Well Rounded Birth Prep

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Guest post: Amber's intense homebirth story

Or, "Posterior birth is a pain in the sacrum."

You can read Part 1 of Amber's story here (How Amber prevented anemia & hemorrhage through healthy diet).

Originally posted Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 3:08am

I've finally pieced this birth together after copying my midwife's brief notes today. This is a very vivid account and not for anyone who is not prepared to hear it. Sorry it's disjointed...had to write it out in pieces.

It was the end of May when the braxton hicks really started kicking up and I was starting to get those first signs of my body getting ready for birth. My thoughts at the time were: Hmm, maybe I am supposed to be due in June after all, but I kept my mind open to that little nagging thought that I probably wouldn't go into labor for another month. The little one was still lying in various posterior positions, however, so I tried to focus on exercising and getting her to turn. I read dozens of stories and experiences with giving birth to a sunny-side up baby to help get myself mentally prepared for the thing I dreaded most: a hard, quick labor that would take me by surprise and not allow enough time for my midwife to make it to the birth.

Six weeks. Yes, six weeks passed of cramps, horrible nausea, back ache, hip ache, pelvic ache, and regular contractions that would start off strong and hard and then gradually dwindle away after a couple of hours. With every new burst of activity (every couple of days) I was having good strong signs of losing my plug. I knew it "could'nt" be long...right?

Looking back I can see know how I did gradually progress through labor. I remember noticing when the days of cramps turned into days of contractions 10 minutes apart into days of stronger contractions 6 minutes apart and so on. I remember the first night I was tempted to call my midwife. I'd had cramps all afternoon that turned into light contractions that suddenly stopped. Then everything suddenly picked up again around 11 that night and I labored for 2-3 hours, even getting into the shower to help with the pain. There is no doubt in my mind that they weren't "real". They were perfect textbook "real" early labor contractions.

Then there was the week that I was "due" and my energy and mood suddenly hit the floor. I was so exhausted and discouraged. Nothing happened. Not the slightest thing. Not even my daily mile walk would stir up more than a few braxton hicks. I wanted to have this baby, but it wasn't the "I'm ready to pop. Get this kid out of me now." kind of feeling. I was sick of being stuck at home, but I had no where to go and it was so hot and miserable even if I had had something to do besides wait, wait, wait.

The next week things picked up in full force. Now I had to sit and focus through my contractions. I LOVED that I decided to get an exercise ball. That helped tremendously. By now, my midwife, Donna, and I had discussed what to do if she didn't make it in time and I felt prepared for anything even though I knew that I wouldn't want to go through transition and birth alone, but I knew I could at least survive. She also told me that I would probably hit 6 or 7 cm dilation before I went into labor since I had been at 5 cm when I checked into the hospital with Joey. I kept myself busy still trying to get the little bean to turn. At this point she would engage and wiggle back up while I was sleeping and turn to whatever side I happened to be lying on that night over and over, but on the whole she was staying more and more directly OP. I had nightmares of her getting stuck in deep transverse arrest and worked so hard to try to get her forward, but was so extremely frustrated that she just wouldn't budge. I also started worrying about her head not being nice and flexed, so I tried to do things that would encourage her head to tuck too. I also worried about what we'd do if I hit post-term dates. I didn't think I really was that far along, but there was no way to prove otherwise. It just seemed to me that this baby still had a lot of wiggle room and was just starting to feel like a full-term-sized baby to me. I tried to comfort myself with the thought that if she had a smaller head, maybe giving birth to an OP baby wouldn't be "so" bad. Finally, however, I knew that I couldn't give birth under so much stress; and after feeling very convicted over all my complaining, I gave every single thing over to God totally and completely. Ah, to have the peace of God reigning in your heart once more!

