Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Birth Series: Chapter 1

My first pregnancy had been relatively easy, once I got past the first trimester.  I puked more than I care to remember in those first few weeks and came to rely heavily on God's gift to the puking pregnant girl Zofran.  It's almost cruel that immediately after getting that plus sign the body starts rejecting everything.  I couldn't even enjoy the fact I was pregnant for the first 3 months.  After losing 10 pounds and a trip to the ER for fluids, things started to turn around and we began marching down our little pregnancy journey, headed toward the finish line.

I couldn't wait for labor to begin.  I was ready.  Most of my friends thought I was crazy, but I knew I wasn't.  I felt it in my soul.  I was meant to do this.  I had read and researched and practiced and was ready.  I just needed my babe to be ready.

The morning before my due date I was awakened at 5am.  It was a Saturday so I wasn't really thrilled with being up so early.  But the reason I woke up was intriguing: a tightness across my belly.  It didn't hurt, but it was definitely present.  It felt sorta like someone had put a blood pressure cuff around my abdomen and it was squeezing to take a measurement.  I wasn't completely sure what I felt was a contraction, so I laid in bed for awhile, waiting for another one.

It took awhile, but a couple hours later I finally felt another one.  The blood pressure cuff feeling again.  I felt a little thrill of excitement.  Maybe this was it!  I got into the shower and let the water run over me.  I had a little conversation with the princess in my belly, requesting she hold off for just a few hours.  My doula was out of town for the day and wouldn't be back until evening.  Although I felt like I was capable, I didn't want to venture too deep into labor without her by my side.

The rest of the day went by without event.  My blood pressure cuff feeling came and went, painlessly and routinely.  The hubs and I meticulously recorded their coming and going.  Finally, around 5pm we decided to head out to the mall to walk around for a little bit.  We wandered in and out of stores, pausing to chat with store employees (yes, yes, I'm actually due tomorrow... in fact, I'm in labor right now!) and to take note when my contractions hit.  While at the mall they got to the point where I had to stop talking to manage them when they hit.  We stopped at the food court and I got a pretzel to satisfy my growling stomach, then I called my doula (who had thankfully returned home) to let her know what was going on.  At that point my contractions were coming about every 5-10 minutes apart and were lasting about 45 seconds.  She agreed it sounded like I might be in early labor and she suggested we head home to rest.

We returned home and settled down to watch mindless TV.  We were in the middle of an episode of Trading Spaces (remember that show?) when things suddenly weren't very fun anymore.  I laid down on the couch and tried to get comfortable, but laying down made it worse.  We got out my birth ball and I sat on that for awhile, trying to manage the waves as they overtook me.  We called our friends to come over and pick up our dog (our "baby" at the time, had to make arrangements for him!) and I remember not being able to talk to them at all when they appeared at our door.  Once they left we called our doula and requested she come to our house, we were ready for some hardcore labor action.

And then began the part no one told me about.  (*Total TMI alert*)  I had to go to the bathroom, bad.  Alot.  You know how they used to give enemas to women in labor?  Well, sometimes there's no need...  I had no idea.  As I sat there, I began to panic that I was going to have the baby on the toilet.  All I knew was that they told me that the urge to push felt like needing to poop, so....

The hubs called our doula and told her we were headed to the hospital and would meet her there.  That was the longest 30 minute drive of my life.  For all I knew the baby was about to pop any moment.  Everytime I moved I lost my concentration and the contraction would get the best of me.  We finally arrived and went directly to Labor and Delivery.  It was just after 9pm.  My doula and nurse were waiting for me.  I was ushered into a room and given a gown.  I remember almost laughing in between contractions.  The gown was HUGE.  I was the size of a 15 year old with a basketball under her shirt and the thing wrapped around me about 3 times.

Hubs helped me get into bed and the nurse strapped the monitors on my belly.   I was checked then and was discouraged to discover I was only at 4cm.  All that for 4cm - and here I thought I was going to have the baby at home!  The hospital (and my doctor) only required 20 minutes of monitoring upon admission, so we patiently worked through contractions from my bed until we were released to go get in the jacuzzi tub in the bathroom.

That jacuzzi was heaven.  Truly.  The difference between managing labor in a bed and in a tub is night and day.  I floated as the water bubbled around me.  With each contraction the hubs lightly poured a stream of water over my belly, to give me a sensation to concentrate on.  I was doing fairly well, staying on top of things, when suddenly, I wasn't doing well at all.  Transition hit hard as the contractions came one on top of the other.  There was no break.  My legs ached and I writhed in the tub, struggling to grasp some relief.

My doula suggested I get back into the bed so they could check my progress.  I had only been in the tub for about 45 minutes and I loathed the thought of getting out, but I complied.  The nurse came and checked me and surprisingly announced me complete and left to call my doctor.  At this point I felt a tremendous amount of relief midst the pain of the contractions.   I was so elated to hear I had dilated from 4cm to 10cm in less than an hour.  I knew that was uncommon and I was grateful.  But I also knew the hard work was yet to come.

I got situated on the bed and my doula and nurse began to help me push.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  Trying to manage the contraction, take a deep breath, muster up the strength to sit up and bear down was almost too much to try to do at once.  I couldn't tell where to focus the push or whether or not I was doing it right.  The hubs, my nurse and doula were all encouraging, but there wasn't much they could do.  I remember feeling surprised at what hard work pushing was.  I felt like we sorta glazed over that part in my childbirth classes and I certainly didn't feel prepared.

I was fortunate that my doctor was patient.  I know now that had I had a different doctor, I probably would have been wheeled down to the OR.  But, he waited.  At one point, in the middle of a push I saw him walk into the room and stand at the back with his arms casually crossed, just watching.  After a few minutes he walked back out.  With a sinking heart I realized in that second that I wasn't even close.  I pushed harder.  I threw everything into it, even though I still felt like I wasn't doing it right.  At one point my doula suggested I try to use the squat bar, but I was so weak and worn out at that point I couldn't support myself on my legs.  So I stayed on my back.  Finally, FINALLY, after about an hour and 45 minutes of pushing, things started to pick up.

For a first timer, I didn't really know how this part went down.  Several nurses came into the room in a flurry and began breaking down the foot of my bed.  The warmer above the baby's isolette was turned on and blankets were warmed.  It struck me that in a mere matter of minutes my baby would be in those blankets.  That surge of motivation pushed me forward to the end.  My doctor appears and with the hubs and my doula by my side I gave the last few pushes I had left in me.

And that was it.  Princess #1 emerged shortly after midnight on her due date, 7 pounds 5 oz.  A shocking  weight given my size.  The back of her head was scraped up, presumably from passing through my pelvis, her nose was smushed and her ears were flattened, but she was beautiful.  She was mine.

I was on a high for weeks following her birth.  I felt exhilarated at having accomplished something as great as birthing my child all on my own with no aid of pain relief.  I had a goal set and I achieved it.  And my reward was great.  And that feeling followed me into motherhood.  The hubs and I embraced being parents and looked forward to growing our family one by one.

Stay tuned for more installments in The Birth Series this week!


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