Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Naomi's Birth Day (Aka, "My Pregnancy - Part 2")

The Big Day:

The day I was due was a Sunday and we were supposed to go to a birthday party for our friends' daughter. I woke up that morning and just felt like I didn't have it in me to go. It would be bustling with people and I just felt my energy level was not up for that. We spent the day at home. In the evening my parents came over for dinner. That night Scott and I had nothing to watch on TV, so we played Yahtzee.

We went to bed around 10...as usual. I got up at 11 to go to the washroom because my stomach hurt. Then I got up at midnight for the same reason. I went to go sleep on the couch because I figured if this was going to happen again, its easier to roll off the couch than it is to try and get out of bed. Around 2am I woke up and thought that this feeling I was having may be contractions. So I got my trusty contraction timer app out that I downloaded on my phone and started recording. The contractions started at 6 min apart, then 8 min, the 15 minutes. I thought it seemed quite silly to stay up and time them at this point, so I fell back asleep. I figured I'd do the "bath test" that the midwives want you to do when I woke up in the morning. If this was labour then running a bath  now would wake Scott up and it'd be best for us all to be as well rested as possible. So, I fell back asleep.

Active Labour:

I woke up at 6:10am because my water broke. I ran to the washroom. Scott was just getting up. I couldn't remember if I was still supposed to have a bath if my water broke to see if I was in pre-labour or if it was actual labour. As I was flipping through my information binder from the midwives, Scott kept saying, "I'm pretty sure you are supposed to page the midwives when your water breaks."

Scott started timing my contractions and they were about 2-4 minutes a part, but much more intense then the ones I had at night. We had an exercise ball upstairs to help me with labour, but the only thing that felt good was leaning in a door way or over the counter and kicking my feet.

Our midwife, Colleen, called back from the page we sent. It was about 7am. She asked questions and talked me through 2 contractions. She said she didn't think I was in active labour yet because I was still able to talk through my contractions, but if I wanted her to, she would come over to check on me. (One of my fears was being that person who cried wolf and wasn't in labour. Given that my water broke, I figured this had to be the real thing.) I thought it would be good if she came and checked me.  

Meanwhile I was getting pretty nauseated and ended up throwing up the 3 children's tylenol and 2 gravol that I had taken an hour before. At that point I said to Scott, "If she gets here and I'm only 4 cm dialated, we are going to the hospital and I'm getting an epidural!" Scott in his ever so calm manner told me not to worry.

The midwife got to our house around 7:30am. We were going to go into our room so she could check my temperature, blood pressure, baby's heart rate, etc. As she was settling in I had two contractions that were fairly close together. She decided at that point to check how far along I was immediately. The whole time I was just thinking, 'please let me be more than 4 cm.'

I looked at her as she said, "...6...7...8...you are almost 9 cm."

I said, "So when I threw up half an hour ago, that would've been transition." It was starting to make sense and I knew that the 7-9 cm point is the worst of it. She told me later that I have a really high pain tolerance.

To Go to the Hospital...:

Colleen said if we were going to go to the hospital we would have to leave now. Scott started throwing bags into the car. I was on the couch trying to figure out how I was going to even put on pants. The midwife said to me, "Have you considered a home birth? Its a lot easier to have a baby at home than it is on the side of the road." I didn't know how to respond as I was still a bit shell shocked that I was so far along. I knew Scott wasn't completely comfortable with the idea. We quickly considered calling an ambulance, but figured it'd be quicker to drive the 10 min to the hospital then to wait for an ambulance.

We made our way to the car. I was going to get in the back, but forgot about the car seat that was back there, not leaving a lot of room. So I walked to the front passenger side, but the car seat required the front seat to be completely upright. The thought of having to sit was unfathomable. I stood outside the car door, having contractions on the driveway while the midwife waited on the road in her car to follow us to the hospital.

Scott "highly suggested" I get in the car. I said that I couldn't. I knew he was frustrated with me standing outside the car having contractions on the front lawn and finally said, "Make a decision. Are we going or staying?" We were going to stay at home, I decided. 

...Or to Stay Home?:

Scott hailed the midwife to come back to the house. I went back inside. I was in the washroom for about 5 minutes, not really aware of what was going on around me. In that time period, Scott and Colleen had stripped the white comforter off our bed and transformed the room to a birthing suite. (I.E., put plastic sheets everywhere and set up the nursery as a resuscitation area in case of an emergency.)

One of the reasons I wanted a midwife was because I was convinced I did not want to give birth on my back. There are so many better alternatives that I read about that are better for your body. By the time I made my way to our room, I laid down on my back and decided I was not getting back up.

