Monday, February 13, 2017

My Birth Story: Part 2

September 9th 2016

It was a few days before my due date when I felt the usual braxton hicks; they were just a little bit different.  It was a typical Friday night consisting of a movie and popcorn with Cody.  I was doing the usual interchange of positions between being on all fours and then lying on my side.  At this point in my pregnancy my wrists were sore and I had pregnancy-induced carpel tunnel (I wonder if this was brought on by being on all fours too much??).  I really didn't think much of the contractions since I'd read so many birth stories about pre-labour signs lasting for days.  We went to bed and I was awakened by period-like cramps around 4 am.  They weren't exactly painful, just uncomfortable enough to allow me to fall back to sleep.  I didn't think there was any reason to wake Cody so I just lay there until the boys woke up and needed breakfast.  I was a little nervous and excited.  I was ready to do this.  We had breakfast as a family and then I got the boys ready for their overnight stay at my parents' which had been previously arranged so that Cody and I could have time together before the baby arrived.  Mum arrived to collect the boys mid-morning, and as she was leaving she made a comment to Hudson, "say goodbye to Mama, this might be the last time you see her before your baby brother arrives".  This comment took me back and kind of annoyed me a little since I hadn't really considered that possibility and I didn't like the thought of other people having the expectation that the baby was going to be here soon when I could have days to go.  I was still assuming the contractions I had been experiencing off and on all morning were just pre-labour pains that could possibly come and go for days.  I texted my midwife to give her an update and she told me do things to keep distracted and to keep her in the loop throughout the day.  Looking back I think I was doing my best to guard myself from thinking that it could happen that day in case it went on for days.

