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Two years ago today…

August 26, 2010

I was in a hospital. Not the place I’d wanted to be, but circumstances had forced me into a place that was going to push me to confront those paper tigers once and for all.

I had risked out of the birth center, but not because of complications. My blood pressure was right where it had been the whole pregnancy, the heartbeat was fine, the activity (the baby’s not mine) was active – especially at 4 am as the karate kicks against Dad’s back began – like it had been since I started feeling movement. No, it was an overlong pregnancy that caused the risk-out, and left me with two options: go to the hospital, or see if I could get an at-home midwife to take me on at this late point – which if I went past a certain point would be denied me also and then I’d be back at the hospital option. I was heartbroken, and felt betrayed by my body.

My first pregnancy had ended with all sorts of interventions during labor, and it was only by sheer will that I kept the doctor from doing the c-section that he’d predicted I’d need in the latter month of pregnancy (“This baby is measuring large, and anything over 8.5 pounds we usually have to deliver by c-section.”) With that in mind, when The Hubby and I discussed having a baby, I told him about the delivery, and had him do some reading to help him see where I was coming from – I wanted another child, but I wasn’t delivering in a hospital – not unless there was some serious medical need to do so. We found out there was a birthing center – the first licensed free-standing birth center in Colorado – not too far from us, and they had open houses. It was an option, one that allowed a compromise between his need for medical care nearby in case of dire emergency and my need to deliver in a better atmosphere – one free of unnecessary interventions. Right after we found out we were pregnant, we went to an open house, and we were both convinced this was what we wanted. So our visits to the birth center began. It was fantastic, reassuring, comfortable, and friendly. We joined their doula training program, which they were just starting, since it seemed like a great way to help out. Since we were giving birth at the center, I didn’t figure the doula was going to be a necessity, but it was something I’d been interested in (still am) and was intrigued to get to learn more as I worked with one. Our doula was fantastic, well matched with us, and all was going great.

August got here, and we approached our gestation guesstimation date 😉 – August 6 came and went. But it was no biggie, surely the baby would be born soon. I was hugely pregnant, and having contractions and discomfort and all the things that let you know that labor is coming soon to this space. My mom called daily, since she was trying to figure out when they’d need to leave California to be here for the birth. Finally, I told her to just come out… if nothing else we’d get a good visit in while we waited for the birth, even if they had to go back home before the baby came. We had a great visit – marred only by the 4 trips to the birthing center… that resulted in us leaving the center babyless. Yep, false alarms all of them. We tried everything to get the contractions to stick around – primrose oil, Black & Blue, castor oil milkshakes (the chocolate ice cream really does help disguise the castor oil), a foley bulb… none of it worked. Baby wasn’t ready to come… but it was weird, because sitting in certain positions would cause good strong contractions.

Finally, on Thursday August 21st, as yet another false alarm sent us (by ourselves this time – told our parents and Bro that we’d call if it was actually happening) to the center, we were told to take the next day off – find something to do that was so totally not baby-centric and enjoy ourselves. Maybe getting my mind off “labor” would relax me enough that it could happen. However, we were also told that if Saturday morning arrived without me being in labor, at which point I’d be at 42 weeks, that we’d risk out – so we needed to have another plan in mind. Our midwife told us that she had a couple of ideas, and we’d talk more on Friday after she’d put everything together. I cried that night, cried hard. I felt like my body had betrayed me, that I couldn’t even go into labor on my own, deliver on my own – without being forced into it. It wasn’t the first time during the past two weeks I’d felt that way, this was just the worst time.

