Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Henry's Birth Story

Since Henry is 13 weeks old now I figured it's about time I finished his birth story and I did just that tonight.

Warning: this is long. I mean really long. I thought about cutting it down in size but then couldn't do it because there wasn't anything I wanted to cut out.

Henry’s birth story begins before he was ever born. Before I got pregnant for him, I knew I wanted a midwife to attend my birth and I wanted to have my baby at home. When we did get pregnant for the second time, we started researching our options. It turns out that a few years ago, our province set up three test sites where women could receive midwifery model prenatal care in response to numerous requests by the women and families of this province. One was just plain too far away in order for us to attend prenatal appointments on a weekly basis, one test site shut down after several problems and conflicts and so that left one site for us to contact. When I called them they told me that because I lived outside of their community I had to be put on a waiting list until I reached 20 weeks as they had a commitment to treat the women of their community first. I could understand that and I put my name on the list and began patiently waiting for the 20 week mark calling every so often to see if they were still able to take new patients or if I should just take my name off the list now and seek alternate care. In order to have one of these midwives attend my birth that meant it was my responsibility to take the hour long trek to their office for every prenatal appointment as well as drive all the way there when it came time to have the baby. They attended home births but because I was coming from away and clearly didn’t have a home there to birth my baby, they said there was a local gentleman who rented out vacation cottages and was known to rent them out to women who wanted to have a home birth experience even though they were away from home. I thought this was perfect and began visualizing my baby being born in one of these cottages with the help of the midwives. Then they told me that because I had had a previous c-section I was required to have my baby in a hospital. The laws of our province said that they were not allowed to attend HBAC’s (home birth after c-section) because it was deemed too risky despite my own research telling me otherwise. This burst my happy bubble immediately as I was adamant about not having my baby born in a hospital. I truly felt that birth was not a disease and therefore shouldn’t happen under the bright lights of a hospital. To me, birth was part of life. It was something to be experienced and having my baby born at a hospital meant that was going to miss out on some of that experience. I mentioned before that I knew I wanted a home birth before I was even pregnant, but it went beyond that. I had done my reading, I knew about the cascades of intervention, I knew how being observed in labour could alter its course, I knew that the safest place for mother and baby was at home with a birth attendant. I knew all of this but because I wasn’t able to have an attendant at my homebirth, that’s what led me to consider an unassisted birth. I decided that I might as well just see my own doctor for prenatal care and not mention my plan to her because I was afraid she might stop providing care and then I wouldn’t have any provider. I wanted to have the peace of mind that everything was complication free and that the baby was head down before going ahead with the plan.

I was a little apprehensive about bringing it up to Adam because I knew that without his support it wouldn’t be possible, but he surprised me by listening to my reasons and agreeing that it was probably our next best option to a homebirth with a midwife. Of course our first choice was to have a midwife come to our home and help me deliver the baby but where we didn’t have that choice, we felt like we had no other option but to do it alone. We took this on full force and researched and researched and researched. We read books like Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Childbirth Without Fear, Unassisted Childbirth and Emergency Childbirth. We joined forums and talked to other couples who had done this before us, we watched birth video after birth video (specifically unassisted birth videos) and we familiarized ourselves with what constituted a true “emergency” requiring hospital assistance and what were things we could deal with on our own. We ordered supplies so that we’d have everything we needed on hand and we bought a blow up pool in case I decided to labor in water. Originally, we weren’t going to tell anyone our plans out of fear that we’d be judged and criticized but then we realized that we had to get someone else on board so that we’d have support for Mya throughout this process. After much discussion we decided that my mom was the best one to approach with our radical birth plan. I had put off bringing it up to her for awhile because I was afraid she would think we were crazy and try to talk us out of it and then we’d have no one to assist us. But about a month before my “due date” I decided I needed to let her know so that she’d have time to think about it before giving us an answer and if she flat out refused to help us, we’d need to think of a plan B. So, I called her up and told her we were thinking about having a home birth (which is something she already knew the back story on) and she said she thought the midwives weren’t allowed to attend those and then she caught me off guard by asking, “who was going to catch the baby? Adam?” It caught me off guard because she was totally serious when she asked it as if it wasn’t a completely ridiculous idea to her. I went over everything with her and assured her that we had thought of everything, we had read lots of books and articles and we knew what to do in an emergency. I assured her that it wasn’t illegal and that she would mostly be needed to take care of Mya and do the running around so Adam could help me through contractions. 

