Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Story of Lilah's Birth: An Epic Tale

Lilah Peggy
October 3, 2006
2:24 p.m.
7 lbs. 10 oz. 19 ½ inches

Sunday, September 24
Baby’s due date

Monday, September 25
Appt. with midwife . . . cervix 80% effaced and dilated to maybe 1 cm. First membrane sweep.

Tuesday, September 26
Began losing mucus plug. By that night, the beginning of prodromal labor. Was up a good part of the night with painful contractions that went from about 10 min. apart eventually to about 6 min. apart. After being up for a couple of hours, felt exhausted and went back to bed. Fell asleep, and by the time I woke up a couple hours later, contractions had stopped. Feeling very discouraged at this point.

Wednesday, September 27
Michael stayed home from work because I was so exhausted and feeling low. I continued to have erratic contractions all day. MW came by in the evening to check on me (with a surprise to lift my spirits - a beautiful henna tattoo on her leg with Baby’s name!). Cervix now dilated to 2 - 3 cm. Second membrane sweep. Decided to stop answering the phone today unless it’s Sue(mw). Sick of people calling and asking "Where’s the baby?" and "When are you going to the hospital to get induced?"

Thursday, September 28
Not much going on. Continued to lose mucus and have cramping and contrax.

Friday, September 29
In very poor spirits. Feeling completely dumbfounded that this baby has not come yet since all my others came before their due dates. Feeling a complete loss of faith in my body’s ability to do what it’s supposed to do. Decided that staying sequestered at home just waiting for real labor to start is taking a toll on me emotionally, so made plans to get together with a girlfriend on Saturday for lunch and a pedicure.

Saturday, September 30
Woke up around 3:30 a.m. with pretty intense contrax, about 8 - 10 min. apart. They felt different somehow. Managed to get back to sleep for a while and woke up around 6 a.m. to contrax about 5 min. apart and lots of bloody show. Called Sue, and she came over and checked me: almost 100% effaced and dilated to 3 cm. Contrax continued to be about 5 min. apart for several hours. Michael got the pool blown up and we made up the bed, went for a long walk while Sue hung out with the kids. She left for a couple hours and I napped while the girls napped and Michael took the boys to the park. We couldn't get a hold of Alycia (babysitter) this morning!! Finally able to reach her early in the afternoon. Sue came back around 3:00, checked me again, dilated to 4. Michael and I decided to go for another walk, and the contrax really picked up then.

I hadn't eaten much so Alycia came over around 5:00 to stay with the kids, and Michael, Sue and I went to grab something to eat. It really turned out to be a fun day. Everything was so laid back and we laughed a lot. At the restaurant, my contrax were really intense and close together, but at one point outside the restaurant, Sue and I were laughing so hard we were crying (over what? Nothing much, just Michael trying to get the camera to work - I think we were all feeling a little punchy by then).

By the time we left the restaurant, my contrax were so intense and close together that we rushed home to get the birth pool filled. The birth seemed imminent and everyone was very excited. We called Mireille, our doula, on the way back to the house and she headed over.
Then we got home and . . . my contrax stopped!!! Seriously, the whole thing completely stalled out. Sue checked me and I was completely effaced and dilated to 4 - 5 cm!!! But the whole thing just crapped out. After 3 labors that were long, I fully expected this one to be long, but I never expected it to just STOP midway through. I was devastated. All that work my body had done all day long, and the emotional buildup, and NOTHING to show for it.

Sue, Mireille, and Alycia all went home after it became clear that labor had stalled. I think Sue expected that I would be calling her back in the middle of the night when things picked up again, but they never did. Michael and I were completely drained and we went to bed around 9:30 and slept fitfully until about 5:30 Sunday morning. I only had a few contrax during the night, some pretty painful but mostly pretty mild.

