Friday, November 14, 2014

Birth Story

I wrote this a year ago and never published it.  We just celebrated Caroline's first birthday this week so it seems appropriate to share the story.

I like to read birth stories.  Is that weird?  I'm not one to record birth stories of my kids, though.  That being said, this experience was completely different in every way from my two previous deliveries and people keep asking about it so I thought I would share it for the few of you that might be interested.

Making the decision to birth at home
After I had Juj I had toyed with the idea of having a home birth for the next baby.  I never would have considered it for the other two.  With Popeye, I didn't even know people did that.  I knew that some people opted for midwives instead of doctors but I figured they were weirdos or hippies.  I wanted a doctor and a hospital.  I was convinced that that was the only responsible approach.  I felt very educated because I read What to Expect When You're Expecting (I know.  You can role your eyes with me).  With Juj, my outlook changed a lot and I knew I wanted a midwife.  I wanted a different approach and I wanted a provider who embraced the normalcy of birth.  My midwife with Juj did not do home deliveries.  When I asked her (just out of curiosity, not out of real interest) she laughed and basically explained that she only delivered in hospitals because, "What if something happened?"  I was fine with that.  I still wanted the "safety and security" of a hospital.  I would have been good with a birth center, but there wasn't one that was close.  I still pictured birthing at home to be risky and messy.  Like, I thought maybe you would just throw a tarp on your floor and have a baby?  I don't know...As I was in the hospital with Juj, I found that there were a lot of policies and procedures (and the fact that they kept gluing bows to my newborn's head, making her head gross and sticky) that I didn't like and felt were unnecessary.

With this pregnancy, I wanted a home birth but I never thought Chris would go along with it.  When I brought it up to Chris he was surprisingly okay with it.  I think it was partially due to the fact that he thought I'd change my mind, but I'm not sure.  As the pregnancy progressed I grew more sure of my decision to birth at home and Chris grew more and more excited and supportive.  I think he trusted that I had done a lot of research into the subject and didn't take it lightly.

Reactions to my decision
The local hospital here is not known for being excellent so many people commute to a hospital in the neighboring state to have their babies.  Because of this, people out here often asked me, "So where are you going to deliver?"  When I told them that I was going to deliver at home very few were supportive.  Their eyes would get big and they would start to look uncomfortable and they would say something like, "Well, I guess that's one way to do it...." Others would ask if I was crazy or would ask, "But what if something happens?"  And then they would share with me tales of  terribly traumatic and life-threatening birth experiences of people they knew.  Some thought it was just about avoiding medications.  I didn't want to just do it medication free, though.  I wanted to do it intervention free. I wanted to do it hospital policy free.

If you want a laugh, Jim Gaffigan talks about midwives, home birth, and parenting in this clip and it makes me laugh every time.

My parents were both very supportive.  When I told my dad I thought he'd try to talk me out of it.  Instead he said, "Wow!  That's great!  You are doing the right thing!"  Yeah.  I was surprised by that response, too.

The birth
Anyway, the birth.  I had been grumpy, because I was tired of being sore and pregnant and tired of people asking me why I was still pregnant and REALLY tired of people telling me that I was huge and "there is no way there is only one baby in there."  I had been having regular and strong contractions for several hours a day for weeks.  I was exhausted.

Saturday, the contractions seemed to last longer.  By Sunday afternoon they were intense enough that I told Chris, "I think this is it!"  I couldn't really sleep that night but by morning when nothing had happened I became discouraged.  Monday I went for a walk to try to make the contractions worse.  They didn't get worse.  I ate something and took a bath to try to make the contractions stop.  They didn't stop.  Around noon I called the midwife to tell her that I had been having contractions for over 24 hours.  I told her that I wasn't in labor, they were just Braxton Hicks, but was wondering what I could do to make them either get worse or stop because I needed to either have a baby or get some sleep.  The contractions were not painful at all, just distracting and annoying.

