"Parents are like shuttles on a loom. They join the threads of the past with threads of the future and leave their own bright patterns as they go."
-Fred Rogers

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Birth of Simeon Gregory

Ann was referred to me through a mutual friend a few months ago.  We initially spoke for at least an hour getting to know one another, discussing Ann's prior birth experience, and talking about what she envisioned for her baby's upcoming birth.  Ann decided to enroll in HypnoBirthing with me for the birth of her second child, and she also asked me to be her doula.  Since that time Ann and I have also become good friends.  I felt honored to be present at Simeon's birth and look forward to growing my friendship with Ann and her family.  Below is Simeon's birth story, through the eyes of his mom.

Simeon Gregory's Birth

I first went in labor with Simeon when I sat down to nurse my three-year-old daughter Cecilia at about 1:30 in the afternoon. We began to nurse and within minutes of nursing, I kept having what I thought were digestive cramps. Sure enough they continued with time, and were showing a pattern. After about a half hour I realized that they were likely early labor surges. They continued, and I text my husband Will, Tricia, my mother and sister to let them know what was going on. I got a glass of wine and Cecilia and I put on swimsuits took a warm bath in the gigantic and deep guest bathtub, and waited for family to start arriving. The surges continued even after the wine and bath so I was sure it was early labor. I neatened the bedrooms, did some dishes, played with Cecilia, and suddenly realized that the baby would most likely be born the following day, which was my birthday. Will, my husband played with Cecilia and organized some of the things we needed to bring to the hospital--video camera, iPhone chargers, etc. My mom arrived at the condo later, and we eventually ordered dinner. I was afraid that I would be in labor all day on my birthday so we decided to have my birthday cake then. I thought that I might be upset about that later when I might throw up, but decided to risk it--I didn't want to miss that cake! Mom, Will, Cecilia and I all enjoyed a small slice, and cleaned up from dinner.

The evening continued on, and Cecilia was too wired to go to sleep because my parents, sister, and brother-in-law had all arrived--it was a houseful and I stayed in our bedroom. I had started vocalizing through contractions like a cow--I knew that was a very good way to vocalize, and while I did it I imagined my cervix pulling up around my baby's head, so he could come out and into my arms. I took another bath, and found it to relieve the tension I didn't realize had been building. I felt like I could stay in the tub and labor there until the baby was born--it felt so good! Cecilia had started to get fussy and upset about my being in the tub, and I think she was a little confused, maybe scared and definitely overtired. Around 10 or 11 I finally said that she had to go to sleep and decided to nurse her for just a few minutes--I knew not to nurse if I was ready to leave for the hospital--my midwife, Gayle, had told me not to because it gives mothers a quick ticket to an unplanned home birth--but I figured a quick nursing this early on wouldn't do all that much, and if it helped, all the better. Within a minute of latching on, my surges increased in intensity and I had to stop nursing. Poor Cecilia thought it was her fault because she accidentally kicked me, but my mom snuggled her and explained she didn't do anything bad. She went out to watch TV with my sister and brother-in-law, and I didn't want her in the room because I had started vocalizing more loudly through contractions, and I thought it might be scaring her. Within 45 minutes we called our midwife, Amy, again, and she suggested I come into the hospital. I was worried because I had felt this way with Cecilia at only four centimeters, but Amy said that a second baby was a totally different labor. My mother spoke with Amy on the phone (I was having double-peak contractions and wasn't conversing through them), and had commented that I "wasn't doing well" and I became upset--I was doing very well, I was just laboring.

We left for the hospital, and my sister Laurie stayed at the condo, ready to drive out if the baby would be coming soon, so she could record the event. We got to the hospital in record time since the roads were pretty empty so late at night. The potholes were murderous, and I think my language was too--I wasn't a very happy camper in the car--I couldn't wait to get back into a tub! We arrived at the hospital and since my contractions were so close together and I wanted to keep listening to Rainbow, I rode the chair in. We went up to Triage, where I got onto the monitor. Amy checked me and I was at a seven. I was so relieved that I had progressed so well! Tricia, who had met us at the hospital, commented that things weren't going to be worse than they were right then. I remember thinking that I wanted to get in a bathtub, because I knew that would help me so much. I did tell Tricia I thought things were going to get a lot worse, and closer together, but I was thinking of Cecilia's birth--I had the epidural at four cm (on Wednesday close to midnight, labor had begun on Monday morning) and for a number of hours I had no pain and was able to sleep. When I woke it was to unexpected pain in my pelvic floor, and the sensations were the same--looking back I can realize that for whatever reason the epidural didn't diminish the sensation of Cecilia's transition and birth, but that I was somewhat stuck then, with an epidural in my back. I did recall the hours of sleep that I did have and longed for that--I knew that it was too late for an epidural at that point. I knew that transition would not last long.

