my labor beads

My favorite part of my shower for FJ was when my friends and family each selected a bead, wrote me a wish for my upcoming, unmedicated labor, and strung it on a necklace for me to hold or wear during labor.  During the time those wishes were shared I laughed and cried, and knew something very special and sacred had been created for my birth.

Birth blessings

During my short labor, I held my necklace almost the entire time, focusing largely on the strength of women who have come before me and who will come after me, as well as those who directly offered me the wishes and hopes for my labor. I remembered my friends’ and family’s words of wisdom, encouragement, and love — and was comforted.  I took this idea from the ideas of mother blessings or blessingways, and I think for our next child I’ll focus even more heavily on the idea of a mother/father/baby blessing, rather than on traditional gifts.

After my shower, I put the cards the wishes were written on into a scrapbook, and looked at them in the days leading up to FJ’s birth. Now I’m looking over them again and sharing them with you:

I wish for peace to surround you and to enter your heart as you bring Miss ___ into the world

I hope that you can remember your strength during labor and that you feel empowered and loved as you give birth to your baby girl. Wishing you a very memorable and magical moment.

I hope for you and Baby ____ a peaceful, healthy delivery. At the end of your labor will be the most amazing miracle and moment of your life. You will be amazing and strong. Lots of love!

I hope you have a fast and smooth delivery of baby ___. I wish you the best…and a healthy baby.

I wish for you that your birthing plan can be fulfilled and that things progress smoothly and peacefully. I also wish for you that [Hubby] doesn’t pass out…haha…just kidding!

My wish for you is strength and focus.

My wish for you is to have a safe and healthy birth. I hope it comes easy for you with the least stress possible.

My prayer is that your delivery will be quick.

My wish for you and the baby is health. Lots of love!

My wish for you is bravery. [*Note: This one was from my nine-year-old niece — how AMAZING and insightful is she!!?!?]

My wish for you is to remember that the pain has a purpose. As soon as your eyes meet hers — it’s a magical moment and you realize all good things in life take hard work.

I wish you a calm and speedy delivery. Let go of stress and just breathe (and push, push, push!) I picked a textured bead that will help distract you from any pain. [*Note: I remembered that this friend did this, and it did help!]

This may (or may not) sound strange, but I found labor to be very empowering. It’s pretty amazing what our bodies are capable of doing in order to bring a new life into the world. We are women, hear us roar!!!

I pray that you will have the strength of all the women who have gone before you, the courage of a thousand warriors, and the peace that comes from knowing the love to come will be greater than any before. Love you!

I love you sweetheart and know everything will go well during your labor and birth.

I love you so much and am very proud of all you’ve done with your life. Cherish all the memories of your preganncy, labor, and birth because when they hand you that beautiful life you’ve created, it will have been worth it!!

I am so happy to say all these prayers and wishes did come true.


post-labor complications

As promised, I wanted to tell you about the little scare we had after my amazingly “easy” and short labor. I’m not doing this to scare anyone but I also don’t want to give the impression that my labor was completely free of complication.

About two hours after our little sweetheart was born, I asked Hubby for a Kashi bar from our labor bag.  He handed it to me, I had eaten about half, and then I started to feel lightheaded.  The pediatrician was in our room, examining our baby for the first time in the hospital basinette.  I told Hubby, “I don’t feel so good” or “I don’t feel right” — something like that.

The nurses had been monitoring my blood pressure which had been a little higher than normal after birth and since the midwife had left.  Now my blood pressure dropped rapidly to about 70 (or maybe 60?) over 20. I felt very strange, like I might black out, and I felt like I should try to stay awake.  Everything seemed to go into a kind of fog where I was aware of what was happening around me but I wasn’t fully present. 

