Monday, April 18, 2011

Finding the Hand of God in Homebirth

NOTE: This contains graphic details that some may not wish to hear about. :)

Those close to us are aware that we recently just had our third child, at home, unassisted, on purpose. Why would someone choose such a thing?

It was an interesting journey. When my husband and I had our first child, we did not consider our 'options.' We went with the flow, prenatal visits every month, then every two weeks, then every week and the mandatory tests. Whenever I had doubts, questions, hiccups I rushed to my doctor for assurance and more tests. The doctors told me what they thought I needed to know, enough to keep my spirits high and my trust in them secure.

But in reality I knew nothing about pregnancy and birth. I just followed their every word.

When my labor began, as most, I was scared and excited. We rushed to the hospital and endured more tests and waiting. They offered IVs, pain meds, laboring "tools" which I accepted mindlessly. 22 hours later I found myself lying on my back with uncontrollable back spasms, exhausted, unable to push any longer, and my son's head just barely engaged. With a multitude of unknown faces surrounding me, a doctor stepped forward and said she suggested an emergency c-section. My husband and I wearily agreed. 33 mins later, my husband held his baby boy as I lay there unable to move and barely think and could literally only focus on how very weird it felt to have ones guts shoveled and sewn back in.

Now before people misunderstand me, I will state. I did walk out of that hospital, alive, and with my beautiful baby boy, alive. I do not blame the doctors for my lack of knowledge. I do not blame them that I was less than thrilled about my birth experience. I blame myself for remaining clueless in the face of such a monumental part of my life.

I walked away feeling very wounded and sorrowful at my 'inability' to birth my child, and fearful at how fragile we truly are.

It was a while before my husband and I felt comfortable having another child. There were many reasons for this. I would think that my first birth experience WAS part of our temerity in choosing to have another child. But once we stepped on that path and had our positive test, I began researching and reading about pregnancy and birth every chance I got. And by the time I had my first prenatal visit, I KNEW what I wanted out of birth, and prayed that God would lead me and give me the chance to have a 'blessed birth.'

And HE did. Not at all how I expected though. My doctors were absolutely unwilling to work with me. I know that I have written about this part of the journey before. I am still amazed at how biased the doctors were, and how deceitful they became as they realized I was not willing to follow blindly as I had before, and like so many of their patients must. Their desire to be completely in control of something that is ... not theirs.

And that is when I found HOMEBIRTH. My husband and I were afraid. But as we read more and researched more, it seemed like it was indeed the answer to prayer we were looking for.

I contacted many local midwives. None in the area would assist, and those in other areas required I travel to them when labor began. This was not practical... and I felt would be quite torturous. So I dismissed the thought of using a midwife. Instead I asked my sister in law, who is very knowledgeable about birth, to assist us. And in the quietness of my home, with my husband and sweet sister in law present, I gave birth to my daughter. I found my 'blessed birth.'

So when I became pregnant again I KNEW I would homebirth. It seemed so natural. I remembered my experience during my last pregnancy and decided to maintain my own health, and to forgo 'prenatal care.' Of course.... those who balked at my decision to homebirth, were again horrified to hear that I was taking it one step further. And there were some who I simply did not tell, knowing their reaction would be unwilling to reason or accept that it was my choice to make.

This did not mean that I did nothing for the 9 months while my babe was growing. I got myself prenatal vitamins with iron, knowing my tendency for anemia, and tried to maintain/build a healthy diet for myself and my family. Because I knew I had 'glucose intolerance' I began monitoring my blood sugar levels and was unsurprised when, once again, I developed gestational diabetes. I suited my diet to meet my needs, lowering carbohydrate intake, increasing light exercise, especially right after meal times. After a short time of trial and error I found an excellent balance that allowed me to eat most anything, as long as I did not remain on my butt after eating. Some housework, a short walk, an active game with the kids did wonders.

When I had questions, worries, fears, I prayed, and then I got on my computer and searched for trustworthy, reputable sources for answers and solutions.

For example, for the first two months or more of my pregnancy I experienced light, brownish spotting. Of course my first reaction was worry. Was I losing my baby? What was causing this bleeding? I searched and searched the internet. And for several weeks, the only thing I found was "Signs of Miscarriage." Some may ask, "Why didn't you go the doctor at this point?" Two reasons. IF, I was having a miscarriage, the doctors would be able to do NOTHING to change that. I didn't need the added chaos and impersonal treatment that I knew I would receive. If I was going to lose my child, I would do so in a way that allowed me to mourn freely and openly. Secondly, it didn't feel like it was a miscarriage. WHY would a miscarriage take weeks and weeks? The bleeding was light.... never red... and never painful. And then I literally STUMBLED across the answer!!! La Leche published an article regarding "Nursing While Pregnant." One of the side effects of nursing while pregnant is light brown spotting! In addition this simple act, nursing your older babe as you grow the next (lol), decreased nausea, less excessive weight gain, and more obviously, is a continuation of the loving bonding of you and your child during a time when they may NEED more assurance.