Friday morning, we went to the Fourney musuem. My dad is a huge train fan (one of his uncles worked on the trains in Chicago, and my dad spent a lot of time riding them when he was a young man), as is Bro, and the train museum was a great place to go walk around. While we were there, we got a call from our midwife, outlining our options. Since the birth-at-home option left us a short window before risking out again, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to take that again, we decided to go with the nurse-midwife at the hospital. We set up an appointment to go talk with her on Saturday. I spent the rest of the day with a cloud over my head. This was not what I’d wanted… and now I was going to have to adjust to a different person right at the end of the pregnancy. Saturday’s meeting went well, and I liked her, and as we talked about what was going on I realized that no matter what, I was in danger of risking into a c-section because of the advanced length of pregnancy. When we’d arrived that morning, we had an ultrasound done as part of the non-stress test – making sure that all was well with the baby. Everything was fine, but there were a few calcification lines on the placenta, indicating advanced age and that it was not going to be getting oxygen to the baby all that well. Not enough to cause extreme worry, but just to put us on guard. The gal doing the ultrasound was astounded that we wanted to wait over the weekend – to see if labor would happen spontaneously – but said it looked like everything would be okay for that long.

The weekend came and went, and no labor. Monday afternoon, we checked into the hospital. We had talked about it, and I wanted to have as intervention free a labor as was possible to have in a hospital, and if we waited it might not work. Adding to our weird situation was the fact that our doula was leaving for her honeymoon on Tuesday morning (she’d gotten married on Saturday, and we had a back-up doula just in case), and so she might not be there for the birth either. So at the last minute, our entire cast of support players was changing, and I was left feeling like the ground was slipping away. We sat in the labor room, me hooked up to the machine so they could get some starting readouts, the two of us and the two doulas, when we were given an option of things to try to get the labor truly started – a pitocin drip which while it would guarantee contractions wouldn’t help the cervix at all, breaking the water which was something I didn’t want to do having experienced that before, or possibly using a very small dosage of cytotec which would help ripen the cervix also. After being given the options, our midwife left so we four could talk about it. I was given the pros and cons of all them from my doulas, and eventually we decided on the cytotec. I hadn’t had a c-section before, so the chance of uterine rupture was very small, and as that was the biggest concern against it (that and the fact that it’s not intended for bringing on labor) we made our choice. Because of that, I had to have a hep lock put in – in case of something going wrong. It was compromise, since they’d wanted to do an I.V. but I was adamant against it, and promised them that I’d stay well hydrated during labor. I had a hard enough time with the hep lock, and was aware of the damned thing the whole time.

All through the night, contraction off and on. When they slowed to almost nothing, I was given another small dose. That dose carried me into the morning and early afternoon of Tuesday. My doula left for her honeymoon, and since labor was not imminent, the back-up went home for a bit to get her kids settled before coming back. We walked the halls, with a portable monitor… I lost count how many laps we did. Finally, the day wore on with no real changes – still contracting, but not getting anywhere. We called our back-up doula, since the midwife had said she wanted to present some other options. Once our doula was there, we discussed what to do next. Pinholing the sac was talked about – a way to release some of the water in way that more closely simulated the way a sac breaks – not the sudden gush, but trickling out. Our midwife said she had a suspicion that I had so much water that it was keeping the baby from engaging in the cervix except in very specific positions (like me sitting up straight, feet pulled in with soles touching – sort of a relaxed lotus position), and that releasing that might get things moving. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but by this point, the laboring that wasn’t was getting to me. I knew something had to happen. The warning of “must deliver within 24 hrs of breaking the water” was given, and understood, and I was laid back on the bed so the procedure could be done. All of  a sudden, I started to cry – this was it – the paper tiger I hadn’t confronted before this, one I’d resolutely pushed away instead of dealing with. This was way it had started before; break the water, insert the monitor, baby sunny-side up, excrutiating labor, cervix being manually pushed over the baby’s head, an epsiotomy and horrible tearing that resulted in stitches and infection, cord around the baby’s neck which meant being given oxygen instead of being given to me. It was a cascade that only just barely avoided becoming a c-section.

