Thursday, June 30, 2011
As time moves on and I gain wisdom (or maybe a better word would be....experience?) I realize some fun things about life and myself.
~1~ When two children are fighting constantly, I of course deal with it by yelling at them. As it turns out this is not that effective and a laughably dumb and contradictory response to getting others to STOP yelling. And yet, I can't think of anything else to do.
~2~ I smell vaguely of rotten breast milk, failed natural deodorant, and... is that poop? Yes it is. Don't worry, it is not mine. Ahh, if only you could bottle this stuff. Maybe, just maybe, I could make a killing selling it to empty nester's.
~3~ Can a newborn baby actually aim spit up directly down my shirt? It seems impossible, and yet...
~4~ When I say, "I can't believe I had a nine pound baby!" The response "Yeah, and you have the stretch marks to prove it!" Is actually INCORRECT. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars. Do not expect any action anytime soon.
~5~ How is it that giving birth can make me feel both so chubby and so skinny at the same time? So much lighter than I was a few weeks ago, and yet, not exactly where I would like to be.
~6~ People just straight up STARE at you when you go out in public with four children. It really is not that many, is it?! Maybe they don't have cable.
~7~ If you offer your six year old some placenta because he is being moody (or your husband or anybody for that matter) they will ALWAYS say no. It just isn't something people want to share with you. I am actually excited to find something I can eat which does not cover me in hungry bird like children saying "Ah, Ah, Ah" with open mouths.
~8~ When a newborn needs you, they NEED you- RIGHT NOW. Despite the fact that I have done this a few times before, I actually managed to forget this. Now that I think about it though, it is probably good for the other kids to learn some patience.
~9~ Saying no to an offer of help or dinner is just stupid and prideful. I am in no place to ever do that again.
~10~ Beginning potty training one day before your due date may just result in a two year old who refuses to wear a diaper (or anything else) but will not go on the potty. Assuming you know when the baby will come (even if you think it will come late) is asking for trouble. They come when ready.
~11~ Despite the craziness, challenges, and recovery, I wouldn't trade this for the world. Having a new baby brings such a sweet spirit into a home. I love babies.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Excuse me while I rant for a moment.
My sweet fourth baby was born recently at home. It was a truly perfect birth and there was nothing I would ever change about it. One of the most touching things about it though was that because it was an accidental unassisted birth, my husband got to catch the baby. This in particular made the birth a sacred event and he felt so much love for this baby immediately because of that moment. He was literally the first person earth side to see this tiny person and behold her beauty. (What a reminder too of how important the birth experience is for both the mother and the father as a couple.)
Two days later, my husband and older children went to church. Apparently having a baby at home with only mom and dad there will make you a little famous in a small town and everybody seemed to already know what had happened.
It is interesting to note that my husband was really considered quite the "stud" for catching his wee one. But nobody said he "caught" the baby, everybody was talking about how impressive it was that he had "delivered" his baby.
In addition to all the delivery talk, my husband who is a Chiropractor (and so has a hard earned doctorate in Chiropractic) was all of a sudden being referred to as "Doctor." Despite the fact that he has treated many people and helped many people and has had a doctorate for a few years, that never merited the title doctor, but catching a baby (on accident and with some degree of panic) suddenly did earn this special title.
Now I in no way want to steal my husbands thunder. It was an amazing experience for both of us and I truly appreciated his presence and help and comfort during those overwhelming moments of labor and birth. I do however take small issue with the use of the term "delivered" especially when used in this way :
"HE delivered the baby." Or,
"The DOCTOR delivered the baby."
Maybe I am being a little oversensitive. Maybe my mama hormones are off kilter today and maybe I am slowly losing my mind as all these kids literally suck the fatty acids out of my body and brain. Maybe I am squabbling unnecessarily over vocabulary choices.
Maybe I have become so obsessed with the power structure of birth, the loss of female autonomy in obstetrics and what I see as blatant misogyny and undermining of woman power and feminine gifts that I see sexism where it doesn't even exist.
But I am going to say this anyway:
WOMEN deliver babies. Men CATCH babies.
Maybe I should be a little more specific. Men CAN deliver babies. Men may in fact ENJOY delivering babies. That could explain the high c-section rates or the use of vacuum and forceps deliveries. In those instances I would not object to the term delivered when used in the same sentence with the word man or doctor. Sometimes it is necessary for another person, (possibly even one with a penis) to DELIVER a baby.
But- women are perfectly capable of delivering their own babies. Women labor. Nobody else can do this for them. Women push. Again, something you just have to do on your own. And women deliver their own babies into the world under their own power every single day .
Look at that amazing picture at the top of this blog post. That woman is in labor. Isn't she beautiful? Isn't she powerful and vulnerable and divine all at the same time? But more importantly, can you see that she is making a journey that nobody can make for her?
