Monday, October 07, 2013

{Becoming Mother II} - An Unexpected Hotel Birth Story

In honor of Baby #3's impending arrival, we are launching another {Becoming Mother} blog series. As my own labor and delivery quickly approaches, I find it encouraging to immerse myself in childbirth stories. I love reminding myself that women birth every day, that they survive and that they rejoice in being a mother when it's all over. 

As always, this is not to promote a particular type of birth. These stories are intended to be more of a picture into "what it was really like" for these mothers in their various birth settings. I hope they inspire you to marvel in awe at God's perfect plan of childbirth.

As always, you can check out  my hospital birth story with Cannonmy birthing center birth story with Cason and my reflections on both deliveries. I will be back at the end of this series with some of my favorite birth stories from fellow bloggers, as well as my thoughts in preparation for childbirth the third time around.

Let me introduce you to my friend, Rachel. She and I are both Aggies and probably have more mutual friends than we can count. While we didn't know each other at Texas A&M, we've gotten to know each other via our blogs, Facebook and email. She is my go-to source when I have questions about Paleo recipes, homeschool, Classical Conversations and Crossfit workouts (not that I've been doing any of that recently). Needless to say, she is a fabulous resource!

I had what some might call an “emergency childbirth.” However, I wouldn’t call it that. It was a normal birth that happened in an unexpected location with unplanned attendants. I’ve heard a lot of different reactions to this story, some of them praising me for my efforts and abilities, but really, I think it comes down to trust. I trust the birth process. I trust that God made my body and he made my baby. He’s the one that makes my body give birth, I just have to get out of the way and let it happen. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but I think that is the root of how my birth turned out this way. There is nothing amazing about my birthing abilities aside from trusting the process and the Maker of the process.

My husband and I stumbled upon Bradley Method childbirth classes when we were pregnant with our first child in 2005. I normally like to educate myself about something before getting into it, but our pregnancy was a surprise, and after throwing up constantly for three months, I was very fearful about the changes happening in my body, the idea of birthing a baby, and becoming a mother, and I felt miserable. The first few times I read through a book on pregnancy and birth, I threw up out of fear. We had some friends that were pregnant and told us about their Bradley classes. I signed up the next day. We had missed the first four classes, but I was so ready to learn. I wasn’t convinced natural childbirth was for me, and I wasn’t sure I would even be able to do it, but I wanted the twelve weeks of classes rather than a one day class at the hospital. Thanks to my husband’s confidence and great coaching, we had a natural birth in the hospital. We didn’t get to the hospital until I was 8 cm and in transition, which was not quite our plan, but everything went very well.

I loved our birth experience so much that I certified as a childbirth educator with The Bradley Method. I finished teaching my first series the week before our second child was born. We chose to have a homebirth with a midwife, and I loved the level of care I received from my midwife. I had a beautiful, peaceful homebirth. I felt loved and supported throughout my labor and felt like it was a truly worshipful experience as my body and mind praised God who was making my body birth my baby. About two years later, I certified as a labor doula and was able to help at several births that year as part of my training.

When I was pregnant with my third child in 2011, we planned another homebirth with the same midwife. I wasn’t fearful of the birth, but I did dread it sometimes. The more I talk with women who have experienced unmedicated births, it seems normal to be excited about the birth and baby, but dread the hard parts that don’t completely fade from memory. For me, this part is transition. I’ve never had a long transition, but it always feels like my hips are about to explode for about five minutes.

When I was 38 weeks pregnant, I was ready to have my baby and not be pregnant anymore. My second child came 10 days before her due date, so I thought it could be any day. I was having so many Braxton Hicks contractions, some of them really felt like labor and I had to stop what I was doing during them in order to relax. I thought I was in labor on Thursday night, and ended up calling my midwife around 10 pm. She sent her assistant who lives nearby, and she said I was only 2 cm. That was great news to me and everything soon stopped and I slept.
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Sunday morning, our three year old woke up with severe abdominal pain. She couldn’t stand up straight and wouldn’t eat anything. We took her to the emergency room where they thought her appendix may have ruptured. Our local hospitals don’t have any pediatric surgeons, so she and my husband were transported to Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin by ambulance. I called my midwife from the emergency room crying, thinking I wouldn’t be able to go to Austin, too. She assured me that the emotion and stress would probably prevent my body from going into labor, but to take my birth kit, just in case. She said that while it wasn’t ideal, she could help at a birth in a hotel room if it came down to it.

