Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A birth story

I love reading birth stories, and as today is the anniversary of Esther's birth I thought it would be a good time to tell her story.
Last year was to be our first Christmas home with just our immediate family. Most of my family were gathering in Boston to celebrate together, and I felt bad to be missing the reunion but at 9 months pregnant no-one was going to let me on a plane! Instead we invited some friends over for Christmas Eve and planned a quiet celebration of the birth of Christ. My baby was due January 3rd, and as my first two had both come several days late I had pinned her arrival for sometime around January 7th.
The weekend before Christmas was busy. I went to the gym on Saturday morning and had a nice brisk walk on the treadmill. While I was there I noticed I was experiencing a lot of painless contractions--really the first I had experienced this pregnancy. I didn't think much of it. We went to the Church later on for Choir practice, then I walked a couple more miles (I really like walking, and find I handle pregnancy much better when I exercise) to drop off the Sunday service program for our church librarian to make copies. In the afternoon a friend called to ask if I could lead the music for her on Sunday, as she was home with a 3 day old baby. I cheerfully agreed.
The painless contractions had been going on all day, and as evening came they started to feel crampy. That's when I started to suspect I had a baby on the way. This was exactly mirroring my experience with Lily; a day of mild contractions, in the evening gradually becoming more intense and proceeding to real labor in the middle of the night. About 7:00 in the evening I called my friend Judi, who had offered to watch my kids if I went into labor before my mom arrived to help (she was in Boston with the rest of the family, planning to fly out on New Years Eve to help when my baby came). I told Judi I just might be needing her in the middle of the night, but was hoping to hold out until morning. I cleaned house a bit then went to bed and tried to sleep. Didn't work--by 10:00 I was up again. I think I pulled out a book and tried to read, but that didn't help much either. I fixed a warm bath, which did help, for awhile. By about 2:00 I was starting to think might not have until morning--I ten to have long labors but this was a third child and might go faster. I woke my husband up and told him we were going to the hospital. Then I called and woke Judi up and asked her to come (Thank Heavens for good friends!). I was having a hard time getting through the contractions at this point--I was having back labor, again reminding me of Lily's birth. I wanted my husband to stand behind me and rub my back while I leaned over a table.
Eventually we got in the car and headed for the hospital. I was in the back so I had room to change positions. Honestly, the ride to the hospital is one of the reasons I am strongly tempted to try a home birth next time. A moving car is just not a very comfortable place to be when you are in active labor. This time I was seriously afraid I was going to throw up any moment. Didn't happen till I was in the hospital though.
We made it to the hospital, through the emergency room entrance (the only one open in the middle of the night) and up to labor and delivery. It must have been obvious that I was in hard labor because they didn't bother with the little triage rooms but took me straight to a LDR (labor, delivery, recovery) room. I gave someone my printed birth plan, and they left me alone to change.
When the nurses came back in, they were smiling. "We have the perfect labor and delivery nurse for you!" they announced. "She is a midwife and is very supportive of natural birth."
Someone must have been listening to my prayers!
When my nurse, P., came in and intruduced herself, I was immediately impressed. We was indeed a midwife, and in the past had practiced independently and attended home births. She was very understanding and supportive of my desire not to have a medicalized birth. I asked about the hot tub I had heard about, and she agreed that I could go get in as soon as I had received a dose of IV antibiotics (as with my former pregnancies, I had tested postitive for group B strep). She got the IV in, and I settled down in the most comfortable position I could find, which was facing backwords with the top of the bed raised so I could support myself on it; I have found with back labor this is usually the position I want to take, leaning forward with my arms and head resting on something. At some point along the way P. checked and told me I was about 6 cm dilated. This whole time I was getting through the contractions by vocalizing and sometimes pounding my hands on the bed--both probably in an attempt to distract myself from the pain. The IV wasn't working and we finally figured out there was a kink in the line, when that was straightened out there was not problem.
Once I was done with the IV, P. and Nathan helped me down the hallway to the hot tub room. I wasn't sure how much help the water would be, as the bath at home hadn't made a huge difference. But sinking into that tub of warm water was such a relief I knew immediately I did not want to get out again until this labor was over! But I didn't tell anyone that.
