Sunday, March 25, 2012

Heidi's Birth Story

Be warned : This post is long and while I avoided the details that are too gross, it's hard to describe childbirth without some ick factor.

Around 3:15 a.m., I had a few contractions but was able to get back to sleep. They were much stronger than the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had a few weeks earlier but I didn't want to get my hopes up. I woke up again sometime in the 4:00 hour with a couple more, but again was able to get back to sleep. Same thing in the 5:00 hour, and I began to get hopeful that this might actually be labor starting. I was able to get another half hour or so of rest before they started coming more frequently. At 5:48 they were coming close enough that I began timing them. I know the exact time because I was using an app on my iPhone called "Contraction" that timed the duration and frequency of the contractions. I highly recommend that app for any pregnant mamas out there! When you're in that much pain, fumbling with a stopwatch or focusing on the clock is not easy, but just tapping a phone is doable.

Shortly after 6:00 a.m., I sent a text to my mom asking her if she wanted to play hookie from work that day. All it took was a 20 second phone call to confirm I was in labor and she was on her way up to Jax from Keystone. Of course she had to fight Orange Park traffic but made it there just before 7:30. I had Jared call the hospital around 7:00, which seemed quite strange to me since I had been in serious labor for less than two hours, but the contractions were coming every one to three minutes and were very intense.

In my past labors, the only "comfortable" position for me was on all fours, rocking back and forth. This time around I was trying to focus on completely relaxing all muscles in my body during a contraction so I laid down on my side with each contraction. It hurt like the dickens, as it is called labor for a reason, but I really feel like having my body completely relaxed helped things move along so quickly.

Knowing that my mom would be there soon, Jared woke up the girls so they could "be a part" of Heidi arriving. It was sweet to hear him over the baby monitor, telling them that Heidi would be here soon and Mommy was working hard and in a lot of pain while Heidi was getting ready to come. They walked into the room, wandered to my side of the bed, and seeing their sweet little faces made my heart swell. Jared explained that when I got quiet and still, they needed to be quiet, and they did a great job. After tossing a few last minute things into the suitcase, I hugged and kissed the girls, and Jared and I loaded up and were on our way within minutes of my mom arriving to watch the girls.

On the way I started crying at the sheer joy of knowing that my baby girl would be here soon and knowing that I had just hugged Charlotte and Naomi for the last time as a family of four. We made it to the hospital by 8:00 and Jared wheeled me up to the 2nd floor. I would have done cartwheels had I been able to when I saw my doctor, Dr. Andres, was the one on call. The lady at the desk asked why I was there... "Uhh, to have a baby!" Seriously, when an obviously pregnant woman is being wheeled up to the maternity ward, is asking her why she's there necessary? Jared and I were joking about this later and we're kicking ourselves for not spouting off something like, "She has a tooth ache."

They got me into a triage room and gave me a swanky green gown. I tried bribing the nurse with a tip if she told me a high number when she was checking my dilation. Thankfully a bribe wasn't necessary as I was already 7-8 cm. My nurse, Shannon, then helped me get settled into a room on the 3rd floor. By that time it was around 8:45. My mom arrived with the girls and were able to visit for a couple minutes before waiting in the play area of the maternity ward they had for the kids. Dr. Andres popped in to check on me and said he wouldn't go far since I was so close to being ready to push. Shannon told him I didn't have my IV port in yet, but he wasn't concerned and said it wasn't necessary. At one of my appointments a few weeks prior I went over my birth plan with him and told him that I would really like another drug-free delivery with minimal intervention. With the older girls I had an IV port in my arm but never had any pain medication or fluids of any kind. This time, without the IV port, the only thing I had to deal with during delivery was the strap on my belly to monitor Heidi's heartbeat.

Despite the pain (lots and lots of pain!), I was able to keep my whole body relaxed during contractions and right at 9:00 I was feeling some pressure and an urge to push. They checked me and I was 10 cm dilated so was given the go-ahead to push with the contractions. At this point, the tears started again, as I knew it would be a matter of minutes before I would be holding my new daughter. My water has never broken on its own, so Dr. Andres went ahead and broke it at that point. I tried to breathe through the first contractions while I was pushing, thinking that keeping as relaxed as possible through that would speed things along. But breathing through them proved to be quite difficult and rather ineffective. Dr. Andres said that holding my breath and bearing down would be much more effective and have her here sooner.

