Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gwen's Birth Story (Part I)

(This is a labor/birth post, there will be talk of fluids, gross things and even more gross things. You have been warned.)
Painting a dresser hugely pregnant, like a boss.

Natural childbirth, the holy grail of Motherhood. Or is it? If you're just joining me, hop over to read this post about where I was prior to birthing Gwen.

To be honest, when I was pregnant I was pretty judge-y. I couldn't wrap my head around why a woman would not want a natural childbirth. And I was truly excited about giving birth without medication. I thought about it all. the. time. And of course I did! What first-time mom doesn't obsess over labor, birth, postpartum, and the newborn stage? We can quickly get into the scary territory of freaking ourselves out a little too much. Or in my case, tooting my horn before the train leaves the station! It's a train pun! About birthing a baby! Yes! (Too much? Sorry I'm not sorry.)

After the non-supportive midwife told me she didn't know if I could make it with my natural birth plan, I became very determined to prove her wrong. Because that's the best way to do all things. (Not really.) It also put a weird pressure on me that I did not need or want.

Because I was going to CPMs and not a CNM, my choices of where to give birth were: my own home or their birthing center. We rented, and the thought of having my baby at our rental house was too strange for me, so birthing center it was! The two suites were actually more like apartments and completely gorgeous. They had small kitchens, huge birthing tubs and a hide-a-bed for dads. The atmosphere was serene and comfortable. While I knew there were medical necessities kept around the apartment, they couldn't be seen like in a hospital. Perfection.

Gwen's due date was January 19, 2009. Because of my extensive reading, I knew it was common for all mothers to go a little past their projected due dates. And I wasn't worried, anxious maybe, but not worried, when my due date came and went and we didn't have our baby. At my latest midwife appt I had dilated a whooping finger-width. Feeling disappointed, I did everything medically safe to get the labor train going (bow-chica-whow-whow). And since it was the dead of winter in our very small town, Ben and I did a lot of walking in random places such as the grocery store and...the grocery store.

Miraculously in the middle of the night on January 22nd, I woke up to use the bathroom for the millionth-trillionth time and lost my mucus plug. Yes! Victory is mine! I woke Ben up because I'm ridiculous and this was my first baby. We stayed up for a few hours as I timed my not-very-strong contractions and Ben played video games. I also texted my sister, who was going to fly in from out-of-state with our mom when I was in labor and stay for about a week. Eventually I decided I needed to try and sleep, so we both went back to bed. In the morning I continued to time my contractions and we walked around store. At about 10am or so, I called my midwife (my fav was on-call, score!) and I gave her the details. She advised me to go home, eat, take a bath, and nap.

I did and the hours passed oh-so-slowly. I'd been having contractions consistently since the night before but they didn't seem to be progressing. In the afternoon, I spoke once more to my midwife and we made plans for her to check me at home around 5pm. When she did come over, I was only a 3 or a 4. I remember her telling me not to be discouraged and I remember not feeling discouraged until she said that. As she left she advised us to call again when I "hit a wall" and that we'd know what she was talking about. (Twilight zone music.)

We hung around all night, playing mancala and uno like the cool kids we are and chatting about "oh my gosh, we're going to have a baby!". Finally, at around 10pm, I start to seriously feel it. I stopped talking for contractions and used all my focus to relax. I call my midwife and have several contractions while on the phone with her. She coaches me and tells me how great I'm doing which boosts my spirits tremendously. We agree to meet at the birthing center in an hour.

Since we lived mere blocks away, we arrive first and wait for my midwife and her assistant (also our Bradely teacher). A student midwife would be in attendance as well. All of the women present were amazing, calm and experienced. I felt well taken care of and so excited to get things going. I think I was only about a 5/6 when my midwife checked me, so she went and tried to nap in the other birthing suite. The assistant, student midwife and Ben stayed with me. Ben and I mostly kept to ourselves and the others were great at knowing when to chime in and when to back off. Our Bradely teacher was especially gifted at this and she was truly a blessing to me.

Hours passed and labor was beginning to escalate. My contractions were back to back and even though I could still relax through them, I was getting tired. Realizing I could be in transition, the two women retrieved my midwife who checked my progress and said I was at a...6. Only 6 centimeters!! That was such a blow. She decided to break my water and then felt that our daughter was anterior and not posterior, which is ideal and probably why I was progressing so slowly. I got in a number of different positions to try and get her to flip. (She didn't.)

Something happened after my water broke. Instead of feeling pressure and relieving it by relaxing during my contractions, I started to feel the need to bear down. Except, I was still only 6-some centimeters dilated. Bad, very bad! The intensity of needing to push was indescribable. This was about 4am, so we'd been at the birthing center for 6 or so hours and I'd had my first "labor sign" 24 hours previously. I was exhausted and got into the tub to try and ease the sensation of bearing down. My midwife and the others gently told me not to push as that would cause swelling of the cervix. I was now doing lamaze style breathing, which discourages relaxing. It was agony. Everything I'd learned about, I could not employ, because if I did, I knew my body would naturally bear down. I had to fight the feeling and actually tense up in order to stop from pushing.

At about 9am, I was beyond exhausted and throwing up. They'd started an IV to try and get some fluids in me. I had not progressed at all and my cervix was slightly swollen on one side. I was miserable. My midwife came to my bedside, looked at me with kind eyes and said I had done wonderfully, but that this was a time that an epidural might be the best choice, so I could rest. I must have agreed because she called the maternity ward at the local hospital and we followed her there in our car. Honestly, I don't remember almost any of that. My midwife even told Ben not to be surprised if I didn't remember, because my body was starting to go into shock.

About 12 hours after going to the birthing center we were now on our way to the hospital. Once we arrived at the hospital my midwife walked us right up and I was checked in. About an hour later I had an epidural. Not even 30 minutes later, I began to come out of my pain-induced exhaustion and see that my perfect birth plan had unraveled. Here I was sitting in hospital with an epidural, like so many women I'd judged. The disappointment I felt was overwhelming and I started to weep at the thought of what I would not experience.

Click here for Part II! 

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