Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our Decision to Birth at Home

When we found out we were going to have a second child, we were thrilled. We knew from the start that we wanted to be better prepared for this child's birth, but we weren't sure what that meant. I knew one thing for sure, I wanted to do everything possible to avoid an epidural this time around. I had back pain for 10 months after the last one and had hated the way it made me feel during labor. It doesn't take long doing research before you find that the best way to have a natural, drug-free childbirth is to avoid all interventions if possible. So, our plan in the beginning was to have a natural, drug-free hospital birth and to stick to our guns (and the birth plan) this time! We decided that Justin would be my labor coach and we started reading up on the Bradley Method of "Husband Coached" Childbirth. However, I remembered the name "Ina May Gaskin" from some youtube videos that we had watched while pregnant with Cameron. This woman made a big impact on me with her more realistic views of childbirth and so I started reading her book "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" and later "Spiritual Midwifery." Also, Justin and I watched the documentary "The Business of Being Born." Long story very short, I found myself no longer being okay with going to the hospital and wishing Corpus Christi had a birth center. Not because these books and films use scare tactics, but because they speak the truth. I had done the hospital thing and JUST KNEW that it was not the place for a normal birth experience. So, I found myself googling 'midwives' in Corpus Christi and two days later, we had an interview with Elizabeth Overton, CPM. We loved Beth and her way of doing things from the start and so it was official, we were going to have a planned home birth! We were so unbelievably excited! From that point on, I more thoroughly enjoyed each step of the pregnancy and even began taking better care of myself knowing that I was the one in control of things and wasn't going to be "delivered" by a stranger. There's something about going to a group of OBGYNs that makes you feel like its all out of your hands and in theirs and so, you almost have a tendency to maybe not take as good care of yourself or submit to things you really deep down don't agree with (like inductions, etc) But when you're the one responsible for getting your baby into the world, you start taking extra special care of yourself mentally and physically in preparation. Nutrition is key during pregnancy and helps prep your body for childbirth.

When you decide to have a home birth all of a sudden all kinds of options open up. Where do you want to have your baby? What position? Who will be there? Does Daddy want to catch? What to eat and drink? What kinds of things will you surround yourself with to calm you? Music? Lighting? A birthday party for baby afterward? An herb bath with baby afterward? It begins to set in that you are actually going to ENJOY this experience and not panic when you realize those contractions are real!
We decided to plan for a water birth since I had had a pretty bad episiotomy with Cameron (10 stitches). Water birth helps you relax to the fullest and decreases your risk of tearing. I love water, so this was the perfect option for us.
We decided to let Beth's apprentice, Melinda Pond, gain some experience and be the one that would catch our baby. We totally trusted Melinda and were excited that ours would be her first baby to catch. Beth Would be by her side through it all, guiding her and taking over if needed.  We didn't start seeing Beth and Melinda for prenatal care until I was already about 25 weeks, but there was still plenty of time to get to know them. They saw me just as frequently as the doctor would have and at 36 weeks, they came to our house for the check up so that they know exactly how to get there before it's "go time."
It was so much different than going to my OB. The appointments were fun. There was no time spent waiting in a waiting room and they were always so warm and genuinely curious how the baby and I were doing.  They were much more thorough with me than my OB ever was. I loved that they gave me a big thick binder full of information on their guidelines, nutrition, exercise, prenatal testing, and postpartum care. The binder even had a 'homework' section that asks you, in detail, how you would like your labor and birth to go (who you want there, what activities, music, who catches baby, who cuts the chord, etc.) That was exciting. And most importantly, you get a copy of a blank prenatal record to fill in as you go to each appointment so that you can keep up with you and your babies health and your labs. I loved this!
Not to mention that Beth is certified in newborn screening as well, so she was able to care for William during his first weeks of life. They came to our house on postpartum days 1 & 4 to check us both out. Not only did they do a complete assessment and newborn screening on William, but each time they came they asked me a long list of questions, assessed my bleeding, checked my blood pressure, and made sure I was taking care of myself and not overdoing it. They also had tons of good breastfeeding advice and made sure William and I were getting off to a good start with it.
