Category Archives: Labor and Birth
As often happens when I read posts by Susan Gaddis, I start to comment and then find I’ve written an entire blog post myself. Please go check out her beautiful post: How to Celebrate Christmas When You’re Not in the Mood.
The last few Christmases have been a challenge for our family, financially, and living in a city without much of our extended family nearby makes it even harder to get in the mood to celebrate Christmas. But we’re doing our best!
This year, the kids and I made a Terrific Mess cutting out paper snowflakes to paste on our windows which we’ve surrounded with blue twinkly lights. Our little one especially loves to just sit and watch as they blink off and on, coloring the snowflakes white and blue. If I focus on just the beautiful window, I can almost ignore the desert landscape beyond. In our trips around town, I keep a Christmas station going in the car, and it’s fun to hear the kids’ sweet voices stumbling through the words (Oh Holy Night has become a mish-mash of made up words, Sunday school lessons, and I think even Optimus Prime got in there at one point…). Their current favorites are the rock-opera-style Trans-Siberian Orchestra versions of Carol of the Bells and Oh Holy Night.
Soon, I’m planning on making cookies with the kids and decorating them to take downstairs to our elderly neighbors who don’t have family around. I keep reminding the kids (and myself!) that we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, not getting gifts and presents. We may not be able to afford a tree or gifts this year, but between devotionals (an Advent calendar), practical acts, and praise, we’re trying to keep Jesus the focus of our Christmas!
I’m feeling especially close to Mary, Jesus’ mother, this year… being ungainly pregnant; an impending move looming right next to my due date; the alternating joy of new life within me and the crushing terror of how the heck we’re going to care for another child with our limited resources. Years ago, as a teenager, I was inspired to create a dance to Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven” and have danced it almost every Christmas for the last 10 years… so it’s a familiar song, but every time I’ve heard it this year, I’ve broken down weeping. It’s so near my heart… God what are you doing? Is this really Your best plan for my life right now? Help me be strong… help me be… help me.
But the Hope that is Advent… God encasing himself in the flesh of a helpless baby, to live like us, be one of us, so that He could save us from our pathetic existence… THIS is what excites me about Christmas. It’s what shakes me from the lethargy of my depression and causes me to turn my eyes towards the Hope of Eternity Future. This isn’t all there is to life. There is more coming. Christmas gives me a glimpse of that Joy Unspeakable.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, the-God-Who-is-with-us, is coming!
I have to keep telling this story. With every telling, more of my psyche is healed. Feel free to skip if you’ve heard it before…
When I was in labor with Jonathan, I labored for 2 full days on my own strength before my body began to tire. Holding on to my “ideal birth”, I refused narcotics when they began Pitocin to strengthen my contractions. The pain was overwhelming and I couldn’t bear it anymore. I was literally strapped down to the bed by the monitors and wires, even though I desperately wanted to be up and moving around. Jonathan’s heart rate would drop to alarmingly low rates and then slowly rise. I was in agony. I finally asked for an epidural at 65 hours of labor. But this was late Sunday night, and the anesthesiologist was not in the hospital at the time, so I would have to wait. My nurse offered a narcotic to help me cope until he could arrive to give me the epidural. The drug, Stadol, was the worst possible part of my whole labor. Instead of “easing my pain”, like they promised, it made me sleepy, loopy and nightmarish. The only time that I would be myself was at the peak of the Pitocin-induced contractions, where I would writhe and scream in pain, only to pass out again into the scary fog. When the epidural was finally in place, I had to push for almost three hours before a very cone-headed Jonathan emerged.
It wasn’t until we got home two days afterwards that I was really able to acknowledge that I had a son. I mean, I knew I had him, but he wasn’t even a person to me until two days later. I learned how to breastfeed and that was great, but I felt so disconnected from him. I felt powerless… I couldn’t even do the one thing that defines motherhood: I couldn’t give birth to my child on my own. I had needed drugs and monitors and infusions to get him out. When I was told that my contractions weren’t strong enough and I needed Pitocin, that was when I started to feel like a failure. Then I couldn’t handle the pain. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t cope, and to top it all off, I was totally numb when it was time to push, so it almost seemed like an out-of-body experience to watch them pull Jonathan out… like I had nothing to do with it.
A lot of people don’t get it… “at least you and the baby are healthy”, they would say. OK, yes, that was true. And I felt guilty for being depressed about how the labor and birth went, because obviously the end result was just fine. But I wasn’t OK. I wasn’t diagnosed with postpartum depression, but I knew I wasn’t right. I obsessively began to study birth. I really think I could take the midwifery exam today and pass because of all that I’ve studied. I know that I let myself be bullied into things before I was ready. The doctor had been pushing for a c-section. I knew that I was not ready for that, so I compromised and agreed to an induction. But my body really was not ready to give birth! I know now, not to play good patient, but to stick to my knowledge of my body. I am, after all, an expert on myself.