Amy kept me on the monitor for a long time, longer than I think I might have realized, but I wasn't tracking time much anymore. She was waiting for a reassuring period on that monitor. As it was, that didn't happen, and I risked out of the ABC for non-reassuring fetal heart tones and baby's tachycardia. I was worried about my baby, but trusted Amy absolutely to take good care of both of us. Between contractions I nearly started to cry when I realized how important it is to have a provider you can trust so very much. Still, I was upset about not being able to go to the ABC--I wanted that tub! Amy also thought that giving IV fluids could possible help the baby, so I had an IV inserted into my hand, something I hadn't intended to have, but didn't mind anymore. When I was actually entering a standard birth room, I said, "I can have an epidural in this room." I requested narcotics first, but couldn't have them because of baby's heart tones. I felt some frustration with that, and some relief too--I recall thinking that I was too close to birth, it would be bad for my baby and that I didn't really need them, that I would be fine without them, and better off. I knew if I had them I wouldn't be very happy with that decision in the end; I wanted a drug-free natural birth for myself and my baby. I requested an epidural, and I really don't know why--I wanted relief from the very intense sensation of getting close to birth but realized it was the same as what I felt with an epidural last time anyway. I said the latter out loud once, but asked away anyway.

The births I had seen in HypnoBirthing class were so quiet and serene, and that's what I wanted for my son's entrance into the world. I wanted him to enter our world peacefully, and to come into my arms with joy. Instead I was swearing, and telling people that they weren't helping me. Part of the problem was that I didn't know what I needed, but couldn't do much to help myself figure that out. Tricia was such a treasure during that time--I held onto her for so many surges, and was so grateful for her being there--she felt like the most wonderful, helpful person I could imagine having present for our baby's birth. I had laid back down after that, and was able to sleep between surges. I would wake before each started, and I could feel it coming like an aura--a few times I would wake to that aura and then feel nothing, like one wanted to start then didn't. I didn't know what to do with the energy and I had to release it somewhere, and vocal release seemed to be what I needed to do. I began to feel the urge to push with surges but was doubtful because I didn't think that things were really headed that way so soon. I doubted only a short time!

Sure enough, I suddenly felt something really different, a big change in the way my entire body felt aligned. I had breathed my baby down through labor, and then it was as if the whole world suddenly tilted, like gravity almost changed,but in a very right way, and I felt my baby moving down even more. I remember letting out a shriek, I think of surprise, relief, a little fear, and even a little sadness knowing I would never be pregnant with this child again, or feel him move in my belly. I felt scared that it would be more pain than I could bear, but quickly realized that he was coming momentarily, and that he would be out very fast. Amy turned to look when I made the sound, and she saw that the baby was coming at that time. I felt my waters breaking--I thought Amy had broken it, but later learned she hadn't. I remember hearing and seeing Tricia saying "low sounds" at that point, and trying to do low sounds--that was a reminder I needed. I pushed with everything in me for what felt like less than a minute (I believe it was four minutes, but even now I can hardly believe it was that long). I started pushing with a contraction, but didn't stop when it ended--I know you typically push with contractions,but if Amy needed me to stop, she'd have to tell me to stop, but it felt like absolutely what I had to do. I knew he'd be out in seconds, and I was relieved--I knew the birth would be over, but also that he'd be out and safe with me--I was worried about how he was tolerating labor, but relieved that Amy was the midwife monitoring that. It was strange, worrying about my baby, but in the intensity of labor giving up that worry and trusting so readily.

I laid on my side and pushed, feeling him close crowning, and not wanting to stop pushing. I wondered at my ability to push him out, but knew I was doing it, all at the same time. Everyone said they could see him, and when I saw Will crying I knew it was true. I lost any fearfulness then, and pushed until I knew he was almost totally out--I reached down to try to receive him, and then, at 4:37AM, Amy was placing him on my lower belly--I tried immediately to pull him up to my chest but she said his cord was short. I kept him on my lower belly, on the side where I always felt his head grinding into my hip, where I could sometimes feel his tiny hand and fingers fluttering from the inside of my womb. He was soft, slippery, perfect and so tiny! I saw his little face and watched him give a little cry; I sort of felt like he was announcing his presence, not that he was protesting anything, scared or upset, which made me feel very good, and so happy. Months before, when my son was conceived, I knew implicitly that I would become pregnant with a little boy that month despite having PCOS and still breastfeeding my older child. I fell in love with my tiny son that very day in December, and that feeling grew throughout my pregnancy, magnified more every day. When I saw my tiny Simeon all that falling in love since December came crashing into me at once overwhelming me completely. He was, at that moment, the most incredible miracle I had ever seen, and I wept with joy over the arrival of my little boy. Who was I to have the privilege of carrying this small child in my body, birth him, and hold him? How could I be so fortunate to be his mother, and a mother again? I half-watched Amy showing the placenta and cord to Laurie and the camera, mostly concentrating on my little baby. When I offered my breast he latched on right away, immediately nursing very actively and well. He was so bright eyed and alert! He was weighed and measured an hour or two after birth--8 pounds, 21 inches long. I was transferred to the post-partum unit where we happily called family and friends and snuggled our new little (sleeping) miracle. Although Simeon's birth wasn't what I anticipated and we had some unexpected complications with his heart, it was a beautiful, happy experience, and I was very, very blessed to have Tricia with me throughout my labor and his birth, especially because we had unexpected issues arise. Thank you, Tricia, for sharing the most miraculous and amazing time of life--birth.