Friday, July 21, 2017

I Did It!

Betty Pearl

I finally did it! Those are the words that keep running through me as I reflect on the birth of Betty Pearl at 40 weeks and 6 days. It's been just over two weeks and I am humbled. So grateful for all the support from family and especially all the friends from our church who fed us right when we got home from the hospital! Feeling a little crazed too because I have FOUR kids now! And I'm currently getting over mastitis because apparently I must have it after every birth unfortunately. While I caught it early, the first antibiotic regimen didn't work, so praying that the second one does. Boo! Hiss! But Betty is here! I'm so relieved!

I love sharing birth stories as I really enjoy reading them. It was empowering to me and I garnered strength from many women who were willing to share their birth stories too. You can read Ezra's here, Vivienne's here, and Teddy's here. I treasure these records because I forget that blissful feeling in the beginning of each child's life. Enjoy!

All of my previous births were around 38-39 weeks gestation, so you can imagine my "horror" when I finally met my due date for the first time. And then passed it. So many women experience this and prior to my own experience, I was sure that my body just wasn't capable of carrying to 40 weeks. Oh how wrong I was. My little body is capable of so much and proved me so -painfully- wrong. Oh it showed me alright. I won't be using Hypnobabies terms for the sake of most of the people reading this but I cannot emphasize enough how much this program has helped me have the births I wanted, even when I didn't follow the program carefully.

I had had contractions intermittently for a few weeks. On Sunday, July 2, 2017, I was exceptionally tired of being pregnant and was trying to induce labor yet again (believe me, we tried just about everything. Except castor oil because that's gross. Who wants to have the runs during labor? Ooh! NOT ME). This time, I thought I'd give pumping a try for oxytocin production (so a form of nipple stimulation). I would get fairly strong contractions but then they'd go away. After trying pumping on and off for nearly 4 hours, I gave up and just moped for awhile. Yes, I literally just sighed and moved from sitting on the couch to the bed back to the couch and then wandered around. Pitiful. My parents were in town and had been so helpful for the 9 days they'd been here already but I was feeling guilty of their sacrifices to be with my family and feeling the burden of my scheduled induction for Monday morning at 5 am (which is kind of hilarious because I thought it was at 5 pm so I would have missed it, whoops!). This pregnancy had been ridden with a lot of depression and anxiety already, so I was feeling fairly down at this point.

Carl encouraged me to keep my chin up throughout the day though and later around 5 pm, I noticed I had a random but fairly strong contraction. Through the rest of the evening, I had a strong contraction every 30 min to an hour. However, I talked myself out of the possibility that this could be "it" each time. Because why would this be "it" when I had had contractions for two weeks now? Every evening since my parents came, Carl and I went for an evening walk after the kids went to bed. During this walk, I told Carl again how much I did not want to be induced and how I was so concerned my provider didn't seem to 100% support me or my birth plan. She seemed so ready to induce me as soon as I hit 40 weeks and made sure I "understood all the risks" of going past due. I missed my last OB doctor who was so supportive of my birth plan. She had told me at my last appointment with her, "Tracey, be strong with your decision. After all the births I've been to since I started, I can tell you that the fewer the interventions, the safer the birth. You've done this before and are so low-risk. Don't let the providers push you any other way you're not comfortable with." Her words stuck with me, but I was nervous about birthing at the local hospital I didn't know much about and I just felt like I had all the odds stacked against me. Carl listened to my words and then told me to try to stop worrying about others since he and I have always been the main team anyway and we would be doing all the work.

