Monday, August 18, 2014

Birth Stories Part 2 - Bun Bun 2011

Between the birth of my first child and the birth of my second, I read Husband Coached Childbirth by Dr Robert Bradley, ChildBirth Without Fear by Dr Grantly Dick-Read, Birth, the Surprising History of how we are born by Tina Cassidy, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, watched the documentaries, The Business of being born and Pregnant in America and attended a free, community, natural child birth class taught by home birth midwives. Needless to say, I was about a gazillion times more prepared for birth than the first time around.

I was obsessed with all things birth. I was fascinated with the physiology of birth, all the things that happen inside your brain and body during birth and how much your attitude can effect your pain level. My husband would say things like, really? another birth book/movie/article?

When my first son was born, we chose a family doctor to be our baby's doctor. I didn't want to chose another doctor at the hospital by random (look at how good that turned out for me the first time I was pregnant) and I grew up seeing a family doctor, not a pediatrician, so that was more comfortable and familiar to me. My husband had been seeing his family doctor for awhile and we both really liked him. So we asked him to be our son's doctor as well. Over the course of many well-child visits, I became happier and happier with our choice in a doctor. He answered all my questions honestly, even if his honest answer was I don't know. I grew to respect him as a doctor so much that when I became pregnant again I choose him to do my prenatal care and delivery. Unfortunately that pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage, I was only 5 or 6 weeks along. The care I received from my doctor during and after my miscarriage reaffirmed that he would be a great choice for prenatal care. He called me personally the next day to update me on test results and make sure I was doing okay.

The next time I became pregnant, I once again returned to my family doctor who I felt so confident in. But I still wondered if a home birth would be a better option. After all, as wonderful as my doctor was, he was not going to be present for the entire labor and what if I got a nurse from Hell? Home birth scared the crap out of my husband though. His first question was, “Who is going to clean up after the birth?” So actually blood and a placenta on our living room floor scared the crap out of him. In case your curious, turns out the midwife cleans up, I asked.

As the pregnancy went along though, I made a birth plan which I discussed at length with my doctor. I asked him about c-sections and inductions. He had no problem with me waiting until 42 weeks before considering an induction and he only does approximately one c-section a year which he preforms along side an ob/gyn. I knew I wouldn't have to worry about a repeat of my first birth.
My husband and I toured the hospital I would be delivering at and I talked with the head nurse about policies and procedures. I would not be required to get an IV or continuous fetal monitoring. I would only be required to have a vaginal exam and the fetal monitor for 20 minutes upon admission, this seemed acceptable. After much discussion, my husband and I decided that a natural birth in the hospital just might be possible and I felt so much more empowered than the first time around.

The one piece of advice that was repeated over and over again was, "If you want a natural birth in a hospital, stay at home for as long as possible!" The reasoning being that the earlier in labor you are when you get to the hospital the more interventions you will be exposed to. It used to be that if a woman was in very early labor, she was sent home. Now chances are you will be admitted and given Pitocin to speed things up, have your water broken, etc, etc, etc.. So my plan was to wait until things really got going and that is what happened. I gave birth only 3 hours after arriving at the hospital. My entire labor was approximately 16 hours.

The Birth
I went into labor in the middle of the night and the contractions started easy and far apart and throughout the day got closer and a little harder. Around 10 in the morning, we went to the nature center and walked the trails. It was a beautiful summer day and we could hear the water of the nearby river and birds chirping. My husband and 3 year old son walked ahead of me as I would frequently need to stop for contractions. Sometimes I would lean up against a tree and breath through them, swaying to the waves of the water. A couple also walking the trails, stopped and watched me, this very pregnant woman leaning up against a tree by herself in labor. The man looked concerned, “Do you need any help?” I said nothing. The woman smiled knowingly, “You’re having a contraction, aren’t you?” I nodded. The contraction subsided and I looked at the couple. “Yes, I’m having contractions and hoping that they keep going!” The man still looked concerned, but the woman gave me a huge smile, she seemed to know exactly what was going on. I wondered what the conversation that followed our encounter was going to be like.

I caught up to my husband and told him about it. He said he saw the couple too and told me that he knew the man to be a local police officer. That explains why he asked if I needed help and also why he looked so nervous. I’m sure at some point in his career he’s attended a surprise birth and I guess I could see if he maybe thought, "If she's in labor, she should be in the hospital." However, his female companion, wife perhaps, seemed to know that labor doesn’t need to be synonymous with emergency.

