Friday, May 13, 2011

Luke's birth story


As you can probably imagine, this is very long!  Skip to the end if you want to know how Hypnobabies worked for me or my thoughts on running during pregnancy.  And yes, I'm wearing my swimsuit in this picture, and yes, I was kind of (okay a lot) embarrassed later when I realized that I was just hanging out in my swimsuit while the world tromped through my delivery room.

I'm not sure how I want to start this.  I've been very torn the last week over letting the baby come at his pace, and trying to accommodate some scheduling and health issues that have come up.  At my 40-week appointment, my doctor offered to break my water the next day.  I was really upset and unsure the rest of the night, but Neil gave me a blessing and then I spent almost the ENTIRE night up with contractions, horrible nerve pain in my legs, and nonstop baby kicking, which pretty much decided me.  

The doctor broke my water around 8 am. I was 3 cm/70% effaced with the baby at zero station.  With Isaac, this was enough to put me into serious labor right away and he was born by 1 pm.  This time around was not so easy.  I was worried about having him before 5 pm, since she wasn't on call and needed to get home to her own children, and I think this made me tense up.  Neil and I walked the halls of the hospital for four hours with exactly zero changes to my dilation.  About 12:30, after a lot of discussion with the doctor, we started the lowest possible dose of Pitocin to try to get contractions going, with the plan being to turn off the Pit after an hour or so.  Neil fell asleep and I listened to my Hypnobabies while the contractions got steadily more intense until they were about a minute apart, at which point we turned the Pitocin off.  And still no changes to my dilation—discouraging, as you can probably imagine.

I labored for an hour on my own, and I was at a 4.  I know that many women dilate this much before they go into labor, but for me it’s always been a pretty agonizing process to get this far—by 4 cm, my contractions have always been 2 minutes apart, tops, and very intense.  Another hour, and I was at a 6.  Things kind of blur out from here; I know when I hit a 6 I got out of the birthing tub and sat on the birthing ball for awhile, and told the nurse and Neil that I wanted an epidural.  They told me I didn't, and I sat on the birthing ball for awhile longer.

After awhile I started feeling really intense pressure.  My back had also been hurting so much that I was wondering if he was posterior, because the pain was super concentrated in my back and things were going SO slowly.  I was also stressed because it was 4:30 and I knew my doctor had to go home in half an hour.  I asked to be checked again and I was only at a 7 after almost nine hours of labor, and my last two labors were 5 hours and 7 hours.  I felt like if I could just get some relief from the pain I would be able to relax and dilate the last three centimeters, because I was tense enough that despite my best efforts, I was not able to relax into the contractions.  I was also starting to feel the urge to push, and I knew that it was too early, so I was tensing up with each contraction to avoid pushing, which was counter-productive. I told Neil I wanted an epidural, he said I didn't, the nurse said I didn't, and my doctor said I didn't.  I said yes, I sure did.  They checked me again and I was only at 7.5, so everyone said, well, maybe you should get it after all.  Eventually they brought in the anesthesiologist, he started an epidural, and nothing happened!   He tried a whole bunch of different medicines, and one took some of the edge of the pain off in the left side of my back, but I was still having to work really hard to get through each contraction in the same zone.  So intense.  The anesthesiologist finally said he was sorry but there was nothing he could do—sometimes it just didn’t work.  Even though I didn’t get relief from the pain, I think simply thinking that I would was enough to let me relax the needed amount.  I also found it easier at this point to deal with the contractions lying on the bed rather than moving around, which I know goes against most of the natural childbirthing methods, but it’s what worked for me. 

About half an hour into this I felt the urge to push as completely unstoppable, called in a nurse, and the doctor came in and said I was complete.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to push through the contractions, because they were so intense (at this point I whimpered once for the first time).  I should also add that the best part of this was that my doctor had arranged for her daughter to pick up her son so that she could stay until my baby was born—I was SO grateful for that. 

I pushed through one contraction—and it was really difficult.  I decided to wait and push when the contractions stopped, because I had read that this could be an effective way to push without tearing.  So as soon as that contraction stopped, I pretty much gave it all I had with the goal of not having another contraction before the baby was born, and let me tell you—they aren’t joking about that ring of fire thing.  My doctor, Neil, and the nurses were fantastic at this point—they told me how close he was and that he would be out in about three good pushes.  So I pushed through the pain—and it was actually pretty cool to feel everything sort of morphing around him—and voila, baby!  It’s amazing how as soon as the baby’s born, everything just stops—the pain goes away completely.  It’s incredibly rewarding.  He was born after about 3 minutes of pushing and everyone commented on how he looked like a C-section baby because his head was so round and unmolded.  Cute kid.  :-)  

I have to say that I was so exhausted that when they laid him on my chest I couldn’t even lift my arms to put them around him.  The labor was just so intense that I was pretty much drained.  But he was incredibly alert—eyes open, looking around at everything, and acting like he was weeks old rather than a newborn!  They took him away after a few minutes to clean him up and try to get him to cry, and when he came back a few minutes later I was alert enough to hold him without feeling like I would drop him.  He started nursing right away and nursed for about an hour and a half. 

