Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Birth Stories: My Second Born

My youngest son is almost a year old. It's true when they say that the days are long but the years are short. Through all the chaos and mental breakdowns, I wouldn't change a single thing.

I previously wrote about the birth story of my first baby boy. And now I'm finally getting to the story of my second son's birth. Not for any special reason other than that I simply felt like it. 😃

My Second Born 

Quick Back Story

Ever since the birth of my first-born, I strongly believed that the ONLY reason I had a C-section was because I had an epidural. When I found out I was pregnant...surprised yet again...I desperately did not want another C-section. Besides wanting to avoid the long recovery time, I simply didn't like the idea of one of my internal organs being cut open for a second time. And I have heard that women who have multiple C-sections can pretty much say good-bye to ever having a flat tummy. So protecting my body and a little bit of vanity, among other reasons, played a part in my eventual decision to have a natural birth outside of a hospital.

Prenatal Care

(This section is mostly about what led me to choosing natural delivery with the help of a midwife rather than going to a hospital. If you just want to read about my birth story, skip down to the section labeled "The Labor").

At first, I chose to stay with my original OB (obstetrician), mainly because I was comfortable with her and scared to try anything new. My primary doctor said she would definitely help me try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), but that it is their policy to schedule a C-sections on the due dates for any women who have previously had one. When I told her I would really like a normal birth, she said that I would probably change my mind near the end of the pregnancy and just want the baby out in anyway possible...(seriously?). Another doctor in the practice asked me why I didn't want another C-section (again...seriously?!). I simply responded that I hope to have several children, but do not want several C-sections.

So after several appointments with the doctors at the practice, I was getting very discouraged and had a strong feeling that if I stuck with them, I would end up having another C-section.

Well into my second trimester, I spoke with a friend at church who was pregnant with her first child. She explained how she had chosen to deliver her child  with a midwife at a birthing center close by. She gave me the number and told me just to call and look into it. I figured it couldn't hurt, but since I was so far along, they probably wouldn't accept me.

So I went on a tour of the facility led by the midwife. In that short, half hour tour, I learned more about labor and delivery than I ever had from my OB. And they said they take patients who are close to their due date, and getting me in would be no problem. I went home and pondered it for a couple days. Asked my husband what he thought. He said he would support me in whatever I believed was best for my health and the health of our baby. (This is a blessing I've learned can be kind of rare as many fathers have very strong opinions about how the mother of their children should give birth). And so the more I thought and prayed, the more I was convinced that I needed to switch to the midwife.

It took a couple of weeks to deal with insurance issues (which were beyond stressful, causing this hormonal, overly-emotionally preggo to cry a few times) but I finally got switched over.

The Labor

Early that Saturday morning, sometime between 6 and 7, I thought I was maybe feeling contractions, but not completely sure. So I got out of bed and made pancakes for me and my family. And I scarfed them down.

By 9 AM, I knew without a doubt I was having serious contractions. By 9:30, they were strong and 2-3 minutes apart. So I thought to myself, "hopefully by noon, maybe 1PM, I'll be holding my baby Axel." I was very wrong.

I read that having a natural labor and birth meant having a clear mind throughout. Some materials even said that it didn't necessarily have to be painful, just really "intense." That was definitely not true for me!!! The pain was so bad that I could not hold down any food. I had thrown up my pancakes not long after active labor started, and I certainly didn't have a clear mind.

I made contact with my midwife by 10 AM, labored at home for a little while longer  (I went back and forth between kneeling, sitting on my exercise ball, and laying down), and then Cameron took me to the birthing center around noon. Both of our moms were with us, and my sister-in-law joined us a little bit later to take pictures and video. I also had my primary midwife and a student midwife there (the student midwife had actually practiced midwifery for a while in England, and was just working on getting certified in the States).

Almost immediately upon arriving at the center, my midwife had me in the birthing tub. I've heard many women say the warm water helps make contraction just a little more bearable...but I didn't really notice any difference. I spent somewhere between 5 and 6 hours total laboring in the tub.


The Delivery

I believe it was around 5PM that my midwife told me it was time to push. For an hour, I kept pushing but made no progress. (One of my favorite memories of my labor was the student midwife gently encouraging me, with her British accent saying, "Push through your bum!!"). During that time of pushing, my water broke, but I had no idea. I later learned that meconium was visible with the "water". I think this put the medical professionals in the room (the midwives and my mom) on high alert.

