Saturday, May 20, 2017

Birth Story for Our Newest!

This blog is semi-officially closed, but I do stop by to post our birth stories! Here is the story of our fifth homebirth from March. 

Hello, dear readers!

I have been extremely lazy with writing my birth story. Usually I'm starting the process within 48 hours, but here we are: Baby is three months old, and no birth story. While I'm purposely trying to neglect my blog at the moment, I also know that I need to write down my story or risk forgetting precious details.

And so, here goes:

This pregnancy was challenging. While it was non-hyperemetic, it wasn't as smooth as our last pregnancy. I threw up a lot more, was super-nauseated through the whole thing, and had a very difficult third trimester in terms of mobility and back/pelvic pain.

As I neared the second half of this pregnancy, I also dealt with a recurring problem - a deep fear of childbirth. This is not new - I have written about it before. This time around, I even named it my "EGAD!" phase (Extremely Grumpy About Delivery).

I ended up praying two specific prayers:

One, for the grace, courage, and strength to face this birth and the postpartum period.

Two, for joy in the journey. That I would approach our birth time not with fear and dread, but with joy and anticipation.

Both my prayers were most joyfully answered. This time through, I was finally able to await the arrival of our sweet little one much more peacefully and joyfully, and without the same high level of fear. It wasn't perfect, but it was a huge improvement.

Our due date for this little one was March 13th.

Thus, I wasn't quite prepared for a February entrance. But that's what happened!

Here is the story - not of the birth day, but of the birth week. This baby chose a rather meandering route for his entrance.

As our 37th week dawned, we felt very status quo. Several more weeks to go, etc. etc. etc. Same ol', same ol'.

But on Monday, February 20th (37w1d), I woke up with an upset stomach. Usually, this is my first labor-is-coming-in-the-next-day-or-two sign.


I wasn't sure whether to take it seriously. I'm still not sure if that was a coincidence or not.

But that night, going into Tuesday, February 21st (37w2d), I woke up unexpectedly at 4:00 a.m. with strong false labor that lasted for two and a half hours. (Ouch!) Very suddenly, everything had changed.

(False labor is labor contractions that feel every bit as painful and regular as the real thing, but - while having a purpose - do not effect any cervical dilation or lead directly into actual labor.)

That morning, I could tell that my body had really changed. My uterus had gone from "generally well-behaved" to "irritable, cranky, and painful." Whether labor was on its way soon, or not for weeks more, we were definitely moving quickly into the last stages.

That night, leading into Wednesday, February 22nd (37w3d), false labor began as soon as I laid down and lasted for another three hours before stopping and finally letting me go to sleep. (Ouch again!)

I was getting a bit tired. It's hard to live constantly on edge, forever thinking, "Is THIS it? Or is this it NOW?"

But we soldiered on.

The next night, leading into Thursday, February 23rd (37w4d), I went to bed dreading the inevitable hours of painful false labor. To my surprise, there was none! Not one contraction! (YAY!)

But when I woke up in the morning, I found that I had blood-tinged cervical fluid (sorry to be so graphic, folks). This has always been my "Labor is coming TODAY" pre-labor symptom. This really brought things into clearer focus. We were not weeks, or even days out - this baby was coming, and likely that day.

But the day waxed and waned with no baby, and no labor outside of occasional painful contractions that never became regular.

Going to bed that night, I had no idea what to expect. But labor-or-false-labor contractions started right away - thirteen minutes after I laid down - and kept right on going until 6:30 in the morning. I then finally fell asleep - and woke up twenty-six minutes later! Time to start a new day! (*Sigh*)

That day was rather odd. I could tell that we were right on the brink of labor. At the slightest provocation, my uterus would start another painful contraction. But... it wasn't labor. Not yet. And life continued on. Again.

