Monday, October 14, 2013

{Becoming Mother II} - An Unintentional Natural 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, Lindsay. She and I met through a mutual friend at a ladies book study several years ago. We've connected over various events, friends parties/dinners, craft sales and Facebook. She recently became a full-time stay at home mommy to her two beautiful girls and I'm so excited she's sharing her birth stories with us!

My First Birth Experience:

My entire life I had never had a detailed birth plan in mind, other than one that involved very little to no pain. Even thinking about the possible pain I might one day endure made me extremely anxious (even years before I was anywhere close to having a child). I often thought, “I am so grateful to live in a time where epidurals are readily available.” Fast forward to 2010, my husband of 5 years, Daniel and I found out we were expecting our first child. At my first prenatal appointment, when my doctor asked what type of birth I had in mind, I answered with 5 words, “I definitely want an epidural.” I didn’t even feel like I needed an extensive birth class. So Daniel and I took a one-night crash course at the hospital, which covered the stages of labor, a few breastfeeding tips, and concluded with a birth video that thoroughly grossed my husband out.

As I approached the final weeks of my pregnancy I began to feel slightly nervous but mostly excited for the impending arrival of our little girl. But at 37 weeks, my doctor recommended I be induced because my baby was measuring large. Being induced didn’t sound nearly as thrilling as going into labor on my own and rushing to the hospital, but I trusted the concerns of my doctor and had my delivery scheduled. As the induction day approached I started to feel anxious. I began reading about all the potential side effects with medically induced labor. Increased risk of C-section glared off every page I read. What? C-section? The potential of that happening had never crossed my mind before, and I started to worry. I brought up my fears and concerns with my doctor, with Daniel by my side. She was understanding and honest and said there is a 25% risk of C-section with induced deliveries, but that I was a very good candidate for induction due to my dilation and effacing. She also affirmed that she would do everything she possibly could to help me have the birth I had hoped for. So after a lot of prayer we requested to push the induction back to 39 weeks, and my doctor obliged. I was hoping that would give our daughter a few more days to make her entrance on her own.

When the induction day arrived, our sweet girl was still sitting pretty in my belly with no signs of impending labor. Not even one contraction. I was disappointed, but through much prayer and support from family and friends the Lord had given us peace. We trusted in God’s protection and his sovereignty in bringing our child into the world however her birth happened to unfold. Our greatest prayer now was for a healthy baby. And we couldn’t have asked for a better experience. My labor lasted a total of nine hours. Three hours after receiving Pitocin, my doctor came down to break my water and then my contractions became very painful. I decided to ride them out until I couldn’t stand it any longer. 1 hour into the pain, I was crying heavily and asked for the epidural. I was very nervous while the epidural was being administered. The thought of someone poking and prodding my spine was terrifying, but my nurse and anesthesiologist were wonderful in talking me through it. After everything was in place, I had sweet relief within minutes, followed by a very weird sensation of complete numbness from the waste down. My doctor encouraged me to rest and said she anticipated our baby girl would be born close to dinnertime. I relaxed, took a long nap and ate a ton of ice chips. I couldn’t get enough of those. Since I was confined to the bed, my nurse had to come in and shift my body every hour or so to help our baby move down the birth canal. Then about 1:00 pm, I started to feel an intense pressure. Not painful, but definite pressure. I alerted my nurse, she checked me and said, “she’s fully engaged! It’s time to push!” I couldn’t believe it. I was totally surprised my labor had progressed so quickly. Daniel had left the room to get something to eat and arrived back just in time to learn it was go time. I started pushing, and about 15 minutes in, my nurse was concerned about our baby’s elevated heart rate. She immediately alerted my doctor, who came down right away. My doctor checked everything out, assured me that our baby was ok, and stayed with me for the rest of my delivery. We later learned that our daughter had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, which was caused her elevated heart rate. But my amazing doctor had unwrapped the cord before I had any opportunity to be alarmed. Even with the epidural, pushing was exhausting. The total time I pushed was an hour and a half. An hour and 20 minutes of that was just getting her head out. Once her head was visible, I screamed with excitement. I pushed one or two more times, the rest of her body slid out and my doctor held her up for me to see. I screamed again. We were elated! Our daughter, Kyla Sage was finally here! She weight 7 lbs 7 oz and had red hair! Daniel cut the cord and my nurse immediately placed her in my arms. There’s nothing more exhilarating than that moment of holding your baby for the very first time. You don’t even care that they’re covered in blood and goo! We were instantly in love and thanking God for a healthy baby girl and a smooth delivery.
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My Second Birth Experience:

In June of 2012, one month after Kyla’s first birthday, we were surprised and thrilled to learn we were expecting again! Kyla would be a big sister come February 2013. This time around, I decided to put a lot more thought and consideration in my birth plan. I wanted to really pray and research. I wanted to ask questions and get feedback from a variety of different mothers who had different birth plans. I wasn’t leaning one way or the other, but wanted to make a thoroughly informed decision. Through that process, I began to struggle back and forth between whether to go natural (drug-free) or get an epidural. And whether to use to a midwife or stay with my current doctor.

