Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Emmy's Amazing Birth

I read so many birth stories while I was pregnant. I selected only the ones that were beneficial to my projection of what it would be like. A lot of them came from Ina may gaskin's 'spiritual midwifery' where they would describe each contractions as a “rush” and would describe how psychedelic it was and how tuned in everybody present at the birth was to the energy of the birth. I’m happy to say that my experience of the birth met the expectations that I created for myself through reading birth stories that vibe with that.

I had a feeling the baby would come earlier than the due date. I thought it was possibly wishful thinking, but I was ready, and the baby felt ready. I didn't want him to come too early, though, because I had a huge desire to go swimming with my mom and my big belly, before becoming 3 generations. My mom flew in, we went swimming, and the contractions began as I was drying off. I was surprised at how much it felt like constipation. At first I wasn't exactly sure. Part of me couldn't really believe it, especially because it was the day before my own birthday and I never imagined we'd share a birthday!

I went to the studio where the tub had been set up next to a mattress, and spent time experiencing waves of stomach discomfort. My mom helped for a while by rubbing my back, but soon i had to stand up because my back was feeling stiff. Walking around relieved the pressure. I thought about all the women who i was sharing this experience with, women i'd seen in videos, women in ancient tribes, my ancestors, and all the women around the world in the process of birthing at that very moment.

Maria, my midwife, told me to call her when the contractions were 4 minutes apart and lasting for one minute for an hour. Time seemed to fly by during contractions. I would tell my mom that it felt like 20 seconds, but it would turn out to be over a minute long. Every contraction, my mantra was 'yes, thank you.' I'm grateful that contractions start off small and build gradually. It gives plenty of time to integrate, and to feel that my body would do all the work and I just had to get out of the way.

Maria came. I was having rushes outside of the tub, because I had heard that if you get in before you're at 5cm, you might go back to being smaller. I was holding onto the tub, looking at the water, and really, really looking forward to getting in. After Maria checked how far I'd been dilated, at 4.5cm, i asked if i could go in and Maria said, 'of course.' Getting in the tub was followed by an immediate 'ahh~' and i was so grateful for the tub. The pressure on my back was pretty much eliminated. Later on it would return when it got more intense, but i found then that stretching my thigh muscles and butt muscles helped, and stretching was so much easier in the water than it would have been on land.

The baby's dad started composing soundscapes around 6pm. The way the yoga studio is set up is that the floors have transducers in them so you can feel the low frequency sound vibration through the floor. he was playing a lower volume than usual so that he could hear me and stay tuned in to the birth. It was good that he was playing music because not only did it keep him occupied with something important to do, but it assisted me on a level which i wasn't consciously aware of. Later when i would watch the video, I noticed that the sounds I made were in tune with the music he was playing. The lights were low and the people present (My mom, Maria, and Summer, the doula/apprentice midwife) were napping and hanging around. I found out later that they were taking detailed notes and were actually doing stuff, but at the time i was happy being in the zone and not having any interventions and distractions. I focused on meditating on and expressing gratitude, to my body, to my baby, to the earth, to the universe, to everyone who made the birth as it was possible. Although it was intense, I wasn’t experiencing the sensations as pain. I was committed to not experiencing the sensation of Pain from before the birthing process began. I remember thinking that it felt exactly as it should, and considering that my DNA contains a memory of the birthing experience from all the generations before me. I was thinking, 'even though i haven't experienced birthing in this lifetime, all of this is very familiar."

