Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Malley's Birth Story

In honor of Malley's birthday today, I wanted to post the story of how she came into the world.

*A pre-warning to all: this is a long, somewhat descriptive account of a baby being born.  You have a choice to continue reading or not, so I don't want to hear anyone complaining. This was a planned homebirth/waterbirth.* :)

Our first child was due Tues. December 8th, 2009. She was actually born three weeks early on Tues. November 17th, 2009. 

On Monday, November 16th, I woke up very early from my sleep with cramping. They didn't hurt, but they were uncomfortable and also accompanied by back pain. When they stopped a couple hours later, I went on with my daily activities and finished thank you notes from my baby shower the day before. But all day I just felt a little "off". For dinner, we went out to eat with my husband's parents for his step-dad's birthday. We were joking that the baby would be born that night since she was going to be named after her grandpa. It would be cool for them to have the same birthday!

When we got home around 8:00pm, I had my first bloody show of all pregnancy, and I wondered if I had just lost my mucus plug. The cramping came back. They were not time-able at all, just a constant  dull feeling. I was nervous and excited, so my husband suggested we call Jen (our midwife) to fill her in. I was in denial that it was actual labor since I wasn't due for weeks, so when Jen said, "It sounds like things are getting started" I couldn't believe it! She advised me to practice my breathing and just relax, maybe take a bath. Afterwards, Ian and I began getting the house ready - just in case. I called my mom to tell her, because she was actually 4 hours away visiting my brother’s family, and I wanted her to be at the birth. She made arrangements to come home sooner. Two hours later, I called Jen. Nothing had progressed or changed, so we decided to check in with each other the next day. 

That night, I was up with uncomfortable cramping. Ian and I went outside to watch the meteor shower around was really fun to be distracted and out in the fresh, cold air! I didn't get much sleep that night, but the next day started off very calm regardless. I had plans to go grocery shopping and stop into my chiropractor for a quick adjustment. But instead I stayed home and did laundry...I just felt different. My husband and I decided to play each part of his day by ear. He went to his class in the morning, then came home. He stayed with me for a couple hours, then went to work. I said I'd call him if I needed him. This was 2:40pm.

I laid down to get some sleep, as I was exhausted from the night before. Around 3:15pm, I felt this sudden "drop" inside me. I bolted out of bed and felt trickling of fluid. It came and went, but something changed inside of me - I began to feel surges. Not cramps, but the real deal contractions. Even though I had never felt anything like that in my life, I just knew what it was. 

I called Jen and left a message telling her about this. I also tried to get ahold of my husband, my mom, and my sister. I reached their voicemails every time - and my surges started to get very strong. Despite me trying to stay relaxed and breathe, I got very scared. I didn't want to be alone, and I couldn't get through to anyone! Finally around 4:00 I managed to talk to everyone! Jen told me to try to time the surges as she was just finishing up with another birth. Ian started on his way home immediately, and my mom and sister said they'd head over. Within no time, I was able to say my surges were exactly four minutes apart. I texted Jen to tell her the time. I'll admit it, I had begun crying and couldn't talk.  I was so uncomfortable; I drew myself a bath to force myself to relax.

I had practiced HypnoBirthing for months, but looking back, I should have practiced more. I found it very difficult; all I could do was breathe out and in as slowly as I could. I knew I was not as relaxed as I should be. Those videos made it look so easy! :)

Within 20 minutes, Ian, my mom, and my sister Marie were all at the house with me. I felt safer immediately and knew everything would be okay. Ian stayed by my side from that moment on. I took to the couch where I was still able to "go into myself" for each surge. Sometimes I would hug Ian and breathe during it, then I could relax and talk with everyone when it was over. I was feeling tired at that point, so it was nice to close my eyes and breathe deeply. It was almost like I could rest a little. Twice, I tried laying down with my husband, but we learned right away that position was horrible - it increased the discomfort and a couple times I would begin crying. I finally settled with sitting up as it made breathing and talking easier. My mom and sister started to heat up pots of water for my birthing pool. 

