Sunday, March 2, 2008

The whole story...

The Story of Gabriel
the amazing and honest telling of a natural homebirth

*There are explicit photographs used as part of this so if you are related to me and don't want to see me naked, request the non-graphic version!

January 11th. I woke up and looked at the clock. 2:50AM on Friday mourning. Man, what did I eat last night? I get up to go to the bathroom and come back to bed. Can’t sleep. Uh-oh…it’s happening again. Look at the clock: 3:05AM. Hmmm. Let’s wait and see. (Fast-forward) It’s almost 4:00am…and it’s still happening. Time to wake up Rob. “ROB! I THINK I’m IN LABOR!” He jumps up…and we call the Midwife. “Hi, Dale? It’s Rob…Annette it 15 minutes apart. Uh-huh…okay…thanks…sorry…bye”. It’s a little early in the game to go nuts just yet. We called our “team”; my mother and my best friend Shanon and they start heading over. A few hours go by and we talk to Dale again. “Come into my office for the appointment we had planed for today and we’ll see how things are going”. So we did. 11:00am we went to our appointment, about 10 minutes apart. Incidentally…contractions in a car SUCK. “Go grocery shopping or something…watch a funny movie to keep your mind off things…it’s going to be a while”. So we went home…and I opted to rest…figuring it was only going to get more chaotic and less restful. It was still early, but you never know when things are going to “happen”. A few hours later they were at our house and I was still in “early stages of labor”. It can last for over 14 hours in a first time pregnancy so we were ready for that. As we approached second stage…Dale and her assistant Jenn arrived. This can be many hours as well and again, we didn’t know how long it might last. By this point, I was in a tank top and underwear; after all, clothes tend to work against the goal in this scenario.

By this point, I was walking around the living room and Rob had finished assembling the Birth Pool that we didn’t think we’d be needing for another week or so. The water filling had begun…and the drama with it since there was confusion and debate as to how the damn thing worked and if it was working and how the water should be blah blah blah. I had a moment of outer body awareness where I laughed at the absurdity of it all, and then I returned for another contraction.

Finally I got into the pool, and the clothes come off. You’d think that it would be odd stripping naked in front of 5 people who you would never imagine being naked in front of all at once, but after the initial awareness, the needs go before all else and I didn’t want pretend to be all modest when a little human being was going to be coming out of me within the day.

The water felt wonderful. Warm enough to get the job done and the weightlessness was just what I needed to have some relief of pressure. Unfortunately, the most persistent pain of my entire labor kicked in while IN the water; a stabbing pain in my right side. Perhaps little feet kicking a major organ? We still don’t know, it just hurt like crazy. The interesting part of that was I was annoyed at that pain because it distracted me from what I was trying to do. Labor pain felt manageable. I breathed and sang and used these deep deep tones…lower than I thought possible from my voice…it was intense, but manageable. I got out of the pool and Dale recommended we take a nap. I laid in bed on my left side all propped up with pillows and we noticed that for the first time, the baby’s heart rate was a little more irregular than we liked when I was on that side. Otherwise, everything was fine. So, I avoided leaning on that side thereafter.

Now, my timeline might be off…because “labor land” as they call it, it QUITE disorienting. I had almost no concept of time (and I do believe there is a reason for that) so it doesn’t seem like long for my memory. That early stage of labor lasted about 16 hours and the second stage was probably 10 or so. All the while, my mother is a whirlwind of housekeeping; circling the house with clean towels and her organizational impulses. Shanon was an indispensable second husband being that she had done this only a year and a half ago and could anticipate with great accuracy what I needed during a contraction. Rob had napped for the better part of early labor so he could be fully “there” when he was needed at the end of it all.

Now, at this point I started using the stairs. Up and down up and down, over and over trying to bring on stronger contractions. Dale checked me to see how dilated I was, and I recall that I was pretty far along…but there was still an “anterior lip”; a bit of cervix in the way preventing the baby from dropping down far enough. I began a regiment of pushes at the top and bottom of the stairs.
The idea was to use pressure from within to move that little bit out of the way.