At around 6cm, i started to get the urge to push. I'm not sure why my body wanted to push if I wasn't supposed to push! I can't figure that out. It contradicts my belief that my body inherently knows what to do! Nevertheless, I trusted Maria and Summer's advice not to push, and they explained to me my cervix would get inflamed and swollen if I did. The energy would build up from my stomach and, similar to the reflex you get when you're dry heaving, where it comes from your stomach and into your head and out from your mouth, i was overcome with a slight urge to push, that built from the stomach and into my head and out from... my mouth if i breathed through it or in the form of pushing if i didn't. Summer stayed close by and would remind me, anytime it seemed like i was pushing. I found that using acu-points on my face and scalp helped release the energy as well. As it got to the intensity of being almost-there, i found that moving myself around the tub with my arms helped distract me from the urge to push as well. I toning to the point that I was losing my voice, but it really helped transmute the sensation. Sometimes I would hear myself and it would sound like a baby crying. I was doing deep grunts and high pitched squeels and lots and lots of Oming. Om, Yes, Thank you. Ohmmmm. Whenever I noticed my thoughts wanting to go negative, I would say “Babyyy~ I’m looking forward to meeting youuu!!” and I would usually find myself laughing or crying tears of joy. I began to get pretty tired at around 7cm, and in between contractions I would go into such an intense state of relaxation that I was drooling. Luckily I wasn't worried about what I looked like.

Opening up took pretty much an hour per centimeter, and at 9.5cm dilation my cervix wasn’t completely open but the baby was descending and Maria got in there to try to lift my cervix around the babe's head while i pushed and the baby tried to descend. The baby's heartrate dipped during a contraction, and so Maria said that she'd like me to leave the tub just in case she had to resuscitate him. I was slightly bummed that the baby wouldn't be born into the water, but eager to get the baby out and wrap it up, as this was all very exhausting and i was ready to rest for more than the time between contractions would allow me! leading up to the birth i processed the possibility that the birth may not proceed as planned. I didn't want to be disappointed in any way, so i had to accept that i may have to go to the hospital, i may end up having to get a c-section, i may ask for an epidural if i'm in the hospital, et cetera. So getting out of the tub and birthing the baby did not seem like such a deviation that warranted disappointment.

I pushed once on the mattress lying sideways but wasn't really into that. Maria invited me onto the birthing stool. Somebody said something along the lines of "he should be out in 20 minutes." and i thought, whaaat? 20 minutes? then i remembered how quickly time had been flying, and how i'd been in active labor for about 10 hours now, and so the initial feeling that 20 minutes was too much became excitement that 20 minutes was a breeze. So i pushed and worked on pushing, and then i more or less pooped him out! Maria kept reminding me to 'push down here' which, though it seems obvious, wasn't, since i don't practice pushng on a regular basis like I practice breathing.

The sensation of the head coming down did not feel like I thought it would. I thought it would be more vaginal, but the sensation was incredibly rectal. I also thought the shoulders and body would be easier after the head opened me up and that it would just slide out, but I had to push the body out too. After the baby came out, he was put in my hands and was a floppy, wet creature. Maria was rubbing him with a towel, stimulating him, and he cried. The crying overwhelmed me because I didn't want him to cry. I wanted the birth to be so peaceful that he would come out breathing peacefully. While I held the baby, i was told to push out the placenta. I was of the mindset that the placenta would eventually come whether i pushed or not and so I wanted to chill. I was on the stool, holding a wet, floppy crying baby, trying to adjust, but i was eventually convinced to give a few pushes to get the placenta out. Baby was left intact until later in the morning. He was born at 4:16am on my birthday, July 22nd... our birthday!

I lay in bed the rest of the day. the cord had been cut. I had been thinking i would do a “lotus birth” and leave the placenta attached until it fell off naturally, but lying there with the placenta, and the cord no longer transferring anything, lifeless, placid, white, with blood clots lining the cord, I asked the baby if it was okay to cut it. He didn’t react to my handling the cord, so I told Maria kind of sheepishly that i changed my mind about the lotus birth. She clamped it, and ceremoniously offered sephen and i the scissors to cut it. I had just birthed the baby so ceremony seemed silly, but i noticed that for stephen it felt significant.

I wasn’t able to sleep that day. I was physically tired but my mind was awake and alert. I wasn’t overcome and flooded with love like i expected, but I didn't beat myself up about it because i was tired and i was pretty certain of my ability to love the baby. I experienced strong feelings of love during the labor, but after the baby was out, i was tired. Awake, and alert, but spiritually, emotionally drained from all that work. I looked at this baby that the universe had placed into my care, and thought about how cute he was. My heart didn't melt into breastmilk like i imagined it would feel like. The sucking felt like nipple clamps were being pulled by a sadist, and i was the masochist who was enjoying it thanks to the lovely hormones of oxytocin guaranteeing the survival of the babe. But oxytocin doesn't feel like the heart-melting love that i think of when i think of love.

