Category Archives: birth

Our Birth Story–Act III: Afterward

C’s first act upon coming into the world was to poop all over me. Honestly, I didn’t notice until one of the nurses pointed it out, and, good new mom that I am, I didn’t care at all. In the moments following C’s birth, there was a lot of commotion. Between the pediatric nurses toweling him off, the midwife clamping the cord, my mom taking photos, J cutting the cord, and me staring and crying at this slippery little baby, it was truly a whirlwind. As things started to calm down, though, we were able to take in a bit more.

 

Me and C

Me and C

Shortly after the birth, I delivered the placenta, and the midwife exclaimed, “What a big placenta!” She had already remarked on the size of the cord. It too was big. As she was dealing with all of these things, she made another comment: “Look at this, ladies. A true, blue knot.

“What does that mean?” J asked.

“It means you have a lucky baby,” was her reply. I don’t think this really registered with us, and it wasn’t until we mentioned it to a nurse later that we learned just how lucky our baby was, that such a knot in a smaller cord would likely have led to our baby’s demise. His size, the size of his cord, saved his life. Had the cord been smaller, it would have been able to tighten, and I can’t even think about what would have happened.

 We continued to hold and admire C as the midwife stitched me up.  I had a second-degree tear, which I’m certain would have been worse had I not had such great help from the midwife and nurse during the pushing phase. It was this point where I had been concerned that I could run into complications with my fibroids, for they can cause the uterus to have trouble clamping down, and as a result, I was at a greater risk for hemorrhaging; however, this was not a problem. In fact, the fibroids posed not a single problem during my birth at all, and for this I was so relieved.

 The hour following C’s birth not only revealed what a lucky baby he was, but also some potential items for concern. His blood sugar was initially rather low, so the pediatric nurse helped me breastfeed him in hopes of raising his sugars. When they were even lower after feeding him, they had to whisk him away to the infant intensive care for a small amount of formula. J accompanied him, and I lay in bed, my mom by my side, as I tried to make sense of what had just happened. My baby was going to be okay, but he wasn’t in my arms where he should have been. I felt confused, disoriented, a bit like I was suddenly missing an appendage that I didn’t know I had.

 C’s absence did allow the nurses to get me rested up a bit and ready for post-partum. I was given some pain killers and some food. Our birth instructor came in to congratulate me, and J returned because they needed to continue to monitor the baby in intensive care. Soon there was a shift change, and my new nurse came to help me clean up, help me to the bathroom, and pee for the first time (having had a catheter for the epidural, they insist that you pee within the first couple of hours or you get another catheter—no thanks!). I was a good patient and peed the first time around. And then it was time to transfer rooms. It had been nearly three hours, but I had no concept of time, and I really wanted to be with my baby.

 I was wheeled down the hall in a giant wheelchair (what the nurses called, “The Hummer”). We were stopped at the nurses’ station to push the “we had a baby” button, at which time a lullaby was played over the hospital intercom. I cried. We stopped by our new room for a moment before the nurses said we could come to see our son in intensive care—and bring him back to our room. Walking into that room and seeing our son again, I was so in love. He was so beautiful. We sat with him while his sugars were tested once more, and soon we got to break him out of there and head back to our room with our son so that we could bond and feed and be together alone as a family.

 Once we were in our room, it seemed that every time we were about to have some time alone, another nurse or doctor or someone would come into the room and interrupt us. J was becoming increasingly frustrated. She had hardly gotten to hold our baby, and we just needed some time together. Finally, we had it, and finally, we got to lie on the bed as a family.

Our family

Our family

She would later need to leave to go get a full night’s sleep at my mom’s hotel room, but those moments we shared that night were so precious. My mom would return around midnight to sit with me for an hour or so, and I needed that. But more than that, I needed sleep.

 When the night nurse came on that night, I was in for a great surprise. She was a lesbian in her fifties with two kids. She told me almost immediately, “I’m a lesbian. I’ve worked here for over two years, and I’ve never gotten to have a lesbian patient. When I heard you were in labor and delivery with Dawn last night, I wanted to switch with her!” She was so sweet—a little gruff, very motherly. She helped me get C to latch on for a good feeding, and then she asked if I’d like her to take him for a couple of hours while I slept. I agreed, so she took him, then came back, tucked me in, turned off the lights, and told me I had to sleep, that I wasn’t allowed to get up and do things. I obeyed, and in what seemed like moments, she was back with C for another feeding.

 We spent two nights in the hospital. I saw so many nurses change shift. Some of them remembered me from labor and delivery a couple of days before. What surprised me was how impressed they were with me. J had told me during labor that we were the talk of the nurses’ station, that people were inspired by me, so to have these nurses talking with me about this was lovely. I already felt really good about myself and my labor, but this was nice to be validated in this way.

