Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Amie's birth

August 1985
Auckland, NZ

Labour started at 12.30am after spending a relaxing and loving evening in front of the fire with Gary. I managed to spend the first hour and a half on my own. The contractions weren't too bad but they were too intense to sleep. I breathed through them and rubbed my own back. However, after many trips to the loo, Gary woke up and asked me if I was ok. I took great delight in telling him that I thought it was going to be our baby's birthday that day.

Gary got up and lit the fire. I put some music on. We were chatting about the coming event and getting really excited, wondering whether the baby would be a boy or a girl, wondering whether it would be born before or after breakfast, hoping it would be before morning tea.

Somewhere between 2.30am and 3am we rang Barbara in case things sped up and we needed an extra pair of hands. I waited for Barbara to arrive and say 'hi' before having a bath. She arrived around 3am with a bunch of flowers, a hotty she had taken from one of her children's bed and a tape recorder. It was lovely having some fresh spring flowers. We chatted while Gary showerd her where and how I liked my back rubbed. At about 3.30am we decided that we should ring the Doctor and the midwife to let them know that I was in labour. I wanted to make sure well in advance so that they didn't disappear to another delivery even though I felt awful about waking them. The midwife said that she would be there in half an hour and true to her word she was.

By this stage I had hopped into the bath. Contractions slowed down a little and were less severe but after a little while they built up again although they still remained reasonably comfortable. The midwife just about bent in half leaning over the bath to check the baby's heartbeat which I admired because she could have left it until I got out of the bath. I felt an immediate rapport with her and had a great deal of confidence in her efficiency and willingness to give support.

While I was still in the bath, my sister in law and neice arrived and the children woke up. Kate, Adam and our neice jumped into our bed. By this time it was 4am. It felt really good having so many people around all chatting and laughing. I could hear that the children were happy with their cousin reading them stories and their aunty chatting to them about the coming event. This sort of atmosphere helped me to relax a great deal.

I had been joking with the midwife, saying I was probably only 1 or 2 cm dilated but when she examined me I went from 4 to 6cm. I felt jubilant because of the progress yet lack of excruciating pains. Most unlike my other labours which were both posterior babies. I was still on my feet and coping really well. Gary and the midwife were really supportive, both of them there for each contraction. Gary rubbing my back and the midwife doing accupressure on my ankles. This helped tremendously. It seemed to close the circuit of pain so that it didn't reach the nerve endings.

A little after 5am the contractions started to get pretty heavy. I was examined again. This time I was 8cm. Another friend was rung. It wasn't long before I started feeling fed up with the contractions, nauseous, weepy and a little shitty. Basically I was beginning to feel sorry for myself because the contractions were pretty severe, close together and lasted a while. At this point I wanted my doctor. The midwife wanted to examine me first and I started to get upset.

I was checked and found to have a thick anterior lip. Barbara rang the Doctor and the midwife stayed with me on my request. Which was just as well as things started to happen with a rush. I was upset about the thick anterior lip as I thought that this meant that I would get stuck in transition. Once again the midwife reassured me. Contractions were running into each other and I was having to puff almost continuously. The midwife applied hot pads to the perinium, the waters had just broken. She called out that I would have to puff this baby out. It seemed that everyone was helping me puff, especially Gary and Barbara. Barbara was holding my leg up and yelling at Jill to take a photo. The last contraction lasted 7 minutes. I was still puffing through it when the midwife put Amie on my stomach. Everyone was chorussing 'it's a girl' and 'oh, she's beautiful'. Everyone was so happy, especially me. There were kisses, hugs and tears all round. Kate and Adam were amazing. They weren't phased at all - they just took it how it happened. They were lovely.

It was a wonderful birth and not too painful until the last three quarters of an hour. I attribute the good birth experience largely to all the people around me and to all the positive feelings from everyone, but especially to Gary and the midwife. I could never go through a birth without Gary's support and his knowing me and my physical and emotional needs. I couldn't praise the midwife enough. She was the right person for Amie's birth. She was extremely supportive and efficient with just the right amount of firmness. I never once felt a lack of confidence in her ability. During labour I learnt to trust her without a doubt.

I'm glad that I had so many people around me. The roles they played really helped me to feel relaxed and happy.

Amie is beautiful and looked exactly like Kate at birth only smaller. She weighed 7lb 14oz. I wanted a baby that was under 8lb so that it stayed smaller for that little bit longer. I was in no hurry for her to grow up, I just wanted to enjoy her.

When she was born she gave a initial squeak and then appeared to stop breathing for a minute or two while she lay on my stomach. The midwife suggested that I rub her back and away she went. She let out a good squawk.

