Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The rest of the story

Just in time for Little Tam turning one month of age...the absurdly long, much hyped, over-anticipated birth story! And some BOP warning for those who care about that sort of thing.


Halloween: a few days past Little Tam's EDD. I wakened at my usual insomniac 4am, and a bit later did a webcam conference with our Hong Kong family, then had a full day of fun at the zoo, forest park, duck pond, went shopping, got my hair cut, and finished the day with an evening at our friends’ home. While at our friends’ house carving pumpkins and passing out candy to trick or treaters, I felt exhausted and noticed occasional abdominal cramping but thought nothing of it. When my sweetheart and I returned home, we quickly prepared for sleep.

Early First Stage

As soon as I showered and tried to lay down, my cramping turned into a regular, systematic occurrence. The waves felt mildly uncomfortable, like the low belly ache I sometimes have felt with menstruation. It was interesting enough that I could not fall asleep through it. I told my husband it felt different than anything I had felt thus far in the pregnancy, and I thought this could be “it.” When I asked him to start timing the pressure waves, we both realized we were not sure exactly how to do it. After all our rehearsing! Were we supposed to time beginning of one to beginning of another? Or just the space between the end of one and the beginning of another? Duration meant what....? Oh dear. To add to the confusion, we also realized half my hypnosis scripts were still only on CD. We had wanted to transfer them all to MP3 files on my phone, so I could listen more easily in the car and at the hospital (the only way we have to play CDs is on our computer). So my husband went to do the transfer and I struggled to stay focused on my own, a bit perturbed with myself for not taking care of these little issues earlier. For a couple hours I listened to the hypnosis scripts. I do not recall which scripts I listened to—perhaps “birthing day,” even though I doubted this was truly my birthing time. I don’t know what I expected to feel, but mild menstrual cramping apparently wasn’t what I had imagined.

1:30 am-We telephoned our doula, Kathy. I remember feeling quite embarrassed, apologizing for waking her at such a terrible hour, and repeating, “I just don’t know if this is the real thing, but it feels different from what I felt any other time in this pregnancy…Oh, I don’t know!” She told me she was on her way. She had arrived 10 minutes late for the last birth she attended, missing the actual birth entirely, so we didn’t want to take any chances of her missing our sweet Little’s grand entrance. If we had known he would not be born until another thirty hours later, we would have told Kathy to take her time. =)

While Kathy drove from Connecticut (about an hour and a half away from us), my husband took a nap. Because of daylight savings taking effect that night, his phone automatically changed back one hour coincidentally during his nap. When he woke, he looked at the time on his phone and said, “Wait. Did I just sleep for two minutes only?” (in reality he slept for 1 hr 2 mins) I still smile about that. While he napped I got more comfortable and kept relaxing through the pressure waves (which were about every ten minutes apart). I ate some cottage cheese and tried to be diligent about drinking water as well. Once Kathy arrived I felt greatly reassured as her expertise and assistance helped me get more into the groove with my hypnosis. With each pressure wave, Kathy would massage my back and my sweet husband would recite portions of the scripts. I remember most hearing him say over and over again, “Your cervix is soft and dilating quickly.” As hours passed that night, I caught myself smiling through many of the pressure waves and feeling increasingly confident and happy. I made a lot of moaning type of vocalizations because it helped me focus and felt good.

Around 6 am?: pressure waves were five minutes apart and lasting one minute each. When we called the midwife, she recommended, "take a hot shower, and then if the waves are still that regular and frequent, call back." During the shower my husband kept timing the waves. They got less intense feeling while I was in the shower, with the waves becoming subdued and feeling as only a faint abdominal pressure. But they also got more closely spaced—four minutes apart now. The midwife said I could come to the birth center. While I walked into the birth center from the parking lot, I had several pressure waves, and with each one, I simply stopped walking to breathe through it. During one pressure wave, I knelt against the birth ball, and for another, leaned on a hand rail. Kathy and Jerry assisted as usual, and the two nurses who were walking with us into the building remarked on how impressed they were with our whole routine. When the midwife did an internal exam around 8am, my cervix was dilated to a 7. I felt triumphant and excited. One of the nurses said he had seen hypno births before, but mine seemed to be going exceptionally well. I agreed. I was eager to get in the birthing pool, but the midwife said she wanted to see me progressed a bit further. After awhile she checked me again and I was dilated to an 8. Around this time I had a hep lock put in for administration of antibiotics (I was GBS positive). In retrospect, I wish I had listened to a “change of plans” script for this procedure, because I felt some internal conflict about the concept of intrapartum antibiotics. I also had an IV several years ago, and remembered intensely disliking the feeling of an IV in my hand. My hypnosis wasn’t as effective to numb my hand as I would have like it to be. Again, I think listening to that “change of plans” script would have helped my brain accept and feel comfortable with the IV at this point.

