Monday, May 12, 2014
It's been almost 3 years since this beautiful and unexpected birth experience. Although I wrote the story one week after he was born, I haven't shared it until now. I felt disappointed and ashamed about transferring to the hospital and not having the homebirth we planned which I think prevented me from sharing for awhile. I also felt grateful and happy we still had a natural birth with no major interventions and many beautiful moments during the birth. I was born at home and so were both my siblings so I assumed my children would be as well, but the universe had different plans. As we prepare for the birth of our second child, due in one week, the story keeps coming back to me and begging to be shared. So here it is...
Gray Roland Oscar arrived Saturday, May 21st 2011, at 7:01am, 1 week before his due date. He was a healthy and beautiful 8lb 1oz, 20.5 inches long. I had been feeling cramping and Braxton Hicks periodically throughout the week. Friday evening I began feeling lower back pain and some contractions after sitting for awhile to Skype and show off the belly to my brother. I thought I'd either sat too long in one position or it might be time for baby to come, but the sensations were very irregular. So when Matt came home from work around 8pm feeling sick with a cold, we ate a good meal of our favorite takeout (Nopalito) and talked with excitement about the baby possibly coming soon. We both felt tired and that we could be in for a long night so around 10pm we decided to sleep and see what happened overnight.
I woke up about midnight and realized I could no longer lay down and these were the steady surges I had read about coming over me like ocean waves. I immediately woke Matt up and told him to get ready. The labor was intense and progressed fast which caught Matt and I both by surprise. As he prepared our bed and tried to get the birth tub setup, I contacted friends who had offered to help but everyone was unavailable. I then called my mom (who was living in the Boston area) for support while Matt did preparation. I was timing the contractions on Matt's phone which he setup as a stopwatch to track them for me. I talked with my mom, who was living in Boston, for support until my phone died. I mainly wanted to stand and lean (on the table, dresser, sink) and remembering "juicy hips" from Jane's class really helped as well as Matt doing massage we practiced in class.
I felt so relieved when Matt looked at the stopwatch and said we should call Maria. She got there quickly at around 3am. I was going into transition and 7cm dilated when she checked me. My memory is a blur from there, but around this time I also had Skyped my mom and was leaning on the couch for a bit. Then we moved to the toilet and I stayed there for awhile as it felt very comfortable and I had to go so frequently anyway. Maria was a constant, reassuring presence, but let us do our thing and just came in periodically to monitor the heartbeat. I was shaky and threw up a couple times while sitting on the toilet, but the position felt relaxing after leaning over for so long. Sue Baelen came as second midwife with a comforting presence and began offering me drinks with a straw which was nice. My water broke at 5am on the toilet and Maria checked the color to make sure there wasn't too much meconium. She said I would probably feel the urge to push like I had to poop soon and I did.
I'm not sure why or how, but we then moved into the bedroom for the birth. My guess is they told me the tub wasn't filling up quick enough and the bed is where I thought it'd be best to have the baby. I was on hands and knees propped up with pillows on our bed and beginning to push when baby's heart rate started decelerating during contractions and not recovering properly. I began to feel scared, doubtful, and anxious at this point about what was happening both with the intensity of feeling in my body and the baby's heartbeat which I could hear dropping. I could also hear the midwives talking about what to do and could tell something was concerning. Maria checked me again and there was a tiny bit of cervix she massaged open. Then I was fully dilated and started to push again, but still the heart rate was decelerating. They had me rest on my side and not push while they put me on oxygen and assessed the situation. Maria and Sue both calmly said we should consider transporting, but it was our choice and we had to move quick as baby was ready to come. I was in no state to decide and just trying my hardest not to push so I turned to Matt. We had talked about this ahead of time as I knew I would not be able to make decisions in the moment.
At 6am we got in Maria's car and zipped over to UCSF. The hardest part of labor was trying not to push during that car ride with the oxygen mask on in the back seat by myself. Before we left, Sue helped me get dressed and told me to go within and talk to my baby and tell him it is safe to come out. So I went within and focused on that mantra to remain calm when surrounded by the chaos of a hospital. This was so helpful as I had been caught up in my own feelings and forgotten to connect with my baby and the deeply internal process. They were ready for us when we got there and quickly hooked me up to monitors and such. I was terrified of the hospital scene and that they would try to put me on drugs or do all types of interventions. All the doctors and people in blue scrubs with bright lights and machines everywhere was completely overwhelming. So I chose to only look at Matt and Maria, who were both to my left side with the sunrise in a big window behind them.
Maria was amazing as an advocate for us and liaison with the hospital staff. She helped explain everything and made sure they did not do anything without our understanding or permission. Our biggest obstacle at first with the doctors was that I was GBS positive and refusing antibiotics. I remember Maria just saying clearly "This baby is coming now. There is not time for that!" and feeling so grateful for her presence as they seemed to respect her opinion. Matt was my rock and looking into his eyes while holding his hand helped me stay calm and focused.
When they finally told me I could start pushing, it felt so good to finally do it! I just couldn't wait for the next contraction and all my fear dissipated as I tapped into my inner strength to push my baby out into the world. I was really thirsty, but no one would tell Matt where to get me water and they just kept saying they'd give me fluid through an IV which did not help the dry feeling in my mouth. The baby's heart rate was still unstable so they were concerned and one doctor said I had to get him out fast and gave me a time limit of 10 minutes before using the vacuum, which looking back seems silly since I had no concept of time. Another more friendly doctor told me I could take the oxygen mask off during contractions if that helped and it did. So I gave it my all and again focused on Matt and Maria who assured me I was doing great and was capable of getting baby out safely. After about a half hour of hardcore pushing and a small episiotomy (which we allowed under Maria's advisement), Gray was born looking very healthy at 7:01am with a 9/9 apgars and no explanation for the decelerations.
I felt immediate relief, pure bliss, and a wonderful sense of the power inside my own body that had taken over. Holding Gray and snuggling him to my chest for the first time was the most amazing feeling I've ever experienced. Matt and I both were crying with joy and the profound sense of love for our new little family.
My biggest complaint with the hospital birth was that they cut the cord quickly and didn't give him to me right away. Instead, they took him over to an area of the room where I couldn't see to check him out (Matt went with him). I remember asking to delay cord clamping and hold him, but Maria said they wouldn't. I think this was because they saw more meconium come out with him and maybe because of the heart decelerations too. They did bring him to me quickly and he clearly recognized his mama. After I was holding him for a bit, Maria noticed he was making sounds that indicate trouble breathing. So they took him to the nursery to suction out some meconium and mucus way down in his lungs and again we were grateful Maria was there.
Matt went with him to hold his hand and say no to all the other "routine" procedures they wanted to do in the nursery. Gray was back to me for skin time in 20 minutes breathing normally and ready to sleep on his mama's chest which he still loves to do. Maria said we could decide whether to checkout AMA (against medical advice) that day or stay the night and have them do the newborn tests. We decided to stay the day and night at the hospital as we were all exhausted. Although it was incredibly uncomfortable and not our cozy home environment, we did have a room with a panoramic view of the golden gate bridge and some very friendly nurses. We had a great nurse who helped us get discharged the next day even though they wanted us to stay 48 hours for monitoring due to my GBS positive status.
The past 3 years has been a rollercoaster of emotions about this birth. Ending up at the hospital was hard, but ultimately it was still an empowering and beautiful experience for me. Working through my feelings around this birth is one of the greatest lessons and healing opportunities in my motherhood journey. Gray loves to hear the story of his birth and see pictures from that day which helps me remember the truly amazing experience. He is such a beautiful being full of love, laughter, and a wonderful imagination that I feel so lucky to have brought into this world.