Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Miracle of Birth

Ok, forgive me if this gets a bit sappy in places. I just had a baby a few weeks ago. The oxytocin can make me a bit fuzzy-brained at times. And forgive me if this gets a bit graphic at times. I'm going to talk about childbirth. It's graphic. It just is. Any process that starts with a creature living inside its mother's body and ends with her as an independent creature in the outside world, well, it's going to be a bit dramatic. 

I had a request to hear Little Debbie's birth story. So I'll oblige before momnesia kicks in and I completely forget. 

I was one of the lucky ones who was able to have 3 healthy unmediated natural births. They all occurred in the hospital, supervised by a midwife-led team. They were all good experiences, and I'd highly recommend it. I realize that not everyone has similar birth experiences. And, despite the claims of some, I don't feel like I birth "better" or in a more "empowering " way than others. But I'll rant more about that in another post. 

It was early afternoon when I suspected something was up. I was running errands. I found myself moving more slowly than usual, doing my relaxation breathing as I waited in line at Staples. I honestly felt a bit embarrassed to realize that I didn't remember what contractions felt like. Um, I'd done this twice before. I should remember how things went. Right?

I had an appointment with the midwife. The plan had been to strip my membranes during that visit if labor hadn't started. I was past 40 weeks, we had travel plans. And a baptism scheduled. The baby needed to come sooner rather than later. But it was unnecessary. I was 1cm dilated, and 50% effaced. Some women can walk around for weeks like this. I am not one of those women. They hooked me up to a fetal monitor to check the baby's heart rate and measure contractions. Well, lying down, the contractions slowed considerably, but the baby didn't. They kept me hooked up for over an hour, waiting to get a slower baseline. But Little Debbie had no intensions of settling down. I was there for 2 hours. 

I was annoyed. I had errands to run! And my typical 25-30 minute appointment would have left plenty of time to do errands and nap. Instead, I had to race to get the girls. And then go to the grocery store. And then make calzones for dinner. And I really wanted that nap. 

By the time I got to making the calzones, I was really uncomfortable. I was pretty sure I was in labor. BestestHusband came home. I handed over the task of calzone-prep to him. I headed downstairs to the bathtub. 

We have a large whirlpool bath tub that my SIL calls the "sex tub". It's a pretty big tub. For the record, we have not used the tub for procreative purposes. But I highly recommend it for the early and mid stages of childbirth. I retreated to its warm relaxing waters for an hour or so. The contractions became stronger, more regular. I was pretty sure I'd be holding my daughter by daybreak. 

I got out of the tub to say goodnight to the girls. We told them we might not be there when they woke up. We told them they might get to meet their sister tomorrow. They were excited. 

I ate some dinner, mostly because I knew I needed to, not because I was particularly hungry. Then I retreated downstairs again. I finally decided that distraction might be better than relaxation at this stage of the game. What's better than distracting me through tedium than Downton Abbey? Nothing. Hulu to the rescue. 

By this time, I was tracking my contractions on my iPhone. When they were 1 minute long and 6 minutes apart, I called the midwife. Noting my fast labor with MeToo, she suggested that I come in sooner rather than later. BestestHusband was showering, so it was a little on the later side. 

The hospital is only about 10 minutes from our house without traffic. We left around 11pm, leaving the girls in Grandma's capable hands. The hospital offers valet parking. This is good when you're in labor and don't want to wait in the lobby for your husband to park the car. I had done the registration paperwork previously through my midwife practice. They knew I was coming. Checking in didn't take too long. I got my ID bracelet. BestestHusband got his. We headed to L&D. I declined the wheelchair. If walking sped up childbirth at all, I wanted to use that to my advantage. It was a long slow walk. But we made it up the secure elevators. We waited about 10 minutes before I was ushered into an exam room. I'm glad the baby wasn't in too much of a hurry... 

They asked the requisite "do you feel safe?" questions before ushering BestestHusband in.  The contractions kept coming. I kept doing my relaxation breathing. They took my medical history. I met the midwife. She checked my progress: 4-5 cm. This is serious for me. Again, I'm not a woman who walks around 5 cm dilated for a week. It was too close to midnight to have the baby that day. But she was coming soon. Very soon. 

I walked to my delivery room and got settled in. I was hooked up to a baby monitor again. Little Debbie was doing well. I was ok. I was better when the dang volume was turned down...

The contractions kept coming. They were increasingly intense. I kept up my breathing, but it was harder to stay relaxed, and I was struggling to find a comfortable position. The rocking chair was no good. The birthing ball was no good. Walking was absolutely no good. I optimistically kept trying. But it was repeatedly no good. Lying down was no good. Sitting bolt upright in the bed was ok. Sorta. So I sat up on the bed and tried to keep my noise to a minimum. It was getting harder. 

