Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ashlynn's birth story

I'm working on Max's birth story, but thought I would post this in the meantime. My warning to you is that even after significant editing, its still really long. So sit back and relax, and enjoy.

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I had been planning and preparing for a natural childbirth. I went through three health care providers before I found one I really trusted, and I read everything I could find on the topic, ending up with quite a collection of books. I read every birth story I could get my hands on, and spent a lot of time planning for, visualizing, and talking about what I hoped would be my perfect birth experience. Having been induced with my first daughter, Abby, I really wanted the experience of going into labor naturally. Tom had taken a five week block off from school, anticipating that the baby would be born by the time that he had to return on the 10th of July, and we were both really nervous about having a baby and then having him starting back to school the same week. At my Dr’s appointment right before my due date, the Dr said he wanted to talk induction. I was stressed out about the possibility- it really wasn’t what I wanted or what I planned on.

I slept okay Saturday night, but Abby woke up really early Sunday morning. When we did get up, I wasn’t feeling very well- it just felt like my body was overtired and worn out. It was a beautiful day- the sky outside our window was blue with just a few clouds. I thought briefly that it would be a beautiful day to have a baby. After reading for awhile, I laid my head back on the couch and started dozing a little bit. I noticed a contraction, but it felt like all the others had for the past few weeks- nothing special. I dozed off, and then felt another one not too much later. I still wasn’t too excited; I had had fairly regular contractions before and nothing ever came of it.

I knew that Abby was tired, so I brought her upstairs and rocked her for a little while and it didn’t take long for her to fall asleep- we rocked and I sang some songs quietly. I felt particularly close to her, and very grateful for quiet moments like that. She was laying her head against my chest with her hair falling across her closed eyes, and I started to feel pretty emotional. I had been aware for a few days that our time together as just the three of us was ending, and that however wonderful it was going to be to have another person in our family, and no matter how much our new daughter would be loved and cherished, I knew that things were never going to be the same. I knew that as our family dynamic shifted, and Abby got older, that there would be less and less quiet moments like this. When I moved her into her bed for her nap, I knelt by her bed for a little while and rubbed her back, then leaned over a kissed her, loving the sight of my sweet daughter sleeping peacefully.

When I got in the shower, I felt a few more contractions; still irregular, painless and short. I knew that if I stayed home from church, expecting labor to start and then nothing happened, I would be terribly disappointed. As I was getting ready, I felt a few more light contractions, but didn’t even bother timing them because I knew that when it was serious enough for me to start timing them that I would know. After all, contractions are supposed to hurt, right?

Tom decided to stay home from church so that Abby could stay asleep, and I grabbed the keys and drove the short distance to our church so that I could be on time. I got to the children’s class where I was supposed to play the piano and the leaders smiled gently at me. I returned the smile, half wondering if I was going to have a baby that day. After a little while I noticed that I was having quite a few contractions, and started watching the clock. I raised my eyebrows a little bit when I realized that they were coming five minutes apart. Some lasted as long as forty-five seconds or so, none of them hurt, and none of them were more than just my belly tightening, like all the contractions I had previously.

I noticed the contractions stopped after 45 minutes or so and I didn’t have one for about fifteen minutes after that. I was disappointed, but not too much. I thought that they might start again later that day or the next. When a break came, I went out in the hall for a drink of water and to stretch my legs, and was standing by the water fountain when I felt my first hard contraction. It was an interesting feeling- it didn’t feel like the ones where my belly tightened. This was more like an aching hurt in my pelvis, and although it didn’t last very long, I definitely couldn’t keep walking or do anything else during the contraction besides just stand there and breathe through it. I went back into the room, and couldn’t concentrate much on what was being said. The contractions definitely were getting my attention by now- I had to really concentrate. Soon, I knew I needed to go home. I was incredibly grateful at this point that I had decided to drive the short distance to church!

