February 15, 2009

Lila Marie’s Homebirth Story

Lila Marie was born at home June 27 at 5:11pm at 39w 1d gestation. She weighed 8 lbs, 8 oz and was 21 inches long.

Early Labor: Sunday, June 26

With no signs of impending labor in the preceding days and weeks, I awoke Sunday and began my day as usual. My due date was in one week, but to try and thwart my impatience, I had mentally prepared to be a 42-weeker. A trip to the bathroom around noon revealed a small bit of pinkish mucus. I was excited by my bloody show and the first signal that I was getting close to labor and even made my husband Rick take a look, but I knew that women often lose bits of their mucus plug weeks prior to birth, so I assumed I would do the same. A subsequent pee jaunt resulted in another small bit but the rest of my many bathroom trips that afternoon were show free.

At 9:30 that evening, I watched “The Family Guy” while sitting on my birth ball. After the program ended, I stood up and felt a surge of wetness soak my pants and trickle down my leg. A couple of thoughts ran through my head: 1. my water just broke or 2. the pressure from the ball and the force of laughing so hard had caused loss of bladder control. I couldn’t detect an odor, but settled on the pee theory.

After cleaning up and changing into my pajamas, I felt a sensation in my uterus that demanded my attention and caused me to catch my breath. Is that what a contraction feels like? No, probably not. Those hurt really badly, right? I assumed that, perhaps, I was finally feeling Braxton-Hicks contractions.
[ad#ad-2] Looking back, the mucus, the trickle, and the pain all within a few hours seem apparent that something labor-like was happening, but I think denial had set in. I *knew* I was having this baby sometime in mid-July. I had also heard so many stories of first time moms thinking they are in labor only to have these symptoms for days or weeks even. I would not be suckered! So I puttered around my bedroom for a few minutes and the sensation happened again. After about 3 or 4 more of these surges, I decided to watch the clock just for the heck of it. My denial waned slightly when my clock indicated that these “sensations” were lasting 1 minute and were 4 minutes apart. I was sure that real contractions start out shorter and are further apart, so I was a little confused by the regularity and duration from the onset.

After Rick came upstairs for bed, I updated him and being the sharp guy that he is, he figured it all out for me. I was in labor. My earlier trickle was amniotic fluid. He pulled out his stop watch and timed the contractions until about 12:30AM when he insisted I call my midwife Claudia. My contractions had been consistently lasting around a minute and less than five minutes apart for 2.5 hours. I resisted calling because I still felt like it was all surreal and Claudia’s “when to call” sheet said to try and sleep if labor starts at night. I wanted to be a good client and follow directions. Rick then threatened to call her himself, so I made the call and explained the situation. She timed a few contractions then encouraged us to try and sleep and to call if anything changed.

My pain management technique at this point was to focus internally during the contractions and follow the sensation mentally while remaining physically relaxed and taking deep belly breaths. It was somewhat effective, but I was still uncomfortable during the contractions. When I got into bed, I would become irritable if Rick spoke or moved even slightly during a contraction. I was finally able to settle down and sleep for the 4-5 minutes between, but each contraction awoke me. I tried the positioning that I had read about in a Bradley book, but I found that the effort to stay optimally positioned and concentrate on breathing exhausting.

I also made a few trips to the bathroom during the night for very mild diarrhea and vomiting. I think my body was gently purging itself in preparation for birth because neither act left me feeling sick or weak. They were just motions I went through but without the discomfort I would typically feel from GI distress.

Monday, June 27

Around 5:00 Monday morning, I stopped my attempts to sleep. I was just too excited and my labor was requiring too much attention. I walked around during my contractions for about an hour then called Claudia back. She told us that she would have the other midwife Debbie come over shortly. She suggested I call my mom and sister after Debbie had checked me. Impatience got the better of me and since they had a three hour drive I called them as soon as I hung up with Claudia. I called my sister Miriam first and was pretty collected when I talked to her, but when my dad answered the phone, I had a huge emotional surge. I could feel his excitement in his voice and that touched me very deeply.