The whole week before I gave birth was horrendous. Beside the fact that my energy finally came back, I was completely miserable. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I was approaching the 43 week mark and knew that I'd have to go into labor soon or things were going to turn ugly with my back up care getting in the way of the peaceful homebirth of my dreams. The last three days leading up to birth were so bad that I thought I'd die. Six weeks of soft bowel movements turned into something akin to the most excruciatingly miserable stomach flu of your worst nightmares. I'd have very strong cramps, back ache, and contractions all in a muddle for hours every afternoon until I felt like collapsing from exhaustion in the evenings. All I could feel was pressure. Pressure on my bladder. Pressure on my bowels. Pressure on my pelvic floor. Everywhere. I remember thinking: If I didn't know better, I'd sware I was in labor. All this pressure and feeling like I have to pee nonstop and finally being able to pee a little just to have another stronger contraction immediately after...that was how it felt when I was in labor with Joey...well, minus all the upset stomach. I tried to laugh it off by cracking jokes and hoped that if my stomach was empty maybe I wouldn't throw up during transition this time. Yet, the whole time I finally felt like it was getting close...I wasn't going to be pregnant forever. I knew that I was going to have a baby by the weekend and I kept clinging to the promise "my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth" from Psalm 28:7. I knew that the Lord had ordered my every step with this birth and He was going to work every detail out to the very end for His glory. I was miserable, yes, but I had a strong joy running beneath the surface.

The night before baby came I finally got tired of "wasting" my days focusing on contractions, hoping/waiting they'd stick around and ending up frustrated and disappointed every night. So I got up and went to Walmart. We needed some groceries and I was going to live life as usual until this baby decided to come. I put everything away when I got home and cleaned up the entire kitchen. This house was going to get clean. I got up the next morning and had a bout of upset stomach pretty early and I thought: Hmmm, that was off the norm, but whatever, I'm ignoring it all until I know that I'm in labor. I actually feel pretty good now though, so maybe I can finally eat.

I decided that I was going to get everything done that I possibly could. I really wanted to start out the day making our Saturday morning pancake breakfast that I hadn't done in so long. So I started on some sausage and mixed up some homemade buttermilk pancakes for my hubby and added blueberries for Joey and me. I ate and wasn't sick. I felt so much better, though I was getting tired and knew I needed to sit a bit and rest. This had been my norm for the past two months. Joe helped clean up the kitchen while we laughed at Joey saying "bue-bee pancocks". It was a nice morning.

Sometime during all this I became vaguely aware of this odd pain and pressure in my pubic bones. It would come quite sharply, almost like a cramp, but also like the baby's forehead was hitting up against my bones and trying to press its way out my front. They would leave as quickly as they came, yet they were so infrequent I could go about whatever I was doing. I mentally noted that the time was around 11am just in case something happened today.

After I had rested, I started on laundry and general pick up around the house. The pain I was having was increasing and by about 1:30pm I realized that they were coming more frequently. They were enough to make me instantly drop to my knees and moan. I couldn't do anything as long as I was in pain, but as soon as it was over I would get up and continue cleaning. I wasn't going to stop my plans because they weren't contractions per se. My mind was set: I was going to ignore everything as long as possible. Also in my mind's eye, I still clung to a labor very much like Joey's: obvious. I knew that it would probably be more intense and shorter this time around, but I still had convinced myself that though maybe it would be bad at first, she'd turn...and I'd still have time to get Joey taken care of and my midwife would get here, and I could labor just fine on my own until transition hit when I'd need someone to lean on. I still pictured a very peaceful birth in every way.

At 1:58pm I asked Joe to start timing contractions. I would have this pain, then a series of contractions--four or five at a time and then a minute or two pause before it started again. I was on my knees hugging my exercise ball rocking back and forth. It was all I could do to keep from crying. Joe started calling family telling them I was in labor which extremely irritated me (No clue that I really am in labor at all, right?) because I was still trying to get things done! Yeah, this hurt, but it would stop. It always did. All this pain was weird, but how was I to know if it was really labor? I did decide to have Joey help me pack his overnight bag to keep him distracted. I told him that he was going to go to Mama's house and he bounced back and forth from excited to leave and being scared for me. I was trying to play off all the pain as nothing for his sake now and trying desperately to be patient with his increasing fretfulness, but I just wanted everyone and everything to go away and leave me alone! I couldn't think! I was so aggravated! (And so the second clue that I really was in labor passed me by...)

