Sunday, April 28, 2013

Everett's Birth Story

During my pregnancy I was intrigued by other women's birth stories. I couldn't get enough. I wanted to hear every detail, bit by bit, the ugly, the scary, the graphic, the beautiful, the unexpected, the tears, the smiles, the pain...the truth. I wanted the truth. Now, I realize everyone is not like me. Consider yourself warned. Of course, there will be lots of TMI.

What I want to add here before I begin is that birth can be beautiful. It can be serene, empowering and amazing. My birth was perfect, it was everything I hoped it would be. I truly believe that our children are affected and shaped by things that occur before they enter the world. Birth is baby's first experience in the world, and I feel it is important to do all we can to ensure that this experience is a respectful, patient and accepting experience.

On February 26th I was 6 days overdue. I took a walk in freezing temperatures to the neighbourhood card and stationery store. It was the date of one of my dearest friends birthdays, so of course, I was buying her a card that would get to her much later than her actual birthday. It's the thought that counts, people! The sidewalks were treacherous and my slow waddle was making this trip quite arduous. I stepped on a patch of ice that had formed around an exterior pipe on an old home. I slipped and caught myself by grabbing the pipe on the side of the house. Whew, close one! 3 blocks later I realized that in the midst of my fall I had lost my debit card out of my jacket pocket. Waddle, waddle back to the icy patch. Once I retrieved my card and made it the rest of the way, a sign posted on the storefront read: CLOSED: THANKS FOR THE YEARS OF SUPPORT. For real?? Ugh. Vanessa, you are not getting a birthday card this year. Sorry.

I woke up at 2am on the 27th with what I considered incredibly strong Braxton-Hicks. It took a few seconds for a voice in my head to chime in "Erin, you're a week overdue...these are real contractions!!'
The voice of my natural childbirth educator then butted in "Erin, you've still got a long way to go. Stay in bed, sleep. You must be well rested for labor." Yeah, right. I sprung out of bed, made myself peanut butter toast and began drinking copious amounts of water and Emergen - C. I made myself a little bed on the couch and began watching Netflix. I couldn't concentrate on anything. All I could hear was "YOU'RE IN LABOR!"

Ty came downstairs at 7am. At the same time I had gone into the bathroom and noticed a bit of blood. Wow, this was the first indication that something was actually happening. We decided he should stay home from work that day. After all, I had been 'labouring' for 5 hrs. Right? Wrong. More on that later.

It was a beautiful and sunny day. Ty and I took several walks around the neighbourhood, stopping during my intermittent contractions. By 10am Ty was convinced we should call our midwives. I knew it wasn't time. We had prepared for a home birth, so throughout the day we began gathering and setting up all of the supplies our midwives had suggested we have on hand. I kept eating and drinking fluids and resting. By 5pm I was in and out of the shower attempting to manage the pain, My contractions were steady, but all over the place and I still didn't feel it was the right time to call our midwives. At 10pm it was becoming hard for me to move and speak during the contractions. Ty phoned Jeannette, the midwife on call. She asked a few questions and headed over with the intern, Jessica.

It was so nice to be in the comfort of my own bed, in my cozy and quiet home when my midwife arrived. She chatted with Ty a bit downstairs and then came up into our bedroom. She asked me some questions about my contractions and how I had been feeling. I knew that mainly she was just observing me to determine what stage of labor I was in. Up to that point I had never been internally 'checked' to see how dilated and effaced my cervix was. That's the thing about midwives: they are so hands off. Jeannette asked me if I'd like to be checked. At that point both Ty and I were banking on the fact that I was at least 6 centimetres dilated. I had to be! After all, I had been labouring for almost 24 hrs!

Ha! Jeannette told me I was 1 cm dilated. Later she would tell me that that was a generous estimate, and basically I was less than .5cm dilated. She gave me antibiotics via IV for Group B Strep, which I had tested positive for. I sat on the toiled in our bathroom as Jeannette hung the IV bag on our shower curtain rod. Jeannette found a vein in my hand and inserted the needle. Once she connected the line I noticed my arm begin to run cold. I asked if this was normal. She touched my arm. I watched her face flush as she realized that she had just allowed an ice cold bag of fluid to drain into my arm. Oops! It had been in her car for too long in the freezing Alberta weather. From that point on I was shivering and relentlessly cold. Jeannette and Jessica left Ty and I with instructions to sleep, as impossible as it sounded, and to call her when 'things changed.'

