Saturday, January 17, 2015

Coraline's Birth Story

To mark Coraline's fourth week, I will finally share her birth story. I really regret not writing it up within the first 48 hours, when I still had a high from all the excitement of such an unique experience. But I've tried to capture it all as best I can. It's huge and scattered, but it's what I need for my own memory. Check out the quick summary if you'd rather.

Early Labor
All the signs of early labor passed in the weeks leading up to her arrival. Which was a new experience for me. With both Reid and Nell everything from lightening to the mucus plug drop happened less than 24 hours before delivery, and it all seemed to be part of my labor process. Also, I didn't dilate with either of them until labor began.

So things with Coraline were proving different before anything really started. Which led me to trust two things; one, she'd come quicker than the others; and two, we wouldn't have time to wait for Grandma and Grandpa to come get the kids. I needed a plan B, and I needed one for the middle of the night.

It wasn't until our ward Christmas party that I arranged such a plan. In simple passing (in the Church kitchen nonetheless) I asked our friend and nearest Mormon neighbor if she'd accept that middle of the night phone call. She was more than willing and gave specific instructions to call on their home phone. Well, ironically enough, she was one of the people we delivered cookies to Friday night, the 19th. As we left her house we all crossed our fingers that tonight would be the night.  

I woke up around 2:30 to use the bathroom, and once again I was super frustrated that I was having non-painful contractions. I was so ready for the real thing. I can't imagine anyone being more eager than I was to feel the pain of a true contraction. I was going to party dance once they came! But back in bed I decided to say a little prayer instead. I basically told Heavenly Father that I'd accepted an induction (something I was really nervous about), and asked him to help me through the process. Right then I felt another painless contraction. I'd learned not to get my hopes up, but I still glanced at the clock to check the time. It had been 8 minutes since my last one. I took note.

And 8 minutes later another one came. Party dance about to begin!

I waited 8 more minutes and sure enough, there was another slightly painful contraction. Not painful enough to wake Ben up, but I did grab his hand for some comfort. I wanted to give him, our neighbor, and the Midwife on call as much rest as possible before disturbing anyone with my SUPER EXCITING news (and outrageous party dance).

That didn't last long though. By 3:30 Ben and I were both up, showered and ready to make a couple of important phone calls. First, to his family. Luckily his little sister Lauren had her phone on and close to her, because neither of his parents responded. Next, to our neighbor, who was over in no time at all. And finally to the nurse hotline (just checked my phone, that call was made at 3:44 am). The nurse on the receiving end of the line expressed some concern that I might have the baby before I made it to the hospital.

"How long were your previous labors?" she asked

"Long, but I can already tell this one is different," I answered.

"I think you're right. How far are you from the hospital?"

"Only about five minutes."

"Oh, good. If the midwife on call doesn't get back to you soon, just go to the hospital. You should go soon no matter what." She then proceeded to give me some quick instructions for a worst case scenario: at home birth.

Between that conversation and the midwife's call Ben gave me a priesthood blessing. We always do this before going to the hospital. Almost a whole month later I don't remember much about the blessing, but I know it gave me peace of mind and the spiritual focus I needed for the hours that followed.

The midwife called at 3:54 am, and it was at that same time Ben was helping our friend settle into our home. He also started throwing my bags in our warmed up minivan. Luckily our friend reminded us we might want to take Reid and Nell's car seats out for Grandma and Grandpa before we left. So that was the last thing Ben did before we headed off. My last move was to steal a candy cane off our tree. My mouth was starting to dry and it seemed like the simplest solution. My parting words were "I think we'll have this baby by 6:00 am."

Active Labor
By 4:00 am I was in full fledged active labor. My contractions were running about four minutes apart and they were increasingly painful. I rode to the hospital in the back seat so I could lay on my side a bit and stretch out my legs (we removed one middle bucket seat for convenience of getting three young children in and out of the car). I was still in pretty good spirits, but I could no longer talk through contractions.

