Monday, August 21, 2006

The Story of Emily Grace

Tuesday, August 15th I felt the first contraction. My last appointment with the midwives had found me almost 2 cm dilated and about 50% effaced. I’d since gotten some acupuncture to increase the natural oxytocin levels in my body, and started taking blue and black cohosh to help with effacement. I’d been having fairly strong Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks and was beginning to doubt that I would even remember what a ‘real’ contraction felt like. But on that Tuesday morning I realized that the characteristics of the contractions had changed. These were achy, involved my belly, abdomen and my back… they weren’t strong, but they were actual contractions.

I held off telling my husband for most of the day. He was likely tired of me describing the exact feeling of the Braxton Hicks contractions and discussing the differences between them and ‘real’ ones. Plus, I had to go to the mall to get my hair and make-up done for some head shots for the CBC Country Canada contract! (Priorities people!) I also dropped my son off at my mother's, “just in case”.

By 1 am on Wednesday morning, the contractions were 5-6 minutes apart. But they were not nearly strong enough. However they were gaining in strength and I woke my husband and phoned my midwife, Diane, around 4 am, knowing she would have an hours drive to get to me. She could tell that I was not close enough for her to speed, but that I was having contractions. When she arrived she assessed me, the baby and checked me again. I was still 2 cm but this time the cervix was very stretchy and almost 75% effaced. She declared me “in labour”… BUT in the very early stages. This was starting to become very familiar as I’d had contractions for two days like this with my son. The baby was still posterior. This meant one thing: back labour was in my future if I didn’t get her turned.

During the day on Wednesday we went to the mall to walk around and I tried to get a little bit of rest in the evening. My son stayed another night at my mother’s house.

By the time I was in the shower at 2 am on Thursday morning, I knew that it was getting close. When you need a hot shower to cope with the contractions… they are good contractions. I woke my husband again and called Diane. This time she could tell that they were more serious than the last contractions.

She arrived around 3 am and assessed me and the baby again. She checked me and declared me 5-6 cm and pretty much effaced, which was wonderful news! However, the baby was still posterior, as she’d been for the last couple of days. Diane wanted to map the baby’s head, meaning that she would feel for the lines on the baby’s head that say exactly which direction she’s facing… just as she began, I started to say “be careful, that’s how…” and before I could say “the water broke last time”… the water broke. Right on cue. And, just like my last birth, there was some meconium in the water. No biggie.

I laughed, but I knew that this indicated things were going to get tougher… last time I’d been over 9 cm when the water broke. This time I had 3 more cm to go. And now we’d determined definitively that she was posterior, so I was instructed to begin walking the stairs in my house. With each contraction I had to do a lunge over a couple of stairs. Not so much fun. But I managed to do it for half an hour, she seemed to make a quarter turn in there during that time because her back was now on my right side. I noticed a distinct change in the contractions – almost as though there was a baby’s head right on my cervix. Because of course there was – once that water broke, Emily lost her little cushion of water that held her up off of my cervix. I asked Diane if we could please go to the hospital (we’d planned a hospital birth, so this was in the plan) as the last time I entered the transition phase shortly after the water broke.

As my midwives have privileges at all the hospitals in town, we were able to choose the best room we could find. After calling to check availability, we chose a room at a hospital 20 minutes away that had a big bathtub. They were concerned because they only had one labour room left, and no post partum rooms. However I was to be a direct discharge, so I wasn’t going to need a post partum room – the post partum room would be my own room at home.

The drive in was not very comfortable. I think my one and only swear word may have been uttered in transit. I alternated between kneeling on all fours with my head wedged between my husband and his seat… and sitting back in the seat with the seat-heater on high.

We arrived around 5:30 am, I think, and the midwife had arrived before we did and started the tub for me. As soon as I was in it I felt much better. The walk from the truck to the room had felt like one contraction after another. The tub is amazing. I can’t say enough about the tub! It allows me to move from side to side whenever I need to – which would be much more difficult in a bed. And it helped to keep me focused on relaxing during the worst contractions.

It’s about here that I begin to lose track of what happened when. I know I laboured in the tub for a long time, taking time out to labour on the toilet for a bit, which was uncomfortable, but definitely beneficial in a ‘gravity enhancing’ way. My husband was wonderful throughout the labour. He massaged where and when I said, and stopped when I said. For the most part I just wanted him there. I just wanted to open my eyes and see him there.

My mother arrived with my son shortly after our arrival and it took a few minutes before my son would come in. But he came in and stood by the tub, not really wanting to look at me. You could tell that he was a little bit nervous, but he asked to sit on Randy’s lap and the midwife talked to him about how hard I was working to give birth to our baby. I tried to reassure him and he seemed comforted. We’d prepared for this part by watching some birth videos and discussing the noises of birth. Eventually he would follow my husband’s lead and would even rub my arm. But this part of labour soon became quite boring and he went out to sit with my mother and watch cartoons.

I have no recollection of time. It seemed I’d be in the tub until I was out and then on the toilet until I was back in the tub. I would turn on the water and fill it as high as I could. I could handle the contractions best if I had running water over my feet to distract me. Other helpful pain coping techniques were having my husband ‘compress’ my hand while I was having a contraction, or having him run his fingers down my arm towards him. Or I would tap or drum my fingers on the side of the tub. It took all the effort I had to relax during the contractions, I would allow my hands and arms to float. It’s an amazing amount of effort to just simply allow contractions to happen and not fight them, but I knew that’s what I needed to do. Every once in a while I’d remind myself that ‘that contraction was gone and it would never come back’.