At 2:42pm, I struggled to update my facebook status while Joey clung to me crying and trying to kiss my boo-boo's while Joe tried to keep him off of me, only agitating him even more: "Okay so the past hour has been non-stop coupled contractions mixed in with this pain...it's been total chaos...I need to try to figure out how to get on top of this stuff. Wish me luck! ...and hopefully this baby will turn and some of this madness will stop!" This was still my frame of mind. I finally caved in and called my mom to come get Joey NOW and my midwife to tell her that I was in considerable pain, though I was still trying to laugh it off in my denial that I was so close. I still had convinced myself that I had a couple of hours to worry about it all.

Joe carried a screaming little boy out the door as I ran to the shower. He came back to ask if I were sure it was okay if he left me alone or if there were anything he could do for me and I practically screamed "No! Just leave me alone!" And alone I was. I regretted it all in about five minutes. Nothing was helping. I couldn't relax and breathe through the pain. I needed someone. Oh! I didn't want to be alone anymore! I was in a mental agony, but still I was sure I had time. This baby would turn and it would settle down and then I could gain control. I called my sister-in-law. I had to have someone help me to get control and I knew she could help. We talked for 8 glorious minutes as she helped me relax enough to vocalize properly through the contractions. In a passing thought I said "I feel like I'm in transition" though I was only now giving into the fact that I was in labor for real. I still felt sure I had time, but she suggested I call my midwife back to see how far away she was and told me to call back if I still needed her. She was as cool and calm as anything. It was wonderful! The time was 3:15pm. I had been having contractions for about an hour and 20 minutes. I could barely talk to my midwife, but got out between contractions "I'd really feel better if you were here right now." She was just headed out the door and would be another hour!

I vocalized through some more contractions until it hit me with a huge sinking in the pit of my stomach: my contractions were starting to spread out and I was starting to feel more pressure in my back and that same feeling that I had with Joey...I just needed to squat... "Oh, God!" I prayed, "Please let someone get here! I don't want to have this baby alone!" I HAD been in transition and I wasn't ready for what was coming. I started feeling like I was in a cage. I paced around and around in the shower like an animal trying to get comfortable and too afraid to leave the slight comfort of the warm shower. I did sort of laugh to myself as I recalled watching our dog in labor. She would do the same thing right before pushing another puppy out: pace around and around, squatting, coming over to Dad for a gentle pat of reassurance, pacing, pacing, squatting, pushing out a puppy finally...you know it's pretty "primal" when you can compare yourself to a dog...lol. If I had been at the hospital I would have given myself the epidural, yet at the same time I knew it was too late. There was nothing to be done now but to face the horror that was in front of me alone and without anything at all to help.

I'd been in the shower for half an hour and it suddenly ran cold. Well, I thought, I guess that's my cue to get out. I tried to dry off and a contraction hit me so hard that I fell to my knees and clung to the side of the bathtub as for dear life. There was no turning back and I was trying to stop fighting it, but I couldn't yet. My body was starting to push at the peaks of the contractions. They were so severe that, try as I might to keep from it, all I could do in the end was scream and growl like I didn't know was possible. This was the kind of labor that I dreaded...great...

I called Joe and waited for him to pick up. In my head: "Please, please, please! Another one's coming. (Oh, God! Please help me!) Hurry. Pick up the phone. Too late..." With the hello on the other end of the line came a full series of screams at the top of my lungs. It was uncontrollable, though I was laughing to myself that here I am calling my husband and screaming as though someone were torturing me to death...kind of a funny situation, don't you think? This was completely different from anything that either of us were prepared for. After the contraction was over I panted out that I needed him here NOW! He was 10 minutes away and was going to call our friend JoAnna to come just in case Donna didn't make it since she was trained in emergency birth and was 15 minutes away. I felt slightly better. I wouldn't be alone much longer. I moved around so that I could cling to the towel I was on. I alternated from being on my hands and knees to lying lower on my elbows with my butt in the air.

