Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ivey's birth story

Here it is... Ivey's birth story. If you need more perspective on why we made the decisions we did, you may want to go back and read Suzi's birth story--which is unfortunately a little different.

By the time Tuesday, August 11th rolled around, Jordan and I were past ready to have the baby. We’d prepared everything already so I was bored and uncomfortable when Jordan went to work every day. We’d also fielded bunches of questions from relatives and friends regarding when the baby would be coming and what action we planned to take if she took “too long.” I never forgot that being pregnant is a miracle, but it was wearing a little thin. The longer you have to think and the more negative comments you have to process, the more you worry. I was trying to just enjoy the last few days of the pregnancy spending time with Jordan and Suzi, but it was hard. If you’ve ever gone past your due date you understand.

So on August 11th I was feeling a little sorry for myself. I was staying home while Jordan worked and trying to be at least a little bit of fun for Suzi. I was tired of being stuck in the house, but it was just too hot to go to the park or for a walk in the neighborhood. We had been to the local mall fairly recently to walk, but it’s so small and hardly has any shops we like, so it wasn’t a very long walk. I called Jordan and told him I’d like to go to the much nicer two-story mall that’s an hour away. We only go on special occasions or to look for a particular item we can’t get somewhere closer. We decided to go as soon as Jordan got home from work.

We put Suzi in the umbrella stroller (so that I could actually get some exercise; she’s pretty slow still) and walked. The first shop we went in was Tea Junction. They served tea at a bar and also sold all sorts of different teas and tea accessories. I found an adorable little blue teapot with a built-in strainer and decided to buy it since it was on sale. When we went to the checkout with it, a man sitting at the bar asked me when I was due. I told him about a week ago. When you tell people that they look at you like you’re a three-headed snake. Then he said “Wow, I hope you don’t start having contractions here! I assured him I’d have plenty of time to get home. The lady who worked there asked if I’d been drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and I realized I hadn’t had any in a few days. Some people say RRL tea can jump-start labor, although others contend that while it is excellent to drink during pregnancy for several reasons, it won’t do a thing to bring labor on. We bought the teapot and I made a mental note to make some RRL tea in it when we got home—just in case.

The rest of our mall trip was fun. We did a little early Christmas shopping and then took Suzi to Chick-fil-A for dinner and ice cream. After we ate we let her run around the nearly empty mall until it was closing time. She was in such a good mood and was being really sweet. We had fun and forgot about Ivey’s “tardiness” for a little while.

When we got home we made a pot of RRL tea for me and I drank it. I also checked Facebook and saw a suggestion from a friend to go up the stairs two at a time. I did that a few times, and then we watched TV for a while and went to bed.

I had a few contractions here and there during the night, and had a feeling that labor might be starting soon. I just didn’t know if that meant a few more hours or a few more days! By 7:00 am, it became apparent to me that they seemed to be falling into a loose pattern and weren’t going away. I told Jordan and then sent him off to work. With Suzi I’d asked him to stay home and it was hours before things got serious. We decided he’d probably only work a half day, and wouldn’t go back to work after lunch.

At 8:00 the contractions were still irregular, but were 5-10 minutes apart and getting stronger. I called Carey (our midwife who is finishing up her apprenticeship) just to let her know it probably wouldn’t be too long. She told me to do the rotisserie, which is two contractions on your right side, two on hands and knees, two on left side, and two on your back. This helps spin the baby into a favorable position that is optimal for pushing and also lessens back pain. She told me to call her when the contractions were consistently five minutes apart, as that’s when we’d need to call Amy (our licensed midwife from Labors of Love Midwifery) so she’d have time to arrive from an hour and a half away.

I called my mom to let her know what was going on and to ask her to pick up Suzi. The contractions were getting more intense and I realized I’d probably need to concentrate on them within several hours. She said they’d pick her up about 9:30, so I took a shower and got both of us dressed while we waited. My parents left with Suzi around 9:45 after taking one last belly shot of me (which is extremely flattering, I know).