Soon enough I felt like pushing. It’s odd to think back to my first birth and realize that someone had to check me to tell me when I was 10 cm dilated and when I’d be allowed to push. The midwives simply told me to go with my body. About every other contraction I’d get an urge to push and so I would. Around this time, Diane said she would call her back-up midwife, Kimberly, to assist. She could use a nurse but they tend to get a little more anxious when confronted with mec in the water.

Eventually I moved out onto the bed. Diane checked me and found that there was an anterior lip on the cervix so I got on my hands and knees and tried not to push. If I were to push against that lip, then it could swell. By allowing my body to just labour for a bit longer without pushing, I could thin that lip out. It was tough. Very tough. When your body wants to push… you just push. There isn’t much you can do about it.

Eventually I had to keep pushing. I pushed on my side with my leg on my midwife’s shoulder for a while and pushed on all fours. Two of the most effective ways for me were the birth/squat bar. With the assistance of Kimberly on my right and my husband on my left, they’d lift me up to the bar with each contraction, then I’d push and allow gravity to do its job. After the contraction I’d lay back down. Then repeat… it was absolutely exhausting! I began to drink apple juice rather than water because I was getting so tired. Earlier on someone had made a comment that this would go faster than the first time, but it didn’t seem to be working out that way. Thankfully my husband was quick on the draw with the juice. Between each contraction I had to just turn my head and the straw was right there for me to drink from. Just one sip every break.

The final position was with my legs up on the squat bar. I was not a fan of getting into this position because it felt like my hips were going to pop out. But despite my objections, Kimberly instructed my husband to lift my legs into the position. Strangely enough, once my legs were in that position, it felt better. But I was very conscious of the fact that I was saying “no, no, no, no” and my poor husband was being given a direct order from the midwife to move my leg. Thankfully she knew much better than I did that it was a temporary discomfort.

By this time, my son was right in on the action. He sat right next to Diane at the end of the table, watching his baby sister come into this world. During pushing I would open my eyes briefly and see him smiling in amazement at the sight. He would dance around and laugh because he could see her head. By this time I could reach down and feel her head and it helped bolster my wavering strength. Every once in a while he’d declare “it’s taking too loooong”. I had to agree.

I could also hear the midwives discussing the heart rate. She had been a strong 140 baby throughout the labour, never going below 130. Now we were getting some 70s during contractions and although this didn’t necessarily stress the midwives out, they did speak in hushed tones. I knew it wasn’t a great sign, but I also knew that we were so close to the end that we would have her out before things got serious. About this time they also noticed that the mild meconium had turned into moderate meconium. This prompted the decision to call the pediatric unit to come in and take care of the baby as soon as she was out. They arrived in their bright greeny-yellow scrubs and stood at the baby warmer awaiting her arrival.

Crowning was tough for one major reason. She came into this world sideways. I don’t know how good your anatomy lesson was, but having a sideways head means that the broadest part of the head is coming out perpendicular to the way it should have been. I had to hold off from pushing for several contractions to let the perineum stretch. Meanwhile, Diane was asking me when the last time was that I rode a horse. “A couple of years ago” I managed to squeak out. Having trained horses for years has given me something that perhaps not many people know about (until now) a tough perineum. She had been doing perineal massage for the last half hour coupled with very warm compresses (that feels better than you can imagine!) and now that we were crowning it was paying off. I had no tears despite the odd head presentation. The rest of her came out sunny-side up, meaning she’d flipped back to posterior some time ago. One hour and twenty-nine minutes of pushing. I had cut a whole half hour off of the birth of my son as I’d pushed for one hour and fifty-nine minutes with him.

She flopped out on my chest quickly and my mother swiftly declared her to be of the fairer sex. Which was fortuitous since mom had copped to buying lots of girl clothes already. We had planned for some bonding time before the cord was cut, but because the peds were there my midwife cut and clipped and she was lifted off of me. She wasn’t breathing very well, so they suctioned and worked on her for a good minute. Then she began the mewling … and kept that up for a good hour! Just softly complaining about her misshapen head and lengthy stay in the birth canal.

After she was presented back to me, we attempted some nursing with skin-to-skin contact. She wasn’t very interested, but tried a couple times. I expressed some yummy colostrum into her mouth and figured we’d work on it later. Meanwhile both Kimberly and Diane were cleaning things up and getting me some food and juice. My husband stood at my side and fed me toast and milk and juice while I held our baby.

After I had a shower and a bath and my husband dressed our daughter, we discussed names. We decided on Emily Grace and filled out the paperwork. My mom took my son back to our house after he’d greeted his sister.

She was born at 10:59 am on August 17th. We walked out of the hospital three hours later and headed home to be with my son and start our life as a new family.
The most touching part of this experience has been watching both my husband and my son become smitten with this little baby. My son wants to hold her ten times a day if he holds her once.
My husband, who shows very little emotion, is obviously intrigued by the softness of her hand and the sound of her breathing. The other day I overheard him on the phone with his best friend. "Dude," he said, "you and I may think that we've done some tough things in our lives, but you've never done anything as tough as give birth. I'm tellin' ya. She worked hard." It's nice to be appreciated.


kimberly-ann said...

I posted the other day on Good Apple, but I'll say it again!

Welcome to the World Emily Grace!

She is beautiful...and hubby is matter what THEY might do in life..they will never give birth!

K~ said...

You have brought me to tears. Congrats Heather & Family. Welcome Emily Grace.

Muttering In Manitoba said...

Way to go, Heather! A beautiful little girl with a beautiful name.

thordora said...

That's a popular name, but I loves the combo. I'm so happy it went so well! And a wee little girl!

I love girls. I'll admit it.

She's lovely, and you had a lovely birth by the sound of it. Congrats!!!