Saturday, July 14, 2012

Baby Jaguar's Birth Story

Our son, "Baby Jaguar", was born on 11 July 2012, weighing 8lbs 13oz, 3 days past his due date.

Here's how it happened.

I'll start the story from Sunday, which was his due date.

On Sunday, I woke up feeling pretty awful. Really nauseated, tired, and grumpy. I made the huge mistake of going to church. Before I'd even gotten a few feet in the door, I was bombarded with all the classic 'You still not had that baby yet?!' lines, and I was seriously not in the mood for it. I had to put on the bravest face to keep myself from bursting into tears with each comment. I couldn't even count how many people felt it necessary to point out to me and my large belly that I hadn't yet managed to have 'that baby' yet. I mean, geez, it was only my due date THAT DAY! So as soon as church was over, I rushed home and got in bed. I felt sick all day and all evening, and it was a relief to wake up the next morning feeling tons better.

I had a dentist appointment in the afternoon, the kids went to the cinema with their grandparents, and Scott took a half day off. It was nice for Scott to get some time to himself and nice for me to be able to take a little walk to my appointment all on my own. On my way back from the dentist, I decided on a whim to drop into the osteopath just to ask what kind of treatments they do for pregnant women. I was starting to get anxious about going over my due date and was really afraid I'd end up getting induced two weeks later. The osteopath (who was pregnant herself) said she'd be able to fit me in right after her next patient, if I wasn't in a hurry, to do just a general pregnancy treatment to open up and loosen my spine and pelvis. So half an hour later, I was lying on a table getting twisted into all kinds of shapes and getting cracks and pops all up and down my spine and through my pelvis. By the time I was done, I couldn't believe how relaxed and loose I felt. I walked home on air, not because I thought 'Yes! This will put me into labour!' but because I suddenly felt a new optimism about having the baby in plenty of time when my body and my baby were both ready.

Tuesday morning
, I arranged for a last minute babysitter (thank you, Grampa Andy!), so I could go to my Aquanatal class. I wasn't totally in the mood for it but decided some time in the water would probably do me good. I worked really hard in the water and felt crampy the rest of the day, but no contractions or anything too exciting resulted. I went to my friend Heather's house that night for our weekly craft night and had one strong contraction while there, but other than that, it was a typical, non-eventful night. I went to bed excited though, as the following morning I had an appointment with the midwife for my first membrane sweep, and because of the cramps, I was hoping the sweep would move things along for me.

Wednesday morning, I woke up at 6.30 with a contraction unlike the others I'd been having. I think I'd had one or two in my sleep because I woke up knowing this one would rise and peak and tail off like a real contraction should. Sure enough, it did. I lay in bed waiting to see if anything else would happen. For the next 45 minutes, I dozed in and out between contractions, roughly 10 minutes apart. Finally I woke Scott up. I told him not to get too excited but that my contractions were starting to seem more real. I then asked him to get up with me and help me clean the rabbit cage, in case this was the real thing! We cleaned the cage quickly, and the contractions by 8am were coming more frequently and closer together, but were very short and quick in duration. I wondered if I was just being too optimistic but decided to phone the midwives at the hospital since I was expected there at 9
anyway to ask what I should do. Because I needed to have blood drawn at that appointment, and if they were to come out to my house they would just have to go back to the hospital to refrigerate the blood, the midwife on the phone suggested I go ahead and come down to the hospital as planned unless things changed. So, at quarter to 9, Scott, the kids and I all loaded into the car to go to my appointment. Part of me wanted to get properly dressed since I was going out in public, but I ended up going in my sweats, which, if you know me, is TOTALLY not something I would normally do. In the car, I did, however, put on my makeup in between contractions.

