Monday, April 2, 2012

It Was a Labor of Love

Lyrics by Andrew Peterson... modified by me :)

It was not a silent night... You could hear a woman cry... with tears upon her face... It was a labor of pain, it was a cold sky above , but for the girl on the ground in the dark with every beat of her beautiful heart it was a labor of love...

I have been putting off this post, and putting it off. Early on, it was because I did not want to go back and revisit some of these memories. Then the reluctance evolved into just not being sure I had fully processed the onslaught on emotions brought on by the whirlwind experience of bringing our baby girl into the world.

Let me state here and now I completely realize I really sound like a high maintenance diva of a prima donna when I express some of my thoughts and emotions surrounding my labor and delivery experience, but I truly am not looking for attention or sympathy. I am just being being brutally honest, and throwing pride to the wind.

I am pretty sure I had some mild post traumatic stress disorder after my labor. Not even kidding. Ridiculous, I know, but I am 100% being truthful.

So many women talk about what an empowering experience natural childbirth was for them. Many women talk about what a spiritual moment it was for them. As time passes, I am becoming familiar with the small quiet ways this experience was empowering and spiritual for me. However, empowering and spiritual are still not in the top 100 words I would use to describe labor and delivery. Maybe that will come with time and maturity.

Ok, so I have made my point - I do not look back on this experience fondly. So without further ado, let's get down to the story telling. This will be long... I am told one day I will completely forget the agony, and while I strongly doubt this, I want to write down every tiny detail, as it is our story. 

January 12, 2012

My alarm went off at 4 am. I was scheduled for a 6 am induction, requiring a 5:45 am arrival time. I was determined to be showered, shaved, hair dried and fixed, make-up on, complete with water proof mascara. At this point, I was just hoping and praying I would be holding my girl in the next 24-36 hours. As this was my first labor, and based on my mom's ridiculously long laboring history, I was mentally preparing myself for a long journey to the finish line. Who knew when I would clean and put together again.

We packed up the car, and headed out without any mishaps. We talked about how this would be the last time, hopefully, we would be driving without a carseat with a baby in it in the back of our car. The next time we came home, we would be a family of three. Bizarre

I immediately felt the teensy tiny fingers of freak out and panic begin to slip their grasps around me upon arriving to my room. I saw a categorized dry erase board on the wall. Under the diet category read: Ice Chips Only. 

Ha! I thought. I looked at Jared said, "yeah, that is not going to be happening. I am sneaking food, and you are going to allow/help me." I mean, I had carefully packed a bags full of healthy, comforting, and laboring inducing foods, and I did not intend for them to go to waste.

Pure rebellion and stubbornness took hold when my admitting nurse came in with a hospital gown and instructed me to change into a gown and underwear only. 

Ha! That was not going to happen. Being a nurse myself, I know the beauty in the art of the dance of compromise between a patient and their medical providers. So I decided to initiate the first dance steps. When the nurse returned, I had taken off my shirt and put on the gown, but that was the only changing I had done, or intended to do. I was completely clothed, including tennis shoes and socks. :)

The nurse told me it was time to start my iv. I told her I really preferred the IV be in either one of my arms, and not in my hands or antecubital space, for comfort's sake, as I was planning to stay mobile as long as possible. She was very kind and obliged, although it took two attempts to find a vein I like the position of, and that the nurse could effectively stick. I was totally fine with that - if I was requesting only certain positions, which were harder to stick, I had to be ok with the consequences.

After this I was hooked up to the monitor. I was experiencing a slight bit more discomfort then what I had become used to living with, but nothing intense. The pitocin was started before 8 am. About 20 minutes later I was able to distinguish "waves" of contractions of sorts, but nothing painful. Jared crawled into bed with me, put his arms around me, and I think we both slept for about an hour.

My family showed up that morning, along with Jared's mom, the Dardens ( our mentors, the minister who married us, and who we have worked in the college ministry with), and Laurie, one of our college girls. Everyone was in the room with us visiting, talking, and having a good time.

