Saturday, February 14, 2009

Nearly a year later...

It was Monday night and I felt like my body was getting ready to go into labor. I had lots and lots of practice contractions. I frantically paced the house thinking about things to do, a hospital bag to pack, and felt slightly irritated that not everyone else (mostly Jason) shared the same urgency. In a moment of clarity I decided to calm down and go to bed. My contractions stopped giving me a few good hours of sleep - little did I know how much I would need it.

I awoke at 1:45 am to some strong and regular contractions. I thought for sure this was it. Jason timed them and they were between 8-10 minutes apart. I was really having to focus and breathe through them. This went on for the rest of the early morning. I called my mom and asked her to come in an hour to pick up the kids and had Jason stay home from work. My mom came as the sun rose, and my labor stalled. This annoyed me greatly. Jason and I went for a chilly morning walk to try to bring my contractions back on. They never fully stopped but would become weaker and with more time in between.

My mom left with the kids, and our doula came over. I started doing chores and stayed busy. Contractions picked up. Our doula Maria mentioned that she thought my body was waiting until the evening again. We talked, played music, a Tegan and Sara cd, to be exact, went for another walk. It was quite enjoyable, actually, as I got to know her better (she goes to my church). We laughed and as I grew tired I rested on the couch. She magic erasered my entire kitchen. We checked heart tones and everything seemed great. I just wanted to get the show on the road. I felt like I spent all day in a "hurry up and wait" mode.

By the late afternoon I had gotten much more uncomfortable. The contractions weren't really like what I experienced with James. If James'birth was a middle distance race, this was starting to feel like long distance. I was swimming the 1650 yd. and hated it. I put my aching body in the shower, and came out and surprising myself, announced that it might be a good idea to head to hospital. I was feeling shaky. Jason and Maria agreed. I was nervous about it because I didn't feel like my labor had the intensity at this point when I went to the hospital with James. I didn't want to be there too early.

Jason and I made the half hour drive with Maria close behind following us. We got to the parking lot and I just sat in the car for a while, knowing that when I went in, I would be there until I gave birth. I'd have to put up with the hospital stuff that I dislike and be on their clock. Maria suggested we walk, but the contractions were getting too hard to deal with and I was craving privacy. I just wanted to get in a room and focus.

We got to L&D, and it was so busy. No. It was slammed. You could see the admission nurse's eyes widen as she mouthed, "OH NO." Way to make me feel welcome! It was actually hilarious and didn't offend me at all. There was no where to go yet, all the rooms were busy, so they asked us to go to the waiting room (it was a zoo in there - no thanks) or basically come back in half an hour or so while they cleaned up a room. We walked around the halls, joked about making the hospital staff nervous by making grunting noises, breathed through contractions, and perused pages of the Farmer's Almanac. In between contractions I was feeling fine and silly. Gotta love hormones.

After about a half hour or so a nurse fetched us and took us into our room. I was so happy to get settled in. I put on goofy robe, got on the bed for just a few minutes to answer some questions, get a strip for the EFM going, get checked. After a CNM checked my cervix she announced that I was at 8 cm. I was thrilled. I thought, Woohoo! I'm gonna have this baby in an hour!" We joked with our nurse and as she was getting ready to give me an IV, I asked if I could just get a hep-lock. The IV with James' birth was the one thing that really bugged me. She was totally cool with it and obliged and then she told us she was about to get off work which made me a little nervous because I liked her, so then we awaited meeting our next nurse. That's always a little scary, because a grumpy nurse can really make things suck for you. But thankfully, we ended up with quite possibly the sweetest, nicest nurse ever named Janice. We let her know we were planning an all natural experience and she was more than supportive. She gave us the green light to get off EFM, walk around and make myself at home. I was beginning to wonder if they read my chart at all and if they knew I was one of those "risky" VBAC moms.