P. got me settled and then went out. This tub was a big jaccuzzi type tub, not as large as a birthing tub but quite comfortable. I found that when a contraction hit I could turn on the air jets full force against my back and they made the contractions much easier to get through. In fact, once I was in the tub I didn't need to vocalize and was able to relax a lot more. In fact, Nathan told me he couldn't always even tell when I was having a contraction. Actually, my labor seemed to slow down after that, the contractions coming farther apart. Which was just as well, as I was very tired and enjoyed a few extra minutes of rest in between! Nathan was very sweet and sang Primary songs to me most of the night, as well as holding my head up with his arm while he knelt next to the tub. P. would come in every now and then to check the baby's heart beat with the doppler, and to bring me cold juice to drink. Otherwise she pretty much left us alone.
This went on for several hours. Sometime in the early morning I started thinking I was about ready to push. I didn't mention this to anyone else as I didn't want to be made to get out of the tub, nor did I want the dr. called. Instead when the next contraction came I tried pushing along with it. Sure enough, I felt the baby's head starting to descend--and I felt my water break. P. came in again to check the baby's heart beat, but I didn't say anything to her--she would have been required to get me out of the tub and back to my room. Once she went out I started pushing again, and with a couple of contractions I knew the baby was crowning. That's when I pulled the cord to call the nurse's station. Actually, I probably pulled that cord five or six times just to make sure they got the message! And somewhere in there I remembered to turn the air jets off because this baby was coming! By the time P. showed up I think the baby's head was out already. She assessed the situation pretty quickly, reached into the water, got the cord over the baby's head (it was wrapped around twice), and helped ease my baby into the world. In a minute baby Esther was out of the water and into my arms. She was a little purple and didn't cry right away, but P. just said to give her a minute and sure enough she started to breathe just fine. Actually, I don't remember that she ever did cry. Maybe being born into warm water is not as much of a shock as coming straight into cold air! P. pulled a towel out of the water and covered the baby with it as she was still on my chest--nice and warm. Actually, I probably had the water a little too warm--the heat seemed to help with the contractions, but I know I was sweating. Esther was small--7 lbs 1 oz when we finally got around to weighing her (a couple of hours later); my next smallest was Lily at 8 lbs 5 oz. But then Lily and Luke had both had a couple of extra weeks to grow inside before making their appearances! 5 or 10 Minutes after Esther was born I delivered the placenta (still in the tub). We waited until the umbilical cord had stopped pulsating, then Nathan cut it (he was being cautious and actually took three or for snips to cut through the cord!) Finally P. got me out and took us all back to our room. It was another 15 minutes before the OB showed up, said everything looked good, shook our hands, and left.
This was by far the easiest birth I have experienced. I loved laboring in the hot tub, and also giving birth in the water. I loved having a birth attendant who was supportive and completely un-obtrusive. I stood up 15 minutes after giving birth and walked down the hall to my recovery room. I had no tearing or even significant soreness; in fact, later that day I remarked that I really didn't feel like I had just given birth. I was very warm from the tub and did not experience cold feet or feeling chilled as I had after my other births. I also feel that my baby had a calmer entry into the world than my others had experienced.
Baby and I were together throughout the hospital stay. Even when they took her down to the nursery to be evaluated and blood tested etc. I went with her (this is the same hospital where Luke was born and I remember them taking him for his heel stick and not bringing him back until 3 hours later--by which time I was pestering them with phone calls. I didn't know where the nursery was or I would probably have gone and got him. This time I wasn't going to let my baby out of my sight; interestingly enough with mom standing there the ckeck-up and heel prick only took a couple of minutes!) I did have to stay in the hospital for 48 hours--because of the group B strep they didn't want to let the baby go before that time. Nathan and the kids spent a lot of those 48 hours at the hospital with me; they would show up first thing in the morning and stay until evening. We all came home together on Christmas morning.
In a funny postscript, after coming home from the hospital I picked up a book called "What you didn't think to ask your obstetrician" written by a male doctor who obviously had no experience with water birth. His stated that water birth was safe under the right conditions but that the water would not help with labor pain. Huh, what does he know about it...just reinforces my inclination to not fully trust doctor's opinions!

Happy birthday my little Christmas baby!


Renee said...

I have a Christmas baby as well but he'll be 9 yrs old two days AFTER Christmas :) He was my easiest delivery and ended up with no drugs.

Kelley said...

I loved reading your story. Yeah, you'd definitely like a home birth. They're just so relaxed in comparison to hospital births, even the ones where you are mostly left alone. That was very smart not to say anything until your baby was practically out.

By the way, you are postively glowing in that picture. You look so pretty and happy! THAT is how moms should look after giving birth.

Congratulations, Sarah, and Happy Birthday, Esther! Oh, and Merry Christmas!

birthathomemom said...

I too love birth stories. Thank you for sharing it! I just found your blog today through the Milestones yahoo group. I am going to have fun looking over your blog and getting to know you.