Friday, March 14, 2008

Owen's Birth Story

So when you get into this whole baby business, you find out the details of people's birth "story." This really is only interesting to those who have given birth or plan to soon... so that's my little disclaimer. Also this is epic, I mean it's me, Cameron, did you expect a summary or the entire journey? So get a cup of tea and a comfy seat...

We were invited over to our former neighbor's house for dinner on Thursday Feb. 28th--homemade enchiladas-- THANKS RYIAN! The food was awesome, but at 3:30AM on Friday Feb. 29th (leap year) I woke up with some indigestion... or was it a contraction? Hard to tell, but, oh wait, there it is again... a little "pain in the uterus" which feels like a normal cramp. I could hear our Bradley instructor, Heidi, saying, "sleep though early contractions if you can..." so I took off for the guest room to make myself as comfortable as possible.

The next morning I got back in bed with Matt and said, "I think this is for real." He popped open his eyes, looked at me with a sleepy grin and said, "I guess I should stay home from work today." We actually debated if this was the best course of action. Early contractions are strangely peaceful and not that painful. As we were getting a game plan together, my friend Wendy called because we had plans to get the dogs out for a walk, and I thought to myself, "might as well keep business as usual until this gets more serious." So Matt and I and Kaibee drove to the trail head and met Wendy and her dogs for an hour walk. All the while, Matt is timing my contractions which are about 10-12 minutes apart... some closer together like 5 -6 minutes all lasting between 30 seconds and one minute. Nothing was too painful at this point and I could walk through most of them.

When we got home it was about 9:45AM and I had an interview with Flag Live (the local alternative weekly publication) in regards to the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival. I am one of the directors of the event. Anyway, I had to cancel that appointment because I thought it would be to hard to concentrate on anything but my contractions at that point even though they weren't THAT bad, they were frequent: 10 minutes apart. So Matt and I begin to prepare the house... we finally get the car seat in my car, pull out all the birth supplies the midwives provide us, and get out our birth supply checklist. We called family to let them know, and then it was mid-afternoon. We notified the Midwifery about our progress and they said "keep going," and to call back when contractions are regular and closer 3-5 minutes apart. So we took a quick walk around the block -- maybe 15-20 minutes. It was 60 degrees and sunny here in Flagstaff. THANK GOD (it seemed to snow every other day this winter). I was so grateful at this moment that I didn't have to guess when to go to the hospital. Sitting in the car is not comfortable AT ALL. It was nice to walk around home and be by ourselves.

Matt had the brilliant idea of walking more in the early afternoon. It really didn't sound good to me until he sweetened the deal with a chocolate malt and some french fries at a local hamburger joint. Mind you, we live downtown and along the way we had to stop at main intersections and I had to lean on Matt while ohhing and ahhing and breathing to relax during the contractions. We must have looked like a very loving couple stopping every block to hug. Kaibee came with us, of course, and was happy to have all this great 'outside' time with Mom & Dad. Walking really speed up the contractions but I was glad to get back home where I could lay down, which slowed down my contractions.

At this point it's 5PM and my contractions are variable and most are still 8-10 minutes apart lasting 1 minute and somewhat painful but not that bad. I missed my artsy pregnancy photo shoot scheduled for 4PM. I could NOT bring myself to walk down to the studio, even just to get a few shots. Moving is annoying and I found I liked to stay in one place, I was moving to pee and drink water. It was about this time that my friend, Dawn Kish , showed up for moral support and also to photograph the whole process (slide show to come...couldn't have done it without her)

Around 7PM Deana, our midwife on call, showed up even though we hadn't called her. I think she has a sixth sense. She wanted to check in with us... that's when we found out I was 5cm already and progressing well. Deana unpacked all her gear and we all got ready for the long night (and potentially next day) ahead. At this point, I was suffering a little more because the contractions just kept getting harder and more intense. It's a bit like running a marathon but not knowing when you are going to finish...only you get these short breaks between each hard effort.