My pregnancy, as always, seemed to take forever. But it was not hard. I felt more energetic, happy, and flexible, than I had in my previous pregnancies. Some of this I attributed to nursing my daughter, keeping up with my two wild happy children, and an improved diet and lifestyle. And some of this I attributed to the fact that I was NOT having to meet appointments, getting tests taken, having a million questions asked of me, and all by someone who is trained to see THE WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOME from every symptom you may be experiencing and responding to you with a fearful, "OMG Let's all freak out" attitude. I was able to RELAX and enjoy the life growing inside of me, rejoicing with my dearest friends and family.

As in my previous pregnancies I had false labor weeeeeeeks before my babe actually came. This was of course tiring and disconcerting. As most women are, I was ANXIOUS to get that baby out of my belly LONG before it was ready. But I was determined this time to do it naturally, without even the use of castor oil to induce labor. I was quite comfortable with my use of castor oil in my previous homebirth, but wanted to experience a completely natural birth without any interference if possible.

My husband and I also had decided that this time we would have our children present. Those who had ever been to our home were particularly surprised about this decision. Our little one bedroom home was even more cramped than usual during this birth, because we were also packing to move! So the majority of our living space was filled with boxes and totes of our belongings stacked and piled in every corner. But we desired our children to feel connected to the birth. We wanted them to hear the first cry, and see Daddy cut the cord. And I thought it would be good for them to know that a little pain and a little hard work sometimes brings about GREAT rewards.

And now for gritty details, some may want to skip this part. LOL

Not surprisingly, my real labor began more than one week after my due date. :) I woke up at 2:30am on March 9th to use the restroom and found that I was passing the mucus plug. It was unquestionable and I LAUGHED! I was thrilled. YEAH!! It was finally starting! I attempted to sleep some more, waking at 3:30, 4:30, and 5:00, with increasing contractions. At 6:00 my water broke and I woke my husband with the good news, "You will NOT be going to work today."

I had the kids' breakfast and the coffee ready when they woke up. I was feeling quite capable of it at the time. We talked a little with the kids about what was happening and what they could expect. Daddy also talked with Isaiah, our oldest, about what little tasks he could help us with. He loves to help.

We all watched some shows, Futurama, as I recall. But I wasn't really paying too much attention by this time. I moved into the other room where we had set up our 'birthing center.' We had a small tote with all our birth supplies, and a couch covered in plastic, and many towels nearby. My husband got me a big glass of ice water and a cool damp rag. My contractions were becoming painful and hard and I was extremely hot!

It was 9:30am when I uttered those long awaited words, (awaited by my husband), "I don't think I can do this." With tears rolling down my face and fear beginning to well in my heart, my husband KNEW this meant hard labor had begun. I reminded myself... last time it was 30 mins. Last time I felt the head engage and 4 pushes brought my beautiful baby girl into this world. I expected the same this time, and was hopeful that maybe even this would be lessened. So I reminded myself to get me through it.

But 30 mins passed, and I did not feel the head engage....

1 hour passed and I did not feel the head engage....

The contractions were big and painful. I was so incredibly uncomfortable. I kept switching positions. WHY wasn't he coming? Why wasn't his head engaged? WHAT was the problem? I was terrified. I can say that I have never been more scared in my entire life. What was wrong?

Reminding myself of my previous birth wasn't solving anything and no longer brought any comfort. I grabbed ahold of the table next to the couch, and somehow the leverage seemed to line things up better, leaning over the arm of the couch in a semi-squatting position. I felt the head engage!

I think all I could say at this point was, "THE HEAD!!!" So my husband anxiously began looking for the head. He couldn't see it yet, but I felt it clearly, just as I had last time. Each time I grabbed the table firmly and pulled with my arms and pulling my legs in. I could not help but scream, and was concerned for my children. But it was about this time I heard them in the their bedroom actually making fun of the noise I was making.

I don't actually know how many pushes it took. I pushed and pushed and in between I lay down over the arm of the couch as if dead. I thought in between contractions how amazing it was that I could be painless and resting in between these ridiculously painful pushes. The head did not come easily. It went forward and back and forward and back. My husband was saying, "Keep pushing." And I tried my hardest NOT to snap at him, "WTF DO YOU THINK I'M DOING?!?!" LOL I kept my tongue.

My husband was awesome (minus the previous "keep pushing" statements). He was encouraging and sweet and brave. He talked to me the whole time, "I see the head," "I see hair," "Just a little bit further," "You're doing great."

