Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shiloh Lark's Birth Story!!!

SO excited!  I had a glorious home water VBAC of my sweet rainbow baby!

Here is the birth story!:

My first child was born via emergency cesarean after a long and intense induced labor.  I struggled with postpartum depression afterward and my views regarding birth began to change.  I was a brand new nurse working in a newborn nursery at a busy hospital and had precepted in labor and delivery during school.  I thought I was well informed going into my first birth, but was woefully unprepared for the level of manipulation and coercion I experienced.  I was forced into the unwanted induction for oligohydramnios and felt pushed along through the “birth assembly line.”  My experience as a new mom drastically affected the way I practiced nursing at work.  I was so full of compassion for cesarean moms!

            Thankfully, after much research, prayer, networking, reading, and soul-searching, I was able to have a natural Hypnobabies hospital midwife-attended VBAC with my second child (9 lb 8 oz!).  I was so excited and so happy to have had a physiological birth that it changed me in a deep and profound way.  I became quite the VBAC advocate and read everything I could about natural birth!  I knew at this point that I just had to be a certified nurse midwife one day! 

            So, when I was pregnant with my third baby, I sought out a homebirth CNM.  During our consult, she told me I was an excellent candidate for HBAC because of my previous birth. I was so excited to begin dreaming and planning for our home water birth!

            Unfortunately, at 12 weeks, I miscarried.  I went into a very intense but quick labor at home and delivered our tiny baby.  I then hemorrhaged and wound up losing half my blood volume and going into hypovolemic shock, requiring 5 units of blood products, 6 other bags of fluid, and emergency surgery.  I received harsh treatment in the hospital for having a homebirth midwife.  I couldn’t believe I was being yelled at for planning a homebirth when I was in critical condition and wasn’t even pregnant anymore!  I was appalled by the hospital staff and was amazed by the love and compassion from my midwife (what a drastic difference between the two!).

            Recovery was very difficult.  I had a delayed transfusion reaction that made me pretty sick with a rash, joint pain, and muscle aches.  I had hypotension, dizziness, and anemia.  I then found out, 3 months later, that I was pregnant again (!), only to miscarry a second time.  I was totally devastated and fell into deep grief and a long season of depression.

            My husband at first did not want to try again for another baby.  I was so upset at the possibility of ending my childbearing years in loss and heartbreak!  I prayed and prayed and pleaded with God to change either my husband’s heart or my heart so that we could be on the same page.  I didn’t want to resent my loving and wonderful husband for not wanting more kids!  After several long months, he realized that I desperately wanted another child more than how much he thought he didn’t want one, and he told me we could start trying!  I was so elated!!!

            Well, one month turned into four, and I had not conceived.  I began to doubt and get angry.  I was bitter and jealous.  What was God doing??  What was his plan for us??  I desperately called out to God!  I prayed for and longed for this child!!!

            When I finally got my big fat positive pregnancy test in July, I was so relieved and excited, but also anxious.  I tried to release all worry and fear and to just enjoy every day I had with this new baby.  By this time, a year had passed since the first miscarriage.

            This new pregnancy was amazing.  I felt great—full of joy and new life!  This was my best pregnancy.  I loved my prenatal care with my fabulous midwife! I felt so loved and adored.  I was so in awe of this new baby inside of me, and I didn’t feel at liberty to complain about anything but to just cherish everything!  I really tried to take extra amazing care of myself through diet and exercise (and in my spiritual life in my relationship with God) so that I could grow a wonderfully perfect little baby!

            At this point in my nursing career, I was also an IBCLC (lactation consultant) and attended deliveries as the newborn nurse.  I was privileged to witness hundreds of births.  I love my job, but it made things a little tricky regarding homebirth.  It is a well known fact that most hospital OB staff don’t approve of homebirth and, quite frankly, think homebirth moms are weird!  Since this was a rainbow baby for me, and I needed to stay as positive as I possibly could, I chose to not publically tell people that I was planning a homebirth.  I really wanted to shield myself from negativity. 