I was happy to be alone. I turned on the birth playlist I’d made and lay on the couch to start the rotisserie. The first song was “Across the Universe.” I was so excited and felt at peace working through the early part of my labor alone with my baby. I sang along for Ivey with some of the songs. But as I lay there, I realized I was waiting a lot longer for a contraction to come along than when I was up walking around. This took the wind out of my sails. I knew that in real labor contractions kept coming no matter what you did. Were they going away? I didn’t want to think about having to call Carey, Jordan and my parents to tell them it was a false alarm! Not only were the contractions further apart when I was lying down, they were also much more uncomfortable when they did come. I decided to get up and take care of a few things I needed to do before the birth. I called Jordan at work to tell him it may not be as soon as we’d thought, and that it’d probably be fine for him to work until 2:00. I figured when he arrived he could help me finish up the chores we had to do before the midwives came.

It was about 11:00 and I was hungry, so I had a sandwich. Then I tried to finish up a little laundry and used a piece of flannel-backed vinyl to make a runway from our bed to the bathroom. As I ran around straightening up and cleaning, I realized that I’d forget what I was doing during the contractions. By 12:00 I had to totally stop what I was doing and lean against a table or door frame to get through the intensity of them. They were still sort of irregular, but when I wrote a few down I noticed they were mostly 2-4 minutes apart. I called Jordan and told him it’d be better if he came home by 1:00 just in case. Then I called Carey and told her I didn’t want her to have to sit around at my house forever, but that I didn’t want to wait too long to call either. She said she’d be there in about 45 minutes to check on me and even if it wasn’t time yet, it’d be fine. The next contraction took longer to come, probably because I was nervous they’d go away. I continued to run around the house preparing for the birth, and they fell back into their 2-4 minute pattern.

Jordan arrived home about five minutes before 1:00, and I was glad to see him coming! By this time I’d stopped bothering to write down my contractions. They were 2-3 minutes apart and were getting intense enough that I needed comfort measures to deal with them. I got down on my hands and knees and leaned on my birth ball, rocking back and forth until the intensity had peaked and the contraction was ending. It felt so hot in the house and I wanted to put my hair up. The contractions were close enough together that I had to hurry so I wouldn’t get caught with my hands up in my hair when one started.

I had put together this lovely basket of labor tools—tennis balls, vibrating massagers, heat packs, massage oils, candles—and I asked Jordan to bring it downstairs for me. We only ever used four things out of it: a vibrating massager (my lower back seemed to get tighter and tighter with each contraction and we wanted to loosen it up), the flaxseed heat pack, a little wooden rolling pin (counter pressure), and some “nukkles.” All these were for my lower back. The rolling pin and the heat pack both get a gold star. My contractions were mostly, but not all, in my back. I felt them all the way around to the front. Around this time I also started vocalizing to deal with the intensity. If any of the neighbors had heard me they might have thought someone’s cow was dying, but vocalizing is an excellent way to manage contractions. (If you’d like to see examples, watch The Business of Being Born or Orgasmic Birth.) It works.

By 1:00 Carey hadn’t arrived yet, so Jordan called her to find out how far away she was and to see if we should call Amy or if she already had. She said she’d call her and would be there in about ten minutes. Meanwhile, I was suddenly feeling discouraged. During my last birth when the contractions were much stronger (in the hospital), I’d been checked for dilation and hoped to be an 8 or 9. Instead the nurse told me I was only a 7 and it could be three more hours before I was pushing. This memory came back and I started crying as I told Jordan. “What if Carey gets here, and they’re already this hard, and I still have all night to go?” He told me that this time was different and that probably wouldn’t happen, and reminded me I still had the tub upstairs. (Birth tubs are sometimes called liquid epidurals or “aquadurals.”) I felt a lot better thinking of that.

When Carey arrived around 1:15, the contractions were consistently 2-3 minutes apart and about a minute or more long. She suggested we do the rotisserie again, although I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to handle the two contractions on my back. I started the rotisserie downstairs and we ran upstairs after the first couple of contractions. As I finished up the rotisserie in our bedroom floor, Carey and Jordan moved urgently about making up the bed and getting things set up. They started filling the whirlpool tub for me. When it came time to do the last two contractions on my back, I felt an insane amount of pressure coming down from inside. From this point on, everything was new to me—I’d had an epidural with my first birth and had never felt any of it. During the last contraction on my back, I said “Aaah! It feels like she’s coming out! I don’t want her to come out while I’m on my back!” Carey told me she wasn’t going to come out yet, so I finished up that contraction and Jordan and Carey got me as far as the toilet, our ultimate goal being the tub.

