Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The High Calling of Birth

I preface this with the statement that I am a Christian, very firmly rooted in my belief in God and His constant presence in our lives. I believe that a relationship with Him means we can and do speak openly with Him, and He with us. That being said...

Recently, our church experienced one of those great services where praise and worship just doesn't stop and the sermon never happens. Love those so much!! As the majority of our congregation delved deep into worship and God's amazing presence, I began to hear Him speaking to me about birth, my job as a doula, and the amazing act of worship that birth is. 

He began to reveal to me that birth is a woman's ultimate act of worship. Our bodies are designed and intended to bring life into the world, we should honor Him in that task. At some point, I looked around and saw a few people who just were not "into" praise and worship that morning. You know the type: arms crossed, ugly expression on their face, etc. I wondered how they could stand there so distant when God's presence was so heavy and tangible in the room. Why they would medicate their worship and keep from experiencing what He had for them. God answered me with this question: "If you wouldn't medicate your worship, why would you medicate your birth?" 


Wait a minute. Back that truck up. Oh.snap.

I'm guilty of it. Most women in America these days are. But I had never thought of it that way before. Whoa. I had to repent. In that act of repentance, I asked Him to show me more. What else were we unintentionally doing in birth that grieved Him? The answer came swiftly and was even more shocking:
God began to talk to me about the birth process. Everyone calls babies a miracle, right? How many times have you heard, "each baby is a miracle!"? A lot, right? Me too. I've said it. You've probably said it. We all say it. It's part of our birth culture. But why do we say it? I have always assumed that I say it because God so delicately designs each one of us inside our Mother's wombs. Life itself is miraculous! However, God gave me a new and amazing perspective that morning: we call each baby a miracle because He is present when that baby is born. Our labor is worship, we are preparing the way for Him to come, whether we know it or not. When that baby, that tiny, innocent baby, comes Earthside, they are coming directly from constant communication with Him and bringing His presence with them. In my mind's eye, I saw a hospital room in the first few moments after a birth. The parents are gasping in awe of the child that is laying on its mother's chest, the nurse is rubbing the baby down with a fresh receiving blanket, and over by the door is the King of all things. If the President of the United States or the Queen of England walked into that room, people would roll out the red carpet faster than anything. But the Creator is there...and everyone is ignoring Him. We forget to thank God for the gifts He has given us, and for His presence in our lives. We expect it. Take it for granted. In that moment, I realized that His heart is so grieved by that. We spend hours, sometimes days in preparation for His arrival, but He goes unheralded. I literally got on my face and wept with remorse. How had I never realized that I grieved the heart of my Father when my daughters were born? Just because our sin is unintentional, doesn't mean that it isn't sin. We are still responsible to repent for it when we are aware of it. 

On our way home from church, I recounted all of this to Ryan. He was amazed and asked me what I planned to do differently this time. 

This time, I plan to recognize my worship for what it is as labor begins. To tell God that I am preparing the way for His presence and ask Him to sustain me. Along the way, I hope to remember to continue to do that very thing. When the baby arrives, we intend to take a few moments to thank God for His presence, to welcome Him as He fills the room. 

This may seem crazy and over religious to some of you reading right now. But I encourage you to pray about it yourself and see what God has to say to you. I want to remember to welcome the King when I give birth. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Lovin'

Happy First Day of Summer!!! 

What have you done to celebrate summer today? The girls and I made some juice slushies in the freezer and lazed around quite a bit. Today also marks my twenty seventh week of pregnancy and the entrance into my third trimester. I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I'm almost reluctant to let this pregnancy go, but I may feel differently when my edd rolls around. ;) Norah was born one day shy of the First Day of Spring, perhaps this baby will make its appearance on The First Day of Autumn? That could be really fun!!

I was talking with a friend today about how EXHAUSTED I am this pregnancy, but that it is almost as bad right now as the first trimester was. You know, when you can't keep your eyes open and jerk awake because you have slumped sideways in your chair? I'm so thankful that it is the weekend and my kids can have both parents home, but we also have some deep cleaning scheduled, so thinking about that makes me REALLY tired already. The girls go to bed at 8:30pm tonight, so I may just go to sleep as soon as they do. ;)

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Overcoming My Fear

This birth will be different. 
This birth will be different. 
This birth will be different. 

