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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."

1 comment:

Nancy Wilschke said...

Thank you for your delightful chronicle of Tennyson's birth. I'm 49 so my birthing days are over, but I also have 3 and yes, my third came unlike the first two -- went to my doctor for a regular checkup and learned I was already 5 cm dilated and it was time to go to the hospital. Taking that post-natal shower right after delivery does sound blissful -- yay, survival! -- and going to sleep with man and new baby sounds blissful too. Congratulations. I was surfing through the "next blog" tab on Blogger and was feeling pretty anonymous when I came upon you and Tennyson. After all -- this is what it's all about.


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