Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Birth Story - Part Three

The last installment of this story left me begging for an epidural and my husband insisting that it was not what I truly wanted and that I should NOT get one.

Not. A. Pretty. Picture.

This IS a pretty picture, though. Tanner and I at the hospital after I got my epidural and set up camp in the hospital bed.
In my heart, I really did not want an epidural – for lots of reasons, some right and some wrong. I believed and still believe in all the healthy, value-driven reasons that initially steered me against an epidural, and someday when I have more time and energy, I'll go into my whole reasoning behind pursuing natural childbirth. All those reasons gave me pause as I was considering an epidural, but to be honest, in that moment of decision, all those good reasons shrunk in their significance compared to a looming, shadowy, yucky reason. THAT reason gave me the greatest pause before I chose to jump off the diving board and into the deep end of the epidural pool.

I did not want all those people (Yes, if you were one of them, you now know I thought you were ANNOYING) who, when I told them I was planning a natural birth, laughed in my faced and told me, " Ooookaaaay, whatever! You'll be begging for an epidural when the time comes," to be right. I wanted to prove them wrong. I wanted to be right. I wanted to be stronger. This ugly reason can be summed up as PRIDE.

But all the yield signs, good and bad, were blown over and flattened in the tornado of fear, pain and fatigue swirling around me. I chose an epidural.

Despite wanting the opposite, I think everything leading up to that point pointed me toward that outcome. Despite going through the wonderful Harris Midwifes, I believe the hospital setting and protocol encouraged an induction and epidural (and for some people, c-sections).


Despite having a several crisp white pages of paper filled with Bible verses stapled together and tucked into my birthing folder and a playlist of inspiring Christian songs running on loop in the hospital room, I had not truly dedicated the birth of my child to God's glory. The time before the birth was actually a very spiritually dry season for me. During my pregnancy, I did not prepare for the path ahead of me with prayer. I did not arm myself with scripture. Despite my convictions that a birth should be a time to glorify God through surrender and worship and trust and faith, I spent most of my time during pregnancy worshiping at the altar of knowledge. I researched and championed every natural, healthful philosophy on childbirth. Those mindsets and methods are healthy and wonderful and practical, but must be paired with a desire to glorify God. In and of themselves, they are not saviors. I did not trust my God to get me through the birth. I did not lean on Him through earnest prayer and worship and mediation. I placed all of my trust and faith in my own plans and knowledge. When that wavered (and ultimately failed), all I had left were fear and doubt. I needed a champion, and it wasn't a philosophy or a method or a plan. It was my Savior and He was there all along! 

Anyway, that's a lot of reflection. Sorry, I've had 10 months to think about everything. I'll wrap up the meat and bones of the story so those who care can know what all happened.

So the decision was made, and although I ended up paying the anesthesiologist a bajillion million dollars, I think it was actually the doctor's nurse or assistant or someone else that came in with the big needle. I could be wrong. When she arrived, a mix of emotions were stirring and bubbling inside me: fear and disappointment, but also relief. The woman was very stern and emotionless. I felt like screaming at her, "Don't you know I've been trying to birth this child for over a day!!!" In hindsight I know she wasn't there to be an emotional cheerleader, but I guess I was just hoping people with pompoms and megaphones would come out of the woodwork at ever turn.

I was commanded to stay completely still while they put the needle in my back. This was a puzzling command to me, as every contraction made me contort and squirm and cry and scream. And they wanted me to be still for like 10 minutes! While the needle was in me, I had a very strong contraction and flinched. The woman scolded me mercilessly and told me how dangerous that was and that I pretty much could have killed myself and everyone in the room... I kept thinking, Am I the only wimp who couldn't stay still for this!? Candice grabbed my hands and lovingly coached me through the next contraction. I kept still that time.

When things started to get numb enough, I got my catheter. A lovely contraption that would leave me with months worth of UTI's and other "womanly" infections.

