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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Our [HOME] Birth Story

Subtitle: Why DH is my TOTAL hero

I wanted so much to have our baby. It was the 41st week and it felt like we'd waited so long.

I went to walk with my mom and for lunch afterwards. It seems so long ago, but I felt so energetic and yet everything felt like such an exertion with a "passenger" aboard. When we walked, I really pushed myself. I could feel contractions throughout the walk and lunch. I even ran about 100 feet at 42 weeks pregnant, just because I could, and because I thought maybe, just maybe, it would hasten our labor.

I'd been eating whole fresh pineapples for days (bromelain should help to ripen cervix) and had been checked days earlier by the midwife, who said I was effaced but not at all dilated. To me this meant the pineapple had worked well, but our little guy needed to bear down to come through. The contractions kept coming, but after a couple weeks of on and off contractions, we felt uncertain (hopeful) as to whether labor had arrived.

Throughout the evening, my contractions were intensifying. When my hubby came home from work around 6 or 7 pm, I was sort of melting to the floor with each contraction. We thought that maybe it was time. We walked out to the car, and as soon as I crossed the threshold I had a really intense contraction. When I was bending to get into the car, I had another. They were coming fast, and yet, it didn't seem real. This was an aspect of labor that seemed truly surreal. After months of waiting, and weeks of contractions at strange intervals, the real thing seemed far off. 

When we got home I continued to have contractions fairly close together. It had been snowy for a few days before (and would be for a few days after) so we went ahead and called the midwife to let them know that this seemed like the real, actual labor.

We planned to have a home birth. We'd taken a labor class, practiced breathing slowly and deeply, packed bags for the hospital, for a baby at home, for mom at home, bought medical supplies for "just in case" like sutures, gloves, giant sterile pads, and kleenprint inkpads for our baby's footprints. When we called the midwife we double checked that they would travel and that we were good to go if it happened over night. If someone else was in labor in the hospital - at the same time - we were informed we'd be SOL.

Our sheets were clean, the labor ball was in the middle of the living room, and we'd gotten our inflatable birthing tub and hose ready to go. I had contractions throughout the night every five or less minutes, with just a couple to one minute in between. This was not what our birthing class had taught us - most women we learned about had fewer contractions, with increasingly short intervals, but mine were one minute to two minutes on and one minute to two minutes off for hours. We called the midwife again when we reached this really quick pace. She came over and checked and I was only three centimeters. I remember feeling strangely psychic and saying, "yeah i know, i was not looking forward to you saying that." The midwife said this could go on a long time, and that I was probably not in active labor yet. (!?)

This is where hubby dearest really shined. For hours he rubbed my sacrum, reassured me, was incredibly strong and incredibly patient. I cannot imagine what he went through. (Luckily, I can't really, actually recall what I went through. More on that later in this post.) I did not scream at him, nor did I grab him by the shirt and pull him close. With that said, I was so much more demanding than I'd ever imagined I could be. Throughout pregnancy I put on my own shoes, stayed active, and generally did everything I could for myself, but in labor... It changed so much. I asked him to make popsicles, to press as hard as he could on my back, to hold me, to talk to me, to help me to the bathroom, even to stand in the shower so that I wouldn't fall during contractions. I was so strong and so weak in ways I had not experienced before.

Somehow, hours later, around 5:45 am, we called the midwife. Maybe we called a little too late. While we talked with her on the phone, my waters leaked from a trickle to a flow all over my feet and she seemed to be hurried to arrive. I barely remember hte conversation, except her asking me if I thought she should come. I sorta recall saying, "well, you know about this stuff and I think you probably know whether you should come. I'm OK, but not that OK," or something weird like that. She asked our husband if he thought she should come over (!) and he said "definitely, yes come over."

When she arrived she asked to check my dilation again. I'm not sure if I had even left the spot I had been standing when we called her. I told her I wanted her to check me, right there, standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid on the bathroom floor. She said I had to lay down so we moved to the bedroom. I didn't leave this room until my postpartum bath, 2 long hours later.

We did NOT plan to have a homebirth in bed, and I never would have said I'd give birth on my back. I actually think delivering our son on my back broke my tailbone. :( On the upside (pun intended?) I recall 3-5 minute-long naps in between pushes. I'm getting ahead of myself. So, when the midwife checked me she said I was 10 cm and that she needed to get things ready. She made several phone calls to a nurse and another midwife. I didn't realize that she would arrive only when I was 10 cm, nor did I realize she would have a team to work with her for my birth. This was exciting, but I was barely present enough to notice the hustle and bustle. She began dashing about the house, assembling supplies, laying out "chuckpads" and medical equipment (just in case), putting gloves here, cloths there, and when the nurse arrived she started to prepare our ginger (LINK) compresses.

