Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Zachary's Birth

I love birth stories - especially super-positive ones - and I, after 3 very different births, have a great birth story that I don't want to forget.  So, as a precursory warning, I will say that this is a birth story and some parts are ooey-gooey, but I do spare some of the gross details, on the off-chance that my brother, uncles, or man-friends or god-forbid, my kids in future years, stumble upon this.

As my family and friends know, my previous babies liked to play a somewhat cruel game, and come a little later than the prescribed 40 weeks.  Due dates are not my friend in the medical world.  I don't know why I even bothered to listen this time, knowing that babies tend to follow the same gestational pattern as their forebears. But Christmas Eve as a due date was just too cool not to tell people. However, Christmas Eve came and went and the only signs of labour for 2 weeks were some light contractions each evening, which got my hopes up, only I awoke to nothing every morning.  I was literally praying for pain - labour pain, that is - my back and hips were already done with carrying around the extra weight.

At 7 days past my due date, I was offered a medical induction by the midwives, which I refused, because though I was tired of pregnancy, I wanted to have faith in my body's ability to do this.

The midwives were fantastic about this.  They did recommend scheduling a post-date ultrasound though, which we did at 10 days past my due date, getting 100% for how the baby and fluid and placenta were looking.   For the first time in all my 10 lb baby-bearing years, the doctor, looking at my past record of 2 other post-date 10 lb babies, did not tell me my baby was alarmingly big and recommend an induction or c-section ASAP.  So on we would go...

For three more days.

On January 6, Joseph went to work in the morning, and I went about my day with Patrick and Carter.  At 1 p.m. I felt cramping. At 2, I put the boys down for their nap and went for a nap myself, actually sleeping until about 3, when the cramps got really strong and turned into contractions.  I popped Pride and Predjudice (the 5-hour BBC version with young Colin Firth) into the DVD player and folded some laundry, while writing down the timing of the contractions.  Since the first contractions were 10 minutes apart, I thought I had lots of time to enjoy this lengthy film. But it turns out I didn't. I called Joseph and let him know where I was at, so he'd be on alert to come home.

In the space of an hour the contractions went to from 10 minutes apart to every 4 minutes.  Pride and Predjudice turned to Bob the Builder when the boys woke up, and I called my midwife. I was having to stop talking and concentrate on getting through each contraction by now.

I decided to wait for Joseph to come home rather than have the midwife come right away, so I called him.  Then I put a pie in the oven for dinner.  The phone call was peppered with more contractions that I had to pause and breathe through.  Joseph, about an hour away (with traffic, because rush hour was beginning), offered to talk to me for a bit till he got home.  During that phone call, the contractions got to two minutes apart.  I don't even remember what Joseph and I talked about - his day, and the state of the traffic probably.  I decided  to get off the phone though, and call a midwife meet us at the hospital.

The boys were happily watching episodes of Bob, and the pie was nearly done.  Joseph walked in the door as I dialed the midwife's number, getting her voicemail. I left a message and waited five minutes. The contractions had gotten stronger and were now pretty close. I timed 1 minute apart and called the midwife again. Voice Mail. Panicked message asking her to get back to me right away.

It turns out the midwife on call (I was the patient of a team of four) was driving out of the city for another birth, and she'd been on the phone with the secondary midwife to come see me.  The second midwife, Jane, was busy booking me a room in labour and delivery when she heard my two-minute apart message.  

Jane called me, much to my relief, and said she'd meet us at the hospital ASAP. We called our neighbor who had been on alert to come watch the boys till my mom got there from a half-hour away.  

For some reason (maybe the intense contractions) I had not communicated to Joseph that we needed to leave right away or how close the contractions were.  So once the neighbor got here, he was moseying around, cutting pie for the boys and giving her some direction.  I had my coat and shoes on for three contractions, and I struggled to watch the 6 o'clock newscast while I waited. Finally, as my pain increased and my patience ran out, I said,
"Dispense with the niceties! We have to go now."
Joseph then said, "I'm going to grab another shirt." 
To which I said, "No, we need to go now."