We weren’t above going to the hospital if it was deemed necessary. We understood that there was a chance that would happen if things didn’t progress the way we liked or if I lost too much blood or if there was something wrong with the baby. 

We felt like we had prepared as much as we could and all that was left was to wait until the big day.

On the night of March 5th we went to bed hoping we’d meet our baby before the end of the week. At 12:30am I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and when I stood up there was a gush and my water had broken. I told Adam and he said, “well, I guess I know what we’re doing tonight!” I went to the bathroom to clean myself up while Adam took care of the poor carpet on my side of the bed. I suggested we go back to bed and try to get as much sleep as possible not knowing how long of a journey we had ahead of us. We quickly realized that that wasn’t going to happen. Lying down after your water has broken is really hard to do because you continuously gush water and I couldn’t get comfortable and sleep knowing I could be ruining my bed so up we got. We sat in the bathroom for awhile because that seemed like the only logical place to be when you’re leaking fluid until we realized we had to come up with another solution because I wasn’t going to just sit on the toilet for my entire labor. I came up with the idea of sitting in the empty bath tub in the other bathroom so that I could kind of lie down without worrying about my water leaking. Before we moved to the other bathroom, we called my mom. 

**This was around 1am and there was no answer which was really unusual. My mother is a super light sleeper and as far as I knew, she was at home asleep. We tried every 20 minutes or so until we got a hold of her and you could hear the concern in her voice that she might not make it in time even though it was only 2:30am and I was convinced there was no rush. She said she’d get her things together and head up right away. Knowing she had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of her we figured she’d be there around 5am. **

Adam brought the playbook in the bathroom with us so we could watch shows and kill time while timing contractions. We started timing them from the beginning and they started out around 2 minutes apart but they weren’t coming in a consistent pattern although they were getting stronger. When I started spending more time paying attention to my contractions and less attention to the shows I decided it was time to get out of the empty bath tub. I was cold so I got some clothes on and went downstairs by the fire to warm up. All the lights in the house were out and it was just me and Adam alone. Mya was still sleeping upstairs and we’d hoped she’d stay that way all night. Every time I felt a contraction coming on I’d wrap my arms around Adam’s neck and almost hang there while swaying from side to side while he applied pressure to my lower back. It was like we were doing a labour dance. Around 4am I thought it might be a good idea to start getting the pool set up since Adam would have to do it by himself in between contractions and I thought it might take some time. While he was blowing up the pool I was getting the kettle and all of our pots out and filled with water so they’d be ready to go when the hot water ran out. Every time a contraction hit, we’d stop what we were doing and resume the labour dance and it was a rush to get there as soon as it started because if he didn’t apply pressure to my lower back as soon as it began then it was a lost cause and I’d have to go through that one alone. I stayed mobile the entire time because I knew that would help bring the baby down and I would be more comfortable and despite trying different positions, I was still most comfortable hanging from Adam’s neck and shoulders. By the time mom got there it was 5:30am and we hadn’t yet filled the pool. When she arrived, the house was still dark and I remember telling her there were only 2 rules: no lights, and no talking when I was having a contraction. She started helping Adam fill the pool and boiling water to add once the hot water ran out. Let me tell you, getting in that pool felt a-maz-ing. I just sat there and enjoyed the warm water and felt things melt away. I wanted to stay in there forever and I did until after the baby was born. 

After a contraction Adam would whisper in my ear that I was doing so good and I remember thinking, “why is he telling me this? Why isn’t he waiting until it gets really hard and I need to hear encouraging words cause so far, I can handle this.” Each time a contraction ended I’d think to myself, “ok, that wasn’t so bad. I can do this. I can handle another one” and I kept telling myself that.

