Sunday, August 25, 2013

Anara's birth story

A few hours after Anara's birth.

TMI alert! Stop reading now if you are squeamish about medical stuff. 

I knew going into this pregnancy that I wanted to try for a natural delivery.  

Finley’s birth was dramatic -- a c-section under general anesthesia in a foreign country. I am so proud of myself for that birth and thankful for cesareans -- they save so many lives, including my son’s and mine, and they are just the right choice for many people. 

However, this baby was not breech and my doctor was very supportive of VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), so I was hopeful to try for a natural delivery because I wanted an quicker recovery and no chance of a failed epidural.

At my 38 week checkup I was very tired and my blood pressure registered high.  Despite waiting twice and checking it again, it remained at 140/95, so my doctor ordered tests to rule out pre-eclampsia, a dangerous condition for both mother and baby.  My doctor reassured me that it probably wasn’t anything more than mild hypertension that we would need to keep an eye on.  The tests came and went and everything looked great -- no sign of pre-eclampsia and the baby looked great on the ultrasound and non-stress test.

I had a follow-up appointment with a different OB after those tests, but I wasn’t worried. Austin wasn’t even with me because I figured it would be just a routine “you’re doing great!” kind of check-in.

However, that’s not how it went.  

I saw a different doctor and learned that my regular OB was on vacation for the next two weeks (I knew there was a good chance I would end up with a different doctor on call for delivery, but I expected my last weeks of care would be with the same person).  The new doctor told me right away that my blood pressure levels at the office were high enough to warrant induction or to schedule a c-section before 39 weeks.  

This was so, so upsetting since I had just done all the tests and my blood pressure at home was consistently only normal to mildly high.  To make matters worse, I was alone at the appointment and there was some scheduling confusion, so I had to wait and talk to three different people about when I was coming back in for my next appointment, and they kept saying they needed to schedule me for another c-section.  I kept saying that I needed to talk with my husband and that I had a few days to determine whether that was really what I needed to do. The scheduling lady at my doctor’s office was horribly unsympathetic and made extremely unprofessional comments, so I left the office in tears. 

I had four days before I was supposed to go in to see the same OB again. 
Four days to track my blood pressure and see if it was high at home.
Four days to prepare for another c-section and put aside my hopes for a natural labor. 
Four days to try to reassure myself that the epidural would work this time around and I would be awake for the birth and not have the shocking pain I had with Finley when I woke up from general anesthesia.  

I cried a lot. 

I kept saying to Austin that I wished the universe would throw me a bone and I would go into labor early...before my appointment with the OB.  I also knew I would have a c-section in a heartbeat if it was warranted -- but I thought it would be a damn shame to schedule a major surgery for mildly high blood pressure.  

The night before my appointment, at 4 a.m., I woke up very uncomfortable with some early labor signs.  I tried to ignore them and sleep more, but by 6 a.m. I started having contractions.  They were still not strong or close together, and my labor with Finley lasted for so long...I assumed they might still be a false labor.  

By 7, they were regular.  My appointment was at 8.  I called my mom and told her to come up in case I was really in labor, and I also called my doula, Mitzi, who advised me to go to the appointment just to get checked.  After all, the worst they could tell me was that I wasn’t in active labor yet and I should go back home. 

On the drive there, I should've had a clue about how fast my labor was going to go.  I had to hang on to the car handle because the contractions started to get really intense.  They also picked up in pace.  I got to the office and couldn’t talk through them.  Despite having contractions, though, when they took my blood pressure it was totally normal!  

I saw the OB and she checked me.  I was preparing to hear that I was maybe one c.m. dilated, but she looked at me in surprise.  

“You’re 5 centimeters dilated and 90 percent effaced. Time to go to the hospital!” 

I looked at Austin in shock. We got right on the road.  By the time we got the car parked and made our way up to the third floor (I declined the wheelchair...I just couldn’t!) I was having very intense contractions. We checked into the room and I met my nurse for the first time.

