Thursday, February 18, 2016

Owen's Birth Story

What ended up being my last check-up! ;)
If you would rather hear the birth story in person, then I would rather tell it to you. It may sound silly, but I love hearing and sharing birth stories. So, STOP reading if you'd like to share it over tea, skype, or the phone ;)

On Tuesday, February 9th, at 10 AM Ian and I went for my 39 week check-up. It's common for the mama to choose to be checked for dilation and effacement, but I chose to forego the test. I didn't want to be disappointed in my "progress" and it's really not an exact science, predicting when you'll actually go into labor or not. Some are dilated and don't go into labor for weeks. Some aren't dilated and go into labor that night. I didn't want the disappointment or the encouragement. I knew I'd had a amount of contractions and was hoping they were working their magic, preparing my body for labor.

The baby's heartbeat was perfect, a little under 140 heartbeats per minute, and we headed back home.

That late morning and afternoon I could feel myself getting more and more uncomfortable and irritable. I knew my body was just moving closer to labor, but I didn't get my hopes up that labor was imminent.

As each day came and went, I'd find myself rooting for labor to begin in the morning, when I was well-rested. As each day went on, I'd almost beg my body to wait until I had gotten another good sleep before going into labor.

 On this particular afternoon, my contractions (from now on called rushes) picked up during Ian's nap time. I was feeling them regularly and remember thinking, "This may be it!" When Ian woke up, he was having a hard time deciding what he wanted to do, was frustrated, and kept going back and forth in his desires, wants, & needs. It was a particularly trying afternoon. At one point I got quite frustrated, and, being in pain and having rushes, that I became fairly stern. I almost felt a switch go off and the rushes stopped.

Jim made a wise decision to attend a financial meeting/presentation (loans adn  about an hour up the road and so Ian and I were solo for the evening.

That afternoon I made a huge pot of chili for dinner and then decided to make a batch of cookies when I would have been making dinner. Threw in some laundry, emptied the dishwasher, tidied the living room, refilled soap bottles, etc. I don't remember all of the things I did, but I now understand that I was nesting... FOR REAL.
Ian was so excited about the cookies. He's only had a few in his life and nothing beats it when they come straight out of the oven!!
We had a sweet evening of reading books, singing songs, and lots of hugs & kisses before we said goodnight. I returned to the kitchen to clean up and felt, again, like something was starting to happen. I decided that I should maybe sit down and let my body try to calm down. When sitting became uncomfortable I convinced myself that going to bed would really slow things down.

I got in bed and couldn't lie comfortably in any position. Once again, I felt the pain of back labor that I remembered so significantly from Ian's labor. I texted Jim that something might be starting and asked if the presentation was over and if he was on his way. Fortunately, they were on their way home. By the time he arrived home I was having contractions every five minutes, consistently. He had a few prescriptions he needed to submit for patients, so he ran down to his office for fifteen minutes.

I texted him from bed after about 15-20 minutes to say that nothing was changing. He immediately returned and got the heating sock that a friend gave me and threw it in the microwave. This was to become my best friend.

I went to the bathroom and decided that I should take one last shot of my pregnant belly... scary picture, I know, but I want to have it for the future. My belly was getting so, so low. No pants felt comfortable under it and as each contraction came on, I could feel the baby moving lower and lower.

Unable to lie in bed anymore, I sat on the yoga ball in the living room and turned on the Pandora app on our TV. Jim ran around packing his hospital bag and adding additional things to our bags, as we thought of them.

And then we turned our attention to deciding when we should go to the hospital, when we should contact Joi (our doula friend), when we should contact Barb (a friend who offered to sleep in our house while Ian slept), and when to contact my mom (who would be coming to stay with Ian while we were in the hospital).

We came to the conclusion that perhaps Jim should check my dilation (perks of having a husband in the medical field). He checked and said that he couldn't tell exactly how many centimeters I was, but that we needed to head in.

A few weeks prior the results were positive for my Group B Strep test, which meant that I would need to be on antibiotics at least four hours (two doses) ahead of our baby being born. The fact that labor is a difficult process to predict duration means that the OBs wanted me to come in when I knew I was in labor.

Barb arrived, Joi was going to meet us at the hospital, and Mom would get up early in the morning to come care for Ian. The car was loaded and we started out the door.

