Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My UC Birth Story (the names have been changed except for mine and the baby that's being born)

Unassisted birth of my daughter, Abigail

April 11th, 2007: I started noticing some "difficult" contractions. I am a very braxton hicks happy woman, I've been getting them all day long since the very beginning of this pregnancy. I noticed them for the first time probably around 8 or 9 weeks. I don't mind, them I even kind of like them. They are reassuring to me, like a way of my body telling me that everything is working like it should be. Well, these weren't them. These were...well they felt like a warning. So many things were going on at the time that I chalked it up to stress and mentioned it to my husband in that context and didn't think much of it until the next day. The next morning I woke up and waddled my way into the bathroom to relieve myself. I discovered bloody show. I cannot even describe the barrage of feelings that flooded me when I saw that. I was 35wks pregnant. My first thoughts were dismissal. After all, bloody show by itself doesn't necessarily mean anything and really, it was probably just coincidence anyway. Unfortunately for me, that feeling of dismissal went right out the window as I had a painful contraction while sitting on the toilet. Then, I just freaked out in my head. I can't be in labor, dammit, I'm only 35wks pregnant! So I sat there and waited for another one. Nothing. Ok, fine, nothing, good. I got up and went about my morning routine, got dressed, dressed my daughter and had another one 20 min later. It didn't hurt as badly as the first one and was shorter. But there was this odd pulling sensation in my cervix that I recognized from being in labor with my first that meant that something was happening, albeit slowly. I knew I wasn't in active labor but I was certain this wasn't bh contractions, too. So I IM'd Paul and told him what was going on. He asked me if I thought I was in labor and I told him that no, I didn't think so but that I was really concerned as this was definitely prodomal at least and bloody show indicated to me a cervical change of some sort. I wouldn't have been concerned about that in and of itself but the painful pressure with each contraction was sort of freaking me out. I timed them at that time and they were coming sporadically but no farther apart then 20min and sometimes as close together as 5min. Their duration that day tended around 1min30sec with some variation. This went on all day and didn't let up until the late afternoon. Quieted down for dinner and came back with a vengeance when I went to bed. This was to be the pattern for the next seven days.

As I said before at first I freaked out. Paul and I had previously agreed that our safety-zone was 36weeks. We debated our options and in the meantime put me on bed rest. OH HOW I HATED THAT. It was hard for me not to have a bad attitude about it, particularly because I hate feeling like a useless couch potato and since I wasn't in active labor and wasn't sick, I just felt lazy. I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do but you know, I couldn't help feeling like a giant bump on a pickle, making everyone's life harder. I had already spent the last month letting things go and taking it easy because of my pelvis and NOW I had to just sit down and dictate like some fat monarch on a bench. Yes, frustrating.

I spent a lot of time in prayer, tuning into my baby and into my Mama instincts. Every time I prayed and every time I "tuned in" to my baby I had this sense of peace. When I thought of transferring to the hospital, though, I felt this rising sense of fear. Now really, I have birthed in a hospital before, and while I do not believe it's the safest place (by far) for a healthy pregnant woman and her healthy baby, I am not terrified of the hospital and in some ways, being there again may have been a comfort as it's the only place I've birthed before so at least it wouldn't be uncharted territory. Nevertheless, I couldn't shake the feeling that going there would be wrong. I just knew we didn't need to go, that we shouldn't go and that I should do everything in my power to keep that baby in until at least Tuesday. We felt Tuesday was close enough to 36wks to be ok. So I quit freaking out. I assured everyone that things were fine, I probably just miscalculated my EDD and that we were going to be ok. It was so hard for me to admit that I may have just made a mistake in my dates. SO hard. Pride, anyone? We kept the my calculated due date, though, because it was the latest possible one and we felt it would be foolish to do anything else.

