Sunday, July 31, 2005

Birth Story

The Miracle of Lochlan’s Birth

On Saturday, July 30th, in the wee hours of the morning-2 AM to be exact-I was experiencing contractions. The past week I had had Braxton Hick’s contractions which were so minor that sometimes I could only tell that I was having one by seeing my stomach contracting (by seeing the outline of the womb or the baby’s back). On this particular morning, the contractions were quite painful, similar to menstrual cramps and were in regular intervals by ten minutes. I was only able to sleep in the ten minutes between contractions. Each time I had one, I would squeeze Nick’s shoulder to help me focus on breathing instead of the pain. Finally, at 6 AM, I decided to get up, frustrated that I could not sleep. I ate breakfast and then checked the internet to determine the difference between Braxton-Hicks contractions and labor pains. I was surprised to find that the Braxton-Hicks contractions could be painful. From what I could glean of the website, it seemed that I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions but I was not entirely sure.

I decided to wake up Nick around 6:30 AM to explain that I was having contractions. We deliberated calling Peggy, our midwife. We decided to wait a while and see what happens. Sure enough, around 7 AM, the contractions were getting to be further apart. This made it easier for me to go back to bed to sleep for another hour and half. After I woke up, I continued to have contractions but the times between them varied between 5 to 10 minutes and the duration was never longer than 30 seconds. Because of the contractions and the possibility of the baby being born soon, we went ahead and did the pregnancy belly cast that morning. It was a good thing too since the contractions became stronger through the afternoon.

Nick called Peggy around 2 PM because the contractions were getting to be more intense and were five minutes apart even thought the duration continued to vary between 30 seconds and 50 seconds. Peggy said it sounded like early labor and said for me to rest as much as possible because we would have a long night ahead of us. I asked Nick to ask Peggy about calling my mother to come over or to wait. After asking me how far away my mother lived (4 ½ hours, in Maine), Peggy said it was up to me. I decided to wait a little while. Three hours later, it occurred to me that Mom would probably want to drive over in the early evening rather than in the middle of the night. I had several contractions while on the phone with her since I could not talk while having the contractions. When a contraction came, I would ask her to hold and then continued to talk to her once the contraction passed. Mom said she had better hurry or she would miss the birth. I told her not to worry since we still had plenty of time.

By this time, I was really trying to get through each contraction. Nick did mention that it was probably false labor. I was irritated and said to him to please not say it was false labor. I was determined that I WAS laboring! Nick kept himself busy cleaning the house. He was over the moon that the baby was coming. Earlier, he had no motivation to clean but once he realized that it really was early labor, he got to work. I spent most of my time on the couch chatting with friends on AIM and updating the blog. There was not much else I could do. I could not read my library book because each time I had a contraction, I would have to reread what I read. It was very difficult to follow the storyline. We also tried the finger-brushing technique that we had learned from Carolyn Lewis, our hypnotherapist while I kneeled on the futon. It distracted me from my focus on getting through the contractions and actually made the contractions so much more painful! The kneeling position was not working for me either.

My contractions felt like painful menstrual cramps. I now realize that those darn-awful menstrual cramps I had in high school really prepared me for the painful contractions that I had. The best way I can explain what the contractions I had were like is that it was like climbing up and down a mountain. When a contraction began, the pain would become more and more intense until it reached its peak and then it would gradually decrease. After five minutes of calm, the contraction would begin once again. Sitting down was just too painful for me while having the contractions. Each time I had a contraction, I would stand up on my toes and lean over with my hands on the couch. I breathed out while repeating a mantra in my head that I had learned from Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones: “Ooo-pen….ooo-pen…” I was imagining my cervix like a flower opening. This continued to be my mantra for the entire time I was in labor.