I'm writing this now 4 hours before he turns 5 days old, and I'm happy to say that I'm falling in love. Yesterday I separated from him for 15 minutes while I took a shower, and I missed him incredibly and couldn't wait to see him again. Later he stared transfixed at the shadows of my hands on the wall as I made shadow puppets of angels, birds, hearts, circles, and mudras. Today I saw the beginnings of a smile in the form of a series of quick grins, some of them lopsided and some of them fully delighted. His emotionally expressive dreamlife is the source of my neck pain, and my arms are sore from carrying him all the time when I could probably put him down. My body feels great, and i'm lying on my stomach, beginning to strengthen my stomach and back again, and enjoying my body's flexibility. I imitate my baby's dramatic back bends and neck curls and arm movements and find my bones and joints cracking much more than they did before. I can't wait to see my chiropractor again for the best adjustment ever. I am in total awe of my body and have never felt so good about myself, my body, and my body's abilities. I watched my body change, and now there is this helpless, basic little creature whose entire days consist of sleeping, resting, feeding, and processing body functions. And i am completely in awe of life-force that will grow this child into a laughing, smiling, thinking, running, jumping boy... and then a climbing, dancing, kayaking, swimming, diving, creative man.

I've embraced polyphasic sleeping and find myself having so much time, and awaiting for the baby to wake up so I can breastfeed him again and interact with him more than just watching his dream-expressions. He is so incredibly cute. He has the same mouth that my sister had as a baby. When his eyes are closed he looks like a little asian baby, but when he opens his eyes, he has big, dark blue eyes that retain the cat-like, almond-shaped quality of asian eyes and the size of alien eyes. Every day is going to be different, and time is going to fly even faster now. Pretty soon he'll be taller than me and he'll teach me things I didn't know. For now I'm letting him know that he's here, he's safe, and good things are coming his way.

To see more incredible photos from this birth, click here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Natural Induction Bender

By Carolyn Goossen

One week past my due date, I experienced an internal shift from zen mama to mildly nervous nail biter. The baby was still squirming and stretching in my belly the same way he had been for the past few months, and I was still peeing every hour or so.  “When is this baby gonna pop already?” I kept asking myself. 

The next morning (day 8 post-due date) I went to an antenatal test appointment at my back-up hospital, St. Lukes, where my nervousness transformed into a more acute state of anxiety.

In general, the medical community is in agreement that most healthy women are very capable of having a natural birth until 42 weeks of pregnancy. Starting at 42 weeks, however, experts agree that there are increased health risks to the baby and to the mother, which is why many hospitals and midwives advise women to have their labor induced at that point. 

At my back-up hospital St. Lukes, however, some recently published research about the optimum birth time period has led the hospital to officially change their policy.  They no longer induce a woman at 42 weeks. The deadline to have your baby induced is now 41.5 weeks- or 11 days post-due date.  If a woman wanted to be induced, they would only provide induction up until 11 days post-due date. If the woman chose to bypass this date, then she could no longer request an induction at St. Luke’s and would have to have their birth elsewhere.

The antenatal test showed that the baby was fine, but the nurse-midwife told me that my amniotic fluid was on the “low end” of the scale. She then explained the new hospital policy to me. She stressed that the policy was developed in the best interest of the baby, but that I could always go to another hospital at 42 weeks for an induction, should I not want to get induced at 11 days post due date.

This information left me feeling agitated.  I hated the idea of getting induced, and staying in the hospital, but then I also wondered if I was self-indulgent for wanting to have a home birth when there were potential risks involved.  Knowing I had less than optimal fluid in me didn’t help either.

So, with some trepidation, I agreed to schedule a hospital induction in three days time- the 11 day deadline- at the latest possible time permitted- 7pm.

On the way home, I tried to convince myself and my partner that I didn’t really mind going in for a hospital induction, although I was already beginning to dread it.

