Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Simon's Birth Story

Before you start reading you might want to settle down with a good cup of coffee or glass of wine. I think this is my longest post yet.

It was almost exactly a year ago when my blog achieved "Rated R" status when I shared the few choice words my 5 year old neighbor shared with me - if you haven't read that post - you probably should {it still makes me laugh out loud}. I say this because I might be sharing some Rated R content in this post.

As I write Simon's birth story and share my opinion, I don't write what I'm writing with the intention to offend {although I'm sure I will}. I respect the fact that each person can make their own decision about how they want to birth their babies. I don't think of anyone as "less of a woman" if they have an epidural or need pitocin or have a c-section {these can all be good things when necessary}. I also want to add that I feel for the women I know who wanted to birth their babies a certain way and due to circumstances weren't able to have their babies as planned.

When my sister was pregnant with my nephew and told me that she was planning to have her baby at a birthing center sans epidural, I thought she was CRAZY. Purely crazy with a capital C. From my knowledge the only way to have a baby was in a hospital - with an epidural. How can anyone survive THE curse that was placed on women in Genesis? How could Nadine possibly want to have a baby without an epidural?

I started doing some research of my own - because I wanted to prove that she was wrong and insane. When I did some asking around, I was surprised that in a poll I took that many women I knew between the ages of 23-35ish had c-sections. Sometimes these c-sections fell into the category of the needed, high risk 2% of c-sections; however, I was surprised by the amount of women who didn't really need to have a c-section and ended up having one from reasons to elective sections to women who wanted a natural birth and due to circumstances had to have a section.

Somewhere down this road of research and inquisition, I made up my mind that I did not want a c-section. I also decided {before Simon was even a twinkle in my eye} that I did not want an epidural. My main reasons for not wanting an epidural are because of how terribly I've responded to anesthesia before {threw up for 2 days straight}, there's a lower c-section rate to go without an epidural, I wanted to be able to move around during contractions to help the baby move into the birthing position, and while the rate of having permanent damage of an epidural is low - I know a few women who have had nerve damage - and the fear of that alone made me not want one. *I say all of this not ever having experienced an epidural. I have no idea what my experience would have been like with one. I know PLENTY of women and friends who have had great experiences with an epidural.

 If you've spent any considerable amount of time with me in the last 2 years, you know that this is something I kind of became obsessed about - I tried to convince all my friends that no epidural was the way to go - without ever having any birthing experience. {To those friends - thank you for your patience. I now realize how silly I was trying to convince people of something that I myself hadn't experienced}. As much as I was pro natural, pro unmedicated, I often doubted that when the going got tough that I actually would be able to have a baby sans epidural. After watching the Riki Lake documentary on childbirth, The Business of Being Born, I was convinced that I would want to try to have an unmedicated birth {yes it's a documentary - therefore: biased}. I was surprised to learn that people spend more time researching what type of tv to buy than what type of birth they want to have.

The doula who taught our natural childbirth class at my hospital said that we need to remember that at the end of the day - you just want to have a healthy baby & healthy mama. This was good advice coming from someone who wanted to have unmedicated/natural childbirth and ended up with 2 c-sections herself.

For me, the point of having an unmedicated birth isn't to prove that I'm a macho, amazon woman. The reasons were that it's safer and the risks are lower for mom and baby.

The Story:
So the Tuesday after my due date I had a doctors appointment. I never thought I'd make it to this point. I'd been 1.5 cm dilated for over a month, they kept saying that his head was so low that my water could break at any point, and I already was 80% effaced. So, in the ultrasound {I think they just wanted to take a look at my extra large baby} :-), they saw that the amniotic fluid was low and down to 7%. Gigi {my doc} said that I needed to come back on Thursday so that they could check my fluid levels {I was also 3 cm dilated at this point}. I was under the impression that some much needed rest and drinking plenty of water would do the trick, and I'd be able to go full-term {42 weeks} as planned, if needed.

I had a feeling when Tom and I were getting ready to head out the door on Thursday that I wouldn't return home without a baby. It's that 6th sense I have. I remember telling Tom to be prepared to not come home - just in case. We had a breakfast date at Chick-fil-A since it's close to the hospital and not close to where we live. I had a delicious chicken biscuit and had to beg Tom to share another one with me. I said, "What if I go into labor today, I'm going to need my strength." {A pregnant woman can get her husband to do just about anything}. :-) So we went in to our appointment - the ultrasound girl tried to measure the amniotic fluid pockets, but there weren't any. She mentioned that she thought Gigi would want to send me up to the 3rd floor {my doctor's office is on the 1st floor of 'my' hospital and the maternity ward is on the 3rd floor}. She left to get Gigi, and it wasn't even a minute later when Gigi stuck her head in and said,  "ChanĂ©, sweetie, I'm sorry but we're going to have to get you started on pitocin right away and you're going to have to go to the 3rd floor. Cue panic and high blood pressure. {It's about 11:30ish at this point}.

