Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Introducing Jude Taylor Barlow-- Welcomed into our family on December 28, 2008

Here he is! At long last, our beautiful Jude has come to us, and the love in our family has multiplied incredibly! I will give you (probably too many) details. Jude is my first baby, and was born at the Birth and Family Place at 3:10 AM on December 28, 2008. I cannot recommend a better place to give birth, and I strongly encourage everyone to look up their website and see what the difference is between a hospital birth and a birth center birth-- www.birthandfamilyplace.com. He weighed 8 lbs. 14 oz. (almost a 9-pounder from little ol' me!) and was 21 and 1/4" long. A big boy!

I felt (and still feel) strongly that we owe it to our babies to give birth naturally whenever possible. Therefore, I had a totally natural birth and it is the absolute most empowering, authentic experience I have ever had in my entire life. It was more challenging and more rewarding than any race I've ever run, any test I've ever passed, and any service I've ever given. I feel 100% human and alive after this experience!

Here's a little bit about the labor, which was long and difficult, I'm not going to lie! I went into early labor on December 26th at about noon. At that point, I should have gone straight to bed and slept through all the contractions I possibly could in order to gather energy for active labor. . . but I didn't!

Here I am foolishly dinking around while I should have been sleeping! My contractions went on and on and by 10:30 PM, they were 3 minutes apart, and I thought "This is it!" So I had Carl call the midwife, and she said she would meet us at the birth center when we were ready to come in and be checked. I said I could wait probably another hour. After that, I fell promptly asleep, and woke up around 2:15 AM with intense contractions that had spread themselves about 10- 15 minutes apart. . . now it was impossible to sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time, but Carl and I were SO TIRED and my contractions were so far apart that we decided to wait until morning to go in and get checked. At 7:00 am on December 27th, we met our midwife, Becky, at the birth center. My contractions had picked up again, now 2-4 minutes apart, Becky checked me and I was only dilated to a 4. It turns out that my body was so exhausted that my uterine muscles were not making a coordinated, concerted, downward effort, but instead the different layers of muscles of the uterus were contracting independently of one another, thus making my contractions ineffective, but still very painful. Becky, in her wisdom, explained that if we didn't stop the contractions so they could re-set, I would be too exhausted to handle active labor and push the baby out. So, she gave me a shot of a muscle relaxant that allowed me to sleep for 6 hours! The contractions were still there, but mild enough that I could mostly sleep through them. But by 10:00 PM on December 27th, they were back full strength, and I had no idea if they were coordinated or uncoordinated.

At that point, I told Carl I didn't think I had made any progress, and it hurt so bad I was ready to go to the hospital and have a stupid epidural. Now, my husband is a very smart and intuitive man, and he immediately recognized this statement as a sign that I had probably progressed. That's how natural labor is. . . right when you're ready to give up, that's when you're about to progress to the next stage. He called the midwife and told her we were ready to come get checked again. I was dubious and thought I would for sure still be a 4. I walked in our birth room on shaky legs, stopping to sway through a contraction on my way to the bed. Becky checked me, and to my great releif and surprise, I was dilated to a 6! While her hand was still in there, she barely touched my bag of waters which released immediately! And she said, "Now you're a 7." That was around 11:00 PM on December 27th.

Things progressed rapidly from there, and almost immediately I had an incredibly intense contraction. I think Carl asked me something, but it was like chickens trying to talk to ducks. I couldn't understand and honestly didn't care what he was saying. I was officially in Labor Land. It turns out I'm a very loud laborer. The energy was just so intense! Becky filled the tub while Carl coached me through the most incredible pain of my entire life. I wanted so badly to just stop and rest, and then another surge would come and I just had to go through it. There was no choice. It's so wierd when you can't control your body, but I knew that surrender was absolutely essential to let my body open and birth.

12:00, 1:00, 1:30 AM passed with me in and out of the warm tub, taking sips of water, peeing in the toilet (that, by the way, is the absolute WORST place in the world to have a contraction!). Finally, I felt like pushing. I tried some pushes in the tub, but it was so hard to rest in there between contractions that we thought maybe I should try lying on the bed. I guess that was better. While there, I was so exhausted and I was letting almost all my pushing energy escape through my voice. Jude's heart rate started going down into the 70's (yikes!) during pushing. They put me on my left side with oxygen and told me to hold my breath while I pushed. Voila! That was the secret! I had to trap my energy in order to push down all the way. There was major progress from there, and after about 6 more exhausting sessions of pushing, Jude's head was out.

Then things started turning ugly. Jude's head was out, but his shoulders were stuck behind my pubic bone. This is considered an emergency (one of the more common birth emergencies) called shoulder dystocia. Carl watched as Jude's face turned from that normal blue color to purple with black lips. Here is where Becky becomes my number one hero. She immediately knew what was going on, commanded the nurses to flip me to my hands and knees to reposition the baby, and with great force, manually rotated his shoulders so they could come out. Jude was safe and healthy and in Carl's arms! I remember the incredible relief of having him out, and I thought this was the part where I could just relax and finally hold my baby on the outside.

Oh no. My hero Becky then noticed (and so did Carl) that I was gushing a river of blood. I had a partial separation of the placenta. That's where only part of the placenta detaches from the uterine wall, leaving blood vessels the size of fire hoses open to drain all your blood! This is an extremely rare emergency, and luckily Becky saw it immediately and went in after my placenta (the pain from this part was about as bad as my most painful contraction, only it seemed to last longer). She had to manually scrape the remaining piece off my uterine wall so my uterus could contract down and keep me from losing any more blood. Becky said in 20 years of doing deliveries, she had only seen 5 partial separations of the placenta. I was her lucky 6th :) Most women lose an average of 500 mL (1/2 liter) of blood during childbirth. I lost 1500 mL.