Debbie arrived shortly after 7:00AM and her presence made it all seem very real. I was 5 cm dilated and 100% effaced when she checked me. That seemed like a nice number, so I took a seat on my birth ball and pulled out my laptop to let my office know I wouldn’t be coming in. I also emailed a few friends to let them know the baby was coming. Debbie sent Rick to pump up the birthing pool, and she and I hung out in my bedroom while she knitted and I emailed. I was still having regular contractions but I really enjoyed that couple of hours of my labor just hanging out in my bedroom with Debbie. It was very calming and reinforced my feelings that this was a normal, natural process. I threw up a couple of times and Debbie suggested I get some nourishment, so I had Rick make me a berry smoothie. Around 9:00, I remembered that I had scheduled a carseat installation for 10:00, so I had to call the technician and cancel. I was hit by a contraction in the middle of our conversation and had to pass off the phone to Rick to reschedule for me. The tech was a little alarmed that I was calling her and not at the hospital instead.

Soon after that call, I got up from the ball and felt another trickle like the night before. Debbie had felt my bag of waters bulging in front of the baby’s head, so I guess there was just a small leak or tear? By this point, I had begun to vocalize through my contractions. I had been using controlled efforts to manage the discomfort and at some point decided to just let go and succumb to it like I’d read about in one of my birth books. Vocalization and walking were immediately my natural inclinations. I had seen plenty of videos where women emitted a low moan during labor. This felt very natural to me also and the noises seemed to generate independently of any effort on my part. The sounds that I made felt like they needed to come out.

My sister arrived around 11:00 and Debbie suggested we go outside for a walk to help move things along. I changed into real clothes and Miriam and Rick led me slowly down the stairs, out the front door and down the sidewalk. June 27 was a stifling hot, humid day in Atlanta which made me feel nauseous so we went right back into the cool house. At this point, my vocalizing was no longer low moaning so I probably would have been a noise nuisance to the neighbors anyway.

I have a long dining room table, so Miriam thought taking laps around the table would work in place of the outdoor stroll. The fact that she’s a marathon runner and a former cheerleader were evident in her labor assistance which made me somewhat cranky. After a few laps, I had an intense contraction and my vocalizing didn’t seem to work as it had been. I remember trying different tones and moans and saying, “I can’t find that one.” I had subconsciously been matching the tones to the contractions. I was able to find the right sound for the next one and after that it was a breeze. I sounded like a wild banshee at times but the right sound felt just right and the pain just melted away. Sometimes I needed to make low sounds, sometimes high pitched operatic sounds and sometimes a range of noises through the contraction. I stayed upright, sometimes walking, sometimes rocking back and forth. Some contractions called for me to hold onto Rick while vocalizing, and I found that to be another pain melting exercise. It was as if squeezing his arms sent the discomfort away. It was like some sort of weird magic trick.

My parents arrived around noon. I was happy to see my mom until she asked me about my “pains.” I felt that word brought an unnecessary negative connotation to what I was managing quite painlessly by then. She was promptly chastised and tried very hard to behave after that. I was also concerned that my dad had come along since that wasn’t what I’d planned, but Mom assured me that he would stay downstairs or that I could send him to my aunt’s house. I remembered that I didn’t have a fishnet for poop scoop duties in the birthing pool, so I sent Daddy and Miriam to Petco. I failed to inform them what the fishnet was for and they came back with one big enough to catch a whale which was good for a laugh after the explanation. I sure hoped the only thing that big coming out of me would be a baby!

By this time the pool was set up in my bedroom and we began filling it. I didn’t get in for a while because I kept thinking the pain would worsen and I’d save the pool for relief when things got really bad. Debbie checked me again and I was at 7cm. We discussed having her break my waters, but I was reluctant. I was afraid that it would cause my peaceful labor to screech out of control. I also was hesitant for any “intervention” since I wanted this to be all natural.