At midnight Ty and I were laying in bed, trying to sleep. We had a movie on in the background. Neither of us could tell you what movie it was. Contractions came and went. At this point I could barely handle the pain. I was practicing deep breathing, reciting mantras and making sure that I was conscious of the tension I held in different parts of my body. My friend Morgan had told me that she made sure to keep her hands relaxed during labor. This helped me immensely! During one particularly strong contraction I felt my baby's hands flutter deep in my pelvic area. All at once I felt a sensation of release, a pop, and the a trickle of fluid on my leg. I shakily got up and went to the bathroom. There was a greenish yellow discharge in my underwear. My voice was very small and scared as I called out to a sleeping Ty. "Um, I think my water just broke. And it's green." I knew from childbirth class that green fluid after waters breaking could be an indication of several things: a distressed baby, or a very squashed, overdue baby. Up until this point I had felt no fear. Now a question now hung above me - was my baby in danger? I also knew that this meant I could not have a home birth. We would be required to deliver in the hospital, so that the neonatal response team could be on call in case of an emergency. I felt a pang of disappointment. This feeling was quickly overridden by the intense pain of a contraction without the cushion of amniotic fluid.

Ty called Jeannette. Ever the optimist, he told her that he didn't think the water was green, but more of a yellow. Jeannette instructed me to wear a pad, rest for about a half hour and then check the pad again and call her with a report. About an hour later we called to tell her that it the fluid was, without a doubt, green. Jeannette told us to take our time, but to meet her at the hospital. I was in the shower while Ty spoke with Jeannette. I remember feeling like it took ages for me to dry off and get dressed. Putting on my shoes felt like the hardest task in the world. Ty had to tie them for me. I was so focused on working through each contraction that I could barely find the words to ask Ty to bring me a shirt to wear.

I had never considered that we might end up at the hospital that I had prepared the most half-assed hospital bag. Luckily, I had the wherewithal while we were getting ready to give Ty strict instructions to pack a sleeper and hat for our baby. Gender neutral of course. I also managed to pack clean underwear and Lululemon pants and shirt. I forgot to have him pack the camera. It's my only regret.

Contracting in the car was miserable. We only live 3 minutes from the hospital, but of course Ty took the longest and most impractical route. When we arrived we realized we had no idea where to park. Ty dropped me off at the door and gratefully into the arms of our arriving midwife. Jeannette took my hands, looked me in the eyes and said "Erin, you are going to meet your baby today."

Wow. Perspective. This is what natural childbirth is all about. All of the waiting, the discomfort, the pain, the's all for a reason. One very important and precious reason. My baby. In that moment it was hard for me to take it all in. I was 100% focused on opening up my body to help the world receive my baby.

Jeannette then asked if I could walk. I couldn't. She pushed me up to labor and delivery in a wheelchair. I could barely open my eyes or put sentences together. I was moved to a triage room for a while. Jeannette and Jessica first hooked me up to a fetal heart monitor and a contraction monitor. They were quickly able to reassure me that my baby was just fine. Jeannette checked me again. I was 6 cm dilated! This was amazing. I had progressed an incredible amount in just 4 hours! It was 3am.

It felt like it took ages for Ty to park the car and come up to the room. I was still freezing. I didn't want to move, but I couldn't imagine delivering my baby in this tiny room. Jeannette told me that we'd be moving to a much more comfortable labor and delivery room soon.

The labor and delivery room was spacious and beautiful compared to the fluorescent lights and cot-like bed in the triage room. We had a view of the university football field -  a good omen to Ty. Jeannette kept the lights so dim that it was almost completely dark. Jeannette and Jessica helped me onto the bed. I immediately rolled on to my right side. I stayed in this exact position until Everett was laid on my chest. It was the only way I could manage the pain from the contractions. Ty was on my left side offering me watered down apple juice in between contractions.

At this point I went completely inside of myself. It took every single ounce of my energy and every thread of my being to work through each contraction. My body would shudder and sometimes my legs would tremble as I attempted to control the pain. I tried to remember all of the strategies that Ty and I had learned in our natural childbirth class. Breathe, relax, visualize opening, downward movement. For an extrovert like myself, this was a new experience unto itself, aside from the childbirth part. I could not take part in the conversation around me. I was having my own deeply personal experience that no one could share but me. It was tortuous to not be able to bring others, especially Ty, into this experience.

I wondered during childbirth class about this 'urge to push', and how it would feel. Would I know? How would it feel? Well, let me tell you. It feels like THE URGE TO PUSH. There is no other way to describe it. When I was able to form a semi-coherent sentence in between contractions I murmured to Jeannette that I felt like I needed to push. I had only been 6 cm an hour ago. You must be 10cm in order to begin pushing. There was no way I was ready. But - I had the urge. Jeannette quietly told me to do what my body was telling me and then after my next contraction she would check me. She did. I was 10 cm!!!!!!!

Pushing was amazing. I felt like I could harness all of the energy that I had been using to manage pain and use it to do something that felt active. I would push, hold, push again. This went on for almost 2 hours. I would fall into a trance-like sleep in between each contraction. Once my baby's head was beginning to come close to crowning, Jeannette applied counter-pressure to my perineum with a hot washcloth. This felt amazing, because, honestly, while pushing I felt as though I could push so hard I would rip myself in half.

