Saturday, August 12, 2017

Holden's Birth Story

This birth story is one that's taken me about two months to process. It was a strangely intense but sobering experience; it wasn't what I was expecting for my third natural birth.

Two points to preface; I had my two previous children unmedicated, in the water, at stand alone birth centers. Click over and you can read Penny's and Ruby's. Throughout my pregnancy my midwife, who is a mother of four, mentioned that third babies tend to be a total gambit. Their births are so different from the previous two and from any future babies. I waited, curiously, to see how that would unfold. The second point, which I mention in full anonymity but want to include it in my story because it made a bigger impact on me than I had expected. The evening before I went into labor I learned that a friend had lost her precious baby girl to SIDS.

In the early morning of 40 weeks and 3 days I went into labor after having a bit of prodomal labor for the past week. That previous night my husband's aunt had arrived to stay with us for a week and I took a bath before bed. At 3:40am I was awoken by 90 second contractions that were spaced about 3-4 minutes apart. I probably had been laboring in my sleep and it was the real ones that woke me up. They weren't painful; they caught my attention and given my very fast birth with Ruby - I wanted my midwife to know right away.  My waters had broken but it wasn't a gush as it had been with my first birth. My midwife, Eloisa, agreed that it would be a good idea to carefully pack up and head over. My bag had already been ready for a few weeks, so all we needed to do was pack a few last minute essentials, tell "Nana" that we were headed out.  Let me tell you what a huge relief it is when you are in labor and you know your other children are well taken care of and they don't even need to be moved. When they would awake that morning, they would already be big sisters!

It was about 5:00 am on that Saturday morning when we drove the 20 minutes to my stand alone birth center; The Bellingham Birth Center in Bellingham, WA. My contractions weren't making me anxious. In fact, I was pretty damn chill. Chill enough to ask my husband to stop at the closest coffee stand to get us lattes and muffins. We laughed, said "#3rd baby!" What a difference this was from our first birth; when we got pulled over by a police officer and I yelled at him to either give us a ticket or to let us go...

We pulled in to the birth center at 5:30 and checked in. It's a small historic home that was tastefully converted into a birth center and a very comforting place to me. It has two birth suites and I could hear that there was another mama-to-be laboring in the other room - which was a first for me, in all of my appointments and hours of labor and post-partum through 3 children to be in the birth center while another mama was actively laboring. It is interesting to hear another woman in labor! Unfortunately for this mama, she was sent home a little later. She came in a bit too early.

Eloisa let us settle in and my husband hooked up my cell phone to their stereo and turned on the Pandora station we had been jamming out to lately (Mumford and Sons). I paced and sat on the bed while Eloisa prepped her paperwork too. I was feeling great, calm and relaxed. I was already pleased that this wasn't a "drop everything and run" kind of birth that I was preparing myself for. I was at the birth center, in the place that I wanted to have my son, and I was content. Whatever else was thrown at me - I'm fine. In retrospect, I was too comfortable and fine!

I pace some more, leaking my waters and working through contractions that were becoming more intense. But I quickly was able to overcome that discomfort and whatever position or action that I was doing would quickly become tolerable. Eloisa thought it would be worthwhile to check where I was at, and we discovered that my cervix was pulled back a bit, which was not helping baby boy get into the best position. She had me straddle the birth stool and during a contraction she pulled my cervix forward to help. No surprise, this was not my favorite thing to do, and I believe she had to do it two or three more times during the course of my labor.

Pretty soon I was over pacing, leaning over a couch arm and using the birth stool. I had my daughters in the water and I was wanted to get in. So I labored there for several hours...and AGAIN it was just too comfortable! My dear friend That Mama Gretchen had given me some protein cookies that I stashed into my labor bag so those got brought out and they were amaze-balls (G - I will be needing that recipe!). I asked my husband to send her a text just to emphasize how delicious they were. So there I was, relaxing in the birth tub, laughing, eating cookies and contracting a bit. The perfect image of a mother in labor, right? No. I wasn't getting anywhere!

As I process this experience I know that this stall in my labor was because of the position of my cervix and because of my emotional state. I wasn't excited, I was calm. Peaceful. Patient. Too patient. I don't feel like my head was in the game. I didn't push myself to make the contractions more intense because I didn't want him to come too soon. I knew my body would do what it needed to do. But a question that I ask myself often is "where was my heart in all of this?"

