Sunday, February 3, 2013

Emmeline's Birth Story

This is the story of how Emmeline came to join us on this side of the womb. Many people have asked us why we chose to have her at home rather than at the hospital, so I’ll address that as well. 

When we found out we were pregnant back in March, I panicked a little because we had  recently switched insurance and didn’t have any maternity coverage. I would never encourage someone to have a home birth just because its cheaper, but it was really the best option for us. I had been interested in doing a home birth for quite a while, and I had done my research on it. I particularly love the documentary “The Business of Being Born,” which can be streamed on Netflix right now if you’re interested in learning about the history of obstetric care in America! 

So anyway, we hired a midwife who had excellent birth statistics, more than a decade of experience, and with whom we felt comfortable.

I was due December 28, and was really hoping to not go over this time (if you’ll remember, Asher came 9 days past his edd- I didn’t care to relive that experience!). For whatever reason, I really felt that this little girl was going to come early. I had gained a substantial amount of weight (about 55 lbs)- more than with either of the other 2. I had regular Braxton Hicks contractions since around 25 weeks, and I just felt “ready.” I woke around 2am on the morning of the 23rd with a contraction, but I fell back asleep. This happened a few times until 4am, and then I couldn’t sleep anymore. They weren’t regular- probably 30-40 minutes apart, and ended up falling back asleep from about 6-8am. I sent Derek to church with the kids- which I felt kind of guilty about. The contractions still weren’t regular at all, but when they came they HURT! I wasn’t convinced I was in labor at all, which is why I felt guilty about not going to church with them. But I rationalized that the contractions hurt enough there was no way I wanted to try to sit through them. 

I had been working on sewing some cute bibs and burp cloths to keep me busy the last couple days, so I worked on those all morning. Whenever I had a contraction (still 20-30 minutes apart), I would just stand up and lean over the table through them. I still didn’t know what to make of them since they weren’t getting more regular, until my body decided to start “cleaning itself out,” if you know what I mean. I texted Derek excitedly- “Woohoo, diarrhea! I might actually be in labor!” Haha. 

Once he got home and saw that I was still having contractions, he told me he wanted to set up the birthing tub. I tried to talk him out of it because I didn’t think I was actually in labor and I didn’t want it set up for days beforehand. He, however, made the executive decision and started setting it up. I think he remembered how fast Asher’s birth went and didn’t want to wait unitl it was too late! So the kids and I sat on the bed in the playroom and watched him set it up and start to fill it (you know, “just in case!” :) Silly Derek, who knows me better than I know myself!. I texted my midwife at this point- “may be baby day, I’ll let you know” (I was still so casual at this point!). She called me immediately and wanted to know details. She didn’t seem too convinced it was “real” labor until I told her I’d been having diarrhea (sorry- TMI), at which point she got excited and said she would come into town and stay nearby until things picked up. We also called my mom and told her she’d probably want to head up our way soon. 

We ate lunch and I put Asher down for his nap. At one point during a contraction I was leaning over the kitchen counter and I told Derek, “Ugh! I always forget how much this sucks! And it’s only going to get worse!” He laughed at me! 

I continued to sew while Annabel watched a movie downstairs and Derek watched the Colts game upstairs. One of the best parts of laboring at home? Being able to eat! I snacked on oatmeal cookies all afternoon, which seemed heavenly at the time. Before Asher woke up, I asked Annabel if she wanted to go for a walk. I was hoping to get the contractions to pick up a little. So we bundled up and went out. I started timing contractions and they were coming regularly 6 minutes apart and were about 1.5 minutes long. We walked several blocks and I just had to lean on a tree or people’s banisters during the contractions. I’m sure I looked funny if anyone was watching! I called my midwife to tell her they were picking up and she told me to call her again either when they were 4-5 minutes apart or getting more intense in nature. She also said that this likely wouldn’t happen until the kids were out of the house. This was about 2 in the afternoon. I called my mom and she said she would be at our house around 4. 