 Everyone working in maternity, from labor and delivery to post-partum, was amazing. They were so kind and supportive, so inclusive of J, and appropriately impressed with C’s size and cuteness. There was one exception on the last night: she was a nurse in her early sixties, and she was the night nurse. She came in after J had left for the night, and I knew immediately I didn’t like her. She hovered and watched as I cared for my son. At one point, I asked if she could help me latch him on, as we were still struggling with this. She did help, but he immediately fell asleep at the breast, so she left. Later, I had gotten him to eat, and he had eaten for over half an hour. I was so excited, and when she came back, I reported that he had been on one breast for half an hour. “Oh no!” she replied. “You mustn’t let him do that! That’s too long.” I switched sides, rolled my eyes behind her back, and continued nursing. She was to come back later to take my vitals, and when she did, my son and I were basking in a few moments of wakefulness. He was staring at me, and it was the most precious, perfect moment. I hadn’t yet seen him awake much, hadn’t had this many moments to soak him in, to stare into his eyes and see him stare back. I didn’t want it to end. The nurse had other plans. Upon entering the room, she said, “Well, I need to show you how to swaddle him.”

 “That’s okay,” I replied. “I think I’d rather do more of this.”

“You’ll have plenty of time for that later,” she remarked. And she took him and proceeded to give me an unwanted swaddling lesson as tears rolled down my face. C began to cry. He began to scream. He hadn’t wanted our little love fest to end either. I took him back from the nurse, and as I started to cuddle him, she said, “Don’t feed him to calm him down. You’ll just turn into a human pacifier.” I promptly and defiantly offered him my breast. He was too upset though, so I continued trying to soothe him, and she stood over me, a mere foot from me, waiting for me to calm him. After a minute or two, she said, “Maybe I should take him and calm him down.”

“No, I would rather do that myself,” I replied tersely. Later, when she asked if she could take him so that I could get some rest, I declined. I slept with C on my chest off and on throughout the night. We nursed off and on; we stared at each other, and I promised to keep him away from the mean nurse we both disliked so much.

 During this time, C also had pediatric nurses checking on him. His bilirubin levels had been a little high, and they were going up. There were threats of keeping him in the hospital another day, but instead we were released with instructions to have his pediatrician test him within a day or two. He also had an early heart murmur, which is common amonst newborns, and which resolved itself by his third day. It was hard to hear there were so many potential things wrong with our son, yet at the same time, we both knew he was strong, that he was going to be fine–and he is. 

Knowing we were being released was so exciting and so terrifying. With the exception of the last night nurse, I had felt so cared for, so nurtured as a new mom, and it had been wonderful to have the support of nurses and lactation consultants and doctors. What I hadn’t had, however, was time alone with my wife and son. We needed time to be a family, a chance to connect and feel whole. J and I had been separated at night, and during the day, her presence was often accompanied by my mom. We hadn’t had a chance to be alone as a family much at all, and we were eager for this.

Our discharge wouldn’t be complete until our midwife stopped by to check me out. She popped in that last morning and instead of examining me just talked about the birth. She told me how beautiful and strong I had been, how inspiring the birth had been, how beautiful our son was. I got to thank her for helping me make a difficult decision, for being there for us. It meant so much. She held C; she hugged me and J, and finally, she signed our papers for us to go home. 

J, Midwife, and C

J, Midwife, and C

Getting out of the hospital seemed to take forever. The nurses sent J to get the car and bring it to the front of the hospital as they wheeled me down to the first floor. It was so emotional passing labor and delivery, passing the patio where I had labored so much, passing the halls where I had stopped and hung on during contractions. I cried until we got to the elevator, and I soaked in all of the sweet comments people made about the new mom going home with her baby. Soon, I was settling into the backseat of our car with our baby in his car seat, and my wife and I were headed toward home. It was so nerve-wracking riding in the car with C, but we made it the half-hour home; we walked into our apartment where my mom was waiting, and we soaked it all in. We were home with our baby. He was finally here and so very real and so very ours.

 

Arriving home

Arriving home

Throughout my pregnancy, I had all kinds of imaginings about our birth experience. I had wanted a water birth at the birth center, and when insurance matters prevented this, I had to mourn the loss of that imagined birth experience. When my fibroids presented themselves as a potential issue, I started mourning the loss of control over the birth and started trying to accept the possibility of cesarean birth. As time progressed, I just tried to imagine the healthiest, most natural, most positive birth I could—a birth in a hospital attended by a midwife and the two women who matter most to be in the world. This is precisely the birth I had. Yes, I ended up asking for an epidural; I ended up with the dreaded Pitocin. But I’m glad I did. I’m so happy that I was able to labor naturally for as long as I did—for thirty long hours. It means the world to me that I was able to feel this process, to experience so much of it so fully. But I’m proud of myself for making a decision I wouldn’t have entertained even a month ago—proud that armed with some knowledge and the powerful desire to bring my son healthily into the world—I was able to make the difficult decisions I did and still be proud of myself. For me, this was the perfect birth experience—back labor and long hours and all—and I wouldn’t change a thing. It was, without a doubt, the single hardest and best experience of my life. How could it not be? It produced this:

IMG_2801

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Our Birth Story–Act II: Active Labor and Delivery

If early labor is summer camp, active labor is boot camp. I was ready for boot camp, believe it or not. I wanted it to come. As Friday turned into Saturday and the moon crossed the sky, labor was getting harder. My contractions were closer together and very strong, but not regular, and all I could do was get through each one before moving on to the next. There was no past or future, only the present, and the present was the biggest challenge I had ever faced.

