But I figured I might as well be redundant and let you know I'm still pregnant.
It's been an emotional roller coaster for me the last few weeks. It's been hard because unlike my other pregnancies, this time, I'm actually letting my body and my baby determine when he will be born.
This isn't normal for many women. It wasn't normal for me until now. I've been induced four out of the five times. Selective induction (meaning, there's no medical reason to be induced) is extremely common. Too common. WAY too common. I think the entitlement of our world has slowly leaked over into everything we choose to do --even in when our babies should be born (which, when I think about it, is sad, because what if baby really isn't ready? Why are we forcing them out so soon without a medical reason to do so?).
Anyway, it got me thinking today. In fact, I'm not sure if it's because this is most likely our last baby, or because the hormones are having me wax nostalgic, but I decided to write down each labor and delivery story here --very specifically. I want to do it to remind me why I've chosen not to be induced this time, and why I've chosen to give birth at home. It's basically my little "conversion story" to unmedicated, non-hospitalized birth.
[And no, I'm not judging your deliveries. It's so sad I still have to say this all the time, but people keep not believing me. Yes, women are different, yes, we all have different choices, yes, there are true emergencies...you get the point. This is about me, not you, etc. and so forth. Would it be awesome if another woman ended up having a better experience because of my experiences? Heck, yes! Of COURSE it would be cool. But I'm not arrogant enough to assume my way is the only right way out there. It's certainly right for me, though! I represent about 85% of the female population who have low-risk pregnancies and healthy babies. The other 15% who are high risk and/or have unhealthy babies? I'm grateful --so grateful a million times over --that there is modern medicine to give them all a chance to live after the ordeal. But I am tired of women assuming they should be lumped in with the 15% instead of realizing they are the 85%, simply because they won't look at their options. That's all. But like I said, these are my stories, so, anyway... whatever...]
Okay! Go ahead and grab yourself some popcorn and go watch a movie or something. This may all bore you to death. I promise. I'm not offended if you skip this one!
#1 was conceived on "the first try." We had decided to not start trying until the earliest possible convenient date: July of 2000, which would put the due date at the end of April 2001, which would be a week after we both graduated from BYU. We had no idea it would happen so easily! And then we found out: BYU had changed the schedule --my due date now fell right on the day before finals.
I saw OBGYN's. 4 men and 1 woman. Never saw the woman, but rotated between 3 of the men consistently for my prenatals. I devoured books written by men. I tried not to be insulted when they would assume I had been eating chocolate sundaes every day. I couldn't pinpoint why I felt they were being rude; I saw them as gods who knew more about my body than I did.
We attended the prenatal class in the hospital for several weeks. We decided that it would be ludicrous to try to give birth unmedicated --why would we do something so silly? Didn't God create modern medicine to make childbirth easier, safer, and quicker?
A week before I was due, I was anxious. I went to the OBGYN and he "stripped my membranes" (very painful "roughing up" of the cervix using gloved fingers). The next day (a Friday) was a reading day. I was due that day according to my calculations; according to the doctor, I wasn't due until Sunday. I had only two finals left; I wasn't going to study for them for a few days. I watched TV all day. At 7PM, we decided to watch a Basketball game with some friends at our house --they would bring the pizza (I believe it was a Lakers game!). At 7:25 or so I sat down on the couch and proceeded to pee all over myself. Unintentionally. I rushed to the bathroom and realized "My water broke!"
We met our friends in front of our house and told them to follow with the pizza.
We walked in and told the receptionist/nurse that my water had broken. She looked at me, dead serious, and asked, "Are you sure?" I wanted to punch her in the face. Instead, I said, "Either that, or I'm peeing all over myself right now as we're talking!" with a pinched smile on my face. They made me go into the "check-and-see-if-this-mother-knows-what-she's-talking-about" room and determined that yes, I was, indeed, telling the truth.
They got me in a room. They hooked me up to the IV's, made me sign paperwork, had me sit in the bed, and strapped the two big monitors on me. Contractions started. They weren't too bad, but I could tell they were different than anything I had ever felt; it made me nervous. Brandon suggest we just go ahead and get the epidural now before I feel massive pain. They checked me --I was dilated to a 4. They decided to give me the epidural.
It stopped me cold.