Sunday, October 1
Contrax coming probably every 15 - 20 min. Still lots of bloody show and fluidy stuff, but things did not appear to be progressing. Feeling very discouraged and frustrated and wondering how much more of this I can handle. I felt bad that we had wasted Sue’s entire day yesterday (she even cancelled appt.’s with other clients), but she kept telling me how much fun she had with our family. She said that this was just a lesson in letting go for me, and that Lilah had her own agenda, and we were just invited to her birthday party.

She talked to a senior midwife about me and they came up with a theory that a couple of things may be holding things up - the fact that I have major separation in my abdominal muscles from carrying the twins, so there's nothing holding the baby in a true vertical position, and also the fact that I appear to have a lot of fluid which may be causing the baby to float instead of settling down onto my cervix to help it dilate. So at Sue’s suggestion, we bound up my belly with ace bandages to push the baby in and down - this was very uncomfortable - and we took the kids and headed for the nature trails for a long walk.

The walk is about an hour from our front door and back. Once we were headed back up our street, I suddenly felt a warm gush and my pants were all wet in a few seconds. My water broke! I was suddenly overcome with emotion and just started crying - weird, I know. It was a couple blocks to get home still, so there we are walking up the street with me in wet pants and crying. This was about 2:00 p.m.

I had expected the contrax to pick up pretty quickly after I felt that gush, but like everything else with this labor, nothing was going according to my expectations. Sue came over that evening to listen to the baby’s heartbeat, etc. Everything seemed fine. She didn’t want to do another VE since it appeared that my water had broken. She did a litmus test on the pad I was wearing and the pants I had been wearing when I felt the gush earlier, just to confirm that it was amniotic fluid - and they both tested negative! I was flabbergasted. I refused to believe I had just peed my pants - honestly, it just didn’t feel like that at all. Anyhow, Sue said there were several factors that could lead to a negative result and she really felt that it was inconclusive - maybe it was amnio fluid, and maybe it wasn’t. Because I had declined GBS screening and my GBS status was therefore unknown, she said there was some concern about having prolonged rupture of membranes with no labor, so if things hadn’t picked up by the following morning, she wanted to talk about getting labor going with black and blue cohosh and/or castor oil. I was not thrilled with either option, but kind of felt like I was running out of options.

Monday, October 2
Woke up again to contrax about 10 min apart. Talked to Sue on the phone and she suggested we bind my belly up again and go walking. She said to call her if the contrax got to be 5 min. apart. I was so sick of walking by this time! I was just tired of the whole thing. But we did it anyway, and while we were walking the contrax picked up. They became very painful and closer together. By the time we got home they were about 5 min. apart and hurting pretty badly. We called Sue and she said she would head over.

A little while later, Sue called. She wanted to know how my contrax were - how close together and how long in duration. I told her they were still about 5 min. apart and I guessed they were lasting about 45 seconds. Then she told me that she had another client in active labor!! Circumstances were such that she had to head over to her house, but she promised she would head to my house the minute I needed her. When I got off the phone, I lost it. I just started crying and ranting. I have to admit I felt abandoned. And guess what - my contractions STOPPED again. I really felt like I was at the end of my rope. Nothing was going the way it was supposed to. I was completely drained and devastated. I felt like if she had only come over, my labor would have continued. I know it’s probably not true, but I wasn’t feeling very rational at the time. I went into the bedroom and threw myself on the bed and just bawled.

A little while later, Mireille, my doula, showed up. Apparently Sue had been worried about my emotional state and called Mireille herself and asked her to come to my house to sit with me and make sure I was okay. Honestly, I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or have someone watch over me. I think Mireille was kind of at a loss as to what to do for me. She sat with me in the bedroom for a while and then said maybe a change of scenery would do me some good and suggested we go shopping. Was she kidding?! I was busy having a pity party - shopping was the last thing I was interested in. I was supposed to be having a baby today for God’s sake, not shopping!! I didn’t have the heart to tell her I just wanted to be left alone, so I finally figured I might as well go along with her or be stuck in my bedroom with her babysitting me. I suggested we go get pedicures instead, so we headed out. It ended up being okay - we got pedicures and went to lunch. At least it was a way to pass the afternoon. She left shortly after we got back home.