Nick and I were supposed to pick up the birthing tub from one of the midwives’ house later that week but since the baby was early, we got directions to Emily’s house so that Nick could go pick it up. I was a little apprehensive about laboring alone at home but Peggy said that I would be fine. Nick left around 5:30 PM to get the tub and to pick up some food for dinner and breakfast for everyone attending the birth. When he came back about an hour and half later, he brought a bouquet of beautiful flowers. I was so touched. It meant a lot to me that he was thinking of me and the hard work I was doing laboring.

Meanwhile, I corresponded with Peggy via e-mail to give her my stats on how far the contractions were and the duration of the contractions. This went on until finally around 8 PM, she asked if I wanted her to come over soon or give her a call later in the night. I was really ambivalent because I had no idea how much longer I was going to labor for. Since this was my first baby and I wanted her to check my dilation, I told her that I would prefer her to come as soon as she could. We had a bedroom set up for her and Emily to rest. Peggy then said she would be arriving in about an hour and half.

Nick got the birthing tub (actually, a Rubbermaid horse trough) set up on a tarp in our living area and made pizza for dinner. It sounded good to me at the time he suggested the idea but by the time it was ready, the idea of food was nauseous for me. I had to eat something so Nick warmed up a cup of tomato soup for me. When I sipped it, I felt sick from the smell after taking several sips and pushed it away. I just stuck with water and crackers. By this time, it was around 9 PM and I was using the yoga ball while I ate and read a magazine that had come in the mail that day. The yoga ball was easier for me to use since it became too difficult for me to get up from the couch each time I had a contraction. With the ball, I could lean forward when I had a contraction. The magazine was also more tolerable to read than a book since the articles were short. After a while, I could not tolerate the ball any longer so I moved to the rocking chair. I rocked between contractions and when they came, I used my arms to push myself up, slightly off the chair.

Mom arrived from Maine shortly after 10 PM. Mom’s arrival gave me the motivation to get up and walk around to show her the house which she has not seen in a long while. We had made some changes since then. I was surprised that I was able to go upstairs because I had not felt well enough to go upstairs since that morning. It was a little difficult to do this while having contractions but for some reason, my mother’s presence made it easier to cope through the contractions. I continued to use the “Ooo-pen” mantra. Why change something that was working? After showing my mom the house, we went back downstairs. It was nice to chat with Mom to help keep me busy between contractions. If I had a contraction while we were talking, I would turn away, close my eyes, breath out and repeat the mantra until the contraction went away. At one point, Mom rubbed my back during a contraction and I had to tell her, “Please don’t do that. It hurts worse. I’m sorry.” She was totally okay with it and asked if she could rub my back between contractions. I said that would be fine. I felt so bad that the two most important people in my life-Mom and Nick-could not physically comfort me but their presence meant a lot to me.

Since the midwives were late, I decided then to take a warm bath to keep myself busy. Nick filled the bathtub for me and lit some candles to create a warm and comforting atmosphere for me. Soon after, the midwives arrived. Peggy came into the bathroom and checked the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler, checked my blood pressure, and took my temperature. Everything was okay. I then asked Peggy if she could check to see how many centimeters dilated I was. She said she would do that after I got out of the bath. I rested in the warm bath for a short while longer and then decided to get out. Peggy and I went into my bedroom to check how far dilated I was and it was 4 centimeters! I was thrilled because I had been worried that I would not be dilated at all or be only 1 or 2 centimeters dilated. When Peggy took her finger out of me, there was a little blood and mucus which meant that the mucus plug which sealed my cervix was coming out. That was good news.