9am: We got to the hospital, and Scott dropped me off at the front door, because he was going to have to park pretty far away. I got out of the car and started to walk towards the doors when I felt a trickle down my leg. Oh no. I instantly knew my waters had broken. I turned back to the car, but Scott was already driving off. I just stood there, in the car park, my arm outstretched towards the car, silently pleading 'Come back! Come back!' The trickle kept coming down my leg. There was no way I was about to walk into the hospital alone at that point, so I sat down on a bench outside, in the spitting rain, and waited like a poor lost soul for Scott and the kids. It felt like an eternity, but I didn't dare move in case the inevitable gush was about to take place. Finally, Scott and the girls approached, and I hobbled towards them, trying to keep my legs together as I walked. As we walked through the doors, I was sure all eyes were on my wet sweatpants crotch, as the dark trail of water just grew larger down my legs with each step. I burst into tears with the embarrassment. I felt like a crazy person in the elevator, going into hospital in labour and bringing my children with me! I kept saying to everyone, 'It was just supposed to be an appointment!!' Scott phoned his dad to ask him to immediately come up to the hospital and take the kids home, and I rushed into the maternity ward, tears running down my face and amniotic fluid running down my legs. The midwives standing around the desk must've had a silent chuckle to themselves as one said, 'Well, we heard you were having a few contractions!' and ushered me into the first room open.

The midwife helped me get my sweats off, and that's when everything went from slightly humorous to serious business. The waters were completely green. Meconium staining. I panicked. 'Oh no, that's not good, that's not good', I said breathlessly. The midwife was far more calm and assured me that it wasn't necessarily bad. She had me on the bed in seconds with the heart monitor and checked the baby's heartbeat. He was fine, she told me. He wasn't in any distress, but babies post term do sometimes do that.

I was relieved.

Then, however, she said I would really need to go to Paisley to have the baby.

(Paisley is where the bigger maternity hospital is, where any complicated or high risk pregnancies are attended to.)

I, again, started crying.

Of course, I knew she was right, but I just couldn't believe it. After everything, all the waiting, all the preparations, all the positive thinking, being sure that finally, I was going to get the homebirth I have always wanted, I was going to Paisley a third time to have my baby.

Scott's dad arrived and took Fifi and Lolly. An ambulance was called for me, and I gave Scott the roughest list of things to grab from home to take to hospital; obviously I didn't have any kind of hospital bag packed! I was warned by the head midwife that it was likely they would want to augment my labour when I got there (in other words, put me on a Syntocinon drip), but the midwife who rode with me in the ambulance felt I had a good chance of avoiding that since my contractions were getting more regular. I was blue-lighted up to Paisley, which was actually kind of exciting, getting to ride in the ambulance with the sirens and all. While in the ambulance, my contractions were coming more and more frequently, but were short and sharp. I refused any painkillers and just practiced my HypnoBirthing breathing through each one.

10am: At the hospital, I was hooked up to a continuous fetal monitor for about 20 minutes. It was uncomfortable lying on my back, but I was coping with the contractions fine using my breathing. Scott arrived and put on some music for me (R.E.M.), and we got settled in. The midwife did not see any reason to start me on the drip or induce me in any way. What a relief! She did, however, recommend I get an internal fetal monitor hooked up, so I would be less constrained to the bed. I agreed, and it was horrible. I cried in agony as she tried to insert it, all for it not to work anyway. Back to the external monitor I went. At least I was allowed to move around and get in whatever positions I found most comfortable. I was 4cm dilated at this point.

11.15ish: I suggested to Scott he go for his lunch early. I didn't need him then, but I might need him later on. So he left to grab something to eat, and I continued to breathe through my contractions and move around.

11.45ish: Scott returned. He put on my HypnoBirthing CD, because I felt I was getting far enough advanced that I needed to really focus inward. Breathing through contractions was becoming more difficult and taking all my concentration.

12.15: I told him to turn that damn HypnoBirthing CD off, it was annoying the hell out of me. (I heard the midwife comment, 'There goes the HypnoBirthing!' It was funny.) The midwife suggested I try the internal monitor again, but this time suggested I use the gas and air (Entonox) to help with the discomfort. I agreed. I took a few puffs until I could feel myself go light-headed and then I let her try. It was painful but not as bad as the first time. It worked this time, and she took the external monitor off me. I asked if I had dilated any, and she said I was still 4cm but that was not unusual.

I was not pleased with this information.

