Friday, November 28, 2008

It's been a year.

Ok, I'll apologize first. This is incredibly long, and pretty darn personal. If either of those make you the slightest bit uncomfortable, please come back another day - I'll understand, I promise. But give this mama a chance to reminisce...

Luke’s Birth Story

You always hear that second children come sooner than first children. I fully expected that this would be the case for Dan and I, as we anticipated the birth of our second son. Max was born the day before his due date, so I assumed that Luke would also be born early. After all, I had left lesson plans at school every day, and our sisters were coming to town for brief visits over the Thanksgiving weekend to meet him.

So, imagine my surprise when Luke’s Thanksgiving due date came and went without his arrival. I had been having contractions off and on since 23 weeks, and although they were coming more regularly, they never had a pattern or were particularly painful. As the Thanksgiving vacation wore on, we tried to enjoy our time with Erin and Alex and my parents, but the stress and anticipation were becoming increasingly difficult to put up with. I felt like the watched pot that was never going to boil. Sure enough, Sunday morning came, and Erin and Alex had to fly home. Dad also had to go back to Bend to take care of things there. Since I had been having semi-regular contractions all morning, my mom wanted to stick around – but I finally asked her to go home (I just couldn’t handle having anyone watching me and anticipating every twinge or feeling of discomfort as “the big sign”). The house wasn’t empty for long, though. Dan’s parents, Carrie, and her boyfriend Garth came over. Garth and Carrie were going to make us all lasagna, and we were going to spend the afternoon/evening watching football.

It was during the 4th quarter of the Broncos/Bears game that my contractions started to increase in frequency. It was nice to be distracted by an overtime win by the Bears, but soon into the second game of the evening they also began to increase in intensity. After about 30 minutes, I slipped away to the bedroom to begin timing them. At 5:30 they were coming from 4-7 minutes apart and were lasting around 45 seconds to a minute and a half. No set pattern, but they kept up like that for an hour. Dan came in, and we decided to call Christine (our doula and friend) and see what she thought. She suggested that we call the hospital or our midwife for their recommendation. The triage nurse I spoke with at the hospital recommended that since I was a VBAC patient I needed to come in now to begin monitoring.

Dan and I started to gather our things, and said goodbye to everyone here at the house. It was so convenient – Marian had her things in the car and was all prepared to watch Max. Honestly, that was the hardest – coming out from the bedroom and seeing Max sitting at the table eating lasagna, and having him ask me if we were going to the hospital so Baby Luke could come out. I hated leaving him behind. I hated that I didn’t get to have a couple of minutes alone to just hug my “only son” for the last time – but we had to be on our way, and I didn’t want to make a scene.

At 8:30 we arrived at St. Vincent, and called Christine so she could begin the journey up from Corvallis. We headed up to the Maternity ward, and got checked in with a triage nurse. After a series of questions and an exam, I was found to be 4-5 cm dilated and was having strong contractions. The triage nurse consulted with Christine Barlow, the midwife on duty, and they decided I would be staying. We called my parents, and they began the drive from Bend (we were having everyone gather at our house, and would call them when Luke was born to come to the hospital). Around 9:15 we got checked into a labor and delivery room.

One of the hardest parts of being a VBAC patient was the need for constant monitoring of me and the baby. From the moment we checked in until Luke was born, I had two belts that monitored contractions and Luke’s heart rate. I spent a great deal of time trying to keep the heart rate monitor in the right place, and frustrating nurses with the inability of my very round belly to keep the flat monitor attached.

Kandace, our first nurse, was very sweet – she was 13 weeks pregnant herself, and seeing a midwife from the same practice. When she learned that I wanted an intervention-free birth she was very supportive and encouraging. As long as the monitors were working, she encouraged me to have as much movement as I wanted. We could only go a short way up the hall (with me toting the IV pole with the telemetry unit attached), but we could wander around the room, shower, sit on the birthing ball, and stay out of bed as much as possible.

As was already becoming evident, this birth was not going to follow the same path that Max’s had taken. My contractions were not as regular, and varied a lot in intensity and duration. My progress was also not as quick. By 11:00 pm, Christine (doula) had arrived, and Christine (the midwife) had checked me – I was around 5-6 cm and 90 % effaced. It was slow going, but felt very manageable. We were encouraged to rest, and as the night/early morning wore on, I did rest a little. When I did, the contractions slowed down and spaced out. I really wanted things to hurry up – I felt guilty for having Christine out in the middle of the night for such slow progress, and I wanted Dan to sleep, knowing we had a long road ahead.

The time was spent talking with Dan and Christine, wandering the short hallway on my leash, sitting on the birthing ball, and laying down. Time was dragging, and I was starting to worry a little bit about why things weren’t progressing. Christine Barlow and Kandace kept reassuring me that things were just taking their time, and that it wasn’t a big deal. Christine was great at reminding me that Luke was taking the time he needed for things to go well. Dan was a champion cheerleader, offering great support at every turn.