We came back home shortly afterwards and chatted with my parents for a few then went upstairs. By 9 pm, I began having more contractions, about every 20 min it seemed. Later around 10 pm, the contractions were about 6-8 min apart lasting a minute each and fairly intense. I kept thinking that they'd fade though since I felt totally fine in between them. Carl was ready though. He jumped out of bed, showered, changed to "nice clothes" (because "I've got to look good in pictures too!" haha), and grabbed a few last minute things. I kept saying "you really think this is it? I don't know..." I had too many false hopes the past two weeks thinking labor would be soon. About 11:10 pm, I called my OB office's answering service and talked to my midwife and we arrived at the hospital around 11:30. I got checked into my room shortly after and my contractions were monitored. I was 5 cm and 90% effaced at this point, which I was satisfied with since I had been at 2-3 cm and 50% for a few weeks.

My nurse was very supportive of my birth plan, including not wanting an IV, which eased some of my anxieties immediately, especially since I had several people, including my midwife, tell me I'd need an IV per protocol and safety (I didn't have one the last two births). I was overly concerned about the slippery slope of interventions and felt like my midwife was not as supportive of natural birth as I wanted, but my nurse looked over my paper and said it looked great. It really helped me to be less anxious with her low-key attitude. For the first time here in my new town, I finally encountered a medical person (besides Carl) who I felt recognized birth as a natural process and was ready to just let me do what I felt was right- no push backs, no warnings of hemorrhaging, no scare tactics of "well you know, just in case you or baby are...." I get it. Scary things happen. I worked in the ER, I understand trauma and the unexpected dangers of life! Of course there is a place for medical interventions and no shame to the mothers who otherwise need or choose to birth with interventions. But as for me, I cannot fully explain the innate, natural calling of motherhood that streams through me and reassures my deepest feeling that birth is a natural, normal, and safe process if we listen to our bodies.

I was coping with the contractions pretty well at this point and really able to stay calm and focused by using my hypnosis techniques. They were very intense and strong, but I had a good few minutes of rest between them. I thought labor might take longer this time since it was a weird pregnancy, but just after midnight, contractions picked up and were closer together making it hard to rest between them. I still felt pressure instead of pain as Carl helped me stay focused. We tried bouncing on the yoga ball, then squatting, and then swaying/slow dancing, which was very helpful in assisting baby girl to "labor down." By 12:30 though, I was beginning to grow quite fatigued and climbed onto the bed. I assume this was the "transition" part of labor from my symptoms as it was seemingly impossible to find a good resting position between contractions. Carl had his hand on my shoulder and brushed my hair away from my face, continually reading hypnosis scripts and telling me how great I was doing. My nurse was very gentle and discrete about fetal monitoring and would just sneak in and hold a monitor to my belly every 15-30 minutes. So grateful to not be strapped to monitors constantly. I then began having a lot of very sensitive, low back pressure and thought maybe I might need to push. I hoped this was baby time! My midwife checked me but I was at 7 cm. I felt so disappointed at that moment, even though considering what time it was, I had progressed 2 cm in about 45 min. Darn false pushy feelings.

I began to lose focus on and off and deal with my internal struggle.
Is this pain? 
No, just pressure. 
No, this is called pain. 
No, pressure! 
This sucks! 
Almost done. 
I hope.
Please almost done. Please please please. 

Carl kept reminding me to relax and cued me to use hypnosis, but the mental struggle was challenging. Probably about an hour later, he helped me stand at the side of the bed to give my knees a break, but he had to literally hold me up because my legs were so wobbly and could not support my fatigue. I felt baby girl lower down more before climbing back in bed back to my knees. Finally, shortly before pushing, I puffed up my chest and told my thoughts "enough, I am too far into this labor and past the point of no return. Whatever I feel, I will feel, and just deal with it!" And so I did. I didn't allow myself to have the thought battle anymore and focused on each contraction being a "wave" instead and attempted to relax as much as possible. Not an easy task.

