Monday, December 5, 2016

Mara Joy's Labor and Delivery

A couple weeks before Mara was born I went back and read each of my previous labor stories. I did it to try and find comfort, and you know what? It actually worked. Especially Coraline's waterbirth, after reading that I was convinced I could remain calm throughout this final delivery. How nice would it be to finally have one delivery where I was completely medicine and freakout free?

Having each of their stories documented should motivate me to get Mara's written up, right? But for some reason I can't. I'm in a funk. I mean, where do I start? Technically I was dilated to a 3 for at least two full weeks. That's the entirety of early labor -- stalled out over the course of two weeks! (PS drafting this post has also taken at least two full weeks.)

That should have given me plenty of time to prepare, but somehow it just gave me more time stew over the inevitable. I was hopeful this labor would be similar to all the rest, but what if it wasn't? What if this was the time I'd need an emergency c-section.

"Here's my birth plan honey. If they have to do a c-section I need to be knocked out cold." That was it. That was the only thing on my birth plan. "I know that isn't ideal for the baby, but I don't care. She'll recover. I cannot have that kind of surgery without being completely out." True story.

At my 38 week check up I told the midwife I felt a lot of anxiety. I brought this up because I could tell it wasn't just your normal jitters -- but full fledged mental health anxiety. She comforted me by letting me know I was right, but it would pass.

"We've found that for mothers who have experienced multiple births, the weeks leading up to labor can resemble PTSD. The good news is it will go away the moment you get through all this." So no need for medication -- just an evacuation. Great!

We did eventually schedule the evacuation. I refuse to have a 41 week check up. My huge babies don't need any extra cooking time! The thought of an induction actually added to my anxiety, but I tried to remain patient and hopeful. There was always a chance she'd still come on her own.

My due date was Novemember 1st.

The 2nd came and went.

Then the 3rd.

And the 4th, 5th, and 6th.

The induction was scheduled for the 7th.


I've always gone into labor while I was sleeping in the early morning hours. So when I woke up on the 6th with nothing happening, I figured the induction was set. We had a friend lined up to come stay with the kids that morning and we'd filled Reid and Nell in on the plan. After weeks of wondering, what if she comes today? We finally all knew exactly what day she'd be coming. Monday, November 7th.

On the 6th, we enjoyed Church as best you can with three restless little kids. It was the first time hearing people say "You're still pregnant?" didn't sting. Yes, I was still pregnant, but if all went well I wouldn't be within the next 24 hours, and that felt nice.

Back at home, the weather was wonderful! After Coraline's (and Ben's) nap(s) I sent all the kids outside and put Ben in charge of watching them. I was cleaning up in the kitchen when I started thinking maybe my regular Braxton Hicks were somewhat consistent.

I let them happen every eight minutes for almost two hours before I told Ben. I was convinced that telling him would jinx the whole thing. Those darn Braxton Hicks had gotten my hopes up one too many times. I wasn't going to be fooled again.

The funny thing is, once I finally told him they actually did become more sporadic. I couldn't believe it! But after nearly 3 hours of regular contractions I knew it wasn't false labor. I even hoisted Coraline up during the middle of one of them. They say a change in activity can stop Braxton Hicks. But the pain only got worse when I lifted that 30 pound love bug. I could no longer hide it, and that's when I finally let Ben in on my little secret.

At dinner we told Reid and Nell the new plan. Mom and Dad would be going to the hospital sometime after they fell asleep and when they woke up our friend might be here to help them start their day. We fielded all their questions and enjoyed the rest of the evening as a family of five -- for one final moment.

Once the kids were all in bed we called our friend to tell her we'd be making a middle of the night phone call.  The contractions had started around 3:00 and at this point it was just passed 7:30 and they still weren't super close together or painful. I was kind of surprised by this. Coraline's labor went so fast I really thought this fourth one would be even quicker, but it was starting to resemble the first two a lot more than the last one.

Around 8:30 I decided I might as well try and get some sleep, and I actually did sleep for about an hour. I don't know why that is so crazy to me. But let's recap: I cleaned the kitchen, played with my kids, and slept for a couple of hours -- all while my body was experiencing active labor, ha! I was having contractions every 8 minutes or so and I'm assuming I just slept through the handful of contractions that happened during my snooze. Around 10pm I knew I could no longer handle contractions while lying in the bed. I came out to the front room and tried a few relaxation techniques and tried to put off waking up Ben as long as I could.

Somewhere near 11:00 I told him he had to get up and stay up. He started getting things ready to go but was good to take a break each time I asked him to come massage me through a contraction. He set up the blow up bed and threw our bags in the car. I called our friend (11:45) and the Midwife (12:00). I was so excited when nurse direct told me DeAnna was on call that night. She helped me deliver Coraline, and I really wanted this labor to replicate that one.

