Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Birth of Jillian Grace

To really give a complete story, I've gotta go back a few weeks.

I went into this pregnancy wanting to go natural, as in drug-free.  The birth of Shaylin was wonderful because she was born but the birth experience wasn't.  I just try to not let it overshadow her birth.  But this time I knew what I wanted & didn't want.  However, I was still afraid that I might not be able to do it.

One night (close to 35 weeks pregnant) I was looking around on my doctor's Facebook fan page.  Yes, my OB/GYN has a Facebook fan page!  If you knew him, you'd understand why.  I read it from time to time to read other women's stories of how they found him & the kind of care he gave them.  For some reason Facebook let me know that a particular doula service was also a fan of his.  And this doula had commented often on the page.  So I looked around on her page.  Then to her blog & started reading some birth stories.  I started to figure out that she had assisted my doctor with a lot of births & at my hospital.  Honestly, before then I thought doulas only helped with birthing centers or home births.  I just figured hospitals wouldn't allow that.

Reading over what a doula does made me realize that I really wanted this for my birth.  I wanted that help to keep me drug-free.  But I knew it would come with a cost.  And I was certain our health insurance would not cover the cost of a doula (and it doesn't).  But we have an HSA account.  We set it up to the maximum we could contribute so our deductible would be met & then still have plenty in the account to hopefully not pay any medical expenses out of pocket.  I looked over the list of eligible HSA expenses & midwife/doula care was on the approved list.  So the next step was to contact her.  Long story short, we met with Katie & just loved her!  And we figured out that we could pay her with the HSA account through her Paypal account.  It was a huge blessing & we knew only God could have led us to find her.  So it gave me hope that He would help me get the birth experience I wanted.

Fast forward to 38 weeks & 2 days.  My mom was coming at the end of the week.  At this point I had gone further than I did with Shaylin so of course I was anxious.  I went for a checkup & learned from my doctor that he was going to be out of town for a whole week with my due date right in the middle of it.  So we knew if we wanted him to deliver this baby (since he didn't get to deliver Shaylin) we needed it to happen in the next week.  So I said we could schedule an induction for the following week unless I went into labor on my own.  I was excited but at the same time I already knew this wasn't the right decision.  I called my doula & she explained to me the drug that was going to be used (Cytotec) & the dangers of it.  She also reminded me that if I could go into labor on my own & show up to the hospital in active labor there wasn't much the nurses would be able to do to stop whatever I wanted.  But in the end it was still my decision.  But I knew she was right & this was exactly why we hired her.  I needed to get my focus back on my desired birth experience & not just on whether my doctor could be there.

So a week later we go for another checkup.  I agreed to have a cervical check to help confirm my decision. I had still considered doing the induction if I was already dilated & thinned out quite a bit.  But I was only 2 cm & 25% effaced.  Still better than I was when my water broke with Shaylin (1 cm & 0% effaced) but not far enough to go with an induction & get the birth I wanted.  So I let him know that I wasn't doing the induction.  And he was fully supportive of my decision.  He couldn't say it but I think he preferred me waiting.  He's been called the "male midwife" so he's all for being as natural if possible.  He just said he has to give his patients the option since he was going to be gone.  I made an appointment for the next week but left the office crying because I knew deep down that I wasn't going to make it to that appointment & he wouldn't get delivering this baby either.  I called Katie & she suggested making plans everyday to keep me busy.  That night Jeremy & I went on a date while my mom watched Shaylin.  Another day my mom & I took Shaylin to the zoo.  There were some shopping trips that week too.

On Thursday, March 29 I woke up to find I had some bloody show.  It had me really excited but it didn't necessarily mean I was about to go into labor.  Later I met Katie at a McDonalds so our kids could play & we could visit.  Then I had a chiropractor appointment.  I started seeing this chiropractor at 37 weeks.  I regret not going sooner.  Just one adjustment had me feeling better in those last 3 weeks than I did the entire pregnancy!  It was also helping to keep Jillian in an anterior position.  During the adjustment we talked about how I had been feeling & the bloody show.  I told her how I was hoping my doctor would still get to deliver this baby even though that would mean being pregnant for a few more days.  She then said I wouldn't like what she would have to say.  I said it was ok to tell me & she said that I would be having this baby the next day!  I was surprised to hear it but didn't let it get me too excited.

That night we went to bed around 11:00.  That's when I noticed a couple contractions.  They didn't hurt.  It was just a tightening in my belly.  And they were about 10 minutes apart.  But since I had already had them before & they didn't produce anything I didn't get too excited.  So we went to sleep.  And as usual my pregnancy-induced insomnia kept me awake while Jeremy went right to sleep.  So since I was awake I couldn't help me notice those contractions still coming & was watching the clock.  Sometimes they'd be 7 minutes apart & then they'd be 20 minutes apart.