It took another couple hours of lying on the bed sideways and breathing through the contractions, drinking water and getting up to pee for me to open to 8cm. Now, I was through the rough stuff (or so they told me). My mind began to shut down regular personality functions (like making comments, being humorous or having modesty) and I felt myself slipping away into a very primal and internal place. I could hear what was going on but didn't care--my eyes were closed and I was only focused on the work ahead: stay relaxed and breathe through the pain. I seemed to lose my personality all together. I even exclaimed things that I never say like, "oh my goodness..." (it was more like OHHHHHHmyyyyygooooooodneeeeeeesss).

I got into the tub which sounded like a nice comfy place but it was hard for me to relax in there because I couldn't float entirely and I couldn't prop myself up on anything to rest. In retrospect it might have been nice to have Matt in there with me--holding me as a back support. Deana was taking notes in the other room and came in for a quick Doppler check to hear the baby's heart rate and said, "from the sounds Cameron is making it might be time to get her out of the tub and check her progress." I shuttered at the thought of moving between contractions--it's really really uncomfortable to move, but move I did...this time to a standing position holding the bed rail---"OUCH" say the contraction notes...this was uncomfortable AND I was starting to feel the minor urge to push...but I couldn't bring myself to say anything. I should mention that I was getting hot and Matt kept fanning me and changing a cold wash rag for about 4 hours or so. Matt was truly amazing staying by my side the entire 25 hour period. I couldn't have done it without him. I knew I wasn't quite 10cm yet but I had to be close...Deana thought we'd give it a couple standing pushes and then do an exam--- Voila!!!

I was given the green light to push. Everything changed at this point--pushing felt way better and then again I felt very unsure if I was doing it right or if I was pushing hard enough. It was sort of like starting over from the beginning after getting to be an expert at contractions. It was about this time that Mary Ann, the second midwife on call, showed up for backup (Womancare midwifery always have two CNM's on every birth). I noticed that my contractions were different, they felt like they were in my uterus now rather than the cervix and this was an improvement. An hour went by... pushing and everyone saying "oh your making great progress." At some point I felt like I wasn't pushing to my full potential but I didn't want to push TOO hard for fear of tearing-- so I mustered up the energy to ask, "ladies, how hard can I push?" In unison they all said "HARD"-- so then I really bore down and it seemed I was getting better and better reactions from everyone with every push... "OH WOW!" and , "Just like that!" I noticed that when I would flex my feet I got better reactions from everyone so I tried that a couple of times. Between pushes I was taking short quick breaths as if I had just sprinted down the street. I remember thinking, "Wow, am I working that hard?" I didn't feel like I was exerting the same type of effort as a sprint. Obviously my body was getting a full workout but perhaps natural adrenaline had kicked in to disguise the pain? I assume this is because the whole uterus is squeezing, your birth canal is stretching and everything is working together at this point to help this little baby make his way into the world. I was not anxious at all during the entire process, everyone seemed really relaxed around me and I followed their lead. I think this was a critical element to speed up the delivery. Mary Ann would approach my belly after each contraction to listen to the heartbeat to make sure the baby's heart rate was not decelerating. They kept saying things like, "This baby doesn't mind these contractions." All I could say was "water" or "chap stick" and I could tell that we were getting close.

Deana let me feel the head with my fingers-- about up to my knuckle. Another big push... Deana mentioned to Matt that if he still wanted to catch the baby that he should come around soon-- I'm sure he was glad to relinquish his fan and cold wash rag. I remember thinking if Matt is going somewhere, we must be close. Matt left my side, moved around to get into position and I gave it three big pushes in a row, holding each time. The head was crowning and everyone had elated voices, especially Dawn. I was listening closely for Dawn's reaction because I knew it would be more amazing to her than all the other seasoned veterans in the room (even Matt has seen 10 or so births from our class videos). I said, "oh that burns" and made some really primal noises. They asked me wait to push again to make sure proper stretching occurred. A moment went by, I asked to push -- they gave me the signal and out popped the head. Deana checked for the cord around his neck, all was clear, everything was perfect, so I pushed one last time to deliver my baby boy into this world.