After Norah's birth, I immersed myself even more deeply into self-education on the subject of childbirth. So much so, that my husband told me that I should become a doula. Really? Should I do that? Ryan told me that my passion would help other parents experience birth as it SHOULD BE, not as we experienced it. He is so wise and encouraging. ❤ It felt like a pipe dream, but I knew that it would happen someday, so I kept learning everything I could. I read everything I could get my hands on (still do!) and excitedly told Ryan about what I was discovering. Poor man, he gets so bored listening to me prattle on, but he listens anyway. Have I mentioned yet how wonderful he is? ❤ We didn't plan on having any other children ourselves, but I knew that I would do things a specific way if we ever changed our minds. 

Then came January 2013.
Whoa. We did NOT see that one coming! I actually took this test in the maternity ward of the local hospital. *snort* My cycle had been off by eleven days the month before, so I wasn't concerned that I was late again. I figured my body was just trying to find its balance again. Kirsten and Norah had recently had a 24/hr flu bug, so I assumed that I caught it as well...until Ryan asked me how many days late I was the morning that I threw up while brushing my teeth. Oh sh**. Sixteen days late. That was a lot. Well, being upset about two lines wasn't going to make us feel better, so we decided to be happy about it on purpose! It was a new life, right? We kept our news a secret for several weeks, despite me being the sickest I've ever been and actually losing weight this time around. That's never happened to me before. 
Right away, we knew what our plan was:
1. Hire a midwife and birth at home
2. Purchase a pool to birth in
3. Follow our instincts, trust God, and do it *our way*

Our midwife (whom we will call 'M' in respect for her privacy) is an amazing woman who didn't just set us at ease in the interview, she made us feel like we were family members. She plays with our girls and is enthusiastic about our birth. She and I also love to talk birthy research, etc. together. She wholeheartedly supports our decision to deny any sort of testing or interventions beyond the 20 week anatomy scan. We had that done just to ensure that baby's health was as it should be and we would not be putting baby at risk by home birthing, should baby have any sort of deformities/special conditions. We knew in our hearts that baby was fine, but we felt that it was an important decision for us to double check. (Disclaimer: there are times when the ultrasound does not correctly diagnose problems, so each set of parents must make their own decision and accept full responsibility.)

At this point of my pregnancy, I would normally be going for the glucose tolerance test with an OB's office. I can't express to you how relieved I am that I won't be doing that this time! I didn't realize with my first two pregnancies that I had the option to deny testing. I'm not at risk, so tests are not pertinent. As far as gestational diabetes goes, there are MUCH more reliable ways to confirm if a woman has GD than the GTT. 

At our most recent visit, M asked about our previous birth experiences. We shared important points and answered her questions in detail. She confirmed what we felt all along: that there was no reason for our babies to be held for "observation", that skin to skin and being cared for solely by Ryan and myself would have avoided the hospitalizations they experienced. I even read a study about three years ago that focused on newborns who were taken away from their mothers in the first hour without being permitted to Breastfeed or have skin to skin time. Most of these newborns went into some form of physical shock, most screaming inconsolably and a large number experiencing respiratory arrest! SOUND FAMILIAR?! I wish I could remember where I read this study. *grump* But I digress...

We often get people who try to scare us into going to a hospital, playing the dead baby/dead mother card. At this point, very little could scare us into going to a hospital. M is a very capable and educated midwife whom we trust with my life and our baby's life. My education tells me that there are few things that can't or shouldn't be handled at home and that those are very typically detected before they become an emergency. In the event of an emergency, M and her attendant, along with my amazing husband will take quick action. I do not foresee an emergency whatsoever, but I trust them in the event that one arises. 