To preface, for the last five or six years I’ve made a lot of changes towards more holistic living. We cut out processed foods and started eating whole, organic foods. I started incorporating a higher concentration of nutrients in my diet mainly through my obsession with green smoothies and my amazing high-powered blender. I also began exploring alternative and natural healing remedies. I felt very passionately about these changes and their affect on the health and well being of our family. But for some reason, I never felt a passion towards natural childbirth. Even after watching a highly publicized documentary about it, I didn’t feel a strong conviction to go natural. And anytime I entertained the idea of an all around natural birth, it felt very forced. At the end of the day, I knew I wanted that epidural. After talking it over with my husband, the person who knows me best, he agreed that going drug-free just wasn’t for me.

When week 39 of my pregnancy rolled around, I started to get antsy and was ready for our girl to be here. And my doctor had no concerns about her weight this time around, so induction was never discussed. And the waiting game began. I started experiencing contractions every evening, but they would fizzle out after a couple hours. Each time I would think, this could be it, and then they would subside. When I went in for my 40 week checkup, I was already dilated 3 cm , was 85% effaced and Finley had moved into a posterior position, facing sunny side up. My doctor thought her position may have been why I had not gone into labor yet. She was comfortable letting me wait until 41 weeks, but any longer and we would need to schedule a post-term induction. When the next Friday rolled around, 2 days before my 41-week mark, I was measuring 4 cm and was 90% effaced. I had still been experiencing false labor every evening without any sign of progression. Being pregnant 41 weeks felt like an eternity! At this point, I was so over being pregnant that we scheduled a post-term induction for that following Monday. That gave us all day Saturday to pack and make sure we had all our ducks in a row for the birth. Our February baby was turning out to be a March baby!

Then on Sunday morning of March 3, 2013, I woke up at about 7:30 am and felt a dropping sensation in my pelvis. As if a lemon had dropped. I never experienced this sensation with Kyla, so I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. Within minutes I started feeling very mild contractions in my back. Not painful, just a sensation of tightening right above my tailbone. I could even place my hand in the spot and feel my muscles contracting. These weren’t like the false labor contractions I had felt all week. The ones I had felt earlier were in my abdomen and their timing never got closer together. I went about my morning, making coffee and getting ready for the day. I texted my neighbor, Jessica, who would be taking our birth pictures, and let her know that I was experiencing some contractions and I would keep her posted. I kept updating her on my progression and my contractions were gradually getting closer together, but still very mild in discomfort. She decided to come over and hang out while I labored. I kept on my feet all morning, cooking breakfast, playing with Kyla (now 21 months), visiting with Jessica and Daniel in the kitchen. Then the contractions started to feel a little stronger, but still very manageable. I figured I had hours before I needed to call my doctor or head to the hospital.

Later on Jessica asked if I wanted to take a walk to help my labor progress. So we got ready and started on a stroll around the neighborhood. By the time we began our walk, my contractions had quickly progressed to 2 minutes apart and 30 seconds long. I kept waiting for that magic contraction formula they warn you about (5 min apart, 1 min long, for 1 hour) but somehow completely by passed it. I decided it was time to call my doctor. My doctor was not on call that weekend, so I got the on call doctor. He asked what I was experiencing and what I measured at my last check up. I told him my contractions were 2 minutes apart, 30 seconds long, and I was 4 cm and 90% effaced at my last check up. He urged me to come in right away and get checked out. At this point in our walk, Jessica and I were a couple blocks from my house. She asked if her husband needed to pick us up. I truly thought I had plenty of time, due to the very tolerable pain at this point, and declined. I called Daniel and gave him the heads up that we would need to leave for the hospital soon and asked him to alert his mom to come get Kyla. I gave my parents a call, told them I wasn’t sure if it was the real thing, but we would be heading to the hospital soon. They said they would meet us there.