Between contractions Jared was getting the video camera set up and ready to go. We have all three of the girls' births on video, with no intention of ever showing it to anyone, but I knew that at some point I'd want to be able to look back on them. A lot of doctors and hospitals are very leery of having births on video for insurance reasons, but I'm grateful that Dr. Andres and McDyer (who delivered Naomi) did not mind at all and were even encouraging Jared to make sure he had it in a spot to get a good view of all that was going on. But have no fear- if we ever invite you over to watch home movies, these will not be shown! They're locked away in a vault!

It seemed like an eternity of pushing and if it weren't for Jared there by my side, encouraging me and kissing my forehead, I would have been one of those screaming maniacs you see in movies. He kept me calm and focused and couldn't have been any better during the whole process. After a couple strong contractions without Heidi seeming to have moved down at all, Dr. Andres put in a catheter to make sure my bladder was empty so that wouldn't be blocking her. As I had peed twice since being there, that wasn't the problem. I started to get a little worried, but within another contraction or two, she started moving down and put my fears at ease. And thankfully the catheter didn't have to stay in for more than a minute! In those moments, though, I remember praying quickly and fervently for God's grace, knowing I would have His strength in my weakness. My friend, Andrea, shared some verses with me that she focused on and had read to her during her delivery with her second born, and I was able to pray through some of those between contractions.

Jared asked Dr. Andres if he could help catch Heidi and it wasn't long before he was putting on his gloves. As Heidi was crowing and about to "pop out", Dr. Andres told me to try to relax for just a minute. Only a woman who has felt the pressure of needing to push with all her might knows the nearly impossible feat this task is. It wasn't that the pain was unbearable, but fighting the urge of pushing with all that pressure made my legs shake uncontrollably. And though I was trying with all my might to refrain from pushing, her head seemed to pop out all on its own. Dr. Andres told Jared where to put his hands and he helped pull her out as I gave one last push and Heidi Lynn was born!

The rest was all the standard procedure of the cord clamping, cutting, pushing out the placenta, but my eyes only focused on the sweet baby girl in my arms. She had a beautiful cry and began exercising her lungs right away. And her bowels. She pooped on me within mere minutes of being born. And like all babies, it wouldn't be the last time that happened. Such is the life of a mom :)

Dr. Andres showed Jared the placenta when it came out, explaining everything he was checking for: only one tear where the water was broken, everything else intact, etc. They were able to clean Heidi while in my arms and I tried nursing right away. She weighed 7 lbs 10 oz and was 19.5".

Instead of bathing her right away, we just wiped her down and massaged all the vernix into her skin. The vernix is the white material that coats babies in the womb. It protects the baby for nine months so there's really no reason to wash it off right away. But Heidi did have a nice little coif that needed more than just a wiping down so Shannon washed her hair, which Heidi loved. She still loves a good head massage, but does not appreciate an actual bath!

I cannot rave enough about my doctor, the nurses, and the entire experience I had. Many, if not most, doctors will push interventions on the patient to make things more convenient for their schedule. Vacation coming up? Let's schedule an induction or c-section. Labor not progressing quickly enough? Pitocin or c-section. Not being hooked up to saline is rare, for sure, but to not even have an IV port I'm sure would be unheard of with most doctors. I think most women don't educate themselves to know that they have the right to tell the doctors what kind of birth experience they would like. This must be done within reason, of course, as the doctors did go to school for years to know what they know. Dr. Andres not only accommodated my desire for a natural birth but encouraged me throughout the process.

All of my labors/deliveries were a great experience, but this was, by far, the best one. It was the quickest, by about 8.5 hours, which makes a huge difference! But I feel like I was able to learn from my first two and make changes in how I handled things to make for an even better birth. I didn't have any tearing which made for a quick recovery. I felt well enough to ask to leave a day early, which is also rare for the doctors to allow. My request might have had something to do with Stephanie Knowles of Jaiden Photography, a newborn photographer, having a mentoring session with a newbie photographer and needing newborn baby models for the next morning... I felt plenty well enough, was anxious to get home, and hey, anything for free pictures (which turned out amazing, by the way)!

I've had several friends ask about my natural birth experiences and while I've practically written a book here, there are many details I didn't include. If you're considering having a natural birth or are just curious about it, feel free to ask me!


Becca said...

That's so awesome!! I love hearing birth stories! I was induced with Gracie because I hated being pregnant so much... They hooked me up to pitocin as soon as I got to the hospital. I had an epidural before my "cramps" turned into real contractions and they kept telling me I would still feel pressure when it was time (I went all natural with Mason, 33 hours of natural made me want all the drugs they could give me)... My baby was born in 3 hours of getting to the hospital with not the first bit of pain. The nurse checked me and I was at 8cm... 5 minutes later she checked me again to find that the baby was crowing and I had no idea... One push and Gracie was born. It was the best labor ever...