I can tell you right now that I felt every moment of that labor. I felt that baby come out of my body. I heard the primal noises I made as my body spontaneously and with great force, DELIVERED that nine pound nine ounce posterior baby. I can tell you that it was not a ride that anybody else can take for you. There are somethings in life that you must do on your own. Other people can help and support and guide but at some point, that bridge must be crossed and nobody is going to carry you over it.
So yes, I delivered our baby. My husband was there. He caught the baby. He was an important part of the birth, but nobody else delivered her but her mother.
And that folks, is how it is done.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
When I think of the birth of my fourth child, all I can feel is blessed. In fact, it is overwhelming because I don't know how I could possibly deserve to be this lucky.
I first felt like this after the birth of my first child. I had taken a Bradley Method class with two other couples. My friend, Donna, pretty much signed me up for her class when she found out I was pregnant. One of the mothers in class had a c-section due to a large breech baby and the other mom had hard back labor and a very brief epidural that she turned off quickly.
I had three nights of labor, I arrived at the hospital on the third night to find myself dilated to an eight. I then proceeded to push for four hours and deliver without medications. I realized that I had in many ways just been lucky. How many women are sectioned after two hours of pushing? Or before they even reach complete dilation? But the planets had aligned and really, considering birthing in this country right now, it was quite a miracle that I had a vaginal birth.
I realized then that different women, all with similar preparation physically, emotionally and mentally could have very different birth experiences depending on what fate handed them.
Fast forward six years to today. In the meantime I had birthed two other babies, my second in a birth center in Texas and my third at home with a fantastic CPM. This is the story of my fourth birth. It was different than all the others. It was a little scary, a little overwhelming, and practically perfect in every way.
Have I mentioned that with my last two children I went about a week and a half past my due date? I fully expected to do the same this time and for once was actually at peace with it, as it seemed inevitable. But jokingly I mentioned that Friday would be a great day for me to have the baby because my son finished his kindergarten school year the day before and I knew that my husband had a really light day at the office, so he wouldn't have to cancel any of his patients.
I was a little shocked and in denial when I awoke around 4am on Friday morning to some rhythmic contractions. It was at about this time that my two year old climbed into bed with us. The contractions were not so strong that I would say they hurt but I was actually a little excited so I got up and did some laundry and cleaned the bathrooms. (Who wants a dirty toilet when giving birth, right?) I went back to bed and got a little more sleep and when I got up and took my shower (in a clean shower by the way) and mentioned to my husband that I thought I might be in labor.
He wanted to call the midwife! I hate to labor while being watched so I told him no- it wasn't that strong yet and not regular at all so we should wait. This could go on for days! He was convinced though that I would go really fast this time for some reason. Maybe I will listen to him in the future....
I labored on and off throughout the day but it was different than any other I had experienced. Contractions were never regular. Sometimes they would be a few minutes apart and last about a minute. Sometimes I would have one that was a minute long, then two minutes later have a ten second contraction. Whenever the kids were around me they would stop.
My daughter had a friend over around lunch time and as I sat and chatted with her mom in the yard I had just a few contractions in an hour and a half. When they left I laid down to take a nap and had regular contractions through the nap, but I was still able to sleep between them.
When I got up though, probably around three o'clock things were moving and I could tell. I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin when I would have a contraction. I couldn't achieve any full body relaxation. I could not have my children climbing on me anymore and I was so relieved when my parents drove up to take them out for a little while to get pizza. I think they were surprised to find me slowly losing my mind and swearing for no apparent reason.
At one point I vividly remember standing in my bathroom, looking myself in the mirror and saying to myself, "I want an epidural right now. I don't want to feel anything else for the rest of the day. What the hell am I thinking." (I have never actually had an epidural and maybe you have noticed, I am not actually much of an advocate for them so this was kind of amusing in retrospect.) This is the only time in four labors that I remember ever seriously considering getting medication to stop the sensations (though my husband claims differently!)
At some point I finally consented to my husband calling the midwives. By this time I was feeling overwhelmed. I knew that my midwives both lived about an hour from me, but I was a little worried when I found that she was in fact over two hours away at a birth center she sometimes works at. At that moment I realized that we might be having this baby with zero interventions and very privately.
By now I will admit that I am in pain. (I know some people don't think labor is painful, and I admit this is possible. But- this labor was no longer what I would describe as painless. In fact it was beyond intense.) I was feeling desperate for some relief and started instructing my husband on setting up the little fishy "birth tub" that I had bought to labor in.
My sweet husband was in something of a panic as he ran around trying to set things up for me, all the while worried sick that he was going to be alone to catch this baby. In fact he kept saying, "Something is going to go wrong. Something always goes wrong..." over and over again. This is a little out of character actually because normally when I am losing my mind in labor he is absolutely dead calm and trusting in the process. But this time, the prospect of having a baby with no midwife had him a little spooked. At some point I said to him, "STOP saying that. Everything is going to be FINE." And so he did.
