Saturday, June 28, 2014

Number three

I remember reading a blog post several years ago about 'worshipping in the church of the last born' (or something along those lines). That's where I've spent the last 10 days--cuddling soaking up all the wonder that is a newborn, enjoying my last child. It's a beautiful thing.

Before my birth experience fades completely I do want to write it down. This post will thus be filled with all the gory details I don't want to forget, but anyone else may not care about. If you don't want to read on, I won't be offended (as if I'd even know). If all you want are pictures, here are a few--the last pictures of me pregnant and a selection of pictures of Kip's first days:

This was the first time I've gone into labor naturally. I'm glad I went through a natural labor once. I suspect I would have with Paul, eventually, but given the time constraints of family who were there I thought it best to go with a conveniently timed induction. I wouldn't change that decision, but I'm glad I was able to wait this time around since natural labor is DEFINITELY easier than an induction.

I started showing signs of going into labor on Monday, the 16th. I had bloody show pretty much all day, which isn't necessarily meaningful for a first time pregnancy, but for subsequent pregnancies is supposed to indicate you'll go into labor soon. I was also having mild, intermittent contractions, but it wasn't clear if they were Braxton-Hicks contractions or if I just had an upset stomach (which I'd had on an off for, oh, about two weeks at that point, ever since Sylvia had a huge puke-fest on the evening before my birthday. Yuck). I thought it would be prudent to get a few last minute errands run and then rest, so I dragged Paul off to the store to pick up fruit for Sylvia's lunches, then spent the rest of the day chilling out and worrying about whether or not I was going into labor.

Tuesday we got kids off to school and daycare and then checked to see if Sylvia's passport was on its way to us. We've been trying to get our paperwork in order for our permanent residency. Unfortunately, Sylvia's passport expired at the end of April, and she needed a valid passport to finish off the application. So, after a trip to Melbourne in May we've been biting our nails, waiting for the passport to show up. Of course, it showed up Tuesday morning, after we'd cancelled Sylvia's appointment for Tuesday afternoon. Grr.

I spent much of the morning on the phone trying to reschedule Sylvia's appointment, ignoring my contractions and trying to be as relaxed as possible to reduce the likelihood of going into full blown labor. Probably I should have spent less time looking up signs of imminent labor and either worked or watched something distracting. Eventually I did settle and watched a bunch of back episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

When I picked up Sylvia I fielded the inevitable, "when do you think the baby will come?" questions with my usual answer--"I always go over, so probably over the weekend." The whole time I was actually thinking, probably soon, maybe today or tomorrow.

After picking up Sylvia I drove to Derrick's office with the passport so he could scan it and send it off. Since there's a clock in the dashboard I also took the opportunity to time my contractions while I was driving. They were just about five minutes apart, plus or minus a minute, and they lasted to a count of 30 (which I later realized was about 40 seconds).

We picked up Paul and went home, and Derrick fixed dinner while I laid down in the bedroom and let the kids watch episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paul's favorite). I didn't time again, but laying down didn't change the intensity or length of the contractions. I called my neighbor and warned her I thought I was in labor. She came over and was supportive, called the hospital and let them know I was probably coming in, and then let me know she was excited (since I was anxious as a cat in a rainstorm myself). She's a very good friend.

After the kids ate their stir fry for dinner (which I did not join them in, much to their chagrin) we got them ready for bed. I always sing before they go to sleep. I have to say, singing through a contraction, even a relatively mild one, not the easiest thing I've ever done. I called my neighbor to come back at around 8 and she sat with the kids while I packed my bag (since I'm really organized like that). Derrick and I drove to the hospital around 8:30. Unfortunately, Paul woke up just as we were leaving (or come out of the bedroom since I'm betting he didn't actually go to sleep) so he cried, but I knew he was with someone he's comfortable around so we just left.

We got to the hospital around 9. I'm glad I went into labor when I did because we got an awesome parking spot, so I didn't have to walk too far while laboring. There wasn't anyone else in the women's assessment waiting room, so I was quickly tagged and led to a room in the back where a nurse started monitoring me. I think she thought she was going to send me home when we started because I wasn't acting like I was in too much pain (I wasn't). She put me on a monitor and Derrick and I sat in the room for about thirty minutes--long enough for them to get a good picture of how frequent and long my contractions were. After that she checked to see how dilated I was, mentioning again that they'd send me home to labor if I wasn't very far along. I was dilated to a 3 or 4, though (she seemed surprised by that) I was sent up to a delivery suite.