When I stood up to get off of the yoga ball, I could barely walk. It shocked me. This was really happening. I hobbled to the car and it was freezing outside. We forgot that warming up the car would have been a good idea, so we froze for almost the whole drive. Every light and stop hurt. I tried to stay in the zone and kept my eyes closed, breathing deeply through each rush. The only song I remember hearing on the radio was "Shake It Out" by Taylor Swift :)

We arrived and parked directly outside the hospital doors and walked to the front desk. I had a rush almost as soon as we got there, so I squatted at the desk while Jim checked us in. They showed us to the room and I immediately wanted to sit on the yoga ball in the room. That became my second best friend.

The nurses checked my dilation and I was 4 cm dilated, 75% effaced (I think that's what I remember...) . I was encouraged to be this far, but I was also pretty positive that the cold drive and transition to the hospital might have set me back a bit.

During Ian's birth, labor stalled twice and was really, really long. I had back labor for one of the whole nights. I was determined not to allow it to slow down this time. I wanted labor to progress and I was willing to do whatever it took to keep things moving, knowing that my energy would only start to wane otherwise. And, especially since I was going to be laboring all night... I wanted things to keep moving right along!!

Lying on my back in the bed, I noticed that the clock was hanging on the wall directly in front of the bed. I didn't want to focus on the time during pushing or labor, so I asked them to take the clock off of the wall.

Then they started asking me their bizillion check-in questions, which was frustrating. Many of these questions could have been asked prior to my check-in and when I had preregistered or even toured the hospital. A few times I was short with nurses who came in to ask me to sign different documents... "Does this have to be done right now?" or "Can this wait until after the baby is born?" The worst question was: in case there's ever an emergency, like an Amber Alert, can you sign off on us taking a DNA sample. Umm, are we really talking about Amber Alerts for my unborn child while I am supposed to be surrendering to the birth of said child!!!!! I may be writing a letter soon. One of the nurses we had at checkout even pleaded with me to write a letter.

In the midst of the questions I heard Jim welcome Joi into the room. It was such a comfort to have not one, but two people there with me. Immediately they started getting the heating pads moving in rotation to help with my back labor and and Joi started massaging my back and neck. Each rush would come and Joi showed Jim how to squeeze my hips/buttocks together to open up the front of my pelvis. They took turns doing this for every contraction and that felt amazing. If their hands weren't there, then the pain was excruciating. The questions kept coming, but the comforts of their hands and their words and reassuring eyes meant everything.

When the nurses finished monitoring the baby's heartbeat, which had to be done 15 minutes out of every hour, and asking questions, we made sure I was hydrated and ate a yogurt and some grapes.

I was thrilled when Dr. Hudgins walked into the room!! She was my first choice doctor, calm and collected, wise and steady. Recently I had told Jim that I hoped she was the one on-call.  Relief washed over me. She said that if my labor went longer than her night shift, it could be arranged that she stay to deliver our baby. This was really comforting to know that I wasn't on the clock to have the doctor I truly wanted to deliver our little one.

I was going to need to start a dosage of antibiotic soon, but Joi suggested that we walk the hallways for a few minutes until they were ready. I squatted and held a railing, walked, and stopped and held Jim's neck, burying my head into his chest on each rush. Joi squeezed my hips together.

We were summoned back to the room and I started my first dose of antibiotics after getting a really painful hep-lock put into my hand. We stayed on the yoga ball during the dose, since it was the most comfortable spot for me. The heating pads kept coming and Jim said it looked like they were burning my back, since my back was so red. I didn't notice and loved the sensation of the heat on my back. As soon as the dosage was done, we disconnected the IV and headed out to walk the hallways again.

Joi said that the walking/moving/squatting would help the baby move from its posterior position causing my back labor and I was up for anything that would relieve that. The constant pain was unbearable in any position. This is the pain I had during Ian's labor too... it was very familiar.

It was remarkable how much relief I would feel when the baby would move to an anterior position and then when the baby would move back it was unbearable again. Jim and Joi said my pace changed and I became a much faster walker when he was in the right position.

Then I think it was time for another fetal heart monitoring session. We moved back to the yoga ball and I was encouraged to snack. I remember feeling like I wouldn't be able to keep the granola bar down and Jim ran for a vomit bag. Fortunately, I never had to use it.

Fetal monitoring over, we moved to the bathroom. We cranked the water to as hot as it would go and I squatted in the tub while Jim directed the showerhead wand directly at my lower back. Apparently I kept insisting/asking for the middle of my back, but Jim and Joi said that I didn't actually have it directly in the middle of my back but more to the left.

We pulled the stopper so that the bath would fill up and surround my hips, too. It felt SO good. I never wanted to get out. I started rocking my hips forward and backward and Joi said, "Good, Käthe. You have good instincts." It was so nice to have encouragement like this.

