Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ilse Louise's Birth Story (one year later)

My sweet girl was born one year ago this week, an entire spin around the sun. Every time I tell this story aloud I remember something new, and every time I sit down to write it out I feel like I'm either too detailed or skipping all the important stuff. But now, let's just get it out. It's been twelve months, after all!

This is long. You've been warned.

On Sunday, August 7th, 2011, I was one week "overdue." My husband and I were preparing dinner that evening when I started to feel non-painful tightenings in my abdomen. I'd had mild Braxton Hicks contractions before, so this was nothing particularly new, and I didn't let myself get too excited. However, they continued as we sat down to dinner, so I mentioned them to Justin. We went for our usual after-dinner walk as a family, and it was after we'd returned, when the contractions hadn't gone away, that I knew this it. These were real, growing-more-intense-with-activity contractions, and then I was excited. Hurray! We were going to have a baby that night! Or so I thought.

When we got home, Uli had her bath, we put her to bed, and then I took a quick shower (almost apprehensively, since I knew warm water can slow not-yet-serious labors; it was a relief afterwards to find the contractions continuing). Around eight o'clock I called and left a message with my midwife to let her know I was in early labor. She called me back and told me she'd inform the birth team to head over to our house whenever I wanted them. In the meantime, I should relax and rest. Justin and I put in a movie to watch, but I couldn't concentrate (excited. contractions starting to pinch). Justin went downstairs to putter around. I downloaded a contraction-timing app,  popped-in my earbuds and tried to relax to my labor mix on my iPod. Contractions were coming about every 5 minutes and hurt. Ouch! I tried to relax and listing to music. And then the contractions really started to really hurt.

Looking back, I can laugh at myself, but at the time I was thinking OMG, these things hurt. I must be in serious labor! Hah, hah. No. But, yes, to me at the time. It was real and painful and I was trying to relax to the music in the dark but all I really wanted was Justin and for the midwives to be with me. So I called my midwife back and let her know that I thought they should be on their way sooner than later. I texted Justin to come upstairs. He did, and because I was worried that I would start sounding like I was laboring (thus far I'd been silent) he called his parents to come and get Uli (I was uncertain how loud I'd be during labor and I didn't want her to become frightened, so it'd never been our plan to have her at home for the birth).

My in-laws came about midnight, and as they were helping us out with a few last minute preparations--like making laboraid---Justin and I went outdoors to walk in the cool night air. And it hurt to walk. Hurt, hurt, hurt. Lying down had been okay, but standing and walking was at first just terribly pinchy but soon felt impossible. I decided that walking in the cool night air wasn't as nice as I'd imagine it would be. I'd walked to the end of our street, and it took us a bazillion contractions to make it back home, every step was a struggle, with contractions coming on top of each other. Nope, not doing that. Back inside we went.

Much more comfortable inside (and stripped down to a sportsbra and some shorts. Ugh, it was so hot indoors!). Our doula and midwives began to arrive and Uli and her grandparents left. My total birth team included my original doula [who was also a student midwife nearly finished with her certification] now acting as my midwife, a new doula, a student midwife, and a licenced midwife to oversee us all. I felt like I could talk now, not having to be quiet for my two year old, and I think I started to complain at this point. My attempt to simply relax and ignore the pain wasn't working so well, but counterpressure on my back----ahhhh, now that was helpful. Justin and the doula took turns providing the pressure. I was trying to move about a bit, but it really hurt when I did, so my doula helped me into a comfortable position on the bed, and once again I tried to relax.

Rest. Pressure on my back. Rest. Pressing. Relaxing. I labored for a few hours like that. Then my midwife let me know that my contractions were spreading out and getting shorter. I'd specifically asked to avoid all cervical checks, but she asked permission to see how far I'd dialated. She suggested that if I was around 5 or more it could be helpful for me to get up and walk the stairs to get the contractions going again, while if I were fewer than 5cm I should try to rest-up for what may be a longer labor. I agreed to the exam, but asked that she keep the measurements to herself; I was already exhausted, and I knew that whether I had 3 centimeters or 9 centimeters to go I ran the risk of being discouraged by numbers. She checked and told me I should try and rest. Shoot. Very disappointing. I'd really thought I was getting somewhere.

So I tried to relax, but the contractions were so painful that even spreading out from each other it was difficult to think about sleep. So they gave me some Tylenol PM in an attempt to calm contractions enough to help a laboring mama sleep. But no, my contractions kept on coming (though remaining spread-out to about 5-7 minutes). My doula sat with me and helped me through the waves while Justin went into Uli's room and got some much-needed sleep for himself.  I was so tired that I was eventually able to fall asleep inbetween each contraction, have five minutes or so of sleep, wake for the next contraction, fall back to sleep, etc. I was vaguely aware of an occasional beam from a flashlight and whispered discussions being had, but all-in-all I was undisturbed between the contractions.

Suddenly it was light outside. I don't recall the times any longer (I've waited so long to write this all out!) but Justin had rejoined me in our bedroom.  My labor picked up again. I had to be reminded to keep my voice strong and low. Vocalizing through the contractions really seemed to help, and the low tones helped focus the sound and keep me calm (otherwise I started to sound like I was screaming. And I wasn't really meaning to scream, just working through the tightening).