Somewhere in this whole segment, our midwife made mention of moving to the hospital for help if we didn’t progress within the hour. I have told people that in retrospect, the reason this didn’t scare me was that I trusted my whole team…and myself…and I knew that if there was any real danger, I would not be given a timeline …or an option. I remember getting to the top of the stairs and Rob was dressed to go. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, my mother and Shanon had packed the bags and moved everything to the living room to load up the car. I kept walking. I figured if I was going to the hospital it was going to be because I had nothing left to give, not because I gave up. I asked Rob what he thought we should do and he said “I think we should go”. I think I said something like “well, I’m going to keep going and we’ll see what happens”. And I did.

In comes the birth stool (a small chair, resembling a message chair designed to assist in labor using a seated position). I came to sit in the chair to push past the cervix that way for a bit. This is to my memory, the part that changed things for me. I had passed the third “one hour” warning, so things were moving. I would progress and then hit another wall. I wanted to sit down on the stool to rest, but I knew that though contractions hurt less when I was there they weren’t as intense. Problem is; MORE intense is what brings you closer to the end. I was pulling away from the pain, which is a natural response to pain. You don’t often hurt yourself on purpose and fully conscious of it.

I sat in the stool and Dale instructed me to push beyond where she was pressing. This was (as anyone who’s experienced this particular complication will tell you) the most PAINFUL part of the whole thing. And here was my inner battle; I have to push through this right now…or I’m going to have to go to the hospital because I gave up. It’s not a matter of safety or danger…it’s all me. I have to dive into the pain and get to the other side so I can have my baby at home. Total surrender. I could hear Rob and Shanon and a mish-mosh of what sounded like 100 voices saying “you can do this Annette! I know it hurts but you have to get through this part” Rob was in my ear “Annette we’re closer to our baby…and you are the most amazing woman I’ve ever known”. Only with that could I have done this. I had my moment and I pushed…this was probably an hour…I have no clue. Dale felt confident enough to move us upstairs. I was fully effaced and dilated and ready to go.

In what felt like a tornado, women rushed around me, setting up the plastic shower curtain on the floor, pulling together all the birth supplies and moving the whole team upstairs to the final stage. We had agreed that the bedroom made the most sense so that I could get in bed afterward with ease. This is where my time-line gets completely wonky. I am told that this was a few hours more…but it was minutes to me. We get into the bedroom and I am on the stool again. This worked well enough for us all so we thought it might be the way for me. Rob was sitting behind me on the edge of the bed, my mother in the doorway and Shanon at my left. Our midwife and doula/assistant were moving around managing the situation quite well. I don’t remember how it happened, but I got up and turned over, to straddle the chair and face Rob. Almost instantaneously, I had the urge to PUSH. “Urge” isn’t even the right word. If someone had said “don’t push” …I would have punched them in the face. There was no way in the world that this baby wasn’t coming out because every muscle in my body took over. I pushed with all of my being and I felt arms and legs moving around “down there”. I imagined that the baby had come out…but it didn’t feel like I was done…then Dale says “the baby is crowing!” WHAT?! THERE’S MORE? Again, HUGE contraction, and again I’m thinking “this will give you your baby…just dive in” and I look up and Rob is crying. I'll never forget the look on his face; total love and amazement. My mother and Shanon are saying “OMG! YOU DID IT! THE BABY!”

I still couldn’t see. I was facing Rob and I couldn’t see anything else! I’m trying to turn around and everyone rushes to stop me but I can’t hear the baby. Then I heard it. And they turned me around. Everyone was crying and Dale gives me my baby with a towel over him. Rob is holding me and I’m holding my baby. I passed the placenta and they sat me down on the floor leaning on Rob. There we were. Holding our…OMG! WHAT IS IT? “Is it a boy or a girl?”…nobody checked yet! I uncover the new blanket they had transferred him to so I can check. “IT’S A BOY!” …and then he peed on me. Dale asked us what his name was and Rob looked at me as if to say “after what I just say you can name him!” We had a quick moment to confer and announced “Gabriel Edward”.