Cody and I contemplated what to do for the day, we considered going into town, grabbing lunch and possibly a movie.  It was such a beautiful sunny Autumn day so we went for a walk in Hagley park.  While walking, I kept stopping every now and then to breathe through each contraction as it came.  There were so many people at the park making the most of the sunny day and I remember thinking to myself how funny it is that the people all around me have no idea that I'm in the early stages of labour.  It was nearing lunch so we decided to grab a bagel from a place in Addington.  We decided to skip the movies, the thought of being in a theatre while the labouring just made me anxious.  What if I went into active labour suddenly? I didn't have my hospital bag which had all my supplies such as essential oils, music playlist, Hypnobabies cue cards etc etc.  I wanted to get home by this stage and just get settled in my home environment.  The drive home was super uncomfortable.  It was hard not to get a little annoyed at my poor husband when he hit the many bumps in the roads.  This was an indicator that the contractions had become a little more intense.  They still felt manageable, but I was eager to get out of the car so I could get myself into a more comfortable position at home.  The contractions were definitely not going anywhere like I had thought.  Once we got home we decided to go for a walk on a pretty forest track near our house.  Every now and then I stopped and breathed through each contraction as it came.  My midwife texted me while on the walk and asked if I was comfortable if she went to the movies.  I text back saying that it was fine since I still felt like it was all pre-labour activity.  She said to text or call if anything started to pick up.  Once we arrived back home I found a spot on the floor with my knees on the ground and my elbows resting on the couch.  I remained in this position for most of the night.  Cody put a movie on as a distraction which I watched on and off in between contractions.  Not long after, I felt a gush of water.  It gave me such a fright that at first I didn't want to look down to see what it was, wondering at worst if it might have been my scar rupturing.  This was one of the bigger risks of a VBAC so I must have been carrying it in the back of my mind.  It was a huge relief to discover it was clear - my waters had broken!  When Cody saw that my waters had broken he started rushing round getting our things together in order to get going to the hospital.  I told him that I didn't think that you go to the hospital just because the waters had broken and that it didn't necessarily mean that the baby was near.  I told him to call the midwife even though she was still at the movies.  He spoke to her and described the situation and then handed the phone to me. I spoke to her in between the contractions and she told us to stay at home, keep doing what we're doing and keep her informed.  From the time my waters broke onwards I could tell there was a change and things were escalating.   Contractions came very regularly and increased in intensity.  With each contraction I lost more water.  Cody had my phone and kept entering my contractions into an app that I had downloaded (he liked helping in any way possible).  There was a point where I could not focus on anything except breathing through each contraction and I mostly kept my eyes closed which really helped block other things out.  Then the contractions really intensified.  The only way I can describe it was like being in one gear and as it intensified there was a shift to the next gear and just when I thought/hoped that it might be the end of the contraction it then shifted into the next gear. I started to writhe with it to get through. It felt like it would never end.  I found out later that Cody noticed a change in me during this moment and wondered if it was going to be too late to get to the hospital. So he decided to call the midwife to describe what was happening.  He recalled me telling him something, which was that often when a woman says she can't take anymore, 'transition' is taking place and the end is near.  After speaking to her he told me she was on her way.  This was about 7:30, 3 hours after my waters had broken and when I would describe the 'active' labour phase beginning.  The midwife arrived around 8:00 pm. I mostly had my eyes closed the whole time as I was in a zone I did not want interrupted, so Cody was the one speaking with her.  She told me that she wanted to take me into my bedroom to check how dilated I was.  I remember feeling a bit panicky about the thought of moving into a different room and position.  I was confident in the position I was in since I had experienced being in this spot for the last few hours.  But her and Cody helped me into the room.  I laid down while she examined me.  She didn't say anything at first, maybe she was weighing up options before she told us how many cm I was.  So when she told me that I was fully dilated, I was shocked.  I was not expecting to be told that at all.  Right then fear rushed in, the thought of having to drive to the hospital which was 25 minutes away freaked me out.  All I knew was that I absolutely did not want to.  There were a few minutes where I could tell the midwife was really thinking about what the best option was and she had some words with Cody too.  She then decided that staying home was safest since there was a high risk that I could have the baby in the car if the pushing stage didn't last long.  She told me if there was any problem or if I felt uncomfortable about this, an ambulance was only a phone call away.  She said she'll need to call her back-up midwife to be present since that was standard practise for home births.  I felt completely at peace about staying home.  There was a real grace to go forward in this direction.  Had anyone told me before the birth that I would have the baby at home I would have not been okay with this.  As much as I liked the idea of a home birth, it was enough just thinking of attempting a natural birth in a hospital setting. I remember watching some home births on YouTube when I was pregnant and all of the ones I watched seemed so peaceful and calm.  They actually changed my opinion on home births and I found myself desiring one if it was less risky.  I put that out of my mind since it wasn't really an option for me.  It was safest to birth at the hospital because of my history and because we lived outside of Christchurch and I was happy with that.  My midwife wanted me to try going pee in the toilet, once again I hated the thought of moving again but her and Cody helped me to the bathroom.  I really didn't like standing while having contractions; maybe I felt less in control.  I tried peeing but I just couldn't,  so I was helped back to the bedroom.   I remember the midwife asking if I had felt any urges to push yet.  This kind of shocked me that I was so close to the pushing stage.  I think the reality of what was happening kind of hit me.   I said that I wasn't sure, but then shortly after a contraction came where I felt a slight need to push.  The next one came, and with this I couldn't help but push.  I remember within each contraction I got two huge pushes and then a smaller push.  This seemed to be the pattern with each one. Not long after I started pushing (I was on all fours on the ground near the bed) Cody grabbed me and sat me on his knees facing him so that my legs widened up and my butt was in between his thighs (excuse these visual descriptions, but I'm thinking that anyone who's persevered this far doesn't mind these details).  This intuition he had was truly amazing and I wouldn't have thought to do this myself but it completely opened my pelvis up and felt so much better.  I was able to lean on him and grab his arms for leverage.  He later told me that he just had the thought that it would be a better position and acted on it.  He told me it was nice for him to be used and involved.  I kept pushing and pushing with each contraction for what seemed like a very long time. I felt so exhausted and I kept asking how many more pushes to go, even though I knew that they wouldn't be able to tell me this.  The power that overcame me to push shocked me, it was the most intense uncontrollable feeling I've ever had.   This could be TMI but very similar to pushing out a poo times a hundred.  By now, both midwives were there and kept encouraging me and saying how amazing I was doing.  I can't overemphasise the power these encouraging words had on me.  They really really helped especially in my moments of wondering how much more of this there would be.  There were a couple of times when I could tell the two midwives were quietly speaking together which would throw me a little.  I asked them what was happening when they did this. I didn't like the thought of them knowing something that I didn't.  After what seemed like forever, the midwife said she could see the head.  She even took a photo of it with her phone to show me.  I've seen pictures like that before but its a little surreal when you can see your own vagina stretched to a disturbingly large size.  Then after a few more pushes she said theres probably only one or two more pushes and he'll be out.  I was a little nervous for what was to come since I'd read so much about "the ring of fire" being one of the most painful parts of birth.  When that point came I do remember thinking that it wasn't as bad as I'd imagined it to be.  In that moment those were the sweetest words I could ever have heard.  I really gave it my all in the next contraction and the midwife said that the head is right there and to sort of keep pushing to hold it there while waiting for the next contraction so that it doesn't retreat back in.   I did just that and with the next contraction out he came.  Cody caught him with the help of the midwife.  Right then the midwife put a needle into my thigh and tugged on the cord, and before I knew what was happening, out came the placenta.  It surprised me that the third stage of giving birth was already over since I had read a few awful descriptions about the placenta coming out.  I fell back onto my bed, the sense of joy and relief mixed with the exhaustion was overwhelming.  I was surprised by how much I just wanted to lie down even more than my anticipation to hold my baby.  It wasn't that I didn't want to see him but since I knew he was in safe hands I just needed a moment to catch my breath.  When I caught a glimpse of him I got a bit of a shock to see a huge lump on the side of his head.   My immediate thought was "oh my gosh, he has a growth on his head" which I kept relaying.  My midwife laughed and reassured me that it was very normal and it just showed that he was a little stuck and came out with a cone head on the side which was probably the reason why the pushing stage took 2 hours.  He was born at 10:02pm on the 10th of September.  My body then went into shock and started to shake uncontrollably which lasted about two hours.  While I was lying back on the bed, the midwife examined me and told me I had a small tear.  She said she could stitch it up but also gave me the option to leave it since she thought it was small enough that it would heal by itself.  I immediately opted to leave it since the thought of anything like a needle going near that area was the last thing I wanted.  Once Cody cut the chord and placed baby boy (we still hadn't figured out a name) in my arms while I rested in this bubble of surreal joy and relief.  From this point on it's all a little bit blurry.  I just remember a hub of activity going on around me with the midwives and Cody cleaning up the mess, making me toast and tea, midwives writing up notes and doing some checks on baby boy.  The toast I ate had never tasted better.  The midwives weighed him in at 8 lb 4 ounces and he was 54.5 cm in length. Around midnight I was helped to the bathroom to have a shower which felt incredible to get clean.  The midwives left shortly after this.  Cody and I didn't get to sleep until around 4am, we were going to bask in this moment for as long as possible.  Cody skyped his family in the States and told them all about our spontaneous home birth that we had just experienced.

