Saturday, November 22, 2008

Haley's Birth Story, Part 1

In September of 2007, Casey and I found out we were expecting our third baby. Braxton Hicks presented crampy and strong at six weeks of pregnancy (the earliest so far) and instead of being afraid or annoyed, I embraced them as one of my best preparations for childbirth. After Claire’s easy-breezy birth, due partially to the fact that it felt like I had been in labor for a month (the other part having to do with a very challenging first birth experience which I was prepared to repeat), I decided to rejoice in how God made me and the things my body seems to deem necessary to get a baby born. I equate my body to an old car on a frosty morning: it takes several attempts to start—as well as some revving in those attempts—before a continued and lasting, no-going-back start is achieved.

From the last two births, I had had a mental list going on what I would like to do the same or differently. One of those "same" things was have a home birth. There is just no comparison to the atmosphere one encounters in a hospital versus home. So after some finagling, our wonderful midwife agreed to take us on as clients once again. She had planned to take the year off and do some traveling, but decided to take on a few clients within a specific window, and we were due in that time! She went to Africa for about 6 weeks during my second trimester. All went well with the pregnancy, and we did the usual and declined most of the tests, etc. throughout. Barb was very supportive. How the girls and I enjoyed those hour-plus appointments!

Casey and I are practical; we enjoy finding out the gender of our babies before birth day. Not having yet been with a home-birth midwife for an entire pregnancy, I asked Barb if she ever ordered ultrasounds and she said not unless there was a medical reason. (How funny that insurance companies won’t pay for ultrasounds except for a “medical” reason, yet I don’t know one woman birthing in a hospital nowadays—including me—who has not been offered at least 2 ultrasounds in her pregnancy.) I guess Barb is much more conservative than the average doctor or hospital midwife in what qualifies as a medical reason (i.e. not to “check dates” or “size” or whatever other reasons my ultrasounds have been for), and I respect her for it. But it was a little bummer that we’d have to wait to see what this baby was. We just don’t get the whole “What better surprise is there?” thing. It’s a surprise no matter what, right? So what if you find out early? It’s still a surprise at the time. And there’s still the surprise of “when,” unless you are inducing or scheduling a c-section, but I digress.

A few of the things on my list that I wanted to try differently included Casey A) being present for more than a few hours of labor and, therefore, B) helping me through contractions when I needed him. We discussed and practiced several ways he could help me through contractions and things he could do in labor in general to assure me of his presence and support.

My “different” list also included some trivial things to try, like a relaxing and calm atmosphere for labor (complete with music and a pretty labor nighty—not a tank top or Casey’s big, ugly t-shirt) and naps and a bath—I wanted to take advantage of the “midwives’ epidural” this time. You'd think my labors were only an hour long the way we haven't taken advantage of some common labor techniques in the first two births. The problem is, prodromal labor can have the same effect as a really short labor in that it lulls one into thinking, "this baby isn't coming anytime soon," until it's too late to do anything but have a baby.

It was also important to me to focus on the beauty of the gift of birth and what a miracle God does in bringing a baby into the world. I wanted to make the day of labor worshipful by being mindful of His handiwork in making this baby and my body, and His sovereignty over what may happen in childbirth. This is crucial to relaxation for me—to trust God. I simply cannot just trust “birth” or my body. Those things can (and often do) fail. God is always the same. And He is always trustworthy.

Throughout the pregnancy, I practiced relaxation with my Braxton Hicks. One difference with these B.H. this time around was that they were very crampy, and thus, even more like “real” contractions than ever before (I have a hard time distinguishing “real” ones as it is). I did not keep track of my contractions this time like I did in Claire’s pregnancy. That served a purpose, and I no longer needed to figure out why I couldn’t discern “real” labor. There were a few times when I thought—based on the strength, duration and frequency of contractions—that I might be going into labor, but this time I didn’t pay enough mind to them to really wonder. Most of the really strong, long and close together bouts lasted a few hours or less this time, so I didn’t have much time to start wondering before they tapered off again, and the few times that they were like that for an entire day, I took them in stride and figured (based on my previous birth experiences) that I’d most likely discover “this is it” before the baby was born. I wouldn't miss the birth of my baby.

For Part 2, click here