After lunch, I sat down to nurse our two-year-old prior to nap time. And immediately, contractions started coming hard and heavy. (I think the two-year-old was rather puzzled by being flung away while mummy shouted, "Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!") And from there, the contractions didn't stop. I tried to nap, and couldn't, and so ended up timing my contractions for an hour (10 minutes apart) before texting our midwife.

One thing I am learning of late is to accept my husband's suggestions, rather than immediately brushing them off in the approved "His opinion is automatically wrong, and my opinion is automatically right" mode. Thus, when my husband suggested calling in our birth team at around 4:00 p.m., I went with it and agreed (instead of doing my usual "Oh, I'm sure we don't need anyone yet!" bit).

The first assistant midwife arrived at 4:30 p.m., and she immediately began unpacking our birth supplies and preparing our room. Our midwife arrived at 5:00 p.m., and the second assistant midwife arrived shortly thereafter.

During this labor, I took a big (for me) step - I asked my birth team for time to labor alone. This is not normally something I'd have the guts to do, because it sounds so rude: "Go away and leave me alone!" But during our last labor, I discovered that I like to labor by myself, and during this labor I got up the nerve to ask for that. Of course, our wonderful midwives graciously arranged for me to be alone, with our midwife simply coming in every few minutes to listen to baby's heart tones. It was a lovely experience, and I greatly appreciated their willingness to go along with it.

And now, I will tell you something that has been super-exciting: I have found something that helps me handle labor!

This is just so exciting, amazing, and earth-shattering. Seriously.

I normally do not handle labor well at all. I do not "work with it," or learn to handle contractions well. I panic, tighten up, and end up moaning or screaming through contractions because of the pain.

Some people label vocalizing as a "labor-management technique." No. Just... no. One does not look at a man being stabbed to death, and say: "Goodness, listen to that screaming! He sure is dealing with the pain well!" No. It's simply a reaction to pain, and that is how I have reacted to labor pain, being completely unable to cope in a constructive way.

During this pregnancy, however, I randomly borrowed a book from my midwife's lending library: The Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin. I was really just looking to brush up on my labor and birth terminology - now that I am not an active birth blogger, I have found myself slipping in remembering a lot of the basic terms.

But - and this was really a God thing - I found what I needed for this birth (when I wasn't even looking for it).

What I found was a simple description of breathing techniques for labor - "slow breathing" method for early labor and a "fast breathing" method for later, more intense labor. I copied the information and practiced the breathing at night for a couple of weeks.

And... it worked.

I used both techniques: the slow breathing technique for all of the nights of false labor, plus early "real" labor, and the fast breathing technique for late labor and transition.

It was incredibly helpful. I was able both to manage the pain and distract myself from the pain. And, incredibly, I was able to avoid any type of vocalization. For me, this was a good thing. As I've said, vocalizing does not help me with the pain at all. I also find it highly embarrassing. But I haven't been able to help it, despite my best efforts, so I've just had to go with it. But during this labor, I didn't have to resort to vocalizing once - except during pushing, when it would truly take a miracle from Heaven to avoid. But aside from that, I was able to have a quieter and much more peaceful labor.

I personalized the fast and slow breathing techniques by adding a beginning (when I feel a contraction starting) and closing (when the contraction is mostly over) "cleansing breath," taken from Lamaze technique. (I can't believe I'm finally getting around to this eleven years after I watched that old Lamaze video).

All of this makes me think that we moderns may be doing Lamaze birth methods a disservice. Such older birth methods have been, in recent years, completely discarded. Nowadays, the only reason one hears of Lamaze is as the object of a childbirth joke. And instead of the scripted breathing methods prescribed by Lamaze and others in previous years, one is much more likely to hear something like "focus on your breathing."

For women like myself, however, I can say that "focus on your breathing" is nothing short of absurd. To return to our man being stabbed to death, someone standing by and shouting "Focus on your breathing!" would be... worse than useless. It really doesn't mean anything, and it doesn't give any concrete help during labor either to women who struggle with fear and panic at the onset of hard contractions, and I'm guessing it's not really that helpful to most women.