I labored for a while with the epidural, and then I fell asleep. When I woke up 2-hour nap, I had gone from 2 cm to 9 cm. Everyone was in shock it seemed. Candice said it would be soon, and then told me she had to leave. Her shift was over! I was disappointed and so was she. Although I'm sure she was glad to go home, she had put in a lot of work not to see the end result! The next midwife on call was Summer. I was excited to see her. She is a wonderful woman!

I got some more medicine when I woke up, labored for about an hour and then started to feel the urge to push. I don’t know how I knew, it was just one of those instinctual things that I could feel even with the epidural. Pushing was my favorite part because (at least according to Summer) I was doing a great job! She said I was making quick progress, and for the first time, I felt like my body was doing something right. It was a cool feeling (obviously only because I had the epidural) to feel all the pressure and feel the baby’s head moving. Several times I was able to reach down and touch the squishy head. 

Tanner was by my side and my sister, Kathleen, had come in the room too at this point to take pictures. I pushed for about 20 minutes and the baby was making its way quickly, but the meconium fluid was getting darker, and I think that was worrying Summer. She said, "This baby has a big head, and you have a small opening. [DUH!!!] If you don’t get her out on this next push, I think I am going to have to cut you.” 

That was the last straw! All my plans had gone out the window, and I thought, I’m not going to get an episiotomy, too! (Another intervention I had been hoping to avoid.) I pushed as hard as I could on that next contraction, and the baby came out screaming. The NICU people were supposed to be there (hospital policy) because of the presence of the meconium fluid, but they were not there yet so Summer had to start suctioning the fluid out of the baby's mouth so it wouldn’t go in her lungs. I was watching all this kind of in a daze. After she had suctioned her, Summer asked Tanner if he wanted to make THE announcement. He must have been in a bit of a daze too because he told Summer to do it, and she announced, “It’s a girl!” Ten months of suspense ended!

Blurry, but I think this is the moment I first saw my baby!
Ailee Grace is born!
The NICU people arrived and whisked the baby away to the corner of the room. (Hospital policy.) They did some more suctioning and measured some things and did other stuff, not sure what. Tanner would know more about this part. I'll ask him someday. I was sad I couldn’t do skin-to-skin immediately with my baby. I had torn quite a bit and was bleeding a lot, so Summer was working quickly to get me sewn up as all the other hullabaloo was taking place. It's all a blur in my mind. It took about half an hour to sew me up. I lost about 16 oz of blood. I also had a fever, which made them worry about infection. Ailee had a fever too but it went away quickly so they assumed it was from me and didn’t make her go to NICU.

The NICU people doing their "thing" while protective Papa looks on

Tanner comforts Ailee while she gets poked and prodded. Looking back on these pictures, I think "Hallelujah!" but also, what a rude entrance into the world this poor baby had!
Finally I got to hold my baby to my chest, and Tanner and I decided on her name. Ailee Grace.

Finally holding my baby girl.

Tanner had to give Ailee a bottle at some point, I'm not sure when but I think it was because of her glucose levels being low or something. I'm not sure why they didn't ask me to nurse first. 

Ailee's first meal came from Daddy and a bottle full of formula. Sad for Mommy, especially looking back, but beautiful to see my sweet husband feeding with his girl. I love his bulging biceps hard at work with such a tender task!
Then Ailee had to get taken away because they had to test her glucose again – I think. Again, blurry on this. They brought her back and said I needed to try and nurse her because her levels were still low, and if she didn’t nurse she’d need another bottle. I was worried about the whole bottle thing. We got her to nurse but it was really hard. Two nurses had to help me. Later I would find out that Ailee had a lip tie and tongue tie that made normal nursing impossible for her. But we got her to take Mommy's milk and she never had formula again after that initial bottle immediately after her birth.

A very tired me with my little slumbering angel. We had both been through a LOT already.
I had to wait in the labor & delivery room for a long time waiting for a postpartum room to clear up. Ailee slept on my chest, and my mom and dad came in to see the baby. That was a very happy moment and helped to take my mind off of everything that had gone so contrary to my hopes. 