[Pitocin {aka Pit} is a medication that mimics oxytocin, which is the natural chemical your body produces and uses to bring on contractions. Why do I call it the devil? Because it's often Pit that causes women to have c-sections. The chemical mixture of Pit and an epidural often raises the baby's heart rate and puts the baby in distress and then the doctor says you need a c-section. Sometimes women who want to have natural births will end up having Pit because they're not 'progressing' fast enough {dilating fast enough}, and then doctors will give them Pit so that they will progress faster. The thing about Pit is that it brings on contractions un-naturally fast and so hard that a lot of times your body can't handle them naturally. Then you get an epidural. A perfectly normal process was just medically interupted. You've got the Pit-Epidural chemical thing going on, baby's heart rate drops because the baby is in distress from all the drugs - cue C-Section.]

Now you understand why I had a little freak out. I walked out to the lobby, ready to ride to the 3rd floor to get all Pitted up. I called Bethany, my birthing lawyer, and told her that Gigi wanted to get me started on Pit right away because there wasn't any amniotic fluid. She said that I could ask Gigi if she could break my water instead of starting me out on Pit to see if that wouldn't start things naturally {#1 Reason why I wanted a doula - had I not had one, I would have trusted that Pit was the only way to get this process started when there are other things that can be done naturally before medical intervention is necessary}.

So I walk back into my doctors office, bypass the reception desk, and march straight back to where my doctor was. She was in a room with a patient, so I was going to wait for her. It wasn't even 1/2 a minute  and she came out of the room. I asked her if she could break my water before starting me on Pit, and she replied, "Of course, that's what I was going to do." I was half relieved and half ticked that she momentarily raised my blood pressure.

We went back to the lobby and rode the elevator to the 3rd floor. I called Bethany and told her the news and told her where the rest of my hospital stuff was in our house, and she said she would be on her way shortly. Luckily we knew the procedure for checking in because we had that fake out back in April.

We're moved to a triage room where we wait for a while. We waited there for almost 2 hours and Gigi came up to break my water at 2 p.m. {it surprisingly wasn't painful or uncomfortable}. The nurse I had here was fabulous and seemed to support the fact that I wanted to go unmedicated. I was glad to find out that she would accompany me to my labor room but was sad that her shift would be over at 7 {I guess it's a little unreasonable to expect nurses to work 24 hour shifts. :-)}.

So I rocked around on an exercise ball for a long time trying to bring on contractions naturally and get that oxytocin flowing. The goal is to irritate the uterus enough so that it gets annoyed with what I was doing and finally the uterus reaches a point and goes, "Ok, Ok, I get it already.... I'll contract."Luckily I was 3 cm dilated at the start of all of this, but I know we were all worried that if I "failed to progress" at the appropriate rate, that Gigi would say that I needed Pit. She called at about 7 pm to see how I was doing and wanted a nurse to see how far I was dilated. I hadn't had severe contractions and was still "with it" during them - so I didn't think I'd progressed very much at that point. We asked if she could call back later to see how I was doing - hoping I will have 'progressed' at an acceptable rate.

At about 9 p.m. I was tired and emotionally drained by all the happenings of the day - so I asked Bethany if I could rest for a little while. She said I could rest for 30 minutes, but then I had to get up and moving. Of course my little 30 minute rest wasn't a real rest and was when my uterus finally "got it" and I started having real contractions - this marked the beginning of active labor. This was when I couldn't talk through contractions anymore and needed physical support. Bethany was a gentle but firm voice who told me how to move to make contractions more comfortable and different positions to help little Simon move into the lock and key position needed for birth.

