Monday, November 10, 2014

The birth of Gresham Finley

Monday morning (Oct 20), I woke up around 5 am feeling some cramping. I went to the bathroom and noticed bloody show and mucous plug discharge. Given that my due date was still over 2 weeks away (November 5), I felt uncertain about whether or not this was real labor. I called my doula and talked to her about it, and she encouraged me to keep an eye on how things progressed and give her a call later in the morning. The cramps progressed into contractions, and I continued to see bloody show & mucous discharge. We decided this was the real thing. I labored at home with Nathan for several hours; we went for a walk, used the birth ball, etc. At that point I was able to talk, laugh, get things done around the house, and felt really excited. We continued laboring until around 4pm, when contractions were coming on stronger and much closer together. Our doula met us at the midwives office. I was checked, and only measured at "fingertip dilation". We returned home and labored more, though the contractions felt much more intense at this point. Nathan called our doula to come and help with pain management around 7. We continued laboring at home, using the bath, rebozo, back & hip pressure, etc. for pain management. My contractions continued getting stronger, and even began stacking on top of each other. I stopped talking & was totally in the zone. Our doula decided it was probably time to go to the hospital, given the intensity of contractions. 

When we got to the hospital, I was checked and found to only be 3cm dilated, though I was 90% effaced. The midwife observed my contractions and determined it appropriate for me to go ahead & be admitted due to the intensity of contractions, despite my lack of dilation. There wasn't a labor tub available, which was disappointing. In triage, they monitored my contractions & baby's heart rate for about 30 minutes, which was pretty grueling because they wanted me on the bed & my body wanted me moving about. After triage, I was moved into a labor room, and the nurse began monitoring me again. The baby's heart rate was dipping slightly during contractions, and the nurse was concerned about this. They had me drink lots of juice and gave me a full bag of IV fluids. The nurse was incredibly competent and good at her job, but seemed a bit less comfortable with my desire to be moving about. She attempted to confine me to the bed, stating that the baby was her priority, not me. I did my best to get through contractions on the bed, unable to move the way my body desired, and feeling stress about my baby's heart rate. I could see the heart rate on the monitor during each contraction, and in retrospect think these factors caused me to lose focus on my labor. 

After 2 hours on the monitor, they let me off to labor as I pleased. We continued laboring, mostly in the shower on the birth ball, for the next several hours. Around 4:00am the midwife returned & checked me. I had barely made any progress, at only 4 cm, and my effacement had lessened to 80%. I was incredibly disappointed and overwhelmed by exhaustion. At that point, I felt I couldn't do it any longer. I tearfully told Nathan & our doula that I thought I had to give up, and asked about an epidural. We all cried together, and discussed with the midwife, Jenna. Jenna told me she wouldn't try to keep me from doing what I wanted/needed, but told me she didn't want me to be disappointed in my birth. She encouraged me to fight for the birth I wanted for my baby. At this point, she agreed that my body probably could not continue as it had been for the past almost 24 hours, and encouraged me to consider "Therapeutic Rest", which is essentially a combination of Morphine and sleep-inducing medicine, in a low dose that does not harm the baby. I was skeptical, but at that point I was pretty desperate for anything to help me in my labor. We talked through this option, and ultimately all decided it was the best course of action, for my sake and the baby's sake. The nurse wasn't keen on giving it to me cause of the baby's heart rate, and she made me take another bag of IV fluids; eventually the midwife basically commanded her to give me the meds. It was a very bizarre feeling - i still felt each contraction fully, and was very awake during each contraction, but in between my body was able to fully rest; I slept for the few short minutes (sometimes less than a minute) between contractions. This lasted for about 2 hours. I think the ability to completely let my body & mind rest between contractions was what enabled me to make the progress I needed in my labor. When the midwife returned to check me after 2 hours, I was 7cm & fully effaced. That amount of progress was hugely encouraging. 

