Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eowyn's Birth Story, Part 2: Settling in for the Long Haul

Finally, Ryan gets to hold his daughter!
Day 2:  Settling in for the Long Haul
(read Part 1 here)
Once home, contractions slowed enough for me to think I might be able to sleep through them.  Mom fed me a little food, heated up the water bottle one more time for me, and propped it against my back with pillows.  Ryan slid into bed beside me and within 20 minutes the house was still and quiet.  I awoke 4 1/2 hours later and updated the blog & FB, and curled up in my blue recliner to try and pray.

I was quite frustrated, and told the Lord so.  :) Hadn't I felt like she'd never be born?  Why tease me like this?  I just want to see my baby... what is going on?  In His kindness, He met with me in my fear and unbelief and comforted me with His Word:  "Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water." (Ps. 114: 7-8)  Ok, Lord-- if Your presence can make hard rocks refreshing, You can make times of waiting sweet.  Your nearness is enough.  I'll be content to sit with You.

By this time, Ryan's mom, step-dad, sister, and grandparents were all en route from Georgia & Virginia, as they'd been told we were headed to the hospital the previous evening.  Our small house got very full, but everyone was very respectful and quiet.  Ryan's step-dad hung the new curtains Ryan's mom had made for us, the two grandmas-to-be made a roast (my request) with plenty of potatoes.  People asked me questions, and I found myself unable to answer.  I'd hit my wall with decision-making.

Meanwhile, I tried to follow my midwife's advice and rest as much as possible.  "In my experience, walking doesn't really help much with getting labor going-- it just tires you out.  When you're ready, your body will start back up again, and you're going to wish you had more rest!"  With my abs already feeling like I'd done 100 too many crunches, I believed her.  Contractions continued throughout the day, many of them strong and semi-regular, but we resisted the urge to time them.  I worked through them with breathing, swaying, rocking, and spent most of the day lying on the couch or on the birthing ball.  Reading back over my journal I'm reminded at just how many people were praying for me, and how the Lord kept me trusting Him, at peace in His plan, His will, His timetable.  Ryan & I went to lay down for a nap for about 2 hours in the afternoon.  I couldn't actually sleep, but being just the two of us in the dim quiet was good for my nerves.  By dinner time I devoured two plates of roast & veggies (my mother in law later admitted she was shocked at just how much I ate!)-- my body knew I'd need the strength.  I was SO glad I wasn't in a hospital with someone telling me I wasn't allowed to eat!!

By day's end (9 pm) I had a head-ache and sciatic nerve pain during contractions-- still plenty of contractions, many of them strong, but no change in frequency. .  I couldn't resist running up and down the stairs a few times around dinner, but gave that up fairly quickly as a stupid idea. :)   I called Beth again, at my family's insistence, and she assured me that neither headache nor nerve pain were cause for alarm. "The headache probably has something to do with the fact that you didn't get any sleep last night!" she chuckled.  She recommended hands-and-knees to try and shift Eowyn off whatever she was pinching.  And then she encouraged me to go to bed.

Intense Labor, Round Two
Of course, as soon as I lay down, Little Miss Drama Queen decided it was a good time to be born after all.  I couldn't take it lying down, either, so Ryan & I back to our old standby of walking through contractions.  As soon as I'd feel one starting I'd lean on him, we'd slowly walk with him keeping my breathing deep and even, until I told him it was over. Between contractions I usually rested on all fours or leaned on the birth ball or against the bed.  We kept the lights low and paced slowly, around, and up and down.  I remember the calm, yellow-golden light, the gentle burnished glow of the hardwood floor, the feel of the beige blanket on my cheek, and the pattern of blue plaid on the bedspread.  I was most happy moving through contractions.  Hardest for me was remembering to breathe deeply and to relax instead of tensing up during a contraction-- so counter-intuitive for me.  Ryan helped so much at this point, helping me relax, reminding me to breathe slowly, and pressing against my back & hips as I requested. 

Mom worked quietly keeping the hot water bottle filled & applied, and timing contractions.  I lost all track of time, life becoming a routine of contractions and strength-gathering.  I vaguely remember Ryan calling Beth a few times-- I asked him not to tell me how close or far my contractions were. It was all I could do to just work through the contractions one at a time, without worrying about "progress" or how much longer it would be. 