This may make me sound like a tree hugger, literally, but I have to say that walking around outside is a million times better than walking hospital hallways. At 3 in the afternoon I went to the family clinic to see my doctor. He checked me and I said that I was definitely in labor. Just head home and whenever I want, we can go to the hospital and he will meet us there. We went home and made sure everything was ready, grandparents watching our son and bags packed. I was sitting on the toilet during a contraction and my husband walked in after packing everything up. He had a look of sheer terror on his face, “Can we please go to the hospital now?!” was what he said, but what he was thinking was, “Don’t you dare give birth in the bathroom!!”

I got to the hospital and did my obligatory 20 minutes on the fetal monitor. Then got up and walked around, checking out the hospital room, including the giant jet tub. Shortly after arriving I threw up, a lot. But I was able to lean over the toilet like a dignified human being rather than all over myself lying in bed.

The contractions started intensifying. “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.” All throughout labor I repeated this mantra over and over again. All throughout my pregnancy I told myself as often as possible, “I can do this, my body is designed to do this, etc.” I would picture ocean waves or flowers opening up. These kind of mind games help condition you to deal with the pain.

I like to equate natural childbirth to running marathons. I have never run a marathon but I volunteered once at the Fox Cities Marathon. I stood on the side lines and shouted things like, “You're doing awesome; You can do this!” I wonder how many racers would have finished if everyone along the race said things like, “I don't think your body can handles this, no harm in just sitting down and getting some pain meds; We can just drive you across the finish line, as long as you get across, what difference does it make?” No one would say that to a runner, yet we tell women all the time that their bodies are not strong enough or that there is no reason to go through the pain of labor. Runners put their bodies through hell to run that marathon and I am sure feel some pain, but no one questions that they shouldn't go through it. Yet, if you plan to have a natural birth, people think you are crazy to endure pain for a greater end. As if marathon medals are a worthwhile endeavor but babies are not.

I got into the tub and was so disappointed how uncomfortable it made me. Over and over I heard how relaxing the water can be during labor, but just like all relaxation techniques, what works for one person does not work for another. So I moved to the bed where I labored lying on my side, the same position I slept in at night during my pregnancy. I wondered if my baby was used to this position and that was why it was most comfortable for me. 

Lying in bed, I could feel a pop inside my body followed by warm fluid running down my legs. "I think my water just broke!" I announced, "Yes, my water definitely broke!" This was my only birth where my water bag popped on it's own. It was a very interesting feeling, an amazing sensation that I quite literally only felt once in a lifetime.

In stark contrast to my first birth, my body told me it was time to push. I could literally feel my body pushing the baby out and thought maybe I should help things along, but was also pretty sure my body would expel this baby with or without my help. My body knew what to do. There were also only my doctor, my awesome nurse (who was very respectful of my adamantly wanting a natural birth) and one additional nurse, who arrived just as the baby did. There was no sense of peril or danger, just three medical professionals calmly waiting for the baby to emerge. My friend stood by my bedside with a water bottle at the ready, my husband gave me his hand, which I squeezed so hard it started turning weird colors.

I remember thinking, why couldn’t some of this pain be equally distributed amongst all these people here, why does it all have to be me?! But then the baby was born. First came his head and then the rest just slid out. My doctor held him up and my baby boy immediately peed and pooped all over me and the doctor’s hands. And then peed and pooped some more. Welcome to the world little man.

He was immediatly placed in my arms, our naked bodies pressed against each other, just like they had been for the entire pregnacy. Expect now his world was very much inside out and upside down. My husband and I, used to dealing with a 3 year old, commented on how tiny he seemed. The doctor and nurses gave us a strange look, to them my 8lb 7oz boy seemed like a big baby.

I tore only slightly. I was hooked up to nothing and that felt so wonderful, not to have to go through the whole “unhooking” process. With my first birth it seemed like forever before the nurses unhooked all my tubes and I even had to ask them, “Can you please take out the IV now?”

I felt awesome after the birth, exhausted and relieved but awesome. We moved down the hall to a postpartum room and my husband and our nurse bathed the baby. He nursed easily just like his big brother had. Later that night I received a Tdap vaccine, which stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. I nervously asked the nurse, don’t tetanus shots hurt? Rubbing my arm and painfully remembering the last time I had one, years ago. She gave me the biggest smile and said, “You just gave birth without any pain meds! You are a rock star, this shot is nothing!” I smiled, feeling what I assume a marathon runner feels after crossing that finish line.  

The next day however, my arm hurt like a SOB and I thought, “This is not nothing! I think I’d rather give birth again!”

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Thank you for sharing!

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