I laid down on my side in my bed in an effort to slow the labor down. My contractions were honestly unlike any I had felt before (at least that I remember) in intensity. I had wrapped myself in chux pads so that I wouldn't make a mess on my bed and was trying to wait things out until somebody arrived. At some point I realized how silly it was that I had made my husband put 100 gallons of water into a birth tub because there was absolutely NO WAY that I was going anywhere.
Sweet relief, the contractions seemed to ease up a bit at some point but I felt like I needed to take a pee at the peak of them. But I could not pee. In retrospect this was just a little urge to push which I tried to ignore. My husband came in to check on me and my water broke during a contraction. I asked him to bring me some new chux pads because the one I was on was all wet. (It is really amazing how bossy I am while in labor, don't you think? This must be what having too many kids does to you.)
He dutifully switched them out and then closed the bedroom window because the room was getting cold. My next contraction started and I made that NOISE. How do you describe it? Somewhere between a roar, a scream, and freight train? It was the sound of a baby coming and my husband knew it.
I was still on my side and he lifted up my leg and says, "It's crowning!" (This was really more an expression of terror than excitement, to tell the truth.) Then he started telling me to push. There was really nothing else that I wanted to do so, of course, I complied....
I could feel the head come out in one crazy contraction. Two pushes for the shoulders and one more for the body. I don't think I ever remember knowing exactly what was happening in any of my other births, but this time I could tell exactly what my body was doing. My husband caught the baby and handed it up to me then darted out of the room to try to get something to suction the baby if it needed suction.
I yelled to him, "It's OK, it's crying! It's breathing fine!"
It was really such an incredible moment to have a baby like that, with just the people that made it.
Let me give you a little background on why I felt so blessed with this birth. I have had wonderful births with all of my children, but I was always glad to have the support of loving, motherly women around me at the time of birth.
My first baby was born after three nights of labor, and four hours of pushing. I hemorrhaged a little after he was born, I think just because my uterus was tired after a very long labor. I was grateful for the pitocin that they decided to give me postpartum which stopped my bleeding. I felt weak for a long time after that birth.
My second was born in a birth center. She wasn't breathing right away and I didn't realize until much later that she was resuscitated to get her going.
My third was born at home with a wrapped cord. I don't really think that is much of a big deal, but I know she stuck a little until my midwife gently unwrapped her cord. I was also grateful when my midwives noticed that her heart rate could not be found when I labored in certain positions and encouraged positions that didn't put pressure on her cord.
I guess my point is that I love labor and birth and certainly trust it enough to do it outside of a hospital and with very minimal interventions. But I also respect birth and its awesome power and I love the profession of midwifery. I love that I have met some wonderful midwives who only step in when something minor needs to be corrected and I am grateful to have been blessed to birth with midwives who trusted me and respected me and my body and the birth process. I have always been grateful for women who are willing to give up so much in order to support other women through birth.
So, I am not advocating unassisted birth, but I do think that this baby was meant to be born this way, for reasons that are very close to my heart, and that I won't share here.
So, I wasn't planning an unassisted birth, but I had one. It was an incredible experience. The first midwife arrived about 45 minutes after the birth. Everything did go fine, in fact it went beautifully. It was a perfect experience that I wouldn't trade for anything.
Not only was my baby born safely, she was 9 lbs, 9 ounces. She was born posterior and pushed out in one contraction. This was my biggest baby by over a pound, the first I had ever delivered posterior (I had no back labor) and she was caught by her proud and somewhat terrified father.
In some ways it was the easiest labor I have ever had, in others the hardest. The first few days I was sure I would NEVER have another and spent many hours wondering how women do this six or seven or more times. But the memory of the pain is already fading, and now it just seems like it all went by so quickly....
I cherish the births of all my children and feel blessed beyond compare that they were brought into our lives, each in their own way.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Today's birth story is a fourth birth from an artist mama after three less than perfect birth experiences. Sometimes it just takes time-
You can see her blog here.
You can see her blog here.
His birth will be forever connected with my mama, because she fell and hurt her hip the night before he was born. True to her nature, she didn't tell anyone about the fall, but simply said that she "wasn't feeling up to coming over" to see my new baby, even though we lived a mere 10 minutes apart. That seemingly minor event was the start of a sharp downward spiral for her. Two weeks later, she fell again and broke her hip. The surgery that was supposed to replace her hip sent her body into multiple strokes instead, and we never got to hear her voice again.
