Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lola's Birth Story: Part 1

Hi. It's me again. Thanks for bearing with me as I spend time getting to know my sweet girl. It hasn't been easy, but we're slowly getting the hang of our new way of life as a family of three and truly loving every minute of the journey. I've been keeping notes of what's been going on lately and look forward to sharing what I've been learning with you soon. We've got lots to catch up on! And just in case you missed it, you can read up on the beginning of our birth story here, if you'd like.

Where did we leave off? Right, I was praying for lots and lots of contractions.

Almost immediately after my 11:00 a.m. 40 week appointment with Heather Thursday morning I began to feel some stronger contractions. She warned me this might happen from the membrane sweep, but that it could definitely subside if Baby wasn't ready. I tried to not let myself get too hopeful since I had been having patterns of stronger contractions that didn't amount to anything for exactly two weeks at this point. So I went on with my day.

I came home and got a snack before heading off to Target to pick up a few last minute things and get some movement in. The contractions were noticeably getting stronger, but still easy to push into the background. I must have had some look of concentration on my face as I was walking through the parking lot toward the front doors because the man selling his Real Change papers out front stopped me to ask when I was due. I excitedly told him, "I'm in labor right now!" He said he could tell and wished me good luck.

While at Target, I began to notice myself breathing a bit more intentionally through each surge. I decided I should keep walking, so I strolled through some of the other close by shops, eventually making my way back home. The next couple hours are a bit fuzzy, but I'm sure I was just scooting around the house waiting for Arthur to get home from work. My contractions were definitely stronger and consistent, but they seemed to have plateaued. I wasn't convinced they were going to stick.

Arthur got home sometime around five in the evening. We both continued to mill about while I focused on breathing through the still relatively mild (in hindsight) contractions. I didn't have much of an appetite, but nibbled on some bread, apple and a cup of vanilla ice cream for dinner. I wanted to make sure I was fueled for labor, but was nervous about eating too much in case I was going to dive into hard labor soon and didn't want to throw everything up.

The night wore on and I began to have periods of higher intensity surges followed by nearly unnoticeable ones. I took to the labor ball, my familiar old friend, but this time draped over it with my knees on the ground, belly free to hang. This position never was one of my favorites at yoga or at home, but for now it felt best. Noticing that things were more intense than usual, Arthur suggested we check in with our doula, Matilda. He phoned her and they decided we would try timing the contractions for an hour. I wasn't impressed by the idea since I could tell the contractions were about the same distance apart as they had been for the preceding two weeks—it was the intensity that was new—but I agreed.

He pulled up the app on my phone and I would try to tell him "Now!" when a contraction would start. But it was difficult to sense some of the contractions until they were nearly over. I would have a long span of discomfort and then it would dissipate for a while. I was getting quite frustrated as everything began to blur together and I couldn't seem to differentiate one contraction from the next. Arthur suggested we stop timing if it was too overwhelming, so we did. What a relief!

I curled up on the couch and broke down about how I wasn't convinced these contractions were going to turn into labor. Nothing about them seemed consistent enough. I was so emotionally drained from doing this dance every night, and this one in particular was just too real feeling. Such a cruel trick, I thought. I was angry, I was anxious, I wanted to meet my baby.

It was getting late. I think we were both waiting up thinking something interesting might happen, but it was time to go to bed. At my appointment, Heather mentioned that, if I was feeling up to it, sex is good after a membrane sweep to help labor progress. The prostaglandins in semen can help to ripen the cervix, while also getting oxytocin flowing, which would bring on contractions. We made it happen, but I can't say it was all that enjoyable. It all felt strange and I was crampy and entirely uncomfortable. All it really seemed to do was shake me up and put me into tears. Well, and there was another bloody show. Not all that romantic.

We finally committed to sleep around 11:30 and I dozed off shortly after. I slept uninterrupted for an hour and a half until 1:00 a.m. when I woke to consistent and strong contractions. They were unwavering at five minutes apart and hovering around 60 seconds long. Finally! I knew this was it.

I tried going back to sleep, but after an hour of tossing and wincing through each rush, I made my way to the living room to watch TV and swirl on the labor ball. The next couple hours were quiet and methodical. I sat in the dark with just the glow of the barely audible TV and gently rocked my hips on the ball, stopping to breathe through moments of intensity. It was chilly, so I bundled up in a blanket and set in for the long haul not knowing just how long this would go on. It felt surreal that the time had come, but it also felt oddly casual.