I knew that soon I would be experiencing the 'ring of fire'. Pushing was a relief because it took away the pain of contractions. The ring of fire was, well, a ring of freakin fire. It took everything in me to push through it even though I felt as though I was doing something terribly wrong to my body. At this point Jeannette asked if I wanted to reach down and touch my baby's headful of dark hair. I declined. I was determined to get this baby out. I was not interested in stopping to smell the roses!

During this contraction I had made a promise to myself that this baby was coming out. No more screwing around. I knew from all of my education that I should wait to deliver his body for a contraction or two after I delivered his head. No way. This was my birth and I made up my own rules. I fought through the ring of fire and felt the glorious release of his head emerging fully into the world. My midwife walked away from me to record something on a form. I bore down with all of my might, ignoring the fact that my contraction had passed. Swoosh. Out emerged my baby's body.

Jeannette let out a small gasp and quickly rushed to the bed. Calmly and quietly she gave me clear instructions. I was silent, all I could hear was my heartbeat as I waited to hear our baby cry out. Then we heard it, a little wail. Peace flooded over me as I felt a rush of emotions. Jessica lifted my left leg up and over Jeannette as she held our baby in her hands. Jessica and Ty helped me scoot up on the bed. Jeannette then carefully laid our baby on my stomach. The umbilical cord was too short for the baby to be on my chest.

I first noticed a dark little head. Two swollen, wide open eyes and a perfect, precious face. I rubbed our baby's tiny, heaving back and bum. I then noticed a little hand with outstretched fingers moving individually resting on my chest. I remember counting them and feeling surprised at how long they were. A nurse form the neonatal team called out from the doorway, wondering the gender of our baby. Jeannette had to move aside the umbilical cord to check. I looked at Ty's face. I wanted to hear it from him. A boy. A perfect, precious little boy. Everett.

At this point I quickly snapped back into myself. The pain was completely gone. As if it had never existed. My legs were shaking from exhaustion, but my mind was sharp and bright. Ty, Jeannette, Jessica and myself all began laughing and marvelling at the entire experience. Examining Everett in all of his perfection and already starting to pick up on pieces of his budding personality. Our second midwife, Cassie arrived and immediately took charge of Everett. We delayed the clamping and cutting of umbilical cord until after it had stopped pulsating with precious, iron rich blood for Everett. Ty cut the cord with shaky hands.

As I was staring deep into Everett eyes and examining his every perfect feature, Jeannette gently reminded me that they were waiting for me to 'birth' the placenta. Jeannette asked if she could pass Everett to Ty while she helped me get into a position to deliver it. Ty immediately took off of his shirt so that he could take advantage of bonding skin to skin. Jessica wrapped them in blankets. As Jeannette and Cassie helped me get into a squatting position, my placenta came flying out. I have no other words to describe it. It was so strange and kind of gross! I made sure that once they examined my placenta for pieces missing, that they put it into a bag for me to take home. I was planning on encapsulating my placenta, of course! Haha!

Due to my decision to push Everett out in one fell swoop, I had some labial tearing. Very minimal, thankfully.  After freezing the area with a local anesthesia (the only 'medication' I had received throughout the entire process!), they quickly fixed the tears. Afterwards, Tanya, the other intern, helped me shakily get off of the bed. She helped me go to the bathroom, required by the midwives before my IV port could be taken out. Once this was checked off of the list, Tanya helped me shower. I was so swollen and bruised, it felt as though my vagina extended to almost my knees. Sorry, but I warned about TMI.

It wasn't until after my shower that we were able to get Everett to latch and attempt to breastfeed. This was a shockingly strong sensation. I was so nervous, but excited to begin this journey. He barely nursed in the hospital. More on that in my breastfeeding story. Once I put on fresh underwear and a HUGE pad, I felt like a brand new woman!

Jeannette then asked Ty to go get the carseat from the car so it could begin to thaw. While he was gone, Jeannette, Cassie and the interns began to weigh and measure Everett. They never bathed him. We loved how slow and relaxed the entire post-birth experience was. We were asked about every process and action. Everything was so minimal and respectful. It was amazing.

Everett was given an apgar score of 9. He was 20.5 inches long and weighed 7lbs 6ounces. He was absolute perfection.

Ty painstakingly dressed Everett in the ridiculously complicated (but cute) sleeper I had purchased for our 'genes unknown' baby. Ty had never changed a diaper, held a newborn or dressed a baby in his life. He was amazing.

We squeezed him into the carseat with much nervous laughter and cluelessness. Ty ran to get the car. Jessica wheeled me out with Everett in his carseat on my lap. This was it. We were parents. We were going home to our little house with our new tiny baby.

I was on a complete high. So was Ty. We had done it. Exactly the way we had planned, minus the home birth part. We phoned our parents and got choked up sharing the big news. A boy! A grandson!

We drove home on the warmest and sunniest day in February. The birthday of Everett O'Brien Hinton.