Though I know how worried and helpless he must have felt, I was super impressed with how Joe helped me once he got there. I kept screaming and crying that there was nothing he could do now, but he remembered how I'd had a cool clothe on my neck and forehead while in labor with Joey and he tried so hard to stay calm and tell me how well I was doing and it would be okay. God bless him! I could feel myself giving into the pain a little, and while he was gone to check to see if JoAnna or Donna had come yet, my water broke. The baby descended a little further and then I realized that my every nightmare was coming true: I was going to have one of those horror birth stories. I was so glad that I could scream with all my might in the privacy of my own bathroom and that the neighbors were too deaf to hear. Yes, I actually used this thought to help cope.

Joe called Donna at 4:06pm to tell her my water broke and I was pushing. She was about 10 minutes away! Hurray! Perhaps she would make it, but there was no JoAnna and she should have been there by then. Still all I could do was scream with every contraction. Sometimes I would wrap my whole stomach in my arms and just let my body push with all it had. I couldn't believe how strong my body could work without my input. I was so exhausted, but there was nothing to do. I couldn't fight the pushing, but I did fight with the pain. I couldn't relax. I couldn't breathe. I'd just start to catch my breath and try to calm down a bit when another contraction would slam me into the floor again and all I could do was scream literally as if someone were stabbing me to death or ripping me apart. I was as low on the floor as I could get with my pregnant belly, clinging to the towel I was on and trying to spread my hips out as wide as I could. This position helped, but as I felt the baby descend lower and lower the pain increased more and more until there was no respite between contractions at all. There was so much constant pressure that my screaming turned into a growl with pushing and then into huge sobs after it was over. I kept praying, "Oh, God! Please help me! Give me strength. Oh, God! Please! No! Not another one. Not yet. I'm not ready..." The scripture I'd clung to for days would answer back: "my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth." Honestly, in the midst of the most horrific pain I hadever felt in my life, I could say this was just so. I knew God had directed my paths concerning this birth; I had trusted Him completely; I knew He was helping me; and I was so glad that I was at home knowing that soon it would be over and the incredible blessing that God was bringing would be more than worth it all. My heart did rejoice.

Donna came at 4:16pm and I think JoAnna arrived about that time too. They made quick work at setting up all the supplies and as Donna came to my side, applied pressure on my sacrum, and gently talked to me, most of the tension I'd held onto instantly melted away. It hurt so badly, nothing let up, but I didn't have to fight the pain anymore alone. The baby kept moving and the pressure on my tailbone increased to the point where I knew it was hitting the maximum of its ability to stretch and make room. I poured out all my sorrows in broken sobs between contractions and Donna was so wonderful a motherly comforter! If I could have moved at that point, I think I would have climbed up into her arms. I thanked God so much that I'd found her and that she was finally there. Things were still getting worse pain-wise, but I was finally calming down and gaining some control. She handed me a rolled up towel at some point and I bit into it and screamed with all my might into it. It felt so good to let it all go; with Joey I calmly breathed out the pain, but with Leah, if I had to scream, at least I could finally scream out the pain.

Then her head was right there; it was time for crowning. I really was not ready for this yet, but I knew this was the last fight and the sooner I gave in, the quicker it would be over. It actually was an amazing feeling. I had missed out on this with Joey since I was laid on my back and told when to push. In the midst of the agony I was in awe. I could feel her moving forward and then sliding some back; with each fresh wave the burning increased and I struggled to let go so my body could stretch freely. Yet this pain was only a drop of the new level of pain that was mounting. Yes, it is true, it happens, and the only way to describe it is this: you feel like you are being ripped in half from the bottom up. My hips and tailbone were being stretched to their breaking point. I grabbed my bottom and screamed harder yet. I didn't know that little, quiet me had all that bound up inside her. It was the only time in my life I was tempted to shout profanities at the top of my lungs. How great the grace of God was upon me at that moment I could never tell you, but I know He was the only thing keeping me now. Greater and greater was the pain still until suddenly out came her head and instantly there was relief. Donna told me not to push. I knew the baby needed to rotate to get her shoulders out so I waited for my body to tell me what to do. Once I felt like pushing again and Donna gave the okay, I grabbed my stomach once more and felt all of her slide out of my body. Donna announced "It's a girl!". It was 4:44pm.