The nurse started bustling around and other nurses and techs were called into the room.  First they gave me a bag of fluids and then they catheterized me to take any pressure away that my bladder might be putting on my uterus.  My blood pressure remained low.  I had felt like maybe I was bleeding too much (the midwife had given me a shot of pitocin in the thigh after labor because she said I was bleeding a little more than was typical, which I agreed was good for her to do — my number one priority was to stay healthy). The nurses seemed to be taking forever doing other things and just kind of moving around the room and I finally reminded them to check my bleeding.  When they did they were concerned with the amount they saw, and started more pitocin in my drip.  I also got a shot of methergen to help my uterus contract.

Although my midwife had done it after birth as well, the nurse started compressing my uterus to try to move any clots that may have still remained.  I have to admit that this was the only part of my labor or post-labor that really frightened me…the beeping from the machines, the interventions (that I felt were completely necessary), the growing number of hospital staff in the room. Finally the nurse asked me to raise my hips off the bed as she compressed on my abdomen. As I did that, two LARGE clots shot out of me. Hubby said they were as big as probably a small bunch of bananas…wow!

As soon as that happened, my blood pressure began to stabilize.  They monitored me in the room for a few more hours and then our little family was finally able to go to the recovery room on the sixth floor where we spent the next night before we went home.  While all that was happening, Hubby was calm and I was calm and focused on staying alert and awake, but after we were settled back at home he and I cried about it together and admitted that it really scared us.  We heard from several that it is somewhat common, especially with fast labors.

The experience did make me wonder whether I’d be a good candidate for a home birth, which Hubby and I have talked about having for future births.  My bleeding did not classify as a hemorrhage — it was about 350 mL lost, I heard from my midwife later. I’m not sure what classifies as a hemorrhage, and I think perhaps a home birth midwife could handle that circumstance just fine.  If anyone is reading this who might know, could you let me know your opinion? I’d love to hear it.

labor and birth packing list — what we REALLY USED

Some of you may remember our labor and birth packing list I shared with you before our little one was born.  The amount of items we actually used during my short, five-hour labor and afterward in the hospital was incredibly short, so for fun I thought I’d share with you what we REALLY used. My original list is below, with tems that were not used crossed through and notes in color:

To pack for me:

  • Focal point (this is the beaded necklace that was made by the women at my shower — I will try to use it as my focal point while breathing during labor) (I used this until we were in the hospital and I was about to push/pushing…then I just used a focal point on the wall and/or bed)
  • List of last-minute items to pack — I will affix this to the outside of our bags I’m packing today so we don’t forget any of these last-minute items:
    • More perishable snacks, like fruit or fruit bars
    • Cell phones
    • Wallets/purse (with ID and insurance info)
    • Coats
  • Water birth certificate (used even though I didn’t get my water birth; but we had to show it for them to start filling up the tub)
  • Birth plan (given to the nurse in the delivery room, although she barely referenced it — our midwife is VERY natural birth friendly though so everything was still perfect)
  • Hospital registration confirmation (turns out I didn’t really pack this…all I got from the hospital was an automatic email saying “you’re registered” but no confirmation number or anything, but you may want to include this)
  • Call and email lists (I didn’t really pack this but have already drafted a “baby’s here” email with the recipients ready to go) (I tried to use the email list I made but there was an error with an email address that I couldn’t fix from my iPhone, so I was never able to send out my mass email to everyone!)
  • Labor tools list and birth affirmations list
  • Pediatrician info (programmed into my phone, not packed)
  • Lip balm
  • Hair brush
  • Toothbrush, floss, toothpaste (Um, BARELY used the toothbrush! HA)
  • Deodorant, face wash, moisturizer, makeup (for me this will include just my “essentials” of concealer, mascara, and eyebrow pencil…which I may not even touch!), shampoo/conditioner, lotion, ponytail holders
  • Change for snacks from the vending machine
  • Cell phone charger (I happened to have an extra one, so I am going ahead and packing that now)
  • Camera/charger
  • Going home clothes
  • Heavy flow pads (I used the hospitals; trust me — theirs were WAY better!)
  • Birthing gown (I am bringing my own) (I did use this, and thank goodness it was made to be thrown out because after birth it SURE had to be! After she was born I essentially spent the rest of the weekend naked, in just the hospital’s mesh panties and with a blanket over me and usually the baby!)
  • iPod with relaxation CD and any other music selections loaded (in my case I loaded a playlist onto my iPhone) (This was our favorite thing we packed for labor and I’m so glad I had it. We played music from my phone.)
  • iPod or iPhone speakers
  • 2 pairs socks/non-skid
  • Robe
  • Nursing bra/pads (I don’t think I’ll need the pads one day into breastfeeding, but I just threw some in just in case)
  • Birthing ball
  • Undies (Okay, I know everyone is different — but there’s no WAY I’d wear my own underwear after labor!)
  • Pen/notebook (I stuffed all my labor tool sheets, water birth certificate, etc. in here) (other than a storage space for the water birth certificate and birth plan, I didn’t need this)
  • Kashi bars/nuts/any other non-perishable snacks you may want
  • Floaty pillow/swim ring for my water birth
  • Antibacterial soap, which we may or may not use before getting in the tub
  • Fish net (take a guess what that could be used for)
  • Cord blood storage kit