It wasn't until the following morning when we decided on the name Jimmy Cade.  We spent the morning joyfully taking in each incredible moment with our new baby and discussing in awe the unfolding details of the previous night.  The cry of my heart was heard and answered in a way I never even imagined and I am so thankful for this beautiful miracle birth.  I am so thankful for my midwife who supported me so well throughout the pregnancy and then was such an encouragement during the labour.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Birth Story: Part 1

Its the beginning of a new year and I've just figured out how to get my old blog working again.  I'm finally going to write down my birth story.  When I was pregnant with Jimmy I found it really encouraging to read other people's positive birth stories so maybe this might be an encouragement for someone out there. I'm not sure the World Wide Web needs another birth story but why not!  Stay reading if you want DETAIL  - I tend to err on the side of too much, maybe cos I like to read the deets when I'm reading someone else's story.  So if birth details are a bore to you, I'd probably move on from here.

A bit of background:

In 2011 I became pregnant with Charles while we were living in the States.  I was around a lot of women who had had natural births and maybe this is what helped shape and influence my desire for one. When I was 18 weeks pregnant I flew home to be in New Zealand for the remainder of my pregnancy.  At my 20 week scan it was confirmed that I had placenta previa.  At this stage the placenta wasn't fully covering the cervix and since I was only 20 weeks my midwife was hopeful it would move up as the baby grew.  At 24 weeks I had my first bleed and stayed in hospital for 2 nights.  I was told that if I had another bleed then I would be in the hospital for the remainder of the pregnancy in the possible case of a severe bleed happening it would take too long to drive to the hospital from where we lived.  This was a huge blow as I had never even been to hospital before, so the thought of having to live there became something I feared and dreaded.  I had a few more bleeds which weren't huge and thankfully with my midwife's permission I was able to stay away from the hospital and the threat of a permanent stay.  One night Cody and I decided to go see a movie at Riccarton Mall; we parked and while walking toward the theatre I felt a gush and I knew this was a big one.  Prior to this night, the foreboding fear of a big bleed absolutely terrified me and I seemed to carry this fear everywhere I went.  However, when it actually happened I was strangely calm and knew I just needed to get to the hospital asap.  It was a blessing in disguise being at the movie theatre since this was much closer to the hospital than our home in Mt Pleasant. A long story short I was in the hospital for close to 6 weeks when Charlie was delivered via c-section at 36.5 weeks.  Right up until the delivery I was still hopeful and praying that the placenta would shift so I would be able to deliver naturally but it actually did the opposite and shifted further completely covering the cervix.  There was no option but to have a c-section.  I came to terms with this during the pregnancy but remained hopeful.  I was overcome with love and awe when I was handed Charlie and I had already come to terms with and worked through any disappointment regarding the delivery. The sweetest feeling of relief and an overwhelming sense of joy that the delivery went well and both Charlie and I were ok far outweighed anything else.