I leaned on the toilet bowl like I was going to puke and thought about Bill Cosby. I thought I might actually puke, so it wasn’t a bad place to be. I did a few contractions there, but Carey suggested I try for the tub. It was hard to think about moving at a time like this and I thought maybe I’d be just fine right there in front of the toilet. I looked at the water in the tub and wondered if it was warm. I felt so hot already that a tub of hot water wasn’t where I wanted to be. I put my face on the side of the toilet and thought thank you, toilet bowl, for being cool on the side. You’re the only one that understands me, my wonderful toilet bowl. As the pressure built, I started having the urge to push. Really, my body decided to push on its own. I looked down and my belly was visibly tensing up during the peak of the contractions. My body was going to push with or without me. At this point Carey told me I was probably just finishing up dilating, but it started to feel very wrong that I was still wearing pants. Carey said she thought I’d be more comfortable in the tub, and so after the next contraction I ripped off my pants and jumped in with Jordan and Carey’s help.

She was right; the tub was nice. The water wasn’t too warm and I sort of squatted there facing the window. It was raining outside. I thought about how nice it was that God had given me a rainy day to have my baby on, because I love the rain and it also made it a lot cooler and a little darker in the bathroom. I wondered if the rainy day wasn’t what Ivey had been waiting on. I wouldn’t call the tub a miracle replacement for an epidural, but the contractions were definitely bearable. I was beginning to stretch out for the baby’s head as I pushed through more and more of each contraction. I knew that directed pushing, which they practice in hospitals, caused a lot of perineal tears and was happy that I could take my time and push when my body told me to. I continued to vocalize in a new and louder way through the contractions. Some people might find this method of coping with labor unattractive or unladylike, but it’s practical and natural. I found that it wasn’t only comforting but it maximized my pushing efforts. Carey, Jordan and Amy (who arrived while I was pushing) thought it was fine and said I was doing a good job. Anyway, this is another advantage of homebirth. In your own bathtub with just three people watching, you can do what you want and not feel too silly about it.

The whole time I was in the tub, between contractions I wanted to take naps. You’d think two minutes isn’t long enough for a good nap, but it was like my body was shutting everything out and closing down so that when the next contraction came it would be ready again. Those little powernaps made things a ton easier, especially by the time I was seriously pushing. Eventually I asked for my tub pillow so I’d have something to lean on. Every time when I woke up, Jordan and Carey were still sitting there just watching and waiting. I said at some point that I wanted something cold for my face. It still felt too hot! Jordan ran down to the fridge where I had stashed a gel mask, but it smelled sickening like perfume so I didn’t want it. He kept wiping my face with a cold washcloth instead.

After I had pushed for a while, Carey said my bag of waters was bulging out and I could feel the baby’s head through it. It was so strange. First the balloon-like membranes which had never ruptured, and through the water inside I could feel the top of my daughter’s hard little head. I was so glad my water had never broken. That was a traumatic part of my first birth experience and I knew it could have been a major emotional setback during this birth if it had happened too early. We talked about the possibility of Ivey being born in the caul—with the membranes still intact. It rarely happens and is considered by many a special, perhaps even lucky, occurrence. We discussed whether or not to break my water or to leave it, and it was eventually broken, but I never noticed.

Around 3:45 Carey gave me a little pep talk. She said I’d given myself plenty of time to stretch out for the baby and that I was ready, so when the next contraction came I should go ahead and try my best to push the baby out. I pushed hard, only when it felt right, during the next three or four contractions and at 3:58 pm, Ivey was born! At the end of the biggest push ever, just as I thought I might explode, I felt sudden and intense relief. I heard Carey announce that the head was out, and looked down and saw Ivey’s fine black hair swaying in the water. Carey checked for the umbilical cord around Ivey’s neck and it was there, but was easy to pull over her head and out of the way. On the next push my baby was out. Carey scooped her up out of the water and laid her on my chest.

She looked around with her big blue eyes, but didn’t cry until several minutes later. I held her and felt so proud. It was my favorite five minutes of my life so far. I had done it, and here I was holding this beautiful little girl. Jordan said right away that she looked like my dad; she had his eyes and ears. She was smaller than I’d expected—a good bit smaller than Suzi had been. I held her and admired her with Jordan as Carey and Amy drained the tub and got things ready for us in the bedroom. The placenta came out mostly on its own about 15 minutes later, and I got out of the tub and into bed, still holding Ivey. I didn’t bleed much at all, so none of the meds we’d gotten prescribed for the birth were necessary.

