Mar 22, 2011

Birth Story

This Sunday, our little girl joined our family. Her birth was an amazing and, by all accounts, unique experience, and enough people have asked to hear it that I thought I would document it here (Facebook limits characters in posts!). There's a moderate amount of labour details in this post, so be warned if you don't like reading that kind of stuff.

First some background: Before we got pregnant, I knew that I wanted to have a natural birth. I had decided on this for a number of reasons, but the benefits to my child were the main motivation. I was also looking forward to having a profound birthing experience with my husband and child, which I have learned anecdotally comes best with natural births. To prepare for this goal, we did a lot of things but the main preparations were a Hypnobirthing course that my husband I took, and reading "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Childbirth and Labour" by Stephanie Goer. Both of these resources suggesting writing a detailed birth plan for both yourself and your health care providers. We wrote out all our wishes concerning medical interventions, the delivery, how people treat us at the hospital etc. However, hospitals have set protocols, and health care providers are humans with their own opinions, so there's only so much a birth plan can control. This was something that weighed on me as the pregnancy progressed, and I learned about certain things that I would not be able to negotiate.

Another issue that crept up was the risk of being induced. I had made it to term with no sign of going into labour. At my 40 week appointment, I was told that the standard practice is to induce by 42 weeks. I had to book a biophysical foetal profile at 41 weeks (which allowed us to see Vivienne on Ultrasound, so that was good), and a stress test for the middle of the next week. If I had made it to the stress test, I would have booked the induction at that appointment. At this point, I was 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant, so time was really running out for a naturally occurring labour. My resistance to being induced is also lengthy, but briefly, it can harm the child, and the chances of a natural labour plummet. We were basically being faced with the option of 1) rejecting medical advice and going it alone, either a birthing center that we would have to track down in a matter of days or at home, with a homebirth midwife, which we would have to hire by the birth, or 2) foregoing our wishes for the labour and doing what the medical profession told us to. Neither option was particularly appealing, so we went into overdrive of trying to get labour to start. I solicited wives-tales from friends on Facebook, read internet forums and asked my Doula and midwife. I followed them all at least once, but the main attempts were lots of Evening Primrose Oil, exercise, and spicy foods.

On Saturday, we went on a 3 mile trail around the Holyoke reservoir (which was a lovely walk that I highly recommend to fans of the outdoors). We then went to get Thai food with a friend and I ordered a blazingly hot curry, and the good folks at Thai Place certainly delivered.

On Sunday morning, I woke up a couple of times around 5am feeling a little crampy, which I attributed to my ambitious curry consumption. I went in and out of the toilet a few times, but each time I got into bed I became uncomfortable again and had to get up again. It occurred to me that this may be early labour, but I had spent the week thinking any minor movement in my belly was labour, so I was trying not to get my hopes up. Also, the curry was the more logical candidate. I decided against waking my husband until I was sure, and in lieu of being able to get into bed, I ran a bath and listened to my hypnobirthing CDs. I noticed that the cramps were spaced out evenly so documented their frequency which was at about 7 minutes. These were on the level of period pains, so I decided to let Nick sleep until I was sure I was in real labour, and, if I was, to keep his energy for when I had lost mine.

I got bored (and pruney) in the bath by about 8am, so woke Nick up and told him I was pretty sure things were starting. I got back into bed and Nick patiently massaged my back (and watched basketball on mute) as I worked on hypnosis and napped between each contraction. Nick called our Doula, Marie, who arrived at about 10am, and for the next few hours I stayed in bed sleeping between each contraction. The contractions were holding at 6-7 minutes apart and still within the level of period pains. Had I been in a hospital, they would have called this Early Labour, and likely would have said it had stalled. However, you're not even meant to go to the hospital until contractions are at least 5 minutes apart. The contractions weren't getting closer or stronger, and Nick and Marie tried to convince me to got for a short walk but I really didn't want to be out of bed. Eventually, they haggled for me to walk to the bathroom which is next door to our bedroom.

