Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Evelyn's birth story

Here it is. A second birth story. I will say, I am much more excited to write this one than I was to write Eames'-while the actual laboring with him wasn't the worst, it was definitely less than ideal and the aftermath was somewhat traumatic. (read about his story here and here.) Though one might think that that whole experience might have left me nervous about doing it all again, the opposite was actually true. I was so excited for another chance at having a beautiful birth, and I was incredibly confident and optimistic that this second time would be wonderful. The midwife group I chose for my care definitely helped that confidence grow! They're a homebirth midwifery group who also have privileges at a (really great) hospital in the area! I found them because I was really planning and hoping for a homebirth this time, but Evan could never get comfortable with the idea. So since these midwives were able to give the same level of "hands off" care in the hospital as they'd give at home, we found that delivering with them in a hospital was a good middle ground for us (since the closest birthing center, the usual "middle ground", is 2 hours away.) I also used the hypnobabies program that I mentioned in Eames' birth story to prepare for this birth. I didn't end up using it during actual labor with Eames, (though it did serve its purpose preparing me for birth and helping me relax during his ECV) and I really wanted to make better use of it this time around. It proved to be very helpful! Another background before we move on is that my mom had planned on flying in from Utah on my actual due date, April 19th. As it got closer, we kept talking about if she should change it, wondering if she'd be too late, or if the BABY would be too late and my mom would miss the whole thing! (she was only planning on staying a week.) We decided to just leave it as it was and hope for the best, and it worked out perfectly! Now, onto the actual birth story!

My due date came and went, but my mom was excited to actually get to see me pregnant so neither of us minded going an extra day. I felt SO SURE that I'd go into labor that night, figuring that now that my mom was here and would be able to watch Eames, I wouldn't have to worry about anything anymore so my subconscious would be like "hey, baby! let's do this!" and the baby would be like "heck yes, I'm coming!!" However, that was not the case. So I woke up on the 20th and all of the sudden felt like since it hadn't happened yet, I was SURE to go way over and I'd only have my mom for like a day before she had to leave. But there was nothing to do about it except wait and see! So we went to Trader Joes and that night the young women threw me a surprise baby shower! It was pretty exciting that I got to make it, because they too had some concerns about if the baby would allow for me to attend! Went to bed that night feeling the exact same as I'd been feeling-aka absolutely nothing to indicate labor.
The next morning I got up to nurse Eames sometime before 0530. I had had braxton hicks contractions for a couple of weeks, and nursing always brought some on. However, this nursing session I felt my first real contraction ever (with Eames I had 100% back labor, so I still didn't know what a "normal" contraction really felt like!). It definitely caught my attention, especially because it was pretty intense! I had absolutely no question that it was a real one. From that point on, they didn't stop. For the first few hours, they averaged every 2-3 minutes! Super close together for the beginning of labor. But I had read so much about prodomal labor, and was terrified of that happening so I still didn't want to confidently say "this is it!", even though the contractions were definitely legit. Around 8 or so they "slowed down" to about 5 minutes apart. My mom and I took Eames on a walk because I wanted to keep moving so they didn't slow down even more. I had to stop for a couple of them while we were out, but was feeling really good and continued to be able to relax and breathe through them.
I had a WIC appointment that morning at 0930, and since I still wasn't willing to say "yes I am in labor!" I wanted to go to it. It just felt like if I didn't go, I'd be jinxing myself! So, much to our amusement in hindsight, we went to the appointment and I labored through the whole thing. The place I go for my appointments is the Chapel here in the military housing, and I kept joking that everyone thought I was super duper religious because every 5 minutes or so I'd kneel down and bow my head hahaha. But again, at this point I was still feeling totally on top of everything. It was as were walking out to the car that I stopped for a contraction and at that point felt like there was a shift. It didn't necessarily feel way more intense, but it was just different. It was different enough that I felt like now was a good time to tell Evan to head home from work (he's only 5 minutes away.) When we got back to my house I called my midwife and told her that my husband was headed home, and the plan was to install the car seat, finish packing, and then head to the hospital (45 minutes away.) I also mentioned that I was still a little nervous about coming too early to the hospital (I REALLY didn't want to labor there for a long time) She said that our plan sounded great, and to let her know when we were leaving. She also told us that we'd probably beat her to the hospital since she was leaving a homebirth that was pretty far from our hospital. About 20 minutes later we were all ready to go, so I called her and told her we were leaving, and that I was also no longer nervous that this was too early-things were getting real! At this point I was listening to my hypnobabies tracks and didn't feel like I could go without them (they helped me stay relaxed and focused.) During the drive, I started vocalizing through the contractions. There were a few times I felt a little nauseous, and I also started shaking a little bit, which made me think perhaps I was close since those were sometimes signs of transition! Evan, however, had heard me vocalize through 12 hours of contractions with Eames and was ready for a long day of labor.
We drove up to the hospital valet parking and I got into a wheelchair. I continued vocalizing, all through the hospital as Evan pushed me to labor and delivery. It's hilarious to hear him talk about what was going through his head as people somewhat stared at me, but I had gone to that "in between" state and as Evan puts it, wouldn't have cared at that point if I was butt naked on TV. I was a woman in labor, hear me roar!
We made a pit stop in triage before they confirmed that my midwife had called ahead so I could get admitted immediately, then we rolled on into a delivery room. As soon as I was out of the wheelchair I asked Evan to do counter pressure during my contractions. I asked the nurse if I could get into a tub, but she said that they had to monitor the baby first and get some stats (or something like that...all I registered was "no" Then was like "okay, now get through current contraction")
I then had to get onto the bed while they monitored the baby. I laid down, and very quickly rolled onto my side and held onto the side bar because that's what felt good. My low toned vocalizing soon turned into opera as the contractions came. Soon I realized I was pushing, and very soon after that my water broke (or exploded.) Evan informed the nurse that my water had broke, she asked when and he said "now." The nurse called "I'm going to need help in here" and a birth team assembled. My cervix was checked and I later mentioned to the nurse that that was the best cervix check I'd ever had! (I absolutely DESPISE cervical checks.) She said, "that's because there was nothing to check!" I was fully dilated.My midwife, however, had yet to arrive, so a doctor called a "laborist" was there, his job being to step in if/when doctors or midwives weren't there for births of their patients! I rolled onto my back to push and soon a little baby head was out. I paused and the laborist said to go ahead and push [her] shoulders out, and then he said "she's here!"
She! a girl! She was placed onto my chest with her cord intact, just like it should be. She was tiny and scrunchy faced and amazing. It felt like a dream, it was crazy how quickly it had happened. Turns out we had only been there for about 20 minutes! We'd left for the hospital around 11, and Evelyn was born at 1203. From first contraction to delivery, it was less than 7 hours! Evan was also pretty surprised at how quickly it happened, since he was ready to "set up camp" and get through 12 hours of labor! He hadn't even had a chance to tell his family that we were headed to the hospital-they just suddenly got a picture of a baby. 
I got a couple of stitches for some minor tearing, and then we were left to bond and breastfeed and adore the tiny little baby we had made! Evie was never taken away from me, not even for a second. My friend (who had planned on coming to the actual birth, but it didn't work out) my mom, and Eames came to the hospital around 4. For months, I had been really worried about Eames and being apart from him for a long time while in labor, but that was another thing that worked out so beautifully! It was barely an afternoon that he was away from us. That night Evan took Eames home and my mom stayed at the hospital with me. We were able to get early discharge and left the next evening around 6! We didn't go home with Eames until he was 5 days old, so going home so early with Evelyn made her first week feel very long-in a good way! My mom stayed a total of 8 days, and Evan still had an additional week of paternity leave when she left. The stitches really sucked for the first 10 days or so post partum, and I didn't feel as good as I thought I would with such a great delivery. But in reality, I think I was being unrealistic about how I *should* be feeling. We're now 3 weeks in and I feel great. I swear Eames has gained about 5 pounds from my milk coming in lol and Evie is packing it on as well-she's gained over a pound already!
This birth was everything I had ever hoped for. I'm so proud of and thankful for my body. It felt wonderful to go into labor unafraid-just excited and confident and trusting that my body knew what to do. I LOVED pushing on my own-that was something I really hated about my experience with Eames. Not only because it was directed pushing, but because the way I was treated left me feeling like me and body couldn't do it, that I wasn't capable. But guess what? I DO know how to push a baby out! I feel so empowered from this birth, and that has lead me to a decision-I am absolutely going to become a doula someday. 