But they did know, because Dr. Super Nice Anesthesiologist came in and just asked if I was allergic to anything and blah blah, and let me know he was only there in the event of an emergency, and that he was aware I was a VBAC. He was very nice and cheerfully went away. The next couple of hours was spent in the bathroom, holding on to the sink, walking around my room, sitting on a birth ball (that Janice offered) and joking between contractions. It was like a homebirth minus the warm tub of water which would have been nice. My contractions were getting stronger but not as intense as I remembered with James. I was beginning to realize that it was because my water still had not broken. Eventually a doctor (OH NO! What are YOU doing here?) came in and asked to check me to see if I had progressed. My own curiosity got the best of me and I gave her the OK. She checked, and I have to say that any time a doctor has checked my cervix, I have to wonder why they don't teach "gentle" in OBGYN med-school. (Sorry if there are any doctors reading this, but seriously!) A nurse or a CNM never has given me a painful exam, but every time a doctor does, WTH?!!! I think she was a little busy (due to the busy night and all) but she was a grumpy girl. She said I was still at an 8 and didn't I want her to do anything? I said no, I'm not ready to "do anything." Then, this is when you realize how imperative it is to have a darn fine doula when you are in a hospital doing the natural childbirth thing: My doula asked, "Well, what station was the baby in when she was last checked. The doc looked it up, and although my cervix hadn't opened more, the baby had moved down two stations. This affirmed me and my body's capability. And the doc shrugged and left in a huff.

Feeling slightly bummed, but not hopeless, I got out of bed and got to work walking around the bathroom, leaning on my beloved sink. By 8 or 9pm I was feeling really tired. I slow danced with Jason, breathing him in, remembering how comforting he was with James' birth, and how he was again this time too. I was fading into myself as time passed, vocalizing and making odd humming noises that sounded like Dory trying to talk to the whale on Finding Nemo. I realized again that it was my bag of waters holding the baby back. I was desperate for it to break, and for my body to release my baby. I was having a particularly hard contraction, and I prayed hard in desperation for the Lord to allow my water to break. Within seconds I felt a trickle of warm water fall to the floor, giving me hope. I was so happy to have it break on its own - well, with divine intervention of course! It ended up being only a small amount of water, and the baby's head was blocking the rest from coming out. I could feel a bulging bag of water there, like a very tough balloon. My contractions were getting stronger, but still, time ticked away, and my endurance was being tested. I tried breaking the rest of my water on my own to no avail, but with my doula's council we decided it would be best to get it broken. My favorite OB came back in, broke the remaining bag and I exhausted, laid in bed for while. I was starting to feel pushy. I think my own fear of pushing was holding me back now. I did not enjoy pushing James out. And now I was right at the end of my labor, in the "rock and a hard place" stage. Some women actually like this part. They describe it as pushing out the pain. I am not so lucky.

So at this time, I pretty much flipped out. I was so tired and done, so in pain, and ready to quit. I wanted Dr. Super Nice Anesthesiologist to come and numb me. But it was too late and I had to face my fear of pushing. I wanted someone to rescue me, but I had to rescue myself. I was flailing my arms, feeling sweat drip from my face, snapping at poor Jason. A woman at the end of labor is stripped down to her barest soul. There I was, a belligerent, cursing, angry woman, upset and resentful that I wasn't having a water birth right now, praying "Lord have mercy." Tears came, and after much wrestling with myself and half-hearted pushing, I looked at my midwife who was sitting there looking at me with peaceful eyes and calmly saying, "Just push and you're gonna have this baby." I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I could do it. I HAD to do it. I saw the icon of the Mother of God with the same calm eyes. I knew her prayers were with me. She loves me. Her son loves me and created me. I beared down and in a few minutes, after some strong pushes the baby was coming out. I felt his head and knew I could be done in the next push. The midwife wanted to guide me in my last pushes in an effort to spare my bottom some stitches but I had had enough. I told myself: "GET IT OUT!!!!" One big push and the baby came flying out of me like a freight train. It was a boy! Another boy! And another carbon copy of the other two kids. I thought for sure he was a little darker than them, but I think I was deluding myself. He was beautiful, placed on my chest. I asked for them to wait for the cord to stop pulsing before they cut, which was respected. Jason cut it. I inspected him, wiped my brow, couldn't believe how utterly exhausted I felt.

