Cold Day in July - PART 1 of Our Birth Story 7-17-12
i'm a storyteller by nature so this is quite long winded. if we were sitting down in person with a cup of coffee and my fresh little baby on our laps, i could talk for hours....here it is in writing instead. i understand if you just look at the pictures ;)
Darin worked a late swing shift at the shelter on Sunday, July 15 and came to bed around 2 a.m. on Monday July 16. Just after he came to bed, I got up to pee and as I came back to bed I felt a gush of water and what felt like an intense period cramp. Everything was wet, even my body pillow. I changed my underwear and pajama shorts but then after I went back to bed it happened again! I had to change again and I told Darin, something is definitely starting. But it could be a long time so go ahead and sleep for now. I'll let you know if anything changes.
So for the next several hours I laid in bed having intermittent contractions and gushing water every time one came. I went through several pads my friend Kim had given me (thank goodness I had those on hand) and was shaking with excitement. It was nice to feel a contraction and finally know what it is supposed to feel like, people had said you'll just know and turns out that was true. Everyone said the early ones feel like strong menstrual cramps but I just couldn't really picture that. and they are a little different, more spiralling, filling your whole abdomen with a swirling energy. I pictured a cave full of incoming ocean water, where a pretty seal lived who needed to be drawn out to sea to be with her own kind. I tried to sleep, and Billy came and cuddled with me. I rested nicely but never actually slept. I texted Addie to let her know it was starting, as well as my mom. I was proud of my body and proud of my baby for kicking this off naturally. I had forgotten that to the medical community there are dangers if your water breaks first so they want things to move along quickly, but more about that later.
Addie arrived at about 7:30 a.m. so Darin and I got out of bed. Joey and Emily got up too and were overjoyed to know things were starting. I had a doctor appointment scheduled for 11:30 a.m. so I told everyone if my contractions remained sporadic and spaced far apart I would just wait until that appt and then find out what I should do next. We hung out, had coffee and breakfast, and did stuff around the house. Darin dug the hole for Lucy's tree.
I took a shower and we went to our appointment. There was a new woman working the reception desk and she didn't know me so she was asking me questions about insurance, my address, my due date, etc. I was having a contraction and a gush right then and there and I told her, "my water is actually in the process of breaking right now." and she got excited for us and said, "Congratulations!" and quickly sent me back for my pee test.
Once we met with Dr. Nelson he was very kind and excited for us. Our vitals all looked great and he checked me and said I was about 100% effaced, 1-2 cm dilated, and that the baby was situated very low so conditions looked good to progress naturally. He also explained that once the woman's water breaks, they like to get things moving within 24 hours to reduce the risk of infection. He told us we could wait a while and see how things moved along, knowing of course that is what we'd choose to do, our other option being start Pitocin to induce. No thanks. He also said he'd like to admit us to the hospital as soon as possible. I asked if we could go home first and get our stuff together and he said "of course." So we took that as our cue to go home for a little while and relax through the early afternoon.
At home my family had gathered. Mikie and Amber were there, and my mom, as well as Addie, Emily and Joey. Everyone was in high spirits. We hung out in the backyard. Darin took some nude photos of me for a tarot card project we're working on since we realized this would be our last chance while I was still pregnant! He made me a tofu sandwich while we gathered up stuff we'd need and I burned a cd of my "bringing baby" playlist which is so dear to me now.
The hospital called around 2 pm and they said, "Dr. Nelson said you'd be checking in soon?" I smiled and said we'd be there soon. There went my big plans to labor at home as long as possible. I had hoped to get to about a 5 before heading in to the hospital, to reduce the risk of any interventions. But nature, my body and my baby had other plans! We cheerfully checked into the hospital around 4 pm. My whole entourage followed me there and waited in the waiting room during my initial check-in with our wonderful nurse, Jan.
Jan was the coolest. She was so happy that I was into natural childbirth. She has read all the books I've read and is fully supportive of natural techniques, pain relief and relaxation. She promised me she'd only monitor intermittently so that we could move around as much as possible. She loved our decorations, my water jar, my nightie, and the fact that we brought our own quilt and pillow. She was nice to our families and was just our hugest supporter until her shift ended at 11 p.m. She just started working at our hospital 7 months ago and said she was surprised to find out that they have a 95% epidural rate! Later we told her our friends probably make up the other 5%.
We got the room all cute and cozy. The hospital staff loved what we did with the room; various people kept coming in to check it out. Debby and Christy (Darin's mom and aunt) helped hang my birth flags. I was obsessing that the straw St. Brigid's cross that Alicia made me for my shower had gone missing, so they went on a search and found in out in the emergency room driveway!
strength and love from my girlfriends.
my dream team.
so, everyone left for a while to get dinner and such while we met with our doctor and then the overnight on-call doctor, Dr. Tobin-Williams, a pretty young African American woman with a sweet voice and a spunky persona. Both doctors agreed that if I hadn't gotten to "active" labor by early morning they'd want to introduce pitocin. I was determined to get to active labor on my own. Dr. Nelson, our doctor who is kinda old-school, recommended nipple stimulation. Jan later told us she has never heard an OB mention that as a possibility for strengthening contractions. (Well we are big believers in it now!) Dr. Tobin-Williams gave us "homework," telling us to take a walk, "dance," go in the tub, and try different positions. Neither doctor checked my cervix, because introducing anything into the vagina after the water has broken can be risky.