 After that last walk outside, we came indoors and I finally laid in that horrible labor bed. Dawn, our nurse, wanted to monitor me a little more consistently, so I laid still and tried to sleep. I slept between contractions, and apparently even through some of them. J watched the contraction monitor as I slept. The baseline number for the uterus is about 20. Most of my contractions so far had had me in the 70s, and in my sleep, they were going into the 120s. These were some strong contractions, but because I was so exhausted, I started to sleep through some of them. I was aware of them, but I found another place to go that allowed me to endure them. This was a very surreal time as I drifted in and out, but upon returning to a more wakeful state, I found that I had lost my ability to concentrate. All I could focus on was how bad it all hurt, how tired I was, how it felt like this was never going to end. This prompted J to get me into the shower again, and this helped. I showered through many contractions, begging my wife to hold the shower nozzle against my back as I moaned and held onto the wall. As I moved in and out of contractions, she reminded me of my birth art, reminded me to ride the wave, to get inside of it. She would remind me of this throughout the hours to come, and each time, I tried to picture myself as part of the wave.

 

As night wore on into morning, so did labor, and it was becoming less and less bearable. My mom would hold me and hug me like she did when I was a child. J would rock me from behind, whispering to me how proud she was of me, how strong I was, how grateful she was that I was doing this. I would sit in the rocking chair and try to rock through contractions. They would each take turns giving me sips of juice or water, rubbing my back. Occasionally, I would lie down again, and they would once again take turns watching over me while the other rested. I felt so cared for, so nurtured, so safe in their presence.

 

This is hard.

This is hard.

We were still playing music from the laptop, and I remember at this time becoming irritated with anything that sounded artificial. I had a bunch of new age stuff on my playlist, but any time certain music came on, I would simply say, “No.” Poor J. The only music I could stand was Enya and Loreena McKennitt, so J kept playing them over and over, trying to soothe me. I believe we had another shower at some point around this time. Once again, I needed to reset, refocus, and find some sort of center from which to draw. Before, my wife had gotten into the shower with me. This time, it was me on the ball, moaning as she sprayed water on my back. I remember so little of this, only the feeling of the water and how much concentration it took to get through each and every contraction.

 So far, because my water had broken on its own, the midwife and nurses held off on internal exams because they wanted to allow me to labor as long as I could without increasing the chance of infection. I had no idea how far I had progressed, but with as challenging as labor had gotten, J was convinced I must be close to transition. Sometime early in the morning—maybe around 5:00 or 6:00–she asked the nurse to check me, and we learned I was a mere four and a half centimeters dilated. I don’t remember if I cried, but I wanted to. I couldn’t believe I had only progressed two or three centimeters. Still, I was going to soldier on no matter what it took. I knew I was strong enough, and frankly, I had no concept of time.

 And this is where labor becomes hazy. I remember that my wife and mother were using every tool they could to help me through each contraction. I had a talisman I had made from beads our friends had given us at one or our baby showers, and I held them, felt them, tried to focus on them. I rolled on the ball, leaned forward as much as I could onto the bed to try to get my baby to rotate enough to give my back some relief—and so that he might start hitting my cervix to help make more progress. I don’t know how long I leaned on that bed, but I do remember becoming increasingly frustrated as time went on, and I remember crying more than once. At one point, I threw the string of beads. “Fuck this thing!” I said. I think I just needed something to throw.

 Early morning, around 7:30, we had a new nurse, Barb, an experienced hand with twenty years experience in Labor and Delivery. This was around the time that my memories are incredibly hazy for me. I was in labor land and had little awareness of what was happening around me. All I know is that with each new contraction, I had a more and more difficult time coping. The back pain was so intense, and I didn’t know how much more of it I could take. Barb came in with some icepacks for my back, and J and my mom would hold them on either side of my spine, pressing them into me. This offered small amounts of relief, but all tools were failing me at this point. I became increasingly discouraged, and I began to genuinely feel that I couldn’t take much more. “It’s too much,” I moaned. J tried to convince me that I was, in fact, doing it, that I could take one more contraction because it was getting us closer and closer to our baby, but I wasn’t so sure.

P9020474

"It's too much."

 I knew that the midwife would be back around 9:00, and it was around that time that the nurse checked me, and I had gotten to almost seven centimeters. Somehow, I thought I must have progressed further as hard as I had been laboring, but this is where I was, and this is where I stayed for a few more hours. I must have sensed that I was stalling, but I kept going, kept moaning and panting and breathing and crying through the contractions. One thing J made me promise her was that I would not use the words “I can’t” during labor, but I was getting close.