The student midwife, Justine and 2nd midwife, Megan had arrived shortly after. (I found out after that they were up all night with another birth). Colleen decided to push the remaining part of the cervix over the baby's head so that I could start pushing. 

What amazed me about contractions was that in between every contraction was this short period of rest where there was no pain (aside from the leg cramps I kept getting). God's design of labour literally has little "built in" rest periods.

A few weeks after the birth I had this flashback of when the 3 midwives were sitting at the end of the bed just calmly waiting and looking so peaceful...just like the stories in Ina May's book. When I saw the 3 midwives at my final appointment I had mentioned that to them and they laughed and said, "Its not always like that. You were just doing great on your own."

Time for the Hard Work:

Having no idea what "pushing" felt like, it took a while to catch on. Then they suggested I push more than 1 time during each contraction to be more efficient. I really wasn't a fan of this idea but figured I needed to do what they said. 

I remember at one point saying, "Hypnobirthing sucks. It clearly doesn't work." To which Colleen replied, "Hypnobirthing is probably what helped you get to this point so efficiently."

Scott was laying at the top of the bed holding my hand. The midwives asked if he wanted to see the baby's head, he declined. They asked me if I wanted to get a mirror to see the baby's head. I declined. I figured that image would in no way help me through the process.

After about 40 minutes of pushing, Colleen said if I couldn't push her out in the next 2 contractions they  would be best to have me move to a birthing stool. The thought of having to move was motivation enough to try a little harder. Justine, the student midwife, gave me some instructions as to what was going to happen next. I remember just thinking, 'maintain eye contact and she'll think you are listening.'

Within the next few minutes at 9:50am Naomi was born at 8lb 10oz. As Scott tells her, "The day you came to us you were purple like Bazooka Joe bubble gum." She was wailing and pinked up pretty quickly and was trying to suck on anything that came close to her mouth.  She passed her APGAR test with flying colours. They asked Scott if he wanted to cut the cord and he said, "No its ok, you go ahead..."

The Third Stage of Labour:

I was amazed at a.) how big she was when they put her on my stomach, and b.) that there was no more pain once she was born. It was incredible how quickly it was over. Almost immediately I got really cold, teeth chattering and started convulsing. For a second I was confused and afraid. (Scott thinks it was hilarious). The midwives said its just your body going into shock and its completely normal. They asked Scott for a blanket. We looked at each other and thought about what blanket we could use as we really didn't have anything prepared for a home birth.

I had mentioned that Naomi and I decided on an 8 hour labour in our hypnobirthing sessions. If you count when I first felt a contraction, it would've almost been 8 hours exactly. The midwives counted it as 3.5 hours of labour as they said active labour started at 6:10 when my water broke that morning. (They didn't count the part that I slept through...)

The midwives did all the post-delivery checkups for me and the baby. Post-pardum recovery came as a shock to me. I'm not sure what I thought would happen post-baby, but I wasn't ready for  the "recovery" portion. Maybe people told me about that part and I didn't pay attention. Thankfully I had a few friends who did give me some excellent advice and tips to help.

I remember when I was in labour saying I would never have another baby and "Adoption is a valuable option." But only 2 weeks later I couldn't remember why I felt that way at the time and would joke that "I could do that over lunch". I figure the short term memory is Gods way of ensuring we have more.

Scott called my mom. When she saw his number come up on her phone she assumed we were on our way to the hospital. Scott said, "Do you want to come meet your granddaughter?" She was amazed. And then he told her we were at home which was even more of a shock to her. (I had been telling her that she should make sure she is dressed and put makeup on each morning just in case I called her when the baby was born. Knowing she'd rush over, she'd want the first pictures with the baby to be with makeup on!)

When mom and dad came, Scott took the baby out to show them. After a few minutes, the midwives brought her back to be with me though as they wanted her to be skin to skin as much as possible.

After everyone was checked out and doing well (about an hour and a bit after the delivery), I made my way to the living room. The midwives cleaned up the room. (Surprisingly we only lost one pillow to the whole experience.  Scott described as "looking like someone was murdered on it." Other than that, a hot and sanitize cycle in the washing machine and everything came out like new. The midwives left around noon after providing some instruction about nursing and ensuring everything was going smoothly.

 ...and we settled in as a family of 3.

Final Thoughts:

So yes, me, the "give me all the drugs you can/home births are ludicrous" girl ended up having a natural home birth and a story to be proud of. One year ago, I never would've imagined this.

I don't know if there is a secret formula to ensure a good labour and delivery. I can't say if there is one specific thing that I did that helped, or if none of it did, but I figured if I do everything I can to ensure my body is ready, it would be luck of the draw after that...but at least I knew I did everything that I knew how to in my power to make it go smoothly. Find the lengthy blog post on my pregnancy here.

