Monday, September 23, 2013

Birth Story

Full Disclaimer: As I prepared to give birth to my little boy, I read lots of different birth stories. Some were very tame, and very short, and didn't go into the details. Others included all those details in all of their messy, painful glory. But those ones that shared the details were the best at helping me prepare for what birth really is like.

I will be writing my birth story like that. I will be including all of the details... so if you don't want to hear them...don't read this post, I won't be offended. But some of you, like those who are pregnant or will one day be pregnant, or are curious and not offended by any messy details, read on.

Remember too, that this blog is also cathartic for I am keeping it all in.

Birth Story:

My story really begins at the beginning of pregnancy. We decided quickly that we wanted a natural birth, no epidural, no unnecessary medical interventions. To this end, we hired a doula and took a birth class targeted for people like us who want this kind of birth (Bradley Method).

Even so, our plan, because it would be the easiest thing to do with our insurance, was to labor at home as long as possible, and then go to the hospital to deliver. This actually put us in the minority of our birth class, where most of the couples were planning on a home birth or a birthing center. We liked the thought of home birth... but didn't think it was worth the trouble.

Somewhere around week 30-33 ish, I met with our doula to discuss my birth plan, and what I was hoping for during the birth. She, of course, was very supportive of all my choices, but said that I would need to discuss a number of them with my OB to make sure I would be able to get them in the hospital. Apparently, even though my actual OB could vary based on when I went to the hospital, having the power to say, "My OB said it was okay," holds a lot of sway when trying to get hospital people to NOT do the standard things.

This conversation did not go well. In fact, in my mind, it really couldn't have gone much worse.

I was really bummed, and talked to my doula about it, and she said, very wisely, that it wasn't too late to change. I talked to Blake about it, and he agreed, it wasn't too late to change. Our thought was that at this point, we are happy with two kids, so it's not like we could get a second chance at this.

I started researching midwives the next day, looking into having a home birth. In less than a week from the bad appointment, we had officially made the switch, and were on course for a homebirth with a midwife, and were scrambling to get caught up as far as preparing for this homebirth.

Fast forward to two weeks before my due date, August 31st. I had contractions for the first time. They weren't regular, and felt like period cramps, except they would come and go. During the night they would disappear completely.

A week of this cramping/contractions and I learned that I was 50% effaced and a tiny bit dialated, so they were doing something, but it wasn't time yet.

September 14th, 15th and 16th, they were stronger than they had been, moving up the scale in how uncomfortable they were, but still not regular, and still went away when I slept.

At this point, these wimpy contractions were getting old. I was now past my due date, and very ready for them to ramp up into something real.

September 17th was the day that I finally got the something different I was looking for. I woke up to find that I had the bloody show, and I had lost my mucus plug. Then, when I took Grace on our morning walk, I had to keep stopping when the contractions came, they were intense enough for that.

My weekly meeting with my midwife was that day, so I figured I could talk to her about it, but after the walk, I didn't feel comfortable driving myself, they were too intense. Not regular, but intense.

Blake drove me to the appointment, and when she checked she saw that I was 80% effaced, and more dilated than last time. She made her prediction based on what she saw that she would be seeing me later that day or the next day at the most.

Exciting to be sure, but still no guarantee. She suggested I go home and take a nap because if the baby came that night, I would need to be well rested to make it through.

We went about our day normally, with me just pausing and dealing with these contractions as they come, continuing to have mucus/blood come out. Around 5:30pm they were bad enough that I had to actually get into a labor position, frequently with Blake supporting my back or my belly. Though I didn't have back labor, each contraction started with pain right at lower back, and then wrapped around towards the front and hurt there too. Then it would pass, I could go sit, play our card game, watch the show etc.

I felt like it was time to call our doula... but they still weren't regular. I asked Blake, and he said I could call... but he felt like we could still handle it ourselves. She felt like we still had a ways to go, and to let her know if we really wanted her to come over, but since they weren't regular enough yet, she thought we should try to keep getting through them ourselves, but she was definitely on call, and not far away.

At 10:00 they were way more painful (still not regular, so frustrating) but Blake let me decide it was time to call her. Probably the biggest reason I wanted to call was because I felt like it wasn't really going to end in a baby unless I got through these certain steps, with the first one being having the doula present.

She came, helped through a few contractions, and then did this rebozo thing. Apparently sometimes the contractions aren't regular because the baby's head isn't quite in the right position and then when you put the scarf under the belly and wiggle it some, they can get their head in the right spot.

Then she suggested we take a walk. We went to parking lot of the school near us, and walked laps around that, pausing with one foot up and my draping myself onto the doula every time the contraction came.

From here till the end of the birth story, my actual memories are fuzzy, but I talked with my doula and Blake afterwards to confirm the details. Apparently during this walk, my contractions finally got regular... but close... two minutes apart. When we got back, I had to use the restroom (more bloody mucusy stuff... I didn't realize that this kept coming the whole labor until I went through it, but apparently it is a direct consequence of dilation, which obviously is necessary for a baby to be born).

