Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Baby Story

Willow's birth story doesn't start the day she was born, but rather the day her oldest sister entered the world. I now know from personal experience that these days, you can't just walk into a hospital and have the natural birth you are expecting. It rarely happens. You have to be determined. You have to be educated. And you need to have a doula or someone there to advocate for you. I had none and was none of those and so it was no surprise that my first two births were via cesarean. This caused a lot of emotional guilt and postpartum depression for me, and I knew I did not want another cesearean.

When I found out I was expecting for the third time, I put myself into high gear and read anything I could get my hands on about homebirth. Because I was wanting a VBA2C, (Vaginal Birth After Two Cesareans) homebirth was my only option and the more I researched, the more I learned how much safer it was than a hospital. It took me awhile to find the right midwife, but the moment we met Jen we knew she was who was supposed to be present at my daughter's birth. After talking with her, both John and I were even more confidant homebirth was the right decision.

I was due mid November, but had prodromal labor (labor that takes an unusually long time) and started contracting often a little before 30 weeks. My body was slowly dilating, but it felt never ending. I would contract regularly for hours, and taking a shower or moving around did not make it stop. Almost every day I would call John and tell him this was “the real thing”, but it never was. My parents drove over from Michigan when my due date arrived, but they came and left, and still nothing. I was definitely anxious, but patient. I was confidant my body was doing what it was supposed to and I would go into active labor at the right time.

When I turned 42 weeks, I met with Jen and she checked my cervix for the first time. I was dilated 5 centimeters! She told me she knew labor was going to be within the couple days. I had been contracting even more the entire week on and off and continued to when we left, and although they were intense, they were not strong enough. Finally, at 42 weeks and 2 days, I started contracting again at 9pm. By this point, I wanted to go into labor so badly. I had tried every trick in the book, even castor oil, to put me into labor but nothing worked. This particular night when more contractions started, I did 100 kegels, bounced on my exercise ball, and was praying they would not go away like every other time. By 5am they hadn't stopped so I was pretty sure this had to be active labor! My parents had arrived (again) that night, so in the morning they took our daughters away for the day so we could try to relax.

We called Jen, our midwife to let her know that my contractions were still 15 minutes apart, so it was slow, but I was definitely in labor! We filled up the pool, sipped tea, read, listened to worship music and relaxed as much as possible. I had back labor and would walk around often, but for much of the time I was laying on my side and John would put a rice sock on my back during each contraction. My parents had set up their cots they use for their overseas trips in the living room for their stay and I loved laying on them. They were so firm and comfortable!

Around noon, Jen came by for a few minutes but things were not progressing very fast, so we told her we would call when my contractions were closer together and more painful.

It was the most amazing feeling to sit in my own home and contract with the candles lit and music playing. As things progressed, John was my rock. He was there every minute and did every single thing I needed. Jen came back in the evening and waited with us as labor continued. She checked the baby's heartbeat often and although I was in so much pain, I had never felt so calm and safe. As the night went on, my contractions got closer together and were more painful, but it felt like labor was never ending. There were times I sat in the pool, a contraction would come and I would jump up and cry from the pain. I have heard many people say they were really “out of it” or don't remember much, but I felt very aware through most of it. People were so worried about me having a homebirth and were calling and texting often, but I did not want John to talk on the phone. I often clung to John during contractions and he would recite the scripture we had chosen as our “labor” verse 2 Con 12:9 “My grace is enough; it is all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become!”

At one point, I moved from the living room to my bedroom to lay on my side. John lay behind me and was supposed to be putting the rice pack on my back during contractions. After a few minutes I looked over and saw he had fallen asleep. I was so thankful he was able to get some rest... he had been up for SO long! I went into the living room with Jen and Amanda, her assistant, and they helped me through contractions until John woke up. Jen checked me for the first time during active labor around 10pm and I was dilated 8 centimeters. I was upset that after all the prodromal labor, and 24 hours of active labor, I still wasn't fully dilated. We made the decision to break my water. I am so thankful we did because I went from 8 centimeters to being in transition within minutes. I got sick and knew I was in transition but did not feel pushy at all. After almost an hour I still did not feel the urge to push. We decided to put saline drops in my back to take away the pain of back labor just enough because Jen thought it was possible my back labor was so strong I could not feel the need to push. And sure enough, as soon as she gave me the drops (which had an extremely painful burning sensation... it was the only time I came close to screaming during labor), my back labor subsided enough for me to feel I needed to push.

I was hoping for a water birth, but I was just so tired. I had been in and out of the pool during contractions many times, and was exhausted. Too tired to even sit down. I felt all I could do was lay down at this point. I remember feeling like I could not push. I actually asked if I could take a nap and just finish pushing in the morning! But we pressed on. Jen and Amanda kept asking me if I wanted them to take pictures, or if I wanted a mirror. I think I was a little rude and just kept telling them no, I just want to keep pushing. I wanted it to be over so badly, I was so tired. They kept telling me they had never seen anyone concentrate so hard during pushing and I think that is what kept me going. Pushing was pretty unbearable for me and she had a big head so it took me several sets of pushes to get her head out. After 1.5 hours of pushing I finally delivered our sweet Willow Joy at 1:05am on December 1st! Words can't even express how exhilarated I was. Birthing Willow was literally the most empowering, joyous experience I have ever had. I remember repeating “I can't believe I did it!!” over and over. This was incredible to me, because I do not finish well. Generally in life when things get tough for me, I quit out of fear of failure. This was something I had accomplished, and it felt amazing.

In all this excitement I forgot I still had to deliver the placenta. I was bleeding quite a bit, and at first Jen thought I might be hemorrhaging, but thankfully I wasn't. She was pressing on my stomach quite a bit and it hurt, so instead she just lay Willow on top of my stomach and her weight naturally helped deliver the placenta. I didn't realize how uncomfortable and painful it was going to be.

Instead of having to go into recovery like my previous cesareans, I was able to hold my sweet baby to my chest and keep her by my side at every moment. I nursed her a bit and she latched. I don't really remember much at this point, but I do remember John making some phone calls and the midwives helped me to my bed. It was there they weighed Willow and stitched me up, as I had tore just a little bit. My dad came over from the hotel he was staying at with my mom and our girls. Jen came in to tell me she was leaving a bit later after cleaning up some and tears streamed down my face as I thanked her. She was with me during the hardest and most beautiful moments of my life, and I felt a huge bond with her. She believed in me when I did not believe in myself, and I had confidence because she was confident in me.