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childbirth

I decided that Friday during the week of spring break was a good day to have a baby, and apparently my son agreed. On Thursday night I went to my prenatal swim/water yoga class and when I mentioned I was 39 weeks along, our instructor said, “Maybe you’ll have your baby tonight.” I said I’d prefer to get some sleep first and then welcome the baby into the world the next morning.

And so, I woke up around 3 am with contractions and couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions off and on for the past month or so, so I waited awhile to make sure the contractions were consistent before disturbing my husband. I woke Spencer up at 4:30, and we called our doula at 5, because I just felt like it was rude to call someone before 5 am unless absolutely necessary. My contractions were a little uncomfortable, but doing hip circles and figure eights helped relieve the pressure. Our doula came over around 5:45 and I called my mom at 6 so that she could come watch our almost-3-year-old.

We called our CNM, and she thought I was still in early labor and that it would be a few more hours before we would need to head to the hospital, since I seemed very calm. So my husband decided he would take a nap. About 15 minutes later I told him, I’m ready to go to the hospital now.¬†I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to have a second unmedicated birth, since the first time ended up being a bit, um,¬†traumatic. I just wasn’t in the mood, you know, like how you’re probably not in the mood to go run 20 miles right now. I wanted to make sure we got there in time for an epidural. We arrived in the triage room around 8 am. And when the midwife arrived and checked my cervix, I was dilated to 7 cm. Everyone was surprised because I was handling it so well.

When we got moved into the delivery room about 15 minutes later, I mumbled something about getting an intrathecal. “There might not be time,” said the nurse.

“I either need pain meds or I need to get in the bath tub now.” The midwife checked my cervix again and this time I was at 9 cm!

“What do you want to do?” she asked me. “We can try to get you an intrathecal if that’s what you want.”

I knew that would take awhile and there wasn’t really time. I needed pain relief immediately so I got in the tub. The warm water helped me make it through the rest of transition, although the contractions were still very intense and left my whole body shaking.

“Ok, you’re pushing. You have to get out of the tub now,” said the midwife. “There’s no room to deliver in here.”

I didn’t want to move and lose the only pain relief I had. With my daughter’s birth, pushing lasted about 45 minutes and was excruciating. I reluctantly got out and moved to the bed. “I’m scared,” I said. Like, I would almost rather die right now than repeat what I went through before.

I got on hands and knees on the hospital bed. Last time I’d been on my back and I knew I didn’t want to do that again. I knew this would be over soon-ish. There was some screaming and tears involved, but the midwife kept calmly reassuring me that my baby was helping me with this birth, and I think he was.

Just a few (intense and difficult) pushes, and 11 minutes later – less than 2 hours after we arrived at the hospital – my son was born! I held him in my arms and said, “Welcome to our world.”

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Baby brother's coming soon!

Baby brother’s coming soon!

At 39 weeks pregnant, we’re expecting the arrival of Baby Brother any day now. My freezer is full of dinners I’ve thoughtfully prepared for our family in advance. We’ve spent the last several months cleaning and organizing our apartment. I filed our taxes, and made plans for celebrating my daughter’s April birthday in May.

I’ve been doing prenatal yoga, belly dancing, and water “aerobics” (okay it’s more of a relaxation class) for months. I have midwives and an experienced birth doula, and a free postpartum doula service lined up. I’ve reconfirmed my views on alternative vaccine schedules, decided it’s okay to skip the newborn eye antibiotics since I don’t have gonorrhea, and learned about the benefits of delaying baby’s first bath.

In other words – true to my personality – I’ve carefully controlled the parts of this baby equation that I can control. Ah, control, what an addictive and sweet illusion!

Hahaha.

So I mean, I guess we’re ready.

One year later
By Ursula Crawford

One year later,
the tulips are blooming again
and I remember

how in birth
my body was ripped
open. Broken.
My strength taken.

Days later,
I can barely stand and I
dream my teeth are breaking.
I sleep in 90-minute stretches
and pray to stay lucid.

Slowly, over weeks and months
my body heals, my strength returns,
and I piece together a new life,
trading staff meetings for diaper changes,
adult conversation for baby sign language.

One year later,
my life, my heart belong
to you, the one
who grips my finger tightly
in her tiny fist.

In birth I have been made new.

In our childbirth class, the teacher compared giving birth to running a marathon. If that’s a fair comparison, then I might compare the whole experience of birth followed by caring for a newborn to running a Sahara desert ultramarathon. You think at any moment you might die from exhaustion, but somehow you just keep going. Eventually you hit the wall, and your mind and body do start to shut down. And then you make it through to the other side.

The 20 + hour natural birth experience was just the beginning. My husband and I arrived at the hospital on a Friday evening, after we’d both worked a full day. I was only having mild contractions, but my water had broken, so they told us to come in to the hospital. My doula joined us shortly after we’d arrived.

The nurse suggested I try to sleep during the night. Despite being tired, I couldn’t sleep, because of the anxiety and excitement. And contractions.

I didn’t necessarily plan to have a natural birth. Actually, through most of my pregnancy, I thought the idea of natural birth was crazy. According to my ob/gyn, natural birth was akin to having dental surgery with no painkillers. And why would anyone want to do that?

But my mom kept mentioning how epidurals had dangerous side effects. And other people were bringing that up as well. And then I had a nightmare about it. So I started thinking about it more. I took a childbirth class and got a free doula-in-training. I annoyed my doctor by asking him lots of questions.

By the time of the birth, I’d decided I just wanted to wait until labor was progressing well before getting an epidural. I thought that maybe, if things were going really well, I wouldn’t need an epidural. But I would definitely get one if needed. There’s no reason to experience excruciating pain if you don’t have to.

The doctor didn’t want to check my cervix during the night, because my water had broken and he didn’t want to risk introducing an infection. So I went through the night unaware of how labor was progressing. As the contractions got more intense, I distracted myself with deep breaths, music, and meditation.

Around 8 a.m. they discovered that I was dilated between 5-6 cm. I still felt like I was coping quite well and able to continue without drugs. Awhile later, I got into the jacuzzi tub.

My childbirth teacher had claimed that the jacuzzi tub was as effective at pain management as an epidural. I think that claim is probably false. But it did work pretty well. I would only feel intense pain for maybe a few seconds at a time.

Finally, around 12:30 in the afternoon, I felt like it was time to get out of the tub and start pushing.

That was also about the time I started screaming and crying and asking the nurse to give me an epidural.

She said no. She cheerfully said, “You’re almost done! This is the way birth should be!”

Easy for her to say. I thought I might die.

The nurse kept yelling at me to push, while my husband and doula held my hands.”This is the hardest work you’ll ever do!” said the nurse.

And then, at 2:07 p.m., little Baby Bear was born. They handed her to me and I held her in my arms for her first hour of life. She was so tiny, with perfect little features and a full head of beautiful black hair.

My husband and I knew we had met the new love of our lives. There would be no looking back.