Ways that this birth will be different:
1. We will be in the comfort of our own home. No rush. No pressure. Things happen at their own pace. 
2. Our kids can do whatever they want, should they prefer to remain with us. 
3. No sneaking of food and drink--we can both eat and drink what we want, when we want from our kitchen!
4. At the end of the day, we can sleep together in our own bed! This is something I am so excited about! I hated watching Ryan sleep in that awful fold-out chair while I was trapped in the hospital bed. 

These are just a few of the ways that this birth will be different. Natural. As God intended. Not in a cold, germ-ridden hospital where we are treated as if we don't matter. Care. Real care. Surrounded by love and trust. 

As our birth gets nearer and nearer, I feel trepidation, as I mentioned in my first post in this series. I am processing all of my feelings surrounding my first two births and seeking the Lord's comfort and reassurance for this upcoming birth. He is faithful and I find my trepidation passing slowly like a ship in the night. I envision myself standing on a rock as I watch it sail away. The water is as smooth as glass in its wake and I am strong. I will get birth as it should be and my journey will be peaceful. My journey will encourage and empower others as I become a doula and I will be able to help other families have beautiful births, as well. I eagerly anticipate attending births and my husband is excited for me, as well. 

This birth will be different. I will birth without fear. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Facing My Fears II

As I mentioned in my pervious post, I feel the need to share my birth journey with the world, in the event that it may touch and encourage someone else. I will continue today with the birth of my second daughter. 

Before we decided when we would have our second child, I started studying natural childbirth and evidence based studies. I was determined to have a better birth! We decided to cloth diaper and be more natural in our parenting style than we previously knew how. In July of 2010, we found out that we were expecting baby #2! We chose to find care in a city sixty miles away in order to receive more humane and personalized care. We liked my new OB, as far as OBs go. ;) She recognized that I knew what I was talking about and was eager to learn more and to take an active role in my gestation and birthing process. We wanted a water birth, but the hospital had only one labor tub, so we kept our fingers crossed. 

I'd had an intuition all along that I would go into labor on St Patrick's Day--and I did! I assumed for many hours that it was just prodromal labor, but transitioned from early to active labor that evening. Kirsten went to my parents' house that evening and we labored at home for a bit. I had an appointment scheduled for 9am the next morning anyway, so this was good timing. I was 37+6 wks. After a while, my contractions were pretty intense and moved to about 2.5 minutes apart, so we departed for the hospital. Ryan and I were in good spirits! We arrived at the hospital sometime around 11 and I was taken to a room for monitoring. I was asked to lay on my back in the bed and allow them to monitor my contractions. This felt too familiar. They checked me for dilation and I was only dilated 2cm and the baby was no longer engaged, she was in my ribs! What was going on with my birth? We were released around 4am (?), despite begging to stay since we had an appointment so early and lived almost 1.5 hrs away. We drove home and my contractions continued. Ryan slept just a little bit and I labored in the tub. We were only home about an hour before it was time to leave again. This ride wasn't as pleasant as the first. My body was definitely in labor and we had to stop every little bit so I could use the restroom. Looking back, I know that my labor was lengthened by the obstacles we had to overcome. You know, sphincter reflex and all. We arrived at the office and I'm sure I scared a family of small children sitting behind me in the waiting room every time I had a contraction. We saw the doctor and she checked me...dilated to 3cm. Oh my. So far to go. She told us that she felt I was definitely in labor and recommended that we find something good to eat before we headed to the hospital. We went to Panera Bread and I was too uncomfortable to labor without privacy at this point. At the hospital, I was told that I was the sixth woman to check in in fifteen minutes. I labored on my back, hooked up to monitors for over two hours in c-section recovery before I was given a room. Remember that episode of Friends when the woman was wheeled into Rachel's room, before being wheeled *right* back out and delivering her baby in the hallway? Yep. Happened to me. I was finally given a private room--not the one with the labor tub. I moved around a LOT, spending a lot of time on my hands and knees. Dilation was incredibly slow. Around 45 hours in, I started to absolutely lose it. I was panicking and the nurse proclaimed me a 6. I started begging for the epidural. I had been in labor for almost two days, awake longer. I was exhausted and could no longer manage the pain. My amazing husband and sweet nurse worked me through a few contractions, but in the end, I received an epidural. The anesthesiologist and nurses saw how hard I had worked and how much I wanted to go 100% natural, so they administered a walking epi without me even requesting it. I will be forever thankful for that kindness, as it made a WORLD of difference in my emotions about the epidural. I was allowed to sit and move about as much as I physically could this time, they let me do whatever I wanted!! The epi never took full effect in the left side of my abdomen, so I didn't rest, it merely served as a way for me to manage the pain while still feeling every contraction--some that I still had to breathe and concentrate very hard to get through! :) In just a little while, I told Ryan that I needed the nurse because I could feel the baby in my birth canal, there was tremendous pressure. I buzzed her in and she delightedly proclaimed that the baby was crowning and started playing with her very dark hair! Ryan went down to look and was amazed! She asked me to do a trial push while the dr was on her way and made me stop--I was too eager to get baby earth side and she wanted the dr in the room. She allowed me to do "mini" pushes until the dr arrived, then I pushed twice and Norah came out all at once! She was perfect and made her anger at entering a cold world known! Just like her big sister, she became very calm when her daddy talked to her. They still do that today. ❤ She nursed immediately and for 30 minutes! Our wishes to allow the cord to stop pulsating before clamping were honored this time, and my placenta delivered on its own! Everything was as it should have been. We all went to the recovery room together and Norah later went to the nursery...that was where our nightmare began. 