By 3 am we re-packed up the car (forgetting much more than the first time), tiptoed through the house to avoid waking sleeping family, and drove to Clark Memorial again.  Again we went to triage.  Again I got hooked up to the cuff, the monitors.  This time I spent very little time in the bed, though, and  spent the next 2 hours walking the halls.  All night, I sang to myself "When through the deep waters I call you to go/ the rivers of sorry shall not overflow/ for I will be with you, your troubles to bless/ and sanctify to you your deepest distress." and praying "Lord, I want to meet my baby.  Please help me meet my baby."  I cried at times, but nothing uncontrollable.  The hospital felt so bright and white.  Ryan, who had been up with me two nights in a row now, bearing much of my weight, was so tired he laid down in my bed, asking us to wake him in a half-hour.  We let him sleep. :)

Day 3:  Begging for Mercy

I think it was around 5 am that the nurse on duty checked me.  All that labor and still only 4-5 cm.  Again the check was very painful;  Eowyn was still descending in front of the cervix, meaning all these contractions weren't dilating me much at all.  They were strong & regular, but not getting harder or closer together.  They were also on the long side-- about 1 1/2 minutes long.  (all signs of an unevenly or malpositioned baby)  Beth advised me to be admitted and start a pitocin drip, concerned that without getting the contractions closer together, I would labor another 24 hours and be too tired to push.  Ryan & I asked everyone to leave so we could decide what to do.  I totally fell apart.  So much was at stake, and I was too exhausted to make this choice... but no one else could.  I knew I could manage these contractions, but wasn't sure about the pitocin-augmented ones.  Worse, the nurses informed us that their portable fetal monitors were malfunctioning, meaning I'd be tied to the bed, since continuous fetal monitoring is a must once drugs get involved.  No way did I think I could handle pit contractions in a bed, without the option of hot water to ease the pain.  I saw a clear slide from pitocin drip to some form of pain killer to ...C-section?  I cried & cried and begged Ryan to pray for us.  We asked for wisdom, for peace, and for God's mercy to move Eowyn so that my body could work on its own.

It took about an hour for the room to be readied, for me to get a Hep-lock for the IV, for the paperwork to be finished.  The Lord's peace fell on me; I knew I could trust Him, and that He is Good.  By 6 am we were in our new home.  I met my L & D nurse, Judy, who turned out to be an amazing help-- totally no-nonsense, capable, yet motherly and reassuring.  I trusted her right away.

Our first "miracle" came in the form of a nurse bustling in, saying "let's see if we can't get this telemetry (portable fetal monitor) unit to work!" My heart leapt-- if they could get that working, suddenly I had the option of laboring in a tub again, not to mention unlimited movement.  My miracle-worker fiddled a bit, then, presto!  It worked!  I couldn't stop thanking her, or God.  Then, Judy told me it was time to start the pitocin drip.  Something told me to wait.  "Please, just wait until my midwife gets here-- she's on her way-- just let me check her one more time, ok?"  They agreed.

Within 10 minutes, Beth arrived and I felt myself relax even more. It's amazing what feeling like you are safe and in good hands does for a body!  She checked me, and for the first time I screamed-- "please!"  Beth "emerged" with a huge grin:  "You're not going to need that pitocin!  You're at 8 cm, and I just stretched you another 1/2!  I can break your water right now if you want!  That'll probably speed everything right up!"  Breathless with disbelief, I asked "you can reach the cervix?"  "Yes! No trouble at all!"  God had answered our prayers.  Eowyn had moved, and in one & 1/2 hours, my body had dilated 3 1/2 cm, when 36 hrs of labor had progressed me less than 1.  I was so thankful I was almost giddy, and I said "yes, yes! do it!"  I'll spare you the details of having your water broken, but I didn't much like it. :)

On to Transition

Now, the real fun began.  Steadily, the contractions grew harder.  I got louder, actually yelling, to tell the truth.  Judy helped me get control of myself, making sure I was one top, riding the contractions instead of being pulled, dragged, behind them.  I found a huge difference between vocalizing (yelling) as a way to keep focus and as a sign of losing control.  I often stared into Ryan's deep brown eyes, and he'd breathe with me.  I remember doing what my mom had told me she did in her labors, and crying out Jesus' name-- and having Him help me.  He kept giving me the endurance for one more contraction, never failed.  We kept the lights low, my "labor mix" playing, and I hung little E's white eyelet dress as a visual focal point.  Out the window was a pro-life billboard featuring one of my preK students as an infant in his father's hand, and that was another encouraging focus point.

By 9 am I tried getting into the labor tub.  The warm water felt great, but I got frustrated at how slippery I found the tub-- no hand-holds or places to push against.  I tried a few different things, but felt so insecure, like I'd just slip all the way under the water.  I remember begging Ryan "help me, please!" and drawing on his calm unflappable strength.  Looking back, I'm pretty sure this is when I hit transition.  I made my way back to the bed, and I remember asking Ryan "how many more do I have to do?"  "Just a few more, Baby, you're almost done."  "You don't know that!  You're just saying that to make me feel better!" "No, I really mean it- I promise."  (Internally, he was praying, "Lord, don't make me a liar!")  I remember thinking "women who do this more than once are clinically INSANE... yeah, I'm sure I'll be one of those insane women eventually..."  Once I think I shouted that I was going to DIE... but not once did the thought of pain meds cross my mind.  I was way too busy getting through each contraction as each came.