I got dressed and went back downstairs to chat with Mom when it occurred to me that we had not called the interpreters! We called Cheryle and Kathleen and left messages on their voice mail. Cheryle called back after midnight saying that she was stuck in Boston with work until the next evening. Kathleen did not call us back until the next morning. After leaving messages with the interpreters, I decided to eat a bowl of cornflakes cereal (I had not had anything to eat since lunch!) while the midwives got their equipment set up for the birth. They made up the futon with clean sheets, then a plastic sheet over that and another set of sheets over that. Peggy informed us that we could start filling up the tub in a couple of hours. It would take about an hour to fill it up. Then around midnight, the midwives went up to the office/guest room to rest. My mother also went up to rest in the baby’s room, used as a guest room as well. There was nothing much to do except wait. That left Nick and I to labor together. I was exhausted and laid on the futon to rest as much as possible. The contractions were getting stronger. I remember thinking about people who are in chronic pain and how if they can live with it, I could get through this labor with breaks between contractions. I had to remind myself not to clench my teeth or cling on to anything too hard. After each contraction, I reminded myself to meditate the way Carolyn taught me by letting my body become loose like a rag doll and repeating the mantra: “I am calm, I am safe, I am relaxed” in my head. This helped me relax before the next wave of contractions hit me.

Nick turned off the lights and took the dogs out before joining me on the futon. When Mylo, our husky, came back in, out of habit, he jumped onto the futon and on me. Being a clumsy dog, he probably did not realize that I was laying down on it. As a result, he scratched my back, which hurt me. I told Nick: “Get him out, I don’t want him here.” Mylo’s energy was too much for me to handle while I was laboring. I lost it then and there and started sobbing because of the pain from the contractions, from my back being tensed and from the scratch all overwhelmed me. Nick lay down next to me to comfort me and try to get a few winks while I squeezed his hands lightly during each contraction. This helped me cope with the pain. Nick’s physical presence was necessary for me, more at that time than since the labor started. At one point, Nick reached out to touch my belly, as he always did throughout my pregnancy, but I flung it out of the way because it only turned my focus on the pain. Thankfully, Nick did not take it personally and continued to provide his hands for me to hold during contractions.

After a while, it was becoming extremely uncomfortable having contractions on the futon. I asked Nick for the time to see how much more time until we were to start filling the tub. It was only 1 AM, about another hour to go. I told Nick that I wanted to get in the tub so badly so he began filling it up. It was hard for me to go through the contractions without being able to hold his hands while he got the tub ready. The contractions were still about 5 minutes apart and about 45 seconds to 1 minute long. A few times I had contractions about 3 minutes apart; I stopped timing them after hours ago, around 6 PM. It was not necessary to time them; it was more important to get through them. Once or twice, I even had one contraction after another-OUCH. Nick filled the tub with warm water while I anxiously waited for it to be ready for me to get in. Finally, I could not stand it anymore and just got up from the futon, stripped and got in while it was still filling. The water was so warm and felt really good. The contractions were much more bearable while I was in the water.

But then, Nick noticed that the tub was leaking. Shit. I stayed in while he tried to fix it. The tub had a hole near the bottom for emptying. Apparently, the rubber seal was loose causing the water to drip onto the tarp. I told Nick to go wake Peggy and see if she could help him fix it. Being the typical guy, he said he would figure it out on his own since he did not want to bother Peggy. Looking back, I should have told him that we paid Peggy out of our own pocket therefore she should be assisting us! After a couple of minutes, the water was pouring out and spreading all over our living room hardwood floor. I told Nick in a no-nonsense manner that this was out of his hands and getting worse so he was to go upstairs and get Peggy to help, PERIOD. The water problem was too big for him to handle alone and I needed him to be with me so I could get through the contractions. Nick relented and went upstairs to wake Peggy. Emily came down instead. She could not figure out the problem so we discussed draining the tub and refilling it in the garage. I said it was fine, as long as I was able to use the tub. Thank goodness it was summer, not winter! If the tub leaked in the garage, it would not be a problem. Luckily, Nick had cleared one side of the garage very recently so we did not have to worry about cleaning it to make room for the tub.