I eventually got in the pool and it was fantastic! I still made my noises, but the warm water hugging and lapping against my belly was euphoric. I tried a few positions in the pool, but settled sitting up with my arms resting on the side. I had banished my mom from the room for being too twitchy earlier. She has to constantly be moving, tapping her foot, picking up lint, etc. and her movements were irritating me, so she had gone downstairs and was cooking something that wafted its way upstairs and made me sick. Everyone did a quick job of opening doors and fanning but I had to throw up anyway. Debbie had me drinking a lovely red energy drink that I kept throwing back up but I guess enough of it was getting into me between bouts that I never felt weak or dehydrated. I also remember being irritated with the sound of a neighbor mowing the lawn.

I heard a door open and close and growled for someone to tell my mom to stop making noise, but instead it was Claudia arriving. She had been doing pre-natal appointments and arrived at my house around 4:00. I now had my two precious midwives with me and was comfortably soaking in the pool just waiting for the baby to come on out and was amazed at how easy it had all been so far.

After Debbie caught Claudia up on my stats and happenings, Debbie checked me again and I was still at 7 cm where I’d been for a few hours now. We had the artificial membrane rupture conversation again. I again hesitated until Claudia and Debbie spelled it all out for me. The leading waters in front of the baby’s head was not putting enough pressure on my cervix to dilate me completely. I had been in labor for 18 hours and it could be many more before I dilated further or the sac ruptured naturally. Claudia explained very practically that I would go through the intensity of transition that I was fearing whether it ruptured artificially or naturally, so I could continue to have non-productive contractions or we could get down to business. I reluctantly opted for business.

I got out of the pool and laid on my bed on top of several chux pads. Debbie delicately snagged the bag and holy guacamole! I gushed nice clean amniotic fluid which was a relief. It makes me laugh that I’d thought the trickle the night before was my water breaking. This was some kind of river compared to that drip drop.

I got back in the pool and transition slammed into me like the freight train I had feared. I screeched and screamed standing on my knees leaning against the wall of the pool. The intensity was incredible and painful, but fairly short lived taking only half an hour or so, and I was still able to provide both colorful commentary and vomit throughout. And just as suddenly, the pain was gone and I immediately understood what it means to feel “pushy” so I grunted through a few pushing contractions. I “pushed” with very little effort and very little progress. I thought I was pushing hard at the time but in reality it probably wouldn’t have even moved my bowels had anything been left to move. My contractions slowed down considerably and I think I even napped a little and again felt quite comfortable and content to wait on my baby to come.

But, alas, those pesky midwives had to bring me out of my comfort zone. Apparently, I was going to have to work at this, and the pool was just too relaxing. I insisted that I was just fine, but they convinced me to get out of the water and get on the birth stool. Yikes! I suddenly felt wide awake and pushy times a thousand. I couldn’t feign a little grunt push here! My eyes bulged, my neck veins popped out and my muscles surged practically involuntarily. I could feel my baby descending quickly! In just a few pushes, someone announced that they could see dark hair. I had read that many women enjoy pushing, but I felt a little out of control by the sensations and I was quite certain my bottom was splitting open. I felt very little vaginal discomfort compared to the feelings I had in my bum area. I was certain the baby was coming through my colon.

Claudia suggested I stand up to push the baby out since they see more tearing on the birth stool. I didn’t argue with that and popped right up. I was glad to see that my mom had invited herself back upstairs because I really wanted her to be there, and I had forgotten that I had banished her earlier. Rick was standing behind me and I can still recall the energy and peace from feeling his skin on mine as he supported my elbows in his hands. The baby’s head emerged and Debbie was supporting my perineum while Claudia guided her to move the baby’s hand from beside the head. I didn’t give her time to do it because I HAD to push right then and whoosh out flew the body! Rick was looking over my shoulder and was the first to see that she was a girl since her rear was facing his direction. Debbie made a great catch like only a professional could have. I’ve reviewed the video several times and she could qualify for an ESPN highlight reel. I was stunned to hear “It’s a girl.” My intuition had been “boy” all along, so I was surprised to see a sweet baby girl. We didn’t have a girl name picked out. Miriam and Rick came up with Lila a couple of days later.