The contractions on the toilet were BAD, I started being a lot more vocal, and was having trouble consistently doing the "ooo" I was supposed to, and frequently had more of a whimper come out. My doula said later that she could see a difference in the intensity at this point.

But instead of keeping these crazy intense ones going, she wanted to see if I could sneak a rest in (as it was almost midnight at this point). I laid on the couch, and they slowed down to 5-6 min apart, but were still very strong, and after a little bit it became clear that I was not going to actually rest during them.

She suggested after the next one that we went upstairs, so that we were ready as the next stage approached. I labored more up there, and they were getting bad, and I remember asking if it was time to call the midwife, and she said that she was just about to.

I have no idea of the timing, but I kept having these bad contractions, whimper style, while the midwife drove to us, the pool got set up, and we just kept getting closer to labor time. At some point, I started puking during contractions, and shortly after that (to me) the pool was ready, and I was able to get in. Immediately upon entering the water, my water broke (everyone said that was good timing).

Once in the pool, I started feeling the urge to push. Mind you, I hadn't been checked since the morning appointment, but everyone there trusted the female body enough that if I felt like pushing during contractions... I could go for it. I was first pushing while on my hands and knees, because it felt the most comfortable, but at some point my arms got tired, and I had to turn around.

I wasn't making the progress I should have been with these pushes, so the midwife suggested I watch during the next contraction (his head was already showing) so that I could better direct my push and make sure I continued to make progress. No idea of the timing... but as long as I continued watching my pushes, I made progress, and then he was born!

My sounds had changed from whimper to a more guttural grunt on the pushing contractions. Of course they hurt... like crazy... but the amazing thing about birth is that there was always a blessed break! From start to finish, there are those moments of pain, but there is always a break, where it is like you were never in that pain. Working towards those breaks is one of the things that kept me going.

He cried as soon as he came out, and they put him on my chest. It was such a crazy feeling to see him on the other side!
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This picture was taken moments after he made his appearance.

You know what you don't hear a lot about? The contractions don't stop immediately. As a matter of fact, though they go back to more of the level I had early Tuesday, they keep going for a few days, more sporadically as time passes.

I got out of the pool, birthed the placenta (really, no big deal after the birth, relatively speaking), and they got me cleaned up, and started stitching me up while I started his first breastfeeding.

Those after birth contractions help the uterus contract so that the bleeding caused by the placenta detachment stops. Unfortunately, apparently because my bladder was full, mine was having trouble with that. I was asked to pee... but couldn't. They helped me to the edge of the bed, asked if I could do it there. Still not able to force my body to do that. They helped me to the bathroom... and I still couldn't get anything out. As pathetic as it is, for someone who had the all natural birth she wanted, I am pretty frustrated about this minor failure. I had to have a catheter put in to finally relieve the bladder, and then for good measure, I got a shot of pitocin.

With this small exception... I am extremely happy with my birth, and I love my little boy so much!
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Remington's birthday

Remington was born today at 4:06am.

I'm posting it from my phone, in bed, as Blake takes a much needed rest.

A real birth story will follow at some point, but for now I have snippets of thoughts from last night/ this morning.

We had him at home, in a birth tub, with the assistance of a doula, a midwife, and two assistants, plus a second midwife at the end to assist with stitches.

I purposely didn't look at the clock all night, and I was never officially checked to see how far along I was, and I love how the absence of those things really just let me focus on moving one step closer to birth.

I surprised myself in never wishing/ asking/ mentioning an epidural or pain relief. I didn't need to do self talk or anything, I knew that until he came out, it wasn't over, so I just kept going through the contractions, and when I felt pushy...I pushed.

My world from about 10 pm to 4 am had just two features: pain and not pain.

Pain came with wordless moans. No pain was resting against Blake or my doula or the tub etc and closing my eyes and ignoring the world until the pain stage came again.

In the midst of everything, I was vaguely aware of what was happening, accepted water when it was offered, allowed myself to be fed food...but mostly I just kept switching between pain and no pain.

I pushed for 1 and a half hours total. My turning point came when my midwife suggested I watch his head come out with the aid of a mirror and a flashlight. It helped motivate me and direct my efforts and gave me a goal to work towards and got me through what I thought was the hardest part.

Blake asked how I'm feeling now, and here is what I said: there are 3 moments in my life that I feel like this recovery is comparable to- after my car accident senior year ( mostly the helplessness) , after my half marathon ( tired, just getting by energy wise) and after my Yosemite hike last year (body feeling every step of the journey).

But with the last two there is also a sense of accomplishment. I did that...I didnt have purposeless pain, I had pain because I accomplished a goal.

As I look at my son with disbelief and awe that he who used to be in me is now out of me, I am reminded yes, of the pain, but also that it was all so very worth it.

I'm now a parent of 2!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Baby Watch

I'm posting this from my phone, so no pictures, just some thoughts about being on babywatch I thought I would share while Grace plays the climb up and down chairs/ couch game.