We oriented our friend to our house and morning routine and were just about ready to head out the door when I remembered we almost forgot the priesthood blessing! So, for one final time, Ben laid his hands on my head and offered me words of comfort. I think I had three or four total through out this pregnancy. With Reid and Nell it was just the one before going to the hospital. But with Coraline I felt the need to have one in the first trimester as well. I did the same with Mara, and then had another one when that 38 week anxiety hit. My need for three blessings instead of just one shows how much more anxious you really do become with each additional pregnancy!

I will always remember these blessings as guidance and insight for the Plan of Salvation. Heavenly Father always reminds me of my role in this beautiful plan when I received these blessings. I was also reminded that while the pain would be great, it would be but a short time and the end result would make up for all the suffering.

In addition to having more anxiety with each pregnancy, it also gets harder and harder to decide on a name. I really wanted Maren, but I also loved the idea of Mara Joy. There are many reasons I love Mara Joy. But when it finally came down to deciding it was the combination of the two name's meaning that won me over. Mara, in Hebrew, means bitter. It also carries the implication of strength (see the book of Ruth in the Old Testament). When I think of the Plan of Salvation and Christ's atoning sacrifice I feel as though the words Bitter and Joy are both very fitting. So while it may seem strange that we purposefully choose "bitter joy," her name will always serve as a reminder of the beautiful Plan of Salvation.

Pregnancy, labor, and delivery are such a crucial part of that Plan.

I left our home feeling pretty excited and in control of my labor. When we pulled into the parking lot Ben remembered he'd left the camera at home. So we decided to flip a U and come back home and get it. He had left it in the garage, so it was a quick grab.

By the time we pulled into the hospital it was almost 1:00am. I was pretty uncomfortable for the hour it took to check me in and go through all the garbage they do. I almost wanted to say "I labor really well, so though I may not act like things will happen soon, you probably should check me. And where is the Midwife!?!?" But I'm too polite for all that. I just patiently waited for them to fiddle with the computer system and go ask extra nurses basic questions.  And then finally, FINALLY I was checked.

I was at an 8.

The nurses started acting a little more rushed (thank you!). They filled up the tub and made sure DeAnna was on her way. I walked into the water birth room and sank into the warm tub. When DeAnna first came into the room I reminded her that she'd helped me deliver my last giant of a baby. She just nodded and I could tell she didn't really remember it all that well. As the night wore on (post delivery) I reminded her of the awkward stare, and that was the recall she needed. "Was Barbie the delivery nurse?" I nodded and she said she did remember it all now. Then Winonna, our current delivery nurse, chimed in "Barbie was telling us that story just the other day!" It's so nice to know my delivery stories live on at Mercy Medical (Reid's best friend's mother remembered our tug of war four years after Nell was born).

I told DeAnna I usually loose my mind during transition but that this time I was determined to stay calm, courageous, and confident. I kept repeating this motto in my mind after Ben's blessing. He'd used either the word courage or confidence in my blessing and it fit well with my predetermined goal to stay calm. The three together quickly became a common refrain running through the back of my mind.

I also reminded  DeAnna that I'd need her to be bossy. I told her how much I'd loved the essential oils last time and she went and got her diffuser and started to spread some orange throughout the room. At the end of our re-introduction she started massaging my back and repeating "This is going to be fun." I could not believe she dared look me in the eyes and say that! I just shook my head and said "It will not be fun. This is torture." 

When I started to experience more and more painful contractions she decided to break my water. Luckily  everything was clear. This was the first time I'd had it broken in the tub and it actually seemed more painful than when it was broken on land (during the first three labors). It only took another contraction or two before I started to feel the need to push.

I could tell I was falling into my usual "I don't want to push" freakout, but I didn't lose it quite as bad as I had with Nell and Coraline (with Reid I was too exhausted to really show any emotion). I didn't squeeze my legs together, ask to get out of the tub, or want to drown myself (yes, those are all responses from my past). I told DeAnna I needed help remembering how to breathe and then she totally switched modes and started getting bossy and dropped the "fun" act.

One thing she did that really helped (and was new to me), was to tell me to "Take a deep breath. Now blow it all away," once my contractions finished. I've always used the cleansing breathe technique when I labor, but hearing her say blow it all away really gave me a sense that I was pushing all the pain and stress out of my body, if even just for those few short seconds before it all came rushing back. DeAnna also started encouraging me to get mad. "Scream, I want you to get angry and push this baby out." 

So I did.

I screamed at the top of my lungs, and after giving birth naturally four times I can definitively say getting angry and screaming at the top of my lungs is what helps me push. I always feel like I forget how to push and how to breathe during pushing. But now I know for absolute sure, anger is what helps me push (I noted this in Nell's birth story, but for some reason it didn't really click until the fourth try).

Through my first push I screamed my usual angry curses. While I tired to compose myself before the next contraction I made a conscious decision to not scream negative words, so with the next push I shouted "I love you Baby!" at the top of my lungs. I think it was followed with a "You gotta get OUT!" The nurse told me that was a first. "I've heard mom's yell a lot of things, but never I love you Baby. It was sweet." Even if I said it full of rage.

