Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Birth Story

Ian Forrester’s Birth Story

I flipped the calendar to September and found Ian’s face staring back at me. The face of a baby two days old - my favorite picture - and then one of me holding him. Below were the basic details of his size, the day, the time. My stomach tightened as I realized that September means that a year has passed. My baby will soon no longer be a baby. This full, dynamic, sleepless, and wonderful year is coming to a close and I have yet to write the birth story.

I’ve documented his first smile, roll, step, and just about everything else, but I haven’t actually written out his entrance into this world. It feels like just yesterday. I remember so much, and yet I’m worried that I have already forgotten so many things. Fortunately, our friend Stacy visited us in the hospital on Ian’s second day of life and was gracious enough to bullet and outline the entire story while I told it to another friend.

So, here is the story of Ian’s birth. Mostly from memory but certainly assisted by the outline. Today it feels like this is the right way to spend Ian’s nap time; celebrating one year ago and cherishing the gift we have been given.

Our baby was due on September 17, 2013. We didn’t know the gender of our child before he was born, so up to the moment of birth we’ll refer to him as “baby.” Since it was our first child, we were incredibly excited but had been warned that the firstborn often comes late. As soon as we entered September, all we could think about was the fact that our baby could come any day and at any time. We tried to think about his birthdate being at the end of September, or even in the beginning of October, but the due date kept ringing in our minds... September 17th.

At 1:30 AM on the due date, September 17th, I woke up and felt that my undies were a bit wet. I wasn’t sure if it could have been broken membranes or dribbles from baby’s mass effect on my bladder, so I went to the bathroom. There I wiped and noticed a pinkish clear discharge. I went to consult Jim and ask him what he thought I should do and he immediately responded that I should call the midwives.

Uncertain that this was really labor or my broken water, I changed my undies and went back to sleep. At about 2:15 I felt a minor contraction and then felt water uncontrollably leak out of me and wet my new pair of undies. Okay, I thought. I definitely didn’t pee my pants before... this is it!

I called the practice and was put through to Mattie, the midwife on call, who was the one I had seen most frequently throughout my pregnancy. Since I had tested positive for Group B Strep, she told me that I should come into the hospital to get antibiotics. The antibiotics need to be in your system at least four hours before the baby is born. She told us to take our time, I should take a shower, eat a good, big breakfast, and then come into the hospital.

Oh boy!! I woke Jim up and he was excited and quickly asked what things we needed to do to be completely ready. He took Mattie’s words about the big breakfast to heart and after gathering a couple of the things we had on the “last-minute list,” he started making pancakes, scrambled eggs, and fruit. I hopped in the shower while he was cooking and remember really trying to be calm and enjoy my shower, but also felt ecstatic that the day was here!

I had wanted to labor at home for as long as possible before going into the hospital, but the Group B Strep combined with my water breaking so early made this impossible. All of my labor would have to be spent in the hospital. I knew that this was something I could dwell on, or something I could just let go and so I tried to do the latter.

After dropping Leif off upstairs with our landlord and friend, Diana, we grabbed our bags and hopped in the car around 3:30 AM. Since the contractions were mild, we chatted the whole way to the hospital. It was weird being on the road so early, before anyone else was awake. There was a pea soup thick fog which made driving a bit more exciting than we might have wished. As we were getting on I-81, a huge oppossum bolted across the road and there was no way for Jim to avoid it. He made a comment about the circle of life and we both had a little chuckle. What could we do?

We arrived at the hospital around 4 AM and were checked into Room 1110. Our first nurse was named Christy and she told us that she’d need to check to make sure my water had, in fact, broken. Otherwise we’d probably be sent back home. She tried to check on my undies, but it was inconclusive. She said we would need to wait for Mattie to come by. Jim and I decided that we would try to get some sleep in the meantime, since nothing was really happening and I was very comfortable. It was a bit anticlimactic.

We did sleep and then Mattie came by around 5:30 AM, checked and determined that my water had been broken and that I was about 1 centimeter dilated. I did not want to be checked many times during labor, having heard it could be discouraging to learn the dilation was so little or not progressing as quickly as expected or desired. But we decided it would be good to have a baseline and so she checked me. 1 centimeter... not quite what we were hoping!

Since my water had broken, Mattie explained that they would like baby to be born within twenty-four hours of when it started; any longer increased chances of infection to an unnecessary degree. She said that 85-90% of women have their babies within 12 hours of their water breaking. She gave us options of waiting, taking cytotec to thin the cervix, or taking pitocin. I wanted to deliver as naturally as possible for the benefits for the baby as well as for me and so we decided to wait and see what happened within the 12 hours and then we’d reconvene. 