I was definitely out of my comfort zone. I am used to being the lady with the badge and stethescope, going in and out of the room, dealing with alarms, administering drugs, watching monitors, etc... However, now I was the patient in the bed, causing the alarms, being given the drugs, yet still watching the monitors, and being watched and taken care of by everyone else. Ugh

As thankful as I was that we were so blessed to have so many incredible people in our life, who cared enough to get up at the crack of dawn to join us, I started to feel stifled and claustrophobic. Plus, I think the emotions of upcoming motherhood were really starting to surge. I decided it was time to start walking and get this party started.

Various members of our party took turns walking the halls with me. I had the noisiest iv pole known to man. I swear the patients on the floor below me could hear me coming and going. The wheels were all off balance. This combined with the portable fetal monitor I had to take with me, made walking briskly a challenge to say the least. There was another "natural laborer" taking to halls at the same time. She however was going completely natural, therefore she got to walk the halls unemcombered. She could make it around the halls almost twice as fast I could. This did not do good things to the competetor in me.

Around 11 am the midwife showed up to check out my progress. She said I was having a good progression of contractions. I still wasn't really even uncomfortable yet... but not exactly comfortable either. She said she wanted to go a head and break my water.

I knew the pain was going to get worse with the breaking of my bag of water. I also knew this was when the clock would start ticking towards me needing a c-section. In another attempt to maintain some control on this situation I literally begged to keep my bag of water intact for a bit longer.

My midwife could not have known me, or handled me, better. She stabbed me where she knew I was most vulnerable - my daughter. She validated my desire to keep my water intact, but reiterated her growing concern for the health and safety of Ellie. She was more comfortable with exposing me to more pain then she was exposing Ellie to more pitocin. If my water stayed intact, labor may take longer, exposing Ellie to more drugs, and possibly unnecessary distress.

Of course, I gave in immediately.

I was 4 cm dilated and 90% effaced before the midwife broke my water, but quickly went to 5cm as soon as the bag was ruptured. It wasn't painful, just uncomfortable. The midwife told me she expected me to be holding a baby by 8 pm. I said I would be thrilled if it happened that fast.

I laid in bed for about 15 minutes, to let the water drain out, then I decided I needed to get up and start walking again. I remember thinking my hips felt really sore for some reason and that I must have slept on them awkwardly.

I made two laps around the hall before I was catapulted into a cruel whirlwind of experiences. After the first lap, Jared left me walking with my mom to go to the bathroom or something. When he left me I was talking, smiling, and walking normally. By the time he got back, I had gone silent, was charging down the hall like a bull, gripping the IV pole, head down. Internally, I was getting extremely mad and disgusted with myself, as tears kept attempting to spring up in my eyes - what the heck is that about!?!? When I didn't answer Jared's three inquiries as to "how are you doing" he deduced for himself things were picking up... quickly.

I remember coming around the corner and seeing the elevators. A single thought process went through my head," I want to go home. I don't want to do this. I just want to go home, and take a good, long, relaxing nap, and maybe come back and try again later." Unfortunately, that wasn't an option. I now know, i was in the beginning stages of transition, a fact that would have been good realize.

When the my insides are splitting and tearing apart feeling eased up for a second I looked at Jared and said "Get everyone and all their stuff out of my room now. Party's over."

As soon as my room was cleared (which happened in record speed I might add... I think everyone was scared to see what I would do if they didn't oblige quickly.) we headed back to try out the exercise ball.

We turned down the lights, turned on my Labor Playlist, and started all the things we had learned in our Bradley Classes (which were awesome, I might add!). I sat on the ball next to the bed and Jared sat behind me rubbing my back and shoulders. As I rocked back and forth, my breathing was rapidly becoming impossible to keep normal. I tried to focus on the music playing. As I did the tears started to fly down my cheeks uncontrollably. I wasn't sobbing or even crying hard. Tears were just flooding my face without any effort.

I think the tears were a combination of many things, the biggest reason probably being the enormity of what was getting ready to happen to us - we were about to meet our long awaited and much prayed for little girl and all that that entailed! Also, things were starting to happen so incredibly fast. And, music just has that affect on me. 

In case you haven't noticed, a lot of my blog spots have revolved around or included song lyrics. I love words (hence my often overly wordy posts)... and especially when they are put to music. Certain Christian songs will always remind of very specific times in my life, revealing finger prints of Christ in my life and heart.

