I finally did it. I finished my birth story. I recorded shortly after Piper's birth and have been slowly writing it since. Finally I am done and ready to share my own personal miracle with the world.
A dream of mine came true when I gave birth to our daughter.
I still can't believe that I can say those words. I gave birth. I have a daughter.
My whole life I had always said that if I were able to give birth I would want the experience to be as natural an experience as possible. I knew this particular experience was going to be my one and only labor and delivery and I so desperately wanted to be able to be an active participant and feel my baby in the birth canal, crowing, and eventually the birth of her little body. I didn't want the chance of her going into distress because of unnatural contractions. I wanted her to have the best chance at successful breastfeeding. At the same time I am not opposed to interventions if they are needed BUT I wanted to play an active role in determining IF they were needed and not just routine. I was so happy that Justin and I took a birthing class because I ended up needing the information they taught us to be able to argue my case with the hospital staff to go against policy to get what I wanted.
I was 41 weeks pregnant on April 24. At my doctors appointment we discussed my going into the hospital on April 27 to be induced. I knew I could argue my way into waiting but there was something inside of me that said it was a good thing to pursue induction options.
So at 10 days overdue I kissed my boys goodbye, grabbed the hospital bag (just incase) and made the 2 minute drive to the hospital. Justin so desperately wanted to speed through the neighborhood, but I wouldn't let him because I wasn't actually in labor.
It felt so surreal walking, ok I was waddling, through the halls of the hospital. I kept crying. I was coming to this place to have my baby. We were about to become a family of 6 and I was going to do the work to bring this little life (boy or girl) into the world. My pregnancy was over and I was going to finally know what it was like to give birth. Essentially my labor and delivery experience had begun. I mourned the ending of a miraculous pregnancy and looked forward to the miracle of giving birth.
We walked to the main desk at the maternity clinic to be checked in. A doctor walked past, took one look at how big I was and said. "Have you come today to add a new tax payer to the system?" I laughed but it really was something incredible thing to think about. My body was going to give birth to a baby, a real baby who will grow and hopefully contribute positively to society.
They put us in triage next to check the baby and discuss "the plan". The tears continued as a direct result of my excitement and nerves. Our baby was perfect! So far everything was going as planned, until the doctor walked in. Because of my appointment on thursday I had in my head that we would insert the balloon so imagine my surprise when the Doctor walked in and said, "ok you are going to have a baby today. Lets break your water and start you on pitocin" I kind of freaked out a little bit in my mind and asked about using the foley ballooon to help me dilate. The doctor was quite blunt and a little harsh. I feel like she didn't even listen to my wishes as I she shut me down immediately and said that my cervix was too ripe use the balloon. She then continued with the words I was dreading to hear. "Lets just get this show on the road." I asked if we could try breaking my water and letting me walk to try and help my body go into labor. She told me that it typically doesn't work like that for a first time birther and we were going to just go ahead break my water and start me on pitocin to get the ball rolling. I asked for some time to talk to Justin about it. When she left the room I started crying. The nurse came back in and I spoke with her and asked her if it wasn't unreasonable to at least let me try to go into labor after breaking my water. I would rather not just assume that my body wouldn't do it. The baby was doing well and I'd wanted at least to have the chance to try a more natural approach before using medicine. We decided together that I would request a 2 hour time frame following the breaking of my water and if I had not gone into labor on my own then we would start the pitocin. The nurse argued for me with the doctor who compromised and allowed me to have an hour after breaking my water. I was a little upset because I didn't feel like that was enough time to actually kick start my body but at least it was some time. I planned on doing my lunges down the hall, walk the stairs, anything that would bring my baby further down.
So I was then checked into my room, where a new nurse sent us for lunch and told us to come back in an hour. What I realized later is that she was trying to buy us more time. She hustled us down the hall, checked the corners and literally broke us out of the unit. I am actually really glad that she did because I hadn't brought any food with me. It was nice to be able to eat something hearty that I knew would help give me the strength that I needed to do what I needed to do. We ate quickly and made our way to the stair well. I planned on lunging the stairs for the rest of the hour but on the third floor we heard an announcement go through the whole hospital paging us back to the unit. BUSTED! The doctor was not thrilled with the "misunderstanding" but I was happy to have had more time to at least TRY and get myself into labor.