I was still in pretty low spirits - really just feeling kind of angry and frustrated at how things were unfolding over the last several days. I had talked to Sue earlier and she said her other client had had her baby and she was going to stop by our house that evening just to check on me. By this time, however, I figured what was the point? I decided to call her and tell her to skip it, and I was going to tell Michael to go ahead and go to work in the morning. I felt like a pot of water being watched to see when it would boil, and the pressure was really taking a toll on me

When I called Sue, she said she was already on her way over to our house. When she got here, she listened to the baby, took my bp, tested my urine - everything looked fine. She asked if it was okay with me if she did a sterile VE, and I said okay. So she checked me and determined that I was dilated to 5 cm, but during a contraction I would dilate to 7 cm. It was just so completely bizarre how far I managed to progress without ever really going into and staying in active labor. She did the litmus test on the fluid in my vagina for amnio fluid and it came up positive! Very strange. I think she tried to sweep my membranes again, but there wasn’t much left to sweep. She hung around for a while, and my contrax started up again, about every 10 min. After a while, she went home and said to call her if they got to be less than 5 min. apart. This was about 9:30 p.m.

Michael and I went to bed, I think around 10:00. My contrax continued, and by 11:00 they were again about 5 minutes apart and painful. We called Susan and she headed back over, this time with her assistant, Katie, and our doula Mireille.

So by 11:30 we had 5 adults in our bedroom, including me and Michael. It was a little crowded, and honestly I felt stressed by all the people watching me and waiting for something to happen. I got into the birth pool, and of course my contrax slowed down. The whole thing was so utterly frustrating. I felt like I was letting everyone down, as if I just wasn’t doing it right. Finally after a couple hours, I said I wanted to just lay down. I figured I would take a little nap and would wake up in a short while to "better" contractions. Sue talked to us about starting black and blue cohosh in the morning, and then she, Katie, and Mireille went and crashed in the living room. Michael and I went to bed. I slept fitfully, as my contrax continued through the night, too painful to sleep through, but still 10 - 15 min. apart. I honestly was feeling like this baby was never going to come out on her own, and I was again feeling bad for dragging all these people away from their families to come to my house for nothing.

Tuesday, October 3
Everyone was up by around 6:00 a.m. It was a school day for the boys, but we decided to keep Joey home since school was only half day for him and it would be too much hassle to deal with the drop off and pick up. Michael took Kevin to school, and our neighbor would bring him home as usual. I really didn’t know what was going to unfold on this day, but I remember Sue saying something to the effect that we would be having a baby today. Mireille had class in the morning, and she and Katie both left our house a little after 8:00. In truth, I was relieved to have fewer people around.

I can’t remember what time I started taking the cohosh, but I alternated blue and black every half hour. I was still having contrax, but they were still only about 10 min. apart. Sue had me promise to take castor oil if the cohosh hadn’t made labor progress after 5 hours. At about 9:00 a.m. I asked her about breaking my water. She agreed to check me again and then we’d decide. When she checked me she felt a bulging bag of water and I was dilated to 7 cm even without a contraction. So she went ahead and broke my water.

Now, this part she didn’t tell me until later. Apparently, when she broke my water, my cervix closed back up to 4 cm!! It was the bulging bag of water pressing down causing the dilation, and after she broke my water, the baby’s head didn’t descend as far as it should have, so my cervix closed back up partially. Something was hanging the baby up in there and preventing her from coming down like she should, and Sue started worrying at this point, because now my water was clearly broken and my GBS status was unknown. She didn’t tell me any of this until later, and I’m glad because I’m sure it would have just upset and scared me.

