Saturday, January 30, 2010

Having Faith

The following birth story is from my students Jessica and Kurt. So proud of them!

In our society today birth is portrayed as an excruciating necessary evil of bringing a child into the world that must be “managed” by doctors. Women are coached in the use of “labor safe” drugs and other routine interventions. Inductions, epidurals and cesarean sections have become the “normal” ways to give birth, instead of the exception. We have two wonderful little boys that came to us via these “normal” birth experiences. Our first son, I was unnecessarily induced and told if I didn’t have drugs I’d have a c-section. Then I was told if I didn’t have an epidural I’d end up with a c-section. After 36 hours and an unnecessary episiotomy our son was born, weighing 7 pounds 15 ounces 13 days past his due date. With our second son I was induced unnecessarily twice, being told both times that if I didn’t stay and get induced my “baby would die”. My first induction failed and I was allowed to go home. With the second induction I was induced because of “critically low fluid level” of 7 (which I have since confirmed by my current OB, midwife and ACOG is within normal limits, normal being between 3 and 12). I labored for 28 hours and diagnosed as “failure to progress” then given a c-section. After the surgery they told me that he was just “too big to be born naturally”, he weighed 8 pounds 8 ounces born 8 days past his due date.

Taking us by surprise just 10 months after our second son was born we found out we were expecting again. Fearing I’d have to have another C-section (the local hospital has banned VBACs) I wanted something to look forward to and distract me during the surgery so we decided not to find out the gender of our baby. We wanted a VBAC and found out we could have one if we traveled to a hospital an hour and half south of where we live. We really didn’t want another hospital birth we, put that in God’s hands and, prepared ourselves for a natural birth. We armed ourselves with as much information we could find: books, VBAC classes, various websites, you name it. A friend of ours mentioned the Bradley method and how helpful it was in them having a natural birth, something we wanted with our first two but didn’t get to experience. We learned so much from our wonderful teacher and came to realize that not only is birth natural and normal but, if we would have taken the Bradley method before our first birth both of them would have been natural births.

At 36 weeks my cervix was starting to soften and open – this was huge because with our first two pregnancies I never had any cervical change at all. We were excited something was happening. At 40 weeks my OB was already talking about another c-section because they “couldn’t let me go past 41 weeks”. Thankfully, God had his hand on not only this pregnancy but the birth too. A wonderful midwife came to us gave us encouragement, and the opportunity to have a natural home/out-of-hospital birth.

Sunday evening (40 weeks, 6 days) my girlfriend suggested we walk down a mountain road close to where we live and then she would massage my feet. It was raining; my husband dropped us off at the top of the mountain road. We walked down to my girlfriend’s car then she drove me home and rubbed my feet, specifically my arches, for an hour. Half way through my contractions started, it was just before 7 p.m...
After she left I relaxed and watched TV with my husband until the contractions started calling my attention away from the program. We timed them, just to see if there was a pattern. They were 10 minutes apart, but we were hesitant to get excited we didn’t want to jump the gun. I took a shower while Kurt loaded the car; they got closer together, 5 minutes apart. Kurt suggested I get some rest, so I went to bed and tried to rest. Kurt would talk me through the contractions and help me relax then he would go back to rubbing my feet or back.

At 3:00 a.m. we decided to head out, my contractions were at 4 minutes apart lasting a minute. It was raining outside when we headed out for Bakersfield, a 2 hour drive north that took us 2 ½ hours. Contractions remained at 4 minutes apart the entire drive, I focused on staying relaxed. I was so relaxed that Kurt thought I was sleeping between contractions. When a contraction started I would make a soft low “hmmmm” sound and when the contraction finished I’d take a deep cleansing breath, this helped Kurt time them. If I got distracted the contractions would catch me off guard and were more difficult to work through.

We arrived at the hotel, where we were to give birth, at 5:30 a.m. We set up the room, dressed the bed with plastic sheets, washed out the huge whirlpool tub, brought in our pillows and just made the room comfy. At 7:00 a.m. our midwife arrived and checked me, I was at 4 cm but she could stretch me to 5 cms. This was good news. I remember the advice my Bradley teacher gave us, she said: “I always thought to myself that I just wasn’t that far along”. So I assumed I’d barely be dilated.

