Sunday, April 28, 2013

Birthing Charlotte

Since having my own children, I love hearing birth stories. Love, love, love. Birth is so incredible, and I love hearing every woman's experience, whether it was a natural birth, medicated birth, c-section or adoption. How you welcome your child into your lives is a monumental experience.

Fair warning: This gets a little TMI. Right from the get-go. So if you don't want to hear about my reproductive organs and all the nitty gritty details of labor, I advise you stop reading right now.

Also, if you're so inclined, you can revisit Will's birth story.


Charlotte's birth story really begins the day before she was born. At my 38 week OB appointment that Monday, our midwife recommended sex to help induce labor. Although I wasn't yet overdue, I had carried Charlotte almost a week longer than I had carried Will. I was exhausted, huge and ready to meet our little girl.

On Tuesday, I decided I'd had enough. Although I was gigantic, and the thought of sex at 9 months pregnant wasn't super appealing, it sounded better than being pregnant any longer. So we gave it a shot. Honestly, I was skeptical that it would do anything. Little did we know, it would take less than 7 hours for labor to begin.

I woke up about 5:00 AM on Wednesday morning with a contraction. It wasn't severe, but it was there. I was about to drift back asleep, when I felt another one just a few minutes later. Then another. I grabbed Ben's iPad and started timing my contractions with this awesome contraction counter. After about 15 minutes of timing, I realized I was having very regular contractions every 4-5 minutes, each lasting 30-40 seconds in length. This got my attention. Excited, I hopped out of bed and started walking around the house. It was about 6:00 AM.

We had been expecting a winter storm overnight, which delivered lots of rain, snow and sleet. As the sun came up, I realized that everything was covered in about 1/4" of ice. My contractions were getting a bit closer together (3-4 minutes) and longer (40-60 seconds). Not knowing how the roads were, we decided to phone the on-call nurse at 6:30 AM. She agreed that given my fast labor with Will and the questionable road conditions, we should probably come in. I had intended to labor at home longer, but we didn't want to risk it with the weather. We called Ben's mom to come up and watch Will, and prepared to go to the hospital.

Grandma arrived at our house around 7:30 AM. We kissed Will, grabbed the hospital bag and headed out the door. Luckily, the roads weren't awful, but we got detoured due to standing water and street flooding. After some creative driving, we got to the hospital a little before 8:00 AM.

We got checked in and met our nurses. A cervical check revealed that I was three, nearly four centimeters dilated. I had to be on the monitor for 30 minutes, so I got settled in bed and watched The Today Show. My contractions weren't terribly painful yet, but I was beginning to use relaxation breathing to get through them.

Once my time on the monitor was up (around 9:00 AM), Ben and I started walking the halls. The birth ward is one huge rectangle, so we paced around and around and around, stopping to sway and breathe through contractions. Every few laps, the nurse had me come back into the room to check the baby's heart rate. Luckily I didn't have to get in bed for these checks, as my contractions were getting really uncomfortable unless I was standing and swaying. It was nice to have so much freedom to move. The nurses were really accommodating of our birth plan and birth wishes.

Our midwife checked in with us throughout the morning, often walking the halls right alongside us. This is probably the greatest difference between Charlotte's birth and Will's birth... our midwife was so present. When Will was born, the on-call doctor came in at the last possible moment, caught Will, stitched me up and left. But our midwife was more like a partner in the birth. She was with us virtually all day.

Around 12:00 PM, I got really tired and nauseous. We went back to our room so I could lay down and listen to music. After about 20-30 minutes, I made myself get back and keep moving, as I knew that would help move labor along. We made a few laps around the birth ward, but the contractions were getting really intense. I had some pressure in my bottom, but I wasn't yet experiencing the urge to push. I didn't want to be walking anymore, so we headed back to the room.

Back in the room I just couldn't get comfortable, so our midwife set up the birthing bar for me to lean on and work through some of the pain. I had my arms resting on the bar with my bottom out, swaying my hips to try and drop the baby down. It was about 1:00 PM at this point, and the contractions felt like they were coming non-stop. There was no relief. It seemed like my body was being pushed to the limit.

Although I still didn't feel the overwhelming urge to push, I needed to do something to keep labor moving. The pressure in my bottom was getting more intense, so I got on my back and grabbed my legs for a few contractions. Although this is how I pushed Will out, it felt all wrong this time. I couldn't articulate what I needed or how I wanted to labor. All I knew was that this wasn't right.

Our midwife suggested that I use the birthing bar to labor in a squatting position. The baby still had to clear the turn around my pubic bone, so the midwife coached me to stand and squat with the contractions to allow gravity to help us along. I never would have initiated this, but it was the perfect position for this labor and this baby. It actually felt good to push in this position, and I could feel myself making progress.

At this point my water still hadn't broken, and we were starting to think the baby might be born with the bag intact (how cool would that be?!?). But suddenly my water broke, splashing Ben and the midwife and scaring the shit out of me. It made a audible "pop," relieving a ton of pressure. All of a sudden, I felt the baby drop very low, very quickly.

My contractions had been pretty brutal for several hours, but after my water broke they started to feel unbearable. In fact, the contractions were so cripplingly painful that I felt like I couldn't push during them. However, I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to push between contractions. So my body would push then I would push. It was basically like laboring non-stop.

I started hyperventilating and telling the nurses that I couldn't feel my hands. They had to coach me to slow down my breathing. I don't remember much from this stage, except that I felt very out of control. It was as if the labor was happening independent of me, and all I could do was surrender to it.

After my water broke, things moved very fast. Once she made the turn around my pubic bone, she was born in just a few pushes. The midwife said she pretty much "crashed" out of me.

Ben wanted to catch the baby, so as she started crowning, he moved to the bottom of the bed to assist the midwife. Even though Charlotte born born with her hands by her face, crowning wasn't as painful this time around. I distinctly felt the "ring of fire" when Will was born, but this time it felt more like intense pressure. The midwife said I tore in almost the exact same place as with Will, so I suppose the skin was already stretched to accommodate.

Knowing we were almost done, I gave it everything I had. Every last ounce of strength I could muster. I heard the midwife say her head was out, and she asked me to stop pushing so she could check the baby's neck for the cord. Then I gave it one last push to clear her shoulders. I felt her slip out of me and instantly all the pain went away. It's an incredible thing to go from the most pain you've ever felt to the most joy in a matter of seconds.

She was wailing as they put her on my chest. Her little face was purple and bruised from her fast delivery. I marveled at all of her dark hair. Her tiny, long fingers. She was absolutely perfect.

This time we were able to wait until the cord stop pulsating before it was clamped and cut (this wish was ignored by the on-call doctor during Will's birth). I enjoyed cuddles with Charlotte as the midwife waited for my placenta to deliver. She started rooting for the breast and latched just a few minutes after she was born.

After delivery, I started hemorrhaging pretty severely, so the midwife gave me a shot of Pitocin and then a Cytotec suppository to help control the bleeding. I also needed a few stitches to repair a small tear.

Charlotte's birth was much harder than Will's... very intense right from the get-go. Although I felt very empowered after Will was born, I vowed to never give birth again in the minutes after Charlotte was born. As it turns out, that decision may have been made for me... I've since developed a delivery complication that may prevent us from having more children. But that's for another post.

Above anything else, we're so thrilled our sweet Charlotte is here. Her arrival was dramatic (to say the least), but she couldn't be more mello and content. We're loving this time with our sweet, cuddly little girl.

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