 I had hit a wall in more ways than one. My energy was low, and so was my morale and my strength. My body had hit a wall too. I was stuck, and every last bit of energy I once had was tapped. Barb suggested an IV to boost my energy, and I agreed, but it did little for me. Each contraction hurt more and more, but they weren’t serving a purpose. My labor had stalled. Despite all of my position changes, my coping tools, and my visualizations, I couldn’t move forward. I remember saying, “I don’t think I can take any more of this” with one contraction, and with another, I looked at my wife and said, “I need help. Please help me.” This sparked the conversation I had hoped I wouldn’t need to have, but the nurse went over my options, and then our midwife came in, sat directly in front of me and told me not only my options but what she thought would work to help our baby arrive safely, without need for a cesarean.

 During our birth class, our instructor had talked about the use of medical interventions. She was a strong advocate of natural childbirth, but she found it important that we understand interventions. We discussed their side effects, their pros and cons, but what J and I got most out of this was a discussion about the tools we have to birth our babies and the importance of using them when appropriate. She had talked about the occasional necessity of an epidural to prevent cesarean, that sometimes it’s what a woman’s body needs to finish opening up and to avoid the worst. My greatest fear about our birth is that it would end in cesarean, and we were getting dangerously close to this ending. The piece of information from our birth class was probably one of the most valuable we learned for our birth, and it was critical in my decision-making in this moment.

 The midwife sat with me through a few contractions, and then I asked for a few minutes with my wife and mom. When we were alone, I told them I didn’t want to regret my decision but that I knew it was time for chemical intervention, that I was ready for an epidural. I had done all I could for as long as I could. I had given everything I had to this labor, and so had they. We had used every tool we had at our disposal, and it was time for us to resort to these other tools. After so many hours of labor, I wasn’t as far as I needed to be, and I needed to save some energy if I was going to be able to push my baby out. To aid in my decision making, my wife reminded me of an affirmation I had written for myself only days before when at the doctor’s office, induction was being pushed. I felt that I was losing control over what was to come of my birth, so with some prompting from Birthing from Within and a desperate need to regain some power, I developed this:

 I must be strong and open,

I must act like a mother

To bring our baby home.

 J had only reminded me of this affirmation a couple of times once labor became really difficult, and it had helped, but it was now when I needed it most. It was now when I needed to remember how I was going to have this baby. I had already shown my strength, but I had to be open to this new direction. More than that, I had to make my first difficult decision as a mother, and by the time I asked for the anesthesiologist, I knew that it was the right one. I had no regrets; I just wanted our baby here safe and sound.

 Once one makes such a decision, time slows, and I seemed to be counting the time the anesthesiologist took to get there in contractions. The count was in the double digits, and as he had me curled over a table inserting a needle into my back, I had two more. There is nothing like trying to hold perfectly still while in the most intense pain of one’s life, but somehow I did, and in ten minutes or so, I had some relief. It was at this time that I also was given Pitocin to help make my contractions more productive and to accelerate my slow, slow labor. Finally, I could rest for a bit. I could still feel my contractions, but they weren’t boring holes in my back anymore. By the time I was resting comfortably, it had been nearly 30 hours since my water broke so long ago.

 My wife disappeared around this time, and when she came back, she had clearly been crying. Later, I learned that she had gone into the hall to cry. Seeing me hooked up to tubes and monitors brought back the pain of seeing her parents toward the ends of their lives. She knew this is what I needed, but she was so tired, undernourished, and so vulnerable, that this startling visual was just too much. A nurse found her in the hall, talked her through it, and even brought her some food. I assured her I was going to be okay, that this was going to bring us our baby faster, and that it would allow us all to rest up for pushing. I had been so mobile and independent and strong throughout the bulk of my labor that I know it must have been hard to see me suddenly mostly immobile and confined to a bed, but I really was okay. In fact, I was finally starting to get excited. 

Post-epidural. Getting some rest.

Post-epidural. Getting some rest.

It took about three more hours for me to dilate completely. When Barb checked me in the end, she said something like, “Well, there’s no more cervix.” Neither J nor I registered that she was saying I was fully dilated. “How dilated is she?” J asked. Barb smiled and said, “Fully!” We had requested in our birth plan to labor the baby down rather than starting to push in the event of an epidural, and that is exactly what Barb said we’d do. At one point, the OB came in to check me, and she wanted to know why I wasn’t pushing. Barb stood up for us and let her know we’d be laboring the baby down so that my energy wasn’t wasted trying to push a baby that wasn’t as engaged as he needed to be. I loved this about Barb. I loved this about all of the nurses, for they all helped us stick with our plan the best they could.

 The next time Barb checked me, the baby had made his way down significantly, and it was time to push. I was mostly on my back—something I never wanted—but because the baby was still posterior, sitting up wasn’t going to do much good. I used foot paddles for resistance, handles to pull on for resistance, and my mom and wife each held up my legs. Barb brought in a mirror, and for just over an hour and a half, I pushed. I could feel the baby coming down, and I watched as the midwife and nurse helped me stretch so that I wouldn’t tear badly (everyone knew he would be a big baby). They applied warm compresses to me, used mineral oil as he started to crown, and encouraged me along. 