            So… fast forward to 41 weeks, 1 day pregnant!  This was now officially my longest pregnancy.  I felt amazing physically and was loving how round and full of life my body was.  I adored the little baby inside of me.  She has always been so gentle and calm.  Emotionally, however, I was starting to get very anxious about going into labor.  I assumed I would go about a week late, but now, at 8 days post EDC, I still had no “real” signs of labor starting.  (no mucous or bloody show, etc).  I was getting really antsy.  My midwife stopped in for a home visit that night and we had “the talk” about what to do if I didn’t give birth soon.  Standard of care in this area is to have VBAC moms have a repeat cesarean at 41 weeks if labor hasn’t started.  I was already beyond that.  At the hospital where she has privileges, they will not allow chemical induction in a mom with a prior cesarean for fear of rupture.   I had just had a biophysical profile done and got an 8/8, so we knew the baby was doing well.  The midwife told me that the spiritual midwife in her trusted that the baby and I were doing well and that my body knew what it needed to do.  However, she needed to be cautious to not only keep us safe, but to protect homebirth in our community.  I totally understood what she meant and had been fully expecting to have this talk with her, so it didn’t come as any surprise.  She gently let me know that we could say that I refused the repeat cesarean at 41 weeks, but we’d have to schedule it for 42 weeks.  We talked about natural induction techniques (acupuncture, sex, nipple stim, etc.) and both agreed that I had to get this baby out!  I then had her do a gentle stretch and sweep. 

            The next day, March 29 (Good Friday), I woke up feeling pretty disappointed.  I prayed a lot and spent time in scripture.  I sent emails to my mom, MIL, and sisters so they could pray for labor.  The very thought of going from a home water birth to scheduled cesarean just blew my mind!

            I called my friend Jodie who is a chiropractor and she invited me over to get adjusted.  She also hit multiple acupressure spots.  It felt great, but I was still upset about the circumstances, so I shut down when I came home and didn’t feel like doing anything.  I slept all afternoon.

I woke up at about 4:30 and sat down on my birth ball.  My husband came and sat in a chair in front of me and put his hands on my belly.  He had a very sympathetic look on his face to let me know that he understood how disappointed I was.  We decided we’d go for a walk with the kids to the playground in a little bit.  I blurted out: “Oh, God, just give me one strong contraction so that I have a little hope!”  Just then… with my husband’s hands still on my belly, I had a rather strong contraction!  He said: “whoa.” It was awesome.  Haha.  4:40pm. 

I waddled to the dining room and sat at the table to read my Bible again while my husband finished making dinner.  4:50, another contraction.  4:59, another contraction.  5:02, another contraction.  5:05 another contraction!  WOW!  I texted my mom and said: “were you planning on going to the Good Friday service tonight?  I’m having contractions.  Maybe you shouldn’t go.”  (she was going to be my babysitter for the kids).  At 5:12, I texted my midwife: “Strongish contractions just went from every 10 min to every 2 min… about 45 seconds long… maybe the beginning of something?  I will keep you updated!”

Things just kept going.  Every 2-3 minutes, I’d get another rush.  I finished eating dinner (wild rice, greens, and tilapia) and told my husband I didn’t think I felt up to going on our walk.  We decided to put in a half hour Easter movie, the Hanna Barbera Bible Adventures cartoon, to watch with the kids.  I couldn’t sit still to watch.  I had to get up and move! 

At 6:07, I texted my birth team and told them: “Tonight might be the night.  Strongish contractions every three minutes for the last hour.”  I was fortunate to have two very close friends that have had homebirths and who I knew would be supportive.  I planned on having my midwife, her assistant, and my friend Meghan and sister in law Annie at the birth.  I hoped that my friends could photograph and play hostess during labor so that my husband could pay full attention to me. 