To pack for hubby:

  • Swim trunks
  • Change of clothes
  • Hygiene items (for what will hopefully be a one-night stay, he really just needs toothbrush and toothpaste, and can use my shampoo, etc.) (all he used was his toothbrush/toothpaste…and barely, like me! yikes!)

To pack for baby:

  • Blanket
  • Hat, socks, warm going-home outfit (I am packing in two sizes — newborn and 0-3)
  • A few diapers and wipes, just in case

Do I wish I had packed less? No…I had no idea what I’d use! Next time I might use more of my labor items if I have a longer labor, but I have an idea now as to what the necessities are for me when it comes to having a baby. I just found it amusing how MUCH we packed and how LITTLE we used. We came to the hospital with a huge birthing ball and three bags. We could have come with a duffel bag and left it at that! 🙂

a birth story, part 4

I immediately started shaking from the adrenalin as they tried to pass her underneath my legs to me.  It all felt like too much — the shaking, her wetness, the cord, my gown — I didn’t think I could take her safely and turn around.  The gown I had brought from home to labor in suddenly felt like too much to me to handle and I WANTED MY BABY. “Get this off of me!” I yelled, and threw my arms up over my head.  Charlotte pulled the gown off in one motion, and then they passed me my baby and helped me turn around on the bed.
No matter how much emotional, mental, and spiritual preparation I had for this moment I had no idea what to expect.  It was magical.  Hubby and I had certainly gone on a journey together and emerged with this beautiful new life that was part of both of us.  I don’t know how to put the feeling in words, but it was absolutely incredible.  Her hair was thick and dark, and her eyes a dark blue.  They gave her Apgar scores of 9-10. She laid on me skin to skin and with help from Charlotte and Anjli we nursed.  Hubby cut her cord.  We spent an hour or two bonding before they took her to be weighed and measured, and checked by the pediatrician.  She was born 7 pounds and 0.5 ounce, 20 inches, and is perfectly healthy.  
Me and my baby
If I could say anything to moms who are about to have a baby, it’s that emotional, mental, and spiritual preparation for this experience is so important.  I didn’t use all the coping tools I learned — only slow paced breathing, really — but I had them if I needed them.  I knew about the phases of labor, and so I knew what was happening in my body.  I had connected with our baby on a spiritual level and that made the experience that much more incredible.  I also was committed to the idea that the most important end result of labor was “healthy baby, healthy mom” and that all the other stuff were just details.  That meant that I wasn’t disappointed that we didn’t have a water birth — maybe next time!
One thing I thought might happen but I didn’t realize would happen to such an extent would be how Hubby and I would bond through the process.  We shared a lot of tears together in the days after coming home from the hospital.  I would say as couples go we are very close, but this just made us closer than ever. 
It took several days to feel like we had lifted out of that trippy post-birth fog.  The shimmery effect that the world had seemed to take on started to fade, and reality returned.  Our new reality is so much more beautiful with her in it.

a birth story, part 3

“It’s okay, you can push. Listen to your body,” our midwife said.

