Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
A quick heads up for any of you who have connected to this blog or my birth story because you’re hoping to have a natural birth: I wrote a story on the Dos and Don’ts of Natural Birth for Parents.com.
It was nice to be able to pull together some of my thoughts and to pick the brains of other mamas who’ve gone the natural route. Of course I had a couple of experienced midwives weigh in as well.
Our advice includes some basics, such as finding a supportive practitioner and birthing environment, as well as things you might not think about at first, such as remembering your birth partner, going ahead and eating that egg sandwich and cutting off others’ birthing horror stories.
Come to think of it, you should do that last one whether you’re headed the natural route or not. No pregnant lady needs the extra worry.
Check out the story.
Natural birth hopefuls: I sincerely hope the full list helps you achieve the birth you want. I’m happy to try and answer any questions in the comments.
Natural birth veterans: What advice did we miss? Help the hopefuls by adding your two cents!
Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
I left you hanging at the end of My Birth Story: Part One having labored at home, driven to the hospital, then spent another couple of hours contracting in various positions before deciding I was done. If this birth was going to be anything like my first, I had another fifteen or so hours ahead of me. The pain of each contraction was too great, and they were coming at me faster and faster, so, um, no thank you. Done.
But. But! I’ll have you know that I’d identified this roadblock during my HypnoBirthing work, which asked: What might hold you back from navigating this birth drug-free? My answer, without question, was my first birth. To be specific: My first, 30-hour birth, which featured three tries with the vacuum, four—four!—hours of pushing, and a phone call to get the c-section doctor headed our way, before ending in a vaginal birth. I knew I’d have a hard time not fixating on those excruciating, drawn-out dramatics. I knew it would be hard to give this birth the chance to evolve on its own.
So there I was, not giving this birth the chance to evolve on its own. I told my husband and my doula, Dawn, that I couldn’t take this pain for so long again.
“It won’t be that long,” they both insisted.
I said I didn’t believe them. That they were just trying to trick me into staying with it. “I think you’re lying,” I said. I was serious. After all, how the hell did they know?
Dawn did her doula thing and made a deal with me. “Last time, you stalled out at a four [dilation-wise]. They want to check you at 10 AM—in just twenty minutes. How about you two walk a few laps, then come back and get checked, and if you’re at a five, we’ll go in the tub. I bet you’ll be a five.”
“Do you really think so?” I asked.
“I do,” Dawn said.
So I agreed. Clint and I went back to walking the carpeted hospital halls. When a contraction hit, I bent over the ballet-style bars lining the walls and stuck my tush out so Clint could squeeze my lower back in this crazy-magical way that took the edge off. It was a move Dawn showed him, and it helped just enough to keep me going.
The nurse took her sweet time coming in to check me, so it was 10:15 by the time we found out if we were heading into the tub or calling the anesthesiologist. The verdict: A five; stretchy six, and 85 percent effaced. I stuck to my end of the bargain. Into the tub I went.
Dawn was so sure of that five that she’d already drawn a hot tub and decorated the bathroom in a string of white lights. I slipped in wearing a tank top because for some reason, that layer of material made me feel a little less vulnerable while floating there, all massive, slippery and moaning in front of a small crowd.
I dialed back in to my method of dealing with the contractions, tweaking it ever so slightly to fit my new environment. I’d wait silently and gratefully in the stillness; floating, relaxing, breathing, with a cold washcloth (supplied by Clint) on my forehead. Then a contraction would surge, and through the white pain I’d picture it moving my baby down while I shifted and wriggled through the water.
Like my first birth, they came at me unpredictably—5 minutes, then 8 minutes, then 2, then 10. But they were getting stronger, sitting heavy on my lower back and wringing my midsection like a wet towel. In the quiet space between contractions, my skepticism resurfaced. I mumbled to Clint, camped out next the tub, “I really don’t think I can do this.”
His reply: “You’re doing great. You’re almost there!”
I willed my head up to meet his gaze and said, “You do not understand.”
Then came a machine-gun string of contractions. Bam! Bam! Bam! They hijacked my body, shooting down through my legs like an electric current. Sounds originating from somewhere deep inside me left my lips without my consent. In the brief moments between each, I was not so much relaxing as going limp; giving over to whimpering, watery eyes and chest heaves. Though it bore some resemblance to crying, it wasn’t. That would’ve required energy. I had none.
“We need to call the doctor,” Dawn said. “I think it’s about time for you to push.” I still thought this was the old It-Won’t-Take-Long-This-Time Routine, designed to keep me in the game.
But then I heard my doctor’s voice from the hospital room. He poked his head in the bathroom door. “It sounded like things were moving along pretty quickly, so I figured I’d come by,” he said. I knew that Dr. C only showed up for the final stretch, so reality began to sink in. Maybe it was true. Maybe I was almost there. “Let’s get you out of the tub and get you checked,” he said.
I didn’t want to move. Not because I loved being in the tub, but because moving required effort. I geared myself up, and in the space between contractions they rushed me to the bed where Dr. C confirmed: I was at a nine-plus, and just a rim away from being completely effaced. I’d opened a full four more centimeters during my time in the tub, not even 45 minutes.
