Thursday, August 28, 2008

What I Was Doing 2 Years Ago

It's D.L.F.'s 2nd birthday tomorrow! Here is his birth story, if you missed it the first time around (it's slightly graphic, because, it's, well, you know, birth):

At 1:30 A.M. on Saturday, August 26 (one day before Baby’s official due date), I got out of bed to use the bathroom and discovered a bit of clear liquid trickling down my legs. I tested it with a nitrazine strip and found that it was amniotic fluid. It was the first sign in my body of any progression toward labor, and I was so excited I couldn’t go back to sleep for quite some time. Later that day, I began having bloody show. (I didn’t lose any more amniotic fluid until the pushing stage of labor.)

I began having contractions around 10 PM on Saturday. They didn’t seem much worse than bad menstrual cramps. I thought, wow, this isn’t so bad after all. I went to sleep, but woke up with a contraction every forty-five minutes or an hour all night.

Throughout Sunday, the contractions gradually got closer together. By nighttime, they were eight to ten minutes apart and extremely strong and painful. I mainly felt them in my lower back. Every time a contraction would start, I would start the timer, get on my hands and knees, and Hubby would rub my lower back for me, while one or both of us sang a few lines from whatever song came to mind to help distract me. We went back to sleep for eight to ten minutes until the next contraction started, and then went through the process again, all night long.

By Monday morning, I was pretty tired, but I assumed Baby would be arriving sometime that day, so I tried to stay cheerful and positive. Hubby and I finished packing our bags and gathering snacks for the birth center. We went for a walk at a park, which helped to bring the contractions closer together. By lunchtime, the contractions were four or five minutes apart. We called the midwives, and they told us to come on over to the birth center.

Hubby drove, of course. We took the freeway, and traffic was light, so we got to the birth center in about ten minutes. I only had one contraction along the way, but it was very uncomfortable to get through in a sitting position.

We arrived around 1:30 P.M. I was the only woman in labor when we arrived, so I was able to get the birth suite of my choice: a pink, feminine room with a double-wide birth tub. The midwives asked me a few questions and then allowed us to get settled in. They checked on us periodically to see if there was anything we needed, but for the next few hours, they mostly left us to labor on our own.

At 5:15 P.M., the supervising midwife asked if she could check my cervix. Because I was still pretty calm and collected, she was amazed to find that I was already 8 centimeters dilated. She told me I could get into the birth tub if I wanted. Hubby and I got in together and turned on the jets. The warm water and the jets really helped dull the pain of contractions. Hubby stayed in the water with me for a couple of hours, rubbing my lower back with each contraction. Then he got out, but he still came over to rub my back every time I had a contraction. The pain in my lower back was excruciating. I didn’t realize at the time that the baby was posterior, so all the contractions I had experienced to this point were “back labor.”

I really lost track of time after that, and with all the endorphins coursing through my system, I got a little spacey. I really wasn’t thinking clearly, and absolutely all I could focus on was the contractions. As it was getting dark outside, Hubby and I went for a walk around the block. I had two or three contractions along the way, which were hard to deal with after the milder birth tub contractions. I got back in the birth tub for a while, and then forced myself to get out and labor on the bed for a while, as I was concerned that the birth tub contractions weren’t “doing enough,” because they were nowhere near as painful as contractions outside the water. I was frustrated that I still felt no urge to push, and I was getting extremely tired.

I think the supervising midwife could tell at that point (around 4 AM on Tuesday) that I was becoming somewhat discouraged, so she took over. She had me lie on my side for contractions (even though I told her lying on my side hurt the worst), and put a “husband” back-support cushion between my legs, so that they were spread about two feet apart. She spoke soothingly during contractions, reminding me to keep my legs wide open to make room for the baby, which was difficult, as I just wanted to clamp them together to help deal with the pain. It was during this time that the baby finally rotated to a face-down position and I began to feel the urge to push. Also, I felt a lot of wetness between my legs and had the fleeting thought that the amniotic sac must have broken. I did a few gentle experimental pushes, but not too hard, because I wasn’t sure if I was really supposed to be pushing yet.