I decided to go upstairs and use the bathtub until the tub was ready. Nick got the bathtub ready for me again. While I was waiting in the tub downstairs, Emily told me that I was doing a great job. Peggy had told me that earlier too but I did not feel like I was doing well. It was hard for me to tell because I did not know how far along I was in labor, never having experienced it before. When it comes to compliments, I am usually modest about it. I tend to not know how to respond to this one because the usual ‘Thank you’ did not seem to be the correct response to this compliment. In response to Emily’s comment, I said, “Really?” What else could I say?!

When the bathtub was ready, Emily helped me out of the tub and went upstairs with me to make sure I settled in okay. I asked her to get my water bottle and the magazine I had been reading earlier, to keep me busy. So she did that. Then I labored alone in the bathtub for what seemed like hours while Nick and Emily were cleaning up the water mess. Reading the magazine between contractions helped keep me busy. I was so exhausted that I started falling asleep between contractions. Finally after about an hour or so (I had lost track of time at this point), Nick came up to check on me and to bring me a Recharge energy drink. I told him to please stay because I did not like being alone while in labor. So he stayed. I was glad he did because the labor was becoming more painful. I breathed out and said my “Ooo-pen” mantra but at the peak of the contraction, I was more vocal (not screaming): “OW OW OW OW OW.” I even gasped at the peak of the contractions since the pain was so intense. It was at that point that I was very vaguely thinking about hospitals and epidurals and wondering if I was nuts to take this natural birthing route. I also remember saying to Nick, “I don’t think I want to get pregnant and go through this again.” He gave me a sad look, being empathic towards me for the pain I was feeling. Looking back, I realize that it was hard for me to get through the labor because I had NO idea when it was going to end. It seemed like there was no end in sight. Now I know that there is one and I can mentally prepare myself better next time.

Peggy then woke up and came in to check on me-the baby’s heartbeat, my blood pressure and temperature. Everything was fine. She said I was doing well though I did not feel that I was! Then she checked to see how many centimeters dilated I was. I was 7 centimeters dilated! A part of me felt relief because hospitals tend (from my understanding) not to give women who are 6 centimeters dilated or more an epidural. That gave me all the more reason to soldier on since it was “too late” to back out and get an epidural. It was strange to look back and take note of the state of my mind at that time. I had never planned on getting an epidural and Nick knew not to let me change my mind. All this took place in my head, my inner voices battling each other. Nick knew none of this until after the birth. So I soldiered on.

At last, the living room was cleaned up and the tub was filling in the garage. My back was KILLING me though I was not sure if it was because it was back labor that I was having or because of my uncomfortable position in the bathtub. Every time I had a contraction, I would use my arms to push my butt off the floor of the bathtub. It seemed to make the contractions more tolerable for me. So the tension in my back could be from those push-ups. The bathtub was easier to labor in compared to the futon but the water did not cover my belly and did not allow less strain on my back when I did the push-ups. Eventually, I noticed that parts of the mucus plug could be seen floating in the bathtub. I was excited because that would mean my water would break soon. I had been wondering when my water would break. So far, I had not felt anything yet.

I was missing the tub badly and anxious to get back in it. Around 4 AM, Nick helped me get out of the tub and walked with me to the garage where the tub was still filling. When I got there, the water was too hot to the touch so I had to stand around in the cool garage waiting for the tub water to cool down. I tried sitting on the yoga ball but it hurt too much to sit on it. When I had a contraction, I had to lean on Nick to get through it. Peggy also came up behind me and used both hands to put pressure on my pelvic bones to open them. It felt so good! The midwives asked me if I wanted to go back in the house to warm up. I said no because the cool air felt good after being upstairs in a hot bathroom. I stubbornly got in the tub and asked Nick to turn on the cold water to cool it down a bit. He did so even though the midwives were concerned that the water may become too cold by the time the baby is ready to be born. They monitored the water temperature while I labored on. The contractions were still painful but being buoyant in the tub made it more tolerable. Also, my back didn’t hurt anymore so I knew that the bathtub was the cause of the pain in my back earlier. Not long after, I started to feel that something was happening-the head moving down lower. When Peggy listened to the baby’s heartbeat once again, Nick pointed out to me that the baby had definitely “dropped” lower. I looked down at my stomach and saw how low it was.