When the nursery nurse brought Norah back from her bath, they told us that they wanted her wrapped up the entire time because her termperature had dropped a little and they wanted her to stay warm. I still hadn't slept, but was on a birth high, so I just complied without thinking. In reality, I should have unwrapped her and done skin to skin, but it didn't cross my mind. A while later, they took her to the nursery again for a little while to check her temperature. They brought her back, saying that it was better, but they still wanted to watch her. Ryan and I finally fell asleep and when we woke up, she was gone and a neonatologist was in our room. He informed us that he felt her temperature was too low (it had hovered in the 97* range) and he sent her to the NICU--without our consent. He informed us that it was a 4-5 day *INVOLUNTARY* stay. He left the room and I began to cry. My dreams of a "normal" hospital day were shattered. I immediately marched down to the NICU, Ryan hot on my heels and demanded to know specifics. The only specifics we were given were that she was going to be contained in a heated isolette until she could hold a satisfactory temperature on her own, but that the "testing of the waters" would take at least three days. We would not be allowed to hold her except during feeding times, which were every three hours, and we would not be allowed to stay in the NICU when it was not a feeding time. I was bullied for feeding her as long as she latched because they said that it was "interfering" with their feeding schedule. We had to stay at the Ronald McDonald house and I got caught in traffic one day, making me three minutes late for her feeding. I called to tell them that I was in the parking lot and told them not to give her formula. When I got to the NICU, they were feeding her formula!! She proceeded to throw up every little bit of it and I cried as I Breastfed my hungry newborn. 

After a four day NICU stay, they told us that she held a satisfactory temperature and could be released. They took each of our temperatures and found that both Kirsten and I had low temperatures. The nurse said that it must be hereditary. Hmmm...imagine that. A NICU stay for nothing at all. All of that stress for no reason. 

I say all of this to encourage anyone who may have a story similar to one of mine, as well as to hope that me sharing my painful past may make parents aware that it doesn't have to be this way. I could have signed an AMA and taken Norah out of the NICU, following my instincts. She would have been perfectly fine, as she was never even given medicine or treatment of any kind. The ONLY thing they did for her was monitor her temperature. We wouldn't have been bullied by the nurse system and we could have taken our healthy, term baby home. She was born at 38+1wks. While many babies do have good reason for being put in the NICU, ours did not. Every day when the doctors made their rounds, we were told that she would be held longer for "observation". Several nurses told us that they had no idea why Norah was being held, that they never would have admitted her to the NICU had they been the ones examining and not the neonatologist. 

This birth will be different. Stay tuned. 