For the first time, I didn't need stitches. What joy!

The Doctor and my other friend arrived just a couple of minutes after the birth. It was a shame that they missed it. I would have liked to have had the Doctor present at the birth but I didn't feel upset that he hadn't made it because he was rung as soon as I wanted him. He arrived twenty minutes later which considering that he was in bed and had ten minutes drive ahead of him was pretty good going. What's more he didn't go to the house next door this time. So there was all the haste and no waster of time. Anyhow having him there straight afterwards was just about as important.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Henry's birth

New York
March 20th, 2006 - 11.16pm

One of the reasons why it's taken me so long to post Henry's birth story is that I don't remember much of it. It was 20 hours of labor, 2 hours of pushing at the end, followed by a c-section. In the end, I suppose none of it really matters because Henry is perfect. He was never in any distress. In fact, his heart rate never changed...Was the same 150 it was when he lived in my belly. Henry is healthy and happy and, I'm told, came out screaming like a champ.

But, as a mother, there's a certain amount of guilt (isn't there always?). How can I NOT remember my son's delivery? So, for my own sake, I'm piecing it together. I talk about it a lot with my husband, mostly because I think I'm trying to resolve this guilt. Also because I want to know the little details, the moments, that I think--had I been conscious and/or lucid--I would've been sure to commit to memory. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that it was a long day. Mistah L told me last night that he's glad I don't remember most of the delivery as it was "tough." When I asked "tough for whom? Me or You?" He responded with a hearty "both." So, here's what I've got--a lot of generalities, not much in the time/space continuum, but most of the bases are covered. If I get highly motivated, I'll throw in some pics. And maybe later Mistah L will fill in the blanks.

I started the birth story a while ago, so I'll pick up where I left off. I've cut and paste from my previous, incomplete, post for continuity.

We arrived at the hospital at 8:00 pm to induce Henry. By 9:00 pm, the cervidil was in and we waited. Shortly after midnight the cramps began. By 2:00 am the cramps were contractions, by 3:00 am the contractions were coming regularly between 3 and 5 minutes apart. And the frequency and intensity of these contractions increased throughout the morning.

Both Mistah L and I had felt sad that we never got to have early labor at home. Because I was induced, I never got the chance to wake him up in the middle of the night saying, "Honey, wake up. It's time." There was no middle-of-the night phone call to the in-laws to say "It's time!" Although, for the three weeks leading up to Henry's delivery, every time we called them we had to start each conversation with, "I'm not in labor, but..." So when the cramping started, I was so happy to wake Mistah L up and finally, finally, get to tell him, "Honey? They've started. We're in labor." And being the dork that I am, I took a picture of him right after I woke him up.

I loved early labor. LOVED it. I can't remember a time that I've ever felt so close to my husband. We were bringing our son into the world. Wild! And we were doing it together. He walked with me around the labor & delivery floor, he ran down to the cafeteria to heat up my sock full of rice (sock full o' rice was KEY to my comfort as my labor progressed and my contractions increased in severity/frequency). He sat in the rocking chair, and I on our birthing ball and we held each other, breathing in and out through the contractions. I think we both cried a little. Happy tears. Tears of anxiety. Tears of anticipation. It was go time. It was Henry Time.

We saw the sun rise over the Brooklyn Bridge on the morning of what was to become our son's birthday. Ever since we moved to Brooklyn, Mistah L and I have held a mutual admiration for the bridge. We discussed how it was our favorite bridge, and how bizarre it is to even have a favorite bridge. The sunrise was beautiful and the sky was this gorgeous steely blue turning purple and pink and the clouds were amazing.

Around 7:30 am, the residents came through and checked dilation. Heartbreakingly, dilation had only increased--maybe--a half centimeter. My OB decided to go ahead and administer the pitocin and see what happened. OB said, "well, you've had no change in dilation, but we'll go ahead with the pitocin and see what happens. If there's been no change by 5:00 tonight, we'll send you home."

"SEND ME HOME? Oh no. There'll be no sending me home. No sending me home...Without my son. None. No. None of that. Thank you."

So the pitocin started and within the next hour or so I could definitely feel the intensity and frequency of the contractions increasing. And the pain. Oh, the pain.

The breathing helped and I was so happy to have brought my boom box. Mistah L had worked on a delivery mix for weeks and weeks--all in all we collected about 5 hours of music to guide me through labor. And thank goodness for that, it gave me something to pay attention to.