All in all, the prenatal and postpartum care that we received was by far more compassionate and thorough than what we would have received with the usual group of OBGYNs down the street. Please don't get me wrong! OBGYNs do amazing work and are greatly needed, but not for normal, low risk births. They are trained surgeons and are not trained to genuinely help a women through labor. And while nurses may be helpful, their shifts change. We could not be happier with our decision to plan a home birth with a licensed midwife.

The next two entries are the detailed accounts of both my children's births. They were both incredibly amazing and I wouldn't change a thing about either one. The first is my daughter Cameron's beautiful hospital birth. The second is my son William's beautiful home birth.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Birth of William Bryan - December 6, 2011

I was 40 weeks pregnant and had been having braxton hicks contractions for about a month already, but I noticed something different about them at dinner the night before William was born. While we were all out looking at Christmas lights after dinner I realized that they were coming a steady 30 minutes apart. I mentioned them to Justin (my husband) and my mom, but none of us thought it was time because I had been having so many braxton hicks contractions in the evenings. When we got home nothing had really changed. We put Cameron to bed and went about our normal nightly activities. By 10:30 the contractions were about 20 minutes apart. I told Justin goodnight and tried to go to sleep, but I had become extremely restless and kept finding myself jumping out of bed to do one last thing. I was badgering Justin about the details of our "labor plan" and fretting about how things would go and that's when it hit me, I was in labor! This was it!  I knew that I needed to relax and get some rest, so I laid down for bed again. And at that exact moment, the electricity went out. The house was so quiet, there was no way I could sleep. Justin and I sat up and laughed about the situation. We were having a baby soon and with no power. We wanted a home birth, not a primitive birth! Luckily, it came back on by 1:00am and by that time my contractions had gotten stronger and were now between 10-15 minutes apart.
At 1:30 Justin talked me into notifying the midwife, so I gave Melinda (the midwife's assistant) a call to let her know what was going on and she told me that I really needed to try and rest, but to call back if things got more intense. She alerted our midwife, Beth as well and they would check on me first thing in the morning. By this point the contractions were a lot easier to experience while moving or standing, but Justin and I got into bed and decided to try and rest. I'm not sure if I ever actually went to sleep, but at least I wasn't wasting precious energy. I really had to go deep inside myself to get through each contraction while lying down. At some point we heard Cameron squeak over the monitor so, Justin went and got her and put her in bed between us. It was sweet to labor beside her for a while. Believe it or not, during a contraction she actually reached over and rubbed my back. It was the best contraction of them all, she made me smile. Around 4:30 Justin woke up my Mom (who was living with us at the time) and filled her in. She scooped up Cameron and they went to finish the night at Justin's grandmother's house (which is practically next door, they walked). We just didn't want Cameron  (21 months) getting scared when her momma started making strange noises. I couldn't resist getting out of bed and giving my mom and Cameron a hug and kiss before they left. At this point, they were steadily 10 minutes apart and I couldn't talk during them anymore, they took focus. Justin and I were just walking around the house (a front had come in that night and it was cold outside) and each time I would need to focus and breathe deeply, he would rub my tummy or my back. We were so happy and excited, just enjoying being in the moment. At 6:30 I gave Melinda a call back. As Ina May would say, the "rushes" were now every 6-8 minutes and a lot more intense. I was starting to have to make some noise during them. Beth and Melinda were on their way so I ate some breakfast to regain some energy and took a hot shower. They both arrived at about 7:30 and checked me to find that I was already dilated to a 7 and had almost no cervix present. WOW! (And I thought they were gonna say 2cm!) I was positive that I was just being a weenie, but I was already about to go through transition! We didn't even have the bed dressed or birthing pool set up yet. Beth told Justin that if we were gonna have a water birth, he better get the pool set up pretty quickly. He worked on that and Beth and Melinda dressed the bed for me. I just walked around, circling my hips through contractions and sipping water. I texted my mom and told her that I was 7cm and we would have a baby by noon.