At 6:53, my husband, Isaac, called my mom and dad to come pick up the kids.  They were only a block away, so they got here at about 7.  I was laying on my bed, listening to my Hypnobabies Easy First Stage when my mom came in to check on me.  I had a very strong contraction while she was there and at that point, there was NO DOUBT that this baby was coming soon!  She told me she loved me and then rounded up the kids to take back to her house.

Things kicked up in intensity.  At 7:07, I texted my midwife, Khristeena: “this is definitely labor.”  She called right away and told me she was wrapping things up with another client and would come by shortly after.  She would send her assistant over right away.  Apparently, my husband also called his sister Annie at that point and told her to come.  A short while later, I realized that nobody had updated Meghan yet, so in between contractions, at 7:54 pm, I texted her: “you can come any time.”

Lou Ann, the amazing midwife assistant, was the first to arrive.  She found me laboring in my little “labor cave” (AKA our tiny master bathroom) and asked if she could do anything for me.  Lou Ann was so awesome!  During the next rush, she moaned with me in a deep, low voice and that was so comforting to me.  She also knew exactly what spot on my back to press for counterpressure.  She asked me where I was feeling the contractions, and I said “all in the front.”  She said: “thank God for that!” and I knew she meant “hurray for no back labor!”  I am so happy that this baby girl was in a perfect position for birth!

Annie and Meghan soon arrived and were very respectful of a quiet, peaceful laboring space.  They made themselves useful but did not interfere at all with my concentration.  I had been a little nervous of how I would feel being “watched,” but, to be honest, I didn’t even think about it during the actual labor, and it was so comforting to know that my friends who love me and care for me were able to witness this amazing experience.  They would occasionally offer words of support and encouragement.  Annie brewed me some iced pregnancy tea for after labor and brought me some delicious cookies.  Meghan brought a balloon and flowers and chocolate truffles and went to town taking pictures to document this awesome experience!  I am so grateful for them.

When Khristeena, the midwife, arrived shortly thereafter, she found me in my “labor cave” moaning and swaying through contractions with my dear husband providing counterpressure on my back.  It really helped to have some light touch and massage on my belly during contractions.  Khristeena provided such gentle touch and breathed with me during the next few rushes.  What a calming presence she has!  I don’t know how she does it, but just her being near me really helps me to relax!

Finally, sometime after 9, the birth tub was ready for me and I eagerly got in.  I had changed into a bikini top and bottom, but quickly decided the bikini bottom was WAY too uncomfortable to wear and I hastily threw them off!  The baby was so low, that anything pressing on my lower belly was horribly uncomfortable… so who cares about modesty in birth anyway, right?  I got in the water and WOW!!!!  It felt so good.  The warmth was incredibly relaxing.  I felt very light and buoyant and could easily move and change positions.  We had rented a La Bassine birth pool; it has an inflatable floor which offered plenty of cushion for my legs and knees.  It was just the right depth for me (I’m 5’6”).  My only complaint was that I wished it was a tiny bit smaller of a pool—I wished I could feel a little cozier and more “grounded” inside. 

I loved the water and really tried to relax all my muscles and visualize opening up.  I had my Hypnobabies tracks playing in the background.  I had my “lightswitch” in the “center” position the whole time.  I mostly tuned out Kerry Tuschoff’s voice, but every now and then I would catch an affirmation or statement on the recording that would remind me to relax, keep my pelvic floor muscles loose and open, that I was safe, and that I would soon meet my baby! 

I kept trying to visualize my “hypnoanesthesia” around my baby.  With most pressure waves, I would say to myself: “Peace, peace, peace.  More and more hypnoanesthesia surrounding my baby with every breath I exhale.  With each powerful pressure wave, I become twice as relaxed and comfortable.  Each pressure wave dilates me twice as open as before.  Open, Open, Open.”  I found that when I said this out loud, it kept my jaw from tensing up which helped to keep the rest of me loose, too.  I couldn’t yell if I was whispering.  I have to admit, though, that it was really hard for me to continue using my hypnosis during this labor.  This was my second Hypnobabies birth, and I feel like this time it was much harder to stay relaxed. 