So we got into the van, leaving behind a distressed Carter, who still carries on like the world is ending when I leave.

The hospital is only 6 minutes away, thankfully, but it seemed like it took forever to park and get up to labour and delivery.  When I got into an elevator full of people, I was at a point where I didn't really care about the breathing and coping sounds I was making, though I saw some rather uncomfortable glances. I don't blame them, but hello, it's a hospital, women in labour are somewhat common.

Jane met us in the hallway, and we were directed to a room.  We didnt bother with a hospital gown, and after finding I was fully dialated, it was a waiting game till I felt like pushing.  

I endured contractions while I had an IV inserted in case I hemmoraged.  Sounds scary, but it's a percaution that was taken because I'd had a hemmorage with Carter's birth two years ago, and if you have had one previously, the likelihood goes up for another. 

Soon, I was sitting up on the bed in a semi-squat with Joseph beside me putting pressure on my back during contractions.  I was starting to loose control of my ability to cope with the pain and kept thinking "I just want to get this done."

I asked if Jane would break my water, but she coaxed me to just keep letting the contractions happen and the baby move down.  We agreed after I pleaded with her, to give it 15 more minutes.  My thought was that if the water breaks, the baby will come faster (even though that may not have been the case) and I was getting desperate to end the pain.

Jane said to me, "Sometimes the pushing helps the water to break," and I realized the desperation I was feeling could be because I was actually needing to push, but I didn't think I was supposed to till the water had broken. 

5 minutes later, Jane was on the receiving end of a big gush, and I almost cried because I felt the baby move down, ready to come out.  

I laid down on my side and started concentrating my efforts on pushing with the contractions.  After a couple pushes, I started to loose focus on the goal - getting the baby out - and let the pain take over for a little while.  Half-heartedly pushing, and crying that I couldn't do it, I realized I was stuck.  I prayed a quick Hail Mary, and asked for help.

Jane also responded to my insistence that I couldn't do it with,
"But you are doing it, my dear," which, combined with Joseph's telling me I was doing great, and the pause I'd taken to pray, helped me to refocus and will myself forward. 

I pushed harder with the next couple contractions until finally Zachary's head came, and with one more push, his body followed.  The pain was unreal, but the feelings of love and curiosity and impatience I had, knowing I was about to meet the baby, really overpowered it. 

Once Zachary was out (at 8:05 p.m.) Jane put him on my chest and wiped him up, then wrapped him in a blanket.  I remember saying to Zachary, 
"Oh baby, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." 
It seems ridiculous, I know.  Even Joseph questioned why, so I explained that I was thinking about how traumatic birth might be for Zachary.  I'm fairly certain being pushed out of your nice warm womb into light and cold and noise is a little jarring  for babies.

I'll spare you the details of the last part of labour. What I will tell you is that I was happy and relieved that it had happened so quickly, after all that time spent waiting for labour to begin in the first place.

Because I'd waited to let my body and the baby make things happen on their own, I felt triumphant and powerful - like I'd thwarted all the worries about post-date babies by letting things happen naturally and then working through the pain.

We were discharged from the hospital a couple hours after the birth, and home in time to watch the 11 o'clock news.  I had not hemmoraged this time, and Zachary and I both were otherwise perfect. I loved being able to go home right away, which is one of the many benefits of being in the care of midwives.

Joseph and I feel so blessed by this birth.  It was fast - I really only worked hard the last two hours - but hard at the same time.  I won't lie - I had a spinal with Patrick for a c-section and a late epidural with Carter (because I was wanting to push and not fully dialated, which could have been nasty) - and there are definite benefits to not feeling pain while birthing. 

But this time, having only my own coping techniques and the encouragement of Joseph and the midwives, I felt incredibly free.  I didn't need drugs.  I dealt with that pain.  I came up against a wall and literally pushed past it. 

It was beyond awesome.  

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