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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How Tennyson Arrived | An At-Home Water Birth Story

I blame Ricki Lake.

Last year I watched The Business of Being Born and my view of birthing was turned upside down.
I had hospital births and epidurals with both Wilder and Waverley.  The few women I knew who had natural or home births I thought were INSAAAAANE for doing so.  "Why put you and your baby at risk like that? Why CHOOSE to go through all of that PAIN?"  Oh my gosh, I thought they were nuts.
Until I watched that documentary and realized that what our bodies have been doing quite successfully for millions of years isn't so crazy.
The hospital is 8 minutes away from our house *just*in*case* but with both previous pregnancies being perfectly normal, perfectly healthy, I was an excellent candidate for a perfectly normal, perfectly healthy natural at-home water birth.

So now you know the WHY, here's the events.

If you've read through some of the past posts, you've gathered that I expected this baby to arrive early like my other kids.  Through my last days of pregnancy (filled with griping) I learned that, apparently, "the third child's arrival time will generally be the opposite of your previous children."
Well, thanks a lot, third children. Sheesh.

On Thursday, Oct. 9th, I went in for my weekly prenatal appointment, 40 weeks and 4 days of being pregnant.  My wonderful midwives checked my dilation and -tada!- I was 5 cm, 90% effaced and baby was at station zero.  In other words, "Houston, we're ready for lift off."

Now, this day was special.  Starting the weekend of my due date I began planning evening movie parties with the kids.  We'd pick a movie, make "theater tickets," decorate paper lunch bags to be filled with freshly made popcorn and snacks, make a movie poster and have a ball.  This night we were having a Sleeping Beauty movie party -the DVD was arriving by UPS that evening and Waverley was convinced that the princess dress we saw the day before at the Disney Store was going to be part of the celebration.  So, after my prenatal, I picked up the dress (hey, it was 40% off and she was a little too thrilled about it not to splurge) as well as some cupcakes to REALLY get the party started.  My contractions began kicking up as I made my way home.
I got a little excited...

Time for another try with the castor oil trick.  At lunch I did my 1/2 teaspoon dose with an OJ chaser every half hour for 3 doses.  Tucked in my office editing a wedding, I waited -partly in dread- for the potion to do it's dirty deed.  My contractions had, sadly, subsided and I had given up any expectations that today would be out of the ordinary.  I had already set my sights on that weekend being the delivery experience.  You know, "hope deferred" and all that.

Not to say that this day wasn't significant.  You see, the day before was a full moon -a blood moon, actually.  A lunar eclipse with the sun coming between the moon and earth giving the moon a deep orange glow.  Apparently an old wives tale has it that the lunar pull the day before and after a full moon can bring about labor.  And changes in barometric pressure also have an effect.  We had a storm on top of this blood moon -you can see how I had a few extra things going in my favor.  Still, I tried not to get my hopes up.

Along with a storm and a full moon, I also had a trend going for me.  My body had brilliantly developed a "1 day of strong contractions, 2 days of rest" pattern, thus bringing me to 5 cm dilation.  Thursday -yes, that very day- was to be my 3rd day of strong contractions.  I hoped, but did not expect. 

Hours go by after the castor oil trick.  No regular contractions, not even any "movement" in the bowel region.  So, I kept editing and working away.  Around 5pm, I went on a little walk with the kids and the dog in the neighborhood.  Nothing major -I was quite nervous about being away from a toilet while waiting for the castor oil to still kick in...  We got home and began getting ready for dinner.  I was in the mood for a little Italian, so I uncharacteristically made a lovely family spaghetti dinner and we all gathered around the table -yes, with a lit candle, too- while classical music floated in the background.
It was perfect.
Until Wilder, our near 7 year old, decided to be rude-head.  His attitude resulted in no movie party (*sniff*sob*whaaaahhh*boo*) and an early bedtime.
And contractions started.  Just the "1 day of strong contractions, 2 days of rest" kind.

I pulled Waverley aside and Brian and I gave her the Sleeping Beauty dress before bed -it wasn't her fault her brother was being a poophead.  She LOVED it -put it on, twirled around, wanted to sleep in it (totally appropriate, right?  I mean, it's what the princess did.)
Contractions still coming regularly.

Oddly enough, the kids both wanted bath time in our garden tub upstairs, so we started the bubbly, wet process of bathing.  Even more oddly enough, they both allowed us to wash their hair *GAAASP* -that never happens.   Okay, these contractions -they're feeling a little more intense, still coming regularly.