By the time Jen arrived around 6:00pm, it was intense. I was so happy to see her! Hearing her voice guide me through a few surges made such a difference. By that time it had gotten easy for me to forget small relaxation tips - she reminded me to start with my face, which truly made all the difference. Jen pointed out that I was being very quiet, and offered the suggestion of making a little noise with each surge, such as humming low during my exhale or even saying "ow!" if I needed to. I hadn't thought of that before, but once I began, it seemed to help! 

My right leg/hip would cramp up during every contraction. It was frustrating because the pain kept distracting me from breathing the right way. I was constantly looking over to check if the pool was ready - I wanted to get in so badly. Finally after a small snack of pears, I was able to get in the water. It was a godsend! The heat and feel of the water immediately brought relief to my surges. My entire tummy was immersed under the water, and for a few minutes, my pain was almost completely alleviated. But my body must have become accustomed to the atmosphere, and the surges felt intense again. Suddenly, what must have been the heat from the pool and any other reason of labor, I leaned over the pool and threw up. I apologized, but Jen assured me it was completely normal. 

The next few hours were tiring and difficult. I sat in the pool and rocked side to side, with my eyes closed. Ian was behind me every moment, holding my hand, lightly massaging my arms, and offering words of support. My mom and sister were baking a cake for our baby's arrival, and when that was done, they stayed by the pool with me. Jen was there to get me through some very difficult moments, pouring cups of warm water over my belly, and other times she would simply be close by, letting my family guide me. By this point, my surges were continuous, with a high peak during each one. Sometimes I would feel that part coming and cover my face, ready to cry. Either Ian and or my mom would remind me (a little firmly, but lovingly) to just breathe. I would be able to focus myself again. It helped so much to have them there. My mom suggested blowing out through my surge, and she said the words, "Blow it away..." to help me. It gave me a great visualization of saying goodbye to each surge!

I had to pee a lot, and I found that getting in and out of the pool for bathroom breaks was a nice change for my surges because I loved getting back in the water! So I made a point to play "games" like that with myself to pass the time. The lights were low all throughout the house, and everyone kept a very quiet, respectful atmosphere. I had made a playlist of music and that was playing in the background. 

Around 9:00, Heather (Jen's assistant) arrived, and somehow I knew that was a great sign...the end must be coming! I was relieved to see her, and she came by the pool to help me along. Not only did her presence encourage me, but she also said just the right things that made me comfortable with how I was handling the pain. As a matter of fact, every one was like that. I loved having them around; I felt totally safe and supported. 

Throughout the night, Jen would listen to the baby's heartbeat to monitor. Every time I heard that sound, I would be reminded of why I was going through this - I'd be holding that baby soon! Not once did Jen check my cervix, though, and I loved that. I didn't want to know how many centimeters I was. I knew that when my body was ready, I would be able to push. 

Around 11:00, in some ways, the surges seemed to stop. My mind became so alert, and I announced I thought I had to "go" to the bathroom (if you catch my drift). Jen said it was perfectly okay and that it would have to come out before the baby.  I got up and went into the bathroom. Well, as soon as I tried to go, I let out a yell, because I could feel this insane pressure coming down. I knew right away the baby was there! Ian helped me back in the pool where I barely made it to my knees before I had to bear down. Before birth, I had been uncomfortable with the thought of me yelling, but at the time, it didn't seem weird to me. I just squeezed Ian's hands and pushed. And yelled.

