Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Theia's Home Birth

I am finally getting around to posting Theia's birth story. I said over six months ago that I would do this, but haven't felt very motivated till now since I knew it would take awhile. I'm sorry its so long. But not as sorry as I was at the time, I assure you.
I had been having borderline high blood pressure and a lot of swelling at my last two prenatals, one week before my due date. I was still safely within the scope of my midwife's practice, but Patrice warned me that these symptoms don't usually improve with time, and it would be best if this baby came sooner than later.
Throughout that week I had enough symptoms of impending labor that I called my mom and told her I though I might not make it to my due date. Never one to take things lightly, my mom made the 3-hour trip to our house the very next day with plans to remain till baby arrived.
My mom came on a Saturday, and I was pleasantly surprised and excited when I woke up in the wee hours of Monday morning with contractions that were ten minutes apart, and then discovered, in the bathroom, that I had the much anticipated and talked about "bloody show" *ahem*. I thought cheerfully to myself that I'd probably have a baby by Tuesday morning at the latest.
But Monday wore on, I continued having ho-hum contractions at 8 to 10 minute intervals, went for a 2 mile walk with my mom, wondered if my feet could possibly get any fatter, lost the "mother lode" in an afternoon trip to the bathroom (Sorry, this is a birth story), and felt generally certain that a baby would be forthcoming in no time at all. The afternoon turned to evening, and to my dismay, my activity slowed down and there was nothing to do except go to bed and hope that I would wake up before morning with the real thing.
No. Such. Luck. My contractions were only annoying enough to hinder me from getting good rest. I got up Tuesday morning and soon wished I'd stayed in bed because then I had to deal with all the anxious and well-meaning phone calls; "Did you have that baby yet?" "I thought you were in labor." "Are you having any contractions now?" My mom was a trifle misleading during this time, through no fault of her own. Her most recent experiences with labor had been with her eight, ninth, and tenth babies. By the time you've had that many, your body doesn't waste any time putzing around with contractions of any size for very long.
I was pleased that the activity did start again after I had been up for a few hours, but they were all over the place, four, ten, eight, twelve minutes apart. By late Tuesday evening though they established themselves as labor contractions by becoming more intense, lasting longer, and staying regular at four to six minutes apart. I was up all that night, thinking my labor would turn the corner any minute and I could call for Patrice and Barb to come. I was extremely frustrated. I knew that my contractions weren't strong enough to produce a baby yet, but they were too frequent and painful to sleep through, and by then I was exhausted.
At around six on Wednesday morning everything stopped. Nothing. I was so exhausted and disappointed that I cried. More phone calls; "No. No baby." "Yes, I am a sorry excuse of a woman." Patrice had been monitoring me by phone for a few days and she decided that Barb (who lived the closest) should come over and see what might be going on. I went to bed and tried to sleep, unsuccessfully, for a few hours before Barb came. She determined that I was dilated to 4 cm, but that the baby was positioned posterior, with its back facing my back, and that was probably what was causing my inefficient labor. She advised me to get some rest and do some exercises to try to get the baby unstuck from its current position.
So I did all of the above and then walked to my friend and neighbor down the street to take a relaxing bath in her jetted tub (where she had birthed three babies, by the way). I had barely immersed my belly in the warm water when I saw and felt my baby roll over. That was such a relieving moment! Jessie was there with me and he saw it too. I then took a shower and had two good, hard contractions before I was done. Jessie and I took the long way home, and my labor re-established itself, no joke this time.
When we got home, my mom, Jessie and I decided to go to Meijer for some groceries since the last couple days of waiting around had depleted our food supply to a sad state. The whole time we were there I had to lean on the cart and puff through contractions, because they came hard and fast while I was walking. I was still thinking how fun and exciting it all was at this point, and how glad I was that I could cope through my contractions so well. Ignorance certainly is bliss.
We had supper at home and started a game of Scrabble. I was staying pretty tight-lipped through the game about how I was feeling since I had already used up my allowance of crying wolf for the year. But I was so distracted, that my mom was beating me pretty badly, and I suddenly felt I couldn't go on any longer so I pushed my chair from the table, stood up, and went into the next room to squat through a contraction alone.
My mom convinced me that now would be a good time to call the midwives.
Barb got there first, around 9 pm, and my water broke with the first contraction after her arrival. It was then that I began to understand why epidurals are so popular. By the time Patrice arrived I was kneeling and moaning through every contraction. I had to use the bathroom and had the most overwhelming contraction yet while on the toilet, which I screamed through, despite all my preparation and determination to never do that. I then got nauseous and threw up profusely. I had never in my wildest dreams believed that labor could feel like this. Patrice and Barb rushed in and helped me regain control, telling me that I could not scream through contractions, as I would lose control and my blood pressure would spike. It was at the highest point it ever got to at that time. They closely monitored my BP all throughout the next four hours, which were the hardest of my life.
This is the antique trunk that I found
to be the perfect height for squatting
at thru contractions. I had Jessie carry
it from room to room whenever I felt like
I needed a change of scenery. This
seemed perfectly reasonable at the time.
I never let myself lose control like that again but it took everything I had to keep myself from screaming, shaking, or begging to be transported. I was so pathetically tired by now that I was fighting sleep between contractions. I dozed off a few times and determined not to let it happen again because of the resulting contractions. Jessie was manfully trying to stay awake with me and was ,at my request, pushing my lower back as hard as he possibly could (NO! HARDER!) through each contraction. Its a wonder he didn't break my tailbone. I tried all sorts of techniques to try to distract myself through contractions. I even tried blowing raspberries, since I had read at one time (and thought to myself that I would never try it) that it helps you relax your perineal muscles. My mom and Jessie were not privy to this information though, so they just exchanged puzzled glances and tried not to laugh. Fortunately I was unaware of this. Although if someone had told me that shaving my head would help, I assure you I would be bald in all these pictures. I was despairing of ever reaching the next stage, and told Patrice so, and she suggested that I try a supported squat with my next contraction, since I had been kneeling and hugging my new best friend, the trunk, for hours. She also thought that the noises I was making sounded "pushy" and it would probably give me the extra edge to get upright.
This did not feel good AT ALL, but after just one in this position I knew I needed to push, finally! Patrice grabbed a flashlight and checked me, then declared that she could already see the head! I was so surprised.
I moved to my bed and laid on my side and pushed for only 45 minutes. Theia's head and body, up to her waist, came out with one push, and I instinctively reached down to pull her out and up onto my chest. It was 2 am on Thursday morning, one day before my due date.

