Friday, December 21, 2012

Birth Story: Home Birth

"It is important to keep in mind that our bodies 
must work pretty well, 
or there wouldn't be so many humans on the planet." 
Ina May Gaskin

FINALLY! Lillie-Mae is 4 months old, and I am now posting her Birth Story. This was such a life changing journey for myself and Chris. I am an advocate for natural birth- I believe that every woman should be given the opportunity and support to birth naturally. 

The choice to birth at home was decided upon through many prayers, research, and finding the perfect midwife.  My mind was set while dating my husband and knowing that I wanted to have children with him. I approached him with the option to birth in our home to which he stated, “Isn’t that illegal?” I loaded him down with facts, videos, personal accounts, and scare tactics(!!!) against hospital birth, took a deep breath then told him to seek what God wanted for our family. Against my expectations, Chris desired birth to be as I had for our future children.

Fast forward to the weeks before our wedding, and you would hear me “joking” that I would become pregnant on our honeymoon. This did not happen, but I did get a visit from Aunt Flo that week! To me, this was good news; my body was preparing itself to conceive. A week later, I just knew I was pregnant. I am uncertain if it was more of a physical or emotional feeling, but I knew I was pregnant. I did not count down the days to when I could take an early pregnancy test. But one evening, after a date night, Chris brought it to my attention that we could take a test to know for sure! Two tests later, and he was convinced.

"...with one look and a wink between us..."

I quickly contacted the only person I knew that had a home birth, Abby. Her birth story of her second son in water at home gripped my heart and set the stage for the birth of our baby. I saw the midwife she used, and before the end of the meeting, Chris and I knew (with one look and a wink between us) that Carolyn would be an excellent completion to our dream birth.

The one-hour visits to Carolyn monthly then weekly completely fulfilled my questions and fears. She was a mentor, counselor, and guiding voice in these unchartered waters. Every visit, she would check my weight and say “That’s great!” blood pressure “Perfect!”  More than once I would ask if that was too much weight or too high of a blood pressure; her answer reminded me that pregnancies do not fit into a box. So what if my fundal height was 2 cm more than the norm or I hadn’t gained but one pound or ten in a couple of weeks. Carolyn saw the big picture; she was concerned with my health as well as the baby’s, and I trusted her.

A few weeks before my 40 week due date, Braxton hicks contractions started. I was so excited to start feeling signs of approaching labor! I knew the baby could come the next day or two weeks later. I continued to see a chiropractor and attend yoga sessions. I did not have discomfort throughout the pregnancy even up to this point; I attribute this to consistent chiropractic care. Yoga during pregnancy was relaxing, an escape to feel my body and it’s changes.  

The morning of August 9, 2012 I woke up at 5:45 sensing that something was about to take place. After sitting up in bed, I felt that I was sitting in a small puddle of wetness. (At this point, I began denying that I could be in labor). I went to the bathroom and saw blood tinged fluid. I was only a little excited, but still not ready to fall into labor patterns. My body and baby had other plans… A warm shower eased the contractions while I swayed to the rhythm of the rainfall outside. (I can’t help to mention that I love rainy days!) I was not ready to tell Chris that I was having “some” signs of labor. After an hour, through gritted teeth, I said I thought I maybe, might be in labor. Some coaxing from him allowed me to lye down to rest. After two seconds I jumped out of bed and said I could never be on my back again! Now, I could say that I was having contractions but not full-blown labor. Chris asked me to time them, but that took my focus off of working through to the other side of the peak. So, he sat and stared, reading my body language while his contraction app was handy to take the time. I ate a couple of eggs, folded a load of laundry, and got ready for my scheduled midwife appointment at 9:00 am. Chris was confused as to why I would not call my midwife to tell her I was in labor. What I was not communicating to him was that I still had to go to Target and hang pictures! I needed the “putsy-putsy” stage of labor to motivate me through those tasks. I was not in labor enough.

As I walked through the door of my midwife’s home, she could tell that I was in labor. I asked her to check me so I could see how much time I had before the baby would be here. We had already talked about having checks throughout labor, and she did not think that I needed to be, but would upon my request. I was 4 cm. Great! Now, I had plenty of time to go to Target and maybe lunch after. As soon as I did the q-tip swab to see if the fluid was amniotic fluid, I could be on my way to run errands. The test proved my water had broken… It is my belief that my brain miscommunicated with my body that my excitement was not to have the baby arrive in 30 minutes, but that I wanted to look at the clearance baby girl clothes for her arrival.

