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.