After a while, the midwife checked my cervix again and said it was at 10 centimeters, and that I was free to push. This was encouraging news. I thought that I would give a few pushes and the baby would be out. I pushed on my hands and knees on the bed for a while. After maybe half an hour, I felt something start to slip out a tiny bit, and Hubby said he saw some membrane. One of the midwives suggested that I try sitting backward on the toilet to push, so I did. Hubby sat on a chair behind me, and with each push, I alternated between squeezing his knees as hard as I could and scratching and pounding the wall with my hands. I couldn’t help screaming with every push. After pushing on the toilet for about half an hour, I returned to the birth tub, where I was determined to be done with labor and meet my baby. I pushed super hard and fast on my hands and knees, and the baby was born in the water at 6:44 A.M. I heard Hubby exclaim, “Baby!” with astonishment and relief in his voice, and I knew I was done. One of the midwives immediately scooped the baby up and placed it on my chest. Hubby asked if it was a boy or a girl. He had to ask a couple of times, because I was too engrossed in just staring at the baby’s adorable face and marveling that the baby was finally outside me. Finally I processed what Hubby was asking, looked, and announced, “It’s a boy!” We greeted him, using the name we had chosen early in pregnancy for a boy.

Baby Boy’s head was perfectly round and not cone-shaped (thanks to my “roomy pelvis,” as the midwives put it), and his Apgar scores were 10 and 10. After a few moments of holding him in the tub, Hubby and the midwives helped me over to the bed, where I continued to hold Baby Boy to my chest. I was amazed how his sucking instinct kicked in right away, and that he was able to snuggle up to my breast and know what to do.

After a couple of pushes, the placenta came out, which felt good, as it was such a huge relief of pressure. After the cord stopped pulsing, Hubby cut it. The midwives left us alone for a while to bond with our baby. Later, the head midwife did an exam on me and found that I had torn pretty badly and needed stitches. Hubby gave Baby Boy his first bath and dressed him. Then we were given a breakfast menu from a nearby restaurant, and we both ordered omelettes.

Eventually, I got stitched up, and then Hubby and I watched the midwives gave Baby Boy his newborn exam. He was found to be normal and healthy. He was 7 pounds, 14 ounces (the exact same birth weight as his papa), and 21 1/8 inches long. His hair is light brown and his eyes are dark blue, at least for now.

Around noon, my parents came by the birth center for a few minutes to meet Baby Boy. Shortly after that, Hubby and I and our new baby went home.

I am very grateful to have given birth in a birth center instead of in a hospital. If I had been in a hospital, I’m sure the doctors would have wanted to give me drugs to help speed things up, as it was such a long labor, or pressured me to have an epidural and episiotomy. I was determined to have a natural birth with no interventions if at all possible, and I am pleased to say that I did, even though it was difficult. Baby Boy was very alert and content after his birth as a result of not being drugged up. I feel like he is my precious reward for all the hard work of labor. We prayed for this baby, and now we hold him in our arms. Thank You, Lord.

(Originally published September 2, 2006)

2 comments:

InLove said...

you are so fortunate to have given birth in such a non stressful way, that story is so mild compared to my first birth (hospital,with an unnecessary pitocin intervention! My second birth was also in a hospital and went well until the doctor came when it was time to push!). I have been thinking of looking into birthing centers or even *gasp* home birthing the next time I am expecting, what are your thoughts?

Melissa said...

Inlove--I definitely think more women should consider freestanding birth centers or homebirths. I don't have an exact statistic, but I would guess that at least 85-90% of women could have uncomplicated vaginal deliveries if they chose to do so and made every effort to avoid unnecessary interventions (which starts by not being in a hospital). I think planned home birth with a midwife is safer than hospital birth. You feel more comfortable in your own environment, you can move around all you want, be in any position you want, eat and drink whatever and whenever you want, have anyone present whom you choose and have present only those whom you choose. All these things help labor move along, decreasing risk of exhaustion. Hospitals almost continually monitor babies during labor, which hugely increases the risk of unnecessary C-sections. Also, hospitals are places for sick people! Who knows what diseases and germs you and your baby could come across in a hospital? Doctors want you to have your baby within a specified period of time and will pressure you into unnecessary interventions or even a C-section for their own convenience if you are taking "too long." Midwives know that birth is not a cookie-cutter experience. Every mother, every baby is different, and sometimes birth takes a REALLY LONG TIME, and that's okay!

All that to say, good for you for looking at other options than hospital birth. I am very satisfied with the births I've had with midwives at a freestanding birth center (i.e., not connected to or affiliated with a hospital). I felt that I was valued and treated as a unique individual. My midwives did everything they could to accommodate my preferences, and they never made me feel pressured.

So far, we've lived in apartments, so home birth hasn't been a great option for us (because of the neighbors), but if my family is in a house next time I am pregnant, I will definitely strongly consider a home birth.

I could write so much more, and maybe sometime I will, but tonight it's late and I must get to bed.