Jim and I walked and walked. We walked and then walked more. We even walked out of the hospital and did laps around the outside of the hospital. Nothing was changing.

The clock in our room was broken, so I am unsure of the exact timeline throughout the rest of this birth story. We finally took the clock off of the wall, since it did us no good.

I had to be on the IV drip to receive antibiotics for about a half hour every four hours, so we would time our walks so that we could get back for the antibiotics.

Kris, the next midwife on duty, came and talked with us around 1:30, 12 hours after the water broke, and we decided to wait and reconvene around 3 PM. At that point we would take the cytotec to thin the cervix, if things had not progressed.

We walked more. Our doula, Shalene, who had been checking in with us through texts came and met us and walked around the hospital with us.

With no changes at 3 PM, Kris made the orders for me to receive cytotec. Around 5 PM they gave me cytotec and then I had a big lasagna dinner.

Around 8 PM contractions really started to pick up!! Shalene suggested that I go and get in the shower to assist with the pain. Jim held the sprayer right on my back, since I had horrible back labor pains, and it felt so good. We stayed there for a couple of hours. Contractions were getting to about 2-3 minutes apart. 

We used the coping technique we learned in our childbirth class - to moan through the contractions. It really helped to have Jim moaning with me. In the pain it was tempting to allow my sounds to go high and hold all of the pain and tension up, but we learned that it was important to make low sounds that would move everything down my body. Jim’s low groan was helpful in calming me down and helping me to feel like I was not alone or crazy.

Somewhere around 10:30ish, I had just received my next round of the antibiotic, and the contractions were still 2-3 minutes apart. Shalene suggested that I take a bath so that my body wouldn’t get too tired from standing... I would need my energy later. I switched to the bath and around 11 PM my contractions just completely slowed down altogether.

The midwife came in and suggested that I walk around, but it didn’t really get things moving again. Contractions were maybe about 5 minutes apart. She checked and I was dilated 3-4 cm. This was discouraging to me, but she was pleased and said it was good progress. At this point I was so tired and I asked if I could try to sleep.

However, sleep was pretty impossible because the contractions were still about five minutes apart and far too strong to sleep through. My back labor was intense and throbbing all night long. Lying down hurt. Shalene and Jim massaged my hands and feet and back, and placed a warmth compress on my back.

Every once in a while I’d get up and go to the bathroom, since they were also trying to keep me well-hydrated. Jim went to the bathroom with me each time. One of the times I distinctly remember saying to him, perhaps we should just do pitocin or a c-section if it came to that. I was just so tired. 

Around 2 PM he asked if he could lie down and sleep for a bit. He told me later that he could barely walk back from the bathroom he was so tired. He needed the rest, too.

Shalene stayed up with me for the next few hours. She massaged my back, kept the hot compresses warm and steady on my back, as well. A few times I’d glance over at her when I was trying to sleep and I’d find her praying for me and watching me. She was pregnant, too, so it amazed me how present she could be for me throughout the night.

Around 5 AM on Wednesday, September 18th, Kris came back in to check-in with me. She hoped that I had been able to rest a bit, but wanted to get things moving again. She discussed my options once more. After examining me she explained that my water had still not been totally broken because the pressure of baby, who had settled into my pelvis, was blocking it off, partially.

She suggested that I try a new position and put me on my belly, with one leg bent and placed upon four or five pillows. After some time contractions really started picking up again! I continued moaning through the contractions and Jim moaned with me. At one point he was right in my face, offering water and cheering me on. I politely asked him to either brush his teeth or get a piece of gum. 

Considering how nervous I was that I might be mean or snappy during labor, I think that this was super nice! But, looking back and in talking with Jim... I’m sure my breath was horrible after a whole night of contractions and munching on trail mix (Sorry, Jim! Thanks for responding so well!).

Contractions moved to 2-3 minutes apart and I remember Kris saying that Mattie was coming on and she was getting off of her shift. She introduced me, though I couldn’t see her through my pain and position, to the nurse, Casey, who was her favorite nurse and said that she would be a great asset to our birth. I also remember hearing Mattie’s voice say “hi” and then suggest that perhaps I move to sit on the toilet.

Grateful for a new position, I moved from the bed to the bathroom and the toilet, stopping along the way for my contractions. Sitting on the toilet felt AMAZING. Unfortunately, though, it stopped my contractions for a second time. Mattie later said that she has never before had a laboring woman’s contractions stop when they sat on a toilet; normally it encourages labor to progress further!