Everyone helped me transfer to the bed with Gabriel in my arms and propped us up all comfy. Dale cleared out the room for us so our little family could have some time alone. For at least an hour, Rob and I sat with our new baby and stared at him and how amazing he was. He nursed and slept and looked around. So alert and so strong. He had his first check-up right on the bed and was weighed “8 pounds 2 ounces”. His head was a total cone because the labor was long and caused molding, but that went away within two days. I needed a few stitches but was otherwise euphoric for the rest of the day. It turns out that the chord was around his arm and that’s why when I leaned on that side, it slowed his heart-rate. The whole thing from start to finish was thirty-nine and a half hours*but I didn’t feel the length of it…I only wish I could say the same for our birth team! We are so proud and so happy, not to mention grateful for all of the help and love we have been given. .

*scroll down for a little controvercial social commentary and personal reflection*

*Regarding our choice to have our baby naturally: I now feel prepared for motherhood in way that I could not have imagined with all the research in the world. I had to face a part of myself that would have been too easy to hand over if someone was there with a syringe in my face offering to take it all away. A mother I knew a few years ago had relayed her decision to have a hospital birth stating that she “wasn’t trying to be a super hero or anything”. I thought of that throughout this experience and I now feel very differently about that statement then I had initially. At first, it occurred to me that many people might perceive this choice as some sort of arrogance but I now believe I understand where that comes from; fear. Fear that she could not “do it” and that comes from our foolish social perception that women can’t have babies without the help of a surgeon (that is what an OB is after all) who must rescue her when she can’t handle it anymore. I spent two years, before we conceived, re-programming myself…working with myself and my perception of what womanhood is to really own this rite of passage because I wanted to have a fair shot; something that I don’t believe the average woman has. The cards are all stacked against us in this endeavor…the minute we tell the world our happy news. The expectations of others are a heavy burden and only grow stronger with the constant and often ridiculous back-up they receive from the media (if I have to see one more ridiculously over-simplified and unrealistic depiction of childbirth on TV I am going to scream). They show nothing but pain and screaming for drugs…so that’s what women experience today…in the US. This is what we are up against…and we are fools to underestimate the power of social influence. All I wish for us is a fair chance…a realistic look at our options…an informed choice. I choose to embrace the most empowering thing a woman can do; "I" delivered my baby...with backup. I chose to feel like the superhero that I am and I can draw on the strength of that in my darkest hours. If more girls saw what women are capable of; bare bones and in their most primal moments, “self image” would be far less of a problem in our culture.

Regarding Homebirth: Even counting from when active labor started (when we would have gone to the hospital if we had an obstetrician) it was still 23.5 hours. If we had gone the hospital route, I would have been given pitocin for “failure to progress” after 12 hours, then when the pain from artificially intensified contractions was too much, they’d give me an epidural and all of this would force them to have me on a continuous monitor which prevents you from moving and confines you to lying on your back. Considering how the only time I could manage the pain was on all fours and/or facing down, I am reasonably sure that I would have ended up with a Caesarian Section if I chose to have my baby in a hospital. We did it naturally and we did it in the comforts of our own home and I couldn’t be happier. I am surer now than ever that our country seriously needs to reconsider how we look at birth and the role of the mother. We are the ONLY civilized nation that goes to an Obstetrician for a normal child birth. Midwives are used in the rest of the world AND with a better success/mortality rate than the U.S. I am thrilled to be a part of the statistics that will help to move us back to the empowering and healthy way that children and parents were meant to experience birth. ontractions in a car SUCK. 10 mintues apart. Incidentally...and we' again. "