For the next 7-8 hours, they upped my pitocin by leaps because I wasn't progressing. I was stuck in the bed with a catheter and the monitors and the IV's. I couldn't sleep because every 20-30 minutes, a nurse would come in and take my blood pressure and every hour they were checking my cervix to see if I had progressed enough.
By 6:30AM, I started to feel some pressure and a desire to push. They told me I could start pushing, and a very kind nurse started massaging my perineum. The doctor who had checked on me 10 hours earlier had left. Another doctor, one I hadn't seen in prenatals, was now on call. He came in to check on me, patted my head, gave some instructions to the nurse and left.
I pushed for two hours. The last hour, the doctor came back. He gave me an episiotomy, pulled out the baby, cut the cord, handed my baby to the nurse, sewed me up, patted me on the head and left.
And then I FINALLY got to hold my baby girl! She was so beautiful and perfect. I got to nurse for a few minutes. The epidural hadn't worn off, so they had to clean me in the bed and transfer me to another bed to wheel me down to recovery. I didn't get to see my baby again for at least another hour or two. When I did, we had discovered she'd sucked a blister into her hand; the pediatrician suggested she suck on a binky, but the lactation specialist who came in later freaked out. That led to nursing problems later on, but I'll stop there. This is the birthing story, not the "binkies are just fine for babies" post.
She was 8lbs. 3 oz.
P.S. Yes, I finished my finals the next week, and Brandon and I walked 6 days after she was born and graduated!
#2 was due Feb. 1st. I had opted to forego the constant change of doctors this time; I was going to have more power with my labor and delivery. I went back to the same OBGYN's, but I chose the younger (more laid back?) OBGYN to see for EVERY prenatal appointment. I told him my birth plan: No episiotomy, no epidural if I can, Brandon cuts the cord, I get to hold my baby immediately --no whisking her away! He complied and I saw him writing it down in my chart.
By Feb. 8th, the doctor suggested inducement on the 11th. I'd already had my "membranes stripped" twice and it never worked. So, we readily agreed. I went into the hospital (same one) around 7AM. They hooked me up to pitocin. My poor doctor had been up early that morning delivering emergency cesarean triplets. He was tired! But he came to check on me. Things were slow, even though I was on the highest level of pitocin. So, at 9:30AM, he broke my water and left.
Over the next hour and a half, this is what happened:
1. I went from a 4 to a 10 and delivered the baby.
1. I went from a 4 to a 10 and delivered the baby.
2. When I was at an 8, I was screaming for the epidural I was in so much pain. They gave it to me as fast as they could.
3. The doctor STOPPED me from pushing (by then they'd called him back), gave me a local sho for the episiotomy, gave me the episiotomy, and then in two pushes, she was out. I felt EVERYTHING.
4. The doctor cut the cord and handed the baby to the nurses.
5. Then I got to hold her and nurse her while they started cleaning me up.
6. The epidural kicked in and I had to have a catheter and they had to switch me to another bed to wheel me down to recovery.
She was 8lbs 6oz.
That had done it for me. I was so angry at my doctor --he had done everything I DIDN'T want him to do. I told Brandon, when we got pregnant with #3 that we were doing it different this time.
We switched hospitals (we went to a much smaller one where you deliver and recover in the same room). I started going to NP midwives (nurse practitioner). There were three of them and I consistently saw two of them. They were so different from the doctors! Even better? They were WOMEN. They had GIVEN BIRTH. They literally understood! Each appointment was an hour long. They would ask me questions, they would let me ask questions! They gave me lots of information.
About two weeks before I delivered, the senior midwife (who had 11 of her own children) measured me and pondered for a while. She believed that my baby was going to be very large and suggested an elective early inducement. Of course, I said yes.
I can't remember which day of the week it was (Tuesday?) but I know this time my mom was with Brandon and I. We went in early and my midwife (Betty) came in and broke my water. Of course, I was in the bed. I didn't know different. I had the monitors and the IV's and such, but this time something was different: I was ready to give birth without the epidural.