After nursing just a bit, and checking each other out, the hospital staff finished up their assessments of Phillip in the warmer near my bed, while my midwife attended to me and my stitches that I needed. My placenta came out quickly and easily, and Maria marveled at it while I glimpsed at it apathetically and thought "Oh you birth people." I contemplated how easy or difficult some sustenance could be obtained since I was famished. I just couldn't get over the difficulty of that labor. It was astonishing to me. After some painful suturing, I got the baby back, got a little bit cleaned up and just held my sweet, fresh baby. Maria or Jason (?) got us some Del Taco which I devoured as well as threw back a giant cup of cranberry juice with ice. Eventually I made it to the post partum room which I ended up sharing with someone - bummer. The poor thing had her baby early and I could hear her pumping milk every couple hours, disturbing my rest. After a not so relaxing night, I got a hot shower, and a very nice ped came by to check on Phil and he said we'd be able to go home that morning. Hooray! I really wanted to go home. Unfortunately the shift changed and we got this wet-behind-the-ears newbie ped that wanted to dot every i and cross every t and refused to discharge Phillip for another 12 hours! We were livid

I missed my kids, I missed my house, my bed and I was tired of being in a dark hospital room. No wonder babies get jaundice being stuck in those caverns. Looking back, we should have just left, but my mom told me that if we refused to stay, if anything went wrong we would be held liable, so I got scared. But it was miserable. It took up the whole day, and Jason had to go back to work the next day, and I really wanted to us all to hang out as a family for just one day and we were stuck in that blasted hospital room. I was glad my parents came with the kids for a visit but I felt so sad when they left. Ah well. Minor complaints.

Overall, it was a good birth experience. Once we were home, it was really good to be there. It took about a week to feel not exhausted. And after this birth, unlike the others, I had SEVERE after pains. Another friend of mine experienced the same after her third baby. I mean, I had to breathe through them and take medication. It was rough. I think the length, and the exhaustion I felt made it hard for me to really process the whole experience. It's taken me a year to post this, because only now am I detached enough to do so. It just was so not what I was expecting. After Jame's birth I thought this one would have been easier or the same. I felt a type of disappointment from not getting the same "high" as with his. But I realize that every birth is different, just like every baby is different, and we can never count on these things in life to be the same. We can only roll with it and let go of our fears, and seek to understand what God wants us to learn from our circumstances. This time I think he wanted me to learn patience, to be thankful for everything, and to trust Him. I am thankful for a safe birth, and for the process God has blessed me with to see bits of me to chip away at or to prune. I saw my soul's poverty, and God's vast grace, which was a great comfort.


Blogger jenny baker said...

thanks so much for posting this! i have questions for you now!

9:43 AM  
Blogger Lauren S. said...

any time, jenny! :)

9:44 AM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Awesome! Sigh. Babies.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Maria Nichole Ham said...

This was so nice Lauren!
Thanks for sharing :)

12:34 PM  
Blogger Michelle M. said...

I loved reading your birth story. It is amazing to me how every birth is so different, even with the same person. Each one is a growing experience. Thanks for sharing!

8:59 PM  
Blogger Xenia Kathryn said...

"I could do it. I HAD to do it. I saw the icon of the Mother of God with the same calm eyes. I knew her prayers were with me. She loves me. Her son loves me and created me."

WOW Lauren! This part brought tears to my eyes. I had a VERY similar realization during Vasi's birth (my first... labor was 14 hours... oy!). Thanks for sharing... natural birth is the most harrowing experience ever, and yet, in our most desperate hour, we feel Christ's love strengthen us. It's beyond amazing, even though it's extremely exhausting and not-too-pretty.

They say that third babies/ births can often be a "wild card"... just when you think you have the whole "birth thing" down with the previous 2, you're thrown a big ol' curve ball. Yikes... I guess I'll have to wait and see for myself.

Take care, and Happy Birthday to your little Phillip! Your "carbon copies" are too cute :)

9:59 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Lauren- SUCH a BEAUTIFUL story!!! I truly loved reading this.

9:51 PM  

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