My Labor Play lists included songs that had brought encouragement and strengthened me throughout my life, especially during our season of infertility. I wanted to be reminded of all the times God has seen me through. As the songs that make up/accompany my testimony played, the tears flowed. I have a future post coming up devoted solely to my labor playlist.

I think I lasted on the exercise ball for about 20 minutes. By this point, the Pitocin was making my skin and body vibrate head to toe. I tried to stand up, but my legs were shaking too much and I was too dizzy. Unbeknownst to myself, I was into the full on throws of transition.

This is when my mental state started not only to deteriorate, but leave me entirely. I ended up curled on up on my side writhing, knowing full well this was the worst thing I could possibly be doing, but I didn't care. I couldn't fathom being in any other position.

Waves of pain were drowning me. Jared said I started levitating off the bed in pain and near panic. I remember saying,"Two more pains like that, and I won't be able to do this." The one time throughout the whole experience my mom got tough with me was here - she somehow made me get up off my side and onto my hands and knees. My nurse raised the head of my bed nearly upright. I rested my arms and face in to the top of my bed. And there I stayed for the next 2+ hours.

Things kind of become a blur at this point and my sense of time completely leaves me. One thing that did not leave me, was my sense of modesty. At some point someone had taken my pants off, and I was determined to keep my backside covered.:) Thankfully, someone behind me made sure this happened.

I didn't open my eyes once, and maybe uttered 5 five words. I rocked and swayed back and forth. Jared faithfully never left my side, and his hands never came off me. He rubbed my back, squeezed my hips, and helped me move with the rhythm of my contractions.

Let's talk about contractions. One of the reason I think I was near panic throughout transition (other then all the usual reasons everyone woman should panic during this time) was I kept waiting for my contractions to start. I had heard contractions were like the worst menstrual cramps, beyond anyone's ability to imagine. Menstrual cramps hurt in the lower abdomen, correct? Well, I had very little sensation of pain anywhere in my abdomen. However, my hips, pelvis, and perineum felt  like they were being shredded, crushed, torn... I clearly remember thinking my hips were about come apart at the joints and bust out through the skin. If this pain wasn't contractions, holy.freaking.cow! I was screwed. Eve, curse you!

At some point, the nurse decided to check me, requiring me to flip over onto my back - If I ever felt the need to cuss, it was then... but I hurt to much to say anything. I was 6-7 cm. I have no idea what time this was. Back to my hands and knees rocking position I went.

I felt like I had lost all control over my body. I couldn't hear Ellie's heart rate monitor ( I now know they had turned way down), I had no clue who was in the room, or where people were in the room. I thought Jared was too my right. He was behind me. I have no clue where my mom was, but I was aware of her presence. My cousin Leah, came up to me at one point and gave me a kiss on the cheek, and I thought she was still there, but again, no clue where.

Ellie wouldn't stay on the monitor when I was bent over in the position I was in, unless someone would manually hold the monitor in place. My sweet L&D nurse asked twice if I would let her place a scalp monitor on Ellie. I remember asking if Ellie was in distress, and the nurse said,"No not at all, she just won't stay on the monitor with you in this position." In a last ditch attempt to control something, I refused, unless she started to show signs of distress. Because of my stubbornness, my sweet L&D nurse held my monitor in place for 2+ hours, bent over at the waist. Her poor back!

The most embarrassing part of this whole ordeal were the noises that erupted out of my body. I didn't know these sounds were humanly possible. I didn't scream, I didn't yell. The best description is deep, gutural, caveman type groans. I also remember breathing with "loose horse lips." I kept telling myself with the next wave of pain I would silence myself... each time it was impossible to be silent. 

While there was no way I could keep quiet, my own noises were somewhat distracting to me. With my eyes closed (I did not want to see a clock for fear how slow time might be moving) I had no good focal point. So I started to focus on my hands and keeping them unclenched and relaxed. That became my goal - keep my hands limp, open, and relaxed. Right before I started pushing, I remember grabbing the mound of hair that had been piled on top of my head in exhausted desperation. But quickly, I was back to focusing on keeping them relaxed. Tensing up definitely made the pain way worse

Somewhere along the way my midwife came to check on me. She said I was 8 cm. I started to cry again, with my head in the top of the bed. I knew I was past the point of getting an epidural, most likely, but that also, so many women get stuck at 8 cm for hours. I wanted an epidural so badly at this point! I am not sure how much of it was my stubbornness or complete lack of inability to talk that kept me for asking for an epidural.