Marie suggested that I may be comfortable sitting on the toilet, and I am lucky that she did, because during one of my next contractions my water broke. That was about 1.15pm. All of a sudden, I went from having mild cramps that I could sleep between to having immense contractions with no real break in-between. The next 20 minutes are a blur to me, but pieced together from Nick and Marie's accounts. The next contraction was 5 minutes apart, then four minutes apart, then three then two. They were also extremely intense and I had to grab onto Nick's arms and dangle from him while they lasted. There was talk of getting to the hospital and the midwives were phoned to be told we were on our way. I was sure I could feel the baby coming, but Nick and Marie (as well as the birthing classes we took) assured me that it just felt that way, and that I was hours away from the baby actually arriving. Nevertheless, I felt like the baby may have been crowning. After the next contraction, I knew she was coming. Marie looked to see what was going on, and instantly told Nick to call 911. The next contraction brought the baby's head. I couldn't see, but Marie said the baby was trying to cry. During that contraction Nick was out of the room to call 911 and it was awful doing it without him. He was back in the room for the next one, which brought the rest of the baby and Nick delivered his daughter at 1.38pm. She was handed to me, and we heard the EMTs arriving.

The main EMT was a really nice guy, and he checked out Vivienne with Nick. She had a great colour, and an Apgar score of 9 (at the hospital we found out that she is 22" long and weighed in at 9lb 7oz). I should point out that given my day started in a bathtub, I wasn't wearing any clothes at this point, which now had 3 EMTS and a cop standing around me. It sounds weird, but I really didn't care. I think I was so amazed by what had just happened, and in awe of holding my daughter that vanity fell by the wayside. I was given a little hospital robe and we walked downstairs to the stretcher. I hopped on, and held Vivienne as we rode to the hospital - definitely a more comfortable alternative to being stuck having contractions in a car. The hospital staff greeted us, and everyone was amazed by our story. The midwife who settled us in said in thirty years she had never heard of anything like this.

So, that's pretty much the story of our birth. Typing the portion of the active labour took longer than the active labour itself. I have no idea how it went so fast, but Hypnobirthing promises a shorter labour (though, I don't think they meant only 20 minutes of active labour!). Either way, it was an amazing experience, and looking over the birth plan we wrote, we got every single thing we asked for, just not how we expected it.

Mar 15, 2011

Puppp This!

I should buy a lottery ticket, certainly before I wrap up my pregnancy. My rationale for taking up gambling is that I have spent my daughter's gestation beating the odds on the symptom front.

I found the following statistics on the interwebs, so please don't quote them in a professional forum, but I think they illustrate my point nicely. The most oft cited side-effect of pregnancy is morning sickness, which affects about 65-70% of women. I didn't throw up once. Depending on which website you go to, swelling affects 75-90% of women. I am 4 days past my due date and I still have my wedding ring on. In fact, working my way down the "Most Common Pregnancy Symptoms" list I googled, I didn't get any acne, spot bleeding, back or pelvis aches etc. I'll admit that I have peed a little more often and have bought more antacids than usual, but I would argue that if something can be replicated by a night out drinking, it's hardly a bona fide side effect.

All in all, I was loving being pregnant. I had this little life inside me that I could feel moving around. Unencumbered by such plebeian concerns as vomiting or searing lumbar pain, I could enjoy preparing for her arrival, daydreaming about how she will grow up, and generally getting the most out of this wonderful time. After all, I had dodged all of the common symptoms of pregnancy!

Here endeth the bragging. I have already blogged about my rhinitis of pregnancy, which, if you include runny noses stemming from queuing for a taxi in the cold as part of a normal night out, can be eliminated as a sympathy-meriting side effect. Triviality notwithstanding, this was step one of my lottery ticket idea as less than 15% of pregnant women experience this symptom.