At this point, I'd spent most of my contractions up on the bed, on all fours, leaning over the headboard. I decided it was time to get on the gas and air. The contractions were starting to come one after the other with very little space in between, and I was starting to feel unable to cope. The gas and air helped a lot, but with no breaks in between contractions with which to regain my composure, I was beginning to feel like this was going to be impossible. Finally, I said to Scott - actually it came out as more of a whine than a statement - 'I don't wanna do this anymore.' He thought I meant the gas and air.

'Don't want to do what anymore?' he asked calmly.

'SHUT UP! I don't want to do THIS anymore!!' I screamed, gesturing towards my body.

In the back of my head, I thought how I was starting to sound like a woman in transition, but at only 4cm, that wasn't possible.

Then with the next contraction or two, I involuntarily started to push.

The midwife asked if I felt pressure in my bottom, and I growled 'YESSSS I WANT TO PUSH.' Scott said softly to me, 'Don't push yet.' I not-so-softly shouted a lovely profanity at him, and he and the midwife both knew at that moment the baby was on his way out. I heard her say to him, 'When she starts to push, press this button.' I nearly panicked - was she leaving the room NOW?? How could she leave the room NOW?! Turns out, the button was to call for the second back-up midwife, but whatever! I thought she'd left the room! And seeing as I was still draped around the head of the bed with my bum in the air, slobbering all over the gas and air mouthpiece as I sucked on it for dear life, I had no way of knowing she was actually standing right at the end of the bed, with gloves on, guiding an already crowning head out of my nether regions. In moments, I felt the head emerge and knew that with the next contraction, out would fly a baby. Not so. With the next couple of contractions, I had to push and push and push, and I suddenly thought, 'Oh no, that wasn't the head before, THIS is the head! Oh I have so much longer to go!' Turns out, the midwife was holding the body back, turning it around, getting the shoulders positioned right, and so forth, and thanks to her, when the body did come out, I didn't tear! So finally, at

1pm: on the dot, with one last wonderful, mostly involuntary but with a bit of intended pushing, my son was finally born. Scott helped me turn around and sit on the bed.

'Nice to see your face again!' the midwife joked.

Oh yeah, I guess she'd really seen nothing by my bum for the last three hours or so.

Jaguar was whisked away to have his airwaves cleared to keep him from breathing in any of the meconium and then was offered to me to hold. At this point though, I was so exhausted and somewhat shell-shocked that I didn't think I could hold him at all. So he went to his daddy first, while I delivered the placenta. After that, I finally took the chance to hold my new son in my arms for the first time. It was.... surreal isn't the right word. It was difficult. I was so shaky and exhausted that I could barely hold him without dropping him! Back to Scott he went!

The midwife who had been attending me the whole time was fantastic. I genuinely barely ever noticed she was there. She left me and Scott alone most of the time while she stood back and observed. Just the way it should be! She left us at that point to make us some tea and toast and let us get to know our baby. After she left, I fed Jaguar for the first time, and he was a champion breastfeeder. I got to take a bath, put on some fresh clothes, and then go up to my room to relax with my husband and our new baby.

From the time my waters broke to delivery was exactly four hours.

Jaguar was not born at home as planned, but I am so happy he was born the way he was - I started labour all on my own, with no induction, it was all natural (minus the monitors!), I needed no drugs (except 45 minutes on gas and air!), and I delivered him on all fours, not on my back! And in the end, I'm glad my waters broke at the hospital instead of at my house. If I'd seen that meconium at home, I would have been scared to death that my baby was dying. I'm so glad I was in the hospital with the midwives who were able to tell me immediately that his heart rate was fine and there was no distress. Plus, imagine what would've happened to my lovely cream carpet, if I'd been at home when it happened....

And no, I won't be going for a fourth to finally get my homebirth. I'm admitting defeat in that respect. :) But I have three gorgeous, wonderful children to show for it, and frankly, I have no desire to attempt another nine months of pregnancy followed by another unpredictable labour... pretty much ever again.

Peace out, fertility!

But welcome home, my darling, adorable son. I love you more than I knew was possible!

Fifi holding her baby brother.

Lolly holding her baby brother.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

One Day Left...