At almost 6:10PM, they moved me from the tub to the bed. I pushed for what felt like forever. Everyone in the room was encouraging me. I so wanted to give up. So I just took it one contraction at a time. Cameron was holding my head, having me sip water through a straw between contractions. I was so overwhelmed and I did NOT expect to have to push for so long.

We were nearing the end when Axel's head was born. At this point, my midwife immediately began suctioning him. I could see what she was doing, but I couldn't fully process what was going on. The contractions kept coming, but I wasn't allowed to push (just pant). I asked several times if he was okay, and she assured me that he was, and that I just needed to keep my focus on panting and relaxing as much as possible.

It turns out that Axel had inhaled some of his meconium. The moment his head was born, my midwife quickly and vigorously suctioned the meconium from his mouth and throat using an instrument that looked similar to a NoseFrida.

Finally, I was told to push again. A few minutes later, at exactly 8PM, Axel Wayne made his way into the world. He was purple and his cry was weak, but he was healthy. The midwife wiped him down real fast and handed him to me.

Post-Natal

I didn't care that I was buck naked in a room full of people. I was just happy to be holding my baby after nearly 12, painfully long hours of labor. In fact, I was eager to nurse him. But he rested on my chest as they stitched me up.

I was thankful to get bathed and clothed shortly after delivery (neither of which happened the same day with my first son). We stayed at the birth center a few more hours to monitor Axel's breathing and oxygen levels, making sure most of the meconium had left his system. We ate Chic-fil-a (thanks to my father-in-law for picking it up!), talked with family and cuddled with our sweet baby boy during this time.

At 1AM, we left the birth center and went home. It was nice to sleep in our own bed that night without nurses checking in on me and baby all the time. (Little did I know that it would be nearly 4 months before I would get 6 straight hours of sleep again!).

My recovery from Axel's birth was different than my recovery from JT's birth, but was just as difficult. It was very tough to walk around for about a week, but after two weeks I was walking fairly normal again (versus taking quite a bit longer to walk normally after my C-section). And (heads up on TMI) it took me several weeks to get control of my bladder (unlike the last time, where I had virtually no problems with bladder control). And just like my C-section recovery, it was a solid 3 months before I had the energy to really get out of the house. Although, there were 3 major circumstantial differences in my two recoveries:

  1. I had to chase around a toddler all day
  2. It took my second baby close to 4 months to stop waking up every 2-3 hours to breastfeed, and nearly 6 months to start sleeping 8-10 hours/night (unlike my first, who was about 10 weeks old by the time we was sleeping a solid 12 hours/night)
  3. I started working a new job (although from home, it was still mentally taxing to start new job so soon post-partum)
So the combination of pushing 3 hours prior to delivery and the very demanding season of my life made recovery rather slow.

Reflection

Throughout the pains of labor, I didn't think about much besides just getting through the pain. Between contractions, I simply focused on breathing and resting (often drifting to sleep before the next contraction woke me up again). I wish I could say I prayed, that through the pain I cried out to Jesus in anticipation of the beautiful boy he was giving me. But I didn't. I just desperately wanted it all to be over.

Looking back, I know full well that He got me through it. Even though I didn't see Him or hardly thought about Him, He was thinking of me. He kept me going, and He made sure Axel didn't suffer any long-term damage from the complications.

After having two babies, I have learned a lot about how my body works - its strengths and weaknesses. For example, after my first son was born, I was completely convinced that the only reason I had a C-section was because of having an epidural. While it is true that I was very unsuccessful in pushing JT because I couldn't feel a darn thing, I also believe I would've made little to no progress even without the epidural. I had in no way prepared myself physically or mentally for labor with my first born. With my second born, I constantly prepared myself mentally and took much better care of myself physically, yet I still struggled for 3 hours to push that baby out. Looking back, I definitely believe I would've had a C-section with my first even had I opted out of the epidural.

Giving birth and taking care of young children is very demanding on mind, body and spirit. I am constantly reminded of God's sustaining grace through all of it.

I often doubt that my experiences, failures and victories, trials and successes, don't matter much in the big picture of eternity. I mean, billions of women have given birth throughout the course of history, so what does my story matter to the mighty God who has seen it all?
Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. - Luke 12:6-7
One of the coolest things about our God is that He is infinite, not limited by time like we are. Thus, He has the amazing ability to not only care about everything we experience, but to be present in it. Even when we are unaware.

And so I remember that just as I was unaware at the time of how much God was present during my labor and delivery, I am often unaware of how present He is in my daily circumstances. But despite how much I forget, He never does.