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4.16.2013

Finley's Birth Story


Disclaimer: I've heard any unpleasant feelings associated with experiencing childbirth fade unbelievably quickly. People obviously have more than one child, so I'm assuming this is true. I'm hesitant to share my story, because every birth experience is SO, so, so different, and I don't want to "scare" anyone, and maybe I'm just extremely dramatic in how I relay things. This is my story, in a pretty raw form. Read it & enjoy it, but keep your mind open... 
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Two weeks ago today, I went into labor. It all started very casually- Joey and I went to my weekly midwife appointment in the morning on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, and I felt completely normal. (Well, as normal as a 9 month pregnant woman can feel, anyway!) On the way home from the appointment, we stopped to pick up some probiotics from a local health food store. I had tested positive for group B strep, and my midwife suggested that I start taking a good probiotic supplement to "get things straightened out down there."

When we got back to our apartment, Joey and I did something we rarely do: we took a nap. Around 12:30pm, Joey left for work. I, however, stayed in bed. "This feels so nice!" I thought. "I'm going to just lie here for a while!"

Around 3pm, I finally decided to get up. I immediately made my way to the bathroom (in the stereotypical pregnant woman fashion), still groggy. Somewhere in the process, I noticed that I'd "lost my mucus plug." Now, for those of you who don't know what the mucus plug is, I'll leave it with this (rather vague) definition: it blocks the opening of the cervix for the duration of pregnancy, and when it comes out, it means the baby is going to follow soon!

I snapped out of my grogginess pretty quickly at that point. I grabbed my phone and texted Joey. Imagine him at work getting this series of texts:

SQUISHY (this is what I call Joey)

THE PLUG CAME OUT!

It was gross!

At this point, I was sitting on the couch thinking, "Maybe I should pack my bag for the hospital. Maybe I should write our birth plan..." In my mind, I figured that the baby would be late, arriving sometime in mid-April, hence the lack of anything being prepared! I was definitely ready for something to happen. Don't get me wrong- I loved being pregnant- but after 9 months, I was ready to be done waiting. But now that it WAS happening, I was kind of in shock!

I called my midwife soon after, because I was also having some bleeding (it was just bloody show), and I wanted her advice on what to do. She advised me to head to the hospital to get checked for dilation/effacement. At this point I was definitely having contractions, but they felt like nothing more than a constant tightening in my lower back area. Joey planned to come home from work, but first he had to find a car to borrow. You see, just that morning our car had decided to conveniently break down. The hospital is only about 2.5 miles from our apartment, and we both have bikes... but he was thinking it would be preferable not to ask his laboring wife to ride a bike to the hospital. I was thankful for this :) Amanda Jeffreys came to the rescue by freely offering us her car. When Joey finally got to the apartment after leaving work, it was probably around 6pm. We took a few minutes to shove some clothes and candy into a suitcase. I was a little emotional and I could tell Joey was nervous as well. We hopped into the car and headed to the hospital, arriving around 7pm. I had no idea what the next 12 hours were going to bring-- more than just a baby into the world, but also a life-changing experience that challenged everything I thought I knew about myself.
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The first time I was checked, I believe I was 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced. The whole process of getting checked was unbelievably uncomfortable and even painful! A medical resident was the one who did it and he used a speculum and I think it was just way more drawn out than it needed to be. By this point I could definitely feel the start and end of my contractions. They were about 2 minutes apart and lasting about 45 seconds. They started to take some concentration to get through. I wasn't far enough along to be admitted, so Joey and I walked laps around the labor & delivery unit to pass time and encourage my progression. I forgot to bring any shoes besides my furry Ugg boots. They started to drive me insane because I was sweating and already uncomfortable enough from the contractions, so I took them off and walked bare-footed until a nurse offered me some socks. While we were walking our laps we heard a woman giving birth. The hospital I was at (Robert Packer) is unique in the sense that the labor and delivery unit is also the mom and baby unit... so the room you have your baby in is the same room you recover in for the next few days. The woman was yelling, "OWWW, Oh my God, it hurts, it hurts, PULL IT OUT, PULL IT OUT!" Joey and I stared at each other with big eyes as we continued making our rounds. We had no idea what we were in for! Soon walking became rather difficult. I would have to pause and lean over in the hallway to get through a contraction. After getting checked again for progress, my nurse offered me the birth ball (a big yoga ball). At first I didn't use it because getting out of bed seemed like it wouldn't be worth the discomfort. But then I decided to give it a try, and for a few hours, it was literally a life-saver. The rocking motions I was doing without a doubt made me look ridiculous, but at that point I'd lost pretty much all my desire to protect my modesty or dignity or whatever you might call it. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep, but there's no way that was going to happen. I couldn't stop moving- I knew I wouldn't be able to handle the pain once I did. I was barely hanging on to my composure. Joey and I had brought our laptop to help us pass the time. We briefly attempted to watch "Bones" on Netflix. HA! That lasted two seconds. "I'm so tired," I quietly told Joey as I rocked on the birth ball. I was on the brink of tears, "I just want to go to bed." My endurance was waning and things were just getting started! I don't know what time it was, but it was not a good sign. Eventually I was moved from triage to an actual room. By that point I was in a LOT of pain. I knew my mom, grandmother, and Joey's mom were all on their way to the hospital. "I don't want to see anyone!" I told Joey, "NO ONE is coming in here!!"