That week was the longest one of my life. Every morning the contractions would space out to infrequent and they'd get stronger as the day went on and taper off in the early afternoon and come back after dinner and keep me up all night long. I was emotionally strung out, exhausted. My head was in labor-land all day long, all I could focus on was the baby, keeping it in, wanting it out, etc. I went to bed early Wednesday night, telling my husband I'd probably have the baby on the 30th of May (my due date had been the 19th of May) and that maybe she just needed to be in a better position for birth and that's what the crazy week was all about. I truly just didn't believe I was going to have a baby this week after all. Part of me was disappointed but part of me was relieved and I think I had finally reached a point where I was willing to let go and let God, completely. I just realized that there was no way He'd lead me in this direction and with the complete support and peace of my my husband without taking care of us through it. Truly, and I'm sure I'll need to say this again by the end of this telling, my faith has never been tested harder nor strengthened as much as it was having this baby. It is difficult for me to convey the amount of prayer spent over this baby. Even before, during the pregnancy, Paul would pray over me and the baby, ever single night. Both of us just felt secure that God was with us, that this was His will for this birth and that we needed to trust Him. So...we did.

Thursday morning, April 19th, 2007: I was startled out of the deepest sleep I'd had in a week at 3:30 am with a contraction I was already on my hands and knees moaning through before really waking up. "Oooooooohhh, baby, baby, baby, baby" So much pressure down below it was phenomenal. When it was over, I just laid back down and went to sleep. I never really even opened my eyes. I remember thinking that it wasn't fair to do this to me while I was sleeping when it wasn't going to happen for another month, anyway. Sometime later I came awake to another contraction that had me up and moving around the bed, panting and moaning. Went right back to sleep. My attitude at this point was "whatever, body, call wolf as much as you like, I don't even care, I'm sleeping, thankyouverymuch!" I didn't watch the clock per se, didn't time contractions, but occasionally I'd look to see what time it was because I REFUSED to get out of bed until it was closer to time to get up. I'd really spent enough nights getting NO SLEEP so i was going to sleep between contractions for as long as I could stand it. But around 6:30 they were making it impossible to do so. I decided to get in the shower because I figured they would let up around 7:30 anyway and I really, really wanted to sleep. So hot shower would probably just facilitated the "drop back" of contractions and then maybe I'd get another hour to SLEEP.

The shower did nothing, if anything I just felt pukey in the hot water so I got out and went potty. Oh wow, look at that, bloody show. I mean, I hadn't had any for two days and now it was bright, red and copious. Before it was bloody mucous now it was mucousy blood. The contraction I had on the toilet was hard and I believe I was moaning through that one, too. I went downstairs to do my morning thing, still telling myself it was going to go away. I figured I'd update my livejournal and lay down on the couch so as not to disturb my husband and then they'd let up they had every other morning this week. I didn't want to believe I was in active labor, I just wanted to sleep. By 8am, though, I knew that I didn't CARE if I was in active labor or not, I could not possibly cope with those contractions all day, again, by myself with my daughter. No way, Jose! I went upstairs to find out if Paul would stay home with me. The thought of having to care for my daughter with contractions that were so hard I couldn't talk through them was just overwhelming and had me in tears. I asked Paul what it would take to get him to stay home today. He asked me why I wanted him to do that (he wasn't really awake yet) and of course, I started to have a contraction right then so I sort of gritted out, between my teeth "Why do you THINK!?!??!" He said "you think you're in labor?" and I said "I honestly don't know but I DO know that I cannot do this by myself today, I just can't."

Now see, we could only afford one day off for this birth. Honestly, any more than that and we'd be screwed. He was torn, obviously, because he wanted very much to stay home, he'd wanted to that whole week and he just couldn't and it made him feel awful. But he didn't give me an answer right away, he just told me that he'd wait a bit and see. I suggested to him that if he would just go in a little late, I'd feel better because the contractions would probably ease off for a while soon and I could cope with Elizabeth better.

They didn't go away and by nine am, my husband told me he was staying home. I contacted Rachel and told her I might be in labor and please have the girls stand by. They told me later she just told them I was in labor. I can't really remember my conversation with her but I do know that I was still thinking it might peter out and that I'd be pretty upset if it did because these contractions HURT. I mean, there was pre-labor ouchies and then there was OMG THE PRESSURE THE PRESSURE GIVE ME COUNTER PRESSURE NOW ouchies. See the difference?

