It's Your Birthday! Totes' Birth Story
I've meant to share my birth story here for so long but have kept getting distracted from writing it down. The memories are still so fresh but as I recollect my thoughts on the experience, and since have had plenty of time to read other's inspiring stories, I've come to realize that a birth story is so much more than just the long but relatively few hours of labor and delivery. We spend close to ten months preparing for this big event and all those months, but so much more, play a role on the outcome and experience. I think it's important for perspective to share the larger picture of my own.
Our pregnancy with Totes was planned and we spent a relatively short time trying for... a few months really. Upon taking my first pregnancy test, the second line appeared so faintly my husband thought it wasn't positive. We waited a few days and took a second test to be sure. From there, it was pure excitement all around and we couldn't wait to share the good news with family and friends. So many thoughts hit you all at once when you first become pregnant, things you've never had to think of before. But even before the time I became pregnant, I knew that I wanted to deliver without pain medication. Partly because I know how my body tends to react to such strong drugs and I didn't want to be battling severe nausea while trying to focus my attention on the joy of the moment I would be cradling my baby in my arms for the first time. And partly the idea that such strong medication would reach the baby during delivery and effect our first few precious hours of bonding. I've always been a minimalist when it comes to interventions, such as doctors and medication anyway.
When we made the decision it was time for us to start trying to conceive, the first thing I did was interview different OBGYN's. Luckily, it didn't long for me to be referred to Dr. Bohmke and the team at Northwest Women's Healthcare. I immediately felt reassured I would be in the best of hands in this group. The next thing that fell into place was finding a doula that would be there with me through the labor and delivery. This addition was so important to me as I really needed someone that could be there with me the entire time, keep me calm and reassure me that all was going as it should. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that a long time family friend of my husband's was not only a very experienced doula, but was also a Hypnobirthing Practitioner, a class I was intending on taking during my pregnancy. We quickly contacted her and arranged our meetings. She worked with me on a one-on-one basis with the Hypnobirthing techniques using the Mongan Method and also led me through private, Prenatal Bonding sessions in the last half of my pregnancy.
I poured my heart and soul into this pregnancy and was so excited for the changes that were happening to my body and the ones that were coming next. I read and watched everything I could get my hands on. I ate healthy and continued to work out regularly. Since I had just come off training and running two half marathons prior to getting pregnant, I kept running through about 5 months along at a slow pace while monitoring my heart rate, making sure it didn't go too high. I joined a prenatal yoga class and stayed physically active. Although I had the normal aches and sickness that comes with pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimester, overall I felt great.
It was around 32/33 weeks that my doctor became concerned that my belly's fundal height wasn't measuring as large as it should. We initially dismissed it due to my build, being so tall with a long torso. But by 36 weeks, we weren't seeing any increase in size from the previous check. I went in for an ultrasound so they could estimate fluid levels and it showed a very low amount. My doctor ordered me on bedrest for the weekend with more monitoring the following week as an extra precaution. It was at this point that my doctor told me that inevitably, I would be induced early for the health of the baby. I was immediately distraught at the thought of my baby being at risk and also the knowledge that an induction most likely meant I wouldn't have the natural birthing experience I had been envisioning. I had been warned time and time again not to get too attached to a "birth plan" since everything about pregnancy and birth is so unpredictable, but I still let it happen. I had a good cry about it but then shook it off and knew I could still make the best of this situation and that it also meant I would get to meet my little boy earlier than expected! I came to terms with the fact that I would need an epidural, knowing how intense Pitocen would make my contractions. I would do the best I could, but I didn't want to make myself suffer just to prove myself strong.
At the next check a few days later, they estimated the fluid levels had dropped even lower so I was admitted to the hospital and hooked up to an IV for two days. The rest and extra fluids seemed to help as the next check my levels were estimating higher. I was released from the hospital but had to stay on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy. These checks happened every three days over the course of the next two weeks. It was an intense time and I started feeling burnt out with all the prep and anticipation.