Betty showed Brandon and my mom how to use pressure point in my joints to alleviate the most painful contractions. I used the birthing ball for a little bit. She insisted I use the bathroom whenever I could. She was with us the WHOLE time. When transition came and I could feel him bearing down, she showed me how to deep breathe. He was looking at my thigh and the cord had been wrapped around his neck for a while; getting him out was hard. She knew he was gonna be big, and she was right! It took a few hours of gently pushing and prodding and her helping to get him out.
Just before he did, she looked right at Brandon and said, "Brandon, I need to cut the cord and hand him over to the respiratory specialist. Is that okay?" Brandon said, "yes!" but I will never forget how kind and respectful that question was --never.
When he came out, it was such a feeling of euphoria! I had never felt so alive. I had only torn a little --two small stitches worth. No episiotomy. No epidural. As soon as the respiratory specialist looked him over, I got him and I held him forever! I nursed for a long time. Cleaning me up was easy because I could move to the bathroom. I was able to walk around within minutes of giving birth. I kept my baby with me as much as possible.
He was 9lbs 11 oz.
#4 should have been similar, but it was starkly different. I went back to the same hospital and the same midwives, but this time, they had changed. Betty was still there, but I was consistently given to the other ones in prenatals.
Being induced early with #3 made me want the same privilege with #4. Nobody told me to knock it off and go home; they kept letting me come in to be "checked" to see if I was dilating. Five days before my due date (Feb. 13th), one midwife checked me and said I could be induced that day if I got my butt to the hospital within the hour. So, we booked it. I got hooked up to everything and then I was told: "The on-call cesarean doctor said you have to deliver this baby before midnight. So, we're going to give you a lot of pitocin." I didn't have a choice, because I chose to be induced at noon. I guess I could have chosen to leave, though, but that never occurred to me.
The pitocin continued to grow quickly because of the doctor's mandate, and the contractions were miserable. They finally broke my water. My midwife (the only one who had never given birth herself --is that mean of me to be prejudiced against her because of it? Maybe. But there was a HUGE difference between her and any other midwife who has personally experienced childbirth. It was startling how different it was) wasn't there with me for much of it, but I do remember that near transition, she convinced me to take some kind of IV drug that would "help me relax between contractions" and all it did was make me loopy and crazy. I HATED it. Luckily, it only lasted 10-15 minutes and wore off and I refused more. I pushed only a few times and out my baby boy came. He was born around 7:30PM. My mom had missed the birth my literally minutes. :( (She had driven from Idaho that afternoon.)
One stitch. Again, I was able to nurse immediately, walk to the bathroom myself while sweet nurses cleaned me up, and recover in the same room. Again, I kept my baby with me as much as possible.
He was 8lbs. 5 oz. I never should have been induced. I should have waited. I've regretted inducing him ever since; it was obvious he was too early. His jaundice was only part of the proof.
#5 was due the first week of August. This time, I read Hypnobirthing and started preparing myself early.
I went back to the midwives because I really loved the small hospital. My best friend was giving birth at home with her fifth this time, and although I admired her, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I wasn't ready, I think. I sure as heck knew Brandon wasn't ready for it! :)
I refused to have the midwife who delivered #4 deliver #5. I wouldn't go through that again. And no doctor was going to tell me how long my labor was allowed to be! I didn't have cesareans!
However, again, I was measuring HUGE. So huge that I had to have 6-7 ultrasounds during my last two trimesters because of liability issues (they needed to make sure my kid was okay). I kept telling them I have big boys. They wouldn't believe me until the ultrasound. EVERY. TIME. Sigh.
But because I was so big, a new midwife (Jana) suggested inducement. I believe it was less than a week before --maybe just 4 days? I tried to be strong, but what pregnant woman, during her last week of pregnancy, would balk at the idea of having her baby early? We said yes.
My mom, Brandon and I arrived. Same ol', same ol' --IV's, monitors, etc. but this time? I was IN CONTROL. I walked everywhere. I went to the bathroom. I took off my monitors for long periods of time. I refused to be checked every hour.
Pitocin was started, but I told her not to put very much in me. I was okay with going slow. I relaxed and listened to my music and breathed through every contraction. By transition, I was starting to have a harder time, but I was still in control (yes, I yelled a little. Yes, I swore once. Yes, I cried some. This is labor, people!) . My SIL (Darryl's wife, for those of you who know her) arrived about this time and I remember the following very distinctly:
1. I was on the bed. Brandon was on my right holding my leg by the knee and my hand, the labor/delivery nurse was holding my calf. My mom was on my left holding my other hand and my other leg by the knee; my SIL was holding my other calf. The midwife was down below giving soft orders to me.