This part of labor was so sweet. First of all, my daughter, Elizabeth, was still there. I had wanted her to be part of the birth, too, and wanted her to be there if she was ok with it. My final letting go for this birth was leaving that choice up to my husband as he really wasn't comfortable with her there. I think the stress of needing to be sure she really was handling it ok was just more than he felt comfortable dealing with; he wanted to focus on me. He called his mom and told her I was in labor and she said she'd come over but admitted later that she didn't believe him. She had just been out with me the day before and saw I was having contractions but also that they weren't active labor. Meanwhile, I was crawling around the living room on my hands and knees, leaning over the couch, pacing, bracing myself against the walls, etc, through contractions. I'd been showing my daughter birth videos my entire pregnancy and any of them where laboring mother yelled or cried I'd reassure her, telling her that the baby was going to come out and that Mama had to work very hard and sometimes it hurt so that's why she was yelling. The first time her Daddy gave me counter pressure I was moaning through the contraction and Elizabeth had freaked out and told him to stop it because she thought he was hurting me. So I explained to her that the baby was going to come out that day and reminded her that it was very hard work and that Daddy was helping me to do it. I tried taking a bath. While I was in there, Elizabeth came in (Paul was trying to fix her breakfast) and came over to the tub and gently started scooping water over me. She's TWO by the way. She says "It's ok, Mama, Daddy will be here to help you, soon" in this hushed, sweet little voice. Every time I had a contraction she'd reach out and touch me and tell me that it was ok, Daddy was coming. OMG just thinking about that makes me get tears every time!

I couldn't stand the tub (Fat woman + uncomfortable bathtub + intense back labor= crap.) I got out. I put my pj's back on and went downstairs and continued for a while, laboring on my knees, my chest draped onto the couch. I'd start making noise through a contraction and Paul would rush into the living room, from the kitchen, and give me counter pressure and rub my back and talk to me through them, Elizabeth watching the whole time. Sometimes she'd stroke my hair, or talk to Daddy or ask questions (I still chuckle at the mental picture of my husband rushing through the house with a towel over one shoulder and a spatula in one hand, to give me counter-pressure). When he left the room, at one point, she climbed up on my back (like she was going to "ride the horsey" and just her sitting in the exact right spot helped immensely. She then leaned forward and draped herself across my whole back and said "Daddy's coming, Mama, Daddy's coming, it's all right." I laughed a lot between contractions while she was with me. Oh I'm so blessed.

Ruth, my mother in law, showed up around this time and came into the living room and rubbed my back and asked me how I was feeling. I told her I felt good, that I was finally going to have a baby...hopefully. A contraction came and she suddenly believed that I was in labor!!! She had been present for Elizabeth's birth and I think she recognized the bellows. She had been trying to talk me out of a UC the entire pregnancy so in a half joking way, she asked me if I wanted to "go somewheres". I said "No, Mom, I'm in my jammies and I LIKE it here!" She laughed, I laughed, and she said "Can't blame me for trying!" She wished us the best, kissed me, kissed my husband and took Elizabeth and left. Elizabeth gave me hugs first and said that Daddy was going to help me, again, and "See you later, have fun!" She's so sweet.

Now my timing gets a bit fuzzy because with Ruth come and gone, I could really relax. I don't know what time Rachel got here though I think Ruth had come and gone by then. She cooked something for herself to eat and at some point in there Elise arrived. It was so cool to have them bustling around in my kitchen like any other time while I was wandering around dealing with contractions. I don't even know what they were doing most of the time although I remember thinking "Gee, this place gets cleaner every time I open my eyes". I know they cleaned the living room up (I said something like "it's too crowded in here" or something like that and the next time I opened my eyes it was like magic; suddenly it was all gone, clean, nothing on the floor!). In between contractions I pulled out some chux pads and the plastic sheet I had bought for the bed. I wanted it on the living room floor. Duct tape, incidentally, is a great way of securing a huge piece of plastic to a carpet! It just felt very homey, having my friends bustling about but not making a big deal. I heard laughter in my kitchen and the sounds of a very happy little one year old girl walking around (Rachel had brought her little girl). NO BEEPING. Oh how I hated that sound in the hospital for Elizabeth's birth.