By the time I got to the van, I had had two more contractions. I knew at this point that I was either in labor, or a very good imitation of it! I walked in the house slowly and was met by Abby running through the house at breakneck speed, a huge grin on her face when she saw me. Tom looked at me and raised his eyebrows- I told him that I was having some pretty serious contractions and that I thought that I was probably in labor.

The first thing I thought of was to call my parents- they were on call to watch Abby when we left for the hospital. I was in the bedroom while Tom was on the phone with my mom. Another contraction hit, and I was kneeling on the floor, holding on to the bed. I could hear him tell my mom to take the cell phone with them to church, but after the contraction subsided, I said that someone needed to come now. I could tell that my contractions were building rapidly, and figured by the time a half hour passed and my mom got there, it would be time to leave for the hospital. Tom told me that my mom was going to come, but another contraction started while he was talking. His voice and everything else faded into the background- all I could feel was this giant force within my pelvis.

I tried going out to our rocking chair in our front room- kneeling on the floor and draping myself over the ottoman or back of the rocking chair had been a huge help alleviating the back pain that I had experienced my last trimester. Another contraction hit, and I couldn’t help but moan through it- the pain was increasing with each contraction, and the sound just started coming out. The rocking chair wasn’t working, and I couldn’t seem to get control of the pain. I had envisioned being meditative and quiet- instead, I was pacing through the house, agitated. I couldn’t get control of my breathing, or my response, and the pains were coming faster than my ability to cope with them. I searched my head for more options- the bathtub was the next thing that came to mind.

I told Tom I wanted him to fill the bath so I could get in. I waited for the relief that everyone tells me they feel when they get in the water during labor. Nothing. I couldn’t get comfortable for the life of me, and it seemed like every time I tried to shift positions, another contraction would come and leave me powerless to move. Abby came in, and seeing me in the tub, started beaming. “Mama naked!” she said with glee. Then it was “Belly? Baby?” in her sweet voice, while touching my belly gently. Tears filled my eyes- I wondered briefly if she somehow knew what was about to happen, and I knew that my baby Abby wasn’t going to be my baby much longer. I kissed her cheek gently and told her that Mama was going to have a baby today, and that I loved her so much, no matter what happened. Then I yelled for my husband to take her downstairs. I couldn’t handle her being such a distraction.

I was getting so irritated that I couldn’t get on top of things. I was still moaning, trying to keep it low pitched and wasn’t having much success with that either. I felt something come out of me, and saw some mucus floating in the tub, and then I felt my water release. A few seconds later I noticed that the water in the tub was turning slightly green and started to panic a little bit, knowing that it was probably meconium in the amniotic fluid. I knew then that we needed to get to the hospital as soon as we could. In the next brief pause in between contractions, I told Tom we needed to leave for the hospital as soon as we could and he needed to go get someone to watch Abby.

Tom got back from the church a lot quicker than I thought he would- and I was grateful. I really didn’t want to be left alone anymore. I was starting to panic- I was so afraid that I was going to get to the hospital and have hours and hours of labor left to go. I wasn’t coping well at all with the contractions- they were overwhelming me more and more, and I just couldn’t get a hold of myself and my reactions to the pain. I wondered why in the world I had thought natural childbirth was such a good idea- I wasn’t enjoying this at all. I wasn’t meditating or anticipating the birth like I had thought I would be- I didn’t feel beautiful or powerful, I was just in pain and I wanted it to stop. Tom had brought a friend of ours from the neighborhood, and I was really grateful to hear her voice.

Tom then came in and told me that I needed to get out of the tub. He helped me stand up, and was drying me off when another contraction hit full force. I dropped to my hands and knees, moaning. I felt like I was going to be ripped apart by this force- the pain was unlike anything I had ever felt or ever imagined. I cried out that I couldn’t do it anymore, that I didn’t want to do it. My friend was rubbing my back and shoulders and told me that I could do it, and that I was doing it. She then said that she thought I was in transition, and I would have laughed at the idea if I physically could have. There was no way I was in transition, I thought, because I hadn’t been in labor long enough! I was seriously worried about how much longer I could handle the pain. I was ready to throw all plans for natural birth out the window. An epidural sounded like heaven to me, although the moaning with next contraction came from the knowledge that I still had to get to the hospital (about a half hour away) and get admitted before they could do anything!