Pushing was such hard work! I loved snoozing in between pushes, and didn't feel at all like I had a choice. I was so tired that I just fell asleep in between each contraction. Some contractions I just didn't push, and some I tried but was too tired. Meanwhile, with each contraction that I pushed, I felt our darling boy moving lower in my stomach. Even on my back, I felt like I was re-owning my body, taking it back from our little passenger as he pushed lower and closer to exiting me. This was such an incredible experience. All the months of pregnancy culminated in our last pushes and I felt the crown of his head in my palm. I pushed more, and harder (or so I thought ;) and started to wonder if his head was squeezed by my uterus, stuck in my vagina. This was so surreal.

The midwives got a little nervous when his heart was under my pelvic bone. They had been using fetal doppler to listen to him every 5 minutes but this time around, couldn't find a heartbeat. I heard the most experienced midwife say, "well it's too late to transfer anyway." I wasn't at all worried - too tired to worry, too confident and certain we would see it through to even allow their concern to be anything more than professional consideration. My husband told me to push and with the next contractions they saw more and more of our boy's head. What beauty! The rest of "labor" was really just delivery. It was over by this point (from my perspective.)

The best part of all, besides holding my dear sweet little precious baby (never thought I'd say something so mushy!) was feeling his legs moving out of me, and finally his toes and knowing the pushing was over. My husband was the first person to hold our little boy, and handed him to me. I felt so grateful and so proud of my hubby and myself for making it through this experience together. There was no longer any doubt as to whether we'd have the home birth we wanted. It felt so natural. So simple. We made it. He made it. Our family is born.

PS another thing we did not know was how big our baby boy would be. LBD (little baby dude) was born at 21.5 inches and 9 lbs 2 ounces! I had a 2nd degree tear, but with him laying on me, I didn't even notice the sutures. In fact, I never felt the sutures until about 2.5 weeks later, as they were just finishing healing. Not bad, not bad at all.

As for the part NO ONE seems to describe, I have a few things to say. That unspoken part of labor is postpartum healing. I think this information belongs with birth stories. I wish I'd known more before having our LBD.

My healing process went pretty well. Our midwives office was generally booked up throughout pregnancy, so I wasn't seen at two weeks, four weeks, six weeks as I was supposed to, but we did have our follow up at home visits over the next week after birthing. They came the next day, a couple days later, and one more time at three or four days, I think. (born Wednesday morning, & midwife returned Thursday and Saturday) Things went pretty well at first.

On day three postpartum, I totally fell apart. In a good way. I just cried and felt soo soo sleepy. I'd been staying up the first two nights watching our baby sleep, trying to ensure he didn't die or something. Hehe. One can only do that so long before moving on. This was the day I prepared my placenta. (I'll share my recipe soon. LINK here)

NOTE: Though many docs will suggest cleaning the baby's umbilical stump with alcohol and/or water, we did not clean it with anything. Trust your baby! Just keep it dry. We used newborn cloth nappies and buttoned them down so that they fit snugly and below the belly button. LBD's was completely healed and fell off before seven days. We live in a very humid place, but it still changed quickly. New medical approach is not to use any alcohol, and suggests that this could cause irritation leading to infection. Ha, our doctor told us to us alcohol and that docs used to tell mothers to wipe newborn poo on the cord stump (Eeew!). And she said, "no wonder more babies died." We stopped going to that doctor...

I had (but didn't know) what's called granulation tissue that lasted too long. Apparently it's a natural part of healing, but stayed for me instead of healing fully. It's tissue that's rich in blood vessels and highly innervated, so it felt like a tiny part of my labia had healed inside-out. The midwives addressed this, but it took me a long time to realize something was wrong. My four week visit turned out to be at six weeks or so, and we didn't identify it as an issue at that time. We had brought the LBD (of course, since we are exclusively breast feeding thus far) to my appointment and he cried the whole time (ladies: don't take baby into the exam room if you can possibly avoid it- much better to have actual one-on-midwife time if you're in this situation. I just forgot to tell her what was going on with me because he cried so much)  Anyhow, they treated it with silver nitrate on weeks 10 and 12 and I started feeling much better (more importantly, sex started to feel good again!)

The sutures on my laceration healed beautifully- no episiotomy for me (READ THIS and this) even with 2nd degree tear. Here's an excerpt from the NY Times article: '[A] midwife demonstrated the problem to me by taking a piece of paper in two hands and pulling it apart. The paper started to give but did not tear. Then she put a cut in the top of the paper and pulled again. This time the paper ripped cleanly in half. “That’s what happens to a woman’s perineum when you do an episiotomy,” the midwife explained, sending shivers up my spine.' Yowza.

The only other issue for me postpartum was dehydration. I totally underestimated (for weeks) how much water I needed until at 15 weeks I read that a baby between 10 days and 6 months of age could drink as much as 30 ounces of milk. DRINK YOUR WATER! I'm drinking about 100 ounces on a good day now and feeling much better. This is totally an individual thing. We are all different. I just know now, for certain, that I drink much more water while nursing than I have ever required, even when I was an active soccer player and swimmer.

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