Around 4 a.m. I needed to go to the bathroom, which produced another bloody show—the biggest yet. I decided I would call in to talk with the on-call midwife. It was Mia this time. She didn’t seem phased and encouraged me to continue laboring at home. She also told me that Fra Na would be replacing her at the next shift around 8 a.m.. Perfect! Fra Na is by far the most senior out of the midwives and has been delivering babies for probably 30 years. We also spent quite a bit of time with her during Centering. We would be in good hands.

I figured I should wake Arthur to tell him what was going on. He woke without a fuss  and watched me breathe through a handful of contractions within about 10 minutes. It was then, tensely sitting on the edge of our bed in the pitch black, that it started to hit me that this was really happening, as in, we’re only moving forward with no turning back. Not that there ever was that option. I offered to let him go back to sleep, but he said he didn't want to. So I went back to my ball and he joined me a few minutes later fully dressed for the day. My heart was swelling with excitement.

We cozied up on the couch together and watched the still barely audible TV. The room remained quiet and dark. I realized I was incredibly tired, but doubted I could commit to laying down in bed for some sleep, so Arthur helped me get propped up on the couch and draped a blanket over me. I remember in Centering hearing one of the midwives talk about how some women doze off in between contractions. We all balked at how ridiculous that sounded, but I get it now. I managed to sleep for a few minutes at a time in between rushes, but it truly felt like a lifetime. Even just the few sleeps I got, which surely didn't amount to more than 20 or 30 minutes total, gave me enough energy to keep going. This rest ended up being essential.

After waking up from my daze, I realized Arthur had gone back to bed. Part of me was glad he did, but it also made me realize that labor wasn't progressing all that quickly. A bit frustrated, I questioned whether I was going to have to go through more days of labor at this new intensity. I was, however, beginning to moan through each surge. This was new.

Finally the sun started to rise on Friday morning. I needed to refuel myself, so I dug into my labor snack bag and pulled out some cheesy crackers, a string cheese, and coconut water with a splash of gatorade (you know, to take the gross coconut water edge off). I sipped and snacked little by little.

Arthur finally woke up around 7 just as my contractions were getting slightly stronger and moans much louder. I wondered to myself whether the neighbors could hear and what they might make of my loud primal noises. To cope, I alternated between sitting on the ball and draping myself over it. So we decided to call Matilda to check in. As I rhythmically moaned draped over the ball, she and Arthur chatted about my progress. She mentioned that she could hear my deep moaning in the background and that it sounded really low and good. I decided after our hospital visit a couple weeks prior, which Matilda came to, that I didn't want her to come until I was deeper into labor. So we told her we would call her when we decided to leave for the hospital.

I wasn't entirely sure at what point I was going to be ready for the hospital, but I told Arthur that it was probably going to be whenever my contractions “stepped up another notch”. I knew I wanted to leave before things got too intense since we had a 20–30 minute car ride to the hospital. So I packed our last minute things and got our bags together knowing that we would be heading out sometime that day. I was surprised that labor was feeling less obvious than I thought it would. There was no 4-1-1 rule playing out, no water breaking, and I wasn’t sure if my contractions were really worth going to the hospital over.

Right around 9 a.m. I convinced Arthur to go for a walk with me. So after hopping on his computer to check in at work, he tied my shoes and helped me get my coat on and we hit the road—or the sidewalk, rather. At a snails pace we walked up and down our block for an hour, stopping just about every three minutes to breathe through a contraction.

Our neighborhood cat, Molly, happily joined us for the latter half, stopping when we would stop and keeping pace. Toward the end some contractions weren’t even a minute apart and the intensity was feeling less manageable. My moaning was loud and took all my concentration. Arthur suggested going inside as we passed our walkway, but I wanted to make one more lap. No more than a few steps later I decided it was time and we fled the drizzly weather to gather our things inside.

I kind of just stood there, in the living room, doubting in my head whether this was the right decision. Would they send us back home once we got there? Was I further along than I thought? I had nothing to compare this to. I reluctantly said, “Let’s go...” and we were off.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Lola's birth story coming next!

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