The tone of the room changed - everyone became excited! Jen and Heather began setting up for the arrival, and for the next half hour, I pushed slowly. It was really great. If my whole labor had been how pushing was, *wave of the hand* I could say it was fun! I was able to talk and even managed a couple jokes with everyone in between each surge. When I felt one coming, I would say, "Okay here's another," and grab Ian's hands. I’d say rather loudly during each one, “Oh my gosh!” but then it would be over quickly. After a few pushes, Jen asked me if I could feel our baby's head yet, so I reached down. My eyes got wide as my fingers hit something hard - I was so excited! I made Ian feel too, and the look on his face was incredible! Everyone was encouraging me to push harder as her head slowly came out, but I refrained from popping my eyes out. I knew the slower, the better, as it would allow everything down there to stretch as it should. Everything burned as her head was coming out, and I said, "I don't think I can stretch much more." Jen told me I'd be surprised - and I was! She suggested getting into a squatting position, and when I did I could feel things opening up more. And finally, her head was completely out! I felt her face and was shocked at all the details. "Oh my gosh, her nose... I can feel her little nose!" 

When the next surge came, with the guidance of Jen and a big push, Malley was born into our hands! Jen and I lifted her out of the water, and that memory is in my brain like slow motion. I held her out in front of me for a moment, as utter joy filled me and I started to cry a little. Jen told me to bring her right to my chest, otherwise I might have stared at my baby like that for ever. I'll never forget that feeling - I was holding my baby! She was warm, plump, and sticky from the vernix - I kissed her anyways! It was 11:37pm.
I had asked beforehand that if Malley didn't cry right away, that we let her slowly adjust by herself instead of rousing her to cry. I was so happy we did. Malley's eyes were opening and little noises came from her, and she did whimper a little before letting out a single cry. We also let her cord stop pulsating (maybe about five minutes) before Ian cut it. 

I had been exhausted during my 8 hours of labor, but now I was on such a love high. :) I hadn't torn at all, but I had some hemorrhaging going on, so I was moved to my bedroom where I could lay down. I wasn't scared or worried, because Jen and Heather took excellent care of me. I was able to hold Malley the entire time. Already, most of her vernix was absorbed into her skin (which felt like velvet, by the way).  After a while and after taking a few doses of medicine, I seemed to be "stable", so Jen and Heather left Ian and I to be with our baby while they cleaned up the pool and everything in the living room.

Malley was weighed and measured. 8lbs, 4oz. and 20.5 inches long. Just perfect. I had help from my Mom, Jen, and Heather when it was time to nurse. Though it wasn't as easy as some moms make it look, it did happen! 

Everyone left around 2:30am, except Jen who took Malley on the couch for about 1.5 hours so Ian and I could sleep. But when she started fussing for me, Malley was brought back to me, and then Jen went home after making sure we were all okay. 

It was the most amazing first birth experience I could have asked for. It wasn't easy; as a matter of fact, it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. I can really see how some women would want drugs! But I will never want to do it another way. Nothing has replaced the bliss I felt when Malley was born, and I'll never forget it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Follow Your Heart

At my baby shower a year ago, all the women were asked to write down a piece of advice for me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them when I got home. Some of them made me laugh out loud...some of them made me tear up a little...and some of them were just perfect.

But my all-time favorite was from my mom. (Awww...) She said, "In the end, follow your heart."At first, it might seem so cliche, but I think any mother can fully appreciate and understand the power of those words. A mother's intuition is very strong; women should never doubt it! After searching for the right answer, weighing my pros and cons, and researching, in the end, I trust my heart when making decisions for my baby. When it didn't feel right to see my baby cry in someone else's arms, I took her back. When I felt uneasy at the idea of leaving her with someone, I just took her with me. When it seemed silly to put her in another room, in the dark, away from me at night, I listened to my heart and just kept her beside me.

She's pretty adorable
Wow, those things were so long ago! She's getting bigger now, and I've had to start the whole discipline thing a lot sooner than I expected. Sometimes she thinks it's a game; sometimes she even repeats me like a little stinker, "No no," or "Stah!" (her version of "stop"). And while half of me is trying to hold back a smile because she's so dang cute, the other half knows that this early, consistent, and fair discipline/redirection is 100% necessary. It might be easier for me to let her get away with everything, but that's not what's best for her - or our family. I'm continuing to follow my heart...just now at a different stage.

And that's also why I don't write as much on my blog as I thought I would! She comes first - always. So before she wakes from her nap, I'll say goodbye now! :)