Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eowyn's Birth Story, Part 1: Just Getting Warmed Up

This has been so long in coming (Eowyn is 2 1/2) that many might be wondering why I'm even bothering at this point.  I have always wanted to write it-- I have written it down in my personal journal-- and since it was a labor on the longer, more difficult side, I have recently been thinking that it might be encouraging to others... thence this post.  I'm also heading into the homestretch with pregnancy #2, and Lord-willing I'll be going through the childbirth miracle again in the next 3 monthsish to meet little William face to face.  Thinking back over Eowyn's birth has come naturally to me as Liam's approaches.  Oh yes, and I finally have some time. :)  Moving 4 states away from your friends & responsibilities helps clear your social calendar!

I'll warn you:  this will be long.  My labor itself was long-- 43 hours long, so a write-up isn't gonna be any paragraph affair. :)  I'll warn you also:  this isn't going to be graphic, but it IS about childbirth.  If you don't want to read it, don't. :)

Day One:  Just Getting Warmed Up
One of my "nesting projects" was this pillowcase
A very hot September was coming to a close-- I was gaining and losing up to 5 lbs of water a week, starting to swell and feeling generally uncomfortable in the sweltering heat.  I feel sorry for cows in the summer now.  My mom flew up from South Carolina to be with me right before my "due date" (Sept 17th), and we had a blast cleaning, doing projects and enjoying Louisville.  I remember having that "nesting urge" to tie off all loose ends; I finished 3 t-shirt quilts, made a pillowcase for my body pillow, and made a dozen "reading pillows" out of donated towels for my preschool classes.  We also cooked and froze meals and tended the last of my garden.

I finally allowed my midwife, Beth, to "check" me the day before my due date-- 2-3 cm dilated, 80% effaced, baby at a -1 station.  While this was certainly not discouraging news, I didn't really put much stock in it. First babies come an average of 8 days past their due dates, and I myself (a firstborn) had been no exception!  I had frequent practice ("Braxton-Hicks") contractions so I knew my body was preparing for labor and was committed to waiting until Eowyn let us know she was ready to meet us.  (Evidence points to hormones indicating a baby's brain is fully developed being the trigger for labor-- so I didn't want to try and rush her before she was ready!)  A week later (6 days "overdue") Sept 23rd, Beth found me to be 4 cm, 90% effaced and E had dropped further to a 0 station (that means she was really low in my pelvis).  A fetal non-stress test revealed that she was doing great, and amniotic fluid levels were normal.  My midwife commented that she didn't expect me to make my next appointment (a week later), and that with my body type & level of physical fitness I'd probably have a short & uncomplicated labor any day now.  If only... :)

Trying to stay cool at 41 weeks pregnant
I remember finding the "not knowing" to be the hardest part of waiting.  When will the baby come?  What will labor be like?  For someone who likes planning... my planning had stopped.  Now I was forced to wait on the Lord's timing.  I found comfort in reading Psalm 139, where David marvels that not only did God knit him together in his mother's womb and KNOW HIM THEN, but that God had also ordained every one of his days.  God knows Eowyn's birthday, I kept telling myself.  I remember asking my mom "how will I know when it's real labor?  I mean, I've been having tons of contractions for the past month."  (I know now that this is a real "novice" question, hehe)  She just smiled and said "oh, you'll know."  I was also getting advice on how to start labor from every corner of Facebook.  I've since learned not to EVER post on an expectant mom's page anything remotely resembling "still no baby?"  (To which the response is "No, duh.  And don't I know it.")  Instead, I appreciated the comments that encouraged me in the waiting, assuring me that no one stays pregnant for ever, and that God was in control.  When I asked for labor-starting tips and got them, I appreciated those, too.

Out to Indian food the night before labor started
Wednesday September 24th was a bright, hot sunny day.  I noticed I was having regular contractions (10 minutes apart) at around 5 pm.  We finished up dinner and decided to walk across the park to church for prayer meeting, thinking that maybe these would keep the contractions going and maybe jump-start active labor, if I wasn't already in it.  As we left the house, I told my mom to go ahead and pull the locked front door shut behind us at the exact same moment that Ryan realized his keys were inside.  So there we were, locked out of the house with a contracting, overdue woman toting a birthing ball.  HAH that's a recipe for labor, huh?  Ryan sent my mom & me to church (carrying the birthing ball, as I didn't want to sit on anything else), and he set off as fast as he could to our friend Ashlea's house, keeper of our spare key.  We got to church and set up shop against the wall, me swaying on my birthing ball with each contraction, which intensified with the walk and kept coming right at 10 min apart... and realized, for the first time in recent memory, Ashlea (who worked night shift) was AT CHURCH.  She set off to her house, intercepted Ryan on his way back, and tracked down our key... phew!
Big belly= personal table

Throughout the prayer service, contractions stayed regular and fairly intense.  I thought back to my mom saying "you'll know" when they're the real thing, and thought "you know, this DOES feel different.  These kind of hurt!"  I went to the bathroom and ran into two friends, one of whom (Athena) is a doula.  A contraction hit while we chatted, and I kind of zoned out for a minute, leading them to ask "are you in labor right now?" I smiled and said I just might be!  We took our time leaving church, and made it home around 9 pm, 4 hours after I'd realized my contractions were regular.