 Prior to going into labor, I had threatened Jared with his life if he asked me during labor if I wanted an epidural. I told him that we would rely on the medical staff to determine if/when I reached the point that I could no longer go the natural, unmedicated route. But nobody freaking asked me! Afterwards, I somewhat jokingly brought this up. My L&D nurse and midwife said I asked for support to labor naturally, so that's what they provided me. My midwife said she would have given me one at any point had I asked, but my L&D nurse said she knew I could do it, but if she had offered I would have gone for it.

I was starting to get exhausted (how women labor for hours I hope I never have to figure out/experience.) I could feel desperation quickly taking over. I must have started to either verbalize this or show physical signs of it, because I remember my mom becoming verbally present at this point. I think I also remember my cousin, Leah, coaching me to breath and move with the contractions. Someone started coaching me how to breathe. My L&D nurse got firm with me once as my breathing, and possibly those awful noises started to get out control, inhibiting my ability to labor effectively.

Then something clicked. I found my groove. I hated every bit of this grove, but it was the niche I had been desperate to find. Now looking back, I am fairly certain I was coming out of transition. 

I finally found that place deep inside, where no one else could go with me, except Jesus. The tears quietly flowed again, as they are again now as I type this. It was me and Him. We were going to do this. We had to do this. Freaking crap, I have no choice but to get through this. I am pretty sure I said, "Jesus, this is freaking HELL, you gotta help me!" Welcome to my prayer life - it's not exactly poetic most of the time.

My mom continued to coach me, by my left side. I remember waving her off. I was in my zone, and any noises or words distracted me.

I am not sure how long this stage lasted. Suddenly, the urge to push was overwhelming. More like involuntary. There was no holding it back. I told my midwife,"I am really sorry, but I have to push." She quickly said,"Well honey, if you have to push, PUSH! Go with it. Just don't push with all your might just yet." Some of the best words I heard during this whole ordeal. 

Let me just tell you how freakishly good pushing feels. Not in a physically pleasurable way, but in a finally I am getting control back over my body way.

I pushed on my hands and knees for a few minutes. About this time, I started to notice a break in the pain. I could distinguish more waves, and got brief breaks to regroup between. I still was not feeling what I thought contractions would feel like. The pain was all in my hips, pelvic tendons and joins, and perineum. Nothing anywhere in the abdomen.

My mom whispered into my ear, "you are almost there, honey, they are setting up the room for deliver." I felt like toddler as I wailed, "You promise?" Ha ha 

My midwife checked me and told it was time to get this baby out. I tried pushing on my hands and knees, but couldn't quite feel it the way I needed to. So I flipped around, and with mom and Jared's support, sat up and pulled my legs back. My midwife was awesome. She placed her hands on various muscle groups to help me figure out how and where to push. This made all the difference in the world!

During some of prenatal visits, Jared had been asked if he wanted to cut the cord. He had decided it was going to be a game time decision, depending on how queasy the whole experience made him. He had done such incredible job! During a break pushing between contractions, the midwife asked him he wanted to help catch the baby. He, wisely, opted to stay by my side, and keep supporting my back and legs. The midwife said," Yeah, maybe for the second one."

My head was resting back, and my eyes were closed, but my hearing was on full alert. I quickly responded, "The second one will not be coming from my!" Ah, the snarky sense of humor was returning. This made everyone laugh, and brought some much needed comic relief. Then it was back to pushing.

I could definitely feel Ellie moving her way down in the birth canal during the last part of labor. Very crazy sensation! I could physically tell when she was fully engaged, signally me to really start putting some effort into getting her out.

I would love to say I used up all my by allot of those primitive noises, but alas, this is not the case. Evidently deep, loud groanings are a delivery necessity for this girl. There was no holding them back.

Pushing is amazing. And for me, I thought almost the easiest part of labor. I mean it required a lot of work, and is exhausting, but I finally felt like I was actively participating in this experience. I pushed for about 30 minutes total, I think. Again, my eyes were closed the entire time. They had asked me if I wanted a mirror, and I adamantly declined. I did not need to see what was going on down there. I had seen it happen to many other women. I did not need to see it happen to my own body.