I had to pee really bad, and I tried to just go in the pool, but my body had a hard time with that!  So, I got out of the pool to the toilet and had a few contractions there.  Getting out of the pool was so awful.  I felt ten times heavier.  I was SUPER surprised to find myself involuntarily pushing at the end of contractions when I was on the toilet.  Things were moving so quickly (yet not quickly enough!).  I thought to myself: “it won’t be long now!”  Khristeena asked me if I wanted to check myself to see if I still had cervix left.  I felt inside and was horribly disappointed to feel that I still had a lot of dilation to go.

 I asked Khristeena to check me, too, and so I laid back on the bed (which was incredibly painful during contractions) and she checked me.  I was only 6 cm, 80%, -1.  This was 10:20pm.  I have no idea why I felt so pushy already.  With my older daughter, I had a cervical lip for an hour and didn’t feel at all pushy until I was fully 10 cm.  After the birth, Khristeena told me that she didn’t like that I was pushing so early, because it could have put additional pressure on my old cesarean scar.  The baby must have just been in a position that caused me to have pushy sensations. 

Khristeena asked me what I was thinking after she told me I was 6cm dilated and I said: “Just that I still have a lot of work to do.”  “No, Sigrid, you are doing so well!”   I tried to remember all those multips at the hospital that go from 5 or 6 cms to fully super quickly and just kept visualizing opening up.  I knew that once the cervix gets about halfway, dilation can be a lot faster after that.  I hoped that would be the case for me!  I really tried to not be discouraged. 

I also tried so hard to breathe through the contractions and not push.  Some contractions, I’d be fine, and not have to push at all, and others were impossible to not push a little bit.  Khristeena wanted me to stay out of the pool and walk around the house for a little bit, probably to speed things up so I didn’t push on an undilated cervix!  It felt so awful to be out of the pool.  I walked around for a bit, stopping every few minutes to grab on to Isaac to cope through a wave.  Swaying, moaning, “awwwwing” in a low guttural voice.  I was almost embarrassed with how loud I was being.  I remembered being a very quiet birther during my first VBAC.  I thought a few times that I was failing with my hypnosis and really tried to regain deep relaxation.  It really was amazing how much concentration it took to stay relaxed!

I eventually found myself in the main bathroom of the house on the toilet again.  Isaac sat in front of me.  His presence was very soothing.  I was beginning to feel very overwhelmed.  Khristeena found us in the bathroom and said that sometimes it is good to rest, but I should really keep moving.  She began listening to fetal heart tones more frequently.   She encouraged me to eat a little something, so I had half a banana and drank some emergen-c. 

I made my way back through the living room to the kitchen and had a very strong and intense contraction and “OHHHH”ed really loudly through it.  “What was that sensation you just had?” Khristeena asked.  “I don’t know!” I exclaimed.  Then, I felt something hanging in between my legs. “There’s something in my vagina.” 

“It’s your mucous plug!” Khristeena said as she wiped it away.  I had been looking for that plug every day for weeks before labor and I didn’t have a hint of mucous.  Here it was, very far into labor, and the whole dang thing comes out at once!

“Can I get back into the birth pool now?” I asked.  Apparently, it had gotten too cold, as the cover didn’t fit on the pool when it was filled with water (the water pushed the sides out and it was already a pretty snug fit to begin with).  So, I had to wait a bit before warm water could be added again.  I found my way back to my labor cave (master bath) and hung onto the door post for dear life during the next few rushes.  “I can’t… I just can’t” I started to say.  I REALLY hoped I was entering transition, because I couldn’t imagine laboring like this for much longer.

Finally, the water was ready.  I think it was about 11pm, but I don’t know for sure, because I was intentionally trying to not stare at the clock!  Hypnobabies affirms that “every 20 minutes will feel like only 5 minutes” and I just kept holding on to that!  I had lost all track of time.  I got in the water and the warmth felt great at first, but I was soon too warm.  Cold washcloths were quickly procured by my birth team and placed on my forehead and neck.  I got very nauseous and a basin was placed in front of me.  Thankfully, I didn’t vomit, but I dry-heaved several dozen times!