I didn't really need the updates on the babies position being intimately aware at each moment where that head was. But his sweet voice was encouraging to me and helped me be brave too.

When his head emerged he was facing the wrong way. And once again, the cord was wrapped loosely around the babes neck. My husband gently moved it and caught our sweet baby boy at 11:26am. In my exhaustion and continued contractions I carefully turned around and sat down on the couch and Aaron set the baby on my belly to immediately offer the breast to him. He looked at me but did not nurse right away. At this point my husband covered up the lower portions of my body with a sheet and the kids were allowed to come and meet their baby brother. The children were thrilled.

I noticed as I passed the placenta that it came in 3 parts. Since it was torn and open, it seemed SO much larger than my daughters which was small and tightly compact. My husband asked if I wanted the cord clipped now. We had looked at alternative methods of handling the cord and placenta. But I didn't see any strong reasoning to wait at this point, especially since the placenta was not whole. They recommend that when the placenta comes out to make sure that it is entirely there to ensure that it is all passed and does not become a source of infection in the womb. Since this was torn, I don't know how you could make sure it was entirely there, especially since they are not uniform in size or shape.

My husband and son took him for his first bath and weighed him. My wee little newborn babe was 9 and a half lbs!!! No wonder he didn't come out in 4 pushes!

While baby got his first bath, my daughter talked to me and told me I needed a bath too, pointing out that I had blood on my foot, that she could see sticking out from the sheet. I gave myself a quick glance and laughed. I was really really dirty. LOL There was the birth blood, the placenta, and meconium, on my legs, my belly, my hands, and, judging from our first picture taken, on my chin, I assume from the first kiss I planted on my little lad.



I carefully gathered myself and took a quick shower. I was really very exhausted and feeling faint, but was able to move about pretty easily, just slow. I then dressed and planted myself in our living room with the new babe. We had still not named him, and had not yet discussed it. As I took him to the breast, he latched on with a very surprising strength and continued to nurse for the next 4 hours. While this was painful, by causing continued strong contractions, I do think that this limited my heavy post partum bleeding to that first day and removed any worries that any placenta tissue remained.

After the birth my husband shared a quote with me.

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am not saying that I am a hero. I am a coward. I am fearful of pain, fearful of the dark, fearful of the unknown, spiders, deep water. etc.... But.... many would consider what I did as something taking 'courage.'

In reality..... I have no courage. But I do have faith in God.... a God who loves me and cares for me and watches over me. I knew that he had led my husband and I in the decision to homebirth, and in many other aspects of our lives. I truly believe that when we follow His will, we will experience the best possible outcomes, even in this hard, harsh world. John 10:10 "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

So I prayerfully considered my deep fear during this birth.

My first two children were both 8lbs 13ozs. They were not small, but by most standards were considered 'large' babies. My first son's head was not able to pass through the cervix, I believe because I was lying on my back when the birth canal is up to 1/3 smaller than when upright or squatting. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t63qbwGBgMI)

I love my children so very dearly. And the thought of losing them or leaving them reveals a huge gaping hole in my heart.

But over the next few days I was able to assess my health and my baby's health.

I was surprised to find that I had no tearing. I did not even have the small and painful, while completely harmless, lacerations that I got when birthing my daughter. My heavy bleeding, as mentioned, was over within a few days leaving me to deal with just light and easy to manage bleeding. My faintness and exhaustion passed quickly as my son was a good sleeper during the night, nursing and falling right back to sleep during the dark hours. I was experiencing an odd discomfort, that felt like a strong need to have a bowel movement. It made it difficult to relax even during sleeping hours. I was surprised to find that this was just hemorrhoids. And after a quick search of the internet I found that apple cider vinegar applied twice daily would clear them up quickly. After even just one application I felt more comfortable and my recooperation sped up quite well at this point. And my son..... ate and slept, slept and ate. He only cried when I changed his diaper (and then loudly and angrily). He lifted his head on the first day. He gained 1 pound his first week.



And I would never have been able to birth him in the hospital. IF they allowed a trial labor I would no doubt be forced to accept the fetal monitors that require the 'patient' (ie the laboring mother) to be lying on her back, and my large baby boy and his head would not have been able to come out the birth canal. And as they made clear in my previous conversations with them, the doctors in my local birthing center would not allow a previous c-section with gestational diabetes to have a trial labor at all past 36 weeks.

......

So what was the most terrifying and painful experience of my life left me...... completely unharmed... and in fact richer for it. I now have three beautiful children. And I know that it is only because I leaned on God, and in His mercy He has blessed me greatly.

"Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Luke 1:45





And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:4-6



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3 comments:

  1. I love you honey. You did a great job!

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  2. So did you love. <3

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
    Daniel 3:16-18

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