I almost hesitated to get in the pool because it felt so good to walk around and I was scared that it might slow things down, but once I got in, it felt absolutely wonderful. Justin turned on our labor playlist, dimmed the lights, and opened the blinds to let the sunlight in. It felt great to move my hips around to the music while in warm water. The water didn't slow anything down. In fact, I think it brought things on pretty strong. It was time to get down to business. I was able to completely surrender to every contraction and let my body and baby do what they needed to do. It was not easy by any means, but it was doable. I just took one contraction at a time. During contractions I could feel William move down further and further and between them I was calm and chatty.
I labored in the pool for almost 3 hours before feeling any real pressure, then finally during a really strong rush, my body pushed a little and my water broke, which felt really cool in the water. Then it didn't take long before I started to feel the urge to push. I decided to just let my body push when it wanted to and not "try" to push at all. I knew from my previous birth that this was the part I needed every ounce of energy for. So I ended up only pushing maybe every 10-15 min for almost an hour. Between rushes and urges to push, I was almost asleep and totally relaxed. Justin was helping me stay hydrated with the yummy labor rehydration drink that I made from Beth's recipe. It tasted really good and gave me energy as well. I started having a lot of intense lower back pressure, so Melinda applied counter pressure to my lower back which felt amazing. Each time I had a rush, she would massage me. All during labor I could hear everyone cheerfully whispering around me, making notes in the chart, and keeping the pool water warm. I had no idea what they were saying because I couldn't pay that close of attention but their cheerfulness and excitement kept me going. Knowing you are surrounded by people that you trust 100% makes it easy to slip inside and just labor.
Beth suggested that I change positions to see if that might speed things along, so I turned over into a squatting pose with my back to the pool's edge and Justin's arms under mine holding me up from outside the pool. As soon as I changed positions I could feel William move down again and the urge to push got a lot stronger. Beth was helping me drink water since Justin's hands were full. Then suddenly, after a great big push,  he was starting to crown! I continued to push with my body's urges and his head would crown and then slip back inside. We did this little dance for a long while. I would reach down during a rush/push and rub his soft fuzzy head. I was also helping stretch my tissue around his head and hold back the skin to help him come out. I remember hearing Beth tell Melinda that I was "guarding" and this was completely normal. I had read that touching yourself and helping yourself stretch during birth would direct blood flow to the area and help you open up even more, so that's what I did and it certainly worked. It got to the point where I really didn't think I could push any harder and I started loosing focus a bit. But then I just had to turn my mind off and completely stop thinking about what was going on. I had to push this baby out, period! Beth told me that I could try a few more pushes in the pool, but that if he didn't come out, they were going to get me out and try something else, so I went completely inward again and tried not to get caught up in all the excitement. It wasn't hard to do at all, you just know how! So I did what I thought I couldn't do and I pushed harder and longer! And turns out, I started moaning and yelling somewhat like a crazed animal (Justin says I sounded like a goat. LOL!) Everyone was cheering me on and encouraging me which helped so much! After a few more crazy pushing/cheering sessions, I felt Williams head burst out of me, one more push and I felt his shoulders, the rest of him just slid out. I could tell he was a bigger baby than we had thought! It felt wonderful and next thing I knew there was a beautiful, wet, screaming little boy on my chest! And we were all crying. We had done it! William Bryan was born at 12:06pm on Tuesday, December 6, 2011.
We stayed there and held him for a moment, just letting everything sink in. He took to my breast right away and I was in Heaven. Beth wanted me out of the water to assess my bleeding. So, Justin cut the chord and he and Melinda helped me out of the water and onto the bed. The bleeding was just fine and the placenta came out easily. I had torn a little bit, so Beth sewed me up (2 stitches) while we continued to greet William. It was amazing being able to lay in our own bed and cuddle our new little boy. He was super alert and taking everything in. Beth and Melinda gave William a full assessment, weighed, and measured him right in front of us on the bed. Justin made a pizza and we all sat around the bedroom stuffing our faces and talking about the precious new little boy. His grandmother's all came over to meet him and brought his big sister, who wasn't sure what to think about it all. Little William Bryan and I never had to leave our cozy bed. When the midwives and family all went on their way, I was able to fall asleep undisturbed, watching my little boy sleep peacefully next to me. Thank you, God for giving me faith in my body and enabling me to experience childbirth the way that you intended. 