The night moved forward and I progressed steadily in terms of dilation and effacement. The contractions seemed to grow more intense by the minute. At first, when I arrived at the hospital, they were almost imperceivable. Then they became slightly uncomfortable, and continued to increase with intensity until I felt like I was losing my mind, like I WANTED to lose my mind to escape the dull, consuming pain in my lower back (back labor = ouchx100). My attitude before experiencing childbirth was that I wanted as little intervention as possible. I wanted to trust my body to move the process along. I wanted to trust in my ability (and the Lord's provision!) to endure whatever childbirth would feel like with Joey's support, by visualizing the process my body was going through, and by remembering that it WOULD end, and in a relatively short amount of time. An epidural wasn't an option, going into the process.

However, that all changed around 2am on April 3. "Joey, what would you think of me if I got an epidural?!" I asked/moaned. At that point, he was still trying to hold to our original plan of a completely "natural" birth, because that's what he thought I wanted him to do. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't- I had no excess energy. My nurse suggested that I try laboring in a big bathtub. "No, I can't walk there!" I groaned. "It'll hurt too much!" She and Joey must have convinced me, because I ended up going. Before having the baby, I always thought I would be the person who wore her bathing suit in the labor tub to avoid being naked in front of anyone. But seriously, as I mentioned earlier, any shyness had vanished hours ago. So there I was, in the warm tub on all fours, completely naked. I have to admit that being in the warm water did help a little, and I probably stayed in the tub for an hour or so. Time turned into something abstract- I experienced each second so intensely, yet the hours seemed to slip away, almost to my delight. I tried humming through contractions, choosing the first tune that came to mind, which was "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." At some point, I asked to be checked again. I think my reasoning at that point was that if I'd progressed some miraculous amount, I'd be encouraged to stick it out naturally. As my nurse (who was wonderful, by the way- her name was Leandra) prepared to check my progress, I leaned my face against the side of the tub, feeling a contraction starting. "I'm going to die!" I thought to myself. It sounds so dramatic, and I feel ridiculous saying it, but in the moment, this was REAL, and even in just two weeks the memory of my childbirth experience has vanished to nearly nothing in comparison to what it was like as it happened. As the contraction grew, I had no thoughts- my mind just filled with pain. Suddenly, I started throwing up. There was no warning- no feeling of nauseousness, no gagging. Now, if you know me, you know that I HATE throwing up. The last time I threw up was in 2010. It's been a while. But honestly, the throwing up was a slight distraction from the pain, and I welcomed it.

So as I perched there, naked, throwing up into the bathtub and then into some kind of canister my nurse stuck under me, my nose also started bleeding. I can imagine it was a pretty pitiful sight. (Or maybe that's me trying to make myself seem more heroic?) I also had an IV line in my arm (for the antibiotics to treat the group B strep) that couldn't get wet (even though it did) so I had a huge plastic glove taped over my entire right arm. Classy, I know. I decided to get out of the tub after that- swimming around in a pool of bodily fluids of every sort at that point (trust me, it was ALL in there...) wasn't even the reason I got out. It was more that the water wasn't working as well to help me manage the contractions anymore. Joey and my nurse supported me as we walked back to my room. When we got there, I threw up in the sink, and then found the strength to look Joey in the face and plead, "I want an epidural, please let me have one, please let me have one right now." At that point, Joey nodded in agreement, equally as overwhelmed with the actual experience of childbirth. "How long will it be?" I asked my nurse with urgency, "Ten minutes? Forty-five minutes? I need to know, I can't do this much longer."