Sure enough, my contractions started to space out again.  I was grateful for the rest time in between.  I tried not to think about how much longer this would take.  Little did I know that I was almost done!
Maybe 11:05pm, my curiosity got the best of me and I checked my cervix… I’m not the most experienced cervix-checker, but my best guess would be about 8cms.  I said “I still have quite a bit of cervix, but I can’t stop pushing!”  The baby’s head was bulging right behind the cervix.  A few strong contractions later and I checked again—just a tiny lip!!!  The next contraction came powerfully and I checked again and all I could feel was her head!!  That was the most amazing and empowering thing about this birth—to feel my cervix melt away like that at the end.  It really helped me to visualize what was happening and I think it helped me to open up so quickly!

“Oh, she’s going to come!” I said and Khristeena told me I was doing beautifully.  “Soften your eyebrows, soften your jaw,” she said quietly.

So… then I REALLY got the urge to push and I did.  “Lots of gentle blowing and breathing right now,” Khristeena reminded me.  Not much happened.  I realized that the baby was behind my pubic bone and Khristeena told me “maybe you should think about changing positions.”  I had been sitting upright and leaning against the back of the tub and I changed to leaning forward in a kind of hands and knees position, but more upright, with my arms straight in between my splayed knees.  I pushed again and felt the baby come waaaay down.  I felt inside and felt her head almost crowning, but as soon as I touched her, she flew back inside about two inches!  I bet the intact membranes sling-shotted her up. That was the craziest feeling!

 I had a few minutes rest in between rushes and Khristeena listened for heart tones.  I pushed again with the next contraction and she came right back down and I felt a pop. “My water just broke.”  I pushed again a few times during that surge and I yelled “Oh my GOSH!” at the top of my lungs as the baby moved down.  I felt the “ring of fire” very briefly.  It wasn’t nearly as bad in the water as it was during my first vaginal birth (still horribly uncomfortable, though! Haha).  I said “Oh, she’s crowning!” and then “video camera!” (haha) and I was assured that it was already on.  :)

“I’m stretching! Oh, she’s right there.”

With the next contraction, I made a ton of moaning/grunting/yelling/primal noises and pushed her out to her ears.  “Oh her HEAD’S OUT!” I yelled.  I took some deep breaths and tried to relax, telling myself the worst part was over.

I was wrong, haha.  The shoulders were the hardest part!  After a minute, with the next contraction, I pushed and said “Ow! Come on!” and felt her shoulders pop out and then it seemed like she was the longest baby in the history of the planet because I just kept feeling more and more baby coming out!  She was born at 11:27pm—only an hour since I was 6cms, and only 9 minutes since I was fully dilated!

“Ohhhh… Oh, where is she?” I flipped around to a sitting position from hands and knees and looked around for my baby.  It was dark and the water got “inky” as she was born from a gush of blood (from my tear) and I couldn’t see her right away!  I felt around and was ELATED to grab hold of my baby and bring her up on my abdomen.  I unwrapped a nuchal cord and brought her up closer to my chest.  She coughed a few times and just looked right up at me with her wide blue eyes.

“Oh, hi honey, good girl!”  She was so calm and peaceful, looking around the room, coughing every now and then.  My friends started a round of applause for her.  I thought I would recognize her in a way, but she looked so different than I imagined.  She was beautiful—strawberry blonde hair and bright blue eyes!  I just fell right in love.  After about a minute, she let out her first lusty cry—the most beautiful sound!  Everyone “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed over her.  I was so relieved to be holding her safely in my arms!!!

“I love you.  What a good girl!  Look how small you are!”  I was so shocked at her “petiteness.”  My first two children were both 9.5 pounds, and this little one was obviously much smaller than that!
“I just had a baby!  Oh my gosh, you are so cute!  Praise the LORD!  Look what Jesus made in my tummy!  You are such a miracle!”