There were moments of quiet during this period too, though, and I distinctly remember looking over at my mom once to find that she was falling asleep. Minutes away from meeting her grandson, she was going to take a nap standing up while holding onto my leg! Some comic relief at this point was so good for us. The energy in the room was so positive and encouraging, even if everyone was a little sleepy.

Pushing

Pushing

Pushing with an epidural was hard, but I could feel my contractions, could feel a mild urge to push, and I knew with each one, I was closer to meeting my son. Soon, I could feel him crowning, and as the contraction was over, he continued to slide out a little more on his own. With the next contraction, he was completely out, and I had this incredible sensation of relief and emptiness. This boy didn’t stop at his head—his whole body slipped out at once, and within seconds, he was on my belly covered in vernix, and crying a delicate little cry.

 

Meeting my son.

Meeting my son.

Feeling his slippery little body on my chest was the most amazing sensation of my life, and when his head was turned toward me, and I saw his cherubic face for the first time, I cried and cried. My wife and I just stared in awe, crying and beaming and smiling as the pediatric nurses toweled him off.

C meets his moms.

C meets his moms.

He was finally here. All of those hours of labor, the months of pregnancy, that year and a half of trying to conceive him had finally brought us our beautiful baby boy. I had not a single regret.

Welcome to the world, baby boy.

Welcome to the world, baby boy.

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Our Birth Story in Three Acts–Act I: Early Labor

I have opted to write the birth story in three acts, in part because it was such a very long labor and in part because it just feels right to break it into three. I’ll be posting the installments as I write them, which hopefully won’t be more than a day or two apart. I need to write through this, to feel it and see it and process it. It’s going to be long, but I hope that in including so many details I can find my way through this as well as develop a thoughtful record of the end of one chapter in our lives and the beginning of another. Without further ado, here is act one.

Act I: Early Labor 

On September 3rd, just a day after we had found out that our OB wanted us to begin seriously considering induction, Jodi and I spent the day out and about, determined to lower the baby and bring on labor. We went out shopping, had some keys made at the local hardware store, and spent over an hour and a half stocking up on groceries just in case the baby were to come early. We knew that in a week, one way or another, we would have a baby, so there was no time like the present to get ready. Little old ladies all over the grocery store gave me sweet, knowing looks, and several asked “When is your due date?  Is it today?” I smiled, thinking I might not be quite ready, even though the bags were packed, my music was ready, and now we had groceries. I just didn’t know when I would be ready.

 Readiness aside, I spent a lot of the day sitting on my yoga/birth/balance ball and walking around, and it seemed like the baby might be starting to drop lower. When I took a nap, Jodi made me put a towel down. When I woke up, she told me she felt like we were getting close, that she had this strong sense that it wouldn’t be long now at all. That night, when we went to bed, she again suggested I put a towel down just in case my water broke. I declined because the towel annoyed me, and I told her I’d put something down the next day.

 Early in the morning on September 4th, I got up for one of my many bathroom visits around 5:15. I came back to bed, fell promptly back to sleep, only to be awakened a mere half hour later by a gush. I rolled quickly out of bed, running to the bathroom as I said to J, “Oh my god. My water just broke. Oh my god.” I sat on the toilet while amniotic fluid poured out of me. I was shaking with excitement and disbelief. We were going to have a baby today.

Final Belly Shot: 39 weeks 1 day

After my water broke--the last belly shot 39w1d

We called my mom to let her know we would be heading to the hospital so that she could make her way to us as well. Then I decided to get in the shower as Jodi made coffee, fed the cats, and frantically ran around the house trying to gather things together. She was beautiful and funny and, I think, a bit nervous. After I was out of the shower, she called our neighbor to come hang out with me while she got ready. Since I knew I was negative for Group B Strep, we didn’t have to be as frantic about getting to the hospital as we might have otherwise. I sat on my ball, talked with the neighbor, and we started timing some contractions, which were a little irregular but coming around ten minutes apart.

Post-water breaking, pre-hospital

Post-water breaking, pre-hospital

I sent some emails, posted on my blog, and finally got around to calling the answering service for the OB and midwife. When the midwife got on the phone, she asked if I felt ready to come to the hospital, and I agreed that it was probably a good idea, so after changing clothes twice (that fluid doesn’t stop coming), putting on two giant pads, and shoving a kitchen towel in my undies, we were off. 

We left the house around 7:30a.m., assuming we’d hit some rush hour traffic, but we were fine, and in fact, there was almost no traffic at all. On the way, we timed some contractions, which were uncomfortable but not yet painful. They were still ten minutes apart, some a little closer. We arrived at the hospital, and when we got out of the car, I continued to gush. We made our way in, and the people in admitting quickly found me an elderly volunteer to usher me up the elevator to the 3rd floor where I would spend the next several days. When we got to the nurse’s station in labor and delivery, the cute little old woman said, “We’ve got a live one!” and soon I was ushered to a room, hooked up to fetal and contraction monitors, and by 8:30, I had a room and was admitted to the hospital. 