I was so sad at my 6 week check up that it was the final appointment with the midwives as I felt such a connection to them for the amazing job they did in taking care of Naomi and me.  I would encourage anyone whole-heartedly to try to be under midwifery care as they made the experience so incredible, explaining what was happening and encouraging me the entire time. It amazes me how much a "You are doing a great job" comment from someone who has witnessed hundreds of births can help boost your confidence.

I was trying to find some type of inspirational thing to say at the end of this to wrap it all up nicely, but all I can think of is, "...And that's my story of how Naomi came into the world!" 

My Pregnancy (Part 1)

I decided to get back on here as I wanted a place to write out my pregnancy story. One of the pages in Naomi's baby  record book asks you to write down you birth story and then gives you 5 lines to explain the whole event. I've never been known for my brevity, so I thought it would be nice to give the full story and just tape it to the page as 5 lines certainly wouldn't cover it.  In fact, one blog doesn't even seem to cover it, so I'll do this in two parts.

In the Beginning: 

People were very surprised to hear that we were pregnant as were we since it happened so quickly. So quickly in fact that it shocked me. I thought it would take a couple months and I'd still be able to hide the pregnancy enough that I could play softball that year.  Within a couple days I started dealing with extreme fatigue and nausea. I would fall asleep so early in the evenings but never wake up feeling refreshed. My mom asked me if I had mono. I said, "no." A little while later she suggested that maybe I had a thyroid condition since I was so tired all the time. You can see the video of when we broke the news to my parents HERE.

I thought my first trimester would never end. I didnt know how I would cope with being pregnant for 40 weeks as I couldn't stay up past 730pm. My great "clean eating" diet of no processed sugar or dairy that I had been on successfully for 2 months became a diet of white bread, Eggos and cereal with milk. I couldn't fathom the idea of meat or vegetables. I never threw up, but was constantly nauseated. It was fabulous. *insert sarcasm font*

A friend of mine who was pregnant said, "Don't worry, it goes away. In my 2nd trimester I felt so good, I thought I could be pregnant forever." I thought she was crazy because I was convinced that I'd feel this way for 40 weeks. And then one day I woke up and was fine...just like that. A friend at the gym commented that I must be feeling better because 'I no longer look grey.' Apparently how I was feeling was also how I was looking.

I wanted to live as normally as I could. I felt like getting pregnant was our decision and no one should have to "suffer" through listening to me complain about pregnancy related symptoms. This resulted in me just not wanting to talk about being pregnant (to most people). I found people's excitement for me being pregnant very strange...especially strangers.

I was terrified of gaining weight that I would never lose. I wanted to be strong and feel strong throughout my pregnancy and had a goal of continuing to teach classes at the gym till 30 weeks. (I made it till 24 weeks teaching BodyPump, and 27 weeks teaching BodyVive.) I also had a goal of not gaining more than 30 lbs. I did really well in staying on track with this until the last 3 weeks where I gained about 6 lbs in water alone. ...which I was ok with given I knew I'd lose that very quickly.

Making Decisions:

A friend of mine used midwives for her baby and it was highly suggested to me to try to get in with them as the standard of care that you recieve is so amazing. I didn't really understand the difference but assumed these people knew what they were talking about.

I was concerned though as I thought midwives would want you to have a natural, drug free childbirth and that was not in my plan at all. (Side note: Midwives push neither of these options, rather they are all about ensuring you have information for all options to make a decision about your care).

When I got pregnant my idea of "labour" was getting pain meds before I even left the house (I know thats not possible) and spending a few hours playing Sudoku on the Ipad while sitting in a hospital bed hooked up to an epidural. I was quite open about this and had no desire to talk about alternatives. I spoke to many friends explaining my rationale for why a homebirth is the most ludicrous thing one could do. One of these friends ended up having an unplanned home birth. I was shell shocked and felt a bit betrayed as I thought we had the same opinion on this matter, but in the end, her story was probably one the most inspiring things that helped me.

I applied to get in with the midwives, but was put on a waiting list. After week 13 I figured it wasn't going to happen. When I first started meeting with my OBGYN, I knew I wanted a doula. Even though I knew I wanted drugs, I felt the doula would make the experience better. I met with a few doulas, one of which suggested I read Ina May Gaskins book "Guide to Childbirth." This was also suggested by my friend (spoken about above), with the disclaimer, "I know you want an epidural, but it's a really good book." After the second recommendation from the doula, I purchased the book.