The contrax continued all morning and they were very painful. I spent a lot of time walking around the house, and even up and down the stairs, trying to keep things going and hopefully to move it to the next phase. I was squatting and moaning through contrax by this time. The closest together they got was 9 min. apart. It was very discouraging and exhausting. We had already decided that I was not going to be able to labor in the pool because being in the water slowed the contrax down. I wouldn’t be able to get in the water until I was ready to push.
Michael called Alycia around 11:00 and she came over to take care of the girls and Joey, as I really needed him to give me his attention.

I guess around noon Sue made me sit down and eat some lunch and sent Michael to the store for some castor oil. I was not looking forward to that, but it was the next logical step and Sue assured me that she had had a lot of success with the combination of cohosh and castor oil. Michael got home with the castor oil and Susan made a smoothie with it - castor oil, orange juice concentrate, vanilla ice cream and vodka - yes, vodka. It was pretty nasty. My contrax were still about 9 min. apart and she checked me again. I was dilated to 9 cm!! She kept saying that there was no way the baby was going to be born without the contrax getting closer together - but there I was dilated to 9 cm and still only having contractions every 9 min. This labor seemed to be breaking every rule of nature.

After I ate some lunch and had the castor oil smoothie, I just wanted to lay down. I guess it was a little after 1:00 by this time. Sue and I went into the bedroom. I don’t know where Michael was at this point - maybe trying to put the girls down for a nap while Alycia looked after Joey? I laid down on the bed and actually managed to doze between contractions, but every time a contraction hit, I had to breathe and moan through it. Sue was a big comfort during this time, stroking my hair and arm when a contraction came and telling me I was doing good. Her presence was very soothing.

Suddenly, around 1:45 the contrax started coming closer together and I got the shakes. I was finally in transition! Michael was in the bedroom with us by this time. I had exactly THREE contractions that were 5 minutes apart, followed by another doozy two minutes later. Sue had left the room for something and suddenly I shot up on the bed with my hand between my legs and yelling for Sue that I had to push! Oh my God, it was such a shock, to go from contrax basically 10 min. apart all day long to this sudden feeling that something huge was pushing its way out of my body. I was suddenly very frightened. Sue and Michael got me into the birth pool at about 2:00 and the contrax slowed a bit but were still coming at decent intervals and were very powerful. I fought the urge to push because it frightened me so much. With each contraction, I breathed deep in and out breaths and moaned. Sue told me to push whenever I felt like it and I kept telling her that I was scared and that it hurt, it hurt. Michael was behind me outside the pool supporting me in a semi squat position, and Sue kept asking me if I wanted him in the pool with me. No, no. I couldn’t deal with any sort of change at that point. Finally the urge to push became so powerful that I could no longer fight it and I began pushing . . . and oh my God, it felt like a train barreling its way out of my body. It felt like I was being ripped in half - seriously, I felt myself tearing down there, above and below my vagina. I began screaming at this point and Sue tried to calm me and told me to lower the scream to a grunt because it would help get the baby out. So I tried, I really tried, to grunt and pant, but I know I was still screaming too. I felt her head come out, and I thought the hardest part was over, that her shoulders and the rest of her body would just slide out with little effort on my part, but her shoulders seemed to be stuck. I was crying and saying "Help me! Please, help!" over and over. Sue reached down into the water and felt around the baby’s head to make sure there was no cord holding her up. Finally, I pushed with everything I had and out came her shoulders and the rest of her body. The pain immediately dissipated. Sue got the baby out of the water and up onto my chest. I was still crying uncontrollably - I was just overwhelmed by the whole thing. But looking at my perfect little baby girl for the first time made the whole thing worth every minute and I was struck, once again, as I had been with the birth of each of my other children, by how incredible it was that I grew this perfect little human being inside my body and brought her into the world. Michael and I both felt the umbilical cord pulsing, and that was new. I had never felt a cord before, or even seen one close up.