Pausing Point

My doula, my husband, and I walked around the hospital grounds for a bit. As it was Sunday morning, a local church near the hospital had bells chiming. They delighted me. Overall at this time, I felt light and happy in my heart. I had quite a few intense pressure waves very closely spaced during the walk. I remember feeling like they came one on top of the other, with no chance to rest in between. When we returned from the walk, I got in the birth pool. I joked and smiled, ate ice cream and just generally felt like a queen. However, part way through my pool time the nurses had to attach my hep lock to the IV for another dose of antibiotics. The procedure distracted me from feeling comfortable in the water, and additionally the tub sides ended up being hard plastic and not as easy to relax against as I had imagined. My pressure waves almost stopped entirely while I was in the water, and I began to feel intense exhaustion after being awake for so many hours. I announced my intentions of taking a nap. The midwife said she would like to do an internal exam first, and when she found I was still only dilated 8 cm, she said I needed to stay up and moving around. She was concerned that I had not progressed for a few hours. I felt disappointed at her verdict, and again, was starting to feel sleep deprivation creeping up on me. My midwife’s concern sparked a bit of fear in my heart. She told me this stalled labor was a complication and began discussing changes that needed to be made to my birth plan. Again, a “change of plans” script would have been valuable at this point!! But we did not do it yet, I suppose because having never read this script, I did not realize how appropriate it would have been.

I got pretty upset when the second time the antibiotic was administered, it wasn’t mixed with saline (or whatever they do to make it feel less intense). My hand became puffy like a balloon, fingers unbendable, and it throbbed horribly. I asked to have the hep lock removed after the dose of antibiotic was finished and the request was denied because of safety reasons. I did a fear release session and realized my #1 fear was conflict with my midwife. We had only met once before the birth. I felt very uncomfortable with how we communicated with each other.

Late First Stage

I began to suspect the midwife did not accept or encourage my efforts at using hypnosis. For example, she accused me once of being “TOO relaxed,” implying that my comfortable state was part of the problem for why labor had stalled in the first place (as if the labor would start progressing once I got stressed and tense?). Furthermore, she kept forgetting to use the hypnotic language I requested (calling pressure waves “contractions,” etc.). We ended up needing to break my waters, and administer pitocin. After these steps, I was relieved to find the birthing waves resumed with a passion. The waves felt powerful in a way that overwhelmed me at times. I remember going completely limp during one pressure wave, turning my switch to "OFF" but then suddenly felt the wave grow more intense as I relaxed. The increased intensity startled me, so I turned my switch back to "CENTER" and sat up. During transformation (Hypnobabies speak for transition), the sensations rushed up and down my whole body in an indescribable flood of shaking, chills, vomiting, and so forth. I do not recall feeling pain during this time, but rather just feeling satisfied when I finally threw up. The vomit was pink and chunky because I had recently eaten pizza, scrambled eggs, and cranberry juice. I am thankful the birthing center let me keep eating whatever I wanted all throughout the birthing time.


The midwife did another internal exam and as per my request, did not tell me dilation. But later my doula told me I was a 9 at that point. During pushing, I felt a little confused about when I was having a pressure wave, because it felt like they were happening constantly. I ended up needing to rub the palm of my hand over my belly to discern the changes in firmness on abdominal surface that would tell me when a wave came. Contrary to my birth plan, the midwife directed my pushing (“You do much better laying down,” she kept saying), but at that point in the birth I had decided to just do whatever she wanted in order to reduce the feeling of conflict that had so disturbed me earlier in the day. She did internal monitoring for the last half of pushing, pulled/turned my baby’s head as he crowned, and had the umbilical cord cut right away rather than waiting a few minutes for it to stop pulsating (though she did let my husband cut the cord). Again, I felt some dismay when each of these interventions happened, but consciously chose to let the annoyances slide. I just wanted to keep the peace with my midwife for the time being, figuring that was the way I could most easily focus on birthing my baby. It had taken a lot of emotional strength out of me to have earlier discussions with the midwife.

Near the time my Little Tam crowned, the midwife told me since there was meconium when my waters broke, I would not be able to hold the baby immediately if he emerged without crying. She said if he was not crying, he needed to be checked by a pediatrician right away. Again, I chose to just nod and not even discuss the issue. But I started praying fervently in my heart that the baby would come out crying loud and clear, so I would be allowed to hold him. As I pushed, I sometimes glanced at the clock and said things like, "I do not know how much longer I can keep going," because I felt such intense exhaustion. Off and on, the thought crossed my mind that if I took medication, I would be able to sleep. But I simultaneously had the thought that my baby could be born any minute, so I would just hang in there and keep going. I felt so tired, and wanted to sleep but still kept focused on my goals. We had the hypnosis script playing out loud in the room for most of the birth, and flashes of it reached me when I needed them most; statements like, "I am grateful for my caregivers." Though my eyes saw the clock, my brain never registered what time it was. Afterward, when I heard the pushing lasted 3 hours, I sincerely felt disbelief. It felt like somewhere between 15-30 minutes to me. My husband kept telling me, "with every push our baby gets a little closer!" I felt so encouraged, but a few days after the birth he told me he was lying: "Many of your pushes didn't seem to be doing anything." Haha. My sweet husband also helped by holding out a straw for me to sip drinks of juice and water in between every push.