But in the last week, I have really hit the jackpot of rare symptoms. I had some stretch marks below my naval since the middle of my third trimester. Being so in love with pregnancy, they really didn't bother me at all. However, the Universe obviously got sick of hearing me say "My pregnancy has been a breeze." and "I hope this pregnancy lasts as long as possible because I am really enjoying it.", and decided to unleash the fate I had so adeptly tempted. A few weeks ago, my stretch marks got a little itchy. Nothing terrible; kind of in the range of how it feels if you didn't shower right after a good workout. But over the next few days, the itchiness got more intense and frequent. I read up on itchy stretch marks, and stumbled across the term Puppp.

Puppp, or pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (translation: itchy bumps that preggos get), starts out as mild itchiness below the belly, but spreads around the torso, down the extremities and basically everywhere that's not hands or face. The itchiness gets more and more intense and there's nothing that can be done for it, other than the pregnancy coming to an end. I think I am getting close to scratching my way to a C-section, so I may be able to accommodate that cure. And it goes without saying, that having your entire torso covered in "papules and plaques" can only make you look even sexier in those last days of pregnancy. Couple that with the image of someone vigorously scratching themselves as if they were infested with scabies and you start to paint quite the picture. I normally take photos to add to blog entries where relevent, but if you google Puppp, you'll see why I deviated on this occasion.

Puppp affects less than 1% of pregnant women, and while the cause is unknown, 70% of that 1% deliver boys. Other suspects include large babies (causing excess distension of the skin). I have been assured my midwife that my daughter is both female and normally sized. If my math isn't failing me, and I offer no guarantees on that point, that puts me in an elite group with 0.3% of pregnant women. Yippee!

As I mentioned, I am four days beyond my due date and I am doing everything I can think of to induce labour. It's been 2 weeks since I have slept for longer than 2 hours at a time, before needing to reapply my Aveeno Oatmeal lotion, which only sort of works. Another blogger summed up the misery best when she said that she would have traded Puppp for a different condition that could potentially kill her, on the condition that it didn't cause itchiness. Also, and this may be the itchiness-induced sleep deprivation speaking, but the phrase Puppp is patronizingly diminutive! Were Kittt or Bunnn already taken?

All that said, the Universe can go and bite itself. As miserable as this condition is, anytime I feel my daughter kick, hiccup or wiggle around, I am so in love with the experience that I don't feel anything but unadulterated joy. Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to buy a lottery ticket... and some Vindaloo curry!

Mar 1, 2011

A Blanket for Baby

Last weekend, I was given the gift of a wonderful handmade blanket from my friends in the South Bend knitting group. The blanket arrived to my house close to two weeks ago, but I wasn't allowed to open it. I confess that I tried poking my finger into the box to feel the blanket, but fortunately the person who sent it, Amy, knew me well enough to use enough packing tape to secure Fort Knox! The reason I had to wait was that my friend, Kristine, organized a Skpye reunion of the knitting group. We all got to sit and chat -while knitting- just like the old days. It was such a wonderful afternoon and I loved getting the opportunity to catch up with everyone.

The other highlight of the meeting was obviously the blanket. A tradition has arisen within our group that we collectively, and secretively, make blankets for members of the group that are pregnant. While many of us have moved away from South Bend, the tradition is still going strong (though involves an increasing amount of coordination via email), and is a lovely connection to a knitting group that we all held so dearly.

Prior to the gift opening, I had received a Knit Picks catalogue in the mail and was contemplating ordering some yarn to make a blanket for my daughter, to replace a recently frogged effort. It occurred to me that I should to wait to see what the girls had made for me, and I am lucky that I did because I would have picked the exact same colours they chose. My true luck is having friends that know me so well, they can pick colours I would buy myself! The blanket is now packed away in the hospital bag in anticipation of the arrival of its rightful owner (though I do take it out to peek at it every so often).



Thank you, South Bend knitters!

10 Things in 1000 days

I decided to rationalize my impulse purchasing of knitting books by setting myself a personal challenge.
Here's how long I have left:

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