Thursday, 4 April 2013

Empowered Through Childbirth

I want another baby. I want to make a baby (tee hee), and carry a baby, and give birth to a baby. Women are terrified of labor. But I found it empowering. Amazed at my triumph, I came out feeling indestructible and focused and able to conquer the world. I was high on the discovery of the power of the mind.

That feeling didn't last long as I struggled with adjustments and pain and exhaustion and learning to be a mom. Add mastitis and thyroid problems and changed cancer meds and I developed postpartum depression. The first few months were way rougher than labor. I'd welcome the opportunity to give birth to another. And now that I am healthy and in the swing of parenting, I am sure my euphoria would last a little longer this time. But alas, I must appreciate my current gift and remember the process that brought her here.

I was awoken with contractions about 10 minutes to 3 on a Friday morning. I had them the two mornings prior but they went away when I rolled out of bed. These ones stayed. I told my husband to get sleep and I would come get him when I needed him. I did some tidying up. At 5:30 in the morning I had eggs and toast, as I didn’t know when I would eat again (so grateful that I did that).

The contractions really, really hurt my back. I expected more pain in my stomach. I couldn't sit. Early labor I mostly knelt on the floor leaning over the ball. I finally woke my labor assistant up at 7 am to ease the back pain with pressure and massage, as it was getting unbearable.

We went outside and walked the dog, but the shivering cold made the contractions insufferably worse. I called the hospital to let them know and they said to come up when I wanted. I was reluctant to go in and be told I wasn’t dilated at all. It was insane not knowing if this was just the beginning or if my daughter wasn't even going to be born that day.

My step daughter, 21, texted me from work and left as soon as I told her I was in labor. Finally, at 9:30 am, the three of us went to the hospital. I had a contraction first as I was adamant that I would not have one sitting in the car. My husband had only missed pushing on my back for one contraction in the previous 2 hours because he had to use the bathroom and that one contraction was way worse. From that point on he wasn't evading his pressure-applying task.

The drive was only 2 minutes and I had my next contraction on the hospital steps.
We went to the labor room and at 10 in the morning, seven hours after feeling this all start, I was at 3 cm. My step daughter got our bag and cooler from the car and brought her dad breakfast. He was not allowed to leave my side. Around 1 in the afternoon they checked again and I had progressed to 5 cm. I was already so exhausted. I had only had three hours sleep.

I paced the room listening to a noise machine with waves. I would focus on the sound of the crashing water, which was swelling at the perfect pace to deeply breathe in and out. Swoosh. Breath in. Listen to the birds. Swoosh. Breath out. I would picture when my husband played with the dog in the ocean for hours on our last camping trip to the ocean. I would imagine doing that with our little girl. Running from the waves. Looking for see shells and miniature creatures in the sand. Tempting the salty water to splash higher and higher. I would deep breathe and envision the joy and peace, while back in reality my husband pushed my back and reminded me to relax my shoulders.

I remember a nurse asking me if I wanted anything for pain and I said no. The plan had been to stay away from using drugs because I didn't want to end up feeling worse. I'd had that happen before with migraine medication and pain medication when I had a bone marrow biopsy and watched that happen to my dad after he had surgery. What other women longed for I was terrified of resorting to in an emergency. Call me a chicken, but I wanted to feel myself and alert.

I continued to experience it all in my back with a lot of pressure that made me feel like I needed to have a bowel movement. If I lost focus at all on the waves I would find it hard to breathe deeply enough and it would bubble up anxiously and greatly exacerbate the pain. Even though it felt necessary, my back started to bruise from the 6 or so hours of intermittent pressure. Eventually my back hurt so much I suddenly wouldn’t let anyone touch it anymore.

I paced continuously, even through contractions. No one knew if I was having one unless they watched my breathing. I internally suffered as everyone talked about waves in gorgeous tropical places, and whatever other topics the waves invoked. I wasn't really paying attention. My husband had to guide my walking as I wasn’t really watching for obstacles. He would walk with me and massage my arms and neck while guiding me. At 4:45 I was checked and I was 8.5 cm and the doctor said it wouldn't be much longer. As I was checked my water broke. This momentarily relieved a lot of pressure. I couldn’t sit still so I went back to pacing, making quite a mess on the floor. Unfortunately after an extremely brief hiatus, the pressure returned. Just before 5 o'clock I whined to the doctor, “You said it wouldn’t be long!” He replied that compared to the 14 hours so far, 15 minutes wasn’t long at all!

I was concerned that maybe I wouldn’t actually feel an urge to push. Who wants to feel more contractions when it is actually time to progress to the next step and get over it? So he checked and I was 10 cm. It was time. I had planned to push with gravity's help in a crouching position. But I resorted to lying on my side as I was drastically tired. My man held my leg up with one hand and wrapped his arm around me and held my hand in his other hand. Poor guy was in a crouched, difficult position for quite a while.

I pushed with the back pain and pressure and relaxed when it passed. I never felt an urge to push at all. The doctor checked her progress and he felt no hair and informed us she was bald. But it turned out the back pain was because she was posterior, and he was feeling her bare forehead.

I pushed for two hours, keeping calm and not tensing because I was too tired and didn't want to waste energy. We really struggled getting her head and shoulders to come out. They kept saying one more push. One more push. After, I commented that they must say that all the time and they admitted they do.

Finally, she came out at 7:03pm after 16 hours. They placed her on my chest. I remember thinking she was so big!! She didn't look new born. Three days earlier the doctor had assured me she wasn’t really big. She was 9 pounds 4 ounces and 22 inches long. And she had a full head of beautiful red hair. She was healthy and very strong. Our perfect baby was finally in my arms.

They couldn’t get the placenta out. (I had prayed it would stay as my husband's last child suffered a placenta torn from the whom, but this wasn't what I meant.) They pushed on my belly and pulled. A surgeon was called to help. My doctor finally got the placenta out right before the surgeon got there. But then I was bleeding so much. Daddy held baby and watched as they put a needle in each arm. They were prepping me for a blood transfusion. The nurse commented that as I had three people operating on me I was very relaxed and my heart was only beating 50 beats per minute. Thankfully, after stitching my cervix, the bleeding stopped and they cancelled the transfusion.

My doctor, who is very experienced, said I was the quietest labor he has ever seen and he was proud of how focused I remained. I had successfully given birth to my baby drug free. Good thing I didn't know she was large and that she was posterior. Awareness could have been discouraging.

I was so very tired and couldn’t stand for a few days as my body regenerated my blood supply. I had to use a wheelchair to go to the bathroom. And I had never been so famished in my life. As each hospital meal came I inhaled it without having time to consider its quality. Even the processed meat and cheese sandwich, something I don't like, disappeared as soon as the lid came off the tray.

As I recuperated, all I did was cuddle and breast feed (and eat and sleep). Her devoted daddy did all the diaper changing and pacing. He walked the halls and stairways. He dealt with the first poop. I admired her beauty and stared at her in disbelief for hours and handed her to her equally spellbound father when she wouldn't be consoled sitting in bed.

We left the hospital after two nights. For the first time, I was changing her. Dad looked at his 2 day old newborn miracle, who now at 17 months says, "I you, Daddy", and he said, “I have changed your diaper your whole life! This is mom’s first time!”

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