Once we got home Asher was up from his nap. The kids were acting pretty obnoxious and I was getting very aggravated with them. At one point I was in the middle of a contraction and Asher got in my face and growled really loud- I almost threw him across the room! (I didn’t- but I think I pushed him out of the way and yelled at him!) Since being back in the house, my contractions slowed back down to every 10-15 minutes again. Derek suggested that he take them upstairs to watch the football game and give me some space. I thought that was an excellent idea. ;) Once they were out of my hair I started sewing again and the contractions picked up again. Then I had one contraction around 3:30 that lasted almost 10 minutes and was flippin’ intense. I yelled up to Derek to call our midwife to come. After that contraction I basically sat on my knees with the top half of my body draped over the couch and waited for my midwife and my mom to get there. They both pulled up at exactly 4:05 and there was a flurry of activity. The kids were excited to see their grammy and their Uncle Gareth, my midwife started setting up her stuff in the playroom, and Derek was joking and laughing with my mom and trying to help the midwife at the same time. My mom left quickly with the kids- thankfully. I was done being casual and told Derek that I had a feeling the baby would be here before 6:00. The midwife said she was betting on 8:00. 

She checked the temperature of the water- it was only 90 degrees. She told Derek it needed to be about 100 degrees to be comfortable for me, so they had to pump some of the water out. While they were doing this, my contractions really picked up in regularity and intensity. And the midwife was right- this happened within minutes of the children leaving! She helped me get comfortable on the bed and I asked Derek to find my iPod and headphones. At this point I was in so much pain and I was feeling very overwhelmed that I started crying. The midwife didn’t say anything, and I wondered how many women cry while they are in labor. :) Our hot water heater wasn’t able to keep up, and Derek was boiling water on the stove to try and get the tub heated up as quickly as possible. I was able to get in (finally!) about 4:30 or 4:45. It was SUCH a relief. It felt so amazing and comforting. 

I should mention that a few days prior I put up Christmas lights around the top of the room and set up the iPod docking station. So the room now was dark except for the Christmas lights and a small lamp, and we had my labor playlist playing. It was so cozy and just the way I had envisioned it. For the next 45 minutes or so I just sat in the tub and had contractions! Our midwife was sitting off to the side knitting on a sock, and Derek was sitting on the bed just staring at me- haha! At one point I apologized to him- “gosh, I’m sorry this is so boring!” And he laughed and said it was okay. Derek says they were closer than this, but to me it felt like the contractions were still 4-5 minutes apart. They never really got super close together and were never on top of each other like they were during Asher’s birth. I think I still somewhat doubted that I was in actual *labor* and was thinking how silly I was going to feel when it turned out to not be the real thing. 

The contractions took on a pattern of sorts- I would have one that was super strong and painful- I’d have to hold on to the edge of the tub and really breathe through them. Then a few minutes later I’d have a mild one that was much easier to handle. The midwife said this was really normal. I was thankful for both the milder contractions and the space between them that I could talk and joke with Derek and rest. All of a sudden I felt the urge to push! I feel like I got all wide-eyed and panicky- like, “oh my gosh! I’m really going to have this baby- right NOW! I’m not reeeeeaaaady for this!” The midwife urged me to try and breathe through as many more contractions as I could before pushing. The next few contractions really SUCKED! I feel like I had been a pretty good sport up until this point, but now it was time to express to everyone how much having a baby really sucks. Considering my "expressions" include very liberal and creative cursing, I’m sure Derek was thankful this phase of labor did NOT last long!

I had about 2 contractions that I consciously tried not to push- but at the end of them my breath would catch because my body would push involuntarily. After these 2 I remember just nodding at Derek- my way of signaling to him that it was time. He nodded back to me and moved from the bed to the edge of the tub. He asked if I wanted him to try and rub my back- I think I about bit his head off! The next contraction came and pushing was not an optional. I pushed as hard as I could and I felt her move down. I felt but I couldn’t feel her head yet. My midwife urged me to get up on my knees so the baby would have room to be born. I pushed again and I could feel her head. Everything felt like it on fire and I remember thinking, “I am never, EVER going to do this again!” One more push and her head slipped out! I was completely astonished, though I’m not sure why. Maybe because it seemed to happen so fast, or maybe because giving birth is always incredible, no matter how many times you’ve done it. My midwife urged me to push the rest of her out and get her out of the water. So I waited a few seconds for another contraction, then she slipped easily into my hands. I pulled her up out of the water and held her against me. The feeling of relief when there is no longer a baby inside of you is so, so amazing. It is the best feeling in the world- nothing else I’ve ever experienced compares to it. All the pain and hard work you just did seems worth it and you are filled with joy and elation. I know I kept saying over and over, “She’s OUT! Thank you, God! Thank you, baby, for being out of me!” Haha! She was born at 5:34pm. 