We had had a misunderstanding on the phone the day before, and I am so glad that I rushed to the hospital to speak with her one last time before that surgery happened. We used to talk on the phone for at least an hour, almost every day. It took me months to figure out how to cope with day-to-day life without her patience and encouragement just a phonecall away. I grieved a lot when she first got hurt--moreso than lately, almost. I am still so incredibly upset that I deleted her last voicemail, not realizing that I'd never hear her voice again. She only got to meet Nikolas once before the strokes happened.
Right, well... On to the birth story! It really is a good one, if I do say so myself. I have very late babies, typically, and Nik was no different.
Now, I am a self-proclaimed crunchy mama, in all its permutations and possibilities. If you don't wanna read about or support natural birth--or if you wanna nitpick and argue with me about how crunchy I *really* am--then maybe just don't upset yourself by reading further. =)
Knowing that I seem to have never-ending pregnancies, we decided early on to be semi-aggressive with multiple natural remedies to support a "timely" labor.
My midwives also happen to be two of my best friends, and I knew that they couldn't legally attend my birth if I went over 42 weeks.
My last baby came at 42 weeks, 6 days--and while it was a natural birth, it was also a stress-filled fiasco that I couldn't bear to repeat. Maybe someday I will write about that--but at present I prefer it to be a mostly buried memory, heh.
Due date by my own estimate: Nov 1st
...by my midwives' calculations: Nov 5th
...by the 25-ish week ultrasound: Oct 25th
For obvious reasons, we made the "official" due date the latest one that was reasonable--November 5th.
Nov 9th (a week before): I had been having bouts of semi-convincing contractions nearly every day for at least two weeks already. I'd gotten my membranes swept several times as well, and had been taking labor herbals since 37 weeks. I took 4oz of castor oil, which gave me many more contractions but no luck.
Nov 10th: went to the city and paid out-of-pocket (thanks to my mom's generosity) for a non-stress test, which showed a completely non-stressed baby, who looked to be due exactly on Nov 5th (so 40 weeks, 5 days at that time), and was supposedly 8.5 lbs already. At this point I was having near-constant, regular contractions, that would sometimes stay at 3 minutes apart for hours and hours....but nothing. (By this point, I was already in an end-of-pregnancy stupor, half-convinced the whole thing was a sham, and that I was never going to go into labor! Since I was already an hour away from home, I also opted to go eat at my favorite vegan restaurant :)
Several days that week, I was up having the kind of contractions that make you go, "hmm...should I call somebody?" but every time I'd go to sleep, they'd either peeter out or stay in a holding pattern instead of getting stronger. Twice I did call my husband home from work, which was making him crazy and not really endearing him to his new boss, either.
Sunday, Nov 15th: I thought it'd be a good idea to take a walk, so I rounded up the kids and stroller and went to the park with the nice walking trail. We walked for about 1.5 hours, 'til it got dark, and then I stopped for an Auntie Anne's lemonade (YUM), and thought I might as well pick up some more castor oil too. I figured I'd rather try castor oil again, before I'd even consider going to the hospital. At this point I was 3+ cm dilated, and 50% effaced, and had been for a week at least (?).
6pm-ish: I thought, it was early enough, and I was such a night owl anyway, that I should have another go at some castor oil tonight. I figured if anything happened, it'd be recognizable within a few hours (stupid!). I did NOT want to take the full dose again though, so I only had one ounce. It didn't even give me cramping, and so I figured it was a waste and went about the evening--dinner, kids to bed, etc.
***Disclaimer: I have NO IDEA if that 1oz of castor oil did a thing, or if my body was just ready, or WHAT! I know my midwives were annoyed I didn't call them when I took it--sorry! *hides*
9pm-ish: I set to work on my college paper--you know, the one I'd procrastinated about until the very last minute. Actually, it was due Monday at midnight--so starting it on Sunday night was some sort of record for me. I had a CD of random Euro-dance music playing throughout the whole night--not my usual style, but for some reason it was what I wanted to hear. All the while, I was having contractions, but no physical feeling of it being different than the last 3 weeks, LOL. On the other hand, I knew the new moon was on the 16th, and I had a curious vibe about that in the back of my mind--but it wasn't anything I felt like I should share, lest I was wrong again!
Whether it was the labor hormones, the dance music, or just a particular interest in the subject matter, I don't know--but I wrote a really bang-up paper: Eleven pages on the problems with America's public school systems and how to fix them.
Nov 16th, 4am: I had been having to pause typing to focus on my new, orange tree-of-life tapestry during contractions for who knows how long. I was tired at this point, having walked for 1.5 hours earlier, and given that I usually go to bed around 3am, but I felt like I shouldn't go to sleep for some reason. I called up my husband and we talked; I told him something might be starting to happen, but not to hold his breath for it. I stayed up and did a bit of crash cleaning--I think I scrubbed the bathroom floor, even. (Again, obvious--nesting--why didn't I really believe it?!!)