Aletheia Vangelis ~ Born June 29, 2006 ~ 7lbs, 7oz ~ 19" long

I was the first to see she was a girl, and I was shocked, but immediately certain that I had really wanted a girl all along. Of course. What would I do with a boy, anyway? All through my pregnancy I had been told by complete strangers and acquaintances alike that I was having a boy. I'd had boy dreams, had been given bags of boy clothing, and had pictured myself as a boy mama. Theia was such a beautiful baby and I loved her immediately. It was so amazing for Jessie and I to see our firstborn after so many months of wondering what a child we made together would look like.

My experience with Theia's birth was difficult and emotionally draining. I felt shell-shocked for a few days. But it was oh so fulfilling, and what a sense of accomplishment I had! Even so, for some time I could not imagine ever subjecting myself to such a thing again. Fortunately (in the long run), I did not have the chance to "decide" to do it again, since my pregnancy with Eliza less than four months later took me by surprise, and Eliza's birth was about as easy as you could ask a birth to be.

Patrice and Barb, our wonderful midwives who have attended all three of our children's births.

In retrospect I've been glad that I had a hard labor with Theia. I'm grateful that I have experienced how difficult birth can be so I can be more understanding of women who have difficult labors and opt for pain medication in the hospital. If I'd been in the hospital, unable to have the freedom of movement and no inhibitions like at home, and it had been freely offered to me, I think I very likely would have taken it. If I had only ever had Eliza or Ingrid-like births, I'd never understand what all the hoopla was about (So, if you've ever had a labor like this in the hospital and did not have an epidural, you are my new hero. Send me a picture and I will make a shrine to you in my basement). In addition, I surmise that if I had been decently rested before my labor got to the intense part (after my water broke), I would have been much more prepared to cope through it. Besides, Theia is such a blessing and is of course worth every minute of time I spent laboring for her birth. She has such a sweet, sensitive spirit. At two and a half years old she already senses so many things and has a true desire to make others happy. She never misses an opportunity to express appreciation. She has lately started to pray on her own when we tuck her into bed for the night or for naptimes. Today she melted my heart when I had finished dressing her after her bath. She climbed into my lap and put her arms around me and said very sincerely, "Mama, I love you so, so much." Yep. Worth every minute.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just love this, Holly! If you have more babies, I wanna come!
Can I post this to my website?
Miss you, Patrice

amanda said...

i love the story. and i could send you a picture. i had four babies. no epidural, i did cheat a little with the nubain...but that doesn't rid you of any pain. it could just be a small shrine...lol...thanks for sharing the story!!

Liz @ My Full Cup said...

Wow! That sounds like such a tough labor. But you are right it is totally worth it. I had a really hard time with my first. I was in labor for only 2 days though. It was so much harder then I thought. I had her in the hospital with a midwife and I did NOT have any meds! I pushed for an hour and a half...crazy! After that I was terrified to have any more babies. So when I got pregnant with our 2nd I decided that I would have an epi next time around. :) I give you credit. You are very brave. I am glad your 2nd and 3rd births went much better.

Thanks for sharing! I love reading birth stories. They are always so amazing!