I felt like I needed a “do-over”, and was so excited when I became pregnant with Hannah. My obsession continued, and my book collection on all things birth grew. I may have taken my knowledge of myself a little too far, in that we stayed home a little too long and ended up delivering Hannah at home by ourselves (not what we had planned). Although Anthony was totally freaked out, I felt like I was Mother Earth, the most powerful being in the universe (I realize that sounds pagan, my Christian friends, but I’m sure you’ll get over it: that’s really how I felt). I had brought forth life into the world without the help of any drugs or people telling me what to do or anything.
I felt validated. I had known that I could do it, and I was right. A huge part of me was healed.
Somehow, it just seems right to remind myself of this again and again…
Friday, Oct. 16th
Went to the hospital for another Non-Stress Test and check of my blood pressure. BP was still high, fetal heart tracing looked great. Scheduled an induction for Tuesday, Oct. 20th. Checked my dilation, and I was still only at 1cm and Josh’s head was -2, still floating. Went home to stay on bed rest. I have to say, bed rest SOUNDS really great for someone like me who could read books all day anyways, but bed rest with a 4-year-old and 2-year-old (even as awesome as mine are) is REALLY hard! My friend Raylene came over in the afternoon and went to the store for me, got the kids dinner and PJ’d and cleaned my kitchen. SUCH a blessing!!!!
In bed that night, started feeling contractions. They lasted 1-2 minutes long, but were 15-20 minutes apart. Intense, but this is usually how I labor. I told Anthony when he woke up, but told him to go to work.
Saturday, Oct. 17th
Contractions continued all day long, but stayed more than 10 minutes apart. It was frustrating, knowing I needed to stay laying down because of my high blood pressure, but knowing that I could really get labor in gear if I was able to walk around and “do stuff”. I called my mom and told her I was in early labor and that maybe she should plan on coming earlier Monday morning instead of Monday night. She felt like it would be better to come Sunday night, she just “had a feeling”. My intuitive mother! =)
In the afternoon, Emilie, a friend from school, came and took a stir-crazy Jonathan and Hannah on a walk down to the park. It was so great to have her come and get them… they played for almost 2 hours and came home nice and tired! By the time we went to bed, my contractions were 10 minutes apart. Still no worries, since this is pretty typical for my labors.
Sunday, Oct. 18th
Anthony took the kids to church, and then dropped them off with his mom on his way out to work. I was pretty tired and cranky from not sleeping very well. I was also worried. We had gone to the hospital so many times on false alarms, I didn’t want to “cry wolf” again, BUT we also had Hannah, our last baby, at home because I didn’t think I was far enough into labor yet. So I was stressed about making the right decision. I knew the induction was going to happen on Tuesday, but I really wanted to avoid that, if possible (I’d had pitocin with Jonathan and it was rather hellish). Chloe Evers’ mom came over and swept and mopped my house for me… SO amazing!!! I barely know her, and she called and asked if I needed help cleaning my house… I’m so blessed! After she left, things got really interesting, and my contractions were about 7 minutes apart and REALLY intense. I called Anthony, my mom and finally my midwife. Between contractions, I was happily listening to “Twilight” on iTunes… just so you know what a die-hard Twi-mom I am! =P
Anthony came home at about 6pm and off we went to the hospital. We stopped at Carl’s Jr. on the way down, since Anthony hadn’t eaten dinner yet. He ordered his burger with onions (boo! hiss!), the selfish man. We saw Carolyn Watson ordering in front of us, and Anthony shouted that we were going to the hospital to have a baby. Her incredulous reaction cracked us up!
Our friend and doula, Amy Boggs, was sadly out of town, and I knew my mom was still a few hours away, so we called Julie Marshall, who had been on stand-by as our baby sitter. But since the kids were with Anthony’s parents, and Julie and I have attended births together before, I asked if she could be with us, at least until my mom got there. God is so cool how he arranges things, and Julie just happened to already be down in SLO, and met us at French Hospital. Her sweet kids blessed us before we checked in: Ean asked to pray over me and had the sweetest blessings to speak over me. When he said “amen”, I saw that his twin, Ali, was crying. I asked her if it was OK if I borrowed her mommy until mine was able to be there, and she said “yeah, I’m just so happy that Jesus is giving you another baby”. =D
We checked in, and I was dilated to 3cms and 50% effaced. The hospital was pretty full, so we didn’t get a tub room, but we had a giant bathroom with a nice shower. After all the normal checking-in routines, I got back into my “labor mode” and spent the night moving from bed to rocking chair to shower and back.