I've lost track of time at this point and the next thing I can remember is all of my in-laws coming in to the suit. I had expected my m-I-l; I had asked her to be with us as a birthing coach having had 2 children and wicked sense of humor. My f-I-l came with a giant book of Soduko puzzles to keep him occupied as I brought his grandson in to the world. My s-I-l had arrived from Vermont the previous Friday, knowing I was to be induced on Sunday. I knew my grandparents-in-law would come to visit, most likely after Henry was born....But there they were. Grandma and PopPop, they brought the chicken broth, as requested.

I distinctly recall hanging on to the side of the bed for dear life and breathing through a contraction as the whole family piled in to my labor and delivery suite. I'm not so sure that I eked out a proper greeting but thankfully, they'd called ahead and I was prepared to be decent. No coochie hanging out of my gown or anything. Yet. From there, things go hazy and time compresses. [[A lot of what I remember of the event comes to me in bits and pieces and some of it is repetition of what the family has told me. Never in my life would I ever say that 20 hours went by so quickly!]]

Because I had tested GBS positive, the OB wanted to keep my internal exams to a minimum to reduce the introduction of bacteria in to my lady parts. But the next exam showed I had increased to 3 centimeters. I was beginning to be vocal in my contractions--and certainly no longer talk through them. A resident asked me if I wanted something for the pain--I hedged. I wanted to wait until I was at least 5 cms before taking the epidural. She was waiting for me to ask her for the epidural, I was waiting for her to ask me for the epidural. We seemed to be at an impasse. Who would budge?

Meanwhile, as my OB sat at the end of the bed and we discussed my progress I had the most bizarre sensation. Like a pop, only much much bigger. Then wet and warm, like pee, but I couldn't stop it. And I said as much. My OB wondered if my water had broken and I said I sure thought so. Inside, I was elated as I knew I wouldn't be going home without my baby. I would meet Henry that day. Hooray! But the OB and my husband looked and said "nope." They didn't see any fluid. But I insisted. I could feel it. It kept coming. Twice they looked at me as though I were nuts. Then the OB decided to ask me to lift my hips and sure enough: water. And lots of it. I was so proud!

But only 3 lousy cms?! After 12 hours of labor? And let. me. tell. you: I was in pain. P.A.I.N. PAIN. I caved and accepted the narcotic. But I was sure to ask for only half the normal dosage as I don't react well to narcotics, recreational or otherwise. They obliged.

I had been so dead set against taking a narcotic--I didn't want to be dopey when I first met my son, how ever he came into the world. I thought, truly, that I could tough it out for the first 4 or 5 centimeters. I mean, how bad could it be? Well, sooooprise soooprise. Bad. Ouch doesn't cover it.

Immediately, I had that horrible sensation I had the first time I ever got drunk and had to call my friend Matt, my only friend with a car, to come and get me and he shows up with his parents. I sat in the back seat, totally polluted from drinking Schnapps and tequila and thinking "if I'm silent, they'll know I'm drunk" and then spent a half hour blabbering on about something.

Anywhoo, I get the narcotic. Instantly I shut up, because I knew I was slurring and I couldn't focus my eyes. I pass out.

I woke up every 5 minutes or so, for the most intense part of the contraction then would pass out cold. All the while, Mistah L was at my side holding my hand and both my m-I-l and s-I-l were on either side of me. All telling me to breathe. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I'm told by my family that I cursed a blue streak and my humor was on fire. At one point, I pulled myself up by Mistah L's collar and screamed "This. Breathing. Isn't. Doing. Shit. For. Me." and passed out cold.
I mean really? Breathe? I don't think so. That was some pain.

I know I was screaming my head off and I didn't care. There would be no self-editing now. And modesty was long gone. This shit HURT. I hollered.

A resident came in and said "I heard you in Brooklyn. Is it time for the epidural now?"

"Oh yes. Yes it is" said I.

Help was on the way.

The anesthesiologist arrives and kicks everyone out. There was a little scuffle between he and I. In the end, Mistah L was allowed to stay. And our birthing music mix happens to land, ironically, on "Comfortably Numb" and the anesthesiologist says he's done thousands of epidurals, but never once has he done one to Pink Floyd.
I 6 cms dilated. Then I blew through to 9 cms in no time flat. And we were off to the races.

Then it was time to push...the epidural was kind of freaking me out. I really don't know what I had expected, but I hadn't expected NOT to feel my entire lower half. I felt pins and needles. Actually, I felt like I was floating on a raft in a pool. Only the raft was my legs. I could feel my legs with my hands, but I couldn't feel my hands with my legs. And I was starting to break through my narcotic haze. It was the most bizarre feeling. The only way I could describe it to my s-I-l, when she asked what it was like, was that it was like the highest I'd ever been. Everything seemed so quiet around me, and I was so focused. I could only pay attention to one thing at a time--everything else just fell away. I could only focus on one voice at a time, only do one thing at a time. It felt like my brain was cold and things were just slowing down. Go time.