I was still concerned that the labor was slowing and expressed this to Joi. Quickly she asked me why I thought that things were slowing and I responded that contractions were getting so far apart. "They are like 20 minutes apart!" To which she quickly retorted... "Käthe, they are no more than a minute apart, sometimes three minutes. You are in labor land! Your concept of time is skewed." Wow, I was so surprised!

At one point I started to worry that my rushes were slowing down and didn't want this to happen. I expressed this to Jim and Joi. One of my main love languages is words of affirmation and Joi gave us some privacy while Jim spoke some words of encouragement to me. This was really helpful!!!

At one point I remember Jim left the room to use the bathroom or get coffee for the two of them. I looked at Joi and she had her eyes closed and looked tired. It was probably like 4:30 AM or so, after all. I said, "I'm sorry, Joi. You look so tired!" To which she responded, "I'm not tired, I'm praying." And then she immediately stared praying out loud for me. It was so comforting.

It reminded me of all of the people who had encouraged me and prayed for me during this pregnancy. It wasn't just Jim, Joi and me in this... we had family & friends & women all around the world who were laboring at the exact same time as me. And I was designed for this. My body crafted for this. I was not alone and have the promise that I never will be.

Jim returned and I remember saying that I was starting to get too hot. I was sweating and overheating. Joi said that this is a good sign that I am in transition and things are getting closer. She got cold washcloths and put them on my forehead and on the back of my neck. They felt incredible.

Soon after Joi suggested that I sit on the toilet. Nervous because my labor stalled when I sat on the toilet during Ian's labor, I expressed this concern. Quickly she reminded me that this is a different baby and this is a different labor. I got out and sat on the toilet and it felt so nice. After a few minutes I felt my first desire to push.

I moved up to the bed and they checked my dilation; I was at 7 cm. This was encouraging to me!

They needed to check the fetal heart rate again and I stayed sitting on the bed, since I had just gotten checked. Every time I felt a contraction I would move up my knees and hands on the bed. They were having trouble reading the fetal heart rate due to my position and Dr. Hudgins said that we needed to get readings during two contractions. She continued to watch the monitor as each contraction came and went. Many contractions passed and the monitor just wasn't picking it up.

During this time they rolled in a couple of carts and some of the nurses were wearing hair nets and different scrubs. I remember watching Dr. Hudgin's stoic face carefully and then finally saying, "Are you prepping for surgery? Why is all of this stuff coming in?" Joi touched my leg with a comforting press of her palm, with a knowing smile she said, "This means that you are close!"

WOOHOO! These people are believing in me. It's really happening!

I asked if I should move to the yoga ball, where all of the other fetal monitoring had occurred and they agreed this would be helpful. Once we got a few good readings during the contractions, I felt the urge to push and climbed back up on the bed.

Dr. Hudgins came back in and checked me and said that I was 10 cm and had a bit of a lip, but that she was okay with me pushing. Woo!! She also said that there was a bulge from my water bag and that when that popped, then she said we would have our baby within the next 20 or 30 minutes because his head was so close.

They made the bed into a 90 degree angle and I knelt facing the wall, with my hands braced on the vertical back of the bed. I felt like the baby was moving further and further down with each push and rush. And I felt that with each rush I was able to bring the baby lower my moaning or channeling my sound to be lower. I could immediately feel that I was ineffective if my sounds were high-pitched. It was really neat to feel so in-tune with my body and the baby at this point.

After one or two rushes, my water broke all over the bed behind me. What a great feeling that was! Proof that things were really moving along AND that the birth was imminent. Dr. Hudgins had said 20-30 minutes?! I've got this. I was made for this.

I was also really amazed by the natural breaks that were allowed during this time. I felt like there was a lot of time between each rush, which surprised and almost alarmed me, but also gave me time to rest and relax before the next push. This was something that I didn't have during Ian's birth, since I needed to be on Pitocin (and without an epidural) after 30 hours of my water having broken and contractions just racked my body.

The pushing phase, though incredibly difficult, is my favorite part of labor. It's the first time that I feel like I know exactly what needs to be done. The pushing urge can be satisfied.

They said that the head was right there and that I should wait until I could be fully supported to push. Dr. Hudgins asked Jim if he would like to catch our baby and he readily stepped up to the plate! Then she asked him what sized gloves he wears. When I heard this I shouted something like, "There's no time!! This baby is coming!!!"