"There is her head!" I did peek at this point to get a quick first glimpse at our daughter, but then it was back to eyes closed and let's get this done, baby. Her shoulders quickly followed, and I am not embarrassed to admit I only half pushed to get the rest of her out.

Then she was in my arms, her arms wide open looking around, and arms wide open. Jared said they literally threw her up onto my chest. I am told it was 2:12pm.

It was like she had always been there. I just kept saying, "Hey baby. I love you, Elliott Faith. Thank you for coming out. I am so sorry. I know that was not fun... for either of us." 

We had asked to the midwife to delay cord clamping until the cord quit pulsating. Because of this, Ellie just laid there looking around at us for a while, just calmly taking it all in. When she started crying it was such a tiny, sweet little chirp. She was tiny. I couldn't believe how small she was. What on earth do normal size, and large, babies feel like?!?

I remember seeing the clock on the wall read 2:15, and asking if that was pm or am. People kind of looked at me like I was joking. I wasn't . I seriously thought it had to be in the wee hours of the morning.

Soon it was time to deliver the placenta, which is nothing compared to what labor puts you through. And let me tell you it is the best feeling ever. The racking pain just stops, and you immediately  begin to feel human again, and like you might actually live after all.

I guess I had cried out all my tears during labor, because I didn't cry one tear after Ellie was born. I had cried every time I just thought about holding her for the first time in my arms. Once it happened, it felt so incredibly right, tears were not needed to demonstrate the emotions I was experiencing.

Jared and I were left alone for about an hour, to enjoy our new life as a family. We just sat in the bed snuggling as a family of three. 

Then it was time to bring in the paparazzi family and friends.

Jared and I were the only ones who held her that day, and I love that. We hadn't talked about doing that before, it just happened. We let anyone come visit that wanted to celebrate with us, Ellie just stayed in her mommy and daddy's arms.

My take-aways from labor..

  1. First time laborers - if you are being induced, get the epidural!
  2. I am still undecided if I am glad or upset that I went natural while induced. I am glad that I can say I gave birth naturally, as I believe it is physically healthiest for mom and baby. However, I still don't look back on that experience with any warm sentimental thoughts. I still can't watch any of those childbirth shows on cable without feeling a panic attack coming on. Melodramatic? Perhaps, but its my honest feelings!
  3. Maybe the above was all worth it to show me I am not as strong and tough as I would like to think. Or in as much control. This is a lesson I do believe God delights in teaching me.:)
  4. Ask questions about your progress, your baby, etc... I kept myself too much in the dark out of some sort of self preservation. I think it created more doubt and fear then any discouragement I was worried about creating.
  5. The minute the baby is in your arms, you still remember the horror of labor. Nearly 11 weeks later I still remember.
  6. Was it all worth it - absol-freaking-uletly! Would I do again? Yes, with an epidural!
  7. Will I attempt natural childbirth again? Yes, if I am not induced. 

This has gone on way too long, so I will have to do a postpartum post at a later date. I will end your misery here, for now. :)

It was a labor of pain...But for the girl on the ground in the dark, with every beat of her beautiful heart, it was a labor of love.. with tears on her face, it was a labor of love...
It was not a silent night, on the streets of Knoxville town... :)

1 comment:

  1. Labor is such an intense experience for everyone involved. :)

    The low, guttural noises are pretty much universal I'd say - everyone I know made them, myself included. It just feels right! Much better than high pitched shrieking anyway, which is highly unproductive.

    I wonder if your embarrassment with your noises had anything to do with the panic? Don't get me wrong, I had my moments of telling my hubby holy crap I cannot do this why in the world do people do this... but I just wonder? We've been so conditioned by society to be prim and proper and demure, that I think it's just HARD for us as women to let go sometimes

    My midwife was great about making sure I relaxed my hands between every contraction and BREATHED. It's amazing how hard it is to remember to do that. Kudos to you for remembering to focus on that. :)

    For me, the instant she was out I feel 95% better, and the instant the placenta was out and I knew I didn't have to push even one more time I felt 100% better. Such an insane experience.

    I hope with time your PTSD fades and the empowering, happy memories become stronger. You'll be happy you wrote this all down some day!! Powerful story.