We spent some time on the bed. We spent time on the birth stool. Sometimes I'd lay over desk in the hallway. Sometimes I'd hang out in the bathroom for a few contractions (that was the very best! Except that there's not much room in there for anyone else, so I didn't want to stay in there. Well, I did want to stay in there, I just didn't want to labor totally alone nor ask my midwife to squish in there with me).

The entire time I was laboring my doula was keeping me hydrated. I'd asked that they regularly offer me something to drink and eat even if I wasn't asking for it, and I'm glad they took that to heart because I wasn't feeling like talking. Moaning, yes. Talking, no. It would have been an unwelcome distraction to ask for a drink, but I never had to ask--a straw was regularly placed in my mouth. Most of the time I was drinking water, but I also had laborade and they made me a delicious fruit and almond butter smoothie, too. I did at one point feel queasy and asked for a bowl in case I threw up. I felt instantly better just knowing the bowl was there, and didn't vomit. Looking back, that might have been transition?

At one point I remembered to text my supervisor and let her know that I wouldn't be in the office that day. It's funny, the things I thought about while in labor. I'd heard of "labor land" and figured it was a mindset during which you were fuzzy-minded and disoriented and perhaps talking nonsense. I experienced the opposite--I was unable to talk during most of my labor but my mind was focused intensely on my surroundings. I remember thinking, "I can't possibly be laboring as normal, because I can still think!" which is a ridiculous thing to think. Still, it wasn't what I'd expected, the clarity of self during labor. I never lost track of being me, and I'd thought I would. Actually, some of the things I remember thinking are kind of funny. Like, I was a big focal point person and would look at one shadow or crack in the floor while making my way through a contraction, and one time the lovely student midwife moved and her leg or something blocked the crack in the floor I'd been focusing on. I was so mad at her! Crazy, right? The amazing thing was she realized my dilemmea and quickly moved for me, allowing me to continue to focus on that exact crack. She has secret powers of understanding a laboring woman, she does. And also, later, when I was pushing one of the women was quietly encouraging me and she had a smile on her face. I remember thinking Stop smiling! This is horribly difficult and no one should be allowed to smile right now! But at the same time I knew that was me being unreasonable.

Yes indeed, finally, it was time to push. I'd left the bathroom after one of my sojourns there and was wondering to myself whether what I was feeling was an urge to push. I contemplated that through a contraction or two until suddenly another contraction started and then I KNEW that yes, this was what needing to push feels like. I instantly went from standing to a semi-squat, and that alerted my team that I was in the pushing way.

I pushed for forever. Let me repeat: I pushed for forever. Okay, perhaps if gaged by your fancy modern clocks it was somewhere around 3 hours (I forget exactly. I have it written down, but I'm trying to get this story out right now, no more delays), but when you've been laboring since 6pm the evening before and had a full day of wakefulness before that, pushing in the afternoon that follows feels like it's taking an eternity. It was great to push, don't get me wrong. It felt like, Finally, this is happening! I'm having this baby right now! But it was also exhausting. If one hadn't been eating and drinking while laboring I could see how one could just give up at this point. In fact, toward the end of the pushing, right before her head appeared, I remember telling my team, I'm too tired, I can't do it anymore. Just take the baby out! Part of me knew I didn't really feel that way, but it seemed appropriate to say. I was so tired. They were all around me, smiling and told me that absolutely I could do it, I was doing it, and my baby would be born in moments. So exciting.

We were in our bedroom on the floor at the foot of the bed. A "sit-upon" and numerous pads under us, towels surrounding us. Pushing, pushing. My water broke--whoosh--and there was meconium, but the baby's vitals were superb, so no worries. First came the baby's head. Hurray! Just that alone was an accomplishment, after all the hullabaloo associated with Uli's rear-first presentation. Then her body was taking more than a few pushes, so they suggested I move to a "Captain Morgan" stance (kneeling on one knee, other foot in front). And then came the rest of baby! It happened so quickly, from being [mostly] inside to --whoosh-- born! Amazing. I held her and saw that she was a her and told Justin that we had a girl and, as we'd previously decided for a daughter, her name was Ilse Louise. Lovely. She was lovely.

I don't remember if she cried or not. I just remember holding her and looking into her eyes. I sat down, semi-reclining while we waited for the placenta, and I just held her and looked at her. I felt awesome, not tired any more. Once the placenta was birthed the midwives cut the umbilical cord and I guess at some point Justin must have taken the baby from me, because I ended up in the bathroom with the women helping me get cleaned up a bit. Or maybe they first helped me into the bed? I don't exactly remember. The usual checks occurred. Baby was perfectly healthy. 8 lbs, 2 oz. I was doing well. Thirsty.  I could pee (that's apparently a thing, after you have a baby?) I'd torn a tiny bit, but I didn't require stitches as long as I avoided the stairs for the next week (I did not want stitches, thank you very much, so agreed to stay put).

And then, a several hours later, I was good, Ilse was good, Justin had been a great partner, big sister was back home, and we were left alone. Our family of four.

And so began Ilse's "fourth trimester."

Less than 24 hrs old. Our first mommy/baby pic.
Today, one year later


Anonymous August 9, 2012 at 2:07 PM  

I love home birth, don't you??? I'm so happy you posted this, it was an awesome birth story! It reminded me of my own (also pushed three hours, but I felt like it was only a few minutes!). What a blessing that you had such a great experience, and thanks for sharing!!

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