At that point, I felt that Mom should be there since it seemed that the baby was coming soon. The midwives said we still had a long way to go but it was up to me if they should get Mom or not. I deliberated with myself and finally decided to follow my instincts (as I had earlier when deciding to have Peggy come over that evening or wait until later). The midwives fetched my mother and it was a good thing since I was feeling the urge to push. That confused me for a moment since I still had not felt my water break. I moved up from a sitting position to a squatting position to make it easier for me to push the baby out. When I felt a contraction coming, I allowed myself to bear down as gently as I could. I could feel the head moving downwards. I reach down and felt the head just inside the birth canal. I told Nick I could feel the head and asked him if he wanted to feel it. He was not sure where so I told him to put his fingers inside the birth canal since the head was just an inch or so inside. I thought it was really cool to feel the head and it reassured me that the baby was coming. Then another wave of contractions came and I pushed again. When the head started to come out, I felt this burning pain, also known as the “ring of fire,” from the baby’s head crowning. I had wanted to do EVERYTHING possible NOT to tear so I asked Peggy what the best position to avoid tearing was. My back was flat against the tub so Peggy told me to scoot forward a little bit so that my pelvic was tilted outward. She also told me to rest my feet on the plastic moldings on the bottom part inside the tub. So I did that and I felt more comfortable in my new position. When another contraction came, I pushed. Again, I felt the burning and tried to hold back pushing so I could just push a little at a time to avoid tearing but my body was insistent on pushing. I tried closing my legs a little but it did not really stop my body from working to push the baby out. So I kept on pushing despite the burning. Once the head came out, the burning stopped. Another wave of contraction came and I pushed again. The baby shot out so fast, like an underwater torpedo! I was so shocked. It all happened so fast that I did not remember or did not see clearly who caught the baby. Later, Nick explained he caught the baby and immediately handed the baby to Peggy who then quickly put the baby on my chest. I noticed the cord was in the way, kind of wrapped over the baby’s shoulder but not around the neck. Once the baby was on my chest, I could feel it crying so I knew that the baby was okay. What joy!

Peggy wrapped receiving blankets around the baby and put a cap on its head. I was so happy that the baby had finally arrived and could not believe how fast it came. I was also relieved that it was all over with. Then I was like, “Wait a minute! What did we have?” I opened the blankets and saw a penis and testes! A boy! Nick and I were so surprised! All along, we thought we may be having a girl although the last few weeks of pregnancy, I was starting to get the feeling that it was probably going to be the opposite of what I thought-a boy. It was still a wonderful surprise! I have to say that it was one of the best parts of the whole birthing experience-finding out the sex of the baby. Nick and I kissed our baby Lochlan and kissed each other. Then we posed for pictures. We examined our newborn son, touching his fingers and his head.

Peggy then informed me that we would have to go inside the house where they had turned on the heat because the early dawn was a bit chilly. I held Lochlan while Peggy and Emily put pads between my legs and I walked in the house to sit on the futon made up with extra waterproof pads to prevent the blood from staining the sheets. I sat on the edge of the futon while they prepared to help me deliver the placenta. A special U-shaped stool was set up for me to sit on while Peggy kneaded my stomach to urge the placenta along. This kneading was extremely uncomfortable, even painful. I tried breastfeeding Lochlan as the midwives were working on me but he was not interested because he was alert and looking around at his surroundings. I have to admit that I was a little bit annoyed that the midwives were rushing the birthing of the placenta. I had wanted it to happen naturally. Breastfeeding helps initiate contractions which help push the placenta out. Since Lochlan was not ready to nurse, I went along with the midwives and pushed the placenta out then they helped me sit back on the bed to rest while they cleaned up. The placenta was really interesting to bloody yet so inspirational because it gave life to Lochlan all those 9 months I carried him. And it continued to give him nutrients and extra blood even outside of my body. I had requested that the cord NOT be cut until it had stopped pulsing for that reason.