While the nurse admitting me was asking me questions, taking my vitals, and the like, a woman in the very next room was moaning loudly, and soon, she was having her baby. The nurse was worried that this might bother me, but I was so inspired, so excited that this would soon be us. Within another half hour, another woman down the hall had her baby. There were many babies born that morning. Ours was not one of them, not yet. 

Once we shared our birth plan with the nurses and managed to get hooked up to a remote monitor, we were able to start walking around, and this is what we did all morning and all day. My contractions were irregular, some stronger, but most very tolerable with some breathing exercises. I was starting to have back pain, however, and I knew this didn’t bode well. I was going to have back labor, and my baby was likely posterior. I started to grasp that this wasn’t going to be a short journey.

 At some point that morning, our midwife—the first one we met and liked, and also the one who had just recently endorsed induction—came in to check on me, as did the OB. Everyone was excited that our baby decided to make his way on his own, and they were alerted of our plans to keep things natural. Even so, the OB was insisting on an IV. I didn’t want one. I didn’t want to be chained to a pole for hours on end, so she agreed to a heparin lock “just in case.” I think she was convinced I would be having a cesarean later that day. While she was there, she also didn’t like some decelerations of the baby’s heart rate, so I was put on oxygen for awhile, and this resolved the small heart rate issue. I was so relieved when she left. I needed to be left alone with my wife to do what I knew my body and my baby could do together. 

Ready to walk the halls.

Ready to walk the halls.

My mom arrived later in the morning, and she walked with us a bit, then went to get a hotel room nearby to serve as a staging ground for her, Jodi, and my step-dad who had decided to come pace the halls. The day was gorgeous, and we were able to spend a good amount of time outside on a patio with trees and flowers and a slight breeze. I felt good. I was excited and welcoming my contractions.

Contractions on the patio

Contractions on the patio

I could still talk through them, but I was finally feeling them on a more regular basis. It felt good to know that each one was inching me closer to our baby. I didn’t know when they would ramp up, but I had a strong feeling our baby would be here early the next morning. The moon would be full then, and I had a sense that we would have a full moon baby. 

Walking the patio

Walking the patio

We did spend some time in our room, and when we did, we made it our own. We had created an aromatherapy spray with lavender oil and water, and we had music, pillows from home, and even fake, battery-operated candles to make it feel a little cozier. This helped so much with relaxation, but it also helped me feel a little less like I was in a hospital, despite the machines and hospital gowns. 

As afternoon came, we learned that our new nurse was going to be Terri, our birth class instructor, and we were delighted. She was only going to be on for a four-hour shift, but we knew we would be in excellent hands. As soon as she saw us, she took a final reading on the fetal and contraction monitors, and then she took them off of me. She shook her head at the hep lock in my hand, and she proceeded to help us try to move things forward. She brought us a rocking chair, encouraged me to eat a bit, and even made me a fruit juice cocktail. At this point, my contractions were occasionally quite strong but still irregular, so she encouraged me to get into the shower and start some nipple stimulation. We did this, and with the nipple stimulation came some stronger and more frequent contractions, about four minutes apart. At twelve hours in, we wanted to do anything we could to avoid the Pitocin talk. 

By 7:30, a new nurse came on, Dawn, and she promptly moved us to a new and improved room. Because labor and delivery was so busy when we arrived, we had apparently been placed in the overflow room—a tiny space—but since then a big room with huge windows overlooking the garden had opened up. We packed up, switched rooms, and got to know our new nurse, who happened to have lived in Humboldt during some of the time we did. She had the perfect, soft, earthy energy that we needed to get through the night. Terri had gone over our birth plan with Dawn, and she was prepared to help us stick with it. Honestly, it felt like each one of these nurses so far had been a doula for us, advocating to keep us as close to our wishes as they could. With the shift change came night and increased contractions. They were getting harder and harder and much more frequent, but I was managing fine. I would breathe through them, visualize through them, do whatever I could to cope, and I felt good about it.

Labor beds are not comfy. i was rarely in mine.

Labor beds are not comfy. i was rarely in mine.

We were listening to Loreena McKennitt at this time, and I remember the song “The Lady of Shalott” coming on as I sat on the birth ball while Jodi rested on the bed and my mom sat in the rocking chair. I sang along, rolling my hips on the ball. I paused for contractions a few times, and then sang along some more. The full moon was beaming through our window, so I used it as a focal point. I was beginning to feel connected to something so great. 

Around midnight, we went for another walk outside. The moon was directly overhead, and as we came through the doors to the patio, I looked up and just stared. I wandered around the patio for a few moments, working through a few contractions, and then a big one came on. My mom stood on one side of me, her arm around my waist, and Jodi stood on the other side of me, her arm also around my waist. We all swayed through the contraction. I moaned and swayed and stared at that moon feeling the strength of my wife and my mother, feeling the connection to the thousands of other women giving birth all around the world that night, feeling primal and strong and open. This would be our last walk outside, but I continued to follow that full moon through the window for as long as I could.

