I “met” Emily by commenting on her thought-provoking blog, Lioness at the Gate, where she blogs about women’s issues. If you haven’t visited her blog you should. I love the quote on her header, “Women are like lionesses at the gate of the home. Whatever happens in that home and family happens because she cares about it and it matters to her. She guards that gate.” -Julie B. Beck. After emailing back and forth we realized that we both graduated from the same high school a year apart, GO BRAVES! Small world. She is a stay at home mother who recently gave birth to her fourth baby. I love Emily’s birth story because she shares the good, the bad and the ugly. Birth is beautiful but there is the raw nature of the experience that cannot be ignored. I love that Emily also shared some of the postpartum adjustments that are common to the experience. Thank you Emily for your honesty and candor. -Robyn
The Labor/Birth Story
On Sunday, when I was 40 weeks along, I thought, now would be a good time to post a picture of myself. So, we took a picture, and I put it on facebook. We went to bed at 11:45. At 12:45, when I didn’t know if I’d actually fallen asleep or not, I thought I should go to the bathroom. I got up, and it appeared that my water might have broken or more mucous plug had come out, or bloody show, or something (1).
So, I excitedly/frantically called to my husband and said we needed to go to the hospital. He called our neighbor, Sister J, to come over and be at the house. He also called his dad, to come over and spend the night. We’ve learned that his dad is quite a good resource for sleepovers, as he can sleep anywhere. When my dad came when we had A, I know he didn’t get a very good sleep because he wasn’t in his own bed, so it’s nice to have someone that can still feel half awake the next day. My husband also called the hospital to tell them what had happened and that we were coming.
We got to the hospital by 1:00. I was shaking from being cold and from being nervous. They made us sign the same papers we had the week before. I was a bit annoyed at this because last time my water broke, the baby came 20 minutes later, and I really didn’t want to have the baby in the hall of the hospital.
We went upstairs and they confirmed that my water had broken (2). I was about a 5/6 cm and 50% effaced. They put the pick line (or whatever) in and blew my veins two times. Finally, they got it in the 3rd time. After monitoring my (lack of) contractions and the baby’s heart rate, we decided to walk the halls to see if we could trigger some more contractions. I can’t remember how long we walked, but finally about 3:00, we stopped walking, found out I was maybe 70% effaced, and the baby’s head was down a little more. I can’t remember exactly, but some time later, they checked me again, and thought I was really only 50% effaced and the head was higher up again. The nurse was kind of confused because she said you don’t go backwards. The midwife had been notified through all of this, but was waiting for me to have some regular contractions before she came in.
I really wanted to get some sleep, but do you think I did? Of course not. My husband slept from about 3:00 – 7:00, and I tried. At 7:00 I called my parents to let them know we were at the hospital and wondered if they could provide relief to my father-in-law around 8:00 and get E off to school. I also expressed my concerns that what if something was prohibiting the baby from dropping down and that’s why nothing was happening. What if the placenta was really in the way a little, or what if the cord was wrapped around an arm or something? (I’ve heard of that happening). I’ve also been worried that the baby would be posterior rather than anterior. I was also annoyed that only nurses had checked me and no midwife/doctor.
At about 7:30, Mom called me back somewhat frustrated and worried that something might be wrong. I invited her to come in and provide some emotional support since I was getting all stressed out and worried. After that, I decided to try walking again to see if I could get some contractions. I could hear the doctor who delivered A and the nurses all talking about my situation. As Dr. W was walking away, I asked him what he thought about my situation. He asked if I really thought my water had broken. Apparently there can be a fore sack where there are 2 sacks and only one breaks. So, that could be the problem.
The midwife finally came in a bit after 8:00 and we discussed the options. We decided to break my water (again). She checked me and found I was at 7 cm and 80% effaced! How come I’d felt none of this? It was incredibly weird. So, stuff was happening, I just couldn’t feel any of it. She broke my water at 8:30. Mom came right after and we visited until 9:30. At that point, Mom said she’d give us some time alone and go knit in the waiting room. Right around then, I thought, I’m still not feeling this very much (enough — I wanted it to get going faster), so I thought I’d go pace the halls. I stood up (3) and felt a lot of pressure and knew I’d have to push soon. It started to get very uncomfortable and hurt. I got back on the bed and told the nurses they’d better call the midwife soon, or else she’d miss it.
