Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Along Came Eli {Our Natural Birth Story}

Ever since being a little girl, I always knew I desired a natural birth. The process of delivering seemed so intimate to me, so sacred, that I never doubted my desire to feel every moment of that miracle. What I didn't know (at least not until watching "The Business of Being Born") was that I would want a non-hospital birth.


The girl who loved graveyard shifts at the ER and once upon a time was on the white coat track, decided that shunning modern medicine's approach to labor and delivery was the right choice. Did my doctor friends scoff and warn me? Did my parents and friends regale me with natural birth gone wrong horror stories? You bet they did. But I desired an approach that viewed pregnancy apart from pathology. I wanted to listen to my body (not hospital policy) as I labored. I wanted to eat and to drink and to bring my baby into the world in as calm and collected an environment as possible. "No ice chips or IV's for this Mama" was my mantra.

Now all of that being said, I am a huge proponent of every woman making the choice that she deems best for herself and her baby. There are no crowns in Heaven for not having an epidural. I just didn't want that for my labor. To each their own.

I was ordered to bed rest at 35 weeks. By 37 weeks I was going out of my mind. Having watched every Frasier episode I had desperately (ashamedly) resorted to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Desperate times calls for desperate measures, folks!  Just when I thought things couldn't get worse, in the early hours of the morning I hit the 39th week, I awoke to a distinct "pop" and felt an immediate flood of warmth. "Great, now I'm wetting myself too!" I thought to myself. You see there are many things that are not relayed to a girl about the pregnancy process-it's not all pickles and ice cream.

I jumped out of bed and the gushing continued. Perspective and panic set in. As I excitedly yelled to a slumbering Hubs, "My water just broke! We're having a baby today!", he had the presence of mind to inform me that I was ruining the wood floors and needed to stand on the tile. He's my rock I tell ya!

Not wanting to panic, and following the written orders from our Midwife, we called the Birth Center and left a message informing them that labor had begun. I headed for the shower. I wasn't sure when I would get the chance to bathe again since newborns are know attention seekers and I wanted to look presentable for my baby. While in the shower contractions became more intense and well within the 5 minute window. An hour later, and still no response from the Birth Center, we decided to call again. While not wanting to be an alarmist, I also didn't want to have a home birth (I like my sheets too much).

This time the Midwife answered, she told us to get in the car and get to the center as fast as possible. That's when things started to "Get Real". We live half an hour away from the Birth Center and every railroad track known to man has been placed between our house and the Birth Center. I felt that!

Once we arrived at the Birth Center it was immediately into the tub for me. Unfortunately, as another woman was in labor and the "good room" was taken, the only tub available was a Victorian claw foot number (WHAT where they thinking?!). Our Midwife instructed me to moan a la monk in a monastery chanting style and to focus on my breathing. While the monk approach absolutely helps numb the pain of contractions, the bathtub was a complete disaster. In fact, that bathtub is where I had my first inkling of doubt over my competency in choosing a non hospital birth. I believe my exact thought was " Oh, Lord. What did I do?".

So we ditched the tub and transferred to the bed. It was then that I realized our birth photographer had been in the room the whole time. We have some amazing pictures because of her, you'll never see them but trust me, they would blow your mind. I do highly recommend a birth photographer. Your better half will be too in the moment to document and your hormones will prevent you from remembering exactly what happened. You'll appreciate the proof.

Laboring on the bed was much more comfortable. Labor is no "walk in the park" (I mean let's face it-they use terms like "ring of fire" to describe what crowning feels like). Still, your body knows what it's doing and the most comfortable position will become instinctively apparent to you once you focus on your body and the work it's doing. I tried every position under the sun...standing, squatting, on my side, on my knees, on the yoga ball. I finally settled on the most conventional position of all-flat on my back, knees to my chin.

Just a mere 3 hours from when my water broke, I was already sitting pretty at 7cm dilation. Throw in a few rounds of contractions and baby Eli was ready to make his debut. This is where I experienced my second major moment of self doubt: The Ring of Fire. Oh they nailed it, that is EXACTLY what it feels like! No matter how high your "pain tolerance" is, at some point every woman in labor will express this exact sentiment: "Get him out!". Don't delude yourself. I have a "high pain tolerance". I delivered a 9 lb 2 oz baby in under 6 hours with no meds. I still said it and I still defend it.

At some point in your labor, you need it to be over. I had reached that moment and I resolved to myself,  "You will deliver this baby NOW! You are too exhausted to go on like this". I knew I couldn't continue much longer and that an emergency transfer and c-section would be in my future if I didn't muster up the strength to push. So I PUSHED. And then his heartbeat dropped.

While my Midwife calmly and professionally provided a detailed justification for why an episiotomy was necessary, I simply nodded in consent. She had me at "heartbeat". Oh, and just as an aside, they use scissors for that!

But in the end it was all worth it. At 9:13 AM on September 10, 2012 I introduced this magnificence to the world:

He is simply the best part of me, my masterpiece, my purpose. I love him without restraint, without condition, without reason. I love him because he IS and that is all he'll every need to be.

My Dearest Eli,

At my very core, there has always been you. At first it was just a dream of someday being someone's "Mommy" and then the reality of having desired and designed life set in. Through it all, you have always been with me and I will love you forever.
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