The pitocin was kicked up a notch--and as my pushing continued, the pitocin would continue to be pushed up. And up. My OB sat at the edge of the bed and she coached me through pushing. I couldn't feel anything, and it sure didn't feel like what I had expected. I had expected to be able to feel pressure, but I couldn't feel a thing. It was weird because I couldn't independently move my legs, so when it was time to push, I couldn't use my feet and legs as leverage. My husband stayed my head while my m-I-l and s-I-l each took a leg and I pushedpushedpushed for 2 hours. It seemed like I was making progress--I could see Henry's head. I remember the OB saying "Oooh, he's got strawberry blonde hair!" And I was so excited because in my dream, Henry had red curly hair. But not red red, strawberry blonde.

But then the progress stopped. Henry wasn't budging. Despite the pitocin being turned up to eleven, so to speak, my body just kind of got used to the contractions and they slowed down.

I was exhausted. EXHAUSTED. I'd been awake for 36 hours or so and my body'd been through the wringer. I knew what was coming, but I didn't want to be told. So I said it. I said it first.

"This baby isn't coming out on his own, is it?"

My OB looked truly disappointed and sad to say "No. No he's not."

I can't say I was surprised--rationally, we knew it was possible given my husband's size when he was born. And given the fact that this was an induced delivery and odds of a c-section increase. So I felt fully prepared for the possibility. But...

The epidural was turned off. The pitocin was turned off. I was being prepped for surgery.

And then it came: the intense wave of disappointment. I had tried so hard to be brave the whole day. In the face of my husband and his whole family...I wanted to be brave and I wanted so much for everyone to be proud of me. The wave just came and took over and I cried. I bawled.

The nurses hurried around me and prepped me for the OR. Mistah L got his little suit so he could come in with me. The suit was way too small for him and there was a fair amount of hilarity surrounding that. Which was nice, a little comedic relief to take the pressure off of me.

The OR was ready for me, everyone was in place...Henry, here we come!

My epidural had been turned down/off because I couldn't feel anything to help when pushing, and I was beginning to get the feeling back in my lower half.

And just as I was about to be wheeled in to the OR, the OB came to say that there had been an emergency next door--another baby had gone in to distress. I was bumped from the list... which was fine by me, I wasn't in any pain at that point. Since the pitocin had been turned off, I wasn't having contractions. They said it would be about another 45 minutes until it was my turn. And honestly? What's another 45 minutes when it's already been 20 HOURS...

And then they came. The contractions came on like a motherf*cker. With no epidural. Or amniotic fluid to cushion the blow. The back labor was so intense. It started with a small back ache--I figured it was just from lying in bed all day or that I had pulled a muscle pushing. All completely understandable and reasonable explanations for the pain that was intensifying and radiating.

Then I was just in hell.

I was screaming with each contractions, which were coming very fast and very furious. The pain was the worst pain I'd ever felt. As my friend Erin once said, I don't even know why they bother calling it pain because it's just so far beyond any pain you've ever had.

I was screaming at the top of my lungs, and crying, and not breathing very well. The nurses had scattered. There was only one anesthesiologist on duty, and he was in the OR with the emergency c-section lady. And my nurse, the mean one, kept telling me that. "It was an emergency, she needed to go first." I yelled at this nurse, and Mistah L kicked her out of the room. I understood it was an emergency, and that's fine. But good god damn, that doesn't do me any freakin' good and it doesn't help my PAIN SITUATION DOES IT?

This was the only time I saw anyone in my family break. I looked over and saw both my m-I-l and s-I-l silently crying. And Mistah L had his head down. This couldn't have been easy for any of them to see, me in that kind of pain. All day they had been so strong for me, supporting me and coaching me and we were so close to the end. But the agony was unbearable.

Finally, FINALLY, the anesthesiologist came running in the room and the blessed epidural was, again, turned up to eleven.

What was supposed to be 45 minutes had turned out to be more than 2 hours of intense back labor, entirely drug-free. Feh.

When the OB came back in the room to tell us that the other lady had been delivered and we were next, I looked at the clock, it was 11:00pm. I looked at the doc and said, "this baby WILL be delivered before midnight." I wanted so much for him to be born on the first day of spring.

And then I was wheeled down the hall and I don't remember much after that at all. I puked in the OR for about 5 minutes, must've been from the morphine on an empty stomach.

I felt a lot of pressure and pulling and tugging and I heard a baby wailing far off. It was my baby. My Henry.

Henry was finally here.

