Thursday, October 3, 2013
Maggie May's Birth Story
Leading up to Maggie's birth, I had a lot of mixed emotions. One was the ever present Mommy guilt. I was having such a hard time with the fact that my me and Ray time was going to come to a screeching halt. I love our son so much-- he's such a kind, funny, loving soul and I feared I couldn't love Maggie in the same way. I loathed the fact that I wouldn't be able to pick him up for several weeks after the birth and I was super concerned about what he would think of this new little (crying, nursing, pooping) being in our lives.
The other predominant emotion was fear-- fear of a natural labor and delivery. As her due date approached, I kept thinking-- "What the hell am I thinking?! Do I really want to do this again?!" No matter how you go about it, giving birth is hard--period. And because I'd already been through a natural birth with Ray, my innocence was gone and I thought I knew what I could expect. Rather than being empowered by my wisdom, I was afraid of it. Logically, I knew I could handle whatever came my way (thank goodness for pain coping hormones!), but emotionally, I was having a hard time. No amount of reviewing my Bradley Method workbook or re-watching The Business of Being Born could relieve this.
On Monday, September 9th, I had my 39 week appointment with our midwife, Susie Meeks. We went through the usual routine (checking my urine, blood pressure, fundal measurement, etc.) and then we got to the point where she was feeling for baby's head. I looked at her face and saw concern. Out came the heart rate doppler and sure enough, baby had turned breech. With it being so far along into my pregnancy, we were super worried about what this might mean in terms of our plans for a home birth. After Susie left, I went about doing everything I could do to get her to turn-- breech tilts galore and even laying on an inclined ironing board with my feet above my head (which is super uncomfortable by the way...). I saw my chiropractor and made an appointment with my acupuncturist.
On Tuesday, Susie and I went to see Dr. Shawn Stallings, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine physician specializing in Perinatology. Basically, we wanted to consult with him to see if baby and I would be good candidates for an external version. This is a (very uncomfortable) procedure where the doctor manually tries to get baby to turn. There are risks involved in having this procedure performed, including placenta rupture and having the baby go into distress, which could lead to an emergency C-section. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled to have to think about having the procedure, but if it meant she might turn and we could have the home birth we envisioned, then so be it. The ultrasound showed she was still breech, and given my healthy birth history, we were indeed fantastic candidates for the version. An appointment was set at Centennial Women's Hospital the next morning at 10am. I really struggled that night. I cried and cried, incredibly afraid that we may be facing a C-section. And in my fragile state, I am ashamed to admit that I was irrationally mad at my daughter. She clearly had room to turn, so why was she playing with us so?! (I know, I know... it sounds crazy, but this is honestly what I was thinking...)
The next morning, before we were supposed to show up to the hospital, I met my acupuncturist at her home. She worked her magic and amazingly, in the 90 minutes from the time I saw her to the time I was hooked up to the ultrasound machine to check Maggie's position, she had turned. Susie, Rich, and I all screamed with joy! Dr. Stallings looked at me and said, "What did you do?!" I said, "Acupuncture!" Thank you, thank you, thank you Peggy Watson! From there, Rich and I went on an afternoon lunch date-- our last one before Maggie made her appearance and we became a family of four.
Keep in mind that in addition to the roller coaster of emotions we were feeling regarding Maggie's breech position, I was also experiencing early labor signs starting Monday night. I woke up about once every hour Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights with mild contractions. I was also slowly losing my mucous plug. When Susie checked me on Thursday afternoon, I was 3cm dilated and 80% effaced. Thinking back to Ray's birth, once I got to 4cm with him, he was born within 2 hours, so I was confident she would be born that night or early the next morning.
With Ray at his nanny's house, our dog with friends, our home freshly cleaned, and all my birthing supplies accounted for, I felt free to let the labor process begin. Two hours after Susie left, my contractions started to ramp up. We called Susie and our doula, Lauren Cardwell. Lauren arrived at 7pm and Susie and her assistant, Cindy Duncan, arrived at 7:30pm. At this point, I was working through the contractions in the living room, sitting on the birthing ball while Rich helped with the lower back pain by pressing into my hip bones and Lauren was working her magic with aromatherapy and massage. The atmosphere was peaceful and calm.
Susie checked me at 7:50pm and I was 4cm, 90% effaced. We moved into the bedroom. By 9:35pm, I was 5cm, still 90% effaced with a "bulging bag of waters." With Ray, my water didn't break until right before he was born, and with Maggie, my water broke around 10:15pm while Rich and I were in the shower. The hot water felt awesome and I love that my water broke in a place where no cleanup was involved! My mantra became "Open up. Let go." I was really trying to surrender to encourage the labor process.