I knew I had squatted in order to push Coraline out, so once I was finally calm, confident, and courageous enough to really start pushing I got into a squat position. After the first couple squat pushes (and accompanying screams) DeAnna asked me to do a ninety degree turn and face the length of the tub instead of it's width. When I re-positioned I had Ben hold me up from behind. This gave me a little more room to stretch my legs out and really sink deeper into a squat. Sinking into Ben's strong arms also helped me feel like I could use a little more of my own strength to focus on my lower body.

Just like Coraline, the pressure I felt on my pelvis was almost informative. Instead of just noticing the intense pain (like with Reid and Nell), I knew it was a head. I knew exactly where that head was. And I knew I could push that head out with just one more try. Once I did, I even asked "Is her head out?" And for the first time I looked down and felt it. I've always been asked if I'd like to feel the head, but the very idea sounded like a nightmare.

I knew that with the next contraction I could push Mara the rest of the way out. When that contraction started coming it felt as though she was slipping back into my body. In a moment of complete stupidity (and panic), I even asked if her head did go back in. Like that's possible. But I was really trying to be in tune with my body and that is what the beginning of the contraction felt like. Obviously, she hadn't and at the peak of that contraction I gave one last big push, and Mara arrived (the time was 2:34 am; I'd been in the tub less than half an hour and had only pushed through a handful of contractions).

DeAnna lifted Mara up out of the water and placed her in my arms. It was surreal. She wasn't even crying. Entering her new world seemed to offer no shock or pain. She just started breathing, snuggled up in my arms. Though my body was exhausted, I could clearly feel so much pain and stress leave my body the moment I was finally holding Mara. My mind was restored to it's normal, less frantic state, and my limbs restored enough strength to move myself around the tub.

When it was time to cut the umbilical cord I asked Ben if I could do it. Of course he said yes. Cutting the cord and feeling her head were two things I really wanted to do for myself this time around. They were kind of my measurements for staying calm. I've never really paid attention to those parts of labor, even as they are pointed out to me. I knew if I could focus on them that meant I hadn't completely lost my mind. When I focused on the cord I noticed a true knot! I couldn't believe it. It obviously brought no harm to Mara, but it sure surprised me to see a tied knot in her source of survival. It's possible it only tied itself (or tightened the tie) during the final moments of labor, as the last fetal monitor did pick up a brief abnormal heart rate that quickly restored itself and didn't seem to cause anyone too much concern.

Mara was eventually taken from my arms and moved to the exam table. That's when she really began howling. I was shocked to hear she was only 9 pounds and 6 ounces. She certainly felt significantly smaller than Coraline on the way out, but I did not imagine you could have a baby a full pound and four ounces smaller than the previous. It makes me wonder if she really was a week late -- since my due dates are always measured in ultrasounds and never by my (non-existent) cycle.

Once the tub was drained I got out and onto the bed. That's when I really started to feel all the pain. It's amazing to me how much pain the warm water takes away. Also, contractions are much shorter and further apart in the tub. I don't know that I ever really had a contraction that was longer than 50 or 60 seconds.

Now, don't get me wrong. The pain is still hell. In fact, that's exactly what I said when it was all done. I think I sighed and looked around the room and said "That was hell!" And then I kissed the fresh piece of heaven that was in my arms. 

It really is hell. 

After four labors I finally found the perfect word to describe the experience. Hell. I know some people would say I could take meds and not torture myself so much. That may be true, but I really like feeling what is happening to my body. I feel like I finally figured out how to really listen to my body and use my labor to bring a huge child into the world. 

I wouldn't change my pain-med free labors for anything. If possible, I would go back and do the first two in a tub. But even so I'm kind of glad I ran a gamut of pain-med free experiences. I can certainly say which experience I think is better! 

DeAnna and I even talked a bit about water births and some of the research she is doing after I was all stitched up and ready to rest in my recovery room. She said there is lots of evidence to show that trauma is less likely to occur in a water birth. This has always been well documented for the mothers, but they are now finding this to be true for the infants -- especially instances of shoulder dysplasia (the topic of her research paper).

Ben was kind enough to wait around until Mara and I were safely tucked away in our room. I kept telling him he could go home and try to catch some sleep before his busy day with the three big kids began, but I could tell he really just wanted to enjoy that peace that comes after having a newborn. 

I did make a special request that he bring all the kids to meet Mara before he sent Reid off to school. So sometime around 8 I had some very special visitors. 

Coraline was definitely the most fascinated. Reid had a zillion questions and certainly knows more about labor and delivery than probably every six-year-old on the planet. As the next two days unfolded, it was clear Nell was having the hardest time with me not being at home. She was hysterical each time they had to leave.

It was different not having Ben around at my every beck and call during this hospital stay. But I think this somehow made time move slower. I spent the next 36 hours enjoying lots of quiet time with our newest little angel.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...