Friday, January 9, 2009

Haley's Birth Story, Part 4

Casey called Barb, who then asked to speak with me. I grabbed the phone. “Barb, Casey says they remind him of when we called you with Claire’s labor.” She asked me if I had checked myself lately. {Barb had encouraged me to check myself those last few weeks to see what was happening. Neither one of us wanted an “official” check. We really didn’t expect much to be happening, and Barb’s pretty hands-off about vaginal exams—even IN labor. (She’s experienced enough to know, based on a woman’s behavior, where her cervical progress may be.) So she asked me now and then what I had discovered. The whole thing was very new to me, and she thought it would be good for me to feel what exactly was going on down there. The few times I checked myself, I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, and I ended up asking Aimee and then her to check me once “while they were there” swabbing for GBS at 37 weeks. Turns out my cervix was still so posterior at the time that it really didn’t matter how effaced or dilated it was. If any really serious change was happening, my cervix would not be so posterior.}

I told Barb I hadn’t checked myself at all today, and she suggested I do so right then and she’d call back in a few minutes. So I hung up, put the phone in my robe’s pocket, and quickly explained to Casey and Sandy. We have a bathroom downstairs, but I felt better about being upstairs to check. I think I might have been a little afraid of what I might find; being mentally impaired enough to not make it upstairs if I did find that her head was crowning or some such craziness. As I was just about to climb the stairs, another contraction started (2:11 p.m.). I started the stopwatch and pretty much ran up the stairs. I didn’t want to get stuck on the stairs, so I hurried to get to the bathroom, where I could rest, before the peak. Barb was going to call any minute, and I didn’t want to tell her, “Sorry, I haven’t even made it to the bathroom yet.” Looking back, I’m pretty sure that would have answered her question quite well! She would have known it was time to come even if I didn’t have a report for her. Ah, the silliness of labor-brain.

Waddling to the bathroom, I could hardly stand it anymore. I was not going to regain a relaxed state in this contraction; survival was all I was going for at this moment. I sat on the toilet and the contraction’s intensity was SO VERY OVERPOWERING that I had to lean waaaay back and figuratively hold on for dear life. I made a note on my contraction chart: Must lean back. (I picture Captain Chameleon in The Tick Versus the Idea Men: “CAN’T! DO! PLAID!”) The contraction lasted 2 minutes and 45 seconds and at least 2 minutes were experienced on the toilet—not a good position at this stage of labor, in my experience. When it was over, I hurried to check myself. Barb was surely going to call while I was checking! In what seemed like the same moment, I jumped up, washed my hands and the phone rang. I answered, shaky and nervous. “Barb, I don’t feel a cervix, but I think I feel the bag of water bulging.” (And yes, for any smart alecks, it WAS Barb on the phone!) I had felt what I would describe as a thin rubber band around a very pillowy huge squashy round thing. It freaked me out. I told Barb I wasn’t sure it was the BOW, but I couldn’t feel anything else, save the rubber band, and I thought it was probably the BOW. “I’m sorry if doesn’t turn out to be, but that’s what it feels like.”

Barb very calmly said if that’s what it feels like, then that’s probably what it is and they’d leave right away. I immediately ran downstairs and into the kitchen to tell Casey and his mom this was it. Casey told me “You need to be upstairs.” I told them since I had gotten a little scared and pitted out, I wanted to take a shower first. We hurried upstairs while Sandy stayed downstairs with the girls. It was 2:26 p.m. Casey got some video while I waited for the water to warm up in the shower. I had another contraction—one that I waited just till after the peak before resuming activity. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, and didn’t want to stop for long. I was sure that when I did stop, it would be for good. I mentioned in the video that I’d need to lie down soon. I had one more contraction while in the shower (2:34 p.m.). When I was finished, I began squeegeeing the shower until Casey reminded me that I was in labor and could leave it this time. One would guess from that detail that I am extremely anal! I'm really not that anal, I just constantly have to work at staying on task. Even when it comes to labor, I am so easily sidetracked!

Out of the shower, I quickly dried off, put on my contacts, some lip balm and my labor nighty. Casey stripped our bed and re-made it with a shower curtain and old sheets while I crawled around on the bathroom floor for the next two contractions (2:38 and 2:41 p.m.). I still had to move around, but couldn’t (or didn’t want to) stand anymore. I think it may have been because I didn’t know how long it would take Barb and Aimee to arrive (remember I still thought they were a good 45-60 minutes away) and didn’t know if we had that much time. I remember being taught and reading about “hands and knees” to slow things down, but I think there were additional reasons I did it: I was afraid my posterior-last-appointment-baby hadn’t yet turned and it felt best to be both moving and avoiding the effects of gravity while waiting for the midwives. (I did not feel comfortable delivering this baby without Barb.)

Casey finished the bed and gave me the go-ahead. He helped me get onto the bed and on my side, where I promptly had a doozie contraction (around 2:50 p.m.) and realized I could NOT lie down. Contractions became sharp and excruciating when I did, so Casey piled a huge amount of pillows on our bed and I got back on hands and knees, leaning over the mountain of pillows. After a few minutes, I felt a little too vulnerable up there on the bed. What if, in all my concentrating and hip-swaying, I fell off? So Casey threw a chux on the floor and I moved to kneeling at the bed, swaying my bottom from side to side. (In my mind, I was fiercely waiving it like a mad woman—possibly trying to get away from it—but it was not so accentuated in real life.) We hadn’t ever gotten to burning a C.D. of labor music selections (I kept getting paralyzed in choosing selections by wondering, “Am I going to find this song/music super annoying in labor?”), so we turned the T.V. onto a classical music channel, complete with picturesque and peaceful photography.

I had another contraction (2:55 p.m.—1 min. 15 sec.) as Casey videotaped for another minute, teasing me for continuing to time contractions. I smiled and said it was “something to do” while waiting for Barb and Aimee. It helped me stay focused on one contraction at a time. I had to keep my mind occupied so I wouldn’t freak out thinking too far ahead. I mentioned in the video that between even these contractions, I still felt “really great.” {I find it very refreshing that in three births now, rarely have I had a great deal of contractions so close together that I have absolutely no break in between (though I have to admit, my “false” labor with Claire was often painful no matter if I was having a contraction or not). These people who talk as if labor is one long, excruciating, 36-hour contraction must gloss over God’s mercy in this area. (Could it be they don’t notice the breaks or they even keep themselves from having breaks because they’re too tense and afraid?) I’m not saying labor is easy or pain-free. I guess I’d say it’s both LESS terrible and horrifying than you’ve heard and MORE work than you’ve ever thought possible—work to stay calm, work to relax muscles, work to keep focused, work to be attentive to your body, work to push your baby out . . . HARD WORK!}

Barb and Aimee arrived at 2:58 p.m. and I hung up my contraction-timing hat (as I did when Barb arrived at Claire’s labor) and began to take a more vulnerable role as a laboring woman. They would now take over as the “protectors” of labor—all I needed to do was concentrate on the task at hand. I find this transfer of responsibility very important for relaxation of mind and body at the end. I don’t know how women can purposely do unassisted birth. I need to focus entirely on the work of giving birth, and I have absolutely no room in my mind for also making sure that everything is okay. I happily give this to the birth attendant, and Barb’s knowledge, experience and peaceful manner are just what I need to get my job done.

For Part 5 (The Concusion!), click here

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