When I got back to my room I got undressed and the doctor broke my water. There was meconium in the water, which is not un-common for babies who are over due but it did mean that I was going to require closer monitering. What I didn't know was that they intended on continuously monitering the baby. It shouldn't have affected my walking except that they could not get a good read on the baby and I was being kept in or next to the bed not moving, and watching my hour time frame tick away. I was NOT a happy girl. In fact I was angry. I consider myself to be a fairly reasonable person. I was choosing to have my baby in the hospital for a reason and all I asked for was the use of some of the natural birthing methods that I highly value. Up to this point I had gotten zero of what I wanted.
Of course I respond to any extreme emotion (happy, sad, excited, angry...) with crying. I was sitting there bouncing on my ball angry and crying. Thats when the doctor walked in and noticed just how unhappy I was. She was also really surprised that I wasn't walking. I informed her why I was so upset and that they wouldn't let me walk because they kept losing their read on the baby. What our doctor said next surprised me. She let me know that the continuous monitering was a nursing policy, not a hospital policy. She felt that the baby was just fine and that as long as I agreed to come back every 20 minutes for monitering with the doppler that I could walk as much as I liked. If I had known that it was a nursing policy I would have argued a little more and probably asked for the doctor sooner.
I still find it so interesting that in the beginning the nursing staff was arguing with the doctor on my behalf and then later the doctor argued with the nursing staff on my behalf. I know that is because I went in knowing exactly how I wanted things to go. I felt confident standing up for myself and taking charge of my own delievery.
I got walking with Justin and my mom by my side. I would have a random contraction but nothing very strong and not regular at all. I was not given any extra time and most of it was wasted lying in the bed, so I feel like my body wasn't given a fair chance to start labor on its own. I tried to stretch my time as long as I possibly could but they came and found me in the hall and I knew I couldn't fight them any longer on my time.
When I came back it was time to start the pitocin. Before I let them begin I asked them what their policy was on using the medication. They explained that they start me on 3ml an hour, evaluate me every 30min. and if me and the baby are tolerating everything well they turn it up. I asked them if it was necessary to turn the medication up if my body was progressing on its own. She responded with "Well, once we get started we like to keep things going." I repeated myself and asked that they not turn it up IF I was progressing on my own. After a bit of a fight I got them to agree that they would not turn up the medication without cause or without discussing it with me first. My body was started on the minimum amount of pitocin, I got walking, and things got going. They actually only turned me up once and in the end turned the medication completely off, which is virtually unheard of. I really believe that they turned the medication off because they could see that my body really had taken over and they knew my wishes to have as natural a labor and delivery as possible.
Earlier in the day my nurse went on break and Irena covered for her. Irena was incredible. We ran into her while we were walking and I asked her if there was any way that she could be assigned to us. I really wanted to go through this experience with her. She said that she would also like to work with us and did end up being my full time nurse, which I was more grateful for than I can say. While things were still in the early labor stage Irena asked me why it was so important to me to have a natural labor and delivery. I gave her my reasons and those were the things that she would chant back to me when it got really hard. She would remind me why I had chosen that natural path. She was an incredible coach and I really leaned on her during the whole experience.
Around the 4th turn of the unit I decided I was done walking. I came back to the room and things kept progressing. Early labor was fine. Contractions were painful but bearable. Active labor was harder but still fairly managable. And then there was hard labor. Hard labor is really really hard. I was not a happy person during hard labor. It was during this time that I started to doubt myself. I wasn't sure that I would be able to do it. This was when Irena reminded me that I didn't want the baby to have any drugs in its system so that they would have the best chance to establish breast feeding. I knew that with epidurals your chances of interventions are higher, and there are potential negative side effects I was hoping to avoid. She also reminded me that this was going to be my only birthing experience and I had a deep desire to feel my baby coming out of my body. I wanted to be a very active participant in the pushing and be able to push effectively. Irena was such an amazing coach and I will be forever grateful that she worked the day that I had my baby.
In fact I will tell you that the only reason I was able to get through what I did was because of my mom and Irena. My mom was a rock through the whole experience. Before going into labor I knew that I wanted my mom there and that she would be a great support, but I figured Justin would be my main source of strength. I was very surprised when that wasn't the case. I definitely wanted him there with me. I wanted him close. I wanted him around, but it was my mom who kept me grounded, my mom who kept me focused. I don't know what I would have done without my mom. During hard labor I was aware of Justin's prescence but I needed my mom.
