Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Zev's Birth Story:
Understandably, I have gotten a lot of questions about Zev's birth (as well as his name). The most frequently asked have been:
Q: "Did you do this on purpose?"
A: That's complicated, but sort-of. My daughter's birth two years ago was very painful and traumatic for me -not because of anything that had to do with the hospital, or it's staff. Still, I was so afraid of a repeat of that experience that I had to make everything different this time. The very Idea of laboring in the same space made me panic inside. I had done everything I could to try and arrange an attended home birth for myself, but in the end was unsuccessful. Ultimately, my husband and I decided that I would labor at home as long as possible, and then go over to our local hospital (which is about 3 min. from our house) whenever we felt the time was right. However, if that time never came, we were prepared to stay home if it felt like that was what I needed to do. I had to find a way to overcome my fear of birth, and this was the only way I could see myself through it.
Q: "Weren't you scared?"
A: No. I couldn't afford to be. Actually, being at home, alone, and not under anyone else's scrutiny was the only thing that didn't make me feel afraid. I truly believed that we would have the result that we wanted, and I practiced believing that for months. I practiced so hard that I achieved a state of no fear by about halfway through my pregnancy.
Q: "What kind of a name is THAT?"
A: It's Hebrew: it means "Wolf" or "Deer". It is not short for anything. That's one of the things I like about it.
On Tuesday August 18th I was 38 weeks pregnant and feeling very restless, and mentally disconnected. I was spacey, and wanted to be alone in the warm night air. I went for a walk by myself in the evening, and had some pretty strong but erratic contractions which stopped for a few hours after I came home. I was not exactly in my head -very spacey. Then again at about 12:30 am I felt that I needed to go outside and pace around in my driveway, though I was not contracting at that time. I came inside, and went to bed, though I did not sleep well and was waking repeatedly to increasingly uncomfortable contractions.
At 4:45 am on Wednesday the 19th I felt a small gush of fluid which, upon inspection, was amniotic fluid with a little blood. I thought at this point that my bag of waters had broken, but only a little was coming out because the baby's head was blocking the rest. I became nervous and restless for a bit knowing that this was indeed real labor beginning. The smell of amniotic fluid brought back a wave of fear and memory of last time. It smelled like something from the hospital, and not something from my own body. I got back into my bed and did my relaxation technique as described in "Childbirth Without Fear". I tried to stay in bed for a while longer, but was feeling agitated, so I just stayed upstairs and made the bed, folded laundry, etc. until about 6:00 when I decided it was fair to go let Josh know what was going on. He had been sleeping on the couch for a few weeks so that I might have the bed to myself. He asked if he could go back to sleep for a while, and I said "of course".
I did a few minor chores for a while, and then went to the store for milk, and some other things. I treated myself to a couple of fancy yogurts thinking that a bit later I would need food, but not feel like having anything too challenging. My contractions were uncomfortable, but I could still drive and hold a conversation.
At about 1:00 pm my parents stopped by with some lunch, and it was getting harder to talk to people. I ate a little, and then announced that I was retiring upstairs. I went to lie down, and labored in my bed for the rest of the afternoon. Eventually, we asked my friend to come collect Rayona for the night, and at some point my mother came back. Josh and my Mom each napped for a while in the late afternoon, and I got in the tub for an hour or so. Things were getting tougher, but I was feeling fine, and the relaxation techniques were getting me by.
As evening approached I was hurting, and had not progressed past about 2 cm. This was exactly the way my daughter's labor unfolded as well. I began to feel discouraged, and toyed with the idea of going to the hospital, believing that my water had been broken for 12 hours, and I was fearing infection. Throughout this time as well as the evening hours my husband and I calmly discussed the pros and cons of staying vs. going in. He was exactly what I needed. We were both so calm and peaceful the whole day. He kept reminding me that this was exactly what happened the last time, and that my daughter did eventually come out. Every time I questioned my progress he reminded me that I don't follow a normal curve with my dilation. I tend to remain the same until the last hour when I go from hardly anything to full dilation. He even illustrated this visually. I knew that he was right, and continued to labor as I was.