And then suddenly our doula, Charlotte, was there, and Hubby filled her in. Meanwhile, the nurses had started to blow up the inflatable tub out in the hospital hallway, as I was hoping for a water birth. In between contractions, I remember saying to Anjli, “they’re not going to get the tub in time, are they?” and she said, “they’re blowing it up right now; it’s okay.”

I was also ready to get the monitors off me at that point, which was a mini struggle between Anjli and the nurse. Finally we ripped it off and I immediately got on all fours sideways on the bed. The nurse had also started an IV of antibiotics for the group B strep on me, but I had only received I think half a dose before the IV came out and I was dripping blood on the hospital floor. I stared at the puddle as it grew larger and the nurse continued to ignore it, until finally I growled, “Will somebody please CLOSE me up — I am dripping all over the floor!” — not that I cared about the floor, but I wanted them to take care of me.

Anjli asked me in between contractions to turn so I was longways on the bed, and so staying on all fours I did just that — with my arms draped over the back of the hospital bed. I was continuing to push through each contraction. The spontaneous need to push was incredible — it is true what they say that your body TRULY knows when to push…I can’t IMAGINE being coached when to push. My body knew just when to push and when I was in the midst of those contractions I HAD to bear down — my body had no other choice. If I had needed to stop to keep from a bad tear or something I’m sure I could have, but it would have been HARD.

The lights in the room were dim. The tub was being filled. Anjli at some point told me that it was possible that the baby could come before the tub was full, and I said that was okay. I just wanted her here. I felt hands rubbing my lower back between contractions; I think it was Anjli. Hubby continued to give me simple words of encouragement (at some point since arriving at the hospital I had asked him to say a little less — with the higher intensity shorter sentences felt right.) I remember Charlotte was up near my head, offering me sips of water between contractions and encouraging me to send me energy down to my abdomen and my baby. I could almost feel myself sinking into that feeling and allowing my tension and energy to shift downward where it needed to be, versus focusing on the pain and keeping it up in a tense upper body. I also was vocalizing during contractions, something I had wondered if I would be embarrassed to do — let me tell you, embarrassment flew out the window. The feeling was primal. I was doing whatever my body needed to do. Charlotte suggested making the sounds deeper (which is proven to make them more productive), and she made a sound I could imitate, which helped.

Pushing was the most intense part for me. I could so intensely feel the baby’s head — it felt large and hard coming through my vagina. At one point I remember screaming an expletive, but mostly I tried to moan deep and low, and Hubby kept telling me what a good job I was doing. His support meant the world to me. Hubby stayed back near the foot of the bed with Anjli, who was coaching him on holding warm compresses to my perineum to keep me from a bad tear. She was also coaching him on how to catch the baby, which he wanted to do. I remember hearing them talk quietly down there, and after one of my contractions ended I said, “what are y’all talking about down there?” to which everyone laughed and she told me she was telling him how to catch the baby.

At one point, Hubby told me, “She has hair, sweetie! I can see her hair!”

“What color?” I asked after the contraction ended. He said he couldn’t tell, but it was a lot of hair.

That was so encouraging! She was close. She kept slipping back into me a bit after every push, but I knew she was close to crowning. I told Anjli I felt like i was holding back from really pushing with all my strength because I was afraid of tearing or pushing too fast, and she said, “It’s okay — just do what your body tells you to. If you need to slow down, I will yell STOP loudly so you will definitely hear it.”

I felt so safe and protected by my three caregivers!!