I could tell right away she was smaller than my other two- and I was right. She was 6 lbs and 14oz- a full pound small than the others. She was also only 19" long, 2 inches shorter than the other two. 

Once Emmeline was out of the water, she was awake and alert. She never cried, she just kept looking around. I kept asking the midwife, “is she okay?!” and Derek asked why she wasn’t crying. She just said that often babies who are born in the water don’t cry right away. She let me hold her for a few minutes and then suggested that we try to get her to cry. I’m not sure what she did, but the baby let out a wail! I held her in the water until her cord stopped pulsing and then we got out of the tub to deliver the placenta. 

Around 6:30 my mom brought the kids in to see her. They were so excited and my mom couldn’t believe she was here already! My mom stayed at a hotel with the kids that night and we had a nice little “babymoon” with our new little sweetie. Derek and the midwife emptied the pool and cleaned everything up. She commented that she couldn’t believe how clean and easy this birth was. I felt great afterwards and never was in any pain, besides the “after pains” that come with nursing. Those are never any fun. 

Some people have asked questions about having a home birth, so I’ll attempt to answer a few that have been asked of me.

“What about the mess?”
-We had bought 2 shower curtains to contain the mess. One went on the floor outside the tub (where I delivered the placenta) and the second went on the bed where I first sat after the birth. We threw the one on the floor away ;) but the one on the bed was just fine and now I have an extra shower curtain! The tub was double lined with disposable liners, so after it was drained those got pitched, too. There were two paper grocery sacks full of birth-related trash and that was all the “mess” there was. We used about 10 towels and 3 receiving blankets to dry and clean me and the baby afterwards. Derek did all the laundry that night and by the time the midwife left about 2 hours after the birth you couldn’t tell anything had ever happened! 

“Didn’t you miss the ‘vacation’ of being in the hospital?”
-I think there’s something to be said about having someone wait on you for two full days after having a baby. It is nice. But between Derek and my mom, I felt well taken care of and “waited on.” What I didn’t miss was being woken up by nurses every 4 hours, being chastised for falling asleep while nursing, hard tile floors, hospital food, hospital germs, harsh lighting, an uncomfortable bed, other babies crying and an endless stream of people coming in my room. Oh, and not to mention we got to avoid being in the hospital on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!  

“Is it difficult getting a birth certificate?”
-I was worried about the paperwork; we had heard some horror stories about different counties’ processes. Our county, however, was incredibly efficient and new exactly what they were doing. We had to fill out a 5-6 page questionnaire about the birth, and it took about 30 minutes for her to put everything in the computer. We got her birth certificate that day and a social security card about  a week later. 

“What about all the newborn tests they do in the hospital?”
-We weren’t worried about the Vitamin K or Hepatitis B shots, or the eye drops, since we had refused those even when we  delivered in hospitals. Our midwife did the newborn screen (for genetic deficiencies such as cystic fibrosis, maple syrup disease and sausage fingers) that is required by the state and our pediatrician completed the hearing test. 

"Would you do it again?"
-Well, technically NO, because I am DONE having babies! But I loved what Derek said when I asked him how he thought it went… “I wish we would have done all 3 that way!”  He has said over and over again how it was our best birth experience and how peaceful and calm it was. So yes, if (knock on wood) I ever find myself needing to give birth again, I would do it at home if possible. 

“Do people look at you like you have two heads and three nipples when you tell them you had your baby at home?”

"How is natural childbirth different than having an epidural?"
-I had an epi with my first labor. Obviously, it is nice because you don't feel the pain of the contractions and I can definitely appreciate that. Contrary to some beliefs, women who give birth naturally don't have a super-high pain tolerance or love being in pain. I'm the first one to say that it really, really sucks and I really hope to never have to do it again. But with that being said, I think giving birth naturally is *easier* because of this reason- when you can feel your contractions, especially when it is time to push, you know exactly when and how hard to push. There is no doctor staring at a monitor saying, "Okay, here's a contraction- PUSH!" And I think when there is an epidural, the woman ends up pushing harder than she actually needs to- which leads to more tearing and other unsavory things. That's just my own theory based on my own experience, but it makes sense, too. Not only that, but when there's no epidural and you can move around, gravity is able to do a lot more of the work for you. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that laying flat on your back is not an optimal position for pushing out a baby, right?!

Anyway, that's our story, and I'm sticking to it. If you have any other questions, please ask me! I obviously have no problem baring all the gory details, haha!