Our daughter had surgery on Monday morning to remove a large, infected cyst from her small intestine. The doctors projected her recovery to take about a week, barring any complications. I felt like a ticking time bomb, and spent most of the time lying on the bed in her hospital room while she slept. My mom came to Austin and was staying in a hotel with me and our oldest child while my husband stayed with our daughter in the hospital. I felt terrible that I couldn’t be the one there with her all the time, but my body really needed the rest at night.

On Wednesday night, a wonderful nurse convinced our daughter to start taking her first steps since her surgery. She walked for a good 30 minutes, and I trailed behind her dragging her IV pole. We got her settled for the night, and my mom, son and I left for the hotel. On the walk to the car, I had two really strong contractions, and I had to lean against the wall and breathe through them.

Back at the hotel, I opted out of taking a shower (something I would regret later!) and just went straight to bed. I was exhausted. At 2:30, I woke up to go to the bathroom and went back to sleep. At 3:30, I woke up so hungry. I had a contraction, but figured it was mostly because I was hungry. I ate some yogurt with a plastic fork (no spoons in the hotel room), and spilled some over the front of my nightgown. I fell back asleep really quickly and had some crazy dreams. Around 4:30ish, I woke up with a strong contraction that I had to concentrate on breathing and relaxing through. The whole time, I was praying that I would not go into labor that day, but would wait until we were home. Immediately, I dozed off afterward and had a really strange dream. Another really strong contraction started, and again, I really had to concentrate on relaxing. After it was over, I rolled over and heard a popping sound, it was 4:41. I ran to the bathroom to find that sure enough, my water had broken. It was a greenish color, so I knew there was meconium in the water.

I woke my mom, who started getting dressed to go to the hospital to be with my daughter. She called my dad and his wife to come get my oldest child, but they were at least 30 minutes away. I called my midwife who started making the hour and a half drive to Austin. I hadn’t really let myself think about laboring in a hotel room. I remember crying to my midwife that I didn’t have a birthing ball or tennis balls, no labor support items at all. She assured me that she would bring all that stuff and I didn’t need to worry. I called Thomas who started getting dressed and telling our daughter’s nurse what was happening. Her nurse was kind and worked on his charts while sitting in her doorway so she wouldn’t be alone if she woke up while waiting for my mom to get there.
I was having a really hard time during the contractions and didn’t want my husband to get off the phone with me. I could hear him sprinting to the car, and I was trying not to cry. My right hip felt like it was going to explode, which is the pain I have experienced in each of my labors during transition. This was the pain I had been dreading. I was convinced I was in early labor since everything had just started less than an hour ago, I just knew that by the time my midwife arrived, I would just be 4 cm dilated and have the hardest labor ever in that awful hotel room. I was starting to freak out, thinking that I would be having this incredibly long and hard labor.  I was embarrassed that I was having such a hard time in front of my mom. She was packing her stuff and getting dressed, and I stood and leaned on the side of my bed moaning and trying not to cry.
My mom left at some point and my husband got to the hotel room around 5:15 a.m. I was having a really hard time and was praying for God to help me get through this. I was kneeling beside the bed (standing on a chux pad to catch all the amniotic fluid), and I started to feel my body bearing down. I could feel the change in the contractions, and it felt like everything in my body was pushing down involuntarily. I reached down and could feel the baby’s head.