Dr. Hudgins suggested I turn over on my back so that I wouldn't tear and she could support me best. I shouted that I needed someone to turn me over, if that was to happen. Before I knew it, Joi had flipped me over onto my back on her own. I have no idea how she did this with all 184 lbs of my pregnant body!!

Once flipped, I pushed almost immediately and his head came out. Jim grabbed his shoulders and pulled them out with the next contraction while Dr. Hudgins supported my perineum. And out whooshed our baby, straight into papa's arms!!! Joi and Dr. Hudgins each told me later that I pushed less than 10 times and our baby arrived!!! It's just amazing to me. It is absolutely incredible to feel a human being be born from your body into the world. An absolute miracle.

With some suction, our darling baby cried almost right away!! Filled with relief and immediate endorphins, I asked Jim if our baby was a boy or a girl!! His response was, "It's a boy! Ian's a big brother!"

Quickly he was placed upon my chest for snuggles and warmth. He started nursing quickly and the rest is history!! Jim cut the cord after it stopped pulsing.

Once the placenta was delivered, I needed three stitches. The endorphins and the high have lasted for more than a week. Giving birth is an incredibly powerful and amazing experience.

We are completely and utterly smitten with our second-born. He's handsome, cuddly, calm, alert, and sleeps a whole lot (for now). He has beautiful blue eyes and medium-brown hair. His fingers are long and his feet are thin and slender.
It took us a day to decide on his name and we love it. We've had this name since the summer we got married and we chose Ian's name on the very same bike ride. This name holds a great deal of significance for our families.

Owen David
8 lbs. 12.8 oz., 21.75 inches
February 10, 2016 at 6:11 AM
Head Circumference 13.5 inches

I am forever grateful to my wonderful birth team for helping me have this completely natural experience. Jim was the ultimate support; I could not have asked for a better and more supportive husband. Joi was wonderful in her counsel during each step of the way. It meant so much to have her there as a friend, as an experienced mama, and as a knowledgeable doula. Dr. Hudgins truly wanted me to have the birth we desired and was wonderful.
Joi with us
Jim ended up doing the measurements for out little one, as well. The nurse was someone Jim had worked with on another floor during his cardiology rotation and he really enjoyed working with her. It was kind of neat to be in the hospital where he works and is recognized by some of the nurses and staff.

A few of our friends, who also work in the hospital, stopped by to visit during their work day or before they headed home. It was really nice.

Ian & Äma came to visit us twice every day we were in the hospital. We stayed two nights after he was born. Baby Owen "gave" Ian a family of horses, one to represent each family member. As soon as Ian came into the hospital room, he came up on the bed to cuddle with me. Jim was holding Owen on the other side of the room. We let him open his gift from Owen and then he was very busy handing each horse to the family member it represented. He was fairly indifferent to Owen's presence, not overly interested and not overly upset.

First family of four picture!!
Jim napping with each of his boys :)

Sharing his horses
Always my firstborn. Always my baby. Gosh, I love this kid.
Because I had Group B Strept, it is hospital protocol to keep the patients in the hospital for 48 hours of monitoring of vitals. Although we were desperate to get home, we stuck it out.
Friday morning finally came and we were so happy to go home!!
Since Owen was born Ian has held him a handful of times and he seems to really understand that baby needs to eat and sleep and we need to respect that. We've had family here non-stop, with my Mom here until Sunday, Jim off for a snow day on Monday, and then his parents arrived and his mom is staying until Saturday. This has been wonderful because there has always been someone around to play with Ian and help him with the transition, but it's also allowed me to have time with Ian while someone else cuddles Owen. It's been a huge blessing. Right now I am listening to the sweet banter of Kim and Ian playing outside of my door. So very grateful.
I love Owen's expression in this photo. "Alright folks, let's go home!!"
Happy to be home, Owen cuddled nicely into his co-sleeper.

More than one week after giving birth now, I can say that recovery has been very fast. I'm hardly in any pain and I have been so grateful to our family for helping me to get as much sleep and rest as possible while they are here. Owen and I nap every day during Ian's nap. This is something I certainly plan to keep up after our family leaves. Owen sleeps pretty well at night. I am not keeping track of how often we wake up (that might make me crazy and more tired!), but I wake up feeling rested. Then the nap in the afternoon also helps!

Well, that's a wrap, folks. This will be edited a few times, I'm sure, as I remember details that were left out. But I am so glad to have this written while my memory of it is so strong. What a redemptive and fulfilling and enriching and refining experience. 

Sweet Owen David, we are so very glad you are here.

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