In between Charles and Hudson I had 3 miscarriages.  Two were very early and one was discovered when I had a scan at 8 weeks after having some spotting.  Naturally when I became pregnant with Hudson I experienced a very real fear of miscarrying again.  In order to protect myself I don't think I really attached myself to the reality that I was carrying a baby.  I am usually like this anyway and don't seem to really comprehend this fact until I start to really show.  I was relieved to pass the 12 week mark. I was overjoyed when it was confirmed at the anatomy scan that the placenta was well away from the cervix.  This made me hopeful for a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section).  I did a bit of research on VBACs and towards the end of the pregnancy and looked a little into baby positioning and how to encourage the baby to get into an optimal position for birth.  The last few appointments I made with my midwife revealed that he was in a posterior position.  I was pretty uninformed about what this might mean and just assumed he would turn at some point before delivery.  A couple of nights before my due date I experienced a few contractions throughout the night and then they simmered down by morning.  The same thing happened the next night and morning.  The contractions then picked up in the afternoon and from that point on it was all go.  I was feeling it pretty intensely in my back which I didn't realise at the time was because he was still posterior.  Cody and I had planned on heading to my Grandma's house to try and do most of my labouring there since it would be a lot closer to the hospital and closer for my midwife to check in on me.  We left our place about 6pm and headed to my Grandma's and remained there until around10pm when the contractions seemed close enough to head to the hospital.  Once I was at the hospital, it all gets a bit blurry.  I had to be hooked up to a fetal monitoring machine which is standard practise for anyone attempting a VBAC. This kept sliding off my belly and completely hindered my movements.  The pain was unbearable in my back, particularly on my right side.  It felt like I was being hit by a bolt of lightning in the same spot with each contraction.  I didn't know how much more I could take.  After being told by the doctor that I was only 4 cm dilated, any ounce of confidence I had seemed to go. I was offered an epidural and took it thinking that this might give me some space to rest and mentally regather my thoughts.  It didn't take all the pain away but I was able to lie down for a bit.  Shortly after receiving the epidural, my contractions started to die down and when I was re-examined it appeared I had regressed. Either that or the doctors had got it wrong the first time.  This was extremely disheartening as I had been in active labour for about 10 hours.  They asked if I wanted some hormone (I can't remember what it was called) which could potentially kick the contractions back into gear, however there was also a chance that it might not too.  So the decision we had to make was take the c-section now, or take the hormone and labour a few more hours which may result in a c-section anyway.  By this point I was so exhausted from the labour as well as the lack of sleep from the previous two nights. There was part of me that wanted to just take the c-section and be done but I just couldn't make that decision. It felt like the weight of this decision pinned me in a corner since I thought it would dictate how many kids we'd be allowed to have due to having two c-sections.  I was even told by a doctor or midwife that I'd only be allowed c-sections from now on and that my pelvis is possibly shaped in a way that doesn't allow me to birth naturally.  I remember crying out to God in that moment.  Shortly after this the fetal heart monitor showed that Hudson's heart rate was dipping which indicated that he was stressed.  Because of this the doctors took the decision out of my hands and relayed that I needed to be taken into theatre for a c-section.  I actually remember feeling some relief.  My prayer was answered, the decision was taken out of my hands and a little excitement came over me at the thought of it being over soon and having my baby in my arms.  This time round the c-section took a lot longer than my first.  I could feel a lot of tugging which I later found out was because Hudson's head was stuck in my pelvis.  Had he not become distressed I could have potentially chosen to continue labouring in the hopes of a natural birth, so I was very thankful that I was spared of this since there was no way he was going to be born vaginally.  This experience was vastly different from Charles' birth.  It wasn't the easiest start to life with baby number two.  I had the exhaustion of labouring plus the challenges that come with major surgery to contend with.  There was disappointment and feelings of failure associated with this birth that I had to deal with or just accept and leave behind in the past.