Toothbrushing time...aaaaand, nope, I'm feeling the castor oil FINALLY kick in.  Helloooo, toilet!  How YOU doin'?!  (A big meal with the castor oil, that's the trick to getting things moving, I say.)

I've got to hop in the shower -these contractions be feelin' real, yo!  It's 7:45pm.
"Brian, you're going to have to do the rest of the bed routine, I'm headed for the hot water."

This is where it gets a little crazy.
I had never truly felt these powerful contractions before with my other pregnancies.  For months I had read and reread the hypnobirthing and natural birth books, read women's birthing stories, practiced relaxation techniques, visualized my birthing experience -I was ALL prepared to go all zen with the home water birth, breeeaaaath through those contractions and visualize my peaceful, happy place, allowing my baby to slip out without even pushing.


Instead, I got tribal.
Hey, I didn't throw out the relaxation stuff or the zen tips I had read, but I did "let my monkey do it" -as legendary midwife Ina May Gaskin says.  I focused on using the deep, gutteral noises, kept my body loose and did whatever the heck I felt helped make progress and got me through each contraction in an open manner.
So, basically I was bouncing around in the shower and -seriously- doing my own impression of tribal dancing.  There was clapping, there was banging, there was dancing (sort of.)  As Elvis would say, there was "a whole lotta shakin' goin' on."

8:30pm FINALLY Brian came back to check on me after putting the kids to bed (at this point I was groaning out his name like a cow mooing, trying to get his attention.)
It was time to call the midwife.

8:40pm My legs began to feel weak and worn out, so the shower time was over.  I transitioned into the garden tub where I planned to birth my baby.  The contractions were progressing -oh, HEAVENS, this was some serious business.

Around 8:50-9:00 Salli, my main midwife, arrived with Heather and Randy, the second midwife and assistant, followed soon after.  In the tub, I was vaguely aware of their presence, engrossed in relaxing my body, breathing and focusing on being "ooooopeeen" through every contraction.

My midwives were wonderful.  I had called Brian over to be my "handles" as I grasped his hands behind my head while the waves of contractions came crashing through my body. The midwives stayed in the background, checking my blood pressure every few minutes, checking the baby's heartbeat after each contraction, but allowed  Brian and I to take the lead through the birthing.

I called Salli in around 9:20pm to check my dilation.  I was 8-9cm. "You can push whenever you want to -it should be very soon that you'll start to feel the urge."
Originally, I didn't want to push at all.  The hypnobirthing book had said that our bodies naturally expel the baby through the birth canal without having to push -that sounded nice, let my body do the work while I relaxed through it.  But there was no relaxing.  When I felt the urge to push, I pushed.  My body's instinct had taken over and I was just holding on.  Repeating words like "Open, open, open, open" and "I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy," I tried to consciously help my body stay loose while moving the birthing forward.

Fear constricts your muscles and that's what I was working on countering.
I sang long, low notes as the heavy contractions crashed through me.  I chanted those "open" "happy" words.  I did whatever I could (quite loudly -sorry, neighbors) to stay loose.
And -OH MY LORD- each contraction felt like a car wreck.  I knew women said birthing was painful, but I had NO IDEA.  My 8"x3 1/2" tattoo done over 4 hours was noooothiiing compared to labor.  

And I'm ready to push.  Don't ask me what time it is, I'm a total animal at this point.  The guttural screaming/groans began.

Baby is ready to crown.  I've moved from a laying position to knees apart, leaning forward off the middle-side of the tub.  The midwives have checked our vitals and baby's heart rate is getting a bit low.  "Deep breaths, breathe down to your baby."  Well, I'm trying but it's too much to focus on -pushing, breathing, pushing.  Salli has me get up on my knees facing away from her, holding on to the higher ledge by the window.  Baby's head is crowning.  Heart rate hasn't raised yet -not dangerously low, but they'd like to see his heart rate get back up- so they slip an oxygen mask on me and...


I felt like I was tearing my body in two.  I'd been so concerned about not tearing -hoping to be able to ease his head out while the skin slowly stretched around it.  At this point, it didn't matter. I was getting this baby out.  NOW.

A few more pushes.

10:29pm, out he came.
We managed to get my leg lifted around the umbilical chord to untangle myself and they had freshened and warmed the bath water a few minutes before the big pushes.  They placed Tennyson on my chest and Randy brought a hot towel fresh from the dryer and wrapped it around the front of the baby and I.
We laid there in the tub, spent.