2. I was Birth Breathing; I wasn't pushing/straining --I was letting my uterus gently expel my baby out.
3. My eyes were closed and I was focused on my SIL's voice and my midwife's voice.
4. At one point, my midwife asked me to stop for two seconds and then push very, very slowly/gently. I did EXACTLY what she said.
It was amazing. He slipped right out. No stitches! Nothing. I held him and nursed him immediately. I kept him with me for the majority of the time. I recovered and walked and was cleaned up quickly. I felt amazing!
Over the next two days I had nurses and lactation specialists coming in to see the "woman who gave such an amazing birth." I was flattered, but it still hadn't been perfect. Pretty darn close, though! But it was still missing something.
He was 9lbs. 3 oz.
And now #6 is about to make his entrance. This time, it's been very, very different.
I have one midwife. She has several apprentices (three?) and I've met them all. I go to her home for prenatal appointments. It's kind, relaxing, and comfortable in her home. She checks my blood pressure, weight gain, urine sample, and listens to the baby's heartbeat (with her doppler). She checks his position each time. She uses olive oil to listen, too, so I don't have to wipe off goopy stuff off my belly --she just rubs it right into my skin when we're finished.
We talk for an hour. We discuss nutrition and exercise. She answers every question I have --even offering information I haven't thought of.
She holds monthly forums in her home where her mothers come to share their birth stories and we learn things about pain techniques, massage, reasons for delivering unmedicated, the importance of nursing, etc.
I had two ultrasounds --one at 13 weeks (at a doctor's office) to determine twins (nope!) and one at 22 weeks (in the mall) to determine gender (boy!) and check every organ, measurement, etc. He was super healthy!
At 38 weeks, she came to our home to see where I'd like to give birth. She made suggestions, checked to see if I had everything ready. (She gave me a supply list to have on hand --so cool! I feel so in control this time; I'm not relying on everybody else to do this for me --it's MY deal.) She called me this morning to see how I was holding up and gave me the best pep talk, ever. If I'm still pregnant tomorrow, I have an appointment with her in the late afternoon.
I'm not sure how the whole birth will go down, but I'm pretty positive it's going to rock. I will not be induced. I will not have pitocin. I will not have IV's. I will not have constant monitoring on my stomach. I will be in my comfortable, quiet, home. I will have my music, my husband, and a very caring midwife (and hopefully my mom if she gets here in time). My baby will be born in the water (she's bringing a tub) and he will arrive in a calm atmosphere. He will not be whisked away from me and stabbed with needles and wiped with gunk and wrapped in blankets. He will arrive safely and soundly, and will be warmed by my skin. My midwife will take care of all the clean up. I won't have to "switch rooms" or "go home from the hospital." I will sleep in my own bed from the get-go. My mom will arrive and help with the kids and the meals and the laundry.
I already give birth unmedicated; now I'm doing it easier (no pitocin!). I already have had big babies (no reason to induce!). I'm a pro at nursing (no need for a specialist!). My midwife is trained and has the same "checklist" the hospital does in order to assess my baby's health upon delivery (she even does Apgar's and birth certificate/SS card applications!). I already checked with my Pediatrician who will do PKU's and such at the 2 week appointment and another midwife does the ear testing.
Do I realize that something could go wrong? That there might be an emergency? Yes. Given my track record, however, I'm confident it won't happen. But what if it does? There's a hospital less than 2 minutes away and I have a very competent midwife who has said that she would "never put a mother's or baby's life in danger in order to have an 'experience.'"
Anyway, there you go. All of my birth stories. I know I've left some things out, but I'm glad I got most of it down. It's so interesting to me how I went from "Doctors are gods and women who don't have epidurals are insane!" to "What was I thinking!? I should have home birthed them all!" And yes, the irony is not lost on me that I still haven't even had my home birth. Ha!
Now, here's hoping my baby comes before March 8th. That would be 42 weeks, and I have a feeling by then, he'll weigh at least 12 pounds. Heck, maybe he already does! :)