About 20 minutes after she was born, we cut Ivey’s umbilical cord. It was white and limp by this time. Amy clamped it and Jordan cut it while I held her in our bed. Then I nursed her for the first time. Next Jordan got to hold Ivey (finally) and I went to take a quick shower. When I came back Carey and Amy left the room and let us have family time alone for at least half an hour. It was so nice to just sit together and process the amazing events that had just taken place as we gazed at our perfect baby.

Carey and Amy came back to do the weighing, tests and paperwork. I did have a very small tear but Amy said it would heal on its own without stitches. I was so happy because with Suzi I’d been cut (about a 2nd degree episiotomy) and I was afraid I’d tear because of it. Carey and Amy aren’t allowed to stitch moms up (isn’t that nuts?) so I would have been facing a trip to the hospital if I’d had a bad tear, and that was the last thing I wanted. Ivey got an 8-9 on the APGAR (she was a little bluish when she was born) and we found out she only weighed 7 pounds and 6 ounces—nearly a pound less than her sister! She was 19 ¾ inches long. We called our parents to tell them the news, and they were excited and ready to come see her. My mom was especially excited because she’d gone all day without a scrap of news. She’d expected me to call several times and let her know what was going on, but I was hardly in the mood to do that as fast as things ended up going!

Amy left after the tests, paperwork and clean-up were done (yes, the midwives do the cleaning up). She said I made birth look easy, which made me feel good even though it hadn’t felt easy the whole time. Carey stayed until my mom came. As she was leaving, I told her thank you and that she had been awesome. (It hadn’t been only the birth itself. During the entire pregnancy there were numerous questions answered over the phone. Lots of informative and inspiring books lent. Hour-long prenatals with unrushed chatting. She’d even once stayed at our house talking until around midnight just because I had some concerns I needed to talk through.) I told her thank you and she said it was her honor.

Having been on both sides of the fence—one birth in the hospital with an OB and one at home with a midwife—has given me new perspective on the “homebirth debate.” Soon I plan to write another post comparing my two experiences, but for now I just wanted to focus on our homebirth experience. It was wonderful.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing your birth story. I'm so glad it went well, and that you were able to birth in the way that felt best for you.

And for what it's worth, I do a lot of vocalizing myself. Whatever it takes to get that baby out, you know?

Jamie said...

Congratulations on such a wonderful experience and thank you for sharing! I'm laughing at you though, doing laundry in the middle of labor!

Julie said...

What an awesome birth!! Well done, mama!! I love the flax heat pack you sewed. I wish I could have one for all my mamas. Maybe I need to commission some! It must have been wonderful to have Carey at your birth.

Meanwhile I would like to take credit for the stair climbing. I'm sure it kick-started things. :)

Kristin said...

What a wonderful birth story. It really is so much easier to let your body do the work, isn't it, instead of following what a nurse or some machine or clock tells you to do!

MaryAnne said...

What a beautiful story. I loved the part where you were loving the nice cool toilet bowl! Congratulations on your beautiful baby girl, and I'm glad things went well for you this time around.

Nancy said...

Jenny, what a WONDERFUL birth experience you went through!!! My hat is off to YOU! You are such a great mother!!!! Lots of love to you and your little family!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing - I've been looking forward to reading this-Sounds amazing! Now you see why I liked having the flaxseed pack that you made for me in my labor! It got me through some very intense contractions and it still brings up intense emotions when I see it in the drawer in Leah's room!
I laughed out loud at the toilet bowl comment, the thoughts we have in labor are so funny and unexpected!
Congrats again! Crystal

Theresa said...

oh my gosh, what a great post. I was cracking up about the toilet bowl conversation!! You are toooo funny! And the vocalization, and the no-meds birth. Mine were no meds, but in the hospital. And I'll never forget the labor nurse telling me to be quiet during my contractions. She's lucky she's still living.

Enjoy Birth said...

Lovely birth story! It sounds like it was wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

TitansFan said...

Wow, how awesome! I bet that's why my wife wanted the Whirlpool Tub with a TV, So she doesn't get bored!