Amazingly enough, I only experienced a minor, superficial tear. No "ripped in two" for this gal, like it felt.  Tennyson's head was 14 1/4 inches and he weighed in at 8lbs 12oz. A full pound heavier than my other kids. 

The rush of love hormones and bonding emotions?  I didn't feel them immediately.  I had just been through the most physically traumatic event of my life.  As I held Tennyson I was more focused on remembering to keep his head above the water and "Oh, yeah, this is how you hold a baby, right?"
11 minutes later the placenta expelled.  The midwives placed it in a bowl next to us in the tub and it floated around while we waited for the chord to stop pulsing.

Salli asked, "Do you want Brian to cut the chord?"
"I don't care.  It's whatever."
Yes, yes.  You could say I was a bit ambivalent.  What mattered most had already happened:  my healthy, beautiful baby boy arrived and I was done with all that labor experience.  No ceremony here.
Brian did end up cutting the chord and the three of us just rested, Brian by the tub, leaning over my shoulder, Tennyson and I staying warm in the water.

Eventually the midwives came back with the herbal bath that would help heal my lady parts and the baby's chord.  They rinsed the tub while we stayed there and prepped the herbal bath.
It was at least two hours after delivery before I got out of the tub.

Brian took Tennyson, swaddled in a fresh towel, for a stroll around the house while I showered.  That was a wonderful experience...

The midwives had readied our bed and the three of us settled on it while they finished up.  Tennyson had his newborn physical.  Paperwork was gone over -all while Brian, Tennyson and I rested on our very own bed.

It wasn't until then that the bonding feelings began to flow over me.  There we were: Papa, baby, me.  Oh my good gracious, it makes me tear up just thinking about it.

By 1:30am Salli was finishing the last of the clean up and heading home.  The midwives had lovingly taken all of the dirty towels and started washing a load.  They'd removed the trash.  They cleaned the tub. They'd gotten the bed all ready for us to tuck in.  We were so well cared for.

Brian checked on our kids as he made his nightly rounds.  He poked his head in their room and both of them shot up -apparently I had made enough noise to wake them, but they hadn't ventured out to hear what was going on.  "Why was Mommy yelling?" they asked.  Brian brought them to our room to see.

On tiptoe, the kids came in and met their new brother.  A few minutes of wonderment and they were back off to bed.

Personally, I was ready to start an X-Men movie party downstairs, but by 2:30am Brian and I were settled in, staring at our baby boy.  The three of us fell asleep, all together in our very own bed.

And that, my friends, is how we welcomed our third child into this world.  All in a record 2 hours, 45 minutes.

So what were the major differences and benefits I experienced by having an at-home water birth over the hospital births?   Having control of my birthing experience. Having a very personal, intuitive and nurturing experience with the midwives and Brian by my side. Being at home, sleeping together in our comfortable bed, not having 22 different nurses popping in and out every 2 hours interrupting your rest. And recovery? Ridiculously fast compared to my epidural births! I was easily moving around the next day, I took only two doses of Tylenol right after giving birth and didn't need to continue after, by day 8 I had resumed exercise, my superficial tear healed by 1 1/2 weeks and my bleeding has been significantly reduced.  Recovery has been amazing! 

Many, many thanks to the midwives of Central Texas Birth Center.  If we have a 4th child, I'm definitely doing a home birth with this ladies again. And I'm pretty set on having a 4th child.

As Ah-nold would say, "I'll be bahck."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Introducing Our Newest Member: Tennyson Lee

So, the story of his arrival will come next -I'm working in 20 min. intervals in this lovely time of newborn bliss- but I wanted to introduce you to our newest family member, Mr. Tennyson Lee.

The short of it is, Mr. Tennyson made his arrival the night of October 9th at 10:29pm, weighing 8 lbs, 12 oz and measuring 19 inches long.  He may be two inches shorter than the other kids, but he's a whole pound heavier.  He was born at home with a record delivery time of 2 hours 45 minutes.  Getting to sleep together in our bed that night was simply wonderful and I'm excited to share the story of how he came into this world.

For now, here's Tennyson at 3 days old.  He's a very relaxed young man who enjoys his milky beverage and likes snuggle time.  

We couldn't be happier!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What to Expect: Nothing | 39 Weeks Pregnant

Wilder was electively induced at 38 weeks.
Waverley arrived 8 days before her due date.
This child?  This child is still here.  4 days until its estimated ripeness.
(Due date's October 5th.  Sending the baby an eviction notice pronto.)