We continued laboring with a new sense of optimism and excitement. At around 7, just over an hour since my previous check, shift change happened & the new midwife-on-call came to check on me. It happened to be the midwife who did most of my prenatal care, and whom I had badly wanted to be present at my delivery. This made me really excited. The nurse who took over was also marvelous; she was about my age, very maternal, supportive, encouraging, and overall wonderful. I felt very supported by the new team. They checked me at this point, and I was fully dilated "with a lip" where my cervix had swollen slightly. The midwife, Lori, had me lie in a very uncomfortable "pretzel" position on the bed to take pressure off of the lip of my cervix. Despite feeling the urge to bear down, they told me to try really hard not to push, as the lip of my cervix could tear. So, for about an hour I worked REALLY hard to breathe through contractions, panting, grunting, doing horse-lips. Despite not pushing, my uterus was still bearing down during contractions. At this point my water broke. Lori checked me again after an hour or so of this, and said the lip was much smaller but still there, so she held her fingers against the lip and encouraged me to push the next time I felt a contraction, that way the baby's head would put pressure on my cervix and hopefully hold back the lip. So, we started pushing. After that initial push, the baby's head was holding my cervix fully open, and Lori was able to remove pressure from my cervix so that I could push in whatever position I needed. I pushed squatting on the bed with the squat bar, then on hands & knees, and then Lori suggested that Nathan sit on the bed with his knees up and me in front of him with my knees up. This way I could lay back on him in between contractions, and could press against his knees as I pushed. This was actually a really good way to push. I was able to get a lot of leverage and push "BOB"-style. I also was able to feel very connected and supported (literally and figuratively) by Nathan. As we kept pushing, Lori said she saw a head of dark hair. She offered to set up a mirror so we could see. I almost said no, but I'm so glad I didn't. We were able to watch our baby's head get closer & closer with each push. It was great motivation. We kept pushing, together, with lots of cheerleading & encouragement by the midwife, nurses, our doula, and eventually the nursery staff, until our little boy's head emerged, and then like magic his whole body was delivered and they laid him immediately on my chest. They asked dad to cut the cord, and I did have to ask them to wait until it was done pulsating (which confused me because that is supposed to be a standard practice among the midwives). The nurse and my doula helped guide baby to the breast, and he did try latching pretty quickly. Our baby's lungs had some extra amniotic fluid in them, so they moved him to the warmer & tried to get him to cry and cough it out (I think partly because he was a few weeks early, perhaps they were being extra cautious), so I didn't get quite the initial skin-to-skin time I wanted. While they were tending to baby, my placenta was delivered... apparently it was quite large. I did need a few stitches from baby's shoulder causing a tear. After they stitched me up, we were sent on our way to postpartum recovery. 

Resting against Nathan in between pushes

Looking back on the labor, parts of it are already a bit blurry. My perception of time is very murky when looking back on it. Yes, it was a long labor, but honestly the hours seemed to go by very quickly. It didn't at all look like what I expected it would, but I am so incredibly humbled and grateful for the birth experience we were able to have. My contractions didn't quite follow the pattern I had learned; they became close together and very, very intense pretty early on, but my cervical dilation didn't seem to match the timing & intensity of contractions; I still don't quite know why.  I expected myself to want to be clothed, but as soon as we got in triage at the hospital I was completely naked, and stayed that way until well after baby was born. I couldn't imagine fussing with clothes during the labor. I also was much more vocal than I expected; I moaned and groaned and mooed pretty much the whole time; I found it very helpful to find a deep guttural groan to help me through my contractions. It all felt very primal and wild, in a really good way. I think it helped me feel strong and in control, as much as was possible. I am very grateful for the support of my partner Nathan & our doula; my birth story would have been much different without the support of each of them.

chubby baby with his extra birth weight 

Our sweet baby boy Gresham was born on 10/21 at 11:12am. He weighed 7lb 9oz and measured 21" long. He is perfect in every way imaginable, and we are madly in love with him. 

Thanks for letting us share our story. 

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