When our midwife arrived my labor had slowed down and my contractions were 7 minutes apart. My hips and back were killing me from the long drive, so our midwife suggested that I take a bath to help me relax. She left to let us labor alone for awhile, Kurt took a nap while I relaxed in the tub. When I emerged from the bath an hour later my contractions were 15-20 minutes apart. I remember thinking: Had I been in a hospital (being unable to augment my labor with pitocin because I am a VBAC) I would have been given a c-section. We called the midwife and told her things had really slowed down, she suggested walking but it was pouring rain outside so she said a shower might help. After 45 minutes in the shower my contractions were coming every 3 minutes and lasting 2 minutes. It was nice having time alone to labor. It was so intimate, just my husband and I, working together one contraction at a time. We called our midwife again with our update and she said she was on her way. When she checked me I was at 7-8 cms – hello transition. Things were really getting intense, I threw up (not my favorite thing to do) but I felt better afterward. I moved into the tub and stayed there for 2 hours. At one point I would just start shaking my head back and forth and saying “no, no, no” every time a contraction peaked. It felt like they were unending and I rolled from one to another. My husband realized that we were almost done because I was have the self doubt sign post and really encouraged me as much as he could. I kept saying “I can’t” and “I want it to stop, just for minute – let me catch by breath”, he kept saying “that means you’re almost done”, “you are doing so good”, “we get to meet our baby very very soon now”. The water helped me cope, and while I wouldn’t describe it as pain it was definitely intense. I threw up again and decided I didn’t want to be in the tub anymore. I went and sat on the toilet and rubbed my thighs through the peak of the contractions, I’m not sure why but it felt really good.

My wonderful husband never left my side and reminded me about a million times to relax my jaw and breathe deep belly breaths. As long as he was touching me I felt anchored. He would try to rub me or provide some other comfort measure and I would only have to look at him and he knew I just needed his touch. He let our friend, who is also a doula, provide comfort measures like light touch massage.

I tried to find a position to help me be a little more comfortable I tried laying on the bed – nope, I tried all fours on the bed – nope, I knelt by the bed – nope, I dangled from my husband – nope, I stood over the bed and put my hands out to support me – nope. I thought I was going to vomit again and fell down on all fours over a trash can – nope…I had to move my bowels, I ran to the bathroom. Then my contractions changed and with each one I had an unstoppable urge to move my bowels and bear down. I said “I think I’m pushing” the midwife assured me that it was okay and not to worry she wouldn’t let me have the baby over the toilet. I pushed with each contraction (but not with all my might – I was nervous the baby would fall out), it’s an unreal feeling to feel your baby moving down the birth canal. Then my water broke with a POP!

I moved to the bed and tried a semi sitting position which didn’t feel comfortable, so I got on all fours at the edge of the bed and during a contraction would lean on my husband. I was “pushing” through each contraction but not efficiently because I was nervous about tearing through my old episiotomy incision. Then my midwife said “your baby is right there but you’re not really pushing, if you try the semi-sitting position again and give real pushes you could have your baby in your arms already” that was what I needed to hear. I did exactly what she said, and it took 4 pushes. Push one and the baby was crowning, I felt the top of the baby’s head which really motivated me. Push two and I was experiencing “the ring of fire” – yikes! Push three and the head was out as well as her hand. Push four and we had a little girl! She weighed 8 lbs 14 oz born 7 days past her due date.

I was hesitant to push the placenta out after just having put a baby through there but my doula friend jokingly said “don’t worry this one doesn’t have bones”. After the placenta was delivered and the cord was done pulsating my husband clamped and cut the cord. 27 hours and it was over, the time flew by and we were holding our little girl. We named her Faith because our faith brought her to us through this beautiful experience.

Giving birth naturally is a high that can not be explained. It makes me so sad that so many women sign up for “the drugs” as soon as they find out they are pregnant. Labor is what you expect it to be, if you expect pain you will experience pain. I experienced very intense feelings and sensations but never an ounce of pain. And, although we plan to wait a few years before expanding our family again, I really can’t wait to experience giving birth again!