I decided it was time to start moving towards the van, and the two of them helped me up slowly and we started walking to car. I was literally hanging on Tom’s neck when the next contraction hit, and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t hurt as much when I did that. What a time to find a position that worked!

I decided to kneel on the front seat of the van and drape my arms around the back of the seat. I rode for a few minutes that way, but I was so hot. I couldn’t handle how I was feeling so I had to turn around. He was speeding through our residential neighborhood, honking his horn as he went. I was trying so hard to get comfortable in my seat and get focused- Tom gave me the hand he wasn’t driving with and I started squeezing that for all I was worth. I was literally screaming at this point- there was nothing else I could do. The next contraction, something abruptly changed. I felt the baby drop into my birth canal and I screamed out “The baby is coming!” Tom told me, very calmly, “No, we are going to the hospital. We’ll be there in about twenty minutes.” The next contraction my body started to push. At first, I didn’t recognize the sensation- it felt like I had to go to the bathroom. But the feeling got stronger and stronger, and with the next contraction, I knew that my body was pushing this baby out, and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. It was an overwhelming force- a tidal wave or a freight train.

I screamed that I had to push, and Tom said that he didn’t know what to do. I told him to stop and he kept going. I hit him on the arm and screamed again that I was pushing and to “Pull over and dial 911!”

We pulled off to the shoulder of the highway. He dialed 911, and heard the conversation going on around me without being able to understand what was being said. The force that was going through me was absolutely amazing- it was an intense, overpowering feeling, but it wasn’t painful the way the contractions were. Before I knew it, Tom had come to my side of the van and was trying to persuade me to take my pants off. I’m still not sure how I managed that feat sitting in the front seat of a minivan while having contractions. He looked down between my legs and announced to the 911 dispatcher that he could see the head. I think that was when it really hit me- we were going to have the baby right there on the freeway. I started to feel burning. It was everywhere, it was overwhelming and it didn’t go away. Tom put his hand on my perineum on the instructions of the dispatcher, but I felt my body push against his hand, like it was rebelling against his restriction, and all of a sudden, her head was out. Tom reached down to get a towel to wipe her face and mouth when a final huge contraction came ripping through my body like a wave and I heard him say “She’s out, she’s out, she’s all the way out!”

Tom put her on my chest and it was one of the most powerful, emotional moments of my life. I looked at this little body and was completely amazed. She wasn’t crying, but was completely pink, so I knew that she was breathing. She was still, looking up at me with these wide, intense, dark eyes, like she was as amazed as I was at what had just happened to her. I was filled with this overpowering love for her- there is nothing in the world that could compare to that moment. I studied every inch of her that I could see- her tiny hands, her thick, dark hair, and the still pulsing umbilical cord, which was surprisingly long and thin. Here was this tiny little person who had just come from inside me- she seemed so much smaller than I remember babies being. Tom was still on the phone with the dispatcher, and I watched him tie off the umbilical cord with his shoelace. The minute he cinched it tight, we heard the sirens of the ambulance, and we both breathed a sigh of relief.

Before I knew what had happened, there were four paramedics looking in on us. They quickly cut the cord, and I felt a small pang as they took the baby, knowing that we weren’t joined together anymore. I was so anxious to know that everything was okay with her, and I kept asking them until one of them told me that everything was fine. They loaded me carefully onto a stretcher and I asked for something to cover me up- all of a sudden I was concerned with modesty again I looked in the van as I was getting moved out, and was slightly horrified at the amount of blood and mess that was everywhere- I looked over at Tom and told him I was sorry that there was such a mess. Thankfully, he just chuckled.