Beth & Judy suggested various labor positions.  Some helped, but being on my side was unbearable.  We tried it twice, since this often helps malpositioned babies rotate and descend, but I completely fell apart each time.  Something about childbirth is so intimate and precious-- the utter vulnerability you have in your nakedness and pain, yet the amazing power and confidence you feel as you alone must- and can- bring forth this mingling of you and your husband.

Final Phase:  Pushing!
11 am found me dilated to 9 1/2 cm, and Beth had me push a little bit as she stretched me the last 1/2 cm.  A few pushes later, and my body began giving me that unmistakable, undeniable urge to push.  It took me a little while to figure out how to coordinate pushing, breathing, resting, and the urges-- I actually did find it helpful for Judy to count once I started pushing with the urge, with me not stopping pushing for 10 counts.  Some women dread pushing, but I loved it.  It was like the pain of lifting weights vs. long-distance running.  With running, there's a persistent pain, but all you can do is keep going, confident that the pain will get you where you want to go.  With lifting, there's a specific pain of muscles giving all they have, with the sweet release of rest in between and the knowledge that that specific pain just accomplished some thing.  Also encouraging was watching the "baby team" assemble around me-- that meant she was close, right?  Between contractions, I collapsed against the pillows, with Ryan spooning ice chips into my mouth and my mom putting cool cloths on my forehead.  When another contraction started, I sat up, Mom snatched away the cloths, and I grabbed the squat bar and pushed with all my might.  Hah!  I just remembered Ryan's live-Tweeting of the event.  He would grab his phone and type a few words, then as soon as I sat up, rush back to my side.

By noon, Eowyn was crowning.   I gave a last huge push and her head was out.  I watched her be born, finding it fascinating that the grey mass suddenly became a face-- one looking straight at me (hah! THAT's why she took so long to come out-- she was "posterior" or "sunny side up").  Beth kept her hands ready to catch and coached Ryan on where to grab as I gave another push and she was out!  "How do I grip her? She's so slippery!" he laughed, and she was slippery!  I've never seen such a vernixy baby-- she looked like she was a wedge of white-rined cheese!  I reached down and caught her too, and pulled her straight up to look me in the eye.  My mom somehow snapped a picture of us staring at each other-- her mouth open in a cry of her first breath, mine in amazement that she was here, in the air!  12:09, and my family waiting outside the door heard a healthy lusty cry, and my amazed "Daddy!  We have a baby girl!"

It was another miracle to see the pink spread throughout her body, starting with her face & chest, and moving down to her grey-purple perfect fingers and toes.  The cord was long enough for me to cradle her and kiss on her easily, and she quieted down in my arms very soon.  I was totally blissful.  One of my favorite parts of natural labor is how amazing Mom feels once Baby is out, and how awake Baby is!  (This is how "high" I was:  soon as she was out, in my arms, and nursing, I turned to Ryan-- this is as they are still delivering my placenta, mind!-- and grinned "Let's do that again!" Apparently I'd already forgotten that an hour before I classified such "repeat offenders" as "clinically insane."  Yeah... endorphins, my friend.  They really do a body good.)  Delivering the placenta, being stitched up (2nd degree tear, 11 stitches), whatever!  I had my daughter in my arms!  She latched on and began to nurse very quickly, and as soon as she did my uterus started contracting again, stopping my bleeding and allowing me to forgo even a shot of pitocin.  Ryan cut the cord once it stopped pulsing.  We got a shock when the scale told us she was 8 lbs 10 1/2 oz!  "Where were you hiding her!?" Beth asked me. I remember Ryan saying that the family wanted to see the baby, and I freaked out "no! don't let anyone in!"  My modesty was returning, heh.  He assured me that no one would come in, but he did hold her up at the door so they could catch a look at the first grand child.

I remember crashing (energy-wise) as I was on the phone with a friend, telling her the good news.  All of a sudden I just wanted to sleep for days.  I was wheeled to recovery holding my baby, and was so proud to get all the compliments in the elevator-- could she be any more perfect?  Once we got to our room, Ryan took sleeping 2-hour-old Eowyn to the nursery for her observation & hearing tests, etc., and I pretty much passed out on the bed.  Sleep felt like ice cream... yummmmmm. :)  (Note:  we opted out of all newborn interventions except the Vitamin K shot, blood screen, and hearing test)

I'll just add that the one thing that I found surprising was how painful recovery was.  I'd expected a painful labor, but no one had told me how bad the renewed contractions would hurt every time I nursed Eowyn.  Nor did I anticipate a very bruised pelvis, combined with overall exhausted-muscle pain, and swollen "everything else."  It made moving very difficult and sitting impossible.  Thankfully I'd brought my own pillow and we had plenty of others to work with. :)  Oh yes, and good thing my reward was so precious!! :)

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