During hard labor I was having a lot of back labor and my contractions were piggy-backing on top of each other. I was also contracting from my chest to my knees. I was pretty miserable at this point. They had me up on my knees swaying trying to keep things going. I was in pretty bad shape. At that point Irena checked me and I was only dilated to a 4-5cm. I was so discouraged. I had come into the hospital dilated to a 1-2cm which meant that the whole time i was there I had only dilated another 2-3cm. I thought that there was no way that I would be able to do another 6 hours of that while waiting for my body to dilate. I felt defeated. It was then that I saw Irena lean into my mom and whisper something to her. I didn't really hear what she said but I knew what she had said when I heard my mom's response. She had asked my mom if I would want an epidural at all. My mom said "no, that is the one thing that she is adament against." I will be forever grateful that she asked my mom and not me because in that moment I may have considered it. It would have been heartbreaking if I had gotten it because only 50 minutes after this I was pushing. It was so painful at that point and in less than an hour my body did the rest of the work so quickly. All the stepping stones for pushing were in place I just needed to finish dilating.
Before pushing things started to get really bad. The doctor was in the room and something felt very different. I noticibly reacted to this change and the doctor stopped what she was doing and asked me what happened and asked if I felt that I needed to push. I told her that I didn't know but it was a very different feeling than I had had before. She told me that if I felt like i needed to push on the next contraction to go ahead and do that. The next contraction came and it was undeniable ... I needed to push. I started screaming "I need to push I need to push" and the staff very calmly reminded me that I could go ahead and do that. I remember that during that push was a gush of fluid. At the same moment as I was pushing I heard someone yell in the hall, "quick go get some towels, the baby is coming". I thought to myself in that moment "isn't that nice someone gets to have their baby, I wish I could have my baby right now." When that contraction was over they asked me to turn around so they could examine me. I remember wondering why they were even bothering, I was probably only dilated to a 6. There was no way that I had dilated that much in less than an hour. I also remember turning around to see the whole room had changed. There was a spotlight at the end of the bed, the bottom half of the bed had been removed, the doctor was gowned, and there was a bassinet at the end of the room. As worried as I was that I wasn't going to be ready and I would disappoint everyone I also had the thought that maybe those voices in the hall were talking about my baby. Maybe I would get to have my baby soon, just maybe this was happening. Sure enough they checked me and everything was ready to go and it was now time for me to push.
I surprised myself. I thought I would want to squat during the pushing stage but I actually felt very very comfortable laying down on my back and wanted to stay there. I really enjoyed the pushing stage. Finally I was able to do something about the pain I was feeling. I was able to be an active participant rather than trying to relax my body through each contraction. I actually felt some relief between the contractions. I could feel everything and I am so grateful for that. I had requested for the mirror to be at the end of my bed so I could watch what was happening. I wasn't able to watch while I was pushing but during those blessed breaks I would just focus on the physical changes that were happening to me, Justin's face at the end of the bed, and the words of encouragement my mom was chanting in my ear. Oh I will never forget Justin's face during the pushing stage. I have seen that look of excitement on his face exactly 4 times before. Immediately before we walked into the temple to be married, and driving to each of the boys placements into our family.
I pushed for 23 minutes and my world changed forever. I had wanted to feel my baby's head while she was coming. Our wonderful doctor had me reach down twice to feel my baby come out of me. It was such encouragement for me to feel and see my baby in the last moments that my body and hers were one. I felt like the baby's head popped out of me and immediately the pain was gone. Everything I had been feeling since my contractions had began was gone. I was under the impression that her body immediately slithered out but in real time it was a couple of minutes and I had to push her shoulders through, though I don't remember that either. The doctor announced we had a baby girl and the whole room cheered. I actually didn't hear the cheer until I watched the birth video. I believe that I was in complete shock that I had just had a baby. I had a baby, and that baby was a girl. I still have a hard time believing it all but then I see this sweet baby girl squealing in my arms and its like I am living a dream.
They placed my new baby girl on my chest immediately and snuggled and cried tears of joy while we waited for the last of her cord blood to pump into her body. I got to reach down and feel that blood pump from me through her cord and into her tiny fresh body. Justin cut Piper's cord and Irena lifted Piper's small silky body up so I could really see her face. Piper was born so alert. Other than her newborn soft skin the first thing that I noticed were her giant almond eyes. She was so tiny, which surprised me because I was overdue and both Justin and I were bigger babies. The doctor said that this was due to her umbilical chord growing on the side of my placenta instead of the middle. The hospital then allowed me the full hour of skin to skin and breastfeeding time I had requested before measuring her and doing her initial exams.
Piper breastfed like a champ and I was in love once again with an activity I never thought I would be able to experience.
As I ponder the events that took place around pipers birth I feel happiness and disbelief. Still to this day I feel honored and blessed to have been given the chance to know first hand both the joy of adoption and wonders of giving birth. I am now the mother to 3 beautiful boys and a princess. I couldn't be luckier!