"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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Henry's Birth

The following birth story is from one of my best friends...and I feel so honored to have been present at the births of both of her beautiful children.

I wanted an all-natural birth with my daughter Mirielle, but I wound up being induced at 37 weeks for high blood pressure. I tried my best to do it without pain medication, but due to 48 hours of induction and labor and a serious problem with my Pitocin dosage, I finally succumbed to an epidural at about hour 44 and 7 cm dilation. I was really, really wanting to have an all-natural birth the second time around, but also knew that I would have to again be induced.

I knew in advance I would need to be given Pitocin, and I was told by many (including the midwives) that a non-medicated birth with Pitocin is very, very difficult, and that I shouldn't be disappointed should I decide to have an epidural. But I figured I made it pretty far before...and I have never felt "real" (non-Pitocin) contractions so I don't know the difference anyway! I decided that in spite of the medical induction I was going to try my hardest this time around to manage my pain on my own.

We got to the hospital at eight a.m. on a Wednesday morning. My midwife Shari had a couple different ideas for how to begin the induction. She asked me what my main goals were for the birth. I said first and foremost, NO c-section. She asked me how important it was for it to be a quick labor, and how important it was for me to go pain-med free? I explained I didn't care about the time, but that I wanted to go all-natural, but that if labor progressed like last time with the Pitocin (six minute contractions with 30 second breaks, insanity) that I might want an epidural. She said that it was her goal for them to really watch the Pitocin and for me to never have to deal with that kind of contraction pattern.

After checking me, however, all her plans went out the window and she decided I needed to have a cervical balloon put in because I really wasn't very dilated and my cervix was still very thick. That was fine with me...like I told her...slow was fine with me! The goal was to keep the balloon in for six hours or until it fell out.

After only four hours the balloon was already ready to come out, and I was dilated to about four. They broke my water by 2:30 and the contractions started. They were strong but manageable. By 3:30 Tricia had arrived, and I had gone "within.” I was laying on my right side in my bed and breathing through all my contractions. Shari checked me, and I was about 6-7 centimeters. We had one scare after I had gotten up and gone to the bathroom around 4 or 4:30. After I got into back into bed they had me turn over to my left side to change positioning and the baby's heart rate suddenly dropped and wasn't recovering. It got a little frantic in the room, and I was aware of it but because I was "within" I didn't really freak out or anything. I just remember thinking, "no c-section. no c-section." They called an O.B., stuck an oxygen mask on my face, shoved an internal monitor on the baby's head, and flipped me back to my right side. I don't know exactly what happened next, but apparently the heart rate must have evened out and moved back into a normal range.

After that, it all gets a little hazy. I will admit that I can't remember the exact times and details because I was very "in the zone." I was having steady contractions, and I wasn't able to quietly breath through them anymore. I was very...er...vocal. They tell me that I wasn't that loud, but I think everyone was just being nice! According to Tricia's notes they checked me again around 5:25...I remember saying to her "I don't want them to check me, because they are going to say I’m still only 6, and I don't want to get discouraged." But they did...and sure enough...I was still 6-7, though 8 during the contractions. I remember that at the end of each contraction my body would just hurl itself into this tight ball, and I would push, without really trying or even knowing I was doing. it…like one big push at the end of each contraction. Shari told me that she felt like I was "holding back" and to just let myself do what felt natural, so I did. I remember laying there saying, "I can't do it! I can't do it!" all the while thinking, "Tricia told me that I would say this..." Tricia and Shari kept saying, "You ARE doing it." I didn't know how much longer I could go on...and I hadn't even gotten to the pushing stage. In my mind I thought I must have another two or three hours to go.

Between that last check at 5:25 and 5:35 a whole lot went on! I remember at one point Shari saying I only had a "lip" of cervix left. I had another contraction with a spontaneous push at the end, and suddenly (out of what seemed like nowhere) was the baby's head...and a lot of commotion. They hadn't told me I was crowning, or that it was time to push, or anything. But there it was...the baby’s head. It happened so fast that they didn't break down the bed, there were no stirrups, and the midwife didn't even have time to put on her gloves. (My husband tells me after reading this that they did tell me I was crowning, but I have zero recollection of that!) All the commotion was because my baby had its cord wrapped around its head...very tightly. It was so tight that the midwife could barely get a finger in between the cord and the neck, and it had to be cut before the baby was even born. I remember laying there thinking "Oh my God. I'm having the baby. Right now." Again, I knew that something was "wrong" but I was just laying there in my zone...hand over my eyes to keep it dark and maintain my focus. They apparently told me not to push while they cut to cord, but I also don't remember that. I had another contraction and with one push at the end, out came the baby. Justin announced, "It's a boy!" and suddenly he was up on my chest.

Because of the cord issues, Shari said, "You've got 10 seconds to say hello, then he's got to go." That is the one and only thing that makes me sad about my birth...we didn't get much bonding time at all. I looked at his perfect little body, which was actually very blue...and then they whisked him away to the other side of the room.

My husband Justin said it was a bit scary to watch them give our Henry oxygen, but he perked up immediately and his Apgar scores were 8 and 9 in spite of everything. He was 7 pounds 8.8 ounces...and 21 inches long.

As they were cleaning up Henry and doing all their official business, I was delirious...it was like a birth high. I was talking up a storm and making all kind of silly, loopy statements and was just joyful and excited. I forgot to even tell anyone his name until they asked a number of minutes later. It was SO much different than Mirielle's birth, when I was exhausted and couldn't feel my bottom half. Don't get me wrong...her birth was amazing, too...but this one...it was just incredible in every way.

After what seemed like forever, I finally got to hold my little blue baby...and I was in love. He was actually blue from bruising. The whole "big scare" that happened earlier was likely because when I turned over from my right side to my left side, the baby engaged into the pelvis so quickly that he slammed down and bruised his head...and that is probably when the cord tightened around his neck. Scary, but in the end all okay. He was so alert and even nursed for 25 solid minutes right after we were reunited.

And just like that...we were a family of four. We had a son.

So...the natural birth. Did it hurt? Um…absolutely. Was it worth it? Absolutely. But the best part about the human body? Pain is temporary. I remember that it hurt, but I don't remember the actual pain. I do, however, remember the amazing joy I felt upon seeing my son's face for the first time. I am so proud of myself for pushing myself to have the incredible birth experience that I knew I could. Shari told me before she left, "There are not many people that could do that...a pitocin induced birth, where you can't use a tub or have a shower, where you can't move around. Most people couldn't do it." But I did. I credit my training in HypnoBirthing and my amazing support system of Shari, Tricia, and, of course, Justin. I will never say it was easy, and I'll forever be worried that I was "that screaming lady" that you could hear all down the hallway...but it doesn't matter. Because I had the natural birth I knew I could have, and I have a perfect, beautiful son.