She reminded me with each contraction of how to breathe, and I told her also to remind me to keep my eyes open. I found that when my eyes were closed, my mind when to a dark, bad place where I'd only focus on the pain. Knowing how to breathe is really important. We learned in our birth class that when you have contractions, your body sends a signal to your brain to freak out! When you control your breathing your body calms down and the pain is bearable {isn't it funny that you can manipulate yourself?}

Tom was a champ. I think he surprised both me and Bethany. I've made several jokes about getting a doula more for Tom's sake than mine; he's rather squeamish when it comes to blood and pain. For almost 8 hours of active labor, Tom pushed on my back to help relieve the pain of the contractions and help open the pelvis - that's a lot of contractions. He never complained about having to help me and was right there every time I said, "OK" to signal that a contraction was coming. I think he was probably more sore than I was from having a baby, but I love that he was a part of it and he really helped me through the whole thing - it was awesome to work together to have this baby.

Gigi called at 2 a.m. to see how much I'd 'progressed,' and to everyone's surprise I'd already dilated to 8 cm! I didn't know what Gigi's measure of progress was, but I know that I'd progressed enough to bypass Pit. I think this was the first time all night that we were relieved. It took much longer to get those last 2 cm, but by about 4:30 my body entered transition, which is the very end of active labor. I've been told that transition is the worst stage of labor because it's when your body changes gears to prepare for the last stage, pushing. You kind of have the urge to push, but nothing will happen because your body is just preparing for pushing while your contractions are the worst that they'll be in labor. I don't really remember this part.

I started pushing on my side because it opens the pelvis up more than if you were on your back. My contractions were coming quickly. I think I was like this for almost an hour as little man was inching his way down. Bethany suggested that I try to get on my knees, but when I moved, the baby heart rate  monitor slipped on my belly, and Gigi thought that it was a dip in Simon's heart rate. So from then on I was on my back {this was not where I wanted to be at all, but was so tired at this point, and didn't care what position I was in}. We also wanted to keep Gigi happy and feared that if I took too long she might suggest that I need a c-section. Once I moved to my back, my contractions slowed down, waaay down. And while you can push without having a contraction - contractions were meant to be "worked with." My doctor was great and I think had she not known how much I wanted a natural birth, she would have said I needed a c-section. I'm so thankful that she respected what I wanted to do. Long story short and 3 hours of pushing later, little man was born, and in an instant we went from a family of 2 to 3.

Along with being enthralled by my baby, it was such a sweet moment to see Tom's emotions in all of this.  I think he said, "He's soo beautiful" about 10 times in a row. The other amazing thing was that after little man entered the world - I was entirely pain free. I felt like my pre-pregnant self with zero pain or discomfort.

I'm thankful that Nadine had a baby first and went without an epidural. I'm glad that I thought she was crazy and I wanted to prove that she was crazy, or else I would never even have thought that it was an option to have a baby without an epidural. It seems that a lot of women my age are terrified of childbirth, when really our bodies were designed to give birth. It was indescribable to have had such an intense bodily experience and then for it to be over - just like that. It's probably one of the most amazing things I've experienced in my life and I can't imagine being desensitized by the experience. It wasn't as bad or as painful as I'd expected it to be. Given the opportunity again, I'd definitely go sans epidural in the future.
Simon Thomas Hart
Born: 8:56 a.m. on Friday, May 18, 2012
8.3 pounds / 20.75 inches

*Photo taken by Amber Duncan - photographer & friend. She was also the friend who walked around Target with me for over an hour during my fake out. :)

Funny things I kind of remember:
     -Tom asking Bethany if he needed to change his shirt because things were about to get messy.
     -In the middle of pushing - twice - I asked Tom to change the ipod playlist - little did I realize that most of my playlists contain the same songs.
     -Staring at the lines of the hardwood floors to focus on during contractions and thinking that I've never been so glad about the parallel lines of hardwoods.
     -At some point during some rough contractions I thought that I didn't want to have a baby anymore {because I didn't want to go through the work to birth this baby}, and then I realized that it was a little bit late to decide that I didn't want to have a baby.
     -From about 1 am till 7 am I had an all - too - bubbly nurse fresh out of nursing school and excited about the going-ons. She kept on trying to explain to me how the monitoring machine worked while I was having intense contractions. I just wanted to look at her and tell her to "pipe down" - I'm having a baby here. I just ended up ignoring her.
     -At some point I looked outside when it was daylight and was surprised that it was day. I was nervous that I'd be aware of time and the progression of time - but it was an out-of-time experience.


  1. You did a great job! I am so proud for you and Tom. Simon is just lovely.

  2. WOW, what a great story!! Many women don't remember such detail due to those wonderful endorphines of labor! You did an amazing job and I'm thrilled to have played a part in Simon's story. Thanks for sharing with me.


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