My midwife said she would like to come to my house.  I felt silly and insisted it wasn't necessary because it wasn't real labor.  She counter insisted that she just wanted to check the baby to make sure she was handling the contractions well.  So she was at my house by 3:00 with her student midwife.  I had avoided pelvic exams this entire pregnancy but after witnessing a contraction the midwife said she felt uncomfortable leaving my house because she thought it was real labor.  She lived pretty far away and was afraid that if she left and it was labor she wouldn't make it back in time.  She said that if she checked and it wasn't labor, she would leave.  I obliged.  To my surprise I was almost completely dilated and fully effaced.  She suggested I call Chris to get home right away.  We figured we'd have things wrapped up in less than 3 hours.  I mean, we thought I would be pushing before Chris got home.  At that time I was dilated "more than 9 but less than 10."

I called and Chris came home.  They prepared the birthing tub while I was able to lie down on a heating pad in my bed and work on homework (my midwife frowned upon doing homework in labor but I was working on my final semester of grad school and wanted to finish some work).  Still didn't feel like pushing.  My water still had not broken.  The midwife asked if I wanted to deliver with the waters in tact.  She said some people consider it lucky.  I gave that a hard pass.  She broke my water.

The tub.  Man, oh man.  The birthing tub was AWESOME!  I almost didn't feel contractions at all in the tub for a while.  I didn't think I was in labor until I got out of the water and felt the full intensity of the contractions.  I just stayed in the water and waited.  For hours.  Nothing.  We knew the baby was not positioned ideally but hoped that the baby would move with contractions.  Around 9 p.m. I was disgusted that I was still pregnant.  The back labor was awful and the contractions were getting worse.  How was I not needing to push yet?  It had been hours!

The girls were home for everything and still awake at this point.  I tried not to make weird faces during the contractions because I knew the girls were watching.  Popeye rubbed my back and told me how brave and strong I was.  Juju patted me on the head and said, "Everything is just fine.  Don't you worry!"  They both read me books and sang me songs.  They were awesome.  Around 10 they felt ready for bed. Popeye said, "I'm going to bed but you just call me if you need anything."

By 11 p.m. I was crying.  The contractions were relentless and it wasn't fair that I was still in labor.  By 11:40 my midwife said, "Well, looks like you are going to have your 11-12-13 baby, after all!  That's what you said you wanted at our first appointment!"  I was furious and snapped back that I had changed my mind.

I had been getting up and walking around.  I was so sad and the contractions were so bad that I remember telling Chris, "I'm going to die.  Really.  I'm dying, I just know it."  Kudos to him for being supportive and not rolling his eyes and pointing out how dramatic I was being.

A few minutes before midnight the midwife suggested that she turn the baby because the contractions and weird baby spinning techniques just were not doing it.

Her turning the baby was without a doubt the most painful thing I have ever experienced.  Luckily, it was fairly brief and she was successful.  I wanted to move back to the tub but I felt the urge to push right away and knew that I wasn't going anywhere.  I pushed for a short time and the baby was born.  Truthfully, nobody had any idea exactly what time she was born.  We figured out that nobody checked until 12:05 am.  It could have gone either way.  The midwife called it 12:01 am so the baby was born one minute into 11-12-13.

I was so exhausted.  I kept waiting for that natural high to kick in but it didn't.  After holding and nursing my perfect baby for 40ish minutes, I hopped into the shower.  Then I started to feel great and full of energy.  I felt incredible.  I came out of the shower to discover that my bed was made with freshly washed sheets and blankets, my baby was dressed and entertaining her dad, there was a snack ready for me, and all birthing stuff had been put away. 

I was surprised how great I felt the next morning.  This is definitely the easiest recovery I have had (though, it is still a recovery).

So, that's the story!

People keep asking if I would recommend this to others.  Honestly, it isn't for everybody.  If I had this same experience with my other two, I would not have appreciated it for how awesome it was.  I had to be ready for the experience and since I was, it was amazing.  If you have considered home birth or had any interest in it, then I would recommend it.  If you like your hospital experience, home birth  may not be something you'd like.  Worked for me, though, and I would definitely consider doing it this way again.


Tara Martin said...

That's so great, Courtney! I love birth stories! Congrats (a year later)! I wasn't thrilled with the experiences I had with the OBGYN's and hospitals with my first two, either. This time I'm seeing a group of midwives, and I don't think I will ever go back to an OBGYN again.

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