Anthony, Julie and my mom rotated sleeping and supporting me. Early in the morning, all three of them were asleep, and I actually enjoyed laboring in the dark on my own… this was a work that only I could do. I sang in the shower
“Jesus walked this lonesome valley
He had to walk it by himself
Oh nobody else could walk it for him
He had to walk it by himself”
Working with my body felt so right, and having people that I loved close around me (even if they were sleeping) was just wonderful.
Monday, Oct. 19th
Julie had to leave early in the morning to check on her family, and then she and her sister Katie Reynoso came back to help support us and take pictures. I had the honor of working with Julie during Katie’s last birth, so it was fun to have them able to work with me during my labor!
By 9:30, Lisa, our midwife, came in and I asked her to break my water so we could get to work. I’d had breakfast (not the greatest) was feeling full of energy and ready to see my baby. I was 5cms and 75% effaced when she did the AROM. After some monitoring to make sure Joshua was OK with having his little bubble world drained, Anthony and I got into the shower together. FINALLY labor started feeling strong. I could feel Josh’s head pushing downward and my body powerfully responded with each contraction. Being in the shower with my sweet husband was great, he was able to support me, give me counter-pressure where I needed and encourage me. And for once, he wasn’t a hot water hog in the shower! =D We stayed in the shower for about 30 minutes when my legs started shaking, and I was ready to get out. Lisa checked me again and I was fully effaced and 7cms already.
I squatted through a few contractions while leaning back into Anthony’s arms and the nurse monitored Joshua with the Doppler. After a few contractions, she very calmly but firmly told me and Anthony that I had to get back in the bed NOW and lay on my side. Joshua’s heart rates had begun to drop, a sign of fetal distress. I moved as quickly as I could onto my side and his heart rate recovered, but from that point on, his heartbeat only stayed in the OK range if I was laying in bed. This was really difficult for me, because that was how Jonathan’s birth had gone, with me being imprisoned in bed and feeling so helpless. Even though I know it’s better for the baby, my hips and pelvis had much less mobility and it makes contractions so much more painful when you can’t move your body during a contraction. However, I was much more focused on the process and not the pain and I felt so supported by the people around me. I knew that I could do it, and I was really close to the end.
Lisa ordered an amnio-infusion, a procedure that pumped liquid back into my uterus, with the goal that it will lessen the baby’s distress by cushioning and allowing the baby to rotate better. After an hour or so of this, I asked if she would check me again. I was at 9.5cm, and I was feeling very DONE, so I asked her to stretch me out to 10. If you think contractions hurt, having your cervix manually stretched is a motherfricker (pardon me). As soon as I was stretched out, I had to push really hard to get his head down far enough to maintain the 10 cms and Lisa announced that she could see lots of black hair!
At this point, I was totally expecting to FEEL the urge to push, but no such feeling came. Because of the heart rates and everything, it was important to get him out soon, but it was hard because I didn’t feel the need to push. With Hannah, I couldn’t have stopped pushing if I wanted to, my body totally took over. This time, Anthony had to coach me through the pushing phase. This was actually really nice. I had said that I didn’t want people yelling at me to push or counting really loud. I always thought that was annoying. So Anthony stayed with me, holding my head and counting quietly and and encouraging me through each contraction. The Twin Doulas, Julie and Katie, helped hold up my legs and my mom spoke encouragements from behind the midwife and nurse.
As I pushed Joshua down, my body finally started to take over. Once I could touch his fuzzy little head for myself, I just thought “this is it! here we go!” and pushed with all my might. I have to say, YES, crowning is a STRONG feeling, but it is not a painful feeling… it’s overwhelming fullness, to the point that you are going to explode with energy… and then I did! I pushed his head out, and then felt another contraction rise up right away, like how waves double up in a storm surge. It really felt like all the power in the universe was packed inside my body and I yelled with the effort and pushed Joshua’s entire little body out at once!
Julie and Katie can probably tell it better, since I couldn’t see, but the reason why I didn’t have the urge to push is because Joshua was positioned occiput transverse (OT), meaning that instead of being face
up or face down, he was face sideways, looking at my right thigh as he came out. His head wasn’t positioned in such a way that would encourage my cervix open. That’s why it had taken so long to dilate and why I didn’t feel the “urge” until the end. I guess Katie had to sorta help catch as he came out because I had pushed so forcefully he kinda flew out!
They put him right up on my belly and Anthony cried into my hair as I helped rub Joshua down and watched him pink up. He looked directly up into my eyes and I fell in love. Then he pooped on me. =)
Joshua Elias Rôhan Indie
7lbs. 5oz. 20 3/4 inches
This could be because of my recent emergence from the ultra-liberal Women’s and Gender Studies minor at Cal Poly, but I’ve realized how political my upcoming birth is going to be. The Second Wave Feminists coined the phrase (taken from the Civil Rights Movement) “the personal is political”, and I feel like this applies to me and the way that I want to give birth.