I was still in the pool, and Sue said I was bleeding. I remember thinking "Okay, so what? Doesn’t everyone bleed after they push a baby out?" It was only when I saw the look on her face that I felt a little scared. She told me I needed to get out of the pool. She gave me a shot of Pitocin in my thigh and I yelled "Oww!" and then almost had to laugh - I had just pushed a baby out of my body and I was going to complain about a little shot now? She clamped the cord and had Michael cut it and then they helped me out of the pool and up onto the bed. Sue was examining me, trying to determine where I was bleeding from, but by this time the bleeding had stopped. I had no tears - this absolutely boggled my mind. When I was pushing, I had the distinct sensation that I was tearing from here to kingdom come - but in reality, I had not a single tear anywhere. Holy cow. I shifted on the bed and felt something huge come out of me and thought it was the placenta, but it was two blood clots the size of my fist. The placenta actually took quite a while to come out. We gave the baby to Michael and Sue took me into the bathroom and put me on the toilet, as being upright would help the placenta deliver. I again was fighting pushing it out - after the ordeal of pushing the baby out, I could hardly bear the thought of pushing anything else out. I sat on the toilet and managed to pee, and then finally, out came the placenta.

Here’s some stuff Sue told me later: she never did figure out where the bleeding was coming from after the baby was born. It didn’t really matter since it stopped almost immediately when she gave me the pitocin. But what she told me later was that while I was still in the pool after the baby was born, the blood was pouring out of me - she said it reminded her of an underwater volcano.

Another thing she told me later was that she thinks Lilah had her hand or arm up by her head, which was preventing her from descending properly. She said that when her head came out, she was face down, which is typical. Then she rotated, so that her shoulders would come out vertically - which is also typical. But then she apparently rotated back to face down, which meant that her shoulders were now horizontal in the birth canal! So when Sue reached down in the water to check for cord after the baby’s head came out, what she was really doing was trying to turn the baby without freaking me out. If her arm really was up by her head even while I labored, that would go far in explaining the completely dysfunctional labor I had. She didn’t descend down onto my cervix enough to dilate it and make the contractions progress, so I ended up with this wacky, erratic labor that progressed very slowly. The end result was a beautiful, healthy baby girl, but boy, that was some work bringing her into the world. So far, Lilah is relatively peaceful (knock on wood!). My last three babies were pretty high maintenance, so I’ve been telling God for a while that I think I’m due for an easier baby this time. She’s a good sleeper and nursing beautifully. So far she really doesn’t fuss or cry a whole lot. We still haven’t figured out who she looks like. With the other kids, it was so clear even at birth whom in the family they resembled, but Lilah is a bit of a mystery. I think she has the same nose as Kevin, but other than that, I don’t know. The other kids have taken to her really well already, although poor Joey was a little scared of her after she was born and for the rest of that day. He apparently heard me crying and screaming (although Alycia took him outside - so I’m sure the neighbors heard me as well), and decided that the baby must have hurt me so he was afraid of her at first, which made me sad. But by the next day, he was kissing her and rubbing her head. The girls, who I was so worried about how they would react to a new baby, are completely enthralled with her. And Kevin, of course, ever the loving big brother.

Sue did one, two, and three-day postpartum visits to check on me and the baby, and everything looked good. On day three Lilah weighed 7 lbs. 6 oz. She was 7-10 at birth, so that’s pretty good. She was a little jaundiced for the first couple of days, but my milk came in by day two, so the jaundice started clearing up pretty quickly. When Susan left on day three, I found myself crying. I’ve become quite attached to her and will truly miss her and the care I got from her.

I’ve spent a lot of time reliving the labor and birth in my head, analyzing it and trying to process it. Michael asked me a few hours after she was born if I would do it again if I had the opportunity. I actually hesitated, and that has bothered me. I think he asked me too soon, but the truth at that moment was that I didn’t know if I could do it again. Of course, within a few days I felt like, yes, of course I would and could do it again, but I don’t think I’ll ever have that choice to make again, as Lilah is our last baby (I think . . .).