Facing My Fears

As I approach my third and final trimester of this pregnancy, I find myself full of trepidation.
 I don't want week 27 to come. I don't want to admit that I am creeping toward the finish line. I don't feel prepared--in a number of ways!! Is this sounding familiar to anyone else?? I don't fear home birth, labor, contraction/rushes/waves, pushing, birth, breastfeeding, etc. but I am full of trepidation, nonetheless. I have explored myself and prayed long and hard about these feelings, asking God why I feel such reluctance to enter the final stages of pregnancy when I welcomed it with my oldest children. Finally, I have come to the realization that I fear my previous births and the person I was during the time surrounding them. 

I will begin by saying that I in no way mean to scare or frighten people. I know that my story is an unusual one, although there are plenty of women out there who have similar tales to tell. 

When I carried my oldest daughter, I was young and naive. I put full trust in my doctor and the stupid critically-acclaimed book they handed me at my doctor's office. I did no research of my own and allowed myself to be fully consumed with planning for what we would need/want for her once she had already arrived, rather than finding balance and planning for our journey in her arrival, as well. I knew that I wanted a natural birth and informed my doctor of this on our first visit. She wasn't pleased in the least. My husband supported me fully, but he was pretty much the extent of my support. My entire pregnancy, people would do what they could to convince me that I could not handle the pain of childbirth and that I *needed* the epidural. My resolve was strong until I started experiencing prodromal labor. I had no idea what prodromal labor was and merely thought that my body just couldn't or wouldn't labor correctly. I was tired. I was uninformed. I was emotional. After an especially long and frustrating bout of prodromal labor, I told my husband that I wanted our doctor to induce me, that my body was failing me. I was still two weeks from my estimated due date. A few days later at our appointment, the first words out of my doctor's mouth were, "You look exhausted. Let's induce you and get this over with." Those words sounded like relief at the time, but they would cause a downward spiral. 
A few days later, we excitedly arrived at the hospital, still determined that I would birth with no pain medication. I was given pitocin and AROM (artificial rupture of membranes) immediately upon arrival. I was treated very roughly and inhumanely, almost six years later, I still suffer pain in my right wrist from the violent way in which my iv was inserted. I was told that I would not be allowed to walk around, that I was not allowed to be in any position but laying almost flat on my back, and that I was expected to urinate *ON MYSELF*, rather than being permitted to use the restroom like a normal person would. My pregnancy was extremely low risk and both my daughter's and my vitals looked FANTASTIC on the monitors. There was no reason for this sort of treatment. After about six hours (?) I started to experience a great deal of back pain in relation to both baby's position and a previous tailbone injury. The nurses took advantage of this and pushed me from a sitting position (which was providing minor relief) to the reclined position again and pushing pain medication on me. I started to cave. I asked what my options were other than the dreaded epidural and was told that my only option was Staydol. I asked if it was like Demerol, stating that I would *NOT* allow the administration of a narcotic into my or my baby's bodies. I was lied to and told that it was NOTHING like Demerol and not a narcotic at all. For fifteen minutes it was bliss, I laughed hysterically over everything and nothing at all. After that was a nightmare. I experienced what I later learned is an allergic reaction and became so sleepy and lethargic that I could not remember to breathe. My terrified husband had to remind me to "breathe in, breathe out". Not once did a nurse come in to observe me, even when he alerted them of the situation. We were simply informed that it would wear off. Once I drew near transition, I was still experiencing some of the ill-effects of the Staydol and would black out entirely during a contraction. I begged for the epidural and my husband was relieved. This was not the labor we had expected, but we were too uninformed to realize that this was *NOT* how birth should be. Per protocol, my husband was made to leave the room while I got the epidural and all I could do was sob into the nurse's shoulder. She and the anesthesiologist were The ONLY kind souls that we experienced during labor and delivery and I only saw them once. I was a mess. My husband, my best friend, my rock was not in the room when I was facing one of my biggest fears. I was terrified. The epidural took effect and I wanted to try to sleep a little...they upped my pitocin above the legal limit. I don't know what the numbers were, I just remember someone saying that in hushed tones. I rocketed from five centimeters to ten in less than