The fact was, I really did not want to be induced. Yet I was starting to panic and started doubting myself and my body. What if 42 weeks passed and the baby still hadn’t arrived? What about at 43 weeks? What would be my options then?  My mind started racing, and a powerful surge of maternal guilt overcame me- guilt for wanting to stick to my original home birth plan.

I had booked a midwife appointment that same afternoon, so I headed over there. During that meeting, I explained my nervousness and my resignation about getting induced should labor not begin by 7pm on the 11th date post- due date. My midwife, Maria, said it was entirely up to me, but reminded me that I was a “good birther”, and urged me to trust in my body’s ability to birth.   My first child, Ella Zhao, now 6 years old,  arrived 10 days after her due date after all, and I had her at home without complications or tearing, after 14 hours of healthy labor.  I nodded my head in agreement and took a deep breath- I had for so long looked upon my first birth as a “lucky” experience- not as a product of my body’s innate ability to birth. It was time for me to reframe that first birth in my mind.  

She urged me not to make any final decisions at this point, especially considering my desire to have a home birth.  Worst case scenerio, she said, she would help me induce my labor by having me drink a castor oil milkshake on the 11th day mark. And we could always go to another hospital for an induction at 42 weeks, should it come to that.

I left that appointment feeling like I still had options. I felt much more secure.   And I felt determined to do whatever I could to get this baby out! I went home and embarked on a natural induction bender.

By poking around on the internet (man, the Internet is great in moments like this!), I found a huge amount of information on natural birth induction methods, including what herbs to take (chilis, oregano, basil), what acupressure points to press, what kind of foot massage to get, and other natural induction tips such as having plentiful sex, orgasms, nipple tweaking sessions, and strenuous walks. 

That night I started with the herbs, (had a massive bowl of spaghetti with meat balls), the acupressure points, the orgasms and the nipple tweaking.  I also made an acupuncture appointment for the next day, and a foot massage appointment for the day after that.

I also spent an hour’s time reading about women’s success with natural induction. I was particularly interested in the first-person narratives of women who gave birth at least 10 days after their due date. I discovered dozens of accounts by British women who had had successful homebirths between 10 and 20 days- some even more- after their due date.

The next day (day 9 post due date), I went for a hike with my mother and daughter, had an acupuncture treatment, ate a juicy burger with extra chili, and just tried to relax and enjoy myself as I poked my acupressure points and tweaked my nipples.

The following day (day 10 post-due date), I ran some errands,  chugged some nasty Chinese herbs the acupuncturist had given me, and treated myself to a glorious foot massage at a dimly lit massage parlor whose other clients all consisted of middle aged men.

That night, my daughter went to sleep over at her grandparent’s house, and I was laying on the couch topless, watching the HBO series Rome and tweaking my nipples (not a bad Saturday night all considering). Out of the blue, I started to get cramps. Real menstrual-type cramps!  I called to my partner and we gave my nipples ample attention together. It was midnight at this point, and with every tweak and suck my cramps came on stronger.  He suggested that we go to bed and start again in the morning, since I should ideally get some sleep before heading into labor. (With my daughter, labor went through the night, and it was indeed exhausting not to have slept at all.)

I agreed, and went to the bathroom to start getting ready for bed.  Then all of a sudden, at about 12:15am, the wave of a contraction took over my body from the middle of my back stretching both up into my neck and down into the core of my belly.   BAM! It was on.  There was no early labor really- it went straight into intense contractions with very little in-between relaxing time.   We called my midwife, and she said to call her again once my contractions were at least 4 minutes apart. We called her again 15 minutes later and by 1:15am or so, my midwife arrived. She set up her things, looked at me, smiled, and told me that it was time to push. 

My baby was born at 2:15am, after 45 minutes of pushing. I admit I was surprised by the intensity of the pain, even though it was my second time around.  But, as with my last labor, just at the point where I didn’t think I could do it any longer, that I was somehow physically incapable, the baby arrived. Bruno Tai Ming was born at 8 lbs 5 ounces, lovely and healthy and covered in goo.

My entire labor was less than 2.5 hours total.  Most likely, this is due to the fact that this was my second child. But I like to think that my natural induction bender helped nature along.