As we pulled up to the ER entrance I realized my wallet was in the diaper bag which Ben had removed with the car seats, so I walked in to reception with nothing but a candy cane in my hands.

"Hi, I have no ID, but I'm in labor and need to check in to the maternity unit. My husband will be here as soon as he parks the car if you need his ID." Then I quickly took a seat, shoved the candy cane in my mouth, and waited out a contraction.

The receptionist receiving us thought I was the most miraculous laboring woman she'd ever seen. "I'm going to be telling people about the lady who walked in sucking a candy cane for a long time."

"I wish I could video you and show it to some of the other women who check in during labor."

"You make me think maybe I could have a kid someday."

And on and on.

Ben was actually quite annoyed with her. I found her entertaining, until she started walking us to the maternity ward. Yes, walking us. We'd taken several steps and just as I was about to ask she stopped dead in her tracks, smacked her forehead and shouted "Oh! You probably want a wheel chair! I'm just so thrown off by your upbeat attitude and joyful candy cane eating I forget your're in labor!"

As we strolled through the hospital the staff we passed was congratulating us and she was bragging about how amazing I was. It really made me wonder how most check-ins go.

Settled into our room, the nurse assigned to us proved just as ... perky? ... as the receptionist. From behind the curtain, before entering our room, she tapped her feet (like Dorothy) and asked "Who's cute shoes are these?" I would not have described them as cute -- eccentric maybe, but not cute. As her full body emerged she changed tone and said "Yup, you got the weird nurse. My name's Barbie." I was still with holding judgement, I've only had to work at four in the morning twice in my life time (short lived job at IHOP), and I can't imagine the coping mechanisms hospital employees have to use to survive the hours normal people are enjoying beauty sleep.

I was most impressed with the Midwife's arrival. On the phone it was clear she was super sleepy and horribly sick. Yipee! I thought. But she hid both by the time she made it to the hospital. She looked and sounded great for 4 am and two pregnant ladies on deck.

But back to my labor. It felt like life really slowed once we got in to that room. My contractions didn't, but everything else seemed to. I was still predicting a delivery within two hours, but no one was hooking machines up to me or giving me my strep B antibiotics. The Midwife was in the room next door, checking on the other laboring mother.

Finally, I was checked, and it turned out I was only at a six. I showed my disappointment and Barbie was shocked. "A six is great, more than half way there!"

"But I checked into the hospital at an eight with my last one, and the contractions weren't this severe." I was starting to think things might get really painful and soon.

"I'm prepared for things to go quickly from here," said the Midwife. "Remind me, are you going to try a water birth?"

Water birth was something I was still on the fence about. I'd tried it with Nell and though I loved the time in the giant tub, I kind of (or totally) freaked out during transition. "I'd like to," I said as I looked at Ben, thinking he might not approve based on our last experience, "but I just have a couple of questions for you before I do."

"Sure, what are they?"

"Can you still check me when I'm in there?"

"Yes. I'll check your progress as we go."

"And you'll know when she's crowning and how exactly she'll come out?" I just had this fear of uncertainty. Like I wouldn't know how near the end was when it happened and no one would be there to help pull her out if I needed a little assistance (Reid was vacuumed out and Nell was given a little pull once her head came out, so I was just trying to envision how the same process would work while squatting in a tub).

"Yeah, I'll know when she is crowning, and when she comes out you can reach down and pull her out of the water or I can, or we can do it together."

"You do it!" I did not want to "catch" my own baby in the tub! "Also, I need you to be bossy. That's one thing I learned last time. I try to follow my body, but I lose it and need you to tell me what to do."

Ben nodded in agreement and added a heavy "Yeah" and DeAnna (the midwife) gave me the most reassuring smile. "Great, people tell me I'm bossy all the time. We can do this." And with that, Barbie left to fill up the tub.