5am: I was having to hold onto the countertop to brace myself against contractions as I finished up the dishes. I still didn't think it was "real labor" though, and I was half-expecting it to go away once I lay down. All the same, I felt like I didn't want to be alone, and my husband only had one more hour of work anyway, so I called him and he came right home. I sat on the couch folding laundry, and I didn't look that "serious", so he played video games for awhile. No, he didn't get in trouble for that. =)
6am: I was putting away laundry and couldn't walk across the apartment faster than a 90-year-old. My husband told me I should call the midwife then, but once I finally sat down, I realized that I barely felt up to talking, let alone finding my phone. I think he called, and then gave the phone to me--I can't remember....
7am-ish: My lovely midwives get there, and I'm sitting up in bed looking cranky and feeling sort of like I wish I could go to sleep and do this later! They check me, and I'm at 4-5 cm. Gahh, ONLY?? Things keep going, and at some point I start needing to hum, then moan, then holler through the contractions. They're not painful so much as they make me want to crawl out of my skin--I always experience labor that way, tho I'm not sure it's a good description...
8 or 9am, something: They check me again, cause I'm feeling pushy, and WOO, I'm 9+ cm....but there's a lip of cervix in the way. Apparently his being posterior made me dilate and efface "crooked", so I need to change positions to put pressure on this lip of cervix to get it to move. Now this sucks. I can't push yet, and I have to be in a position that makes me lean forward. The contractions are noticeably more intense this way, so I'm whiney and changing positions with great bursts of energy in between every contraction, and sometimes in the middle of them, trying to "get away" from this feeling. I was on my knees on the floor hanging over the bed, on all fours, on the toilet even--and wishing I could fall asleep in between.
Almost 10am(??): Finally I'm sitting/kneeling in the middle of my bed and CANNOT NOT PUSH. I think my water broke about then, I'm not sure. They tell me I can't push the baby out so close to the bed, so I rock forward onto all fours. My sweet husband is holding my hand, in my face whispering encouragement to me, my midwives are behind me with hot oil compresses, and I'm excited now, cause I know it's almost over. I think I must have forgotten how hard it is to push a baby out, cause Nik didn't just slip out after his head came--I had to really work to push his shoulders and belly out, too. It was funny, because I was on all fours, they had to pass Nik to me through my legs so that I could sit/lay down and hold him. I have no idea how long it took to push him out, but it felt longer than my others, so I was curious about his weight.
Nikolas was 8lbs 1oz, 21 inches long, and born at 10:11am on the new moon of November. I was 41 weeks, 4 days. (Earliest that I've ever gone into labor "on my own"--ha!)
My husband's dream-premonition of the birth date was, annoyingly, correct. =) What I didn't know until then was that the 16th of November is also his uncle's birthday--the very uncle whose generosity and support for our family was absolutely crucial in the early, difficult times. We gave Nik his middle name in thanks for that support.
I am SO THRILLED that I finally got to have a homebirth, and I will be forever thankful to my two dear midwife-friends for making it possible, and for taking such good care of me (or rather, making me take care of myself!).
After my last, traumatic birth, Nik's was soul-moving in its calmness and simplicity.
I couldn't have wished for better.
Monday, June 6, 2011
I am excited to have another guest post today. This one comes from Plus Size Mommy Memoirs who has both a great blog and facebook page. This birth story has so many positives and so many lessons. I love how she is able to embrace her body through the power of natural birth. Her story also illustrates how important a strong birth team and good doula are. Enjoy and check out some of the work she is doing from plus size moms!
Braeden's Birth Story
On January 4th2010, my husband, Chris, and I found out we were expecting our first child and thus began our almost year-long journey of becoming parents. We read pregnancy books, watched movies (Business of Being Born was our favorite), read blogs and websites, attended classes, laughed a lot, cried a little, and spent most of our time talking about becoming a family. After five months of education one thing became clear: natural childbirth was important to us. So we hired a doula, fired our OB-GYN, switched hospitals, and selected a midwife. Our drastic change in plans was set to the test on August 24th when I went into labor three weeks early.
I woke up at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 24th, and felt like my pregnancy was nearing an end. I went downstairs to send our doula and my mom an e-mail saying I thought Braeden would come sooner than we expected (thinking a week or two – not that very day). When I stood up after sending the e-mails, I felt something wet running down my leg – my water had partially broke (but I was in such denial I thought I had just peed!).