I was done in slightly under 3 hours. I was never so relieved in my life. Instantly, I could smile and chatter to my little girl after Donna passed her between my legs and I held her for the first time. She cried softly a moment and then was so quiet and alert. I leaned against the sink and marveled at what miracles my God can do as I watched her pink up and thought about all that was going on in her little body. All too soon the placenta came and it was time to get up. No hemorrhage. I knew there wouldn't be; that fear had left me long ago. I handed her away and Joe took her. He finally had his little girl. It was amazing to me that I only shook very slightly for a minute or two and instantly felt like I was able to get up, with help of course. I sat in the warm tub a few moments with her again as Donna started to clean up. Eventually we made it to the bed and we nursed away. It was so nice to curl up with a new baby at my breast and my husband by my side and truly relax while you were at total and complete libery the fall in love all over again. No strangers. No routines. Just time standing still--allowed to stand still--in one of the most important moments of your life. Plus, it was so nice to have someone walk in with a genuine smile and tell me how amazing I was, that I did a great job, and that how easily I delivered her showed how well I'd taken care of myself during pregnancy. (Donna told me the next day that not only was she OP but presented the crown of her head first as well...yeah, I guess that does make a difference...her head was barely molded at all.)

I lie awake staring at her all night while she lie in my arms--something I couldn't do with Joey and I had mourned so badly all this time. Finally, there was healing. Finally, God had brought to pass His promise to me: "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life..." For all the horror of her birth, the recovery was amazing. I didn't tear and I wasn't swollen. There was only one very slight little skid mark and by the time I made my third trip to the bathroom that night, I wasn't sore at all anymore. I bled heavy for only a little over 24 hours. Other than my tailbone aching if I sit too long and after birth pains to match the birth, I've been absolutely great! This little one is and will be the blessing that only God knows how badly we needed in our lives. "He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair."

July 22 at 3:01 p.m. Amber posted in response to friends' comments on her birth story:

Thanks all, but really I can not accept the credit for being some special, strong person, because I'm not. I lay awake thinking about it all night. It bothered me so much to not say anything. This birth really was my worst nightmare in every way except God was merciful enough to let Donna get there just in time (her head was already showing) so I would have someone physically there to lean on...He knew I couldn't go any further without her. I seriously felt like He had to drag me kicking and screaming through the entire process. How do you like that? Can you picture our gentle Shepherd dragging that stubborn of a lamb? ...but He did see me through.

I'd forgotten until last night, but He also really impressed upon me that last week the scripture: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee" and really that whole passage of Isaiah 43. I knew it was going to be bad. I felt that my whole pregnancy; but I also had God's full assurance the entire time, and particularly at that moment of surrendering every fear over to Him, that He would work it all out in the end for such an amazing blessing to our lives. I can't tell you how it has been the beginning of bringing it all to pass! I'm still just as in awe as ever at how God works and just what He can do.

July 29 at 9:54 p.m. Amber's Facebook status:

The more I think about it, the more I wouldn't change a thing about Leah's birth. Not only have I gained a new level of confidence, but I can look someone squarely in the eye and say honestly that I know how painful labor can be...but I can also honestly say that to have those first precious hours fully alert, focused..., and unhindered in any way was 100% worth it for all the beauty and magic I could never articulate.

Amber and Leah, one hour after Leah's birth

Amber is my sister-in-law, and Leah is my brand new niece who I cannot wait to meet! Thank you, Amber, for sharing your incredible story and testimony.

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