It was true. We were almost there.
Four more surges and I was completely dilated and 100 percent effaced. Time to push. Finally, I believed I wasn’t destined to repeat Birth #1. I would not push for nearly four hours. I would push simply as long as it took to meet my little girl. And with any luck, that wouldn’t be long at all.
My instinct was to tense and straighten my legs. My instinct was wrong. When each contraction came, I worked to tuck my chin to my chest, curl my butt under and push, push, push, push. On about the third round of pushing, I found it: The sweet spot. The pain disappeared, a white light filled my head and engulfed my body, and I could feel her moving through me. To me.
As much as I wanted it to, my body did not remember this position. It took a couple more tries for me to find it again. And again. The last time I did, I stayed there, pushing past one contraction and straight into another as the pressure and burning built, then released. Finally. Released. After twenty minutes of pushing, our baby arrived at 11:42 AM. Just 17 minutes before the “best case scenario” time I’d wished for the day before.
They put her on my chest immediately. She was absolutely perfect.
Clint cut the cord as I held her, transfixed. “Look at her,” I said. “She’s beautiful.” Then, prying my eyes away to look at Clint: “I can’t believe it did it. I did it.” It was almost a question.
Clint took off his shirt and had his skin-to-skin bonding with her as all my fun post-birth stuff unfolded. The placenta birth and stitches (an “almost two” tear—not bad) and whatnot. We did let them weigh and measure her (7 lbs 2 oz, 21 inches!), but after that, we insisted on keeping her near, nursing and snuggling her first hours away. She’s a cuddly one.
People keep asking me if Hypnobirthing worked, and my answer is: It helped. It did not erase the pain, but it helped me work through it in a way that I was unable to do instinctively during my first.
But enough about my first, already. This is the story of my second, entirely different birth.
The birth of our little Vera Loraine.
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
Those two rounds of contractions (contractual episodes? contractisodes?) last week made it ever so clear that this baby will come whether or not I’ve packed my bag for the hospital. Already she has a mind of her own. Babies.
So I’ve given in to reality, on this point at least. I will fill that suitcase that’s open and waiting on my bedroom floor. Because I’m a compulsive list-maker, I consulted many “What to Pack” lists, then pared them down to a “What I Really Need to Pack” list. That’s one of the benefits of this being Babyhaving: The Sequel. I know that wearing the hospital’s disposable undies is better than ruining my own, and that between visitors and sleep and babygazing, I will not have time to tackle a little light magazine reading.
Here is what I think I need…
To pack ahead of time:
- Copies of birth plan (in case they don’t have the copy my doc sent over ready and waiting)
- List of phone #s to call (even if Clint can remember the list of five people now, he may not have his wits about him when the time comes, due to sleeplessness and baby excitement)
- Notebook (Birthing thoughts? Final baby-name narrowing down? Returning home to-do list? You never know.)
- Birthing skirt/2 tanks/zipper sweatshirt (aka stuff to labor in that allows me to regulate my temperature and allows the hospital staff to access my lady region. An extra tank in case I want to wear one into the birthing tub.)
- Two pair nonslip comfy throwaway socks (For labor. There will likely be dripping. Gross, I know.)
- Nursing bras
- Bella bands (Nice to pair with nursing bras, for the discreet & ladylike, such as myself.)
- Breast pads (In case my milk comes in. Oh, the leakage.)
- Lanolin (At first, your nipples hurt. A whole lot. Lanolin helps.)
- Arnica (My awesome friend Laura, a homeopath/pharmacist, recommends 200C post-delivery, and again 12 hours later, to promote overall healing.)
- Ponytail holders
- iPod/speakers (I prefer silence to birthing tunes, but we have HypnoBirthing scripts and affirmations on there.)
- Breastfeeding-friendly PJs/hangout wear (Better than a hospital gown. You’ll probably want options that allow easy access to Down There and/or your post c-section tummy. Make it something you won’t mind being photographed in.)
- Pantry snacks that may be tolerable during labor, such as electrolyte jelly beans, granola bars (sprung for fancy raw Pashen bars for the occasion), nuts, emergenC (Keep that energy up!)
- Have cooler ready
- Present for Roy (From the baby. So when they meet, she has it ready for him.)
- A few sleepers (Those long gowns with the elastic at the bottom, to make frequent changes easier. Might as well have her wear her own clothes, washed in our detergent, from the get-go.)
- Socks & hats
- Super cute going-home outfit
- Car seat with BundleMe (Essential for a winter baby in Minnesota—no bulky, hard-to-regulate snowsuit necessary.)
- Baby book (Get those footprints!)
- Boppy, or other breastfeeding pillow (Might as well start in the manner you intend to continue.)
To pack the last minute:
(Again, a list containing even the obvious is nice. It’s hard to make decisions while in labor.)
- Camera (batteries, charger)
- Phones & chargers
- Makeup bag
- Lip balm
- Vitamins & allergy medication
- Hair products
- Hair dryer
- Stock cooler (ice, drinkable yogurt, hard cheese, fruit)
- 12-pack fizzy water (It’s my jam.)