It felt like an eternity, but at 1:50 am, I felt like I could try pushing. Interestingly, my body has never gotten that overwhelming urge to push with my unmedicated births. I could feel baby girl making her way down and finally had some relief between pushing. It was so wonderful to rest between pushing! I finally caught a much needed break and didn't feel much while resting- just took some slow, deep breaths in preparation for the next contraction. I hardly felt the contractions but just pushed when I felt like it. Since I was on my knees on the bed, I gripped the head of the bed like I was about to fall off a cliff with each push. I felt very primal in the moment from "ahhhhh-ing" baby girl down and pushing when it seemed helpful. I was in control, which is kind of an empowering feeling during birth.

I felt it all, but I had basically just run a marathon and pushing baby out was the last half mile. Being able to rest between pushing renewed my energy and powered through the "ring of fire." It was tolerable, but I understand why it's called that haha. My midwife really showed me why so many women love her as a provider during this birth. She was present, but great at letting Carl and I do our thing and once I was pushing, she helped direct me only when needed to avoid injury. I ended up with a small first degree tear and by 1 week postpartum, it has healed up very well. She allowed Carl to "catch" baby girl, which has been such a great and unique experience for him for these last three babies. As soon as I pushed her out at 2:06 am, I felt instant relief in my hips and could take a deep breath. Before doing anything else, I looked over my left shoulder (because I was still on my knees) at Carl and, probably with a crazy, sweat glazed look, I said, "I did it! She's here!"

Betty Pearl was placed on my chest as soon as I turned over. She was a bit purple and didn't really want to cry and pink up for the first few minutes but was otherwise breathing well and very alert. Once the cord stopped pulsating, it was clamped and Carl snipped it. Not much longer, my placenta came out and my midwife did her minor repairs. Betty nursed right away and had a perfect latch. Nursing is always extremely painful for me at the beginning, but she's off to a great start already.

I've had a few thoughts while pondering birth this past week- the main one is if you desire a natural, unmedicated birth, you totally can do it. Truly. When I started this journey of having kids, I had no idea what I was doing. My first birth was so traumatizing to me- I left a lot of details out of my birth story then, but the fear has never been forgotten for Carl and me. I thought "great, this is it. I have to be pumped full of drugs and filleted open every time I have child." But I didn't. The human body is so capable. It's amazing. It's inspiring. Using the Hypnobabies program three times now has been the best birth preparation. I've had 3 different births with hypnosis and while the first one I did with Vivienne was more like the "ideal birth," I've had great experiences and outcomes with each of the following.

The second thought is having a strong birth partner is so important- almost a must if you want an unmedicated birth. Someone you can trust and be strong with you. Carl was my rock. I don't know what birth would be like without him. He was so calming and all the staff who came into our room were incredibly impressed with his birth preparation and hypnosis script reading. He helped keep me hydrated, reminded me to relax, change positions, and speak for me when needed. It was amazing to have so much trust in one person. Not to brag, but yes, I'm totally bragging that Carl was awesome. He will be taking on clients as a birthing doula from now on. Just kidding. awkward...

The last thought is to trust yourself. I had so many doubts and anxieties leading up to Betty's birth. I was so concerned about providers and hospital staff being unsupportive but Carl was right- we were the team. We did what we felt was right for this birth. Our opinions were the only ones that mattered. I had prepared for years at this point for what I felt was the right birth for me. I read so much research and truly practiced evidence-based medicine in my decision making. I wish I could have had less fear with the anticipation of this birth, but darn anxiety always has its way of being the party pooper. I was surprised at how much I depended on my provider's confidence to support my own- I guess I was lucky to have two amazing doctors the previous two births to not realize that I cared so much about what they thought. Trust your instincts. Prepare. Birth is a beautiful experience!

Thanks for reading. And now, indulge in these beautiful children of mine, taken at 4 days and 6 days old. I don't know how they are so cute. I certainly was not a cute child. 

Smile twins

Ohhhhh Teddy, your blond curls kill me!

I promise I'm happy.

Sisters! Sisters!
The best for last- digging for gold! #keepingitreal
*** I've read that I should watermark my photos from internet thieves. I didn't obviously. Please do not use my pictures for any reason without permission.