Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Natural Childbirth Story

This is the story of the birth of my first daughter.  It happened in Cleveland, but it could have been anywhere as long as I had had such a supportive team there cheering me on until the end.  I'm very happy to share it here for your reading pleasure.

Around 1am very early Tuesday May 6th, 2008 I started having contractions that woke me up about every half an hour.  I knew they were pretty bad, but kept sleeping in between the contractions because I knew that I would need my strength for what was coming.  I started to write down the timing of the contractions, and they started to get closer together.  Around 4am they were getting so strong and close together that I couldn’t sleep between them.  I knew I had an appointment at the midwife that morning.  I thought that if I could just hold out until 8am to get my progress checked, then I would be fine.  I sat on my exercise ball at the end of our bed and put my head down on the bed between contractions.  I kept letting Andy sleep through most of it, only squeezing his hand a few times during the contractions when I thought I needed to.  By 7:30am, my contractions were really regular, strong, and about 10 minutes apart.  Andy stopped and got me a bagel on the way and I only could eat about half of it.  We made it to the midwife’s office to be checked, and I was 5-6cm dilated.  She called the midwife who was on call, and we were in luck.  That was when we found out that my favorite midwife would be the one to attend the delivery!!  I was elated!!! 
We walked for a while around the hospital and slowly made our way over to Labor & Delivery where we were met by Jen—the midwife.  She had called ahead and reserved the room with the birthing tub in it!  As soon as possible, I got in it!  My friend Amy, our birth support person and a future doula, came with great music for us and loads of relaxation stuffs too.  With gentle samba music playing in the background and Amy rubbing my hands with lotion, I was rather calm.  Yes, the contractions were getting worse & closer together, but the bath was so warm and nice that it really helped me stay relaxed.  I was also relaxed because Jen was able to stay in the room almost the entire time with us.  She kept talking to me and really helped me to remember how exciting it all was instead of getting all wrapped up in the pain.  After about 2 hours, I got out of the tub so that she could check my progress again.  I was already 9cm dilated, and my water still hadn’t broken.  Jen talked to me about breaking my water to speed up the process, and even though I had been against it before this all got under way, I agreed that it was a good idea.  She actually had trouble breaking the bag of waters; it took her three tries with that huge crochet hook looking thingy.  It was then that we realized that the bed in the room was not a “birthing bed”.  There were no stirrups, no handlebars, no birthing bar, and the bottom didn’t drop down.  Jen had to sit at the end of the bed to catch the baby.  Not really the biggest thing on my mind at the time, but it had to be sucky for Jen. 
Finally it was time to push, and I was tired.  I was also in loads of pain and not so sure that I was up for all that pushing that I still had to do.  If you know me, however, you know how stubborn I am and that I was not going to budge on my plan to stay drug-free!  I tried every position that I had read about to see which one was going to work for me.  I stayed on the bed at first and tried to be on all fours, then modified that by sitting up to hold the back of the bed.  That wasn’t so great, so I got up out of bed to try standing, then partial and full squatting while gripping a chair.  I got back in bed and was on my back again, even though that’s exactly how I didn’t want to be.  I crossed my wrists, leaned forward, and pulled on Dr. F who had joined us in the room just before I started pushing.  ((Side note: Dr. F was actually really great and I would totally recommend her to anyone who didn’t want to use the midwives!))  I actually pulled the doctor so hard that she ended up bent over the bed.  I pushed a few more times in that position, but holding Andy’s hands instead of the doctor’s.  Finally, I turned onto my side and that was the one that worked for me!  Throughout all the position changing I kept pushing with everything I had.  I thought I was being really vocal, but apparently Amy thought I was being scientology silent.  I do remember someone telling me to focus my energy down below instead of letting it go out of my mouth with my screams.  I also remember thinking that I was pushing the baby out of my perineum instead of my vagina!  I was super annoyed with the nurse because every time I stopped pushing, she had to stick the fetal monitor (aka: machinethat goes ping) onto my gut to check the baby’s heart rate.  I really wanted to yell at her to get the heck out of there!!
“Open” was my mantra at the very end of it all, and I was happy to feel the burning of stretching skin because I knew it was almost over then.  They asked me if I wanted a mirror to look at the head when it was crowning, but I didn’t want to see my business in such a stretched out bloody mess state.  I did put my hand down there to feel all the hair on her head though.  A few more pushes and she was out and I was absolutely amazed and overwhelmed and feeling a million things all at once.  The midwife announced, “It’s a girl”, and at 2:17pm we were officially parents of a 7 lb 19 inch baby that we named Annika Susan.  Annika’s cord was actually wrapped around her neck twice and in a knot near her belly, though she never showed any signs of distress.  She scored 9s on both of her APGARs, which is great according to what the doctors say.  As Jen was delivering my placenta, I was bleeding more than usual, so she talked to me about getting a shot of Pitocin to slow/stop it.  I got the shot, and then after they weighed and measured Annika they brought her back and I fed her right away which also helped.  I did not enjoy the abdominal massage that they gave me afterwards to help my uterus start the shrinking process, especially since breastfeeding Annika had already kicked in the cramps to help it shrink.    
We stayed in the hospital until Thursday at noon, and had a really great experience overall.  Annika stayed in the room with us except for a couple trips to the nursery to get some tests and baths.  She was doing really well latching on to nurse there too.  Several of our friends came to visit us there and brought Annika some beautiful flowers and adorable stuffed toys too.  The best part of the hospital: the room service type food menu!  How often do you hear about how great the hospital food was?  There was quite the extensive menu to order from and the food was actually REALLY great!  Mucho props to the food service there!  It was pretty great that Andy could eat with me all the time by ordering a guest meal which only cost $5.  I appreciated that too!  My only complaint from the stay: the horrific chair that Andy was forced to sleep in for the two nights we were there.  It was busted; it wouldn’t lie all the way down, and they didn’t have another to replace it.  Apparently they kept breaking, getting sent out for repair, and never returning.  Needless to say, Andy was über-happy to return to our comfortably flat mattress at home. 

Here we are 6 months afterward, living it up in Berlin, Germany for a month. 

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