This whole 'due date' thing is really rather cruel. You go one day from not-yet-due-so-quit-complaining to IT'S YOUR DUE DATE to only one day later over-due-and-lets-start-considering-induction.

Ohhh it's so not good for the psyche.

It would be so much better if we could just talk in terms of 'due months'. That's sort of how I've been looking at it anyway. From 37 weeks, I considered myself full term and would stay full term until 42 weeks. That's a 5 week window in which to have a baby. That feels so much more doable. But now that I'm about to cross over the medical fine line of over-due, I'm starting to feel a bit stressed. Sure I have two weeks left in which I could go into labour, but the weeks pass so fast and what if...?

Scott will want to knock me over the head for not being 'positive' again, but I'm starting to get anxious. This is my last baby. It is my third and last chance to have a homebirth. My two other births could not be at home for differing reasons, but there is no reason this time that my birth can't be at home. Unless this body of mine just can't get with the program. It's got two weeks left to get this thing figured out. Sure, most people DO go over 40 weeks. And there is probably some study to be done out there about some women needing slightly longer to gestate than others. After all, we are all individuals, and the one-size-fits-all medical model just doesn't work for every individual. But still...

If you've been keeping up with me during this, you'll know I've been experiencing prodromal labour for weeks. Well this week, all activity has more or less ceased. I've had the odd contraction here and there but nothing like what I was experiencing. In most ways, this is a huge relief. No more false alarms. A break from constant physical activity and heightened awareness of my body. The hope that when things do start back up, they'll be the real thing. But it also brings with it concern that nothing is going to happen now before I end up facing The Big Decision: Induction or Section? Two weeks and one day from now, and that will be the decision before me.

One of my 'birthing affirmations' from HypnoBirthing says something like 'If the day for your baby goes by, you feel more relaxed, knowing your baby and your body are working together to ensure your baby will come at the right time.' I've been trying and trying to focus in on that one. I want to believe it. I really want to internalise it. I want to rid myself of all anxiety related to when this baby will be born. It's just that I have too much desire for this one last birth to be done RIGHT, to heal all the buried, subconscious grief of the other two births, and to finish my childbirthing years with perfect harmony, that I'm now reaching a stage of panic in case it doesn't happen.

I don't want to be negative. I don't want to be anxious. I want to be calm, positive, cheerful, patient and confident. I want to trust God. I want to trust my body.

I want to go back to bed for an hour and start this morning over again. Preferably with an intense contraction, but I'd settle for just a positive mental attitude.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Prodromal Labour

I was inspired by this post to write my own version of how prodromal labour has treated me this time around.

I'll need to look for my Lolly birth story to see if I wrote much about the prodromal labour I had with her, and if I can find it, I'll post it here too. *UPDATE: Her birth story is here.

For many people, labour just happens, and that's that. Some people get Braxton-Hicks contractions and mistake it for labour, of course. However, it seems that there are also a lot of people (like me) who get sensations much more intense than typical Braxton-Hicks, and for some people (like me) these more intense contractions can last for days to weeks before active labour. We're the people who get sent home from hospital, being told it was a 'false alarm' or it's 'just Braxton-Hicks', and it's very emotionally draining and disappointing. Because I went through this with Lolly, I've been fairly stoic about it this time around, but a lot more relaxed as this time I don't have to worry about the wasted trips to the hospital, since I'm going to be giving birth at home. However, I'm so unexpectant that I haven't phoned the midwives except once to make sure my birthing kit would arrive nice and early, and never to say that *maybe* I could be in labour. I'd actually not be surprised if I ended up refusing to call the midwife until I suddenly get that unmistakeable urge to push, when finally I'd know this really is the *real thing*!

So here is how my past few weeks have gone:

36 Weeks
I started having irregular but pretty much daily Braxton-Hicks contractions. Nothing big, nothing scary, just some period-like cramping a few times a day. Baby's head was not engaged but just floating at the brim of my pelvis. I started my raspberry leaf tea this week, just one cup a day. However, to keep from the contractions getting any stronger (and to avoid preterm labour), I spent a lot of time in baths and had a glass of wine one night when the tightenings got me a little worried.