Shift change was at 7:30 am. I knew that Christine was leaving, and that Mary Lewis-Rott (whom I was supposed to meet two weeks earlier, but was out sick that day) was coming on duty. Christine did a final check around 7:00, and I was 6-7 cm – not much progress for as long as things had been going on. This concerned Mary when she came on, and even more concerned was Dr. Stull, the OB on duty at the time. For “active labor”, things weren’t very active. It isn’t that the contractions didn’t hurt – most of them did. They just weren’t consistent, getting closer together, or getting longer. Dan and Christine were taking turns providing counter-pressure on my lower back, and we were trying some lunges to see if that would help things progress. But unfortunately, nothing was a sure-fire solution.

It was around 9:30 that the timeline started to become an issue. Felice, the new nurse on duty, and Mary suggested nipple stimulation in the shower, and like everything else, worked while it was happening, but didn’t produce any lasting effects. Around 10 am I finally consented to AROM (artificial rupture of membranes). That’s when things got a little crazy.

Almost instantly the contractions began coming one on top of another, and were of a whole different level of intensity. I remember crying and really feeling afraid of the pain that I was experiencing. That level of being out of control was terrifying, and I remember yelling over and over that I couldn’t do this. I remember Christine saying that we must be in transition – and I couldn’t believe that things could have changed that quickly. I was yelling and screaming and crying – all things that weren’t part of how I felt I would deal with labor. I was sure that AROM wouldn’t do anything, but sure enough, it did.

I don’t know when it was it was, but I remember Mary coming back into the room and telling me that we could try pushing. In my head I was thrilled to have made it to that point – but was terrified to experience what would come next. I had heard that pushing felt better than transition – at least it was a productive way to deal with the pain. In many ways, I agreed – doing something was better than doing nothing. I pushed in several positions over the next hour and a half, surrounded by the best cheerleading team ever. Felice and Christine were constantly encouraging me, and just as I would want to give up, Dan would tell me that he was proud of me. That’s something I will never forget – his voice in my ear telling me that he was proud of me. Really, in those moments, I knew it didn’t matter how all of it turned out – the man I love felt I was doing the best I could to bring our child into the world, and was there to support me every tough step of the way.

While my support team was incredible, I kept feeling like things weren’t going quite as they should. No matter how hard I pushed and how long we went, I didn’t feel like we were making any progress. While Mary felt we were moving small amounts, I knew that even she was concerned when she wanted to bring Dr. Stuhl in to check my progress. I remember asking her to be honest with me that things weren’t progressing and that we needed to move to the c-section. She didn’t want to say that, but with the doctor’s exam, in combination with how I was feeling, I felt ready to agree to move to surgery. It sounded like a relief – the opportunity to be sure that our son would be born soon, and the pain would end. I felt that I had given it all I had, and I was ready for what came next.

What I didn’t know was that the hardest part of the whole process was waiting for the anesthesiologist so we could begin the surgery. I was told that I had to stop pushing so that Luke wouldn’t get stuck, but the pain and urge/need to push was still there. Plus I had to lay in bed and just wait. That was the worst feeling I can ever remember. I became rather unpleasant, and remember yelling at the anesthesiologist to hurry up. Finally I was rolled into the operating room where I was prepped for surgery, and then blissfully received an epidural and spinal block. The minute that took effect, I began apologizing to everyone around for being so awful – they laughed, and assured me that I hadn’t been too bad. Dan was let into the operating room, and I remember feeling absolutely glorious knowing that very soon Luke would be in our arms. The surgery felt very quick, and at 12:40 pm on November 26th, Lucas Kieran Young was born.

Luke’s beautiful little cry was the most relieving sound I had ever heard, and soon after, Dan went with him to be weighed and measured. A few minutes later I got to see him and touch him for the first time – he was absolutely perfect. And after a long adventure, he was here.

Luke’s birth was not at all what I expected. Late when I expected early, slow when I expected fast, and a c-section when I’d hoped for a VBAC. But it was a beautiful, fulfilling journey. The slower pace allowed me to experience every moment in a conscious way. I got to share the experience with a good friend – a blessing that forced me to share my weakest self with someone I ordinarily wouldn’t. I depended heavily on Dan for strength, and he delivered more than I ever could have expected. I got to experience a great deal of a natural labor, and was thrilled that I got to push – an opportunity I felt robbed of the first time. And Luke was born in a moment that I was totally conscious in – aware of the beauty of the moment, and not at all concerned about the circumstance. I got everything that was important to me – and that made this experience a true gift.


Erin said...

Wow, Megan. Thank you for sharing your birth story. (I guess I forgive you for not calling me...he he he!)

I hope you know that I am very proud of you,especially for the mother that you are.

(I guess I forgive you for not calling me...he he he!)

j.yue said...

wow. amazing. happy birthday luke! those pics made me want to cry. he is just so dang cute. that pudgy face. i can't get enough of it. you are so amazing for making it through all that. brings back so many memories for myself. i felt so many of the same emotions that you did. so hard to be in that kind of pain and not be able to be yourself. i too was not expecting that when in transition. but like you i am glad i got to experience it nonetheless. and cute healthy babies...or yikes...can i call luke a baby anymore? sigh...yaaa. forever our babies right?
i feel happy and sad for you all at the same time. miss you guys.

*jess* said...

i'll third the WOW. great birth story. thanks for sharing!

emily said...

choked me up at many points, but the two I remember--

feeling wistful at your rushed goodbye to your "only son" before he got his brother

Dan's encouragement in your ear, keeping you going.

Powerful story... Beautiful result!!