Saturday, October 3, 2009

Birth Story - Part One

I know I like to read birth stories, so I thought it might be a good idea to blog about mine. Of my four birth experiences, I would say that overall this was the best of them partly because it was the best of both worlds: a midwife but with hospital back-up if anything special was needed for either me or the baby. Thankfully, all went well but it was nice to know it was there.

It's impossible for me not to compare the different birth experiences, so let me first offer a recap of the first three and then tomorrow I will talk more about Luke's birth and why it was better overall than the others.

My first, Owen, was HELL! Most first-timers have their toughest birth with the first one since your body has no idea what it's doing. I began labor 3 days past my due date at around 7pm. By 10pm when the contractions were very regular and getting stronger, I realized I was in labor and called my doula. She told me to try to rest and call her back when I really needed her. She arrived at the house at 1am and sat with me all night. Around 10am, everything stopped. Looking back now, I realize that if I'd been in the hospital at that point that's when they would have started intervening to get things going again but it was actually my body's way of giving me a rest before the real action started. At noon things picked up and I went to the hospital at around 1pm.

When I got there they told me to change into a gown and checked me - I was 6 cm with a bulging bag of water that broke in the process of checking me. Because I'd been up for about 36 hours at this point, I started passing out from exhaustion between contractions. By 4pm, my body started trying desperately to push out the baby, but I was only at 8cm so they told me to breathe through the contractions. This was probably the toughest thing I've ever done and it went on for 2 hours. Then at some point I woke up from passing out and they told me to go ahead and start pushing. Well, I had NO IDEA how to push, especially after spending the last 2 hours trying NOT to push. So that went on for ANOTHER two hours, until Owen was finally born at 8pm.

My dr did do an episiotomy, but I don't know to what degree. I do know that I was in pain from it for the next two weeks, but at the time I just felt like maybe the pain was more from the overall experience than the episiotomy and stitches. I told everyone in the delivery room that Owen would DEFINITELY be an only child but within just a few days of holding that newborn, I knew that wasn't going to be true.

Nineteen months and one day later, I went back into the same hospital to have Sammy. I felt like I had been in labor all day, but didn't say anything. I was 4 days past my due date but the contractions weren't that strong and weren't regular at all, so I didn't want to say anything to Chris who is one to rush me to the hospital at the slightest twinge of pain. Around 6pm, I did tell him that I MIGHT be in labor and he immediately called his mom to come watch Owen. Around 7pm, I told him to call her back and tell her I might go to the hospital in the AM, but it wouldn't be happening before then.

An hour later, I all of a sudden had a contraction and felt the urge to push. I went to the bathroom and there was blood, so I told Chris to get his mom over to the house right away. We got to the hospital at 9pm and it was the same procedure as with Owen: get in a gown and let us check you. I was at 8cm. They called my dr and she said she would come in if either my water broke or if/when I felt like I had to push. (Wasn't that kind of lazy? Her patient is at 8cm and she's hanging out at home until the last possible minute? I didn't think so at the time, but now I guess I kinda do.) Anyway, at around 11pm I told the nurse I felt like I had to push, just to get my dr in there. She checked and I was complete, so she called my dr and I breathed through contractions until she got there 1/2 hour later. She broke my water, I pushed twice and out came Sammy at 11:45pm. What a BREEZE compared to the first time! I actually said "I could do THAT for a living!"

I did have a couple of stitches, but no episiotomy this time and my recovery was much easier. Sammy, by the way was 8.5 lbs compared to Owen's 7.14. After pushing for two hours with Owen, I was SOOOO embarrassed he didn't even weigh 8 lbs. I thought for sure he was 11 or 12 lbs!

Almost 3 years after Sammy's birth, I had William. Due to my CRAP health insurance, I was forced into a homebirth. If I had used my insurance and gone the traditional route at the hospital, my out of pocket cost would have been $4k. RIDICULOUS, esp since I had already paid $5k in premiums that year! So I found a midwife who lives about an hour from my house who does homebirths and charged only $1500. I was irritated that I was having to make a decision like this for financial reasons, but thankfully I was an excellent candidate for homebirth based on my first two natural, uncomplicated births.

I woke up 9 days past my due date and there was blood, so I knew I was in labor. I called the midwife to let her know and she told me to call back when I needed her to come. There was some concern about her getting to the house in time since it was December in Wisconsin, but the weather was clear that day. I called her again at 4pm and told her to come after 8pm, when the older boys would be in bed. She arrived around 8:30pm.

What a long and miserable labor that was! I don't know if my body forgot everything it had learned the first two times around or what! With the midwife, she didn't check my dilation at all until I specifically asked her to around 10pm and I was then at around 7 cm. I guess her philosophy was just that my body would eventually push the baby out no matter what I did, so just go with the flow. Well this was sooooo different than my hospital births, where I got a LOT of direction on what to do and when to do it.

She never checked me again and he wasn't born until almost 4am. I kept asking her if I should push and she would tell me it didn't matter, that my body knew what to do. In a way, this was a much more calm experience than all the "PUSH! PUSH" cheerleading that went on in the hospital, but I also realized I need a bit of that just so I would feel like a more active participant.

When it was all over, she laid William on my chest for about 45 minutes and didn't take him away until they had respectfully asked if they could. Unlike with my hospital births where the baby was considered their patient first, my baby second, the midwife and her assistant made me feel like the most important thing was allowing me to bond with my new son. It was really wonderful and something I'll never forget! Another thing that was very different was how she waited for every last bit of blood to leave the umbilical cord before she would cut it. I think this took about 20 minutes. I had asked for delayed cord cutting with the first two births, but I think the dr may have waited about 2 minutes and certainly not until it stopped pulsating. My midwife told me that no dr would wait that full 20 minutes, esp after being up all night! I don't know if she's right about that, but I know my dr wouldn't have based on her not even coming to the hospital when I was 8 cm dilated!

My midwife told me that she could probably give me one stitch if I wanted it, but it was a very minor tear so I opted to go without. What a difference that made in my recovery! It was also great to be at home with the baby the day after he was born. The midwife and her asst left by 6am and Owen and Sammy woke up an hour later and met their new brother. It was like Christmas - they never knew what happened! The recovery at home was the best part of the homebirth, I would say.

**Note: For anyone out there who's having a homebirth, there is one thing I forgot to do: I didn't lay out any clothes for after the birth. It was a little strange to have the midwife going through my drawers and picking out underwear for me as I was laying there in my bed. Just a tip!

So this will bring me to Luke's birth which I'll recap tomorrow for anyone who's interested. Hope you're all having a great weekend!

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