I had Thomas put some chux pads on the bed, and I climbed up on the bed to begin pushing with my body. I told him to call 911 since there was meconium in the water and I realized my midwife was at least 45 minutes away. I momentarily considered having an unassisted hotel birth (something I never had considered or would advocate for), but the meconium scared me. We have friends whose baby aspirated meconium during a natural birth and spent three weeks in the NICU with pneumonia. I couldn’t recall if I had ever seen Thomas use a bulb syringe to suction out our other babies’ noses, and I didn’t want to put that pressure on him. Based on our phone records, Thomas called paramedics at 5:26. The dispatcher was telling Thomas to take off his shoelaces. When I saw him doing this, I told him to stop since we had cord clamps in the birth kit.

The paramedics were there in less than five minutes. There were two paramedics (one man and one woman) and five or six male firefighters. They came into our room with a stretcher, and in mid-push, one of the paramedics ran up to me and started tapping my arm, asking if I was in labor. I yelled at him to stop touching me, and I kept pushing. He asked if I was pushing and I yelled at him to shut up. He told me that they would need to put me on the stretcher, and I yelled that I would not be getting off this bed. The woman paramedic said I was crowning and that I could just stay on the bed.  There was a lot of yelling going on in this labor, the complete opposite of the peaceful homebirth I had planned! Through all of this, my oldest child was sleeping on the couch in the living room part of the hotel room.

I noticed the male paramedic get a cord clamp out, and I told him that he would not be clamping the cord until it stopped pulsing. Thomas was pacing back and forth down one side of the bed, and he stopped and explained to everyone that I was a birthing instructor. At that point, everyone started to listen to me more. During the next push, the baby’s head came out. The male paramedic suctioned out his nose and mouth and said the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck and they would need to clamp and cut it. I told them they could just hook their thumbs under it and slip it up over the head. The woman said they would try, and then she said, “It worked!”

The next push, the baby flopped out onto the bed (on the chux pads). It was 5:42, just an hour after I realized that I was in labor. He was definitely a boy (we hadn’t found out), and he was pink and crying. I took a few breaths and then had them hand him to me. After a minute or two, they clamped and cut his cord. They had me get on the stretcher and they covered us both with some foil-type cloth. Thankfully, my dad and his wife arrived just at this time to take care of our oldest son, who had woken up right as the baby was born. We headed down to the hotel lobby (through a glass elevator!), and into the ambulance. Four of five members of our family rode in ambulances that week.

I was shaking really violently, and Micah was rooting around trying to nurse, but the way I was laying down, I couldn’t do anything. One of the paramedics placed an IV on the inside of my elbow (a terrible place if one is attempting to nurse a newborn.) Thankfully, the ride to the hospital took only a few minutes. We got to the hospital and I delivered the placenta, they wiped down the baby and I got to nurse him. I was so stinky after having not showered the night before and spilling yogurt on my nightgown, not to mention all the birth stuff.
The doctor was really rude (like I had a baby in a hotel on purpose), but we had a wonderfully kind nurse. My midwife arrived and was there to encourage us and help with the transition to the hospital. Thankfully, it was a fairly baby-friendly hospital, and Micah never left my sight. Their normal policy is for a 48 hour stay, but they let us go the next morning. Thomas took me back to the hotel to nurse and rest, and then we went up to visit our daughter and let her meet her new brother. That day also happened to be my birthday, so we had a nice birthday dinner in the hospital cafeteria (where our daughter ate real food!) and we had a birthday cake. Yes, I took our newborn baby out in public when he was less a day old, wearing brand-new, unwashed onesies from Target. Our whole family was reunited on Saturday with all three kids in the same place. My mom, the boys and I went home on Saturday, and Thomas and our daughter came home Sunday afternoon after being released from the hospital.
While everything went very well, I did grieve the peaceful homebirth I had desired. We were going to have a birth photographer and everything, but instead I gave birth yelling at strangers and in front of a bunch of scraggly Austin firefighters openly gaping at me. While it wasn’t the experience I had planned or desired, I am so thankful everyone is healthy and for our speedy little boy who came barreling into this world!

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