recognized when my contractions would turn "pushy." I don't know how to explain this, but there is a difference between pushing and bearing down. With Kessa I pushed. I wanted her out Right Now. So I pushed. But with Peter, I bore down. It wasn't so much an exercise in getting baby out as it was just doing what my body told me to do. It involved more grunting and focusing on moving everything downward. It was part of breathing.

The bearing down contractions started around 6:20. It wasn't every contraction, and that urge wasn't even there for the entire duration of a contraction. Those moments, though, were far more intense. Not painful, but intense. But when I would work with them and bear down with them, the intensity lessened. It was an empowering feeling. The whole time I was just thinking that it took 3 labors, but I finally was working with my body. I was finally getting it right. I started to look forward to those moments. I knew they were the most productive. I knew they were bringing my baby closer. I knew they were marking the end stretch. So I welcomed them and worked with them.

Transition came. It wasn't as marked and obvious as it had been with both girls. With them there was a definite moment of, "I can't do this anymore, please make it stop." I was waiting for that this time. I knew I'd feel like that and I knew I'd make it through. I had done it twice already. But it was never that strong. I remember thinking a time or two that I was nearing that point. One moment in particular I thought, "This is hard. I just want to be done. I don't know how long I've been doing this, but I know it hasn't been long enough yet. My labors go longer than this, so I've still got some time to go. It's hard, but it's gonna get harder yet. Just focus. Just breathe." There was a moment when suddenly just Carrie giving massage and counter pressure just wasn't enough. I tried to deal with it for about a half a second before I remembered that this was my time to be spoiled, so I said, "More hands!" and next thing you know, the entire birth team was around the tub, giving me relief. I think that was my climax. That was my transition. From breaking water to birth was still about the same length as my other two labors, but it had taken a lot longer before I felt contractions this time, and I had a lot longer in between them. So it had been a shorter time than I had anticipated. So I was surprised when Heather checked me around 6:45 and I was completely dilated and she could feel Peter's head. I still had a small lip of cervix left, so she told me not to push yet, but that it would be soon. And soon it was. That also happened to be just after the last contraction we timed. They were getting to the point that it was hard to say when they started and ended. It was getting to be too much of a hassle to try to identify those moments, so instead I just told BJ that we were done with timing.

Things progressed quickly. Soon my bearing down started bringing Peter down the birth canal. The moment he started to crown a student midwife was kneeling next to my head, coaching me through it. I hadn't realized I'd have a play-by-play coach, but I appreciated it. I really didn't want to tear. That long-term desire was the only thing that kept me from pushing as hard as I could to get him out. She kept telling me things like, "I know it's hard, but let's do this slowly. Let him stretch you. I know you don't want to tear, so let's let him help you. Push with the contraction. Stop when the contraction stops. You can do this." It was the Hardest Thing Ever. Ever. It turned out the cord was shorter than normal, because it was wrapped around him, so he progressed slower. And I was pushing slower. So the entire crowning process took longer than normal. And talk about the Ring of Fire. I now know what that feels like. I remember with Abby having her head halfway out, then the contraction stopped, as well as all sensation. Mid-crown I thought, "This isn't so bad; I can do this again." And then laughed at the whole situation. But with Peter, there was no relief between contractions. There was just stretching and fire. It took every ounce of willpower I had to go slowly. And the whole time I was thinking, "Is it really worth it not to tear? I don't really care. Let's just get him out and be done." But deep down I knew that giving into my short-term desires would just end in long-term regret. And so I pushed slowly.

Heather had heard a slight dip in Peter's heart rate during one of my later contractions, so she listened to it the entirety of one of these last contractions to make sure everything was ok. (It was.) She didn't explain why at the time, but I knew she felt it was necessary. I hated her for doing it anyway. It wasn't comfortable. I think I even told her, "I hate you right now, but I know I'll love you again later."

I kept my hand on his head the entire time. I remember feeling hair and being confused (my kids don't have hair at birth), but not having the presence of mind to really process what I was feeling. The next part is somewhat of a blur. I remember him coming out. I remember either seeing or hearing someone say that he had the cord wrapped around him. I felt the urgency of the birth team to get it unwrapped. I instinctively flipped from a kneeling position to a sitting position to make unwrapping easier. (Heather later told me that had made it so much easier and was grateful I acted on my instincts.) I remember as I was flipping the birth team was panicking to keep Peter under the water as I moved. As soon as I was sitting, Karla reached over and quickly unwrapped the cord.

At 6:57 pm, he slipped out. I held him in my arms, feeling a great relief that it was all over. I love the pictures of that moment, because they are so real. The emotions are so raw.

Often people talk about how the cord was wrapped around the baby's neck and how scary it was and how the baby could have died! But the majority of the time, it's not a problem. Because as long as the cord is still attached to the placenta, the baby is still receiving oxygen through the cord and doesn't need to breathe. It actually happens quite often. What makes it scary is when the cord pulls tight around the neck and cuts off the artery to the brain. The oxygen is getting to the baby, but not to the baby's brain. That had been the urgency to get the cord off. They knew that he would be fine, especially as his heart rate was strong, but they knew they had to act quickly.