View the story at The house of H for more pictures, and to read what Henry has been doing since!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Adam's birth

October, 1982.
Auckland, NZ.

(Written by the neighbour, who was the support person at the birth. Submitted by Michelle - Adam's mother).

It was a stormy night. My husband thought that our neighbour's baby would come that night 'male intuition'. I hoped it would be. I was getting quite nervous and excited myself. It was quite frustrating at times trying to console a fed-up preggy lady. There was not much I could do.

It seemed like an age ago that my neighbours said that they would like to have their baby at home and would I feel willing and able to be the support lady - she who's listened and read but never conceived. It was a scary exciting honour. One which didn't feel too real initially, too far away and then there were complications in that Adam was breech and it seemed as though the home birth was not going to be possible. My prattling about at least it will be good to have a decision made one way or the other - maybe inwardly hoping it would have to be at the hospital. But it isn't going to be and I'm very glad.

Adam John was born at 8.05am Saturday. Earlier that morning just after 4am Gary rang to say that this was really it this time. Surprising how calm and awake I felt. Into the shower, out into clothes and over next door to find lights on, Kate asleep and Michelle hugging herself in a warm deep bath. Castor oil had rather drastically done the trick at last. Checked up I had the phone numbers I needed and sat to await my orders. As contractions came, Gary and I massaged Michelle's back down through the water. Michelle asking if I'd ever seen a nuddy pregnant lady before, big stretched taut tummy. I left the bathroom to make the big bed ready for after delivery and Michelle's nauseous innards proved too much again. The midwife was still on her way. As we helped Michelle out of the bath and into a nightie, light was starting to tinge the sky. in the playroom / delivery room a fire cheerfully crackled and warmed the room. 27 month old Kate slept on in the next room. This was very useful. To date Michelle was breathing beautifully through her contractions. The midwife arrived and I helped her up with all her bags, boxes of instruments, and linen. It took two trips each. She quietly set up her gear while inquiring how things were progressing and then checked Michelle's pulse, and blood pressure and listened for the feotal heartbeat. THEN the 1st internal to see how things were going. The cervix had dilated only 5cm. Disbelief and dismay showed on Michelle's face. Lots of encouragement was needed now.
Gary and I were massaging with contractions. It was much lighter now outside, quite lovely. 7 o'clock and Kate awakes sleepy, bemused and wide eyed at Mummy on her delivery bed. We decided at this stage Gary was better with Kate and Michelle with me - just until she woke up more. Contractions were longer and more intense now. Gary was getting anxious so I grabbed a pile of books and headed into the lounge with Kate. The midwife rejoined Michelle and stayed with her. From here things obviously moved more quickly. Kate and I read stories while the breathing from the other room became deeper and closer together. The midwife came out to ring the doctor as Michelle was 8-9cm dilated.
Kate and I had a big cuddle and talked about Mummy's need to concentrate very hard on her breathing to help the baby be born and I showed her what I meant. Minutes, even seconds later, the midwife was back on the phone saying to the doctor "it's all go", Michelle sounded frantic and near the end of her tether. Things quietened down and Gary called for Kate and I to go in. Kate was wide eyed in my arms. The midwife had her hand resting on Michelle's fully stretched vagina and I realised the black hairiness underneath it was the baby's head. I felt calm and accepting of what was about to come. Katie was in need of gentle reassuring and we started to tell her that the baby was coming. She remained quiet and calm in my arms. No mirror, out we both went to grab the mirror so Michelle and Gary (who was at Michelle's head) could see the baby arrive. And he did - a calm serene beautiful head followed in a shoosh of liquid by a perfectly complete body. As the midwife gently lifted him onto Michelle I saq dangly balls. "It's a boy". Hugs, tears and kisses all round. Gary and Michelle looked so proud of their son. Kate was reunited with Dad. A quiet peaceful happy time. Contractions continued and a large thick blood filled placenta rolled out to be examined and bowled for later planting under the big Kauri tree. Adam came into the world in such a hurry that Michelle had a tear that needed stitching. The doctor arrived in time to deal with this. I resumed my role of drink provider and watched all the wind up checks and weighing. It was over and contrary to Michelle's comments, a short safe delivery. We were all well prepared (including Kate). I felt a real sense of calm and strength throughout. I never seemed to doubt things would go well and I tried to pass some of those feelings to Michelle. Kate was reassured by my explanations of what was going on and took the whole birth in her stride amazingly well. She gradually warmed to the reality or a baby brother as the day went by. Gary was.... indescribably quiet, patient, caring. It was lovely to see a family united in birth, to see Gary's pride in Michelle and Kate, and his new son Adam.