Though this is my second child, I can't help but notice how different the wait for this child is compared to the wait for Grace. With her, in some ways it was harder, because in the months leading up to her homecoming, we didn't even have a month to guess for her arrival if someone asked. However, now that I am experiencing the pregnancy wait for a child, I see that there were benefits of that side too.

It was never going to be a surprise in the sense that one day she wasn't here and the next she was. There were very clear steps along the way to getting her here. First passport, then interview, then paperwork and interview again. Once we passed that we knew we were close enough to make plans. Those plans, which we hoped would happen, gave us the probable date we would arrive in Ghana as well as when we would get home with her. We had from the date we made our plane flights to the day we got her to wrap our heads around the life changing moment and to make plans accordingly.

Not so with baby watch. Sure, we have known for all of 2013 that it would be in September, and that amount of knowledge is nice, but now that it is here, it actually feels like we have less warning and more of an unknown than we did with Grace.

Every day we wake up wondering if today is the day we have a second child, every night I wonder if contractions will wake me up, and he will be here. Every plan we make,  from dinner to outings with friends is made with the contingency of "if I don't go into labor."

Adding to this level of wondering, which I suspect exists for every pregnant woman who doesn't go way early, I have had off and on contractions for 2 weeks as of tomorrow. So it isnt just idle wondering...its wondering if they will get regular and painful or if these will go away when I rest. So far, obviously, they have always gone away when I rested (or else this post would be very different).

Yet I know that the most likely scenario is one of these days...they won't go away, they will be the signal of real labor...and then we will be parents of 2! But which day? No clue. Nor will there necessarily be any clue that those contractions are the real ones as opposed to the variety that I've had for the last two weeks.

As typical of most teachers, I like having a plan. Sure lesson plans have a degree of flexibility but there is always a plan. I plan our vacations, I plan our meals for the week. For me, the hardest thing about this baby watch time is not that I'm still pregnant and desperate for him to come out, it is simply the lack of control I feel because I dont know and can't know what day he will arrive, or if it is day or night when he makes his appearance, and because of that I can't make any solid plans for my life for the next few weeks.

The only thing I can be sure of these days is that every day is either THE day or one day closer. So we wait.

Monday, September 9, 2013

As Summer Ends

As of yesterday, I am 39 weeks pregnant. Even taking into account that multiple studies have said that the average length of a pregnancy for a first time mom is a little over 41 weeks, I am almost at the end, no matter how you slice it. This is very obvious in my prenatal yoga class as for the last couple of weeks, I am either the farthest along or tied for farthest.

I mentioned in one of my last posts that there are few positions comfortable to me left, and even those tend to be the least of the evils. My main position that is still comfortable is laying on my side, and it is a bit difficult to lay on your side and post anything on the computer. So I don't post much, or do much on my computer at all if I can avoid it. Most things I do on my phone, but a blog isn't one of them. Besides the fact that again, I have gotten out of the habit of taking pictures of Grace, as most of the things we do are the same week after week.

Many of my most recent posts have happened only because someone brings up that it has been a while since I posted... otherwise, I probably wouldn't post at all until I could announce that we have our little boy (plus recovery time for me).

I do have some new photos, so I will share those with captions... before I head back downstairs to the couch to my comfortable position to watch TV.

On one of the last weekends before it closed for the fall, we went to lagoon by our house as a family.
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Grace enjoyed playing in the sand as well as playing out in the water with Blake.

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One of Grace's favorite games lately is running away until someone asks, "Where did Grace go?" and then she runs back in the room, and we say "There she is!" She cracks up, and does it again and again and again, usually until we, the adults, get tired of it.

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She is playing with my mom's necklace.

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A few pictures from a family wedding we went to recently.

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Grace trying Red Red for the first time (a Ghanian dish).

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Pictures from breakfast with my parents.

A side note about how I am currently feeling:

Pregnancy has been relatively easy on me, but at the same time most days I feel ready to be done (especially in this heat wave) and ready to start the next chapter. Until then, I look at it like I have another day with Grace before she has to share me, another night of sleeping soundly, and another day before we have to figure out the new normal of life.

It is very strange to me that we are now in September, and I don't have a classroom. I realize I haven't taught since January, so I should be used to it by now, but for the last six years August and September means getting ready and starting a new year with a new class, and it almost doesn't seem like it could be September yet since I haven't done that. 

I also feel guilty about Grace. I think she is ready for potty training (more on that on some future post, I'm sure), but because her brother could arrive any day... we aren't. It, quite frankly, will be easier to keep her in diapers, and change them when we have time in between feeding and caring for a newborn than it will be to be doing the tough job of running her to the toilet every time she asks, immediately when she asks. It just isn't practical. Plus, many child development books say that you shouldn't start it when anything big is happening in life, as the child is likely to regress anyways. But if it wasn't for having a baby soon, we would be potty training now, and so I feel bad.