At 2:30am I noticed the contractions were starting to get closer, averaging 10 minutes now.  So I decided to just text Katie & let her know what was going on.  I sent another at 3:15 letting her know of more bloody show.  She encouraged me to try to sleep.  I remember her telling me this back in one of our appointments that she tries to get her patients to get as much sleep as possible in preparation of labor.  She suggested I take Benadryl but we didn't have any so I went with Tylenol PM but only one.  I think I was hoping it would take a little bit of the edge off the contractions so I could sleep.  But then they started to pick up to the point that I couldn't lay still in bed.  So I got up & tried laying on the couch, hoping a different location would help me sleep.  That's when I realized I couldn't lay down at all during the contractions, which were now down to 3 minutes apart.  So at 4:50 I texted Katie again & let her know & see what she thought we should do.  It would be at least a 45 minute drive to the hospital & that was if traffic wasn't bad. We discussed me sitting in a warm bath to help with the contractions but I got really nervous about laboring at home too long & then getting in a long car ride when things could get really intense.  The thought of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic while working through a contraction was not appealing.  So I finally woke up Jeremy, who'd sort of gotten about 4 hours of sleep (my constant tossing & turning & getting out of bed didn't make it a very restful sleep for him), packed our things, & woke my mom to let her know we were leaving.  I sneaked into Shaylin's room to see her real quick before leaving.  I was so excited for our family but it was still hard knowing that her life was about to change in a huge way & I knew it wasn't going to be easy at times.

Traffic ended up being great.  But when you hit the freeway before 6am there aren't too many people on the roads yet.  On the way Jeremy called his dad to wish him happy birthday & with that early of a call his dad knew what was going on.  The whole pregnancy he had predicted that this baby would be born on his birthday, since the due date was the day after.  But I kept saying it wouldn't happen because I didn't want to be pregnant that long.  I was so sure I'd go earlier simply because Shaylin came early.

I clipped my ipod shuffle to my tanktop & put my headphones in my ears & got in the zone.  My labor music selection wasn't exactly your typical laboring music.  No Enya or other peaceful music.  Nope.  I had running music.  I selected songs that were extra motivating during runs, especially my marathon.  This was going to be my marathon.  All the walking I had been doing through my 3rd trimester were done while listening to this music was "training" me for this moment.  I might just be the first momma to listen to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" while in labor.

We arrived at the hospital at about 6:30, with Katie arriving a few minutes later.  We had to fill out some papers to sign in & I signed when I could but during contractions I worked through them however I needed.  Sometimes I would lean over & just rock my hips left & right.  Sometimes I would squat down.  The contractions were uncomfortable now but I was handling them.  This was definitely like the first couple miles of a marathon.  I felt great & like I could totally do this!

We got to my L&D room & the nurse gave me my gown to change into, the girdle to go around my waist for the monitor, & some non-slip socks to wear.  I told her I was going to actually keep wearing my "marathon shoes" & the look on her face was something else.  It was as if I offended her by not taking her socks.  I guess not too many women labor in shoes.

Another nurse comes in since it was time for the shift change.  Right off the bat I could tell we were going to have to watch this one.  I was on the birthing ball, finding it a great position at that moment.  I wanted to stay on it as long as possible. She started through a whole bunch of questions. Somewhere in the questions was asked how many pregnancies I had had.  This was #8.  That number still overwhelms me but it's something I have accepted.  For some reason she needed to know the dates of all the pregnancies & asked if I knew them.  I'm a mother.  I can't help but remember when they were.  I don't remember the exact dates for all of them but I at least know the months & years of each.  So I started spouting them out:

May 2007
October 2007
April 2008
June 2008
October 2008
January 2009
January 2010 (Shaylin's birth)

By the time I got to the 5th one I just lost it.  I can usually talk about my miscarriage history without crying, but to sit there & have to tell how many times I have been pregnant so close together & without all those babies born was more than I could take.  And it didn't help that the nurse showed no reaction to my emotions.  Jeremy & Katie were not pleased with this.

After the questioning was done, it was time for a cervical check.  I was 3 cm & 50% effaced.  They checked with the doctor who was on call for my doctor but I already knew that I wanted to leave if I was less than 4 cm.  So we called a friend from church who lives in a house just a couple miles from the hospital & had offered her house as a place to labor should we need it.  The timing really couldn't have worked better.  She & her roommate were at work so it was going to be just me, Jeremy, & my doula.  We arrived at 8:45.

This house was great!  It's huge!  It was once used as a ministry by a couple who took in young pregnant girls who were searching for an option other than abortion.  If they chose to give their baby up for adoption they were given help to find an adopting family.  If they chose to keep their baby they were prepared with childcare classes & other help like life skills or getting their GED if needed.  And my doctor was the doctor who helped deliver those babies!