After my water broke, Susie told me that she wouldn't be checking me until I felt the overwhelming urge to push (checking after your water breaks can lead to a greater risk of infection to baby). I kept waiting and waiting for this feeling and it just wouldn't come. I started to get shaky, had to go to the bathroom a lot, and I headed into transition. When I started to feel a little pushy, Susie checked me. I was 9.5cm, 100% effaced with Maggie at 0 station. That overwhelming urge to push still didn't come.
I lost track of time, but I knew that this labor was going on longer than expected and I was exhausted. Lauren encouraged me to get some rest through the wee hours of the morning. I'd heard of women losing dilation, and I feared that this would happen if we didn't charge ahead. I expressed this fear to Lauren and she assured me that that only happens if a woman is in danger. Resting would not jeopardize the progress we'd made thus far. So, I gave in. The house became silent as everyone tried to rest. I was laying on my side in the bed with Rich next to me. Lauren was right there too. My contractions spaced out, but when they came, they were so intense. I grabbed Rich, often shouting out, "Wake up!" as I frantically searched for his hand to place on my hip to help with the labor pains.
This goes on for what feels like hours and I start to think that this will never stop. Light started to peek through the window shades. I looked at Lauren and said, "I think I need to cry." She responded, "Well, then, let's do it." And I just sobbed. This is so incredibly hard. So much harder than my first birth and the mind fuck of it all is that we're told over and over again that your second happens much faster than with your first. Lauren looked me in the eye and with her calm, reassuring demeanor told me about the birth of her first child. She shared that when she arrived at the hospital at 1am, she was 9cm dilated, but baby wasn't born until 7am, so she could relate to and completely empathize with what I was going through. Her sharing this with me gave me strength. She also told me that she was a firm believer in the power of the morning and we were going to shift the energy in the house. She commanded Rich to get up, get some coffee on, wake up the midwives, open the shades, and put on some energetic music (I chose my Justin Timberlake station on my Pandora). We were going to have a baby this morning!
Susie checked me at 6:40am and discovered that Maggie's descent was being held back by a forebag. What this means is that when my water broke, it broke at the top of the bag, but the bottom part remained in tact. Susie swiftly broke my forebag and Maggie immediately descended. Susie worked to push back the remaining lip of my cervix and at this point, I'm ready to push. I'm in a side lying position and although I'm elated that this is almost over, I am still incredibly exhausted. It literally takes every ounce of energy I have to push Maggie out into the world. And it hurt. Way more than I remember with Ray. The ring of fire was way more intense and so that I didn't "blast her out," I really had to slow down and breathe my way through it.
When she finally emerged at 7:10am (to a JT song followed by Michael Jackson's Bad), I felt immediate relief and the first words out of my mouth were "We might want to reconsider having that third." Everyone laughed. Rich was crying with joy. She was beautiful with a perfectly round head. Her umbilical cord was unbelievably short and thick-- the best we could do was lay her on my thighs while the cord blood pulsed. Finally, Rich was able to cut the cord and he was able to hold her while the midwives attended to me. The placenta was born 10 minutes later. I was in pretty great shape with only a first degree tear on my left side. Once I got stitched up (with a Pitocin shot and Cytotec suppositories to boot to stop some excessive bleeding), I was finally able to hold her. She nursed immediately and to my pleasant surprise, her latch was a solid one.
My friends and family remember what a hard time Ray and I had nursing. The poor kid didn't get back up to his birth weight until after he was over a month old. Maggie blew past her birth weight (8 lbs, 8 oz, 20.5 inches) in one week, weighing 8 lbs, 12 oz. At her two week well baby visit, she weighed 9 lbs, 6 oz! Go us!
With Ray, I had a fast and furious birth once I got into active labor, but the postpartum period was really challenging. With Maggie, I faced the biggest challenge of my life (being in transition for 4.5+ hours is no joke!) in bringing her into the world, but so far, my postpartum experience with her has been relatively stress free. She nurses and sleeps well, except for when she's gassy. And we're bonding well. My fear of not being able to love her like I love Ray has been erased. I love her more with each passing day. I so appreciate her gentle, easy going demeanor and it doesn't take away from the love I have for my son. Having Maggie has taught me that a woman's heart, just like our bodies, is miraculous in its ability to expand.
I am so thankful for my two beautiful, healthy children and my amazingly supportive husband. I am also so grateful for our amazing birth team. You all are truly doing God's work and in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, September 13th, you were my angels.
I'm still reconsidering the prospect of a third and for now, I'm just settling into being the mother of two, which is just as it should be.