- HypnoBirthing scripts (On paper. For Clint to potentially read to me.)
- Towel to sit on in car (if my water hasn’t broken)
- Wallets/insurance card/ids
- Calendar (I’ve not yet gone electronic on this. Rockin’ it old skool style.)
(Just a loose reminder list for him…)
- Food (If he’s gonna support me, he needs to maintain energy as well.)
- PJs (The hospital is not the place for underwear-only sleeping.)
- Camp mat (To make a crappy hospital sofa more bearable.)
- Blanket (See above.)
POST-DELIVERY UPDATE: What I ended up using, not using and forgetting.
Image: Pregnant Woman Is Getting Ready for the Maternity Hospital via Shutterstock
Thursday, January 12th, 2012
Yesterday afternoon, contractions started. I ignored them at first, then they became strong enough that I decided to time them. They seemed a consistent 9 minutes apart, so naturally, I decided to go back to ignoring them.
I went to the salon with Clint and Roy, where they were both in for a trim. (Baby’s Second Haircut! Woot-woot!) I was relatively useless because the contractions were getting stronger. And closer together—like 6 minutes apart. I called my doula. I texted my stepmom, Roy’s official babytime caregiver, as a “just in case” heads up (she lives about 1.5 hours away). When the haircuts finished, we rushed home to start packing and getting things in order.
Then the contractions stopped. Thank god. As I mentioned on Tuesday, I’m not quite ready. Close. But not quite. My due date is January 29th, so I am not completely crazy in hoping for a little more time.
I am, however, ready chat with you on American Baby’s Facebook page today! Let’s do this! My fellow pregnant Parents.com blogger Jill Cordes, who is also due on January 29th (but having a scheduled C-section in the 25th), goes on at 1:30 EST. I’ll take over at 2:30 EST. Be there or be square. I’ll answer most anything, but here are a some pet topics of mine. Just to get you thinking:
I could go on. Really, ask me anything. I’m ready. For this, at least.
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
When I found out I was pregnant the first time, the one that resulted in the 20-month-old ball of energy currently zipping around our home, I figured I’d ride out labor pumped with whatever drugs they’d give me. My instinctual philosophy went something like Pain: Bad. Drugs: Good. What kind nut job wouldn’t readily accept any and all available help in making what by all accounts is an excruciating experience more tolerable?
I am a researcher. I tend to spend a lot of time reading up and polling friends to ensure I’m prepared for purchases and experiences, for example, especially those that build up slowly and uncomfortably over the course of nine months and are 100 percent guaranteed to change my life forever. I read and Googled like it was my job, then watched “The Business of Being Born” with Clint. When it ended, I looked over at him, sighed, and said, “Oh, shit. Natural childbirth it is.”
To help me reach my new goal, I employed an intricate two-step program.
Step #1: Hire a doula. The nurses would know what was going on. Clint would be 100% on my side. Seemed it could only help to have someone in the delivery room who was a combination of both. I knew there was the potential to want to strangle a highly involved near-stranger at some point during such a painful and personal process, especially if she had some sort of cheeseball Earth Mother catchphrase or broke out flute music or, say, touched me, so I interviewed three doulas. We chose the one who said the right things and instilled the greatest amount of confidence, which is to say the one that we could most easily picture hanging out with as I screamed obscenities and pooped myself. Even then, I was only halfway sure I wouldn’t abruptly ban her from the room mid-event.
Step #2: There was no step #2. Big mistake. It should have involved researching breathing techniques or meditation or some type of natural pain management. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Breathing through contractions did not come naturally to me, as I assumed it would. I fought the contractions so hard that eventually, doing so became the point. When Roy finally arrived, after 30-some hours of labor nonsense, I was all, “Ha! Contractions, gone! I won!” and then, “Wait, why is there an inconsolable bird in the room?”
I never asked for an epidural because I am too stubborn. I did, however, ask for “anything that would make this godawful pain stop because I can’t take even one more contraction I’m not kidding give me something now it must end.” Horse tranquilizers? Bourbon? Yes thank you and hurry it up. My doula and the nurses conferred, which resulted in an offer of Nubain, a fast-acting narcotic that I was told I could take just once. They couldn’t deliver it quickly enough. It lasted all of 30 damn minutes. It didn’t take away the pain, either, but it did allow me to sleep soundly between contractions. That rest came in handy because little did I know I was about to embark upon four solid hours of pushing.
So, technically, not natural. But pretty darn close. And despite what I vowed at the top of my lungs during those final four hours—my doctor called it “the most acrobatic birth he’d ever attended”—I’m going to again try and go natural when I deliver this January. (We’re taking hypnobirthing classes this time.) I don’t feel like outlining the whys. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. I believe that however a mama can make it through childbirth and end up with a healthy baby is perfect, for her. My choice wasn’t The Right One. It was the right one for me. So I’m making it again.
Because apparently, I am that kind of nut job.
NOTE: For another take on birthing, check out my fellow Parents.com blogger Jill Cordes’ post on why she’s scheduling a C-Section.