The contractions got closer and closer together. They didn't seem to have any real pattern to them, really, at first, except I would get them in clusters. One, two, three a two three, etc. I had this intense pressure in my vagina with every contraction and it would wrap up the bottom of my uterus and into the small of my back with this incredible pressure. The pain was all down below, too, just in the bottom half. The pain in back was just immense and oftentimes it was the only thing I could think of. I was afraid of the pain!! I was, I was terrified of it and that in and of itself was a shock because I had not previously been afraid of labor pain. In retrospect, I believe there are three reasons for this: One was simply that I was just plain tired! I'd been laboring for a week! The second was that I subconsciously feared that they would get even worse because my only point of reference was the pitocen induced labor I experienced while birthing Elizabeth. The third reason is that the shock of having a baby much earlier than I anticipated left me rigid. I was just blind-sided by the reality that I really WAS having this baby a month early. I was so incredibly tense that Paul noticed and he started to talk me down. He would rock with me, walk with me, stand with me sit with me, whatever I needed and I never had to ask him once. I never told him what to do, either. It was like he just knew the right place to stand, the right thing to say, the right place to touch. "You can do this, you're doing an incredible job, babe, you need to relax, don't fight it, you can do it" just a litany with every contraction. He told me he loved me, that he was proud of me, that I was amazing and that he had faith in me. I can't even type this without crying! I just love him so much. When we had our first, he was there, he was supportive, but he wasn't free to really connect with me on an intimate level. The difference between that birth and this one in that regard was simply night and day. His talking worked, before I hit transition I was able to do something I couldn't do at all with Elizabeth's labor. I stopped shouting through contractions and instead breathed through them. When I look back on this labor, I remember this time as being the most peaceful. Paul was sitting on the couch, I was on my knees in front of him, leaning into his lap and I had my arms wrapped around his waist. He had his hands on my back and his head by my ear and with every contraction he just talked to me softly and I concentrated on expanding my belly around the immense sensations there. I cannot say I felt no pain, because I can't perceive of that feeling any other way, really. But I felt so much more than the pain. It was a fight, it really was, to stay on top of that pain and experience the rest of it but it was BLISS. I can't explain it. It hurt like a BEOTCH, no doubt about it, but it was SO MUCH MORE. I would feel a contraction building and would expand my belly around it, like we were in competition with each other, my outer layers with my inner. Or maybe more like we were dancing. It was like: my baby, covered by my womb, covered by my belly, covered by my my husband, covered by Yahweh. In my mind, womb would pull and clamp and my belly would expand and expand over it like I was trying to draw that painful feeling OUTWARD instead of loosing myself IN it. I would take these huge, slow breaths and fallow myself to open wider and wider and to not clench anything but my hands on Paul's arms or his shirt. That part was awesome.

I don't know how long that lasted but at some point Hadassah arrived. By the time she got there I was really very, very tired. I kept thinking that all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep. I even tried lying on the floor for a minute but that was awful and so not going to work. I know I draped myself over Hadassah's exercise ball for a while and she gave me some homeopathic arnica and something else to help me relax. Looking back, I know this is around where transition started because I just started to get angry with every contraction. I felt like labor was progressing too fast and not quickly enough. This wasn't supposed to be happening right now, I was supposed to have another few weeks to prepare. Contractions were supposed to stop again, like before so I could sleep and just WHO WAS IT that declared I should get a week of minimal sleep before doing this? Oh I was angry, I was exhausted, I was afraid. Every feeling of let-down, of anger, built up tension and every feeling of sorrow from the last several months just came pouring out of me. I don't remember all of what I said. Mostly a barrage of "I don't want to do this anymore" and " I can't" and " I NEED A BREAK!!!" I could not have articulated anything else coherently if I tried. I started sobbing. I've never cried so hard in my life. So much intense energy was flowing through me and I just could not contain it all. I couldn't integrate the pain *and the energy *and the intense emotions. Nope. Mouth gets free reign, my heart is open and my mind was just bubbling over.