I guess the midwife came around 9:40. I was fully effaced and fully dilated, but I didn’t feel quite ready to push. With A, the desire to push was so strong that it was do or die. I kept waiting this time, but got impatient and started to push at the contractions. Pushing this baby out was waaaay more work than it was with A. With A, the whole birth was this huge adrenaline rush. This time it was hard. I compared it to pushing up against a brick wall as hard as you can, just waiting for it to budge. So, I think if I had waited longer, pushing would have been easier, but I wouldn’t have been able to stop pushing when they told me to to take the cord off of her neck, etc. (4) (5). It was funny because as I was pushing, they said, go ahead and grunt. Grunt? More like yell and scream. I asked the midwife later how long I’d pushed. She said I got the baby out in 2 contractions, so I guess that would be 6 – 10 minutes. It felt more like half an hour — I suppose you could say I was in some pretty good pain for 30 minutes. You can suffer through anything through 30 minutes, right? The midwife and nurses kept saying how “stellar” I was during the birth.
The baby was born at 10:04 a.m. Her Apgar scores were 8 then 9. After she came out and they put her on my chest, I could see her little eyes looking side to side, side to side; it was so cute! I guess her breathing was going fine at the very first, but then she decided to stop for a bit. They said they were going to run her off to the nursery. At that, she let out a huge wail, and she was able to stay. It was at that point, that mom was coming back from her knitting in the waiting room, and she walked in to find a little baby! Because the baby couldn’t be on my chest, and I was too exhausted to talk or move, I told my husband to tell my mom to go be by the baby on the baby table (I wanted him to be by me). I figured if I couldn’t be with the baby, I would want my mom there.
I’ve always torn with the other babies, but this time I didn’t! I couldn’t believe it. I stretched a bit, but wasn’t bleeding and didn’t need stitches. I can’t tell you how much better I’ve felt in recovery. So much of the pain is from tearing, I’ve decided. (6)
The baby was our biggest at 8 pounds 2 ounces and 20 inches long (E was barely shy of 8 pounds; the girls were both 7). This pregnancy was my longest by 8 hours and 45 minutes (E was born 3 days early; S was started on her due date due to lack of amniotic fluid; I started into labor on A’s due date, but she didn’t come until 1:22 a.m. the next day). The labor was my longest at 9 hours and 20 minutes (E came 8 hours after my water broke at home; S came 4 hours after they broke my water; A came 21 minutes after they broke my water, but I guess I’d started into labor about 7-8 hours before she came). You can also say I felt like I was in labor the ENTIRE week before having this baby when we went to the hospital early Sunday morning the week before. I was so tired of having (mini) contractions!
She seems to be a social sleeper (likes to sleep around everyone in the light). She’s also a bad sleeper. Last night I didn’t get to bed until 3:00 because she wouldn’t go to bed. She gets really mad if she doesn’t have the binky. It seems like our other kids weren’t bad sleepers until at least a week or two after being home. She’ll fall asleep, wake up, fall asleep, wake up. She’s had some gas and some burps, so something’s not quite settling right with her. There was also some mucous in her spit up one time. I wonder if she was this bad at the hospital, but I just didn’t know because the nursery had her much of the time. (My husband had a cold, so he stayed home as much as he could; so, I sent baby to the nursery so I could sleep).
In her first 2 days of life she had only 2 wet diapers, and the nurses were getting a little concerned. Dr. F (pediatrician) said that her urine could be orange, but it was okay, but indicated some dehydration. She just wanted to see some wet diapers (2-3) in the next day. My milk was coming in, so I hoped that would help. Last night, she still hadn’t had another wet diaper, so I thought I’d try putting her hand in warm water. After about 30 minutes, it worked! We were so glad. She had 2 more in the night and more today, so it looks like she’s doing fine.