January 2016

The discovery of being pregnant came with mixed feelings.   A lot of fears of the unknown as well as disappointments from the previous birth arose and took me by surprise.  I thought I had dealt with them all at the time but I guess the reality of being pregnant and the inevitability of giving birth reawakened them.  Despite being told that a natural birth was most likely not going to be possible I began researching about VBA2C (vaginal birth after 2 cesareans) out of curiosity.  I came across some positive stories and found some information that made it sound like it could be possible.  This gave me some hope that I tucked away for a later stage in my pregnancy when I would need to make some decisions about my birth plan.  I found a lovely midwife and when I mentioned my thoughts of shooting for a VBA2C to her she didn't dismiss the idea either.  I found this both encouraging and alarming at the same time.  On the one hand I had this desire to try for a natural birth, but then on the other hand I wondered if I just wanted someone to say it wasn't possible and to shut that door since going after that meant that I would be opening the door to possible disappointment, failure and fear of the unknown.   I continued forward in the pregnancy aiming for a natural birth and doing everything on my end to work towards that while at the same time trying to hold the outcome loosely knowing that there is a lot of "unknowns" with any birth.  I had already experienced disappointment with Hudson's birth so I wanted to make sure I guarded myself this time round.  The lead up to my due date was a little bumpy especially as I approached the end, but the main thing was that I could give it all to God and trust Him with it all. Some days I felt peace and other days I battled with fears in all shapes and sizes.  One verse that I felt God had given to me was "I will go before you and make the crooked places straight".  Don't get me wrong, my past two births were not entirely negative at all, God used them for good and I was given two beautiful healthy baby boys.  But in terms of my desire for a natural birth, I couldn't shake this and I felt there were some areas that I longed to see redeemed.  A song called "Take Courage" by Kristene DiMarco (YouTube it cos its amazing) encouraged me so much during these moments of fear.  I don't feel like I'm naturally a courageous person so this song was perfect.  It is also about God being in the "waiting" seasons of life which was so helpful to be reminded of.  I felt so impatient at times and just wanted to take control and get the birth over and done with.

Preparations for a natural birth:

Once I hit 30 weeks the reality of what was ahead was that much more real.  Based on what I had been researching, I started to form a plan.  I can be a bit of an "all or nothing" person and I threw myself into trying all sorts of things if it meant it could help the outcome.  Some of these things I'm sure I would have judged as ridiculous in the past, but I was up for anything.  I had researched a bit about Hypnobabies and Hynobirthing but knew it was going to be too difficult to find a time to go to classes with two other children to think about.  I ended up purchasing a Hypnobabies course online which I did in my own time.  For 6 weeks I took time to practise this most nights once the boys were in bed.  I wrote out verses to meditate on during my Hypnobabies practise and these were helpful to have on hand whenever doubts and fears would creep in.  During labour I didn't actually end up using the specific techniques that I had practised but I don't regret doing the course since it gave me something positive to focus on as I got closer to the due date.   There was an educational component to the course which was helpful as I learnt more about common birth interventions and why they are used so that if I was in a situation where doctors were giving me options for things then I would already have a background knowledge.    Most nights while watching a show or a movie with Cody I'd be on all fours to encourage the baby to get into a good position.  When I think about all those nights doing this and the sore wrists I got its a little funny, but I was determined to avoid a posterior baby.  I wanted to look back and know I had done everything I could to set myself up for a natural birth.  I am thankful that Cody was always supportive of this and wouldn't get annoyed or make me feel silly cos he easily could have.  I became used to sitting upright or leaning my body forward whenever I could to encourage a good position, this included while driving since that can be one of the worse angles.  I read and watched positive birth stories.  From about 34 or 35 weeks on, I included many dates in my diet since I read some articles about the possible affect dates can have on preparing the uterus for birth. By the end I was definitely over the taste and texture of them.  I bought some homeopathic 'Birthmix' (see here ) to take which was supposed to also help prepare the uterus for birth.  I drank a ton of red raspberry leaf tea.  I bought some essential oils that I wanted to have on hand in case they were needed during labour.  I'm not saying that any of these things definitely contributed to having a natural birth but I can't say that they didn't either,  at the end of the day, who knows.

In part two, I will write the details of the day of the birth and the birth itself.