Friday, April 30, 2010

Tales: Lillian's Birth Story- She's One of Those People, She's Always Gotta Be Different

Lillian's pregnancy was the opposite of Bekah's in that I suspected it the moment I conceived. I was late right away so when I started having very bad morning sickness there was no mistaking it for a "weird flu." I had had it with my first 3 pregnancies but this was even worse. I tried just about anything over the course of the pregnancy to make the relentless nausea, fatigue, and headaches go away.

I started trying the usual things I do- eating small frequent meals of whatever I can stomach at the time and eating a lot of protein.

I was still having trouble functioning with the constant overwhelming feeling of sickness so I tried acupuncture. I had success with acupuncture for migraines. Some of the points were so sore that I bled, something that had never happened before. Since the acupuncture seemed to help a bit I started wearing sea sickness acupressure bands constantly. The only time I would take them off was in the shower or if they got so sore I bruised.

I had to be even more aware of what I was eating and when. I couldn't drink water in the morning or early afternoon. I had to eat about every 20 minutes, usually high protein, just to take the edge off of the unrelenting nausea. I drank a little soda to settle my tummy but I could only drink it with crushed ice. I couldn't eat bland food, like crackers. People's suggestion that I just eat some crackers and drink ginger-ale made me laugh or cry, depending on the day.

It got so bad that the smell of the water, not just shampoo or soap, but the actual water would make me throw up in the shower. I carried a bag with me everywhere I went in case I had to throw up. I cried a great deal of the time because I felt so bad. At one point my back-up midwife (a CNM) wrote me a prescription for Reglan to control the nausea. I never filled it.

I read about hyperemisis gravidarum and just reading stories helped a lot. I never had to be hospitalized for dehydration, though I did come close. The physical and emotional feelings from the extreme, relentless nausea led me to contemplate all sorts of horrible solutions to end my misery.

It was an unusually hot summer in Massachusetts and in addition to working full-time at my paint-your-own pottery studio, I was bringing my homeschooled oldest son into Cambridge by train every morning to go to camp at the Museum of Science and another camp at Boston Dance Company. It was extremely difficult while dealing with morning sickness.
One day I took ballet class with him at Boston Dance Company which actually helped temporarily. It was fun and funny to take class again with the former artistic director of the ballet company I was dancing with when I got pregnant with Felix.

In spite of the debilitating morning sickness, I managed to keep the pregnancy a secret while my sister, who worked at the pottery studio with me, contemplated having a 3rd baby. I actually encouraged her to have another baby because I didn't want my pregnancy to be a reason for her to hold off on having another child. I just figured we'd work out the logistics of running the store somehow. My sister did get pregnant, and then she found out I was pregnant too.

My daughter Bekah nursed throughout the whole pregnancy. She really loved to nurse! When I was about mid-pregnancy I developed yeast in my breasts. It is painful and a long process getting rid of it. In addition to making some diet and lifestyle changes, I used gentian violet. Bekah did not like the color or taste. She said the gentian violet was "spicy." She stopped nursing for 3 weeks while I was treating myself for the yeast. She slowly started up again after the purple was gone, and then really got interested after Lillian was born and there was more milk.

After having my last 2 babies at 36 weeks, I thought I would have another preterm birth. I had several risk factors too- short cervix, evaluation for preterm labor at 26 weeks, excessive walking and standing on my feet all day. However I made it to 36 weeks and celebrated by making a belly cast. Frankie started asking me when the baby would "crack out."

My sister and I also had the best baby shower ever around this time. We went to the fabric store and each picked out fabric to make a baby quilt. We cut the fabric into squares and had all of our friends and family decorate squares to be sewn into the baby quilts. We also asked everybody to bring a silver charm representing their hopes for the babies.
At the shower my sister and I each had beads we had picked out that we strung into necklaces with the charms. I continued to wear my necklace throughout the rest of my pregnancy. Guests also brought their favorite children's books to give to each baby. We had a tea theme and gave out goody filled tea cups as favors. We had a great time and I was elated that I had gotten in everything I ever wanted in a baby shower.

I figured I would give birth soon after the shower since I only expected to get to 36 weeks. I had a lot of work at the pottery studio and I was taking a local Family Strengthening workshop. I had a big project due painting platters for Epiphany School, a local Episcopal middle school. I wanted to complete the order of 30 platters before giving birth. I just kept painting, glazing, and firing as I got to 37 weeks, 38 weeks, 39 weeks and then finally reaching my "due date" at 40 weeks.

I only had 2 platters left to finish at 40 weeks 2 days. I worked all day at the store and finished painting and glazing the last 2 platters. I loaded them into the kiln and walked over to my acupuncturist's office about a 1/2 mile away. I couldn't believe I was actually getting "Chinese take-out" needles put in to encourage labor. The extra small flexible needles were held in place with round band aids on spleen 6 and great eliminator points on both sides of my body. They could stay there for a week and then be replaced with new ones.