This has been harder than I thought it would be. I think the hardest thing is just adjusting with the other kids around. They are always in her face and around me. Sometimes I just want to be alone. I’ve been so tired, too. I forgot to write, but a bit back, S got a cold, then A (and it turned into an ear infection), then my husband caught it, then in the hospital, I’m pretty sure I came down with it. I knew I’d be tired from not sleeping the day before labor, but I was REALLY tired. Finally, after coming home and not taking all that Motrin at the hospital, I could tell I had something. I’m feeling a bit better tonight, but it’s been really hard having a cold. Plus, there was all the worry of passing the sickness onto the baby.
(1) There was a bunch of blood and clotty stuff in the toilet.
(2) There was so much blood that the regular pH strip (or whatever it is) wouldn’t work. They had to do a separate test that went to the lab.
(3) They’d given me a “diaper” to stick under me for when I stood up, but it flopped forward and so that when I stood up, all this amniotic fluid gushed all over the floor! How embarrassing!
(4) and to stretch me out — totally helped!
(5) My biggest fear/embarrassment with birth has always been regarding having a bowel movement during labor. I was worried about this because I hadn’t gone the day before — despite my efforts to eat 30-40 grams of fiber/day. I did tell the midwife this, but we decided not to do an enema. She thought if I wasn’t really constipated, then I didn’t really want diarrhea on the birthing table. So, during my first 3 or so pushes, you can guess what happened. The baby’s head pushed it right out. I don’t think it was super low in my bowels, and pushing that hard really made me sore. I told my sister the next day that my rear hurt more than my birth canal.
(6) Another thing that’s been different with this recovery is that I’m hardly bleeding at all! I had way more clotty stuff at the beginning, and of course, plenty of blood, but for me to have this little blood now is really weird. Maybe I’m more clotty than I used to be? Perhaps with the bleeding at the beginning of the labor, it was from quickly dilating, and the blood sat there and clotted? Who knows. The midwife wasn’t even sure.
Reflecting upon the birth one week postpartum
I had a baby just over a week ago. She’s a little doll. I chose to have this one “naturally,” or I’d prefer to say unmedicated — natural just doesn’t sound quite right to me. My #3 was also “natural,” but that was by accident. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be that time, so I thought I’d try it on purpose this time (I did get nervous about the choice and semi-seriously considered getting an epidural). There was just something about feeling the birth of a baby that is so real, so powerful. It made me feel so incredibly strong, so incredibly sacrificing.
After I had the baby, I typed up the entire birth story, embarrassing things and all, and put it on Facebook. I was shocked. I must have felt pretty good about myself and the whole experience or I wouldn’t have done it. I suppose I’m over being shy about the whole birth thing. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s birth! It’s life! It’s sad we don’t talk about it more and teach women what a beautiful thing it is — all the details. I’m happy especially now to see efforts such as those in The Gift of Giving Life.
Another thing that actually made me feel proud of my post-pregnancy body was an image someone recently posted on Facebook of a woman’s middle, including stretchmarks. The caption was: “Your body is not ruined. Your a … tiger who earned her stripes” [profanity omitted]. Heck yeah I am. Now if we looked at it that way, we all might be a little more content with these bodies that don’t look like teen-age anorexic model bodies.
A last thing that made me feel pretty empowered about being a woman and bearing children was triggered by something I saw on PBS. I turned the show on while nursing or something and it was about the early Puritan women who helped settle our country. I wish I could remember the name of the show or the woman/women it was specifically about, but it’s a bit fuzzy. The show mentioned how these early women were valued for their ability to bear children. Children were critical for the survival of the colonies — both to help with work as well as to be a propagation of the species. The woman the show was mostly about had borne 10 children and was highly valued for her ability to do so. I think there’s a lot to learn here. Imagine if we valued women for their abilities to reproduce, and also valued children for their ability to help out and be productive, not to be a drain. Interesting.
As I look down at her, this life, this tiny, perfect human being, I thought how it all begins with an act between man and woman that is so incredibly simple, yet it results in something (someone) so incredibly complex!
It hit home why our Father in Heaven wants us to use our procreative powers so carefully, wisely, and under the right circumstances. The consequences of this simple act are so huge!