For some reason I've been poised, on my toes, ready to deliver (which, imagery-wise doesn't make any sense at all) since the start of 37 weeks.  Anticipating.  Expecting.  Ready. And yesterday I was certain THE DAY had arrived.  I did the whole castor oil trick in the morning, sandwiched the day with two walks, had mild, regular contractions starting around 1pm which, excitingly, developed into hardcore surges by 6pm.  From 6pm until we put the kids to bed around 8:45pm, the contractions -which were hard to breath through, coming every 1:30-3:30 min- told me "Hey, we're getting serious here" and I could feel the baby move even further down, very engaged.  But after saying night-night and tucking the critters into bed...put, put, put, pfffttt.  All those exciting surges let up.

I woke up this morning pretty urked, let me tell you.  Pretty. Dang. Tired of expecting.
So?  I'm not expecting today.  I haven't expected a thing, except to wrap up editing a wedding (which did get accomplished, so "Tada!")  And now I'm expecting to have a quiet evening with the kids and Brian.  And tomorrow I'm expecting to get together with a friend and her boys for a little social time, perhaps a walk in the park.  And
...I expect to have a BABY.

Today I ate a crap ton of chocolate (thanks Mom!) and watched episodes of  "Call The Midwife" while I edited -subsequently bawling my eyes out, releasing all those pent up emotions and hormones.  Basically, I fed my girly-girl needs and simply expected to be pregnant today.  And it was a mighty good thing.

I vividly remember being around 7 or 8 years old, waiting for a friend to come over to play.  I had several hours to wile away, so I put on a movie.  Didn't help.  I tried playing the piano.  Didn't help.  I ended up alternating sitting by various windows and pacing (much like our Border Collie, Shelby.)  FINALLY my friend arrived. And I can't even remember who it was or what we did.  It had better have been fun, though, right?  After all that excruciating waiting around?

In the meantime, while we wait for this (big, I'm sure) baby to arrive, I'm trying to make the most of the time I have with the three precious people around me.  We've been snuggling, playing, talking, walking -just living life, and me attempted to do it a bit more purposefully.
And part of me is sad.  Sitting on the couch at night with Brian in the quiet of the evening -it'll be years before that'll happen again (alone.)  Having one on one time with my babies will be a luxury, and it will be several months before we're able to have that again.

It's the beginning of something new.  And it's also an end.  Mamas, sometimes we need to grieve that part, just as much as we are thrilled for the new chapter. 
Life is about to change drastically for each of my family members.  It's something new, and it's beautiful.  And I'm so glad that each of us will be part of it.
It will happen.

In the meantime, wanna see some photos?

Wilder had an audition for a grocery store commercial.  When I asked him on our way there if he liked auditioning he said no.  Hm.  "So, do you want this to be your last audition?"
The man has spoken.  Still, he had a pretty fun time.

Shelby and the bump and I, 38 weeks pregnant.

How I felt after my 38 week check up last week.  Captioned: Done.

Waverley has been my main walking buddy these past few days as I attempt to keep my back in shape and kickstart contractions.  I've truly loved getting outside and having special time with her.  She's a wonderful, energetic buddy.  Though she is in a "collecting" phase and wants to constantly stop to grab "special" leaves, rocks, flowers, sticks, etc.  Piles and piles of nature we have 'round here now...

On Sunday (Sept 28th, the day I had my heart set on to go into labor) we had THE BEST family day with MiMa and Boppa.  A clean house, quality game time and visiting, a trip to Berry Springs Park, treated to a marvelous dinner at the kids' favorite Italian restaurant -I mean, this day was fabulous!  It would have been magical to have a baby that evening.  But, you know, I'm still pregnant... ahem, ahem, Baby.

39 weeks pregnant.  The roundest I've been yet.

A sunset walk with Wilder and Shelby.  I treasured this rare time alone with my Baby Bear.  He never wants to go on walks anymore, but it's something we used to do all the time from when he was a baby onward.  He's growing up so much, consumed in his own little world as he has a grand ability to focus on his interests with undivided attention for hours upon hours.  This will always be a very sweet memory of time spent together.

And now?  I'm going to snuggle some little people, kiss that handsome husband, and finish (most likely the last) novel I'll have my hands on for quite some time.

And I'm not expecting ANYTHING tonight.


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