By 2:00 a.m. I woke Chris because I was having contractions. I was convinced it was false labor and I could get back to bed soon since the contractions were erratic. Rather than doing the smart thing of calling our doula, I began pacing around the dining room table for three hours while Chris timed each contraction. I really wanted to lie down but my body just kept telling me to walk (unbeknown to me all of my walking was turning Braeden because he was faced the wrong way). Also, whenever I tried to lie down I’d get a big contraction and pop back up. I think it's important to note I didn't know women can experience one really big contraction each time they change positions while laboring. I wish I would've known that because I probably would've been able to get a little rest during the beginning of my labor.
Around 5:00 a.m. we finally did the smart thing and called our doula, Whitney, and she immediately told Chris to get me in the bath. She also told Chris to force fluids and have me eat something. The idea of eating sounded terrible but Chris was so encouraging that I tried. After a few bites of toast with almond butter I was “sick” but getting it all out actually made me feel better. Chris asked me if I wanted anything and I said, “I’d like an epidural.” I was trying to make a joke but I was a little serious because the contractions were harder to handle then I had expected. After about forty-five minutes in the tub I felt the need to pace again. By this time we were in touch with Whitney every half-hour and knew a decision had to be made soon if she was coming over to our house or if we were meeting her at the hospital.
I was a good little nester and had almost everything ready for our son’s arrival; everything but the all-important hospital bag! So Chris frantically started running up and down the stairs packing the hospital bag and I resumed pacing around the dining room table, calling out to him every time I had a contraction. We must’ve been quite a funny sight!
Chris called our parents a little after 7:00 a.m. to let them know they were going to become grandparents that day! Chris’ parents had just visited us on the tail end of a very long road trip two days prior, but immediately prepared to hit the road again for an eight hour journey from Los Alamos, New Mexico to Denver, Colorado. My mom, in Southern California, jumped on the internet to book a one-way flight in hopes she’d make it in time for the birth. We had planned on only having my mom come out for Braeden’s birth; my dad and sister would visit within the next month or two.
Shortly after 8:00 a.m., Whitney called and asked if I wanted her to come over to the house or to meet us at the hospital. My response: “HOSPITAL.” By 8:30 a.m. we were in the car and headed to the hospital after six and a half hours of laboring at home. Chris pulled in front of Denver Health Hospital and I got out and told him to park the car. He wanted to walk me in but I knew I could do it on my own. A few minutes after I was in the OB screening room I saw Whitney. She walked up to me, held my hand, and rubbed my forehead with her thumb. The instant I felt her thumb between my eyes I relaxed for the first time since 2:00 a.m. Even though my contractions were getting stronger, they were a million times easier to handle with Whitney teaching me how to ride them like a wave and blow them away. Chris and I had taken classes, read books, and watched movies on how to cope with labor but all of that knowledge becomes a blur when labor arrives.
Whitney immediately started advocating for me and our birth plan when the nurse in the screening room wasn’t very pleasant. I was four centimeters dilated and admitted to the hospital just after 9:30 a.m. When we went upstairs to Labor and Delivery, a compassionate midwife named Magi greeted us with a big smile. She heard about me from the midwife who was handling all of my prenatal care and was thrilled to be working with me. This was such a dramatic change from the cold and routine service I had received in the OB screening room. In the screening room I had to lie on my back so they could monitor the baby and make sure I was progressed enough to be admitted. In the Labor and Delivery room I was free to move about as I desired. I ate, drank, and wasn’t strapped to any monitors. I knew I had a wonderful birthing team and Braeden and I were in the best possible hands. From that point on I knew I could have a natural childbirth and never once asked for medication!
During labor, Whitney kept encouraging me to change positions. I would sometimes respond with “no” or “after a few more contractions” because I was afraid of the pain, but she was always right and I always felt better after I followed her advice. I really enjoyed laboring in the tub because the water felt nice and helped me to relax. Call me crazy, but I also liked laboring on the toilet. There’s just something relaxing about sitting on a toilet. My least favorite place to labor was the bed. I completely understand why women, who are forced to labor in bed, turn to an epidural rather than try to naturally cope through labor. I also can’t imagine laboring without the assistance of a doula and supportive partner. Braeden’s heart rate was checked about every half hour with a portable Doppler so I didn’t need to stop laboring in whatever position felt best to me at the time. I wasn’t checked hourly for my progression or made to feel like I was on a timeline.
Around 2:30 p.m I started having such strong contractions I felt an urge to push and we thought I might be going through transition. No such luck. I was only five centimeters dilated and moved into the tub to try and relax. I was disappointed I had only progressed one centimeter after so many hours had passed. Whitney was immediately reassuring and told me going from four centimeters to five is the hardest. Soon after this pep talk my mom arrived! I’ll never forget the moment she walked into the bathroom and all I could focus on was the hand sanitizer she had just put on. I’m pretty sure I told her she smelled before I could utter “hello” or “I love you.” Once the smell dissipated I was pleased and she helped me through more contractions. Chris was also there to help remind me to breathe. From this point on I went into my primordial brain and solely focused on moving my baby down.