Mattie asked if there were any mental struggles I was having about labor or having a baby that might be preventing things from progressing. Other than the feeling of actually having to go number two, I couldn’t think of anything. I was certainly struggling to submit to the pain, though. The back labor pain was just excruciating.

A bit defeated, I was ready to accept Mattie’s suggestion to start pitocin and finish “popping” the bag of waters, since his head seemed to be blocking the bag from freely emptying. It was 7:30ish AM and they had let me go to 30 hours after my water broke, though they had wanted our  baby to be born within 24 hours. At this point I was only about 5 centimeters.

The pitocin was started after they monitored the baby for a while and tit ook some time to take effect. Pretty soon the contractions came on VERY strong. 

It was then that the massage therapist decided to come. I’m sure she gives a really good massage, but my contractions were far too painful to make it at all enjoyable or comforting!

I tried sitting on the birthing ball, the birthing stool, down on my hands and knees... any position to be more comfortable, but also to move things along. Since my waters had been fully broken, water came out with each contraction, leaving puddles on the floor around me.

The contractions were so painful and so fast in coming and I was so tired that I remember suggesting that I should have an epidural, or even a c-section. I was so done. Everyone in the room just continued to watch me and encourage me to wait a bit longer.

At one point I vividly remember Jim sitting next to me, the midwife, the nurse, and our doula sitting in chairs in front of me, watching. With each contraction so painful and strong, I felt that the time was coming, but I was a bit confused and frustrated by the fact that no one was getting anything ready!!

I finally asked, “What are we waiting for? Shouldn’t we be prepping things?!”

Everyone smiled and laughed and said, “We’re waiting until your body wants to push!!”

These people obviously know what they are doing because only a few minutes went by before I definitely felt the sensation and urge to start pushing. It was almost a relief to have a new sensation other than the pulsing contractions in my back and throughout my uterus.

They quickly set-up the bed as if it were stairs and checked my dilation. Approximately 6-7 centimeters. WHATTT?! Mattie found this to be encouraging, but I was a bit frustrated. I felt like pushing!! 

Within minutes (it seemed) she checked again and I was a “stretchy 9 centimeters.” She said that it would be okay for me to start pushing because my cervix was ready and the baby’s head coming down would stretch me to 10 centimeters.

Around 10:30 AM I really felt like pushing and was given the okay. Mattie asked Jim if he would like to deliver the baby, since he was in his fourth year of medical school and had already caught a couple of babies. He moved from my right knee down to receive the baby with Mattie. Casey went to retrieve another nurse and brought back one of our favorites, Wenona, from earlier in our stay. Wenona held my right leg, Casey my left, and our doula grabbed the camera (something which I’ve been oh-so-grateful for now!). Mattie sat at Jim’s side. I felt like the baby was imminent.

They told me to keep my palms up, shoulders back and down, and to keep my moaning low. All of these things would help to keep my body relaxed and able to do what needed to be done. Our bodies are amazing... truly.

The contractions were so strong that I was not able to vocalize during them. They told me I could bear down whenever I was ready and to hold my breath as I was doing it.

They started to talk about how the head was right there, but with each push it would retreat back up again. This is how it’s supposed to happen, but it feels like it should just continue moving forward!!

Someone suggested setting up the mirror so that I could see the baby. I only left it there for a few contraction because, to me, it didn’t seem like he was really “right there.” Now I understand what they mean, but at the time it seemed a bit too early to use the mirror.

They told me to put my hand down and feel his head. I did and could not believe how soft and mushy the top of the head was! It was fuzzy... I felt baby hair!!

With his head moving down, I really started to feel like he was on his way out. But with each contraction they would tell me, “He’s right there... his head is 1/4 of the way out!” Umm. Only 1/4!!!??? “Now he’s half of the way out!”

One time I exasperatedly said something like, “That’s it?” And Wenona responded that as soon as the head is free, the rest will follow quickly! Even though I was aware of this prior to labor, the reminder was absolutely necessary right then. It gave me the drive and the will to keep going... we really were SO close! My baby was almost with us!! How exciting and beautiful!!

Every time I pushed, my head went light from holding my breath, but it also felt good, in a really odd way. Where the baby was didn’t feel as good. Let’s be honest.

Mattie instructed Jim in all of the things he needed to do, where to put his hands, etc. He was so grateful to her for her guidance and trust throughout this time.

I was gaining motivation and drive because they were all encouraging me and talking about how close the baby was and I could tell that he was almost there. Truly incredible and wonderful, though unbelievable difficult and hard.

Just as Wenona said, as soon as his head cleared, the rest of his body slid straight out! I will never forget the feeling of him slipping out. Amazing.