Ailee with her VV
VV and Voots with their little Ailee Bear
Aunt Kitty and her niece!
By the grace of God, after I had my little girl, I didn't struggle with any feelings of inadequacy because of the off-track birth experience or  go through a mourning phase like some women do when they feel the birth went awry. At some point during the whole experience, I can't pinpoint when, I realized my sin and this verse became imprinted in my mind: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your path straight." Provers 3:5-6 Since then, that verse has gotten me through many confusing, tough, dark and sleep-deprived moments in this journey of parenting. After the birth, I left that experience behind me and shifted gears to my new task as Mommy. But is has been good in the months since, after gaining some healthy emotional distance, perspective and hormone leveling, to reflect on the experience.

My dad brought birthday hats for the big day. This picture makes me laugh. I look sooo tired. And I was!
I'm still a believer in natural childbirth. It will be my goal for my next (God willing) birth experience, although I hope and pray that it will be submitted to the Lord and not on its own altar of knowledge and pride. 

Outside from the spiritual aspect (AKA my sin & pride!), there are several main factors I believe "derailed" my birth goals. 

1) My water breaking spontaneously. I don't know what caused this. I don't know if it could have been prevented with a healthier diet during pregnancy (Mine was shamefully awful, and I will never eat that way again! I pray God heals Ailee from any damage I did with my terrible habits), less activity or something else. It might have just been "one of those things" – you know, those weird things that just happen! Either way, my body was obviously NOT ready for labor, but when my water broke it started the labor process in my mind and in my healthcare provider's mind. I had to be induced to force my body into a labor that it was not ready for. I still need to research the safety and wisdom of this, but for future pregnancies, barring any other complications being present, I would like to continue to labor naturally with no intervention even  if my membranes rupture while drinking plenty of water, keeping tabs on the baby's heart rate and reasonably reducing the risks of infection at home.

2) Presence of meconium-stained fluid. This seemed pretty serious to everyone, but I was totally clueless as to the risks it presented and how it should affect my future decisions. I took stock in everyone's words and concerned expressions. I still need to research this complication for future pregnancies. The presence of the fluid resulted in people not wanting the labor to be "unnecessarily" prolonged and resulted in hospital protocols that prevented me from doing skin-to-skin and immediate nursing. 

3) Induction. Because my membranes had been ruptured for a significant length of time and no labor followed, I was induced. This tethered me to a monitor in one corner of the room and limited my pain-coping techniques. I could not labor in a tub. I could not walk very far. I could not get into every position I wanted to. When contractions came on rapidly, my body had no time to acclimate. When the baby's heart rate dropped (not sure what caused this), I was forced to lay in one very painful position. This lead me to the epidural.

4) Fear. Fear of the pain. Fear and frustration because everything was failing.

I think my nurse-midwives did a great job. I am happy with the care they provided me. This is no complaint against them, but I am not sure if I will choose to go that route again. With a hospital birth, the hospital culture with time limits and medication are all around you even if your health-care providers support natural child birth. I guess it was just too tempting for someone like me and infiltrated my decisions. I haven't ruled out another hospital birth, but I am definitely considering a home birth or birthing center for the future. 

I'm sure I've left out tons of what I wanted to say and haven't done a great job at getting across what I meant to say with what I did say. Make sense? No. I know I've left out pretty much everything explaining my perspectives and beliefs and reasoning on natural childbirth, and that is important to completely understanding my reactions and responses to what happened during Ailee's birth. I'll tackle all that someday. Maybe when I'm expecting again. That would be a good time. Maybe half of you are perplexed or annoyed at me because of my perspectives and opinions and are rolling your eyes at me. All I have to say about that is, be careful because your face might get stuck like that!

I am thankful that God kept me and Ailee safe during her birth. I'm thankful for all that He taught me during the experience and the testimony He provided me. I'm thankful for the beautiful daughter He has entrusted to our care. We are blessed and thankful!

Ailee Grace

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