two hours and was forced almost flat on my back again so I could "push effectively". I was not elated or excited, I was almost entirely numb and was falling asleep during contractions from the sheer exhaustion. After about forty-five minutes of pushing, my doctor gave me an episiotomy. Then a second one. Kirsten was born screaming and perfect at 11:37 pm. I was never told her APGAR scores, but I am sure they were both nines or tens. She pinked up almost instantly and didn't stop screaming until her father spoke to her while she rested on my chest. She moved easily and with strength, a very healthy girl. Our doctor did not abide our wishes to allow her umbilical cord to stop pulsating before clamping and cutting, she clamped it even before placing Kirsten on my chest. After a few moments, the awful nurse put Kirsten in the warmer because I "had to deliver the placenta". But I was not given the chance to be natural there, either. No. My doctor forcibly *PULLED* the placenta from my uterus. I could not feel my extremities in the slightest, but that felt like someone had a blow torch inside of me. Family was ushered in and my baby was passed around. Then she was escorted to the nursery for a bath before I was allowed to nurse her. My husband was not permitted to accompany her. Their reason for both? It was "too late at night". We were taken to recovery, but the nurse threw a fit because I could not move myself into the next bed. I still couldn't feel anything and they mentioned that I had lost "a lot" of blood, but I was never told how much. My husband was made to leave the hospital, as we were given the only shared room in the maternity ward. Again, I was left without my rock, but what he witnessed was worse. He promised to check on Kirsten in the nursery on his way out and was denied access to her because a nurse was screaming about a baby being blue. As the door was shoved closed in his face, he saw that it was *OUR* baby. He drove home exhausted and terrified, alone to pray until the next morning. 
At 4:30am, I was woken up by a gruff nurse who demanded that I use the restroom. My legs and feet were still barely functional and I was very dizzy. She left me on the toilet and the last thing I remember is blood clots leaving my body and blood flowing freely into the toilet bowl as I looked at that string that is labeled "pull in the case of emergency". I must have pulled it. I awoke slumped against the wall with a kind nurse patting my hand and telling me that I had been passed out for more than ten minutes. There were four other nurses with her. She helped me gently back to my bed and I began to inquire about my child. She suggested as she tucked me in that we call the nursery, so she dialed the number and handed me the phone. I was informed that my baby "stopped breathing for a bit, but is fine now".  **WHAT?!?!?!** I started to bawl as the nursery nurse told me that I could not see her and they didn't know when I could, then proceeded to hang up. I don't remember the kind nurse leaving, I just remember praying as I drifted in and out of consciousness for the rest of the night, feeling helpless and alone. At 7:30am, I called my husband bawling my eyes out and begging him to come immediately, describing the situation with our baby. He jumped into the shower and headed straight over. As I hung up the phone, a nurse came in with a bassinet. She told me that she had my baby. I teared up again, saying that I had been told that my baby wasn't able to leave the nursery. She took the baby out of the bassinet and began handing it to me without checking our wristband numbers or asking me the "password" of the day. She told me that she didn't see why not, he was hungry. *HE?!* I drew my outstretched arms back and told her that I had a *girl*. She asked if I was sure. I said that I was VERY sure and she replaced the baby in the bassinet, hurrying from the room. I laid against my pillow and prayed for that poor baby and his mama, that his nurse would check wristbands before delivering Ny more babies to their parents! When my husband came, my nurse told us that I was too weak to go to the nursery, but my husband could visit her. He brought back pictures. I was allowed to visit her when she was 12 hours old. I sat on a pillow in a wheelchair and he took me to the nursery. She had iv's and was hooked up to monitors, I was allowed to touch her foot. After a few minutes with her, I started blacking out and had to be taken back to my bed. Four hours later, they brought  her to me and I was allowed to Breastfeed for the first time. She was sixteen hours old. Things began to improve from this point, but it was never a pleasant experience and we had to stay for four days. We were never told details of her "episode", or given a diagnosis. They behaved as if it never happened. It has taken me almost six years to realize that my experience was an abusive one. I pray that it was unusual, but I know that there are lots of women like me who have similar stories. Gradually, I came to realize that birth could be different and knew that the birth of our second child almost four years later would be different indeed. 

To be continued...