Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sophia: A Birth Story

Like Bryson's birth story, this is a few months late. But when you're a mother of a rambunctious four-year-old, a stubborn two-year-old, and a newborn, time passes a little differently. So, without further ado, this is my birth story (starring Sophia).

For my entire pregnancy with Sophia, I had measured perfectly in accordance to my due date. In fact, when we had our 20-week ultrasound, after all the images and measurements, the technician calculated the due date based on the baby's size and it was exactly on my due date. (She said that had never happened to her before - it was always one or two days this way or that.) As I got further along and my midwife would measure my abdomen and uterus with her hands and a tape measure at my weekly or biweekly appointments, and I was always spot on. If I was 36 weeks and 4 days by the calendar, she would announce that I was measuring right at 36 1/2 weeks. 

So when my water broke during the night (just as it had with Bryson and Emma) two days before my due date, my husband and I laughed that after being spot on through the whole pregnancy, her due date wasn't going to be her birthday after all. Little did we know...
Much like my previous two labors, I woke up wet in the middle of the night and my labor progressed slowly. In fact, I let Derek sleep for a couple more hours and waited until a reasonable hour of the morning to call my mom to come watch the older two kids and called the hospital to inform them that my water had broken. (I only felt comfortable waiting because this was my third time around, I had not lost a lot of fluid at this point, and the fluid was clear and didn't have a bad odor - there were no warning signs. I would generally recommend calling your doctor or midwife right away if your water breaks.)
Because my contractions were not strong or close together, my midwife suggested staying at home for the time being, with a plan to come in around 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon if nothing had changed. By then it would be 12 hours past the time when my water broke, and they wanted to examine and monitor me at that point. I paced around the house, bounced and swiveled on my exercise ball, and tried to stay in motion as much as I could. But labor progressed slowly. When 4 o'clock had come, we grabbed the hospital bag and headed out the door. We were admitted into Triage and Derek walked the halls with me as I sipped ice water. 
This next part of the story is short, although the hours were long. Nothing happened.
That's it.
Nothing happened. We stayed in Triage overnight and walked the halls and moved around and tried every natural, homeopathic, approved method (considering that my water had already broken) that we could do to kick-start my labor, but nothing worked. 
When 24 hours had passed since my water broke, any possibility of a water birth was gone. I don't know if it was because I had had next to no sleep for the past two nights (one because my water broke, and the second because we were in a tiny hospital Triage room), or because I'd been wearing enormous, soggy diapers for the last day, or if - with my type-A personality - any change in a set plan (at least in my mind) is difficult to work through, but I really had a moment of grief when we were given this news. It was not what I wanted.
I was allowed to labor in my own way until that afternoon - when the ever-present clock hit 36 hours. At that point, my midwife checked my cervix (for the first time, as there is a risk of introducing infection) and I was at two centimeters. I had been at 1 centimeter at my regular prenatal appointment a few days earlier.
Although my contractions hadn't been particularly painful, and had been spread out, it knocked the wind out of me to find out that I had just labored for the last 36 hours to gain 1 centimeter! We were told that Pitocin - which is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin used to induce or progress labor - would be my next option, followed by a c-section if my labor didn't quickly pick up. 
For anyone who has ever had Pitocin without an epidural, you will believe that my labor did "pick up" quite quickly and intensely. I will spare you most of the details of the bone-crushing contractions that followed, but they were more painful anything I experienced during my other two labors. My body - which shook uncontrollably - seemed to be trying to make up for the time it had previously lost and I went from being at 2 centimeters to having a baby rip through my body and be placed on my chest a mere hour and 45 minutes later.
She came about an hour shy of her due date.
It was not an easy experience. It was not a fun experience. But it was a good experience. 
It was painful, but eye-opening.  
I feel like labor and delivery is one of the big battlegrounds of the Mommy Wars. It is so easy to judge someone for making different 'choices' than you've made - whether it is a natural birth vs. c-section, or breastfeeding vs. bottle, or cloth diapers vs. disposable. But very few times do we actually know the story behind someone's choice. And sometimes, it wasn't their choice at all. My experience was a strong and lasting reminder of that.
If nothing changed in my labor after the Pitocin, I was probably a few hours away from an unscheduled c-section. And if my contractions hadn't been coming so fast and so strong that I couldn't speak, I probably would have asked for an epidural if they'd gone on much longer. 
We use cloth diapers at home because it works for our budget. But if we lived somewhere without our own washer and dryer and I had to go to the laundromat, I absolutely would use disposables. 
We've been able to budget and manage our finances so that I can stay home with our kids. Not everyone has that option.
Staying home has made it much easier to breastfeed my babies. I went back to work after Emma was born until she was six months old, and had to pump at work. Even though I had a very understanding employer and supervisor, I don't know if I could have done it long-term. 
In the end, Sophia is healthy and had no complications through the labor and delivery. I actually had a faster recovery than either of my other labors and was out and about sooner. (I can't say whether that is due to my body actually healing quickly, or because when you have two other little ones, you kind of have to suck it up and keep going even if you would much rather just camp out under your covers for the next month.)
Even though it turned out the same as my other two deliveries, I think this experience is going to stick with my longer. And maybe that's a good thing.

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