At this point my contractions were 2 minutes apart and lasting 1.5 minutes in length.  They were so strong they felt like my entire body was being gripped and squeezed. I could barely breathe through them, and it was so much more intense and painful than anything I had experienced in my first labor.  With Finley I felt like I could manage each one, but in this labor I felt like they were taking over.  There weren’t really any comfort measures that worked.

It didn’t help that my nurse, on first impression, asked me what my plan was for pain management and I told her that I wanted to try a natural delivery.  She looked at me with a stony face right and said, “You know it’s going to get a lot worse.” 

I whimpered and looked to Austin and my doula for support and told them I didn’t know if I could do this without painkiller. I’m guessing it was about 10 a.m. by this point.

Austin was great -- he kept saying, “You don’t need it. You are doing it! Don’t worry...” and I was like, “Psh, get out of my face!”  The thought of being in labor for a whole day with pain at that level was terrifying. I wanted to tell him that he could try to do it if he really wanted to, lol.

My doula’s words at that point were magic. She looked at me and said she really didn’t think I had much longer.  She said that from what she could see, I was at the worst of it and that I was doing an amazing job. 

And you know what?  The contractions never got worse.  The pain never got worse beyond 5 c.m.

Doulas are the most wonderful thing ever.  It's the smartest move to hire one for your birth, and I'm so happy I did for both of my births.  My doula here in Michigan is awesome and I totally recommend her.

Anyway, soon after that horrid statement the nurse made, she had to give me a catheter (sorry TMI) and she was like, “um, I see hair down here...and it’s not yours.”  She looked at me and smiled and was like, “I guess we better call the doctor!”  My labor had progressed much faster than she’d assumed.

There were a ton of babies being born that morning so the doctors were busy, but my OB came and met me and I instantly loved her.  She was one of the six OBs at my practice, and I had met her before and she seemed very encouraging and enthusiastic.  She came in and checked me and found that I was “complete” and that the baby was basically at the door. She asked me if I wanted to push, and I said I wasn’t feeling “pushy,” so she told me that she’d be ready when I was and that she didn’t want to make me push until I felt ready. 

I kept having contractions for more than an hour.  I had continuous fetal monitoring so we knew the baby’s heartbeat was strong. I loved it that all the hospital staff were so relaxed about it.  They came in and set up all the birthing stuff and were joking with me.  The nurse, whom I had initially thought I hated, was super smiley and told me I was making birth look easy.  Of course then I loved her. 

Finally, I did have some pushing urges, so the doctors got ready.  

I had a contraction, and at the end of it, I felt the urge to push.  I was so scared of this part of labor beforehand, but in the midst of it, it really didn’t feel like anything I expected.  There is really nothing on earth like it.  It’s like the most physically challenging and yet natural thing ever.  I’ve always made jokes about how it sucks to be a woman because you have to do things like this, but when it came right down to it, birthing was incredible, despite hurting. 

I pushed for five contractions -- about 20 minutes -- and I never had to push when I didn’t feel the urge. I had only a teeny tiny tear. 

In retrospect I think the pushing was so quick because I never started until I felt really ready to.  Had I been urged to start pushing when I was “complete,” it would’ve taken hours.

Baby Anara was born at 12:59, just six hours after my labor started, and they put her right on my chest. Austin cut the cord.  Austin was crying and emotional. I’ll be perfectly honest -- my first thought was of sheer relief that it was over, and then incredulity that I had given birth to the tiny being on my chest.

Weighing in at 7lbs, 7oz. 

I was up and walking around the day after delivery and my recovery was so much easier than the first time around.  I literally did not feel like I gave birth just days after.

 I’m still in shock over Anara’s perfect timing and my fast labor. I really couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. 
Me with my nurse, doctor, Austin, and baby Anara.

1 comment:

the masts: justin, jessica, benjamin and philip said...

Yay! I'm SO happy for you! I was certainly praying that you'd have a natural birth, after Finley's. But I never imagined it'd be so quick for you! It goes to show how much better suited a head is at opening the cervix than a bum!!