*I never experienced a contraction as intense as I had in the hospital with pitocin, they never got that bad!

Beth took note of some of the funny things I said during labor. These are verbatim from my labor and delivery chart:

9:17am  "Come on little boy"
9:52am  "That's a different sensation"
10:30am "Contractions are starting to feel really good"
10:31am "There's bottled water for you guys too"
11:24am  To husband "Do you need to pee or anything?" (between pushes)
11:49am "Let's do this"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cameron Flora's Birth Story - February 21, 2010

It was the morning of my due date at around 5:30am and the night had been a long and restless one. I awoke to a little bit of wetness and my first thought was that I hadn’t gotten up in time to pee and had leaked some urine. But, when I got up out of bed, I leaked some more and realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t urine. My water had broken to some extent, but was just leaking very slowly. I wasn’t sure what to do and definitely had no other signs of labor to note. I knew that if your water breaks in a quick rush that you should get to the hospital ASAP, but I had trouble convincing myself that mine had even ruptured. I had planned and prepared for a natural, hospital birth and knew that I needed to labor at home as long as possible to get in my comfort zone and get used to riding the waves of contractions before going and getting hooked up to IVs and monitors. So, I laid back down and tried to rest for a while. Don’t remember if I actually slept or not, my mind was racing. Justin was asleep on the couch and I didn’t want to alert him until I knew it was really happening. Plus, I was really hoping that contractions would start soon after my “water breaking”. 8:00am rolled around and nothing had changed. I felt just fine other than being a little tired. I woke Justin up and told him what had happened (and was still happening). My water was clear, had no odor, and was leaking so slowly that almost couldn’t tell.  Justin wasn’t quite comfortable with the idea of me just waiting for labor to start on it’s own and convinced me to call our group of OBGYNs and tell them what was happening. I was very reluctant to do so because I knew whoever the doctor was at the time, they were going to tell me to come in and get checked since my water had broken, period. I dabbled with the idea of calling and wasted time eating breakfast and cleaning up around the house.  No sign of contractions. So, at around 11:00am we drove to the hospital.  I was taken into triage where we stayed for almost two hours.  The nurse was very nice, but the room was super uncomfortable. There were a couple of women actually laboring in triage and they weren’t very shy about it. I had to lie on a stiff cot, hooked up to monitors the entire time. I remember wanting nothing more than to leave or at least just get up and move.  Justin and I had spent time developing our own birth plan in order to achieve a natural delivery, but we never even got it out.  Looking back, I was scared and timid. As soon as we checked in at the hospital, I felt like I had relinquished control of my labor to “the professionals” and I had a feeling that no matter what I did or said, the outcome at this point would be the same. I’m not sure whether or not the monitors showed that I was having any contractions. If I was they weren’t intense enough to even remember. However, they decided to move us to a room and inform me that since my waters had broken, they would like me to deliver within 12-24 hours. I knew I was in for it. The room was much nicer than triage, but I was still hooked up to monitors. I know now that I didn’t have to be. They can come in and monitor you every 30 minutes or so, so that you don’t have to be on a 2 foot leash.  I went into Cameron’s birth feeling so confident and just knowing that I could do it without drugs. But the truth of the matter was that we were not as prepared and knowledgeable as we thought we were. And now the unexpected had happened. The birth plan still sat in the top of my bag.  I was actually concerned with making a good impression on the nurses and didn’t want to irritate them with a “plan”. How silly is that? As if making sure they liked me insured an enjoyable birthing process. What was I thinking? It was around 1:00pm when we had been put into the room. I bounced on my balance ball, walked around, and just hung out with Justin and my mom. At around 2:00pm the nurse came in and informed me that the doctor wanted me to start a Pitocin drip to start contractions.  I remember the lump forming in my throat. I knew that Pitocin makes contractions much stronger than normal and that they would hit much harder. I somehow talked her into putting it off for another hour. But when 3:00 rolled around, my contractions hadn’t picked up any and they insisted that I begin the Pitocin.  So, they wasted no time starting the drip and by 4:00pm I was having very strong contractions. There was no easing into them, the very first contraction was pretty intense.  