The physical sensation of the baby shooting out was astonishing. I don’t have the right words to depict what an incredible feeling that was. And the emotional sensation of seeing my daughter for the first time. there are no words in any language to express how overcome I was with instant love and a spiritual awareness like I’ve never felt before. It was such an intense emotional moment to have Rick wrapped around me as Lila entered the world and then to hold her in my arms with him by my side. I was incapable of even conceiving of that moment until I experienced it.

Sappiness aside, on the logistical side of things, I apparently bled a little excessively then moved to the bed to deliver the placenta. At some point after it stopped pulsating, Rick cut the cord. The placenta took close to an hour to detach even with lots of nipple stimulation and attempted nursing. I had no more contractions either. I detected glances of concern here and there but it finally came and was quite lovely as placentas go. I then took the most refreshing shower of my life. It felt incredible to just stand under the warm spray and run through the whirl of emotions in my mind. I was also still somewhat in shock that she was a girl.

After my shower, I had to have a little stitching for a small tear due to Lila’s arm being beside her face as she came out. Rick, Miriam, and Mom took the baby to show my dad and hang out while I was being worked on. Stitching was not so fun. Actually, it was quite terrible and I was even numb. I don’t ever need to go through that again. Shudder. I immediately went from powerful birthing goddess to whiny, difficult patient.

After I was all fixed up, they did the baby exam. Her APGAR’s were 9 and 10 and she was just perfect. My mom put my favorite cute little cloth diaper on her and she immediately filled it with enough meconium to have majorly altered her birth weight. We got her diapered again and put her in a gown and we curled up in bed together for bonding time and more nursing.

By this point I was ravenously hungry and craved Costco pizza so we sent my dad out to pick it up. He ended up being pretty handy to have around for fishnet and food runs.

To wrap, I got the birth I wanted and dreamed of. A few things differed from my expectations, but the overall peace and empowerment that I prepared for was beyond my dreams. I am a spiritual whack nutjob now over femaleness and the power of our spirits and bodies. I am an even gushier freak over my love for little Lila, the most awesomest baby in the world. It was so special to give birth in my own bedroom surrounded by so much love and support. Claudia and Debbie were perfect. They have a beautiful balance of tenderness, encouragement, skill, and knowledge. I was so glad to have my mom and sister there also to share Lila’s birth with us. Their love for her was instant and added to the enchantment in the room. It’s so beautiful to feel someone else’s love for your baby.

So here we are 11 weeks later and I’ve finally finished my birth story. We’re sailing smoothly now, but we had a few bumpy weeks in the beginning.

About 3 days after Lila was born, I came down with a high fever, abdominal pain, and flu-like symptoms that lasted a month despite multiple trips to the doctor and suggested diagnoses from mastitis to appendicitis to gas to OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO DIE AND LEAVE MY BABY MOTHERLESS. Despite having a homebirth, I was colonized with an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Yep, the kind of thing you pick up in a HOSPITAL! But, I’m now germ free and feeling better than ever.

We also had a few breastfeeding challenges: flat nipples, huge breasts, tongue-tie, poor latch, engorgement, cracked and bleeding nipples, and oversupply (worsened by desperate hours of pumping in order to leave my baby nourishment from when I thought I was dying). But with lots of help from a good lactation consultant, support from friends, family, La Leche League, midwives and a huge case of perseverance we are now successfully breastfeeding.

And I’m still in a giddy fog over my beautiful baby girl and my wonderful birth. I can’t believe I waited until I was 31 to do this! I’m ready for a whole litter now and I’m running out of birthing time!

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Alexis Rodrigo