Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Birth Series: Chapter 2

With Princess #1, we were ready to be pregnant.  Knowing my cycles were irregular, I bought the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (an absolute MUST READ for any woman, regardless of the state of her uterus) and threw myself into taking my temperature, charting and noting my (ahem) fluids.  It took one cycle (which, incidentally, was 88 days long) to get pregnant.  The getting up every morning at the same time to take my temperature was a bit draining, but I was highly motivated, so I dealt.

When the hubs and I started talking about having baby #2, I broke out the old basal thermometer and began the same routine.  I wasn't as excited about the "clinical-ness" of it all this time around ("oh honey, look I had a dip in temp" doesn't exactly inspire romance) but I was afraid given the length of my cycles we'd never "catch" the egg if I didn't.  But I needn't have worried.  I didn't know it yet, but I was pregnant with #2 before I even picked up the thermometer that first morning.

My first clue was the ever-present nausea.  I had been through this song and dance before so I was pretty suspicious right from the beginning.  An EPT confirmed it and the hubs and I began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into.  #2!

Since we had Princess #1 we had moved to a new city and state, so I had the task of finding a new doctor.  We lived in a large city but in a rather isolated part of Oregon.  The only hospital there was very high-tech, serving as the main medical center for all of Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho.  Therefore, the maternity services there weren't known for their approach to "natural" deliveries.  I immediately contacted a local doula to reserve her services (the hubs and I thought we had the labor part down, but I thought she might come in handy as an advocate for us and our desires for labor).  I researched and researched (PLEASE ladies - don't skip this important step!!) before finally settling on a doctor in a very small practice (only 2 doctors total) who came recommended as the most likely to accommodate my requests for a natural delivery.

My due date was December 20th.  I didn't have any hopes of the baby coming early since Princess #1 came right on time.  And I was right.  December 20th came and went with no sign of baby.  I know most people with this due date would have just scheduled the birth at that point, to be sure to be out of the hospital by the time Christmas rolled around.  But I was stubborn and refused.  My baby would come when she was ready!

She decided she was ready on Christmas Eve.  It was about 9pm.  We had finished opening our stockings (family tradition) and eating pizza and sugar cookies (another family tradition) and were settling down to watch 'Jingle All The Way' (nothing says Christmas like Arnold Schwarzenegger).  The first contraction hit hard right out of the gate.  It sorta took me by surprise.  I had such a long build up with Princess #1's labor that I assumed this one would go the same way.  That was not the case.

The next two hours I watched the movie with my family (my parents were in town) on my birth ball, periodically losing interest to concentrate on a contraction.  They came very irregular both in occurrence and duration, but they were very hard consistently.  Once the movie finished my parents left to go to their hotel and the hubs and I called my doula.  I was fairly certain that I was in active labor or at least the early stages of it, even though I couldn't pinpoint a pattern.  My doula arrived around 11:30pm (on Christmas Eve, God bless her!) and began to assess my progress.

She immediately noticed the inconsistency and suggested I try a few different positions to try to get myself into a regular pattern.  When nothing worked we agreed to just pop in another movie and wait awhile to see what happened.  I *think* we put in 'A Christmas Story'.  I can't be sure as I was lost in my birth ball.  It didn't get much use during my first labor, but this time around it was a God-send.  As each contraction washed over me I sunk down into my ball, almost as dead weight, I closed my eyes and allowed myself to go completely limp.  As the contraction would release I'd open my eyes and continue with the movie.

I still had no pattern.  My contractions would come 20 minutes apart, then 45 minutes, then 10, then 55.  It was frustrating.  I felt like I couldn't gauge where I was at.  I was getting tired, having had to deal with hard contractions from the start.  Now coming up on 3am, my doula suggested we all lay down for awhile and try to get some sleep.  I think she was testing to see if my contractions would go away altogether once I laid down.

And they did.  The hubs was snoring the second his head hit the pillow.  My doula was asleep on the couch.  But I couldn't sleep (obviously!).  I felt completely out of control lying down.  As a contraction would hit, I had no way to make myself relax.  Laying down made everything worse.  And my contractions started spacing out big time.  A whole hour went by with nothing.  Already 5 days overdue and desperate I got up and went back out into the living room to labor on my own for awhile.

I managed on my own for about an hour.  The contractions hurt.  A Lot.  And they started coming more often (thank God!).  Still not consistent, but more frequent than before.  Finally around 5am I couldn't handle it anymore on my own and I woke up the hubs and my doula.  She observed me and agreed that the rate at which the contractions were occurring now indicated that I was indeed in active labor, although we still had no pattern to go by.

Hardly even realizing it was Christmas morning, my doula made the hubs and I eat something.  I barely managed to get down a granola bar between contractions.  By 10am things were getting pretty intense.  In training to become a midwife, my doula wanted to check me to see if we could figure out how far along I was.  We had agreed early on that I didn't want to go to the hospital until the last minute, to avoid all the routine procedures like IV's and continuous monitoring. When she discovered I was at 8cm, we were reenergized.  The hubs, remembering what a help the tub was in my previous labor, suggested I try that again.  So he ran a bath and I eased myself down into the water with a great deal of relief.  I labored there for a couple of hours when suddenly transition hit me like a bullet train.  Where we were trying to find a pattern in contractions before, there was no need to now.  They came one on top of the other, with no start or finish.  Just a long line of peaks and valleys.