37 Weeks
I started having more intense tightenings but still nothing remotely painful, just more period-like cramping, but more often and closer together. Nothing regular, just several per hour then nothing for a while, then more again. I phoned the hospital to make sure that my homebirth kit was definitely going to arrive early that week just in case things picked up. My homebirth kit arrived on Tuesday. To keep things moving along, I spent a lot of time on the birthing ball. I also started taking raspberry leaf capsules along with my tea, one to two capsules a day and one cup of tea. Nothing changed much the rest of the week, just the same old BH contractions, until Friday night. The tightenings started getting much more intense, and I began to feel like calling them Braxton-Hicks wasn't correct anymore! However, the baby's head was still not engaged. I had a bit of what I thought might be bloody show and went on a mad cleaning spree, expecting the baby to come that night. The next morning, a bit concerned that the blood maybe wasn't show but something more dramatic, I phoned the midwife and was referred up to the hospital. There, it was more or less confirmed that it was nothing to worry about, and I was sent home with a referral to see my consultant the next week. To keep from going into active labour before my consultant appointment on the following Wednesday, I reverted back to baths and holding back on doing too much exercise.

38 Weeks
Contractions/cramping/tightenings had become a daily, regular occurrence, usually commencing midday to mid-afternoon and not stopping until I finally went to bed at night, whatever time that might be. On Monday night, I had my first acupuncture session to 'ripen the cervix'. I kept taking my raspberry leaf capsules and tea. I had my meeting with the consultant on Wednesday and was given the okay to continue with homebirth plans. The baby's head had, by that point, however, descended into the pelvis and was 4/5ths palpable (which means 4/5ths of it could be felt - or another way of looking at it, the head was 1/5th engaged.) This made me feel that at least the tightenings (a word I prefer over contractions or even over the HypnoBirthing word 'surges') were doing something, nudging the baby downward. At 38 weeks + 4 days, I had my second acupuncture session. The next day (Friday), I went out to a show at the local theatre and hung out in the bar after for several hours, standing the whole time in heels. The tightenings started coming every couple of minutes, very intense, some hard to concentrate through or stand through, and I ended up leaning against the bar tables every couple of minutes to get through the tightenings. They were so regular and so strong that I became almost convinced that the real thing was due to happen in the next couple of days, if not that night. I came home, tried to get some rest, was awoken a few times by the contractions, but eventually fell asleep and woke up the next morning with nothing.

39 Weeks
On Sunday, at 39 weeks exactly, I started a bit of at-home aromatherapy. I put rose oil in my bath and started burning jasmine oil in my oil burner. I am also still taking a couple of raspberry leaf capsules and more or less one cup of tea a day. That leads me to where I am now. For the next couple of days after the night at the theatre, I experienced very little uterine activity, apart from occasional tightenings and the old Braxton-Hicks cramps. Until today (Monday), when they came back on, strong, intense and every half hour or so. The baby feels a bit lower, but I won't be able to confirm that until Wednesday when I see my midwife again for my weekly antenatal check. The contractions today continue, but I have no real hopes of going into labour any time soon. I've had bursts of energy where I've gone on cleaning binges, followed by bouts of listlessness where I have no energy to do anything at all. Today has been a relaxing yet productive day, and despite the intensity of the contractions, I fully expect to go to bed tonight and for them to peter out completely, as per usual. I hope on Wednesday, I'll be told the baby has descended more, which will give me a new feeling of confidence that all these contractions are STILL working the baby down. After all, the word on the street is that while, yes, prodromal labour is annoying and a total bitch, it can make the final stages of labour run very smoothly and efficiently because of how toned the uterus has become. I hope that this is true.

The baby is also still posterior, which could have much to do with why everything is progressing so slowly, but nothing I do seems to make him turn. So I'm trying not to obsess too much over his position and just do all that I can to keep the right posture, and do all that I know to do to help the contractions along. I still practice my HypnoBirthing daily, and have been focusing more on the Birth Affirmations than on the actual hypnosis, to help keep my thoughts positive despite the slow-going pace of all these contractions.

And on that note, I'm off to make another cup of raspberry leaf tea and put some more jasmine in my oil burner!