Things continued to progress until it was time to decide what we were going to do with Mya. I had hoped I would have the baby in the middle of the night and we wouldn’t have to get anyone to take her for us and she’d wake up and already have a new baby brother or sister but as it was getting closer to 7am and there was still no baby, we had to put a plan in place. My mom got Mya’s coat and shoes ready while Adam called his mother and asked her to meet my mom half way between her place and ours. At 6:50am mom went in and woke Mya up and got her dressed while I continued to moan my way through contractions in the living room. Worried that she might be scared of my noises, mom took Mya into the bathroom to do her hair, get her to pee and get her coat and shoes on. When she heard a contraction end, she took her out and down the stairs and on their way out the door Mom told her to say good bye to us. I heard Mya say “bye bye mommy! Bye bye daddy!” and Adam answered her but I couldn’t. My head was lying on the side of the pool and my back was to her. I didn’t even look up but I heard her leave and felt like the little bit of hold-it-togetherness holding me back was gone and I could really let loose. Just after my mother left, I felt the urge to push and there was no denying that’s what it was. It came out of nowhere at the end of a contraction and eventually there were no more contractions, there were just undeniable urges to push. I remember thinking that I hadn’t hit the transition phase that I had read about; that phase where you start doubting yourself and the birthing process, you question whether or not you can actually do this, some people start shaking, some cry. I did none of those things. When I had to push, I just pushed. I pushed like that for 2 hours but I don’t remember it feeling like it was that long. Somewhere in the middle of pushing the baby out I know I asked for food. Adam brought me these little fruit bars we had bought and I ended up eating the whole box. That gave me enough energy to finish the job and I pushed his little head out and I announced that his head was finally out and that I could feel him shaking it around! I felt him twist himself into position so his shoulders would come out and once he was lined up, he slid out a bit and I told Adam to grab him. Adam pulled him out the rest of the way and told us it was a boy! The cord wasn’t very long so we had some maneuvering to do to get him in front of me so I could hold him. He let out a little cry and we knew he was ok. He was perfect. I stayed in the pool while I held him and let the cord go white. Adam cut the cord and I nursed him for a few minutes before we decided I’d get out and dry off to try and deliver the placenta.. We weighed him in a makeshift sling made from tying a knot in a receiving blanket and we hooked it onto a travel scale. He was 7lbs, 8 oz! Adam and mom took turns holding him while I laid on the couch waiting patiently for the placenta to come out on its own. Knowing that it could take longer than if I delivered in a hospital (because I hadn’t been given Pitocin), I kept nursing him to try and get it to come loose. We started to notice that I was losing a bit more blood than we expected and decided that it would be best to get dressed and head to the hospital to get help removing the placenta. 

We were a little unsure how we’d be received at the hospital having just had a baby at home unassisted, so we fibbed a bit and told anyone who asked that we didn’t expect labor to go so quickly and we just didn’t get to the hospital in time. Of course they wanted to know where the baby was when we showed up and we just said that the baby was in good health so we left him at home with my mother. I’m glad that we did go to the hospital because as it turns out, I had 3rd degree tears and needed stitches and the placenta wouldn’t have been a problem if I had just pulled on the cord to get it out since it had already detached but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. After getting stitched up, we went back home where I took it easy and snuggled my baby while mom and Adam cleaned up the birthing pool and the rest of the living room. 

That evening, Adam’s mom brought Mya back home and she got to meet her baby brother for the first time. It might have been the most precious moment to witness and I’ll never forget the look on her face when she got to hold him for the first time. She was so proud and it didn’t matter to her that he was a boy instead of the girl she was convinced was growing inside of me. She loved him and their relationship had just begun.

Henry is now thriving at 13 weeks and weighs 14lbs. I’m so proud of my birth story and wouldn’t have changed anything about it. It went exactly as I had envisioned and would do it again in a heartbeat.


Kat said...

Amazing birth story! I am hoping to do my birth naturally after two births full of 'interventions'. I will be doing my labor in the hospital because we don't have homebirth as an option where we are, and my hubbie would never do an unassisted birth, lol. You did an amazing job, and so did your husband, you should both be proud that you knew what you wanted and stuck with it! Congrats on your healthy baby boy!