Thursday, May 30, 2013

Supermom! How I birthed my baby -- Part 9

Today, in Part 9 of our birth stories' series, Sara Pearsall shares her experience with natural childbirth (despite the pain), thanks to a birthing plan she and her husband came up with ahead of time.

Ellie Sara   JP Photog-gra-fee
Our story starts about ten months before we welcomed our daughter in to the world. We were living in Hawaii, on the island of O’ahu. At this time our close friends were ready and waiting to meet their little boy. He arrived a little bit ahead of schedule and was a true blessing! We hurried to the hospital to meet him (and congratulate them). As soon as I held that little one in my arms I knew I was ready to have a baby of our own. However, we had already decided we were not going to take the road in to parenthood. It took a little bit of soul searching and some convincing, but eventually we agreed to give it a try. 

A few weeks later, as we were driving across the country (from Hawaii to Virginia) we discovered some amazing news; we were having a little one of our own! It was a little intimidating for me because it happened very quickly after we had decided to try. I feel very strongly that the reason it was so quick for us is that I had been seeing an acupuncturist for over a year. I feel that, thanks to her guidance in helping to make my body healthy, it was ready for some baby making!

After finding the best doctor in our new hometown and confirming that we indeed had a bundle on the way, we headed to the bookstore to buy all the books we could to prepare us for pregnancy and beyond (my favorite were the Ina May Gaskin books). We signed up for Bradley Birthing classes and immediately started being more cognitive of my eating habits (which were always healthy, but thanks to the nausea, I had lost my appetite). I was trying to stay active by walking every day and taking prenatal yoga classes.

At 24 weeks, I started to feel some back pain, but wrote it off as my body changing to carry the weight. As a couple more days passed, I started feeling some tightness across my belly, but knew Braxton-Hicks contractions were not unheard of at this point. After another day of back pain and tummy tightness, I finally called the doctor and was quickly admitted to the hospital for early labor. It took two days to get the contractions under control. Thankfully, there was no progress otherwise, but none-the-less I was put on bed rest. It was awfully boring! Following several weeks of appointments with our doctors and midwife, the bed rest was relaxed to allow me some light “around the house” activities. At 34 weeks, all restrictions were lifted and my doctors encouraged that I try to be “reasonably” active.

Listening to the advice of our Bradley instructor we did some research and came up with a birthing plan. We kept it simple (as was suggested by the Labor and Delivery nurse in our Bradley classes). Our basic desires were to have a natural birth without being offered any medications, formula or pacifiers. We asked that my husband be informed at all times of labor progression because we knew I may just be a little preoccupied to make the best decisions should an emergency arise. Our doctors and midwife were very supportive of our choices. We knew, since I had already spent three days in the labor and delivery unit, that the nursing staff would be caring and understanding as well.

As the end was drawing nearer, I found myself becoming more and more anxious to meet our little lady. I began nesting as much as was possible in our small apartment. So, on Sunday, February 26, to prepare for the arrival of our little one, I was trying to get our living room in order. We went out looking for a clock to hang on the wall. We moseyed about several stores and enjoyed a wonderful lunch. Returning home without any good finds, I decided to put my feet up and just relax on the couch. I was worn out, but otherwise felt pretty great. According to the doctors’ proclaimed delivery date, I was at 36 weeks. Within twenty minutes of sitting down, I felt a pretty strong contraction. The time was 5:45 p.m.

About an hour later, the contractions were coming irregularly but were increasing in strength. Naturally I did what any person in labor would do; I called my Mom (my entire family lives in Ohio). We knew from our Bradley classes that if you cannot continue to talk through a contraction, they are becoming pretty serious and you should prepare to leave soon, or ready your birthing area if you chose to do it at home. While on the phone with my mom, I had to stop talking more than once. Here was our cue to call the doctor. I was just leery because of the irregular time between each contraction as well as the length of each. We knew we could get sent home if it wasn’t true labor. Well, that thought was completely thrown out when the nurse on duty found out my laboring history. We were told to head in immediately.

Of course, we had not packed a bag yet so I was running (more like waddling quickly) around throwing stuff in a suitcase while my husband was worrying about the important stuff like doing a load of laundry and making sure he put the baby swing together (all by my request of course)! At this point it had been about an hour and fifteen minutes. My contractions were ranging from 30 seconds to 1 minute in length and were happening randomly every 3-10 minutes.