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decisions, decisions

We finally talked with the singing doula yesterday, and she was great. We learned a lot in our conversation with her, and she gave us a good deal to think about. She seemed to have lovely energy, and while she has only attended two births (she’s still working on becoming certified), she seemed quite competent. What we hadn’t realized is that she could not act as an advocate for us, which is something we had sort of hoped for. Instead, when it came time to make decisions about interventions, she would suggest that we take time to discuss , and she would give us advice based on what she knew or what she could find out on the phone. Essentially, she would remind us of what we wanted but wouldn’t do much beyond that (for this part of her role, anyway).

Because my wife’s fear has been that she would have to do battle with the medical professionals, I think we had hoped that we would have a buffer between her and medical pros. J had to be both of her parents’ advocates as they were dying, and she encountered some really horrific experiences with doctors and nurses who just wouldn’t listen to her regarding her parents needs, their reactions to medications, and more (despite the fact that she was their primary caregiver). Quite understandably, she feels this need to go back into protector mode when in medical settings, and she was beginning to fear that our birth would be one long battle between with her facing off alone against nurses and doctors.

We talked about this for a long time yesterday evening, and I think she has finally realized that this is a rather different experience. Sure, she can be as bulldog-ish as she needs to be if it comes down to it (and I can’t speak for myself), but ultimately, we’ve got to go into this expecting the best from those in the medical profession. Thus far, when we have projected positivity and confidence, even to our intervention-happy OB, people tend to relax and trust us. So we’re working on continuing this practice, and the more we do, the better this experience is going to be. We both trust this.

But let me get back to the doula. I’m sure it would be great to have someone there at the birth to recommend different positions, to massage me as needed, and so on, but as I lay awake at 5:00am this morning, I began to think about how many people were going to be in the room: J, my mom, our midwife, nurses–and then a doula too? I became more and more tense as I pictured people hovering and instructing. I mean, there are only two chairs in the room! Where would the third person go? I was anticipating performance anxiety, and I started to realize that this was getting further away from what I really wanted: as personal and intimate a birth setting as possible (given that it’s a hospital). In those down times when no nurses or midwives or doctors are present, I want my wife and my mom there and no one else. I don’t necessarily want an extra stranger in the room. I’m a private person, and I started to realize that the presence of a person I’ll only meet once or twice before the birth wasn’t going to be the answer to our worries. So today, I let the singing doula know that we wouldn’t need her services. It was a tough decision to make, but it was necessary.

What is wonderful is that this has led J and I through some really important conversations–conversations about what roles she and my mom will be able to play, conversations about our attitudes toward hospitals and doctors, and conversations about the strengths we have. The two of us have done so much research and have spent so much time learning about this process. We’ve learned so many tools in our birth class, and we practice them at home. We’re feeling like we can do this, and we’re feeling like we need to do this together, helped along by the wisdom and experience of my mom and some experienced medical staff. Suddenly, this feels more like our birth, like a project we can and will tackle together, whatever the universe or the medical professionals throw at us, and somehow this is more empowering than I realized it could be.

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getting acquainted

Time seems to be zipping by so quickly. I sat down to write this on Thursday, and somehow now it’s Saturday. How did that happen?

Last week, we had our big hospital tour. It was actually something I was looking forward to, and I’m so glad we did it. We unfortunately discovered that during evening traffic, it takes us 45 minutes to get there. We’ll have to plan accordingly, but I think we’ll be okay.

At the tour there must have been at least fifteen pregnant women and their male partners. Once again, we were among the oldest in the crowd, so not only were we the token lesbian couple, but we were also one of two token “old” couples (old meaning over 25).

The woman leading the tour was Connie, a childbirth educator and doula, and she was lovely. She had us all introduce ourselves and announce our due dates, and then we went on our way. We had a chance to see a few of the labor/delivery rooms, one of which was tiny and one of which had no bathroom but had fabulous lighting. None of the rooms have showers, but there are showers available for laboring women, and I’m fine with that. What the rooms do have are these amazing birth beds that move into all kinds of positions that your average hospital bed couldn’t dream of. They also have those great attachable squat bars, and they have no stirrups. That’s right folks: not a stirrup in sight. Instead, there are these paddles that one can use for leverage should one’s care provider want the final pushes to be in a slightly more traditional baby-catching position (we did hear, though, that this is not always necessary). They also seem to have birth balls, although our birth class instructor has suggested bringing our own, and I believe we will.

Based on Connie’s discussion, the staff there encourage women to walk around, change positions, take showers, and more in hopes that they’ll deliver naturally.  They allow for intermittent fetal monitoring (unless one has an epidural), seem to avoid unnecessary interventions, have the lowest cesarean delivery rate in the county, and they seem to be very supportive of the sort of natural birth we’re hoping for.