Hubs and my doula helped me out of the tub, just as I threw up everything (awesome).  At that point I nearly lost control altogether.  I was shaking (a sign of transition) and crying and just desperate for relief. As I sat on the toilet to regain some control, my doula knelt over me and prayed a prayer of peace and encouragement.  It was just enough to get me back on track.  It was noon and we decided it was time to head to the hospital.

The drive was only 10 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime.  My doula was listening carefully to my vocalizations, watching for signs I was trying to push.  She had her birth kit ready, but fortunately didn't need to use it.  We arrived at the hospital and entered through the special Labor and Delivery door.  The floor was dead quite (no one plans to have a baby on Christmas Day) except for me.  My groans signaled our arrival.  True to the nature of the hospital, the nurse who greeted us asked me to change into a gown and pee in a cup (?!?!) and then get on a gurney in their triage room so she could asses to see if I was really in labor (REALLY?!).  Well, she got what she asked for.  As she was checking me she caught a glimpse of my intact bag of waters.  She mistook it for the baby's head.  Suddenly the triage room looked like a scene out of ER.  The nurse ran out yelling things like "Baby crowning!  Get the On-Call STAT!"  Another nurse came in and quickly wheeled my bed (with me on it) down the hall to a labor and delivery room.  I remember as I was being rolled down the hallway how relieved I felt.  If the baby was crowning that meant I wouldn't have to push for 2 hours like last time!

They got me in position and the on call doctor came in and examined me.  That's when they discovered that the baby wasn't crowning at all.  Everyone in the room relaxed except for me.  I knew I had a big job ahead of me.  My doctor finally walked in after all the hubbub died down, dressed to the nines in a black suit and cheerful holiday tie.  That's when I remembered it was Christmas.  We had called him out of Christmas Mass.  I still giggle when I envision he and his wife sitting in the pew as his pager goes off. I can almost see her rolling her eyes.  Hehe.

I began pushing immediately.  Once again, I sucked at it.  My water broke with the first push.  At one point the nurse started using her fingers to direct my focus and that helped immensely.  I pushed and pushed, and in between I panicked about being too hot and nauseous.  Thankfully my doula had packed a fan and set to work fanning me in between pushes.  I had been pushing about an hour when my doctor started dropping hints about using a vacuum to get the baby out.  I knew he had the tendency to like to use that, as a friend of mine had delivered with him using that method just a few months before.  At that point my doula earned her money.  She requested he give us just 30 more minutes, since the baby wasn't in distress.  He agreed and I got to work.

I remember at one point during pushing being highly irritated at my doctor and the nurses in the room.  In between my pushes they were just shooting the breeze, joking and hanging out as if it were another day.  I wanted to scream at them through my agony, "HELLO!!  See me over here?  This is all about ME!"  Fortunately, I refrained.

Finally, at 2:28, after 15 hours of labor and an hour and a half of pushing, Princess #2 entered the world.  She was tiny, weighing in at 6 pounds, 9 oz.  She was perfect.

I wish that was the end of the story, but it was not to be.  Shortly after delivering the placenta I started to bleed, alot.  My doctor later told me that my uterus was simply tired after contracting hard for 17 hours and it just didn't have the energy to contract any more.  Well, the uterus contracting after the baby is born is essential for the bleeding to stop.  And often women are hooked up to IV's already so giving them a bag of pitocin to aid in the clamping down of the uterus following birth is routine.  Since I came into the hospital ready to push there was no time to give me an IV.  A nurse had to open a line under emergent conditions.  She was terrible at it and had to try about 3 times.  While she fumbled around with that I was given a shot of methergine.  Once the IV got going I was pumped full of oxytocin and had to endure rough manual massage by 2 nurses.  Apparently the bleeding was very bad because the massage was graphic and worse than the 17 hours of labor I had endured prior.  But they finally got the bleeding to stop.  Following that experience the hubs and I decided that for any future births I would get a hep lock (an open IV line) just so I could avoid anything like that again.

Regardless of the aftermath, I was in love.  Another princess in the house.  And now a big sister too.  I was thrilled to have accomplished another natural delivery and under less than accommodating conditions as well.  My doula took some amazing photographs of the delivery (the only birth I have photos of) and I still love to look at them from time to time, to relive the miracle that occurred that Christmas day.  My Princess #2 was 5 days late, but she was born right on time.  She shares a birthday with her Nana (hub's mom) and her late great-grandfather.  Christmas is a special day in our home for many reasons.  We have much to celebrate.

More to come this week in the Birth Series!  



  1. uh yeah, no such luck! My labors did NOT get shorter with each one, that's for sure!

  2. I am so glad I am not the only one who sucks at pushing! I seriously feel like I have no idea what I am doing. With my first, the midwife and nurses kept saying things like..."uh, well, toward the END of that push it worked a LITTLE..." and I was like UGH!! Why can't I figure this out?? LOL.


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