But first I had to have my dose of antibodies and then we had to check the bag of waters to make sure there was no meconium. In the meantime DeAnna asked me if she could try some essential oils on my back. I think it was thyme and something else. She gave me a relaxing massage through my back and shoulders and then she even rubbed some on my belly. Coraline went CRAZY during that belly rub. It was weird. I don't ever remember feeling a baby move during labor. But she was kicking and squirming more actively than I'd felt through the whole pregnancy. Even so, it was all very relaxing. My first experience with essential oils was a good one!

Thankfully the IV was injected smoothly (it is always one of my least favorite parts of labor, way worse than contractions) and the antibodies didn't seem to take long. But the best news was clear water! I was all set for a water birth, and sometime just after 5:00 am Ben and DeAnna walked me down to the labor room with the tub.

I immediately felt so relaxed. It was almost as if labor stopped. When I mentioned that DeAnna told me she had the same experience with her own water birth. For some reason, I found comfort in the fact that she herself had given birth in a tub. I was really starting to have high hopes for a successful water birth.

But as I approached 10cm I started dreaming about the bed. I mentioned how comfy it looked, but instead of getting me out DeAnna just suggested I lay back in the tub like I would have if I were in the bed (I'd been squatting and bent over before that, in an effort to drop the baby and open my pelvis up). I know this paragraph may seem like a small moment, but looking back it was huge! With Nell, that was the point the other midwife let me out of the tub, and in hindsight I wish she hadn't. I'm glad I'd told DeAnna to be bossy, and she was bossy in the kindest way. She was not going to let me give up on that water birth!

I still totally lost it during transition. I hate pushing. I remember embracing the need to push with Reid. That's before I knew what happens when you push! Once I was cleared to push Coraline (and Nell) I straightened out my legs and stiffened my body. Seriously, I was a mess. There was lots of screaming and a few swears. My mind just didn't know what to do. And neither did my body.

I feel like part of the problem is I just don't know how to push. Or at least, I forget. I also forget how to breathe. I had a great hee-hee-haw going on up until transition, then I just started hyper-panting and moving all over the place. At one point DeAnna had to calm me down, look me in the eyes and tell me I couldn't stand up out of the water. A few minutes later she told me I couldn't drowned myself. Yup, I was a mess.

Finally I asked for a tug of war. I wasn't going to get out of that tub, but I was at least going to try something familiar (tug of war brought Nell into the world). After a few good pulls I finally caught on to pushing. I remembered you have to hold your breathe through pushes and I listened as DeAnna reminded me when and how to breathe. I was finally able to relax a bit between contractions, which helped restore some energy and sanity.

DeAnna told me I was the strongest pregnant lady she'd ever met. I didn't know what she meant, and thought maybe she was referring to mental strength or something but when asked to explain herself she said "I mean you're strong. You're about to pull me in the tub with you!" That kind of brightened my morning. And with that she made Ben hold the other end of our tug of war towel. Later he confirmed her compliment. He told me it didn't take long for him to realize he was going to have to pull back with all his strength, and he abandoned his idea that this would be a normally weakened version of the game.

I swear it's just the rush of pregnancy. I probably could have moved a car in that moment. I could barely hold my own legs up underneath me, but my upper body had some serious stamina.

With DeAnna freed from the tugging, she checked to see if I was really even pushing. Which was kind of a disappointing thought, but by this point in the labor I trusted her so much and I knew I could do whatever she told me to do. So when she asked me to stop playing tug of war and get back in a squat I did it. But this time I tried my best to keep a (somewhat) clear state of mind.

Somewhere near this point in the delivery DeAnna asked if she could put some essential oils behind my ears to help calm me. She rubbed orange on me, and I immediately felt more calmed and focused. I didn't want to lose that clear state of mind, and with Ben behind me (he was literally holding me up in the squatting position; I meant it when I said I could barely hold my own legs underneath me) I didn't have someone to make eye contact with. I knew it was weird, but I pushed DeAnna's bangs back from her forehead and just locked eyes with her. She glanced at Ben and they both laughed a little. Total awkward moment and I knew it.