From my perspective, everything was much the same as Abby's birth. Sure, they had to unwrap the cord and that was different, but he looked and acted peaceful and much the same as Abby had. I could feel the urgency in my birth team, and I worked with them. But I didn't feel their urgency. I knew, without doubt, that he was ok. I trusted my birth team and did exactly what they said to do. It was nice to have such trust that I could know there was urgency and act upon it, but not have to feel it myself. I could fully bask in the joy.

When Abby was born, she didn't cry. She was calm and peaceful. She took almost a full minute to take her first breath. Some of the student midwives voiced concern over it, but Heather calmly explained that so long as her heart rate was strong, she was fine with Abby taking her time. Peter looked and acted the same to me. So I was a little surprised when Heather calmly instructed me to give Peter a puff of air on his mouth. But I didn't question her, I just did it. She had me repeat it two or three times. She also had us fold him in half. Again, I didn't question, I just helped the mass of hands following instructions.

Then he started to cry. A very angry cry. And just like that, all the tension in the room was gone. Just to be safe they pulled out the oxygen tank and put the mask next to his face. He didn't need it on his face, but they wanted to give him more oxygen to breathe in, so they just held it right next to his nose and mouth.

Peter came out very purple (BJ commented on how he blended into the purple towel we had him wrapped in), but quickly gained a nice rosy color. After 10-15 minutes I delivered the placenta (with some prodding from the birth team) and they cut the cord, after showing me that it had stopped pulsing. I handed off Peter to BJ while they helped me out of the tub. They helped me into dry clothes and another lovely adult diaper.

Kessa got to watch the birth. My mom said she went around the tub, peeking in between people, then moving on to the next gap. Apparently she wanted to see it from every angle. The only time I saw her, she was in someone's arms and had a semi-panicked look on her face, but was quiet. I was a bit preoccupied, so I couldn't do anything about it, but I knew she was in good hands. I just hoped it would be a good experience, and not traumatize her. But apparently she did just fine, since she got up and went around, trying to see everything she could. And now she'll tell you that she loved it.

Abby apparently fell asleep on the chair in the office watching VeggieTales. Which is good because she totally missed her nap earlier, and I was afraid she'd be cranky and we'd have to send her to a neighbor's house. I'm glad we didn't have to do that. She woke up soon after Peter was born and came up to look while I was still in the tub. But she was still tired and out of it and cranky. I don't think she even saw or processed Peter, even though she was sitting right next to him.

Someone took her downstairs and fed her and after that she was back to her normal bubbly self and was very excited to run up and point out "Baby! Baby!"

The non-glamorous post-birth

After birth is a bit of a blur for me, too. It also will probably have TMI for some people, so if you're not into that sort of thing, this is a good place to stop reading. But it was part of my experience and I want to remember it. Also, I think it's important that first-time moms hear about the real experience, including the not-so-glamorous parts.

I did have a minor tear, which was a bummer, but it was still a billion times better than Abby's. (It also healed quickly and didn't cause me much discomfort at all, thank goodness.) There was some debate as to whether or not to even stitch me up, but in the end Heather decided it was deep enough that she wanted stitches. But it was deep enough that the anesthetic took full effect and I couldn't feel most of it, which was fantastic. It's the surface tears that don't numb well and Abby's tear was mostly surface and I felt every stitch.

Most of what I remember is afterbirth cramps and trying to breathe through them. (Glad I expected them this time so I wasn't quite so bitter about them.) I remember tensing up my legs through them and carrying almost all my stress and tension in my calves, so I almost constantly had Carrie, my mom, and/or BJ massaging my calves. I was bleeding more than they wanted (yay for being a redhead?), so I couldn't take the anti-cramp tincture (apparently it can cause more bleeding), but they gave me a bunch of other not-great tasting stuff and I had to keep an ice pack on my abdomen off and on for hours. It still didn't work as fast as they wanted, so they gave me a pill of some sort, which must have done the job because they stopped fussing about it after too long. Turns out they hadn't even pulled out the big guns. There was a pitocin shot in my fridge they never used. It was comforting to know that although there was some concern, there wasn't enough of a problem to pull out the pitocin. Especially since I hate pitocin. I'm glad they were able to fix it enough with natural remedies. But I'm also glad they had more powerful options in case I had needed it.

I remember Peter being passed around while they stitched me up. I remember nursing him for the first time and how easy it was, but knowing that was a first-time thing only. I don't know what it is about that first nursing that is so instinctive that it is perfect, but it only lasts that once. Then it's a total learning process for both mom and baby which takes time and tears and sometimes some blood. :/ I remember being helped into the bathroom where they stressed how important it was that I pee, even though I felt no urge. Luckily it was pretty easy to do. They gave me a peri-bottle filled with water and witch hazel and told me to use it every time I went to the bathroom. One suggested I add a drop of frankincense oil if I had it, because of its strong anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, etc. properties. Another suggested lavender oil for its soothing properties. I couldn't find my lavender, though, so I started putting in frankincense. It's a really expensive oil, though, so I only put in one drop per day. But I think the oil seeped into the bottle, because I could still smell it all day long, every time I put more water in.