"God, please guide my thoughts to seeing the face of Lillie-Mae!" 

A 90 mph car ride home while I did not think that I could handle the being confined to one place was pretty intense. I believe I told Chris, “If you don’t start praying then my body is going to burst open.” At home, he started to prepare the birth bed until he was interrupted by my cry for “Help!” He joined my rhythm in the bathroom and held my body, silently whispering, “You’re really in labor and I believe transition.” My thoughts, “I guess that’s why I feel the need to push.” The midwife assistant arrived, confirmed me to be ready to push but please not until Carolyn came. I firmly positioned myself on my hands and knees (to me, the most natural feeling position) and buried my head in the white sheets, pretending that they were part of the storm clouds outside. I didn’t know how to push, I couldn’t do this, what was I thinking… “God, please guide my thoughts to seeing the face of Lillie-Mae.” Carolyn was now saying, “Danielle I need you to take a deep breath and push.” What relief! I could do this; I could push a baby out, without medication, and now without doubts. I could not wait for her to come! I gave it everything I had. No one told me when to push- I went with my instincts. After fifteen minutes, my instincts told me that I could not do what was needed for Lillie Mae to arrive. Later, I would hear that Carolyn had to pull Lillie Mae out from her head down to her hips. In a sense, she was “stuck”; my feeling was correct. Once I lied down and saw her sweet face, and she began nursing I felt complete peace.

"Nursing was nothing like 
what I expected."

The peace of having a healthy baby that was outside of me, ready to thrive in a new world, was unfortunately lacking harmony. I had many family members around, a supporting husband, and wise care providers ready to ease my transition into raising this baby girl. However, I was consumed with fear; what if my four year old son was neglected, why was she not latching, would my husband love her more than me, did she love me, what kind of world did I bring her into? “God, please take this because the fear is consuming me.” Nursing was nothing like what I expected. I was constantly engorged, Lillie-Mae would not latch, she was hungry, lethargic, and losing weight. Wasn’t it my responsibility to make her a successful nursing baby? Carolyn and Rachel were a wealth of information and “tricks” to have Lillie-Mae latch. A break was needed in “teaching” her what should be natural to allow her to partake of the “liquid-gold” that would build her immune system. Spoon-feeding was introduced to her- what a relief to see that she was swallowing what she needed to. Once she started gaining weight from that method, we practiced latching. I just could not force my baby’s head to my breast while she was screaming out of frustration. We had both hit a wall. Chris and I prayed while Lillie-Mae laid in my lap, exhausted from a Mommy that was failing to provide what she needed. We asked God to give us hope, a sign that she could do this. A lack-luster “Amen,” and we tried again. She latched! Chris and I cried tears of joy. She could suck, swallow, and thrive! Research led me to a name for my “problem”: overactive letdown. I chose to introduce a nipple shield to Lillie-Mae. This slowed down my flow and gave her something to suck on without having to do much work on her part. I never thought that we would be without this artificial supplement. Five weeks later, while on a trip with another nursing mother, I had the inspiration to let Lillie-Mae try to latch again. She did it! Yet, it hurt and did not persuade me to let her latch without a shield ever again. But wait, where were my positive thoughts? Baby girl has been in this world for 5 short weeks; she needed her Momma to help her. Next feeding, and I promised never to go back to the shield and to give her the natural comfort that she needed despite the pain and uncertainties of how much milk she was receiving.

Breastfeeding issues did not help with the fear of not providing Lillie-Mae with all she needed to thrive and grow. Thankfully, I had already made the decision to encapsulate my placenta. My main reason being that it would give me the nutrients that were removed after delivery and to ward against post-partum depression. My husband called the pills my “happy pills”. We could both tell that I was on edge and gloomy when I had not taken my daily dose. Yes, it is unfortunately strange to digest of your placenta in any way after birth, but it proved to be helpful to me.

Through it all, I can say that my homebirth was 100% fulfilling for Lillie-Mae and me.  My expectations were thrown out the window, yet my research proved helpful on my journey. I could not have done it without support. Which leads me to advocate for this way to birth to all capable women. It takes strength, dedication, prayer, and God’s will to go against the grain. But what better outcome in the birth of your baby than knowing that you did what was best for you and your baby?

Fast asleep just moments after her birth. 

The BEST big brother. He started singing "Rock a Bye Baby..." as soon 
as he held her.