To say the book changed my pregnancy world completely would be an understatement. By the time I finished it, not only did I not want drugs, but I knew that I could and wanted to have a natural childbirth. It was truly a redefining moment for me in my journey.

I also watched the documentary "The Business of Being Born," which set in my mind even more so the implications of unneccessary medical intervention. So when the midwifery clinic called me when I was 26 weeks pregnant and said that they had availability for me to be under their care, I was absolutely thrilled.

Labour Preparation:

I wanted to be as prepared as possible and do everything I could to ensure I was ready for labour and delivery.

Exercise - I was able to keep quite active throughout my whole pregnancy and I know the benefits of focused exercise is well documented.

Acupuncture/Naturopath - Through my search for a Doula I came across the services of Dr. Corinne Brown who provides doula service but is also a Naturopathic doctor. She had pre-natal services that I was a part of that included holistic herbs, acupuncture and and moxibustion which helps prepare the body for labour and then helps stimulate the body for labour and reduce complications and need for induction. I met with her weekly from around 34 weeks on.

Hypnotheraphy - After reading Hypnobirthing,  I thought it would be beneficial to work directly with a hypnotherapist. To truly explain the benefits of this would be difficult but I found our sessions both relaxing and empowering. I had 2 sessions of hypnotheraphy with Kathleen Milligan at Action Hypnosis. Her services were wonderful and she provided me with cds to continue my practise at home. She encouraged me to talk with the baby and pick a date for delivery as well as talk to the baby about how long the labour would be. We had chosen Sept 26. (She was born Sept 30). And we had decided on an 8 hour labour. (More of that in part 2).

Massage Therapy/ Chiropractor - I was also blessed to have a great benefits package at work that covered me to have bi-weekly massages and chiropractic care right up until my delivery.

Physiotherapy - The final thing that I did to prepare for my delivery was sought out the services of a pelvic health physiotherapist. Courtney Pigott at Lifemark Physiotherapy did a great job in helping me learn about what muscles I needed to strengthen and if I was doing the right things to prepare my body. I had 2 pre-natal appointments with her then 2 post-partum appointments where she helped show me how to break down scar tissue from stitches, checked for diastasys, pro-lapse and suggested ways to help with any incontinence issues.

Despite all these things, the best thing I did was surround myself with people who felt the same way I did about childbirth. Those who encouraged me about my choice to have a natural birth and who had positive and amazing birth stories.

Re-Framing the Experience: 

I found sometimes when women talk about their birth experience they are trying to "one-up" each other about how bad it was. I thought if anything, I wanted to be able to "one-up" how great my experience would be. ( I realize that this is a very UNPOPULAR way of making conversation amongst other women).

There were a few thoughts I had would remind myself of consistently:
1.) Think of contractions as "intense", not painful.
2.) I need to work with the "intensity" of contractions.  They are helping me, not injuring me.
3.) This is natural, normal and not a scary process. (*Western media has tried to tell us otherwise through movies and tv.)

When I mentioned these ideas and what I read  I would be given the old 'you wait and see' look. People would share their experiences with me and when they were negative I would just kept repeating to myself, "That's not going to be my story." When fear would get to me about whether I could really do it, I would think "That's not my thought," and would refocus on positive thoughts. A friend of mine sent me well wishes saying, "I hope you have a very uneventful labour." I had never heard anyone say that before and it was a great thought to focus on as well.

The Final Days:

I was off work the last two weeks before my due date. This gave me a chance to finish up her room, sew her swaddling blankets and recieving blankets and do all the things that I knew I wouldn't be able to do as easily post-baby.

I started going for walks with a friend who was due around the same time as I was. (When I did classes at the gym, the instructor would have a slight look of fear as if I would go into labour in their class).  The midwives told me the baby was already in a good position, so the walking was more for the benefit of exercise and enjoying the beautiful fall days with my friend than about putting me into labour.

Everywhere I went people would ask, "How do you feel?" or "When are you due?" (I'm not sure why the typical "How are ya?" turns into the "How are you feeling?" when you are pregnant. It had to be the most annoying question!...and I'd get asked it at least 5 times a day!).  My whole pregnancy seemed to go by so quickly, but the last month seemed to drag on and talking about it never helped.

I had already decided that we would wait the full 2 weeks post due date before considering an induction. I knew that if I had to be induced all bets were off to have a natural childbirth. Being induced would make me have all the symptoms of being in labour without the happy hormones that help you get through it. And as I had discovered through much research, the chances of having to have other interventions due to being induced were also greater. I really wanted to stay away from that whole scenario if I could.

...and that leads me to Naomi's birth day. You can read about that HERE.