They loaded us both into the ambulance, and I was laying on the stretcher in a daze. They started an IV, and put me on an oxygen mask, neither of which I wanted, but I didn’t argue. They were concerned because the placenta hadn’t delivered yet and wanted to give me some pitocin in my IV and I refused flat out. Shortly afterwards, I started feeling contractions again and I was so angry- I thought I was finished with all of that. They gave me the baby to try and nurse, but laying on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance was not the ideal place to begin our nursing relationship! She nuzzled with me a little bit, but they wanted her to stay so covered up, and have an oxygen mask nearby so it just wasn’t working. They decided to leave the placenta until we got to the hospital because the contractions weren’t doing anything and they wanted the OB to deal with it.

When we got to the hospital, they put the baby on my chest all wrapped up and we were wheeled through the hospital on the stretcher. We got up to L&D and two nurses immediately jumped up when they saw us, following all of us into a labor and delivery room. Everyone seemed concerned that I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet, and I was getting more and more frustrated that I kept having all these stupid contractions! It seemed so unfair to do all this work to get the baby out and then have to have more contractions. At one point, I had a nurse applying pressure to my uterus, and one trying to pull on the umbilical cord, but it still wouldn’t come. They decided to call the OB on call, and my heart nearly stopped when they said his name. It was the Dr who had delivered my first daughter- the one I fired early in the pregnancy. I should have refused him flat out, but everyone seemed so panicked that I didn’t see that I had any other option.

The Dr came in and went straight to work. I was moaning and telling him how bad it hurt, and he told me it wasn’t his fault, and that I should take it up with God. (Bedside manner was never his strong point…) He told me that I was going to have to help them, because if he had to pull it out, there would probably be pieces left inside me, and then he would “have to go in after them.” That was enough to get me going. The next few contractions, I was pushing with everything I had, and finally, almost an hour after the baby was born, the placenta was finally delivered. Then it was time for the stitching. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a third degree tear towards my rectum, and then had torn upwards straight through my urethra and clitoris. When he put his hands in that area to examine me, I cried out in pain. I refused pain meds in my IV at first- I didn’t want to be drugged after I had just had a completely natural birth, but after two more seconds of touching me, I was screaming at him to stop and they had to give me something. The next half hour or so as he was stitching me was absolutely excruciating. What they put in my IV didn’t make a dent, and all the shots of local anesthetic barely took the edge off. I was still aware of every stitch, and it felt like they were tearing me apart at the most sensitive areas possible. I thought that anyone passing by the room must have thought I was dying. I learned later that the paramedics said that I looked like I had a gunshot wound, and the Dr said it looked like I had sat on a hand grenade. I’m glad that they didn’t tell me that until after I had been stitched up!

A nurse came in periodically with updates on the baby- we found out she had weighed 6 lbs and 14 oz, and that she was 19 ½ inches long. They had to take her to the NICU because her temperature was too low and because she was born in an “unsterile environment.” I just wanted my baby. That was the only thing that made any sense after all the pain I went through- I wanted to hold her, see her, touch her, and nurse her. Finally, the nurses told me that I was okay to be wheeled to the NICU, and they took me to see my daughter. They wheeled me into the NICU, and I saw her being held and rocked by my husband. Tears came to my eyes and I reached for her. She was so beautiful, and was doing well enough that she could come with us to a regular post-partum room.

We became minor celebrities the whole time we were in the hospital. Every nurse, assistant, lab person, or anyone who came into the room seemed to know exactly who we were and wanted to hear details of the story. I laughed when we were wheeled into the room and saw that a message had been written on the white board- “Congratulations Mom and Dad on the speedy delivery- hope your daughter doesn’t spend her whole life living in the fast lane!”

Ashlynn, one day old

Ashlynn at 5 1/2, with Dad

1 comment:

  1. I admit you are kind of a celebrity to me! ;o) It is so fun to read this story, I've heard bits of it hear and there but to read it in details is fantastic! I can't wait to read the contrast between this birth and Max's! :o)


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