I wanted to do a water birth, having heard they were less painful than regular births and women are less likely to tear during a water birth. The first room we were taken to didn't have a bath, but fortunately there was a room with a bath available,  so we moved there. That room was far larger, which turned out to be advantageous since even when I wasn't in the bath I was in the floor or on an exercise ball. I only used the bed after I'd given birth.

I started in the bath, and spent probably the first two hours there. I didn't plan quite well (see the comment above about my super good organizational skills) so I didn't have anything to wear in the tub except my bra, so I just stripped and hopped in. Nobody seemed to mind my near nakedness, and soon enough I was comfortable. Anyway, the whole time I was in the tub I was having two contractions every ten minutes (that's the way contractions are timed by the midwives). The senior of the two midwives (I'd agreed to let a student observe, which I'd forgotten but was kind of happy about) suggested I get out after two hours since baths sometimes slow things down. When I got out my contractions did intensify and speed up a little, to more like a count of 35 (counting is my preferred method of getting through a contraction) and to 3 contractions every 10 minutes alternating with 2 contractions every 10 minutes.

I spent a while on a mat on the floor, and some time on a birthing ball. I had a bunch of bloody show, which the midwife reassured me meant my cervix was dilating. I decided I'd like to get back in the water since it seemed like my labor was more established and I was cold. By then it was about 1:30 am. Derrick slept most of the couple of hours I was out of the tub because he only had a couple of hours of sleep the night before (unfortunately timed bout of insomnia).

After about four hours in the hospital they check the cervix to see how labor is progressing, so at about 1:45 they checked me. I was at about 7 cm dilated, so I figured I had probably an hour or so left to labor. The midwife asked if I'd like her to break my waters, but I said no because I was progressing reasonably.

We re-warmed the water and I hopped back into the tub. I had one contraction and felt a big pop. I looked down and saw a cloud of yellowish liquid billowing up around me. The next contraction was INTENSE and long--I counted to at least 50 and then quit because I didn't want to admit to myself my uterus was still contracting. I turned to the midwives and said, "I need to get out now." They agreed (not that they would have stopped me). The more senior of the midwives noted a change in pitch in my voice that told her it was time for me to get out. (I couldn't birth in the water because there wasn't anyone on staff that night who was certified to watch. Bummer for me.)

After I got out I had one or two contractions two or three minutes apart and then my contractions stopped for at least five minutes, for which I was very grateful. Apparently at the end, just before the baby starts to come it's not uncommon for a pause in labor. I remember something similar happening with Sylvia when I started pushing, though at the time I'd assumed things slowed down because I was in a different position.

I wasn't sure what position to try once I was out of the bath, and things were happening quickly so I didn't have a chance (or the wherewithal) to try any positions other than semi-squatting on the floor, holding on to (or dragging down) Derrick. When the contractions started back up again they were pretty close to one right after another and I had to force myself to not push, to allow my uterus to do the work and "breathe" the baby out. I have to say, not pushing was the hardest thing to do at that point. I don't think I completely succeeded.

Our son was born at 2:17 am.

I don't know how many contractions it took to push the baby out, but out he came, and he was a he. The whole time I was expecting a girl (we didn't find out at the 20 week ultrasound but the little bit of bum I did see didn't have any obvious genitalia, which made me think we were having a girl. Derrick agreed) so to hear the midwife commenting that the baby was 'sporting tackle' was a bit of a surprise. He looked so much like Paul I think I wondered if I'd already had the baby once before. I reached down, moved the umbilical cord out of the way and saw that yes, I had a boy. I scooped him up and clutched his slimy squirmy body to my chest, and held him while he cried, and while they gave me a shot of syntocin (as they call pitocin around here). The midwives pushed a pair of scissors into Derrick's hands and had him cut the umbilical cord. Then the midwives took the baby off to clean him and do all the measuring they do.

The bad thing about giving birth on the floor was that I had to move to the bed for the afterbirth and to get stitched up. So, theoretically going without an epidural means movement is still possible after giving birth, but after every birth I've been so shaky walking is a challenge for quite a while. The midwives helped me to the bed and directed me in every little thing while I shook. (As a side note, pushing out the placenta isn't painful after birthing an entire baby, but it does feel weird when someone pulls on the umbilical cord that's still attached to your insides while you're waiting.)

I had a second degree tear, which I suppose wasn't terribly surprising since I went from a 7 to a baby in about thirty minutes. The midwives said second degree tears were pretty common. They only do episiotomies to avoid third or fourth degree tears, which I avoided. A doctor (a Canadian! We had a North American party in my room for a little bit) came in and stitched me up. As much as I didn't enjoy being stitched up for my episiotomies, the tear was worse. I'm not sure if that was a function of the tear or of the doctor, but I did not enjoy the experience of being stitched up.