Prior to five centimeters’ dilation, I had gotten the hang of riding contractions. When I felt my body start to contract I did my best not to fight it and breathe through the pain. After the contraction would peak I was able to regain control and exhale the pain away. Birthing is an intense process but the built-in breaks between contractions are such a blessing. Soon after I hit five centimeters I completely zoned out and gave full control to my body. I remember screaming deep warrior cries for hours. Chris later told me you could hear me screaming all the way down the hall from my hospital room.
I had no idea how long I had been in labor or even what time of day it was when I moved onto a birthing ball by the bed. My mom had been there for just two hours and in that short time I had progressed to nine and a half centimeters! Just goes to show how much I wanted her there and how even my body was holding back for her arrival. I came out of my zone for a few moments while laboring on the birthing ball. I looked at everyone standing across the bed from me and euphorically said “I’m having a baby” and everyone responded with “yes you’re having a baby” and then I repeated myself. It was as if all of a sudden the gravity of what was happening finally hit me. My life was about to be forever changed and my son was about to enter this world. Before I knew it the midwife asked me to climb on the bed and it was time to start pushing!!
Now, I had spent months learning different techniques for coping with labor and had spent a lot of time envisioning what my labor would be like. I never once thought about how I would actually deliver my son. Magi could’ve told me, “to have this baby I’m going to need you to hop on your left foot and bark like a dog,” and I would’ve done what was asked of me without questioning it because I was so focused on getting my baby out. Thankfully there was no barking involved and I was just told to climb onto the bed on my knees and lean against the bed that was propped up facing the wall. I had read that sometimes midwives will help you progress from nine and a half centimeters to ten if you get stuck there. I’m not quite sure what that involved but the pain was well worth transitioning from just having contractions to pushing through contractions.
Throughout my labor music was played and I remember hearing the song Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley as I started to push. Whitney kept pressure on my lower back and told me to listen to what my body was telling me to do. It wasn’t like in the movies where someone tells you to push and then everyone counts to ten; I just completely let go mentally and gave my body control once more and it was magical. My body knew exactly what to do.
We had a birth plan in place that included Chris catching Braeden. Magi told Chris it was time and asked him if he wanted gloves. Chris responded, “No gloves, but can I change my shirt?” and Magi said “Yes, but hurry.” Part of me wanted to say, “Are you insane? I’m about to have your son and you want to make sure your white shirt doesn’t get dirty?!” but the other part of me knew Magi saying “hurry” meant Braeden was coming soon. I was ready for the birthing process to be over so that made me happy (plus, I couldn’t have vocalized my thoughts anyway).
I pushed for thirty minutes and I could feel everything but it wasn’t intolerable. I was so glad I had decided against medication because the minute my son came out I felt so incredible! All of these endorphins coursed through my veins and I felt a level of happiness I had never experienced before!!!! After sixteen hours of labor my amazing son was born at 5:52 p.m. weighing 6 lbs ¼ oz and 18-1/4” long.
Braeden was passed from between my legs into my arms and I remember my first reaction: being shocked that I had created such a perfect little being. We were looking into one another’s eyes when helplessness washed over me because Braeden was limp and blue. This was the first time our birth plan was overridden and Chris quickly cut the umbilical cord because Braeden needed some oxygen. From this point on Chris never left Braeden’s side as he was taken to the nursery to receive some extra care. I joke that I could’ve been hemorrhaging to death and Chris wouldn’t have noticed. Chris was so in love with his son that the world around him seemed to disappear. About forty-five minutes later Chris, Braeden and I had a moment all to ourselves. This was the moment I felt like I had waited for my entire life: the moment two become three and we were a family.
About two hours later we were moved to the Mother/Baby Unit. As Chris slept I couldn’t help but be enamored with my son as he laid skin-to-skin on my chest. My mother had always shared the story of her talking to me for hours in a rocking chair soon after I was born. Before dawn, I noticed a rocking chair in the room and gently moved Braeden from my chest to arms and we cuddled in the chair. I rocked Braeden and talked about his limitless future with blissful tears streaming down my face.
My life will be forever changed by the transformative experience of natural childbirth. I have a new-found love for my imperfect body that can do extraordinary things. I now know I can accomplish anything I set my mind to achieving. As for Braeden, I now truly understand the meaning of love and I am experiencing a level of joy that I never knew was possible. I love being a mom!
Posted by Mama Birth at 4:06 AM
Saturday, June 4, 2011
My grandmother said that she had a little secret heart. It was that voice inside that would prompt her to do good things if she listened to it. Some people call it a conscience or the Spirit. Whatever you call it, it is a quiet voice that is easy to ignore when you are rushing through life trying to just survive.