With that encouragement, I began to really bear down during contractions. Finally, there was a contraction after which her head was crowning — resting on my perineum and at the entrance to my vagina…that was pretty intense. But it was good, and it helped everything to stretch between contractions…it was a hard moment though. I had to wait that entire minute or however long it was between the urge to bear down again with her head just resting there.

The next push and her head was out — Hubby told me later that she was just looking up at him with her eyes wide and only her head out. Another push and I felt her entire body slide out of me — shoulder, torso, legs. I heard Hubby begin to cry and I looked back over my shoulder. There she was, in his hands on the bed, wet, crying, beautiful, and covered in vernix. Our baby was born after pushing for about 30 minutes — at 12:37 a.m. on February 12.

a birth story, part 2

The car ride to the hospital felt like a dream.  The black sky, street lights passing by in a blur, bar hoppers dashing across the street in front of our car at a red light.  “Want to stop for a drink?” one of us joked weakly.  “Guess we won’t be going to see Black Swan tomorrow!” another one of us — I’m not sure who — said as we rode toward the hospital.  I was continuing my slow-paced breathing and holding the beaded necklace that the women who attended my shower made for me, using it as my focal point through contractions.  The ride to the hospital seemed longer than it had any time we had gone for our regular midwife appointments, and it felt like we were the keepers of this great secret, like everyone else was going about their normal routines and we were about to witness a miracle that no one else knew about.
At the hospital at around 10:30 Hubby parked and we walked in together.  I had to stop and lean over a railing by the parking garage during one contraction, and two women leaving the hospital stopped to ask if I was okay. “Yes, we’re just about to have a baby!” Hubby said, and my contraction ended and I smiled at them.  Inside, I sat down in the emergency room waiting area (where we had to enter since it was weekend hours) and Hubby got in line behind a man at the counter.  I wondered how long our wait would be as I felt another contraction beginning, and a female employee saw me from behind a half swinging door and asked who I was with.  I couldn’t talk — just pointed at Hubby.  She quickly had the security guard behind the desk push me in a wheelchair up to the seventh floor, labor and delivery.
Upstairs, although I had preregistered, I knew I would have more paperwork to fill out, and I had to fill out a form with my name and basic information (turns out my labor was so quick that I actually had to fill out MOST of the paperwork after though! — including a form that said they thought I had a “reasonable chance at a vaginal delivery” even though at that point I’d already had one — ha!).  I was taken into a room where I was put in a bed and strapped to a fetal monitor. I did NOT like lying back in a supine position for this monitoring, but thankfully our practice only requires it for 30 minutes.  Our nurse started asking me all of these frustrating questions, like what was my occupation, and how much education had I completed. Hubby was answering her but getting short with her, because he was really focusing on me.  He was so awesome this whole time — coaching me with reminding me to stay “limp noodle” and to breathe, telling me “you can do it! you’re doing great” over and over again.  Finally the nurse asked me what I would rate my pain on a ten-scale.
“Probably a three or four,” I said, thinking that while it was intense that surely it could get more intense. 
I saw her look dubiously up from her charts (or so it seemed to me) as if thinking, “you came in too early girl!”
“Don’t get me wrong — it’s intense,” I said.  “I just imagine it will get more intense.”  I said in between contractions.
Then it was time for her to check my cervix.  “Are you done with a contraction?” she said?
“Yes, but hurry” — they were coming on so quickly now.
Then she checked my cervix and said, “Oh wow, you’re an eight or a nine — I could really almost push this last bit aside.”
Things started to become blurrier for me here.  I understand now what is meant when you hear that labor is like going deep into an alternate dimension.  I felt like I was existing on another plane, but I knew I was safe with Hubby there to take care of me and to make sure that everything around us was keeping us safe as well.  I felt like we were going on a journey together.
Our midwife, Anjli, was called and had been there for maybe one contraction before I told her I felt like I had to push. (I was just glad she made it in time!)