February 12, 2009

Natalie's birth story

Or should I call it Eliot's birth story? No, I guess not. I'm sure he would have a different account of the event. For example, I'm guessing the 45 minutes he spent with his head crowning and very slowly coming out felt much different for him than for me. So, here is my account of Eliot's birth:

On Tuesday, January 20, 2009 -- the same day Barack Obama was inaugurated as our 43rd president -- I went into labor at 4 am. Eliot Henry Bennon emerged at 6:47 pm. He was born in water, and was 7 lbs 10 ozs, 21 inches long, and had a 14-inch circumference head (larger than average, and I definitely felt that). He has dark blonde hair, and dark bluish gray eyes. It felt like a long, very difficult labor for me, althought it certainly could have been longer and harder, and I know many women experience longer and more difficult labors than mine.

So, my water broke at 4 am. It just leaked a little, so I thought I had wet the bed. It is not usual for me to wet the bed, but I just figured that my bladder perhaps had been really full and for some reason it didn't wake me up. Anyway, I jumped out of bed in time to keep it from getting on the sheets, and then went to the bathroom, peed, and changed my clothes. I went back to bed. At 5 am, it happened again. And I thought, huh, that's odd that I would pee the bed twice in one night... oh wow, what if my water is breaking! I went to the bathroom, and the fluid smelled like nothing, so I realized it wasn't pee but that my water was breaking. I changed and went back to bed to rest, which is what the midwives recommended. I didn't wake Brady up because I knew we would have a long journey ahead of us, and I wanted him to rest as well. The alarm was set to go off at 6:15 am, and so I woke him at 6 am and told him. He was very calm. I don't think he felt calm, but all day he acted very calm, which was great and I knew he was doing that for my benefit.

I was experiencing mild contractions, but they didn't feel like much. We called the senior midwife, and she said to just rest and call when the surges got more intense. Brady made me breakfast and called his substitute teacher and began getting his teaching plans together. I started gathering my clothes and other things I would need. We called our friend to come get the dogs. We watched Barack Obama's inauguration. Then we laid down and rested while timing the contractions. They began to be about 5 mins apart, each around 1 minute long. I began to feel pressure in my rectum, so Brady called the midwife again, who suggested we come to the birth center.

At 1:30 pm, we arrived at the birth center. One of the midwives, Debbie, began to fill the birth tub. The other two midwives had to go to a prenatal appointment. I got in the tub, while Brady leaned over it and held my hands and kissed my head during contractions. The contractions got more intense. I vomited (apparently that is pretty common and is due to the same hormones that make you nauseous in the first trimester). Debbie said she guessed I would have the baby that day. I eventually told her I sort of felt like pushing, so she called the senior midwife, Laura, in. Laura checked my cervix and said I was fully dilated and effaced, so I could start pushing. So, I tried to keep relaxing during the contractions, and gently push. Laura suggested I get out of the tub and walk around, which I didn't want to do, but she kind of insisted, so I did. I walked a bit, and squatted during contractions. I got on the birth stool, which made the contractions worse, so I quickly got up. I laid on the bed, and the contractions began to get much more intense. Laura said she wanted to check me again, so she did, which was very painful. She said she must have made an error earlier, because now I was 7 cm dilated. In hindsight, the midwife Debbie said it's possible Laura made an error, but that that's a pretty big error for an experienced midwife like Laura to make, so it's possible I went from 10 cm, and then retreated to 7. That's a big jump and it's kind of unusual to reverse that much, but it's possible, and to be honest, I was pretty scared of pushing. In any case, I seemed to be experiencing "transition" while on the bed. The contractions were insanely painful. Brady let me squeeze his hands until they were flat. After a little while, Laura suggested I get in the tub, and I said, no way, I can't. She said, I think it will offer some pain relief. That sounded pretty good, so I relented and everyone helped me back in the tub. Brady got in the tub too. Laura asked me to get on all fours, so I did, with a plastic stool to lean my elbows on. I had 45 or so minutes of contractions with active pushing until he crowned. Then I had around 45 more minutes of pushing his head out. His head sort of got stuck on the way out. It really did take longer than usual from the time he crowned to the time he was completely out. But he was fine, and the midwives kept checking his heartbeat, which remained strong.

He finally came out, and Brady and another midwife caught him and placed him in my arms. We stayed in the tub for another 10 minutes or so, and then everyone helped us out of the tub and into the bed. Then Laura helped me deliver the placenta, and after the cord stopped pulsing, Brady cut the cord.

I tore quite a bit and needed stitches. The midwives were able to stitch me there, while Brady held Eliot.

It took us a bit over 24 hours to name him, but finally we decided on Eliot. We stayed at the birth center for about 48 hours, while post-partum doulas fed us and attended to our every need and wish. I also got a massage the morning after the birth, which was really lovely. And we started breastfeeding, which was not so lovely. Breastfeeding was very painful the first week, and somewhat painful the second week. The pain has subsided, and Eliot is breastfeeding a lot now and gaining weight, but one of my biggest surprises was how painful breastfeeding is in the beginning. Another surprise was how much time I would spend breastfeeding at first. And finally, I was a bit taken away by how painful labor was. I don't think anyone could have really prepared me for it.


Jen said...

What a story for Eliot to read one day. I told you that 2 weeks and you wouldn't feel much pain. I'm glad that he's doing so well. Can't wait to see more pictures (hint, hint) :)

Kate C said...

Yeah, wow. Great story Natalie! You were really brave and you did it! You should be proud of your healthy, unmedicated birth.

But I really identify with the tone of your story. Birth and parenthood are pretty overwhelming. Sometimes you feel like you are just enduring rather than actively engaging. But that is brave too.