A while ago I wrote about visiting a mother who had recently lost her own grown child. It was a wake up call for me and a reminder that these children are a blessing and not a burden. She was really suffering through her loss and it was painful just to see, much less how painful it must have been for her to experience.
We visited her because that secret heart of ours told us she needed a visit. But as life goes on, some days I focus more on myself and my own pity party than I do on others and what they need. It is so easy to ignore that secret heart when you don't feel well or are overwhelmed with your own life.
But my children still seem to listen. My daughter made a little gift for this lonely mama a few weeks ago. It was just a little paperweight, a rock decorated with colored paper. I told her we would take it to her and visit her. Though the kids had only met this woman once they remembered her and talked about her often and seemed to have a love and concern for her simply because she had been so loving of them.
But you know, life got busy. My daughter kept asking when we would take the present and I kept saying "soon" and we never did. It sat in our kitchen for a month. The visit was never made and a lonely mama who had lost what matters most was left alone.
We got the local paper the other day and found that this woman had died. Her grief over the death of her daughter had been so great that she had taken her own life. A tragedy compounded by tragedy.
You know, I wept for her. I wept for her loss and for her pain and grief and that it had overwhelmed her to the point that she could no longer bear it. But I also wept out of sorrow and regret. Sometimes I think that one of the hardest things about death is that we suddenly realize that not only will we miss that person, but that the things we "meant" to do will now forever be nothing more than a call unanswered. I wept because my secret heart prompted me to reach out to this mother. My children asked if we could do things for her. And I ignored that call.
We all have our choices in this life. I am not arrogant enough to believe that I could have single handedly "fixed" this situation. I do realize though that I knew she needed a comforting hand. I knew she loved to hold my children. I knew that my secret heart had prompted me to do more than I did for her, and I ignored it.
It is of course, too late now. She is gone from this world. My husband took the gift today to her funeral and gave it to her mother. Now this mother has lost her child and her grandchild in the space of less than a year. How I wish I had listened to that voice that inspired to do good. How I wish I listened to the voice of my own child prompting me to do what I should have done in the midst of my own life and trials.
What a sad post this is. I hope I can remember it though as I pass through life and always keep an ear open for the small things that we need to do for others.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Despite the fact that I can actually be an incredibly rude person, when somebody puts their foot in their mouth with a comment surrounding my pregnancy, I never have anything rude to say back. Maybe I was just taught really well to be polite? (Anybody who knows me is laughing right about now.)
Maybe I am just stunned? I don't know. But, on behalf of oversensitive, overweight (in a beautiful, glowing, pregnant way) and over insulted pregnant women everywhere, here is a list of what people say, what I say, and what I really think.
If you think delving into the depths of my subconscious is a little disturbing, don't say I didn't warn you.
"Are you having twins?! Are you SURE?!"
What I say:
(Nervous laughter and polite smile.) "No, haha. I had the midwife check. Just one in there."
What I am thinking:
"Seriously? Why on earth would you say that to me? And what is YOUR excuse for the extra 15 pounds?"
What I say:
"Yep! (nervous laughter)
What I am thinking:
"If I were not pregnant I would be holding the baby OUTSIDE of my body."
"You look like you're about to pop!"
What I say:
(This one always takes me by surprise.)
What I am thinking:
(I know, totally inappropriate for a Mormon housewife to even think that. But there it is.)
"When are you going to have that baby?!"
(Repeat daily for three months from various strangers.)
What I say:
"Oh you know, they just come when they are ready. One of life's beautiful surprises."
What I am thinking:
"If I knew that I would be A) Psychic, B) Some sort of deity, or C) An OB. What is so hard about a baby coming when it is ready. Do we have to plan everything?"
(Said when out in public with 'gasp!' all three kids and pregnant belly.)
"Wow. You are going to have your hands full." ~Must be said in a voice that is a mixture of shock and horror.~
What I say:
(Why is my response almost always a smile and nervous laughter?! Seriously, my parents are not this polite!)
What I am thinking:
(On a bad day.)
"Are you kidding me, my hands ARE full. I am secretly freaking out, wondering if my sanity will survive and more importantly, if my kids will turn out to be functional adults. Can you get the door for me, load the groceries in the car (even after I say I don't need help) and then help push me into my Suburban that conveniently has a four inch lift?"
(On a good day.)
"I love my kids! I couldn't imagine life without them! They are the best thing that every happened to me and in no way a burden. Why does everybody seem so afraid of children? They are awesome."
"You look beautiful."
What I say:
(Well I might just burst into tears and not say anything.)
What I am thinking:
"Thank you. I really needed that. And I am just crying because I am emotional, not because I am certifiable. "
"Do you need anything?"
What I say:
"No! I feel great! Thanks though."
What I am thinking:
"I think I need a donut. Where can I get a donut where nobody will recognize me?"