Transition ended as suddenly as it started. I had a contraction that was very different. Pain in my back took a back burner to the DOWNWARD feeling contraction (I was standing through most of transition and I had my arms around Paul's neck). I really just like, squatted down into this contraction and just "OH MY GOD" through it. My whole body shook with the force of it. I felt like it was pushy except it felt very strange. The third one of these ended with me giving a test push and my water breaking on the feet of everyone standing around me. So many loving hands encouraging me and not a single pair of those hands ever touched me in any place I don't normally share :P. Heavenly. At this point, Paul said "Oh thank you so much for not puking on my feet, which is what I thought you were doing just now!" Laughter, all around. That sound will stay with me forever, I think.

I realized that the contractions had just stopped and suddenly, I was ok. No more whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, and feelings flooding me. I said "Oh good, a break!" and sat down on the couch. Paul took a break and went outside to smoke. I was ok, I was in this little place of waiting in my head and felt like everything was on hold for a minute. I know there was conversation and I know I participated in in it but I really am not sure what was said. All of the sudden, I just needed to stand back up. So I did. And then I had another contraction or two and then another one that was HUGE. Then, like in a dream I had at the beginning of this pregnancy, I felt the whole baby come down in one huge, sliding motion and slam into my perenium. I wanted to push but something told me to wait and see what was presenting. I gave a test push and then said "What IS that?" WHAT IS IT???? Paul came back in and got down and took a peak, while Hadassah was trying to help support me from behind. It crossed my mind that I am an awfully big woman for her to be holding up like that but wow, she did it anyway!!! Paul said: "It's a head OH WAIT, that's a foot and a butt!!" Then, I felt a squirm and two feet kicked their way out of me and into the air, of their own volition! This baby wanted to come OUT. A contraction and a biiiig puuush. Oh that felt good, it was the best push EVER. Baby out to her umbilicus. I heard someone say "Oh it's so small!" Mixed feelings with that announcement. A brief brush of fear which I shoved out of my mind as quickly as it entered with a fierce determination that everything would be fine. As I was doing that, the baby kicked her daddy's hands. I remembered another dream from over a year ago of me having a baby breech and I just laughed out loud. I couldn't believe it!! I mean, I had been fascinated with breech stories my whole pregnancy and spent some time studying breech presentation during my preparation but for some reason I was convinced the baby was vertex. I believe the Spirit tried to tell me but that I just wasn't willing to believe it for some reason. I honestly think that a part of me knew all along she was breech but I cannot explain my reluctance to admit it to anyone. I certainly thought about it a few times during the week before her birth but I refused to give those thoughts any real attention and instead kept insisting to myself that I was wrong, that the baby was vertex. *shrug* I don't know why I did that, but there you have it.

Well I wasn't having contractions again. So I pushed without one just to see what would happen. Nothing, nothing happened at all. She didn't budge. So I tried again, this time squatting into it a bit. That felt wrong. So I turned around and leaned over the couch again and tried again. Nothing, not so much as a smidgent of a budge. I prayed out loud, "Abbah, I know this is you, I know this is ok, what am I missing? I trust you, tell me!" She punched my in the birth canal and like a light bulb, duh, her arms!!! "Hey, where are her arms?" Several voices at once "they are still inside". "Ok, honey, reach up in there and bring her arms down" He started to poke around like he was afraid he'd hurt me. "Don't worry about hurting me JUST DO IT!" He said "Ok, babe" and poked two fingers in there and hooked and arm and brought it down. He told me her other arm came down on it's own. THEN I had a contraction and pushed the rest of her out in one push. My legs were shaking so badly at this point that all I could do for a second was breathe deeply with my face in the couch cushion, . Everyone was so quiet I realized that I needed to turn around and tend to the baby.