Matt got a look at him first and they laid him on my tummy all gooey and wet and wrapped him in some warm blankets. He immediately cried a couple big sobs and I remember my first thought, "now that is a big baby that just came out of me"--Matt appeared right next to me with big weepy eyes and noted, "it's a boy," which was really exciting since we didn't find out until that moment. I was so glad to be at the finish line of the athletic challenge that I had almost forgotten about the prize-- my little baby boy. It was one of life's most perfect and surreal moments. I didn't cry then, but it makes me cry now. I DID IT! I'm DONE! That's what I was thinking. I also remember thinking, "That thing is HUGE!" I suppose it's all about perspective because he seems tiny to the outside world but huge to have come out of my body.

I was not done yet as the placenta still needs to be delivered. Also baby Owen presented his little fist right up under his chin before the final push, which, as you can imagine, there isn't enough room for, so I had a grade 2 tear, which Mary Ann sewed up a bit later. For now, Owen was ready to nurse but was I? It was harder than I thought but with a lot of pointers and immediate supervision from Mary Ann and Deana, Owen latched on and away he sucked for 45 minutes. Running through my head was the advice: "elbow down, left arm up, hold breast with my right hand and shape it like his mouth." Phew, that's a lot to remember at first... plus my biceps got a good workout holding 8 lbs. Mary Ann tended to Owen making sure he was doing well: she checked his vitals while he breastfeed. Breastfeeding immediately helps with baby/mother bonding and additionally it promotes uterine contractions to release the placenta and avoid a hemorrhage. If you can successfully breastfeed, you probably don't need Pitocin (medication commonly given after the birth to contract the uterus--the midwives even carry it in case of a hemorrhage). Matt held the baby, I got stitched up (bummer, but oh well) and then the birth team went downstairs to eat a snack and make us a snack. We were left as our new little family got to bond in our own bed and Kaibee even jumped up there with us to say hello. She was mostly asleep during the entire birth about 4-5 feet from the bed and was only worried about me a couple of times.

15-20 minutes later the birth team was back to do the official baby exam, they changed the sheets, dressed Owen, weighed him, washed all our birth linens, packed up their gear, helped me get a quick bath and set us up with everything we'd need to get through the day. It was 8:30AM when they left. Deana had been with me for 12 hours and Mary Ann for 7 (she already delivered a 9 pound baby earlier that evening). I cannot comment enough about how great their customer service was. I felt like the Queen of Sheba from each office visit to the final moment when they left our home. Mary Ann came back to our house on three different occasions in three days to check in on my progress, do some blood tests with Owen and make sure the nursing was going well. I couldn't have imagined Owen's birth any other way. It was truly a miracle and I am so glad we stuck to our guns and had a home birth. I know many of our family and friends were worried (even if they didn't say anything) but if they could've been there, they would've felt the same as we did: confident, relaxed and in the hands of true professionals. It wasn't scary at all to have a home birth, it was empowering and a beautiful rite of passage.


Mary Jessica said...

Oh, Cameron. You have brought tears to my eyes with this beautiful story. I can't help remembering the details of Tommy coming into the world, and of sharing your thoughts: "It's done! I DID IT!!!" There really should be a parade or a marching band or something to celebrate after you go through something like that, right? Although who would want all that noise...

Oh, that primal, internal place. Yes. I remember it. Sort of. Enough time has passed so that it's a bit be honest, I couldn't remember much even the next day. Gotta love drug-free childbirth - all those endorphins and such...

I remember making all sorts of crazy noises (with my doula guiding me to make them more productive)...I laughed out loud when you wrote that you said "Oh my goodness." I loved that you checked with your "ladies" on how hard to push. What manners, even during labor!

If it's OK, I'm going to e-mail a link to your story to some family and friends. You are an inspiration!

(Oh, and thanks for the beets recipe!!)
Much love,

julie said...

Cameron, you ROCK!!! Thank you so much for sharing this, I've got tears in my eyes. Amazing and beautiful and everything bringing life into the world SHOULD BE.
Love to you and your happy family!!!

Troy said...

Thanks for sharing the great story! Congratulations and best wishes to you all.
love, Troy and Dara

Hollye said...

what an amazing story! I felt like I was right there with you.
Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life. I'll be staying tuned to future posts.