After settling back on the futon, Lochlan was finally ready to nurse. He latched on beautifully and suckled non-stop for more than an hour! I then had the opportunity to look at my surroundings. I could not believe how much blood I saw on my legs and on the waterproof pads. I knew most of it was from the placenta so I was not worried about it. Peggy then checked me to see if I had any tears. I was happy when she reported I had none! After hearing the news, I remarked to Mom that even with childbirth, I still never had any stitches! Instead, I had what they call “rug burns” on my labia. I was really surprised that I did not tear since Lochlan had come out so fast. The midwives told me that I had only pushed for a total of 15 minutes.

Emily then said that the cord was ready to be cut and handed it to me to feel it to see if it had stopped pulsing. I felt it still pulsing so I told her to wait a while longer. Meanwhile, Nick and I could not stop admiring our little boy. We could not believe how much hair he had! During my pregnancy, I had really bad heartburn and people told me that it meant the baby would have a head full of hair. I doubted the old midwife’s tale but now that I saw my little boy had a head full of hair, I had to wonder! Nick took lots of pictures and when the cord had stopped pulsing, he cut the cord. The placenta was wrapped and placed in our freezer. We had plans to buy a tree to honor Lochlan and the placenta would be planted with the tree to provide it nutrients as it had for Lochlan when he was in the womb.

After the clean up of the equipment and towels, I handed Lochlan for Nick to hold for the first time. Pictures were snapped. Then Mom held him for the first time. More pictures were snapped. The midwives thought I should be wearing a shirt so Mom found a tank top for me to wear. Then it was time to check over Lochlan-check his body, measure his length and weigh him. Overall, he was a very healthy baby. He was so mellow throughout the whole check up. Nick then put a diaper on him and dressed him in his first outfit. Then it was time for me to shower and clean up. Thankfully, we had a walk-in shower with seats built in on the first floor. It made it easier for me to sit and shower. I was feeling light-headed from the rapid weight loss and blood loss. It was also interesting to see my belly without the baby in it. It was so soft and so loose, as if I had a pot belly. I am in total awe of my body and all the changes it has gone through the last 9 months and the changes it will continue to undergo now that the baby has arrived. After my shower, I got dressed and while feeding my son, I got on my laptop to announce his birth and post the pictures, just three hours after his birth. Everyone had breakfast made by Nick and the midwives left about an hour later. Emily, before she left, said that Nick and I were a good team. I thought so too. Nick went above and beyond his duty as a husband during this important event of our lives. I am eternally grateful. Alone at last, Nick and I were able to spend time with Lochlan as a family of three for the first time. =D


Christine said...

WOW! Sound like you are strong woman! What a great story. I know you will never forget the birthing! =)

elk said...

AHHHH... sighs. what a story!! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt like I was there, you described it pretty well :) I'd still love the final piece of the birth so I canread about it all over again, to be inspired in having a successful NCB myself. xoxo

Kathryn said...

Great writing! I'm so happy that your experiences as a family were very typical, normal and smooth. I like the honor tree idea, wish we'd had the option of keeping our kiddo's cords.
Congratulations to all, including the dogs. Hope that there was no damage from the leaky tub!


Hodgson Family said...

I knew you could do this, even more stronger and braver than I could have gone through! :) You did a really good job for your first time birthing experience. Loved seeing pictures of Lochlan. Such a cutie little boy!

merfz in da h00d said...

PAH i was able to get all the way through this =] great every second/word of it (except the tank top bit). am definitely very proud of you/happy for all of you. sorry it took so long to be able to finish it and comment...just makes me sad as well as absolutely thrilled.

New Mama's Nest said...

Such a beautiful story to read! What a wonderful way for Lochlan to enter this world!