Around noon Eloisa gave me a couple homeopathics to encourage more labor and I used a sling in which I hung my upper body on and lunged through contractions using a stool. For my second birth I had done something similar just doing lunges on the edge of the outside of the tub. Angry contractions for a few minutes, and again - I adapted and it wasn't working anymore.

The final try was to lay on my side in the bed with three pillows stacked between my knees; around noon. WOW that was working! And with vengeance! I lost track of time, but got into the mode of labor where I contracted hard and slept for the couple minutes between contractions. Eloisa gave me some saline to help boost me along. Finally I began roaring through my contractions and I knew it was time to start pushing. And push I tried.

Nothing was happening.

I know the feeling of bearing down and pushing a baby out. I knew what was coming. And nothing was happening; I was pushing with all of my might and I felt no progression. I must have gotten those words out, and all at once I realize that there is a mask being put onto my face. I thought it was nitrous, which is used for pain management and I tried pushing it away (it was my husband who was placing it there). He resisted and kept the mask there. I was hyperventilating and it was oxygen, but I was in "the labor zone" of my consciousness and wasn't really listening to what was being said to me. He was pressing the mask to my face and providing counter pressure to my back that I was asking him for. He was right in the middle of the hardest moments of my life.

Quickly Eloisa tells me that baby's heart rate is down, even with the oxygen, and I need to get on all fours. His head was out (I didn't know this) and I quickly flipped onto my knees. More roaring pushes, not having the sensation I was expecting. I could hear Eloisa say calmly and quietly to the birth assistant to call the paramedics; just in case. She then reached in and pulled my son out.

It was but the smallest moment in time; but to me it was an eternity. The sounds were muffled to me, but I could hear Eloisa saying "call them, he's not responsive." She gives him a puff of oxygen and tells me - "talk to your son. He needs to hear you." I scream in pure terror and agony; all I could think of was the precious baby that my friend had lost just a day earlier. My husband whispers in my ear, "His name is Holden. Talk to Holden," and I scream to him, reaching out to touch him and Eloisa exclaims happily "HE'S FINE!" The paramedics never had to come because everything was fine. I was fine, he was fine.

From that point on everything was normal. He pinked up, he came to me and I hugged him so tight. We nursed. My husband, so physically and emotionally exhausted, quickly settled down next to us on the bed and napped.

A couple hours later Eloisa asked if she may weigh him and he came in a whopping 9 lbs 9 oz. No one was expecting a baby of this size because my larger daughter had been 8 lbs at birth. I didn't have an unusual weight gain. I ate healthily with the guilty pleasure of chocolate, but who could deny me? Besides the difference of having a boy, I don't really have an explanation of why he weighed so much more than his sisters had. But I am thankful for the 11 hour labor, my frustrating patience, even my difficult cervix because it helped extend the length of my labor and give my body time to accommodate a larger baby and of course - the skilled hands of my birthing team.

I have hesitated telling that final part of the story. I know that for many people that may give a sense of fear; maybe that I was extremely lucky and should have been in the hospital. Risk occurs everywhere. My pregnancy was extremely low risk and a stand alone birth center and midwife wouldn't accept an at risk mother. Births are unpredictable and that's kind of what is so magical about them. In processing this experience and speaking with my sister in law, who is a labor & delivery nurse, she had helped me reframe the part that scared me - that he was "unresponsive." "Babies born naturally and of that size are just born stunned. Imagine what they went through to be born. They just need a minute to catch up," she told me. It changed my perspective from one of fear to acceptance of the norm. Sure, it was hands down the scariest moment of my entire life, but does it mean that I've failed or made a foolish decision to have my child away from a hospital? No. He was born into the hands that he needed to be; hers were the ones that God knew would be the best to guide him here. I don't think there is enough thanks that I could give this woman for what she did for us.

Two months later and Holden is such an amazing addition to our family. The love that his sisters lavish upon him is without a doubt the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

As a final note, one part of a lot of births that is overlooked is how the dad is doing. In our case, Adam had taken the front row seat for all of my births but this one was particularly intense.  Pushing the mask onto my face, seeing his wife do the birth exactly as she was supposed to and not being able to get the baby out, and the final adrenaline spike of his first moments in life. Personally I felt completely fine and was recovering normally after getting Holden in my arms, but dads are a different creature. I experienced it, but he SAW it all. Be sure to give the daddy the opportunity to process as well. 

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