We started by hanging out in the kitchen, with me doing a lot of squatting at the counter.  I tried to eat some pudding & got down about half the cup.  I also had to keep drinking water.  Then we moved to the den where I stayed on my knees & would lay my top half on the couch during contractions.  It was starting to get difficult to join in conversation with Jeremy & Katie.  At one point I started feeling sick after each contraction.  Then it just hit me.  I finished a contraction & had to rush to the nearest bathroom.  And up came all the pudding I had eaten earlier.  Katie said this was a good sign.

Around 10:30 I decided I wanted to try the shower.  So I got in my too-small-for-my-belly tankini & stood in the shower, keeping the hot water hitting my lower back.  I stayed in there for an hour & a half!  And all while still jamming out to my music.  That was probably one of the best times of my labor experience.  It was hard but I was totally doing this.  It reminded me of miles 9 through 12 of my marathon.  It was like some sort of runner's high I had reached & I felt like nothing could stop me.

At 12:00 I got out & got dressed.  And my marathon shoes went back on of course!  We stayed in a bedroom where I got back on my knees & leaned on the bed during contractions.  Things really started picking up at this point, to the point where I started moaning through contractions.  Jeremy had left for Taco Bueno earlier to get lunch for himself & Katie.  Based on how I was acting Katie felt that it was now best to head back to the hospital since they would be wanting to get 2 rounds of antibiotics in me before the birth (I was GBS positive).  So as soon as Jeremy got back we started packing up the car.  That was 12:45.

As we were leaving my backup birth photographer had arrived.  I had one lined up originally, a close friend who shot Shaylin's birth.  But she had another client due the exact same day as me & had booked her first so we knew there was a chance that she'd miss mine for the other client, which was completely understandable.  Then she got really sick & was just too sick to make my birth.  So Katie contacted one of her friends in the area who was able to come pretty quickly for a mom of 3.  She had also been a doula for a few years so technically we had 2 doulas for this birth!

The drive back to the hospital was intense.  The house was up on a hill off a dirt road so Jeremy had to drive  slowly to avoid bumping me around too much.  I was in the front seat on my knees facing the opposite way, hugging the seat.  Once he got to the access road Jeremy took off.  I remember glancing over to see that we were passing cars that were on I-35!  He pulled right up to the entrance of the Center for Women & we got out, leaving the car there.  It kinda felt like a movie!

When we walked in we assumed we would get to go right back to the L&D room that I was in just a few hours earlier.  But because they had discharged me the lady at the front desk said we had to sign in again.  That meant signatures from me, filling out my personal information, & verifying insurance.  Needless to say Jeremy let them know that he was ticked.  Katie & Mary, my photographer, came in & started leading me to L&D anyway.  I was upset because for all I knew I was coming close to fully dilated & was scared my husband wouldn't get to be by my side because he had to sign me in.  I mean, seriously?!  Why couldn't they just have held on to the papers from earlier?  This is why I would consider something other than a hospital birth next time.

The walk to L&D was very slow with a lot of stops so Jeremy was able to catch up.  I did end up in the original room.  Changing back into that girdle & hospital gown wasn't easy.  But I still had my marathon shoes on!  They did a cervical check & said I was 5 cm, 80% effaced, & -2 station.  I didn't handle that news very well.  I felt like I should have been at least 7 cm but to hear I was now only halfway there was extremely discouraging.  And if it hurt this much now, how much more was it going to hurt for another 5 cm?!

They reminded me that they needed to give me a round of antibiotics but I didn't want to stay in bed.  Really, I wanted to walk but for 30 minutes I had to stay put.  So they let me sit on the birthing ball again & they raised the bed up so I could lean on it.

The nurse that was doing the IV didn't do so well.  I've never had good veins to begin with but this was on my hand so it's not as difficult to find.  She would miss & dig around for the vein & I was yelling out in pain.  Everyone thought it was another contraction but I said it was the needle.  This was really throwing me off.  I was also getting exhausted.  Every now & then I'd nod off.  Remember, I went into this with no sleep.

Finally at 3:15 they were done.  At this point I knew I couldn't walk around.  I asked about getting to labor in the tub & the nurse said she'd see if it could get ready.  Until then I wanted to sit in the shower.  But I really didn't want to try to get back into my tankini.  So the nurse suggested I use 2 of those girdles, one as a top & one as a bottom.  Now the shoes had to come back off.

Jeremy sat in the shower with me, holding the sprayer at the lower part of my belly.  The nurse came in at one point saying she needed to monitor the baby.  I had asked for monitoring to be intermittent & they had been honoring that.  So much so that when she came in she didn't make me get out of the shower but covered the monitor with a glove & put it on my belly.  It wasn't easy for her to get a reading with the water hitting it but she eventually got what she needed.  It was one of the times she was able to redeem herself.