Once home, labor continued to pick up in intensity.  I wanted all the lights off but one dim one in the living room, and one dim one in the kitchen.  If you've been in our house, you know that the downstairs is one long rectangle with no halls but just rooms one behind the other.  We fell into a rhythm:  during a contraction, I'd walk from one end of the house to the other, breathing deeply, singing in my mind the song "Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners"; once the contraction stopped, I'd sit on my birthing ball in the small pool of light in the living room, with my mom holding a heating pad to my back and Ryan watching the clock.  My contractions were very soon about 3 minutes apart, so he would tell me when I hit the 3 minute mark, and I'd stand up to start walking again-- walking made the contractions more bearable, but trying to stand up DURING a contraction was absolute agony.  At some point in the night Ryan began walking with me during contractions, with me leaning on his back, my hands over his shoulders so he bore some of my weight.  During some contractions we'd stand still and just sway together, like a slow dance.  I wanted to be in the dark during contractions.  Mom kept the hot water bottle as close to boiling hot as she could as that provided good relief.  By 2 am I was unable to talk through contractions and was crying in between them.  I wanted Ryan to take me to the hospital. He, however, had been noting my contractions and didn't think they were regular enough, varying in duration and spacing.  Looking back, this was the first sign that Eowyn was not in an optimal birthing position (facing my back), but was either uneven (her head cocked) and/or facing my tummy. Since he didn't want us to get to the hospital too early and be put on their clock, he told me he'd take me in an hour if labor hadn't slowed down.

In triage- attractive gown, huh?
An agonizing hour later, Ryan agreed that we should head to the hospital, with contractions at most 4 minutes apart, 1 minute or more long, for over an hour.  I had a few contractions in the car (no fun), but could tell they were slowing down a little as is usual when switching locations.  We got to the ER, and had a funny moment when the night staff asked "how far along?" and Ryan answered "a few hours."  Seeing their confusion, I answered "41 weeks" and they got hopping.  I will say I was unimpressed by the admission nurse.  She seemed to think it was fine to ask questions during contractions and take all the time in the world to fill out forms (though all my records had been sent over and I was already in the system).  Clearly, she'd never labored in a hard chair in a glass-enclosed room!
Half of my tired labor team (my Mom)
Finally, I made it to triage.  This was a surprise to me.  Somehow I'd never really understood that upon showing up at a hospital, you don't get immediately taken to a room.  Instead, you go to "triage," a holding area where you are monitored and if you are in enough labor, you are admitted.  I got hooked up to a monitor that registered how strong my contractions were, as well as my heart rate & BP, and Eowyn's heart rate.  I remember HATING having to contract while in the bed!  Talk about the most painful way to labor!  I ate a Popsicle at some point so they could watch E's heart rate rise and fall.  The contractions were showing up fairly strong.   As soon as I could I got off those monitors and began walking the halls.  Mom came with me, and I'd squat and breathe whenever a contraction hit.  The midwife on call (not Beth but her partner Allison) came and checked me... to my immense discouragement, I was only 4 cm dilated... i.e. the exact same as earlier that morning, before all the labor!  Why? Eowyn's head was actually descending in front of the cervix, making it almost impossible for Allison to even measure.  The check was so painful to me that my labor slowed and then completely stalled out.  By 6 am, my midwife told me they could admit me-- my contractions were strong enough to be considered "real labor," but that would mean no food, a Hep lock, etc.  I was already starting to feel hungry, and tired from the night of walking and contracting.  One look at my mom & Ryan, both of whom looked ready to fall over made my decision for me:  if we went home, we could all sleep.  So, as UN-fun as it is to leave a hospital with no baby, we headed home.  By this point I'd been in labor for 13 hours. 

Tune in next time to read Day 2:  Settling in for the Long Haul...


ju.vanderw said...

Alaise's head was cocked to one side as well. She wouldn't straighten up for a long time, even when I was dilated pretty good. My OB considered a c-section, but she put me on my side first trying to get her to straighten, and it worked! Thank God. (Not that it matters, births for me were so terrible.) :) I love reading birth stories, waiting for part 2!

Eowyn's Heir said...

Thanks, Ju!! I love birth stories, too! What is it about them that we women eat up, I wonder?

And maybe a C-section would have been worse for you, with even more blood loss, with all those vessels cut through? Ughhhh... I'm so glad by God's mercy you all three made it through your births ok!!