Obviously, if you know me at all, you know I have a passion for women in their childbearing years. You probably know that I was upset at how my labor and delivery with Jonathan was managed, and that Hannah arrived REALLY FAST at home (unplanned, but totally awesome). With Baby #3 (who we are calling Joshua, although there is a 20% chance that “he” is really Isabella), we really tried to make it work to have a midwife come to our home for the birth. Oddly enough, even though the raw cost of a homebirth (including all prenatal and 6 weeks of post-partum care) is $3,000, our insurance would only cover about $600 worth. The raw cost of a hospital birth, if we did not have health insurance, is closer to $30,000. However, because of our insurance, we only are paying $300. So really, the cheaper option all around is the one we can’t afford. How does that make any sense?
How is this political? Well, the Feminist Movement is well-known for upholding a “Woman’s Right To Choose”… but choose what? Abortion is pretty much the only action associated with this statement (and if you know me a little, abortion is something I’m FIRMLY against, but that’s a post for another day). What about a woman’s right to choose how she gives birth? I’ve asked this question of all of my WGS faculty, and most of them say that’s a great idea, but that “Choice” is primarily limited to a woman continuing her pregnancy or not. Hmm.
Additionally, I’ve been watching the news a lot (a really bad thing to do if you are prone to depression… the world sucks), and there has been a lot of coverage on health care reform. I like the idea of everyone getting health care that needs it, but I have a serious problem with the structure of Obama-care. For instance, how would you like a committee of penny-pinching people (not medical specialists) deciding what you can and can not have in terms of medical coverage? While I think our family’s current health insurance plan is pretty sucky, its better than what it could be under socialized medicine! However, those same penny-pinchers might be the ones who see that not every pregnancy and birth requires the full-on hospital set up, and it might bring about more homebirthing midwives to take care of the 90% of low-risk pregnancies and births that don’t require anything more than loving hands to guide a new life into the world. But I’m pretty skeptical of that happening in America while ACOG and AMA have so much influence.
Just so I don’t offend anyone, let me be clear that this is MY opinion. Most women that I know really loved their epidural and their hospital births, and that is awesome for them, because that is what they chose to have. My personal experiences with the hospitals has been that my body and my birth have been dictated by the hospital and not by my instincts. Obviously, if something is done for the benefit of my baby (if there were to be a problem), I would do it. I’m not so focused on my wishes that I would insist my way while putting my baby in danger. But I’ve developed my own intuition about my body. I’m the one living in it and sharing space with this growing human being. I want to do what is instinctual when I’m in labor, not what I’m told to do by hospital protocol.
My baby and I understand one another NOW, before I’ve gone into labor. Last night, I couldn’t get comfortable and couldn’t fall asleep. I walked around the house and thought deep things while sitting on the couch. Joshua was awake too, kicking and bumping around in my womb. As I massaged my belly, he calmed down. His movements became more fluid, and in rhythm to my massage. We worked together to relax enough to go back to bed and fall asleep.
When I was in labor with Hannah and my water broke in the shower, I fell to my hands and knees instinctively, and I remember my slow-working rational brain going “what are you doing on the floor of the tub?” Hannah’s birth was so fast, but I didn’t tear or have any complications, and I feel like this was largely due to me following my “monkey brain” (subconscious instincts) and doing what was right for me and my daughter. I remember when just Hannah’s head was out, reaching down and rubbing her scalp until I heard her breath sounds. It wasn’t until this pregnancy when I was reading up on emergency childbirth procedures (just in case) that rubbing the scalp was one of the best ways to get breathing started if the body hasn’t been born yet. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t read that before I did it, but I followed my intuition that it was the right thing to do for her.
Birth is personal to me. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone except myself. I want to make my own choices about what is done to my body. So my plan is to have a simple birth in the hospital. I know I’m going to piss off some nurses when I refuse the fetal monitor (I hate how that machine becomes the focus of everyone’s attention) and ask for a doppler to hear the baby instead. I already know they freak out when you start walking around the hospital and going up and down the stairs outside, but letting gravity pull the baby down is easier than forceps and vacuum extractors. I’m not sure what they’ll do if I start making love to my husband to keep my oxytocin levels up, but that sounds like a lot more fun to me than a Pitocin drip. Hopefully we get a door with a lock on it… Ina May Gaskin says sexy loving gets the baby in and sexy loving gets the baby out. In the end, love is central idea, our love, bringing a new life into the world.
Current mood: cheerful
Category: Goals, Plans, Hopes
Sorry the long silence… but I’ve been a good girl!! My doula training was amazing and I can’t wait to attened my first birth! So if you know any pregnant ladies who would like discounted doula services, send them my way!!!!
Jonathan is singing as I bounce him on my lap…. I love this kid!!
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)
By J.K. Rowling
Release date: 21 June, 2003