After what felt like the longest walk down the flight of stairs from our apartment to the truck (we had to stop twice for contractions), my husband helped load me in the front seat and off we went. The birthing center was about 20 minutes away, depending on traffic in the tunnels. Now, most people would exceed the speed limit to make the journey a little faster. Not my concerned man. Nope. He drove at the speed limit the entire way. He was making all of the important phone calls to our parents letting them know what was going on. About 10 minutes into the trip, we both realized my contractions had regulated and they were every 3 minutes or less and were lasting about 1-2 minutes each. Because of the contractions, it took some time walking into the birthing center once we arrived. At this point, I was having visions of delivering on the doorstep!

Once we got signed in and shown to our birthing room, the nurse asked the obvious questions about my progress, took my vitals and started hooking me up to the contraction monitor. We talked for about a minute regarding our birthing plan before she checked to see how far I was dilated, which at this point had been the worst part of this entire process. The look on her face was enough to tell us we were going to be staying a while (I was 8 centimeters dilated). She left to call the doctor. My contractions up this point had not been unbearable, or even bad really, it just took some concentration to get through them.

Meanwhile, my husband was being very supportive and attentive. He was coaching me through the contractions, massaging, and trying to draw my focus to positive thoughts – especially the one about meeting our daughter soon. Then transition hit. I don’t remember much about this phase because everything was happening so fast it sort of blurred together. I know I was very scared. I know that I asked for an epidural, which my husband continuously reminded me we had decided we did not want. We both knew I could have this baby naturally. He tells me I got a little feisty a few times between contractions, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle. Thankfully transition was quite short! The nurse had been back to check on us a few times and we could tell she was getting antsy to see the doctor. We joked about her delivering the baby, but it seemed like it was going to be reality pretty quickly.

The practice we had chosen had two doctors and a midwife on staff. Throughout the pregnancy we met with each of them several times. We knew that any one of them could be helping us to deliver our little one. When Dr. Lee walked into our room just a short while later, we were both so relieved to see her! We knew we were in good hands. At this point, my water had not yet broken. Dr. Lee broke my water, which was pretty uneventful. I felt a little trickle, not the massive gush I had heard about from so many other women.

My husband, Dr. Lee, and the two nurses who were in the room did an amazing job of coaching me through the first two series of pushes. I was not quiet. There was definitely some moaning and yelling. During the third series our daughter started to crown. I was having a difficult time breathing so I was given some oxygen to help. Dr. Lee told me to get ready to push again. I remember telling her rather bluntly “No.” She gave me an understanding look, told me to take another couple of breaths, and then we would continue. My husband, to be encouraging, told me he could see our daughter’s hair. This stopped everything for me. I yelled out, “She has hair!” which apparently everyone else in the room found rather funny. One more series of pushes, and our daughter was fully delivered, followed by a huge gush of fluid that, sadly, covered everyone in the room except my husband. I felt horrible about this, but was so distracted by the beautiful little girl in my arms! The time was 10:32 p.m.

While our daughter was laying on my chest, she peed, which I thought was pretty funny, amazing and beautiful all at the same time. I tried nursing her right away. She suckled for a couple of seconds but not much more. Eventually, Dr. Lee said we needed to cut the cord because the placenta was about to be delivered (we had previously discussed delayed cord clamping). Delivering the placenta felt very weird. I remember thinking about Jello right about that time. After that part was over, I needed stitches (9 total) due to a second degree tear. For me, this turned out to be the most painful of the entire labor and delivery. My body did not have enough time to naturally “numb” that area so I could feel everything and it hurt pretty badly. Dr. Lee administered more than one shot to numb me, but it didn’t seem to help. I had to hand our daughter to my husband (they did all of her vitals and checked her length and weight at this point).

After everything was over, one of the nurses came in to help me shower off, then moved me to the room I’d be in for the rest of our stay. It was determined our daughter was 38 weeks old and absolutely perfect in every single way! She was 5 pounds 7 ounces and 21 inches long. We spent the next couple of days, with the amazing support of the hospital staff, beginning the process of nursing and getting to know our little one.

Our choice to have a natural birth was met with a lot of questions along the way. Why would you want to do that when there are drugs available? We had our reasons. The top of my list was that women are designed to birth babies. Our bodies can do it and we can take it. We are made that way. I did have some reservations at times wondering about my own tolerance level, but I received some amazing advice from my aunt at my baby shower. She told me that when she birthed all three of her girls, including my twin cousins, it hurt… a lot. She said it was the best feeling in the world because that short bit of pain was bringing her beautiful babies into their lives. She told me to stick to my decision and not let anyone tell me otherwise. I think it helped most just to be supported so openly for once. Along your journey to birthing your little ones – however you chose to do it – I hope you find the same adamant support for your choices. Stand by them. You can do it! You are strong enough!

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While Sara was able to follow through with her plan, I realize it doesn't always work out that way, as is evidenced by some of the other stories in the series. Click the links below to read some amazing birth stories from our group of Supermoms!


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