Then I was told to sit up – and the entire scenario faded. That had not happened before. I wiped my streaming eyes, felt the trickle of fluid between my legs, and talked about what had just happened – why I’d been in tears. Someone said something, and I laughed, and the trickle became more of a stream. I exclaimed about it, and laughed again, this time harder, and the membrane holding back the waters broke like a dam under pressure of a serious spring thaw. Waters flowed everywhere, soaked the sheets, poured off the bed, puddled on the floor, and I felt something I hadn’t actually ever felt before. I felt the baby drop into place. Our midwife commented on it, and the pleased look on her face let me know her suspicions had been confirmed. So much water to float around in kept the little one from staying in place, so labor wasn’t proceeding like it should have. Since I was dripping, and chilled now, I decided this was a good time to get in the tub. Before I got in, our midwife came up and told us her shift was over and she’d be going home, unless I wanted her to stay. She didn’t have to work tomorrow, so if I wanted her, it wouldn’t interfere with her next shift. I very quickly told her yes. She was fantastic, and I loved the idea of not having to get used to another midwife now.

Hubby had filled the tub while I talked with the midwife, and the warm water beckoned me. I hadn’t labored in a tub the first time around, and didn’t realize how much different the contractions would feel buoyed by the water. It was an incredible sensation, and I just stayed there, leaving only when my bladder (I had been drinking the whole time) let me know it was time to be emptied again. Then back into the warm cocoon, nestled into the place I’d constructed – the river we used to camp near during my childhood summers… a huge boulder that jutted out into the river, with a flat top, sun-warmed and the perfect place to escape, the only sounds were the the wind through the pines and the river rushing by. That was where I went when I got into the tub – that quiet place, where it was just me and the baby. As we moved from contraction to contraction, my breath came out in deep sighs, low quiet moans, that were almost “om” like. It was that and the sound of Hubby’s voice that kept me only peripherially aware of the world around me. Then there was nothing but sleepiness, and I think I dozed for a bit, and then things changed. Pressure, building up and pushing down, and the rock was no longer what I needed. I needed the calm cool waters on the lee side of the rock, where the river rushed past, but only eddied on this dark side of the granite boulder. There, in the cool dark safety of the river, I transitioned into pushing. A sussurus of sounds, as my mother and mother-in-law whispered with the midwife and Hubby, and all was lost as I continued pushing.

Then I got stuck… terrified that I couldn’t do this. The head wasn’t moving, it was just hanging up in the birth canal, and I couldn’t do this, please help, I need help! I can’t do it. The head is there I was told, reach down, you’ll see. No! Too afraid to find out it wasn’t true. Then I did, and oh, the feel of the downy soft hair, the head crowning! Then a contraction so strong it torqued my body out of the water. I heard the shouts that I needed to get back into the water, to relax again, and to keep pushing as I’d stopped and the head was only partly out. Several more pushes, and then oh the delicious relief to be done pushing as the baby slid into the water, free from my body at last – five hours after the waters had broken. Our midwife helped me scoop the baby out of the water and cradle this new little life to my chest. Only then did I check, and introduced the Hubby to his second son. After a few moments, cord still pulsing ‘tween Little Frog and me, I was told to rub him gently, get him to take a breath. I did, he did, and he pinked right up. We delayed the clamping til the cord stopped pulsing, and then got out of the tub for the warmth of the bed. I was checked – not a single tear or rip or bruising – and he was checked. We remained firm on our non-circumcision and no-vaccination stand and denied them the use of the ointment in his eyes. Finally, after giving himself a hickey by sucking on his arm, he was returned to me so he could start nursing, which he did with gusto. Oh, and the placenta was checked, and not a single trace of calcification was found. Our midwife said it looked like I might just gestate longer than average – because both placenta and Little Frog looked to be exactly term, and had none of the indicators usually found in an overdue pregnancy.

Now came the final hurdle… getting them to release us early. At the birthing center, we were to go home 4-6 hours after the birth, but the hospital wasn’t sure they liked the idea, and the nursery nurses were staunchly against it. Our midwife vouched for us though, and we left the hospital at 4:30 in the morning on Wednesday morning. Bed was very inviting, and we snuggled down into it, and slept.

This is the first time I’ve told this story, but the story needed to be told, it’s been pushing me for a while. So here it is.

Happy 2nd Birthday Little Frog!

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