Jim caught our baby as it came into this world!! Jim lifted him up to bring him to my chest and the baby landed low on my hip because his feet were still inside of me! Our baby was much longer than Mattie or Jim were expecting as they pulled him out! After a second try, our baby was delivered up to me.

We had agreed that Jim would be the one to announce our baby’s gender. I took him from Jim by placing my hand behind his neck and down in his groin area, and immediately learned on my own that our baby was a boy!! I said, “It’s a boy!!” And announced his name to everyone in the room.

Ian Forrester Barlow was very alert from the very beginning. He peed on me almost immediately and was crying. But it was the sweetest cry we’d ever heard. Jim came up and sat next to us, one arm on each of us. I will never forget the beam on his face. The warmth and the love in his eyes. Our first time together as a family. 

Within five minutes Ian was breastfeeding!! The nurses later coined him as the marathon nurser. Jim cut the cord after it had stopped pulsing and they tugged on the cord and the placenta came quickly out.

I could not believe how HUGE the placenta was. Oh my goodness. 

Ian continued nursing, skin to skin, for about an hour. I had two minor tears and Mattie sewed me up as we were breastfeeding. The entire time, Ian was looking around and alert, staring into our eyes. 

How strange it must be to be out of the womb, and yet he seemed to feel so content in our arms. I don’t remember him crying once, just sleeping and nursing, and looking around.

After the hour, they took him for measurements and tests. His details were as follows:

Ian Forrester Barlow
Born September 18, 2013 at 11:45 AM
8 lbs. 14 oz., 21.5 inches
APGARS 8 & 9
We were surprised by what a big baby he was, since Jim and I were both mid-range 7 pound babies. Based on how hungry I was all through pregnancy, though, it made sense! ;)

After 34 hours of labor, you would think that I would be desperate for sleep, but I couldn’t possibly sleep. I was no longer tired. I was elated to have our baby with us and in my arms, nursing away. He continued to nurse for about three hours after he was born.

I was amused when a nurse told me I could continue eating as normal, since no one had mentioned it before and I had never stopped eating! Well, I didn’t eat breakfast the morning he was born, but other than that I hadn’t missed a meal!

We ordered pizza and called all of our immediate family members to tell them the news. We spent the rest of the day gazing at our precious boy. I didn’t sleep until about 10 PM that night, when I forced myself to close my eyes and rest.

Although labor was not completely natural, as hoped, it was wonderfully empowering, personal, and humbling. Needing medication to induce the labor was out of my hands, because of Group B Strep and my water breaking so early.  However, no pain medications were given to me, as we had planned. A doula friend said later, “You had pitocin and no epidural? That’s really, really hard!” Yes, it certainly was. I think my body was in shock from it for weeks, if not months afterward, but I am still glad we did it that way. It was humbling to join the motherhood ranks of so many moms who have gone before and done the same thing in fields, cars, homes, you name it.

The fact that Jim got to deliver Ian was something we hadn’t even considered or imagined possible. What a gift and an amazing experience for us to have together. 

Shortly after Ian was born, our midwife said that this was one of the most beautiful births she’d been apart of and the nurses agreed with her. Wow. So touched.

The team in pictures:

Casey: Nurse
Wenona: Nurse, Lactation Consultant
Shalene: Doula... No picture, since she was the photographer (I'm so sorry!!!)

Mattie: Midwife
Ian Forrester Barlow has changed our lives so deeply from the minute we found out we were pregnant, but it was the depth of love that we found for him the moment he was in our arms that knocked us off our feet. Being a parent has been the most amazing experience yet.

September 17th and 18th mark the most significant time in our lives so far. The days when we labored, pushed, caught, nursed, and held our firstborn for the very first time.

Today Ian had me read one of our favorite books over and over again. I couldn’t help but cling to the last line each time I read it:

“You are my angel, my darling, my star, and my love will find you wherever you are.”
    • Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You, by Nancy Tillman
As I finished it each time, I’d turn and kiss his cheek. One time I asked if he could give me a kiss and he turned and planted a sloppy, wet, airy raspberry on my cheek for the very first, purposeful time. Lately my stomach has been clenched in preparation for Ian’s first birthday, with sadness that his infancy is coming to an end. This moment today was a full, sweetly-timed reminder that there is so much more to come. He will always be our baby, our firstborn, our darling. And our love will always be with him. Always.

We love you, Ian Forrester!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this story, adventure and journey! I almost felt like I was right there with you. (I wish I had been!) I'm so thankful that you approached this birth with such love and determination. You are a great testimony to all women!