The baby started coughing and bringing up some bubbles from her belly, and we just gently wiped them away.  “So gentle.  If we were in the hospital, I’d be messing with you!”  This is one of the main reasons why I chose homebirth.  As a newborn nurse, I know how annoying all the newborn procedures are for babies.  I love that my baby was born so peacefully and was able to transition smoothly without interference. 

We draped a blanket over her and then I offered my breast to her.  She took it almost immediately and began nursing.  Isaac and Khristeena began to drain some of the water out of the tub as our baby—Shiloh Lark—and I snuggled and nursed. 

After about 12 minutes, Khristeena asked if my cord was still pulsing.  I felt and it was.  Three minutes after that, I started to get very crampy and I had a gush of blood from the placenta separating.  “Can I deliver the placenta in the water?” I asked.  I seem to remember that it just kind of slid out after my last birth, but this time, it took a little more effort.  I pushed a few times, and felt very relieved when it was out.  Apparently, I had a “Duncan” presentation, where the maternal “sticky” side presents first.  Khristeena put the placenta in a glass bowl and set it floating on the water next to us.  It was so neat to see my baby’s home from the last 9 months.  I am just so in awe of God’s design!  It is truly miraculous. 

Annie brought me a chocolate chip cookie and the most delicious iced tea ever.  What a nice reward! 
Isaac clamped and cut the cord 51 minutes after birth.

After a nice, relaxing snuggle in the tub, it was time to get out and into the bed.  The baby went straight from my arms to her daddy’s arms as I was getting resettled.  What a lucky baby to have had such a gentle entrance into the world!  Her head was perfect—no bruising or swelling or molding whatsoever!
Khristeena checked me and told me I had only a small tear on the posterior wall of my vagina, which I decided to leave alone and not have stitched.  My perineum was completely intact, which blows my mind, considering how fast I pushed her out at the end.

The next few hours were passed blissfully snuggled in bed with the softest, fuzziest little baby who nursed like a pro and relaxed peacefully next to her mama and papa.  Her name, Shiloh, means “peace” or “tranquil” in Hebrew, and that suits her very well!  Shiloh, the Biblical city, was the center of Israelite worship before the temple was built in Jerusalem, and my Shiloh is definitely a reason to praise God!  Lark, her middle name, is because the songbird symbolizes springtime, joy, cheerfulness, and the coming of a new day in literature.  It seemed like a fitting name for my sweet rainbow baby!

After a few hours, it was time for the newborn exam!  My “small” baby girl was 8 lb 12 oz, and 20.5.”  She looked like a 40 week baby, with lots of vernix on her skin.  She didn’t look overdue at all.  She just needed an extra week to ripen.  :)

After I got up and used the bathroom a few times, ate a sandwich, and it was obvious that both baby and mom were doing well, my amazing birth team packed up and headed home.  It was about 2:30am.  I was WAY too excited to go to bed, so we looked through birth photos and watched our birth video right away.  Isaac laughed at me at one point for the horrible grimace on my face as I watched myself giving birth on the video!  What a surreal experience to actually watch your own body working so powerfully to bring a baby earthside!

It was honestly the most perfect birth that I could have imagined.  Powerful, strong, efficient, complication-free.  Totally physiologic.  Mama-led and empowering!  What a blessing!  Less than 7 hours total from first contraction to birth, and only about 3.5 hours of active/hard labor.

I am so happy to have met such a fantastic midwife and to have had such supportive friends.  This was the TOTAL OPPOSITE of my cesarean birth in so many ways.  Instead of feeling stripped of power, I was given total autonomy.  I was loved, cared for, and respected.  Who can ask for more?

Praise God for his hand of blessing, protection, and peace on this birth.  Words can’t even describe how happy I am with how lovely this birth turned out to be!  I am so incredibly overjoyed to have had this awesome experience.  While I don’t feel the need to ever go through it again (LOL), I will always look back with overwhelming happiness at my home water VBAC!