For myself, being given a basic prescription on exactly HOW to breathe was incredibly helpful. It was night-and-day difference in being able to deal with contraction pain, and it is definitely a part of my labor plan going forward.

(I should note that my own mother is a huge proponent of traditional Lamaze, and defends it vigorously against the barbs of modern-day dismissal of the method. She used it for 20 hours of unmedicated labor herself when I was being born.)

And to clarify, the methods described from the book were not Lamaze themselves, but being that they were a prescribed breathing method (rather than a generalized "focus on your breath"), I am likening them to the more prescriptive methods of breathing such as Lamaze.

The one caveat is that I felt that this labor was - at least possibly - easier than my others. I don't know if I could have handled a harder labor completely with this method. However, in the end, childbirth is childbirth is childbirth. It's hard, and it hurts. And I'm so happy with how it turned out using the above method.

And now, to return to our story:

I labored in bed for some time, with our midwives camped out in the living room. At some point I decided to move into the tub, so I got up and ran a bath and hopped in. The lovely thing about getting into a warm bath is that it nearly always gives one a brief break in contractions, and I enjoyed that very much.

At some point, I remember thinking of praying that baby would be out soon, as I did not want to labor through another night. The lazy part of me then thought, "No! That would mean more pain!" So, after debating the matter for some time, I ended up praying that baby would come easily, rather than sooner or later. (The lazy part of me won.)

Note: During this birth I finally got around to using the "miracle birth red raspberry tea" drink. Hard to drink during labor, but I can't argue - I definitely had an easier labor. (I had also used red raspberry tea during the last month of pregnancy.)

My husband came in a bit later and said that he thought our midwives should probably come in. I agreed completely, so he summoned them and they tiptoed in quietly and sat out of sight in the bedroom.

A short time later, I called to them and told them that I thought they should come in. I was starting to feel some pelvic pressure - which is worse than contractions, oddly enough - and probably had a feeling that things were getting close.

The midwives came in, and a short time later (just a few minutes, I believe), I said suddenly, "I think someone should get my husband." One of the assistant midwives ran to get him, and as he ran to come into the room - about ten seconds later (or less) - I was slammed by my first (and only? not sure) pushing contraction.

Things got little bit crazy. My husband didn't have time to take his sweatshirt off, or even push up his sleeves, so he got soaking wet jumping over to catch the baby. At the same time, he was asking the midwives to grab his phone from his pocket so that we could catch some photos before it was too late.

Of course, I didn't notice any of that, being a bit preoccupied.

However, an odd thing did happen, which was rather neat:

I am not a fan of pushing. If you ever see me protesting something, I'll probably be marching along with a sign that says "American Moms Against Second-Stage Labor." I am simply not a fan.

But this time, as soon as the pushing contraction hit, I made an instant and utterly unpremeditated decision - that I was not going to put up with this. Since the only way out was through, I was going to push with every ounce of strength that I had, as hard as I could, until this baby was out. And I did. I did not stop pushing in between contractions, and I didn't care if I tore "from nave to chops." This baby was coming OUT. And NOW.

And baby did!

We checked immediately, and found to our surprise that baby was a BOY! Somehow, we'd both assumed that since we'd had one girl, we'd start having more girls. But nope - the count is now four-to-one, in favor of Team Boy.

We had picked our boy name - at last! - only 24 hours earlier, so baby immediately had his name.

We got all cleaned up, got all exams done, and had our birth team home in time for bed.

While childbirth is always a challenge, this was our best birth yet.

We would like to thank our wonderful team of midwives who, as always, provided a safe, happy, respectful, and joyful entrance for our newest!

Baby Oliver
Born February 24th @ 6:28 p.m.
Six hours active labor
8 lbs. 4 oz.

We don't have any pictures from the labor (okay, a few, but they're not showable!), so here are all the post-birth shots:

Have a wonderful summer, dear readers!

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