I wish that every woman could look back on her experience of bringing a human into this world with happiness and confidence. The type of birth isn't what matters-vaginal, c-section, drug free, epidural, full term, induction, home, birth center, hospital-those things will always vary, and what's important for one woman will be different than what's important for another. What truly matters is:
A woman being able to make informed, educated decisions. 
A woman feeling supported and cared for during such a vulnerable time. 
A woman going into this life altering experience unafraid! Because the opportunity to bring LIFE into this world, to give a spirit a body, is an incredible and beautiful one. 

I fully believe that labor was not meant to be a horrific, terrifying event. It is something to be celebrated, and NOT just the end result! (a healthy mom and a healthy baby) The whole journey-pregnancy, labor, delivery and motherhood-they are all connected. All should be celebrated and something that a woman can look forward to. So, I am going to do what I can to help women feel good about birth. I hope that I can make a difference, even  if it's just one woman. It's sort of unfortunate that since babies are born everyday, the fact that a woman just went through childbirth can seem commonplace on a large scale. But it's important to remember that individually, that birth for that woman is a universe altering event, and that every woman's story and journey matters. 

Evelyn Elizabeth
7 lbs 2 oz
20 inches long
April 21, 2016 at 1203

Eames learning to be gentle to his baby sister

My mom holding Evie

When I first saw this photo, I thought it was Eames in a pink hat!

I'd also like to share some resources that have helped me gain confidence in relation to pregnancy, birth, being a mother and simply being a woman:
The 4th Trimester Bodies Project
January Harshe and her Take Back Postpartum/Birth Without Fear community
The Milk Meg
I follow all of these things on Instagram, and filling my feed with what real women's bodies look like has truly changed my perception-I no longer see belly rolls, stretch marks, or cellulite as bad. They are normal! It has helped me appreciate my body so much. I am more confident now (after having two children!) than I have ever been in my life. My body is strong and it is beautiful, and I never want to take it for granted or think badly about it. It deserves to be loved and taken care of! And now that I have a daughter, I'm even more grateful that I have come to this place of loving my body, because that is a great gift that I can give her!

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