The baby cried a lot while I was holding him and wasn't terribly interested in nursing. Eventually I did get him to nurse and quiet down, and, once the doctor was done, the midwives took him again and let me eat. I had to eat and shower before they'd take me to a recovery room. The whole time I was eating I could hear another woman screaming. I kept hoping she'd have her baby soon because it sounded so unpleasant. I know they keep the walls thin on purpose (better to be able to hear what's going on in a room than potentially miss or be late to a legitimate emergency) but, selfish person that I am, I wanted to be able to enjoy the time with my new little one.

Derrick went home at about 3:30 or so to relieve Julia and go to sleep himself. He's since said this was the least he's been involved in a labor, which is pretty true. This labor involved a lot less pain overall and I had the midwives with me all the time for support. After he left they brought me food. I ate every bite. I'd had heartburn and hadn't been able to eat much for weeks. Between that and the physical nature of giving birth I was famished. In fact, I was so hungry that I woke up before breakfast even though I'd only been in my recovery room and sleeping for a couple of hours.

I didn't really want to shower, or really do anything except sleep, but I did look pretty gruesome (the midwives were kind and disagreed when I said that, but I have eyes. I had blood and other fluids all over my legs and it was gross). After my shower I dressed in a hospital gown and they wheeled me to a recovery room in the antenatal ward (the post-natal ward was apparently full).

The Women's and Children's hospital is a public hospital, which means roomas are shared and women go home after at most day. Apparently sending women home quickly and then sending midwives to check on them is a more cost-effective way of caring for women and newborns. I've certainly enjoyed this approach from the standpoint of a patient. Over my whole pregnancy I've felt more cared for as a person than in the US, where, now that I reflect, I was treated more as a host for my baby than a woman having a baby.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

May we have compassion

I said the prayer in Relief Society today. Not sure I'll be asked again any time soon.

Today's lesson was on the priesthood. Perfect timing, right? For any not aware, this week it became public knowledge (or at least filled my Facebook feed) that Kate Kelley, the founder of the Ordain Women movement (OW) was called to a disciplinary council that might end with her excommunication. I'm not really a supporter of OW for reasons that are more emotional than rational, but I've been grateful for the conversations that have happened as a result of her activism. Women do face structural inequalities within the church, and while most women seem content to accept those inequities, some of us (myself included) aren't happy with them.

Anyway. The lesson started with the teacher talking about how 'silly' it was that a group of 200 women protested at April Priesthood session wanting to get in, especially since they could simply listen to the broadcast at home (ignoring, of course, that this was the first time that was possible) or read the messages after the fact. Someone else talked about women not holding the priesthood because we're 'too emotional' and tend to 'over think things,' which would get in the way of us exercising the priesthood. There were a few comments that were more moderate (one women noted that women *can* give blessings if there are no men around to do it, and also talked about men and women holding the priesthood together) but most of the women seemed to be of the opinion that women didn't need or shouldn't want the priesthood. That we have motherhood and that should suffice; that asking for the priesthood is a mark of pride, a misunderstanding of what the priesthood is.

I was intensely uncomfortable. I think I would have been more capable of handling the lesson on another week, when my emotions aren't already a little raw from reading about Sis. Kelley. I did try at one point to say something exceptionally orthodox and bland to get the lesson back on track, but that failed miserably. (Amusing to me since the last time I said something in RS I caused the teacher to go off on a semi-political rant.) I sort of wonder if I should have said something in support of OW, though it's probably a good thing I didn't since I'm not sure I could have said anything without sounding strident or confrontational.

The lesson finally moved into bland, let's-talk-about-what's-in-the-manual territory, which I tuned out as best I could. At the end the teacher made a comment about how poorly the lesson had gone, wondering if it was because she isn't a priesthood holder.

Then I gave the closing prayer.

I expressed gratitude for the priesthood and for our sisterhood. I asked the lord to bless us with love and compassion, especially for those different than us. I asked for his sanctification. Then I ended. It was the hardest prayer I've ever had to give and I shook the whole time. I shook while I collected my children, and I shook while I put them in the car. I shook all the way home and for some minutes after I got home.

I'm so glad I'm 40 weeks pregnant. I'm so not going to church next week. Even if this baby's still in me, I'm going to be far too uncomfortable to show up. I may just need to keep my precious, fragile baby at home for the next month or so as well. You know, since motherhood is my most sacredest calling and I do take that responsibility very seriously.