The worst part of the tour was a little walk past the operating room. I shivered upon seeing it, and I hope I never have to see it again. Connie kept pointing out the CD player on the wall, as though this somehow made it a more friendly environment (along with a horrible floral border near the ceiling), but that room represented so many of my biggest fears heading into this birth. At least now I know which room I should not include in my positive birth visualizations.

Overall, though, we were really pleased with what we saw, and I think that even though it’s a hospital, it’s ultimately a pretty birth-positive place. We even learned of some special secret lesbian rights we get there! Yes, after the birth, my wife can stay over, even if I have a roommate. This is only the case for female companions/relatives/friends. (If a woman’s husband wants to stay, her roommate’s husband must also stay in order for them both to be granted staying permission). One man, his wife, and her sister complained about this very loudly to the nurses and to Connie during the tour, and the man was incredulous that some persons “significant other, or whatever they’re called” could stay if she was a woman. He said this while eyeing us sideways. I smirked and whispered to J, “So THESE are those special lesbian rights we’re always hearing about!” Oh yes, for once, we’re special. I had to refrain from sticking my tongue out at bitter bigot man.

We did walk out even more convinced that we wanted a doula, but after talking with Connie, we discovered that our budget would never  have room for the $1000 average that area doulas charge. I was about to give up on a doula at all when I stumbled upon a doula-in-training via a certain online classified listing. We’re going to meet with her in a couple of weeks, and nothing is certain, but we may have a free doula, and that gives me a little hope.

It seems that in just about six and a half weeks, our due date is going to arrive, and within two month’s time, our son is going to be here in our arms. I think the reality of it may finally be starting to settle in–although in all honesty, there is part of me still sitting in that bathroom at 6am on New Year’s Eve staring in disbelief at a positive HPT.

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curve ball

We had an OB appointment today, and to our surprise, we had more than five minutes with our doctor. She wanted to review our ultrasound results with us, and when she saw them, she said, “Oh, so you have some fibroids.” I just sort of stared at her and then asked, “Really? What does that mean right now?”

She talked a bit about what they are, how they grow, where my particular fibroids are and how big (one is 7cm!), and that she was frankly quite surprised that I didn’t know about them.

When it came to the bigger implications for this pregnancy, though, I started to get a little scared. She talked about the increased chances of difficulties in labor. When I asked if the likelihood of interventions during labor are increased, she didn’t mince words: “Yes” was her answer. She talked about the fact that labor can be slowed by these fibroids and that if I’m not following a “normal” labor “curve” that they’ll have to talk about intervening. And then she dropped the big bomb: c-sections are more likely.

Of course, the good doctor spent some time talking about how routine c-sections are now and how some women prefer them, and she was saying this, my lower lip betrayed me and started quivering like crazy. “Are you upset?” she asked. I told her I was, that this was not what I wanted to hear, that I so want a natural birth. She handed me some tissues and urged me to avoid looking at the worst-case scenario. She stressed that in this case, even though the process of birth is significant, I need to be focusing on product over process in order to avoid endangering my health or that of the baby. I honestly didn’t like hearing this at the moment, but I suppose I have to accept that this is the hand I’ve been dealt, and she really was trying to help me see that in the healthiest light possible.

This doesn’t mean that I’m giving up and going straight for the scheduled c-section, but it does mean I once again have to rethink things. J and I discussed that we really need to begin thinking about our birth plan and its various clauses (i.e. if this, then this). We are also certain now that we will hire a doula; we’re going to need an advocate through this. I was going to check out the midwives at this practice, but for now, I think I’m going to continue seeing the doctor. I’m really not sure what I need to do as far as my care goes, but I know I need to keep my worrying to a minimum and keep myself healthy. This has always been my priority, and it will continue to be so.

Some time spent with Dr. Google today has reassured me a bit. One source discussed a study revealing that 70% of women with fibroids larger than 10cm go on to have vaginal deliveries. Given that the c-section rate in the U.S. is just above 30%, this sounds like my chances of a vaginal delivery are fairly normal (especially considering my largest is 7cm, and most of the research claims they don’t grow much after the first trimester). Of course, when one spends time with ole Doc Google, one comes up with ugly information too–increased chances of preterm labor or premature membrane rupture were a couple of ugly ones I didn’t want to see–but these seem to be quite rare. In fact, from what I have read so far, the majority of women with fibroids don’t have any major complications. I needed to see that, and I’m hoping that this is my path. So far, this pregnancy has gone rather well, and I would like to keep it that way.

As for the rest of the appointment, my uterus is measuring 23cm, which is perfect for 23 weeks (one of the side effects of fibroids is that they can make one measure much larger, but this isn’t happening so far). Egghead’s heartbeat was 136–still mellow and strong. My blood pressure was great. Everything but these nasty fibroids seems perfect, and that is what I need to focus on.

All of that said, this wouldn’t be my life without the occasional curve ball. J and I seem to attract these. So far, we’ve managed to keep moving forward despite them, and I’m determined that this is what will happen now as well.

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