I could tell from the hush in the room that everyone was worried. I just smiled to myself. I knew everything was ok, despite that nagging little snarky voice in the back of my head that said "what if..what if...what if..." I thrust it away and turned around and sat down on the edge of the couch, on a Chux pad and Paul handed me our daughter. She was seemingly quite limp and that purplish color that baby's who are pinking up turn. It was hard to see through all the vernix. Paul looked right into my eyes in that moment and I couldn't read his expression, it was just too full of too many things. I took my daughter in my arms and put her face down over my left arm and started talking to her. "Abigail, come on baby, I love you!" I started to rub and gently pat her back, making sure her head was at a slight incline towards the floor. She moved her foot and I noticed she was getting pinker by the second. I could feel the cord pulsing between us. I had a fleeting thought to call an ambulance but brushed it aside gently, to be considered later if it was needed. I kept talking, kept rubbing and she squeaked, coughed, and squeaked again. I turned her over without really thinking about it and sucked her mouth out, spat, sucked her nose out, spat, nose twice more and by the time I was finished with that she was hollering about it to the whole world. Eyes open, lungs going, lip trembling. "I'm HERE already, goodness, just don't do THAT again!!" We wrapped her up with a blanket, a hat came from somewhere an everyone was smiling. Welcome, Abigail!!

We waited about an hour to cut the cord. It was totally limp and we clamped it on baby-side and didn't bother with my side as I'd delivered it maybe fifteen minutes after Abby was born. She was TINY (she weighed 4lbs 10ozlbs and was 17 3/4” long). I could tell she was good, by the time she'd stopped crying, there was no gurgle left to her breathing and she was just looking around with her little hands folded like she was surveying her surroundings sort of grumpily. No retractions, no cyanosis. She was perfect. She looked like a wizened old lady, , and that made me laugh. I tried to nurse her but she wasn't at all interested in that so skin to skin for a while and then I passed her off to Paul so I could get cleaned up. I went up, took a bath and carefully checked around for tears or lacerations. Nothing. Not so much as a skid mark (that I could feel). I came back downstairs after getting dressed to discover the entire mess was cleaned up. Paul said it took about five minutes (he just rolled it all up in the aforementioned plastic mat and threw it in the trash). I settled onto the couch with my new baby girl and offered her a chance to nurse. This time she was ready and opened right up and we began that "eyeball talk" that all mothers have with their babies. I was just enthralled. I couldn't believe how tiny she was, how perfect every little detail was. I still feel that way, , looking at her is like looking at a tiny little miracle.

I cannot express enough my relief we stayed home. I'm so glad I kept her in a week, too. How to express my gratitude for Yahweh's provision? I can't. There just aren't words. Footling breech baby,. 4weeks early in a hospital (we determined that my dates were spot on based on her weight, vernix, etc)? The chances of her receiving such a warm, gentle welcome are pretty slim. To date, she has never been touched by anyone that doesn't love her. No one has jabbed at her, or messed with her at all. She has had warm days of nursing, riding and sleeping since the moment she got here. Nobody tried to take her away from me. Nobody squeezed crap in her eyes, stabbed her in the feet or stuck needles into her. I shudder to think what would have happened in the hospital had she been slow to start like she was here. She has not yet developed any yellowness so I don't believe she's jaundiced. Would that be true if she had her cord cut immediately and been suctioned in a plastic box under a heat lamp? Would they have even let me take her home, weighing in at under five lbs ? I don't know, I can't answer these questions with anything more than educated speculation. But I know what answers are likely and I am grateful yet again that we stayed home. God truly blessed us with this tiny little person, .


BaronessBlack said...

What a fantastic story! I'm completely blown away! Have a fantastic baby-moon!

Tammy said...

Thanks for sharing!! What a beautiful story.

Rebekah Costello said...

Thanks Guys! It was definitely a defining experience!

Housefairy said...

Bless you. What a beautiful birth.

Habibi (Salamet) said...

thank you for posting your beautiful birth story!
I had my son at home, UC as well, born at 36 weeks and 2 days.

(I came over from the Homebirth Community on LJ)

Rebekah Costello said...

Thanks, Habibi!

Audrey said...

Loved this beautiful birth story!Isnt HE such a an amazing Elohim.

I have had my last 4 babies UC and each one was a different, liberating experience. Love hearing others stories!