After I had the needles put in I picked up a couple pizzas for dinner and walked the mile to my house. It was snowing out, but just lightly. It was just enough to make the town look magical. I often think that Concord looks so beautiful that it is surreal.

Back at home my husband discussed a birth request with me. He said he was tired at the other births because my water had broken in the middle of the night before he had a chance to sleep at all. He asked that my water not break until about 6am so he could be more rested. I laughed and told him that that wasn't something that I could control.

It was a Friday. Since all of my children had been born on a Tuesday so far, I figured that I wouldn't go into labor for a few days. I went to sleep early so that I could be rested up for work the next day. My in-laws were also coming to visit. They had been waiting until the baby was born but this was their last weekend they could come, so they decided to come anyway. We were all hoping the baby would be born during their visit.

I woke up suddenly at 5:45am when my water broke. I waited until 6am to wake up my husband Frank. He couldn't believe that I actually did it; I actually granted his wish for a 6am start to labor. I couldn't believe I was in labor on a Saturday instead of a Tuesday. Frank's parents and sister, Christine, were heading out from New York at around the same time. I wondered if they would arrive while I was still in labor.

We called our midwife to head over but at first there was no real urgency. Pretty quickly after I hung up the phone my contractions became intense and close together. I sat on the birthing ball breathing and low moaning to get through the contractions. By the time our midwife called her assistant and started heading over I was unable to talk through the near constant contractions. It was clear I was in transition. It was close to 8am.

Frank had planned a webcast of the birth to share with family and friends but since his family was already on the way over he put the idea on hold. Things were moving very fast and he had a lot to set up. After already being through one homebirth he knew exactly what to do. He turned the heat up, put the foil wrapped blankets in the oven, put the plastic sheets on the bed with old sheets on top, put some waterproof underpads on the bed, poured me some Gatorade, started boiling water to sterilize instruments, and started getting out the birth supplies, crock pot, and cookie sheet to hold the supplies. He also set up the video camera.

We had called my aunt to head over and she arrived at about the same time as both midwives. They were all grateful that Frank had done so much set up because I was sounding like I needed to push. I was shaking. My contractions had slowed down and I was in-between the intensity of transition and real pushing. I was feeling like I needed to push but was holding back until the urge was really strong.

I was on my husband's side of the bed in a semi-reclining position. Frank's nonchalant attitude kept cracking me up. I commented on the intensity of the labor.

At one point my midwife checked my daughter's heart rate with the Doppler and I could hear that it was very slow. It was clear it was her heartbeat and not mine. I wish that I didn't hear it for myself because it took me from "labor land" straight into my head. Labor gets painful when you are too "in your head," especially when there is also fear involved. I think, for the mother, labor is meant to be more on an instinctual level rather than a cognitive one.

My midwife asked me to turn onto my side to push. The act of moving and this new position brought up the intensity of labor. I prefer to give birth semi-reclining. I think the reason I instinctively choose this position is that it keeps the pushing stage at a slow to moderate pace making it more comfortable.
When I turned to my side, the contractions started coming faster and the baby moved through the birth canal faster than the slower forward and back pushing stage of my last 2 births. Even Frankie's 2 hour labor had a slow and controlled pushing stage. 

The intensity of the pushing was in sharp contrast to the Latin Lullaby CD that was playing in the background. I clutched the quilt made by family and friends. We had decided Frank would catch this time so he left the room to wash his hands as Lillian started to crown. 
Frank cheered me on as he guided Lillian's slippery body out and onto my chest. He was as elated and energized as I was after what seemed to me the most collaborative event the 2 of us have ever experienced together. It was 9:03am, a little over 3 hours after my water broke.

Lillian had no vernix left and her skin was dry and starting to peel a little. She weighed 8 lbs 8 ozs and had lots of dark hair. The kids all came upstairs to see her before the placenta even came out. My sister stopped by to see her on her way into the studio and the midwives were still filling out paperwork when my in-laws arrived.

While doing some online research on the Continuum Concept, a book I had read that really resonated with me, I came across some information on Natural Infant Hygiene, also known as Elimination Communication (EC). I had just finished reading Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene just before Lillian's birth. I decided I wanted to start right away. When the midwife asked if we wanted diapers on Lillian I said "no." The first time I offered Lillian the potty she peed.

Lillian came to the pottery studio with me starting just before her cousin, my nephew, Elessar was born 2 months later. She nursed, slept, pottied, and was carried in a sling all day 5 days a week at the studio until we had to close when she was 6 months old.

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