Fortunately it was only about 10 minutes. A cheery Indian woman with a thick accent came and did an excellent job. I used to think I'd be scared to get an epidural, but at that point, if stabbing me in the spine with a knife meant the contractions would stop, I would have asked her to stab me. After the epidural was set up, each contraction grew less and less consuming. I had to stay in bed after that, but honestly, I didn't care. "She's magic!" I tiredly smiled, looking fondly in the direction of the epidural-giver. "God bless the inventor of the epidural!" I dreamily thought, over and over and over. I guess my heart rate dropped (which is normal) after I got the epidural, so I was given something to help with that. I was zoning out when all of this happened, to say the least, but in a blissful kind of way. Joey was talking to the medical resident who had initially checked me. "Is she on Pitocin?" I heard him ask as he looked at a monitor that was measuring my contractions (I wasn't but I didn't have the strength to say so). "Her contractions look like she's on Pitocin!" He said. Joey and the resident continued to chat, talking about some super interesting natural health things that I would have normally LOVED to talk about. The fact that I just laid there silently says a lot about what kind of state I was in because I never pass up a good conversation on anything natural! Eventually I quietly but happily said, "Go get the family!" My attitude had changed entirely. I cannot explain how amazing it was not to feel the pain anymore. I don't know if I've ever been so thankful in my entire life.

After my mom, grandma, and Joey's mom came in for brief visit, Joey and I decided to get some rest. I didn't want to sleep (and I'm not sure why), so I sat there staring complacently at the ceiling until I felt (and heard) a "pop!" and knew my water had broken. It was so loud when it broke that it actually woke Joey up out of a sleep. It poured out everywhere and it was a gross green color. This was around 5am, and I had begun to feel my contractions on the right side of my body again. I asked what could be done about this, but when my nurse checked me, she found me to be 10 cm and fully effaced-- it was too late to try to "fix" it. She recommended that I try laying on my right side to see if it would help, but the baby's heart rate dropped when I tried this, so I went back to laying on my left side. Preparations to begin pushing had begun, (my bladder was emptied with a catheter which I was nervous about but it didn't feel terrible at all) and I focused on "breathing the baby down." Apparently my breathing wasn't as good as I thought it was as I was offered some oxygen to help and to make sure the baby was getting enough. My midwife arrived around 6:30am (I think?) and I was drowsy, but ready... or so I thought.

I didn't expect pushing to be so difficult. At first, I tried to push like I thought I should in order to get a baby out, but that wasn't right. I remember a friend telling me, "You have to pretend you're going poop." So... I tried this, and got feedback of, "That's perfect! That's exactly right!" So I stuck with that lovely effort. I pushed and pushed. It felt like I pushed for 5 minutes and a lifetime, but Joey told me it was really less than an hour. The sensation was so strange- I could feel my contractions and I'm assuming I could feel everything "down there" pretty darn well. The worst part was the pressure. There was a burning, stretching feeling, and SO much pressure. I was exhausted. I started to whimper, "I can't, I can't do it any more." But somehow I kept going, and I can't humanly understand how. When Finn's head was finally delivered, I think I shrieked pretty loud.  It was SUCH a weird feeling, cringe-inducing and amazing at the same time (at least when I remember it, that's how I feel). "IS HE OUT?" I asked, crying. "You just have to deliver the shoulders" was the response. I started crying harder, wanting to give up, but somehow managed a few more pushes. Suddenly there was a huge release of pressure, and I knew he was born. I lay there gushing who knows what all over, shrieking/whimpering "OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH, it's over, it's over, it's over." They put my baby on my chest but I was still so overwhelmed with the realization that it was over that I hardly cared. "My mouth is so dry," I thought, "I would love a drink of water!" All of this was followed by a definite (out-loud) statement of, "I am never birthing another child. We are adopting the rest." And for the record, people who say having a baby is like running a marathon are (in my opinion) very much overestimating what it takes to run a marathon. Running a marathon is like enjoying a pleasant stroll in a beautiful location on the prettiest of any spring day with the person you love the most in the world when compared to childbirth (in my experience, anyway, of two marathons + one childbirth).

When I first looked at Finn, I was perplexed. He did not look at all like I thought he would, mostly because he was VERY swollen. He actually looked Asian to me, and I was sitting there trying to figure out why, since neither Joey nor I are Asian! He didn't really cry, and when I held his fat, warm little body I kept asking, "Is he ok, why isn't he crying?" I later found out that his Apgar score wasn't very good- maybe a 6? He was born with his umbilical chord wrapped around his neck and it took a while for him to get the hang of breathing steadily. I was given some Pitocin and got to look at my placenta after it was delivered. I was stitched up rather quickly ("Ouch," I kept saying, "Please don't touch me!") and then sat there in bed with my CHILD (crazy) on me, looking like a swollen, bloody, sweaty mess, and feeling like a warrior.

We did it. And I am a changed woman.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean I gave birth to all four of mine completely natural and don't know how I did it!! congratulations on your baby boy!

Katrina Amstutz said...

I love your telling of your birth story! That's almost how I would tell it for when I had my daughter! I had INTENSE back pain throughout the WHOLE PROCESS until the very second she was born - it immediately went away. Like magic. Best feeling in the world.