Because Becky and her 2 birth assistants acted so quickly, Jude and I are both totally fine. I got a liter of fluid IV and a prescription for iron pills. Jude is totally normal and healthy. Because of his shoulders having to come out so quickly, I got a really bad tear, almost all the way to my rectum. All's I can say is, bless the dear person who invented the at-home sitz bath! So, I got a few stitches which honestly don't even hurt.

This was a WILD labor and delivery! Some women are scared to allow their bodies to birth. They don't trust their bodies or feel that they are the exception, the one that is incapable of giving birth naturally. There is so much negativity that surrounds birth. I cannot tell you the horror stories I've heard from friends that ended up in c-sections, simply because these friends were not informed that they actually had a CHOICE about what the doctor would and would not do to their bodies. We trust doctors too much and our bodies not enough. EVERY SINGLE WOMAN out there with low-risk pregnancy is absolutely able to birth! I just want women to know it is okay to trust your body! Some high-risk OB resident or someone told me in my second trimester that had to go on progesterone shots because my cervix was too short and my baby had "a chance" of falling out. Yeah right. I'm no idiot. There I was well into my 2nd trimester and I had been backpacking and exercising vigorously the whole pregnancy. Then this doctor who doesn't even know me comes along and tells me I'm about to miscarry? Um, I think that probably would have happened by then?? She wanted me on bedrest and getting shots every week. To this day, I am SO GLAD I didn't take her seriously. She was just trying not to get sued, and that is it.

I am so glad I was at a birth center with my own personal midwife. Had I been in the hospital on a Sunday morning at 3:10 AM, some idiot, inexperienced intern OB would have seen the small amount of meconium that was in my broken water and c-sectioned me. He or she would have compromised my future ability to give birth vaginally because he or she would not have recognized the range of normalcy in my labor and delivery. He or she probably would not have acted as quickly as Becky in stopping my bleeding, and I would have had to get a blood transfusion, no doubt. The truth is, a lot of crazy things can happen during ANY delivery and ANY labor. What matters is that you absolutely know and trust your birth attendant. I had built a strong relationship with my certified nurse midwife long before my delivery. My appointments with her were often 1 hour long or longer. She answered all my questions and proved her competence over and over again. This woman is amazing, and I would strongly encourage every single woman having a low-risk pregnancy to go with a midwife instead of an OB. The difference will absolutely knock your socks off!
Sorry, this is the only picture we have so far of our midwife, Becky McInnis. Here she is showing us our placenta (which we kept, by the way, for fertilizer in our garden this year!)

Now that I've shared that opinion. . . The advantages I've experienced because I had a natural birth, to name a few, are. . .

1) I got up and walked around as soon as my stitches were done with no discomfort at all
2) Jude (like most natural-birth babies) immediately was awake and alert. He came out rooting for the breast, and breastfed beautifully within the first hour of birth. His latch has only become stronger, and he is exceeding normal limits for wet diapers and stools.
3) We got to go home 6 hours after delivery, to have our own place to bond.
4) NO CATHETER! woo hoo!
5) We get to call the shots about who visits and who doesn't and what time they can come and go
6) We get to eat what we want (and Carl gets fed too!) instead of depending on some ridiculous hospital menu that only feeds me.

More pictures for you! Sorry about my boobs being in almost every picture. Breastfeeding time just happened to be the time the camera came out. Sorry! Also, I am aware that my appearance after this birth was not exactly beautiful, but hey, I just gave birth naturally!
Our first family picture, about 6 hours after Jude's birth, and right before we went home.
Carl and Jude as we were laying down for a nap right after the birth. Carl and I had just eaten the birth center's breakfast (which they feed to the husbands as well as the moms! A nice little perk to the birth center!) and Jude had just eaten as well.

I was still sweaty. . . a breastfeeding family!

First latch! Good job, Jude!

I know I'm a little partial, but I really think our baby is the cutest one in the world. Don't you agree??

Well, we have our 3-day-old appointment at the birth center tomorrow where they'll do a PKU and bilirubin test and things. So I better get to bed. Bless your heart for reading this all the way to the end! Remember to check out the birth center website!

With more love in my heart than I ever thought I was capable of,

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Pregnant Nurse

I am a nurse at the VA hospital. There are many things that differentiate a veteran patient from a non-veteran patient. Veterans are typically a lot more laid-back and less demanding than non-veterans, and they're a lot more grateful for what you do for them. One other thing is that many veterans have lost their sense of inhibition. As my belly has grown, there have been some women who've come up and felt my belly. Strangely, though, I have also had several of my patients reach out while I'm standing at the bedside and lay a gentle hand or two on my protruding belly. Mind you, these are old men. I don't really mind it because I'm so proud of my body for being able to grow this incredible miracle, but I just wonder what these veterans are thinking. I think a lot of them want to reconnect with that time of life when they were having their own babies. They almost always end up telling me about how their wives were "as big as a house" and how "she had them all natural" and "she carried that baby for 10 and 1/2 months" and stories about how each of their kids was delivered. I have loved these conversations because I get a different perspective, a man's perspective, on childbirth.

I've noticed a lot of women complain or are negative about their childbirth experiences, and they often roll their eyes when I tell them I'm having a natural waterbirth. But these men talk about it with a twinkle in their eyes and with the joy of fatherhood. They are proud of their wives who went drugless. I like their approach a lot more than these women who complain. I guess what I'm saying is, these old veterans somehow have made me look forward to motherhood, expecting joy from my expanding family.

I know this is a weird first blog entry, but it's been on my mind.