Now.  I know a bunch of people were interested in how I thought the Hypnobabies program worked for me.  I was pretty faithful about doing all of the Hypnobabies practice beforehand (I started about 27 weeks), but I have to say that I experienced more relaxation from using it than anything approaching actual hypnosis.  During labor, I listened to the Hypnobabies CDs all the way through up until the last forty-five minutes, at which point it was distracting and I asked Neil to turn it off.  It helped me a LOT while I was on Pitocin, and I got through that hour of close contractions simply by focusing and breathing through each contraction.  As labor progressed, I needed something much more active to engage me, so I found that the birthing tub and birthing ball where I could actively move with both was more helpful, even through I had the Hypnobabies going in the background.  This also sounds weird, but it helped me, so I’ll write it—vocalizing helped a lot from about 5-10 cm.  Concentrating on my breathing wasn’t enough, so I tried to see how long I could just make a low monotonous noise without taking a breath, and usually 2 or 3 of those would get me through the worst part of the contraction. (Between contractions I was kind of embarrassed, because it seemed really weird, but during contractions it felt so natural and was the only thing getting me through.) This worked for me right up until the pushing stage.  I also have to say this with the caveat that mine was not a spontaneous chemical-free labor, so Hypnobabies might work better for someone who goes into labor on their own and has a more gradual experience. 

The main reason I didn’t want an epidural when I was planning beforehand was twofold:  I wanted the baby to be alert and I wanted to be able to walk afterwards  Well, he is DEFINITELY the most alert baby I’ve had yet, and it was awesome to be able to get up on my own and go to the bathroom, change, etc.  I had no tearing, no swelling, and no pain afterwards at all.  Except for the dizziness, I felt like I could go running right away or just pick up with my normal routine (don’t get me wrong, I am loving time to just cuddle my baby and read!)


Speaking of running, this is the other thing that most people have been asking me about after delivery (and by this I mean every single nurse that has entered my room).  I mentioned to my doctor that I’d run 5 miles on Monday to try to kickstart labor, and she told all the nurses this during the last few minutes of delivery, and apparently word spread—a number of the nurses have asked me for tips on running through pregnancy, which I thought was kind of funny because I am definitely no expert.  But I have to say that I think running has helped a LOT with the strength reserves and muscle tone I needed to get through that delivery.  I also noticed that despite weighing the exact same as I’ve weighed just before every baby is born (no matter how much I weigh in the beginning and what I eat and what I do I always end up at the same number!!), my post-partum body is much trimmer than it has been in the past. 
So if you’re thinking about running through your next pregnancy, I would say go for it.  At times it was hard to make myself run yet again, but it kept all the swelling down in my ankles (which was a huge problem for me last time), kept the endorphin levels high, and seems to have been a big factor in how well my body did after a pretty grueling delivery.  I also felt much better during early pregnancy than I usually do--it helped with the nausea and fatigue (although I don't have really bad morning sickness, so take this with a grain of salt).  As far as adjusting my running during pregnancy, I kept running the same distance right up to the end--I found that speed was a much bigger factor than distance.  So I just gradually slowed it down from an 8:30 mile when I was 6 weeks pregnant to a 10:54 mile at full term.  I did run at 9:13/mile when I was 39 weeks and really felt it the next day, so I would advise dropping speed before distance.  I used a support band for my stomach and that helped a lot.  I also did most of my runs in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters on my treadmill, which helped me to avoid stumbling on uneven sidewalks and ensured I was always close to my waterbottle.  


Elise said...

that first picture with you and Luke is pretty amazing---i love the look on your face!

Melanie said...

Congratulations! He is completely adorable!

Katrina said...

well done, rach! he is a cutie! who do you think he looks like? i feel like he looks so different from your other kids.

Rachel Mae said...

Thanks for the birth story--always fun to read. I'm glad you felt good afterwards!

Crapos said...

Congratulations! So were you happy with how it all turned out? I know you had so many wishes and plans for how it would all go.

Jolena said...

Congratulations! What a cutie! And I'm glad to hear the story. Next pregnancy my goals are pretty much exactly what you did: run all the way through, have as much a natural birth as I can, and not tear. I'm glad to hear how yours went and that it turned out well even though it was tough. Enjoy all those newborn cuddles! I miss them already.

Kathryn said...

Great job you did it!! Congratulations! Luke is so precious.

Jen said...

Congrats, my friend. You did it! :)

Kristyn said...


I've been thinking about doing an at home birth with my next one, and possibly a water birth too (I keep hearing amazing things about it), and so I really enjoyed hearing about hypnobabies and your (almost ALL) natural experience. The alternative birthing experiences are so intriguing to me.

And running up until that point in my last pregnancy was so out of the question. I'm really impressed you ran till full term! I can still remember the incredible pain and throbbing I felt with every step I took the more pregnant I got. Maybe the band you mentioned would help with my next one, since I definitely want to run more with future pregnancies (I hated the lazy and down feeling I had when I stopped!). This is great encouragement. Thanks for posting all of it!

Dani said...

Yay for you! I'm glad that it all turned out so well, but sorry that it was such a long labor for you. He's adorable!

Anonymous said...

Well done sweetheart. He looks great and so do you.

love you,

Bloom said...

congratulations, rachael! he is so, so sweet!

Danielle said...

Congratulations! He is gorgeous. I loved reading all about it!

Adrienne said...

Congrats! Thanks or the story. I've been looking into hypnobirthing a lot but I'm afraid I'll have to be induced (because of short labors and strep pos) and have to be on pitocin so it's great to hear you made it through with having to use it.

Still undecided. Love the name (especially seeing as how I have a Luke too).

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