I’m trying to come to terms with parts of it still. I have no regrets, but of course I wish my labor hadn’t been so long and erratic, although it was certainly a test of strength and endurance and I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. I wish I had better prepared myself for the reality of an unmedicated birth. I feel like I was either very arrogant about the whole thing, or ill-informed, or maybe both. I feel disappointed in myself that I freaked out during pushing - even a little ashamed I guess, however silly that might sound. The realization that I’ve come to is that for whatever reason, I had the belief that the worst pain I would feel would be the most intense contractions, and I had faith in myself that I could handle that. I had heard over and over that pushing is a relief, so I really believed that while pushing would certainly be work, pain-wise, it would be easy compared to the contractions. So I was completely shocked and unprepared for how pushing really felt, and it was terrifying for me. I had envisioned this fairly quiet water birth, where I would breathe and grunt my baby out, catch her myself, and pull her up onto my chest, and feel like Mother Earth herself. In reality, I screamed my baby out, and was too freaked out to reach down and catch her. I am utterly humbled by the whole experience.

All in all, it was an amazing experience, and the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had for a very long time. I am so thankful that I had a wonderful, caring midwife through my pregnancy and birth, that I have a loving and supportive husband, and that I was able to have my baby in the comfort of my own home without unnecessary interference or interventions, or needless policies to adhere to. I feel even more strongly that pregnancy and birth are normal, natural processes. I can’t imagine ever being pregnant and under the care of an OB again. OB’s are doctors, and doctors are for sick people. Pregnancy is not an illness or a condition that needs to be treated or cured - it is a beautiful process that should be observed and honored, and my midwife and Michael respected that.

In spite of what my perception was, Lilah seems to have experienced a peaceful birth. When Susan put her on my chest, she looked up at me and coughed a couple times and then just lay there peacefully looking at me. I kept asking if there was something wrong with her because she wasn’t crying, she was just so serene.

So here I am, now the mother of five! Who ever woulda thought? It was such a short time ago that I was a miserable pregnant woman, and had anyone asked me then, I would have said I am gladly done with all this pregnancy and birth business. But of course now I am already missing it, and trying to rationalize just one more.


Alex and Kristi said...

Oh Lisa...I am just one big ball of hormones! Your story just made me cry because I can't wait to have my own baby and experience such a miracle! Of course at only 11 weeks now...I have awhile! Thank you, thank you for sharing this story!

Anna Alexandrova said...

Hallelujah! Whoah! What a story! Well done Lisa and Lilah.

Carla said...

I remember it like it was yesterday, as I know you do. Another happy birthday shout from Claire to Lilah!

Chrystal said...

Wow. What a story. I'm totally freaked and amazed at the same time.

I hope Lilah had a fantastic day and that you were able to do a little something nice for yourself as well.

Wendy P said...

Amazing story!

Happy Birthday Lilah!!

Yours for Christ said...

It has been awhile since I've been able to visit your blog. BUT WOW what a story. In my day of having babies, we were put to sleep and when we woke up - it was like maybe I had had surgery for there was the baby, and I had stitches! And too it was several years after I had my last one in '67, that "breast feeding" came back in to popularity for the mere fact of convenience as well as the health of the baby.
Anyway - I thoroughly enjoyed the account, and think I might have felt each labor pain.
I love your blog! Keep up the good work.

starrlife said...

Just catching this story and totally empathizing with your experience. I had a home birth, my one and only birth and while I would recommend it and do it again... I too was shocked at how traumatic it was for me and how primitive and scared I became. None of those "spiritual enlightening, one with the universe" manuals prepared me for the visceralness of it. I had a wonderful midwife group and it went well with no complications but I've had friends who ended up in the hospital ultimately and who struggled with shame about not being able to do it at home. I figure it's all good if the outcome is good. She's a beautiful little girl and a Libra to boot!