I decided to try the shower. I hadn't tried it with my other deliveries. I love showers, and the bathtub had helped previously. So I gave it a try. It was wonderful for a few minutes. Then another contraction hit. And I felt the urge to push. I decided it was time to get out of the shower. 

BestestHusband got the nurse and helped me out of the shower. I desperately wanted to be back in bed. The midwife was there. She checked me and announced "9 and 3/4 cm with an anterior lip". 9 and 3/4 cm is pretty close to 10 cm. Things were getting very real. She called for more staff, and told them the same thing. Carts appeared. Gloves appeared on everyone. Face masks appeared. BestestHusband was instructed to get warm water. It sounded slightly archaic to send a husband for warm water in a hospital... But the baby was on her way, and rational thought was becoming more difficult. I just wanted to find a comfortable position. And I couldn't. MeToo was delivered while I was upright on my knees. Little Debbie didn't like that position. The midwife encouraged me to try my back, as 3rd babies like to come fast, and fast deliveries can result in needing lots of stitches. I didn't want any of those. So I tried to follow her instructions as she applied warm compresses (made with BestestHusband's warm water) to ease the baby's exit. 

Throughout all of the labor leading up to that point, I felt like I was ok, and I had this labor thing under control. Suddenly, I wasn't ok, and I didn't think I could do it any more. I felt physically incapable of getting a baby out. But I knew that I had no other option. But I didn't know how I was going to do it. Was it possible that my pelvis would shatter? That I would rip in half? I seriously felt like the child would break me. How had I managed to get out two previous babies? It didn't feel like those two previous births were helping at all.

I think I said a lot of silly things. Things like "No, I can't do this." And "get this baby out of me. Just pull her out." And "No! No! No! I don't want to!" And "I want her out. Get her out of me!"

The midwife encouraged. Then she became insistent. The baby needed to come out. And I needed to push. Now. 

So I did. During a break in contractions, I got control of my breathing, gave myself a pep talk, said a prayer, and prepared for the next contraction. And I pushed until I felt like blacking out. Her body felt bigger than her head. The other two didn't feel like that...

They laid her on my chest, and all I could say was "thank you Lord, thank you Lord". I was thankful she was out. Thankful she had a powerful cry and perfect little ears. Thankful I was done pushing. I think I cried. I know BestestHusband did. 

They did all of the good things after birth - skin to skin contact, waiting to cut the cord until it was done pulsating, encouraging immediate nursing. The pitocin   shot in my leg hurt. How can a shot hurt after pushing out a child? I don't know, but it did. I delivered the placenta, and saw one for the first time. It truly is an amazing organ. Not amazing enough to eat, like some women like to do, but amazing nevertheless. I was thrilled to discover that the warm compresses worked - no stitches needed

Little Debbie wasn't so thrilled to be born. She howled for a long time. She got quite the respiratory workout. I was surprised to find out that she was a full pound heavier than her sisters, a solid 8.0 lbs. We prayed every day for a healthy baby. And that's what we had. 

The birth was mostly what I hoped it would be, but harder than I remembered the others being. Perhaps that's the standard momnesia effect? Would women keep having babies if we remembered all of the unpleasant details? 

Why do I like natural birth? Well, it lets me avoid needles, for the most part. I don't like those so much. It lets me avoid side effects of the medications and interventions that go along with chemical pain relief. I don't like spinal headaches, the inability to walk after birth, and medicated newborns so much. And our bodies were created to birth babies without drugs. I like to give mine the chance to do what it was created to do. Our foremothers have done it for centuries. 

Why do I like natural birth in a hospital with certified nurse midwives? Well, what was one of the leading causes of death for women of childbearing age during the preceding centuries? Yep, childbirth. I like to hedge my bets. When childbirth goes smoothly, no interventions are really needed. When childbirth doesn't go smoothly, mothers and babies can die. I'm not interested in that outcome. I like having a crash team and world-class NICU on standby.

I'm also blessed with babies who want to be born naturally. They haven't been breach, sunny-side up, or overly large. They might stay past 40 weeks, but when they're ready to come, they come pretty quickly. That makes a huge difference! If I was stuck at 5 cm for 2 days with regular and strong contractions, I'd be begging for drugs that would let me get some rest. I'm thankful that hasn't been my situation. So, while I'd never call childbirth "easy", I think I do get off pretty easy in the childbirth department. So I could never judge a woman who wanted drugs or a scheduled c-section. I have no right to judge. But this is a topic for another post. Because there are some people out there who get pretty high-and-mighty on the topic of childbirth...

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