From this point on, the story is a little fuzzy.  My mom disappeared to let Justin and I try and get into the groove of things.  I dealt with these contractions for about two hours. I tried laboring on the toilet, but it was cold and awkward. I had to get out of the room, so somebody asked if they would remove the monitors and walk the halls, so they did. Justin and I walked around the circle of rooms and watching eyes and each time I would have a contraction I would have to stop and hang onto him. We didn’t walk for long because it was awkward too. Back in the room I remember just feeling defeated.  We were sitting on the bed together and at this point the contractions were so intense that I couldn’t talk or move or do much of anything because I was so uncomfortable in my surroundings.  It was when I actually tried to bite Justin’s hand during a contraction that I gave up and decided to call the nurse and order an epidural.  It was around 6:00 or 7:00pm that the anesthesiologist made his way to my room.  He and the nurses were very nice and supportive, but I was so humiliated with defeat and in such pain that it was just a horrible experience. I had to hold still for them to insert the epidural, but that was asking a lot.  I remember crying and Justin holding my hand. The epidural being put into position hurt even worse than the contractions. The anesthesiologist told me that he didn’t do “walking epidurals” and that soon I wouldn’t be able to feel any pain at all. He wasn’t kidding. My torso, hips, and legs were gone. I couldn’t feel them at all and it made getting checked for dilation that much weirder. I don’t remember anything after this point until I woke up around 4:00 the next morning feeling like I was about to have a bowl movement in the bed. Justin rang the nurse and told her and she came in right away to inform me that it was pressure from the baby that I was feeling. It was finally time! I still felt so numb and tingly all over.  I had slept on and off through the night, but didn’t feel well rested. The epidural had not made me feel comfortable at all. The nurse turned off the epidural drip for me as soon as she checked to find me dilated enough to push.  She had let the doctor know and now we just had to wait. Which was fine with me because I didn’t have a very strong urge to push just yet.  It didn’t take long for the feeling to come back to my body enough to get to that point though. About the same time the doctor showed up, all tingling sensations were gone and all I wanted to do was push. And the pushing felt incredible!  I was so happy to finally be able to feel and work with my body. I felt in control again.  It was not easy work, but I could feel Cameron moving down and twisting and turning through my pelvis, so I knew we were making progress.  After about an hour of pushing, her head was crowning and the doctor let me know that my little girl had a head full of blonde hair. I’m glad she told me that because it gave me the determination I needed to finish the job. I continued pushing as the team instructed me to, but her head just kept sliding back in between pushes (which I learned later is a good thing and shouldn't be rushed, but was discouraging at the time). All the counting and pushing had tired me out pretty quickly and I got to the point where I knew I didn’t have much strength left in me.  So, I sat up in bed, looked the doctor square in the eyes, and told her I needed help and to do whatever she needed to do to help me get this baby out. Yes, I pretty much asked for an episiotomy, but I could feel the threat of a caesarian growing near and just wanted a vaginal delivery at this point. It had been a long, uncomfortable day and night.  The doctor cut me and I could feel it, but I didn’t care about the pain anymore, I just wanted it to be over. Shortly after, I pushed with all my might and felt my little girl’s body slide out of me all at once. The feeling was amazing.  At 5:43am on February 21, 2010, Cameron Flora came into the world. I sat up and took a peep at her before falling back on the bed. It sounds bad, but all I could think about was sleep and food. Justin and I watched as she got cleaned up and assessed. It wasn’t long before they put her on my chest. But I was in a hospital gown and she was already in a blanket, so we didn’t get to be skin-to-skin. I did offer her my breast though and she was interested right away. She was the most beautiful thing we had ever laid eyes on and I will never forget how amazing her smell was! We lay there for a just a bit before they insisted on taking her to the nursery, Justin followed. The birth had been stressful on her and I both, our heart rates had been unstable and we both had mild fevers afterward. But all in all, it was a beautiful vaginal birth and we were both healthy. Cameron roomed in with us and we all three just rested between visitors that day. It was so good to finally have our sweet baby girl in the world right next to us.