On the morning of July 17th, I woke up around 4am and just couldn't get back to sleep. I went downstairs and waited for my husband to wake up. We headed up to the hospital for yet another ultrasound check that morning. He was also feeling a bit burnt out as he had accompanied me to all my ultrasounds over the last few weeks and decided to grab us coffee and pastries while I went into the appointment. I watched as the ultrasound technician searched for fluid pockets on the screen. I had been to enough of these appointments to know that she wasn't finding much. The scan showed a fluid level estimate in the 2cm range (healthy being 8-18cm) and they estimated his weight around 6lbs, 9th percentile. I knew both numbers were cause for high concern and an induction would be following immediately. I walked the results over to my doctor's office and as soon as my doctor had a chance to look through them, she looked at me with a reassuring smile and said, "I think it's a good day to have a baby!" I was put in a wheelchair and transported over to triage. They had me immediately start using a Cook's catheter to encourage dilation and cervical change. It was right around noon and for the rest of the day I was told to just rest. We had a few friends stop by that evening and pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate. At midnight when it was time to remove the catheter, the doctor on call checked my cervix for any progress but not much had changed. We made the decision to insert a second and let me rest overnight.
My doula arrived at the hospital the next morning and we went for a walk outside. By noon it was time to remove the catheter and my doctor had me start on Pitocin. My contractions started, but I wasn't feeling them much. At 3pm, she broke my water. Shortly after that the contractions started coming on stronger so I started using my Hypnobirthing "surge" breathing. I was feeling pressure creeping across the front of my abdomen, but nothing was painful. I realized that if I just closed my eyes and concentrated on what my body was feeling, staying inside, that the contractions would come on more regularly. I also knew that each contraction was progressively bringing me closer to delivery and if they slowed down, I would be given more Pit, so rather than trying to be social with everyone in the room, I put myself into my self-hypnosis state and shut everything out. The next few hours flew by as I felt almost asleep. But around 8pm, the sensations of the contractions had moved down into my lower abdomen/pelvis and I was having a harder time trying to concentrate through them. I sought after alternate methods of comfort... a heated pad behind my back, light touch massage, essential oils. We asked the nurse to prepare the bathtub. I got up to use the toilet and then tub, the change in position brought the sensations of the contractions on much more acutely. Even after getting in the tub, I was struggling to stay as calm as I had been and I asked my husband to order the epidural. I was getting nauseous and feeling the need to dry-heave, the contractions were coming on so strong and fast I had no time in between to catch my breath and recompose myself. What I didn't realize at the time was this was the start of the urge to push. My team encouraged me to have the doctor perform a cervical check before we committed to the epidural to see how far I had progressed. I agreed but my doctor was delayed with another birth and as the minutes ticked by, I begged for the epidural. It was ordered and just after my doctor entered the room and began her check, the anesthesiologist came in with his needle ready. My doctor told us all that I was dilated to 9cm and fully effaced and ready to start pushing anytime. She then turned to the anesthesiologist and told him we didn't need him anymore, he could go! I laid there stunned and unable to speak, knowing this was ultimately what I wanted but so torn! However, I started to relax as the contractions slowed down in frequency and intensity and moved into an urge to push. The change in pace was just enough to allow me to reset and refocus my energy into relaxing my body. For the next hour, I used my "birth breathing" techniques to gently bring the baby down.
My husband's hand was my focal point and I held on to it tightly. I didn't have the ability to communicate to him in words at that moment, but I felt that I could let him know how I was feeling by squeezing his hand with each contraction. Upon suggestion, I attempted to prop myself upright and use the birthing bar but I didn't have the energy to keep myself up and needed to lay down again. Finally, just before 10pm, the room started to buzz as the nurses made the final prep. Just as I was working through the final few pushes, a nurse popped in to the room to inform my doctor of an emergency C-section that she was needed for right away. She then told me "we need to get this baby out now" and directed me into more vigorous pushing. I tried with all my might to activate those pushing muscles and within a minute, I felt the pressure release and heard my doctor say, "Elise, open your eyes and take your baby!" She handed him to me and I placed him right on my chest. He let out a few yells then immediately calmed down and laid there, eyes wide open.
I ended up needing one small internal stitch, probably from pushing harder than I should have. But in the end, I couldn't have been better. He weighed 5lbs, 14oz and was 18" long. Other than being petite, he was perfectly healthy and gained weight steadily, although still to this day is in the first percentile in weight!