I often made a purposeful low register groan while pushing, in order to encourage my throat/bottom track to stay open. I was very conscious and intentional throughout the entire pushing stage. Vocalizing brought me a sense of power, and again, I do not recall feeling pain at this point of the birth, though when the midwife stretched/massaged my perineum toward the end I told her, "OOOKay, now THAT hurts." It caught me by surprise.

Once my baby's head came out, the rest of his body slid quickly after. He had been holding his fist up against his head, in a superman pose, which might have been part of the reason it took so long to get him through the birth canal. My prayers that I would be able to hold him right away were answered when upon entering the world he immediately started screaming, a beautifully strong sound. I reached and pulled him up to my chest. "Baby!" My husband began weeping, and together we inspected our child, marveling at all his perfect little parts. Baby and I got to cuddle a bit with blankets over us, but it seemed like all too soon he was taken away to be checked by the pediatrician. After being checked and cleaned up a bit he was returned to me.

A few hours after his birth, the staff noticed respiratory distress and he was sent to a neighboring hospital's NICU since the birth center wasn't equipped to handle an infection like his. The next day when I discharged and joined him at that location, I was told by a doctor, "you and your baby are not a priority," because apparently Little Tam wasn't THAT sick, and the hospital was overflowing beyond capacity. But I needed help figuring out breastfeeding, and felt like even if we were all physically stable, I was mentally in need of being made a priority. So I found myself in tears, and when that doctor came back a bit later and saw me crying he asked, "what happened?" With a surge of hormonal indignation I told him, "Oh, I don't know; maybe I just had a baby?!" My husband reminded me to be polite, and a lactation consultant was soon sent our way. Breastfeeding since then has been a highlight of motherhood for me. While we at first felt discouraged that we could not take our baby home right away, it became apparent there were a lot of silver linings to us getting to stay in the hospital with him. Primarily, it gave us new parents easy access to a team of doctors and nurses who demonstrated all the tricks to caring for a newborn. By the time we came home with Little Tam a week later, we felt confident in how to care for him. Also, prior to our baby entering NICU, I had been snobbish about the use of pacifiers and bottles, figuring they were tools of the devil to thwart my efforts at breastfeeding. Now however, I realize they are great! They certainly have not hindered breastfeeding like I originally feared they might, and instead can be used to comfort Little when I am not with him.

To recap birth stats: 8 lbs. 4 oz., 21 inches, born at 6:28 AM on November 2, 2009. Including daylight savings, we were awake for over 50 hours, and labor lasted 30-something hours?

One month after the birth, we are happy and thriving. Stats from well child checkup today: 23 inches long, 11 lbs, head circumference 38 cm. He is in approx. the 75th percentile for length and weight, and the 50th percentile for head size. Proud of our beautiful boy.


Spring and Sean Family said...

November 2nd is a great day, our little Miles was born that day. I think it is a great day because when he is older he can have Halloween birthday parties. Birth stories are always a miracle and show us how amazing and fragile life really is. Congrats, your baby boy is BEAUTIFUL and you and Jerry are going to be great parents.

Anonymous said...


It sounds like you did wonderful! I'm sorry that the midwife was an emotional holdup for you, that really stinks. Are you happy with your experience over all?

He's beautiful, good luck with the move!!

The Fox's said...

thank you for sharing your story. It was beautiful and insightful.

SUSIE E. STOUT said...

Wow, well that is something! So I don't know all your hypno baby terms but I do have a slight suggestion or well family secret. With Addy I too was having quite the holdup and I didn't progress for 2 hours or more at an 8 which is when I finally gave in and got an epidural because like you I hadn't slept for 40+ hrs. I slept for 2 hours and I was only at a 9 1/2 when I did make it to a 10 my water was still intact. I had to push for my water to break. When my mom got there she laughed because though she went drug free with all her children she never once had her water break naturally,she told me oh, you're probably like me. Apparently us with Steele blood are prone to have steel amniotic sacs. My nurses exclaimed that mine was the thickest they had ever seen. So the with Liam I told them if I start stalling I needed my water broken. it sure moved things along! I applaud your bravery and self control (I would have had some choice words for midwife and doctors alike)

Jason and Jami Thomson said...

Beautiful story!!! I feel you on the long labor...mine was 33 hours but it sounds like you handled yours much more gracefully :) I wish I would have practiced my hypnosis more. It helped me for the first 20 hours, but for the last 13 or so, I more or less "white knuckled" it. Way to go girly! I'm so proud of you! He's beautiful!!

Valerie said...

We love Little Tam. Thank you, Little's parents!

Melody said...

I'm glad you have such a good attitude about the whole thing. it really is hard having a baby! A lot harder than i thought...pretty much the worst pain I've EVER experienced and I was on pain meds! Thank you for sharing your experience, I've been looking forward to hearing it!

Ambrosia said...


You did great! He is yummy and I am so impressed and happy at your success with the Hypnobabies. It is fabulous, huh? I, too, am sorry to hear about the emotional challenges you had with your nurse midwife. How are you feeling about it two months later? I remember my 36.5 hr first birth and it is amazing how powerful you feel despite the exhaustion and how much it teaches you how strong and able you truly are. It is obvious you feel that way too. Your baby is DELICIOUS. I know you are loving life with baby. I am really happy for you.