At 3:45 I wanted to get out of the shower.  I was feeling a lot of pressure on my tailbone.  So I moved to the toilet.  The nurse was not happy when she walked by at one point & saw me there.  She made some comment about not delivering a baby on a toilet.  That was not a redeeming moment.  I knew the baby wasn't just going to fall out in the toilet.  But it was a great position for that part of labor.

Around 4:00 I asked to be checked.  I just knew we were really getting somewhere & I kept feeling like I was needing to push.  I got to the bed, still in just those 2 girdles, & was checked, now at 8 cm, fully effaced, & 0 station.  So close but still not there.  They asked me what I wanted to do, maybe go back to the shower or toilet, but I didn't feel like I could make it.  So I stayed in the bed on my left side.

This is when transition hit.  It was by far the hardest part, well, other than what came right after.  I had gone all day feeling in control & that I could do this & never once asked for drugs of any kind.  But somewhere during the next 15 minutes I cried out "I can't do it".  Jeremy said it started to scare him to see me like that & not know what to do.  And there really wasn't much anyone could do.  Had I wanted an epidural I highly doubt they could have done it even if an anesthesiologist was already in the room.

They had already called for the doctor but she still hadn't shown.  15 minutes after the last check they checked me again because my photographer/2nd doula could tell I was complete.  Something about how she could squeeze a part of my leg & the temperature of it.  So they checked me & sure enough I was finally 10 cm & +2 station.  15 minutes & I got the last 2 cm while on my side!  Crazy!

Funny moment here - I was clinging to the side rail of the bed where there are a lot of buttons, including the controls for the tv.  So when the tv came on everyone was confused.  They'd turn it off but then it'd come back on.  I remember getting mad at myself because I realized that I was doing that & thought that was a really dumb place for tv controls.  My photographer/2nd doula took on the additional job of tv control.

Now I had reached the hardest part - the part where I needed to push NOW but there was no doctor so I had to wait.  This is no easy task.  I remember seeing the nurses in the room & could tell they were stalling.  At some point I kinda started to push but it wasn't producing any progress.  But I think had I been in just the right position I could have done it & someone would have needed to be there to catch a baby.

Finally the doctor shows up.  I barely got a good look at her but I remember thinking that she looked like a friend of mine from church.  I then remember her saying something about getting olive oil out & making a salad.  This is good because that means she paid attention to my birth plan, something I wasn't sure would happen with an on-call doctor.

We're not exactly sure how many pushes it took.  It wasn't a structured hold-your-breath-count-to-10 type of pushing.  I tried to just take over & push when a contraction came.  Katie thinks it was no more than 4 pushes so we'll go with that.  However many pushes it was, this was the easy part.  I remember when I felt the "ring of fire" & realizing that it wasn't as bad as I had always heard.

Once I felt that she was out I wanted her right away.  I guess time seemed to go slow at that moment because I felt like they were cleaning & suctioning her for too long & at one point I yelled out "I want me baby!  Give me my baby!".  Jeremy says that when I yelled that that Jillian wasn't actually fully out & they were just trying to suction her some before getting her out completely.

The moment they put her on my chest was amazing.  I had crossed the finish line to my marathon.  And I was so in love.  Jillian Grace was born at 4:29pm & weighed 7 pounds & 13 ounces & was 20 inches long.  And she had a head full of blonde hair.

The doctor honored my request to not clamp the cord for 60 seconds, which was about how long it took to stop pulsating anyway.  They delayed newborn procedures & gave me 2 hours of skin to skin before we were moved to my post-partum room.  The hospital has really come a long way in the 2 years since Shaylin's birth & is trying to be more baby-friendly.

My recovery was so different this time.  Before even leaving the L&D room Jeremy commented on how different I seemed this time.  I felt great, other than a sore tailbone.  I know just the fact that I didn't tear has a lot with how much better I felt.  There were no drugs in my system that I was waiting to come out.  I had a very alert baby who nursed like a pro almost immediately.

I don't like to use the word "amazing" because it tends to be overused but I don't know how else to describe the whole experience with any other word.  Maybe empowering?  Not in a feminist kind of way.  But just feeling like I could do anything.  I went into this thinking of it as a marathon & I've come out of it with an even greater feeling than my 26.2 mile race gave me.  It was by far the most physically, emotionally, & mentally challenging experience of my life but also the greatest.  When I ran a marathon it showed me that God made me capable to complete such a challenge.  But to give birth naturally it showed that He created my body to be able to do something so much more incredible.  And I'm so thankful that He has again blessed us with another miracle & made us a family of four.

"A woman at birth is at once her most powerful, and her most vulnerable.  But any woman who has birth unhindered understands that we are stronger than we know."  ~  Marci Macari

*Birth photography provided by Embrace Birth Doula Service & Photography

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