"I'm sorry, but I just have to focus on something." I apologized.

She gave me the best smile and shook her head "No problem. Keep breathing. You're doing fine. You're going to have a baby soon. Just breathe."

I was totally relaxed and my mind was finally clear. I offered a coherent and sincere (silent) prayer to Heavenly Father, and I was reassured He was going to help me. That calm state of mind is what made this delivery the most amazing birth I've had. I truly felt Coraline drop on to my pelvis. Not in to it, but on it. I could feel her body on my bones and I knew she was coming in just a few more pushes. I imagine feeling her head push against my pelvis is the longest I've had to endure something SO painful, yet it felt awesome. With the others I feel like I pushed and pushed for hours (with Reid it was multiple hours) without having any idea what was going on inside my body. It seemed like the medical staff did all the baby-getting-out stuff. Even the pain was a different kind of pain -- with Reid and Nell the pain was quick and sharp and peaked the moment they came out, not the moment before. With Coraline, I knew exactly where she was in my body, and I knew exactly how to push her out. I knew when she was going to make her grand entrance, and after it happened I almost couldn't believe it because she came so smoothly. There was little pain at all, just relief.

I asked everyone in the room, "Is her head really out?"

"Uh-huh, once the next contraction comes you can give it one final push and then you'll be holding your baby." DeAnna said with reassurance.

With Reid and Nell I remember being told "A few more pushes and they'll be here." And then it always turned into a dozen more than a few. I never knew for sure how close I was to the end. With Coraline the end was calm and beautiful.

Overall, my favorite part of water birth was the calmness, especially in that moment after her head emerged. There was no rush to get her out. No one had to tug or twist and ease her shoulders through. No one gave me a panicked "you've got to get her the rest of the way out!" scream. DeAnna reached down and made sure her body had turned on its own, and then we just patiently waited for the next contraction to arrive so that I could push her the rest of the way out all by myself. And that was the easiest push of my lifetime!

She didn't come up screaming, she just took small little breathes. She didn't have a weird shaped head or serious swelling. She was the most perfect baby ever.

And though I had told everyone in the room we have big babies, they still all reacted with the same shock of the previous two. "Wow, that is a big baby!"

"We have a toddler in the room!"

"You are now the poster child for water birth. That is a huge baby and you did great."

I was able to just hold Coraline while they started draining the tub. There was no rush to cut the umbilical cord or sweep her away for medical examination. There was just this moment where I enjoyed my sweet new baby and the amazing feeling of not being pregnant anymore. My whole body felt changed, not damaged but changed.

They did eventually take Coraline for her weigh in and at the time I asked a favor of someone (can't remember what it was, something small I suppose), and DeAnna told me I'd have to wait a second because the nurses we're all eyeing the final score.

The second nurse who helped with the delivery, Brooke, finally called it "10lbs 10ounces."

The whole room seemed to "WOW" together. Even I was in shock.

Soon I was out of the tub and enjoying all the post delivery "stuff." Despite her humongous size, Coraline's delivery created the least amount of damage, if you catch my drift. DeAnna even predicted there may have been no damage at all if it weren't for the scar tissue left by previous deliveries. That just blows my mind. How could a baby that huge have such little lasting impact? I don't really know, but I'm totally sold on water birth! This is the first time I've thought about "the next time" so soon after delivery. Water birth is an experience I wouldn't mind doing again. And that says it all!


Anonymous said...

I loved the account of little Coraline's birth. Thanks for sharing.

Elise said...

Wow! It sounds like an amazing experience! I'm 26 weeks and I've been seeing an OB but mainly because it all happened so fast. I've thought a lot about having a midwife in the hospital and the possibility of a water birth. But my main thing is I'm not sure how to go about it. Do you have any recommendations? I know we live in different areas but I'm curious how you found your midwife, and what you needed to know about your hospital?

Mom said...

So happy my 'little one' did not drown! Thanks for sharing.

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