By about 9 pm I was in real pain. I should say here that the most important difference between these two labors was how I chose to handle the contractions. This time I labored silently, and did not move during the contractions -just breathing naturally, and deeply. Last time I cried, begged, screamed, rocked, and that was way worse. This time I just relaxed my whole body, and let the contractions do their thing. The pain was the same, but the fear was absent. For a few contractions my mind felt like a wisp of smoke rising from my body and hovering above me for a moment , then returning to me between contractions when I would sleep so deeply. I could picture myself and the room from above -it was like an out-of-body type of thing. -Quite blissful, really.
At one point I became lucid again, and asked my husband if he thought we should go to the hospital. I was doing labor math in my head, and was concerned about the length of time I had been in active labor with little progress. I was still less than 3cm. He explained to me that I had not been in active labor as long as I thought, and asked me what I expected to have happen at the hospital. I told him I was afraid of Pitocin, and cervical softening agents. He agreed that I was probably right to expect those things. At no point did I ever feel the need to have professional help or pain management, but I did occasionally worry about time. I really had that ingrained in me, I guess.
Just then I felt a pop, and my waters broke for real with a huge gush. I felt very confused, because I thought my water had broken early in the morning. It turns out that was just my membranes rupturing. The next contraction was like someone turned the pain dial ALL the way up, and I could feel the baby's movements like sharp little angles inside. My belly seemed deflated a bit, and the baby's form was more easily seen. I said I needed to get up, and I was concerned about getting the bed wet. I had about two more contractions while sitting on the toilet to let the rest of the fluid out, and decided I wanted my husband to leave for a moment. I had been feeling all day like I had to empty out, but could not, and that feeling was getting worse. I didn't really believe it could be time to push, but I knew that there was no way at that point I could have dressed, gotten into the car and gone anywhere anymore.
The next contraction told me that it was time to get back into the tub. It felt like the only option. The pain was amazing. I had another contraction, and called for Josh. He knelt by the side of the tub. I looked down at my belly and could see it bunching up so hard -the baby was clearly moving down. My body was acting so powerfully. I had another one or two contractions all the while whispering: "No, no, I can't do this, no. I need to go to sleep. I need to throw up. I'm so tired. I just want to go to sleep" It became like a mantra. Then I felt the urge to push more strongly than any force I can remember. I told myself to get up, and let gravity help me stretch without tearing, but I couldn't do it. I pushed once HARD without even meaning to really, and could feel the top of my baby's head with my hand. My body took over, and in two more pushes I delivered his head, and then his shoulders and body. I was looking at my husband's eyes as they grew so wide and he smiled, and said: "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU JUST DID THAT!!! YOU ARE AWESOME!!!" Isn't that what every woman wants to hear at that moment? I will never forget it.
I did know I was going to tear, but I didn't care.
He came out so fast. I needed it to be over. I picked him up under the arms and brought him to my chest. He was slippery, and purple and giving off steam. He let out a yelp, and then a cry, and I noticed that his outstretched finger tips bent backwards in a funny way. I held him close to me. The feeling of relief was overwhelming. The pain was gone. My mother came upstairs when she heard him cry, and peeked in saying: "It sounds like something wonderful has happened!" I turned him over onto his belly and rubbed his back a little, because he was gurgling, and that helped. After a few moments everything but his hands and feet had turned pink. He looked good -really good. We all stared at him for a long moment. Josh said: "Look -brown hair. I knew it." I hadn't even noticed until then.
The tub water was turning red, and my teeth were chattering, so it was time to get out and warm up. I was concerned about enormous clots that I saw in the bottom of the tub. My mom cleared them away, and told me not to worry about them anymore. I delivered the placenta into a towel laid over the toilet seat while nursing the baby. Then we dried off and got into the bed to get warm. I was very cold. Eventually my husband cut the umbilical cord, and we got dressed and called the hospital to let them know we were coming, and to ask that my midwife be there. They met us at the door, and I went to the maternity ward where I was stitched up, and spent the next two nights while they did the baby's assessments, and a vaccine.
This birth was exactly what I needed to do. It was very hard, and just as painful as my daughter's birth, but I was different this time. I was not afraid, and I feel very much healed. The bond between my husband and I has deepened as well. It was so peaceful to have the whole afternoon alone to do this together, and I was overcome with gratitude for his strength and confidence. I could not have done this without him. He knew exactly how to support me. So I no longer fear birth. I no longer fear a lot of things, because I know that I can face up to them, and prevail.