And so we were on our way! We took a long walk out across the parking lot and around the hospital grounds to a rustic wooden fence. I loved looking up at the pine trees and knowing how close we were to our house and just feeling happy to be in our small town hospital with pretty nature all around us. Back in our room we got started on nipple stimulation with Jan's encouragement. At first we did this in private but later it worked so well that we did it right in front of everyone. It was hard work! But it did bring on stronger contractions, and we had decided that rather than just let my contractions progress slowly and risk pitocin, we were determined to work at it and get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
Darin would pinch and roll my nipples, or he'd take one and I'd take the other. Then when a contraction came we'd stop and wait and let it take center stage. For a while Jan had us on the monitor during this process and we could see that it was working. I also found time to eat some hospital dinner during all this (baked ziti and salad, not too bad!) and kept drinking my ice water like a fiend. I was still feeling really good. At one point I said, "That was a good one," after a stronger contraction and Darin liked that. Later he suggested that we refer to the big ones that way to keep it positive, because we were one step closer to bringing our baby naturally, our ultimate goal. It was a really helpful way to look at it, "good" or "strong" rather than "painful" or "a bad one."
We went in the birthing tub around 8:00 pm. Jan had it nice and hot and we turned on the jacuzzi jets. I was feeling a lot of back pain during each contraction so I let the jets massage my lower back while Darin massaged my face or hands and helped me relax. He'd tell me, "relax your jaw, relax your brow...release the tension, just breathe..." and just other things that kept my body calm and helped me focus. In the tub things really picked up and around 9:30 I had to lean over the edge and puke into the waste basket. I puked up everything. Mind you, I never threw up throughout my entire pregnancy. I cannot remember the last time I vomited. But it felt good! It felt like my body was getting rid of everything excess so it could focus on the task at hand.
Back in our room, Addie and Emily joined Darin. I was getting in my zone so much that I hardly knew what was going on with them but they organized into a team, with Darin telling them what I like, and they started massaging my hands, feet, calves, lower back, and even scalp. Amber joined them for a while, and sometimes even Joey and Mikie came and helped out. (Once in a while I'd feel a more calloused hand massaging me and I knew it was one of my sweet brothers) They had created a system that made my progressing labor actually feel good. It happened organically and I never would have expected to enjoy this communal process so much but it was perfect and also made me feel surrounded by love and completely supported.
I tried a few different positions. The birthing ball felt great for a while. I had to throw up again and rushed to the sink area in the room. While brushing my teeth right after I was hit with another huge wave and had to bend over a chair on all fours so that someone from my sweet team could be putting hard pressure on my lower back.
resting in between, blissed:
Things kept going just like that until the doctor came back around 12:30 am. I was glad to let her see my contractions now, it was so obviously more intense than earlier. She checked my dilation and said I was a 4 or 5, and while she did so something interesting happened. She had a very calm face but I heard her quietly say that something felt a bit "squishy" down there. She and the nurse started talking quietly to each other and go the ultrasound machine ready. Meanwhile I was having more and more intense contractions and Darin and Addie were still focused on helping me through them. (Everyone else had left the room to let the doctor take over.) But even during the contractions I was very aware of the doctor's conversation with Amy, our sweet young nurse who had come on an hour earlier. They were trying to see what was going on with the baby inside me and making soft comments like, "if this is the spine, why is the heart here?" i was kinda starting to worry, what the heck is going on with my baby. They looked and looked for a long long time. It seemed like it was hard to be certain but finally, Dr. Tobin-Williams held the wand over the top of my belly and said, slowly and calmly, "this is your baby's head." Indeed I could see that big egg-shaped circle on the screen with a white ring around it. My heart was sinking immediately. I knew. I was giving birth in a hospital and I knew what the standard procedure is for breech. "Your baby is breech," the doctor explained with as kind a tone as possible. "And that means we can't keep going like this." She gestured to me, the bed, the natural progression of my labor. "We deliver breech babies with c-sections, and since you are so far progressed, we need to move quickly." She was checking my cervix again and I had progressed to a 7 in the time she had been with me. I could tell she was sorry, and also confused about my baby's position. The heartbeat had consistently been found low, below my belly button. She even hooked up the ultrasound one last time just to be sure. She had inserted her gloved fingers again and this time pulled them out with a bit of meconium. She was feeling the baby's bottom.
Darin and I looked at each other. We were trying to beam each other strength, love and peace across the medical supplies and cords and monitors. He later told me that some of the contractions I had during the last half hour or so went off the chart on the monitor. Our baby's heartrate remained strong and sure. I steeled myself as a surgical team replaced my calm and loving family and someone roughly stabbed me with a huge needle for an IV. I ignored them and focused on Darin, and held onto him through the contractions that kept coming like waves, my own waves into a new experience so different than I'd ever imagined, trying to stay brave and strong and filling myself with the love I'd been surrounded with all day.
They got me all ready and rolled me down the hall. It was a little after 1:00 a.m. Addie had gone to explain to the family what was going on, and as we passed the waiting room I saw their stricken faces. My mom came out and called, "We love you! I love you Heather," as we whizzed by. Now it was just Darin and I and a team of strangers. The abrupt change was dizzying and I just held on and held on.
(almost all these photos are c/o mikie and addie)