I spent the next couple of days in adult diapers, until I ran out of them, then the next 2-3 weeks or so using overnight pads until I ran out of those. Then until week 5 or 6 I still needed pantyliners. From what I understand, many women don't bleed for that long, but I've always bled until week 5-6, so it wasn't surprising for me. I was actually surprised at how quickly the flow slowed down to just a trickle.

I remember my mom videotaping the student midwives doing the baby exam and Abby and Kessa running in and out of the room, happily yelling. It made me laugh, because we were catching real life on the video. I remember debate over whether he was 8 lbs 13 oz or 8.13 lbs. Heather settled that one by declaring it was the first and then I heard one student mumble, "Oops. We got the one this morning wrong, then. We'll need to fix that." Haha. Apparently the scale was new to her and didn't read as she expected?

I remember that almost immediately after birth my dad showed up at the door, grinning, but not daring to come in. I was still in the tub at that point, but my mom assured him that I was covered up with a towel, so he came in to see his newest grandson, beaming all the while.

I remember being asked what seemed like every 5 minutes if I was hungry and if they could get me food. But I wasn't hungry. So I kept declining. I had eaten soon before everything started. I knew I'd get hungry soon, but I wasn't hungry yet. I had prepped dinner and Carol had put it in the oven before she left, so I figured I'd just eat dinner when it was ready.

I remember everyone slowly trickling out until all that was left were my parents, BJ, Peter and I. (Grandma Homer took the girls to spend the night with her.) We meandered downstairs where I camped out on the couch, holding Peter, while my mom finished getting dinner ready.

I was so spoiled the next week. I think I changed maybe two diapers total, and those at the very end. My mom cooked every meal. I think I made a few malted milkshakes, to help my milk come in, but that was it. I mostly chilled on the couch or overstuffed rocker recliner, holding or feeding a baby. Or sleeping. I often passed Peter to someone else so I could walk around when I was tired of sitting, or so I could nap. Anytime I wanted something, I asked and it was delivered. When Peter fussed at night and I'd already fed him and he just wouldn't sleep, my mom would come rescue us and she'd stay up for an hour or two with him to give us more sleep. I was so scared for the nights after she went home, but when she left, he stopped having nighttime fussiness. He'd just wake up, eat, and go back to sleep. I think he just wanted to have grandma time and realized when he wouldn't get it any more. So. Spoiled.

BJ worked that week, while my mom was there to take care of me and the girls. Then the next two weeks he kind of worked half days. Mostly he was just available as needed. When he heard crying or fighting, he came down and rescued me immediately. He took care of kids whenever I needed a nap. It was seriously so wonderful. Bonus of working from home.

The only problem those first few weeks were due to Peter being born with a recessed chin (but isn't the dimple super cute?!) It made breastfeeding painful. It had the same effects as a tongue or lip tie, except it wasn't as easy to fix as a simple snip of the scissors. Instead I found a chiropractor that was willing to help and we spent several days (and several hundred dollars... thanks insurance for not paying!) in the chiropractor's office. I saw a marked decrease in pain while nursing, though, so I consider it time and money well spent.

Mostly, though, he was a very good baby. He slept a lot. He's super chill and rarely fussy. Overall, he's not the baby boy I was scared of having, so that's good. I think he's very much a baby BJ. I hope that continues as he gets older... :D

Sure, there were some things about the birth that weren't ideal and weren't what I was hoping for. But 98% of everything was perfect. And the things that weren't I think were dealt with as perfectly as I could have hoped. I am 100% satisfied with how it went, how my birth team responded to everything, anyhow I was treated. I felt like I was respected and had a say in my birth. I was treated as part of the birth team and not as a patient who couldn't make decisions and was supposed to just do what I was told. I felt empowered. Changing my actions to also involve the birth team in what was happening during labor was also surprisingly empowering and made the whole thing better. I felt like I finally got the hang of things. I actually felt and recognized contractions more pre-labor, though I still didn't feel the majority of them. I opened myself up to feel and recognize when I needed to bear down and was empowered when I realized that I was helping myself. I was able to push slowly during crowning, despite a massive desire to not to. I was able to breastfeed on my own with minimal help. And when things didn't go well, it wasn't because of my lack of ability, it was due to something beyond any of our control. But I was able to find someone to help with that as well. And I've done much better about feeding on demand and trusting his signals to tell me when he's hungry instead of relying on an app on my phone telling me how long it has been between meals. (I still use the app, but I use it as a tool, mostly to keep him from sleeping too long during the day so that he'll take his long stretch at night.)

So far, Peter has taught me to trust myself and my instincts. He has taught me that I can listen and understand far better than I expected I could. He has empowered me. I love him for it.

Welcome, Peter! Thanks for making us a family of 5.

All photos by Cali Stoddard photography


Kelley said...

I love this story! It's so nice to hear stories where birth is a wonderful, amazing thing, instead of something to be scared of. You rock!! (Oh, and I LOVE the picture of all of you together!)

Driel said...

Beautiful! You made me cry. I thought the bearing down part was interestin. I think I did that more with my last birth. It went to the bathroom a lot more because of it, but I think it helped me open up.