On the final stretch of our walk, my contractions started to hurt enough that I needed to stop and breathe between them. But I wouldn’t describe them as extremely painful. They were tolerable enough, that by the time I reached our house, I was confident I had plenty of time to shower and get dressed for the hospital. Jessica came in and watched Kyla while Daniel got the car ready, and I jumped in the shower. And that’s where it went into overdrive. As soon as I entered the shower, my pain went from slight discomfort, to unbelievable pain in a matter of seconds. It was so intense; I couldn’t hold my balance and nearly collapsed in the shower. (I later learned I was experiencing transition.) I started crying hysterically and realized I did not have time for a shower! I stumbled out, could barely stand up, trembled as I tried to get dressed, and started screaming, “Get the car!” I was frantically throwing in last minute necessities, like my phone, charger and toothbrush in my purse. Jessica offered to stay with Kyla until my mother-in-law arrived and would meet us at the hospital to take pictures. Daniel helped me into the car as I was shaking vigorously. I was so overwhelmed by the pain I couldn’t even think straight. As he backed out of our driveway, my mother-in-law pulled up. I thought Daniel was going to roll down his window to talk to her and I knew there wasn’t time so I turned and yelled at him to keep driving. He took off and got onto the freeway within seconds.

The pain was so extreme that I had lost all inhibitions and kept having involuntary bursts of yelling. The contractions were about one minute part at this point so they were coming one after another with very little rest time in between. I had never taken a natural birth class so I was clueless on how to manage the pain. Every time a contraction came my only instinct was to scream and hit the side of the car door with my fist and dig my nails into Daniel’s arm. In the few seconds between contractions I was praying out loud and kicking myself for waiting this long to go to the hospital. I was certain I was going to have our baby in the car. The drive was 10 minutes to the hospital and as Daniel was exiting the freeway I started to feel an immense pressure. Similar to the pressure I had felt in labor with Kyla, but this time it was accompanied by extreme pain. It was so intense, I was sure a bowling ball was trying to pass through. I told Daniel I felt like I needed to push. He urged me to hold on, that we were almost there. As soon as he pulled in the hospital, he grabbed a wheel chair and helped me into it. I was shaking uncontrollably at this point and so scared of what was going to happen. When he wheeled me into labor and delivery, it was like a ghost town. No one was at the front desk and the doors were locked shut. I started shouting for them to open the doors and let us in. A woman came on the intercom and asked if everything was ok. I shouted again, “I’m having a baby! Let me in!” I’m not exaggerating. It was like something out of movie. The doors immediately opened, Daniel ran the wheel chair to the end of the hall, and what seemed like a swarm of nurses rushed to our aid. They directed Daniel to take me into an adjacent room and started helping me out of the chair and onto a bed. They were frantically helping me into my hospital gown and I was begging for an epidural. They told me they needed to check my dilation first. “She’s at 10 and complete,” one of the nurses said. I looked at her and asked if I could get my epidural now and she informed me there wasn’t time, it was time to push. My heart sank. I was actually going to have to go all the way through with this. Me, the girl who had prayed and prayed and had gone back and forth for months but ultimately decided natural birth was not for her was in a hospital room about to do the exact opposite. And there was no way out of it.

The lead-time was so short that my doctor wasn’t able to get there in time, but the on call doctor came in to deliver. At this point, I was involuntarily flailing about on the table, and there was a nurse on each of my limbs trying to hold me still. Daniel was on my left side, holding my hand and I was digging my teeth in this hand. He didn’t even complain about it. He’s such a supportive husband. Then the pushing began. I pushed three times for foura minutes total (with lots of screaming in between) and our second daughter, Finley Rose was born! She came into the world fast and furious. So fast, her head and face were all bruised up. And she weighed a whopping 8 lbs 11 oz. When I held her in my arms, it was amazing how all the pain just melted away. We were so grateful to have another healthy baby girl! And another red head!
Looking back on both my birth experiences, I often get asked if I would go natural again now that I’ve already gone through it (although unintentionally). The verdict is still out, but I will say despite the pain, there were a lot of things I preferred about my second birth in contrast with my first and will take them into consideration if we have a third child. I liked that I was able to labor at home and walk around through my contractions. I liked not having to be hooked up to a bunch of tubes and feeling more free. I liked how fast it went. Total labor time was 5 hours (with only 30 minutes of pain), we arrived at the hospital 20 minutes before she was born and I pushed four minutes. I liked that within minutes of giving birth I was able to stand up and walk around. Although it was painful, I liked not feeling numb all over from the epidural. I liked that I could physically tell how hard I needed to push. And the best part was the recovery. After my first birth, I could barely walk for a week and needed prescription medication for the pain for several more weeks. After my second, I could walk around immediately and only needed medication for the first 24 hours.

For first time moms I would say do your research, ask lots of questions, and ultimately choose a birth plan that you believe in and a doctor or midwife that supports it. I would also advise to be prepared for anything. I wish I had been more prepared for natural birth even though it wasn’t the initial plan. It would have been helpful to know some breathing exercises or other pain management techniques besides screaming and beating the side of the car. I learned from both my birth experiences that things may or may not go exactly as you had planned, and I think it’s ok to mourn those disappointments, but be encouraged that whatever birth experience that results, a child that will be abundantly loved and cherished is on the receiving end. Children are truly a gift from the Lord.

Photo by Rachel Keith

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