Friday, March 30, 2012

The Birth of Maya Claire

I began this pregnancy feeling an intense amount of pressure to do things right this time, to have a VBAC, to prove that I could do it and avoid all the heartache that clouded the birth of my son, born via cesarean just 25 months before his sister. I was excited to find out I was expecting again, but nervous at the same time. I remember telling my husband, Marcus, “I actually have to do this now,” and I was worried how I would feel if this birth ended in another cesarean.

I prepared for this birth much differently than I did my son's. There was no normal baby registry, shopping for a crib set, or baby showers (although I did have a Blessingway and that rocked!). I went internal, I asked myself hard questions about who I am…as a mother, a wife, a woman, a person. I asked myself what I wanted from this experience, why it was so important to me. I asked myself what I want for this baby, for her welcoming into the world, for her childhood, for her as a woman and mother and wife. I explored my spiritual connection to this world.

I did eventually decide on a childbirth class and chose Birthing from Within, which was the perfect class to continue exploring my desires and fears for the upcoming birth of Maya. The 2 1/2 hours every Monday night for 6 weeks was such a sacred time for Marcus and I to come together in a tranquil space preserved for preparing to welcome our daughter peacefully into this world, as well as heal our hearts from the deep seeded fear and disappointment we still both felt about our son's birth.  During the class we were asked to think of a heartfelt question that we would need to answer in order to birth our baby. This was extremely difficult for me and I took a week or so of deep introspection to develop my question. My question ended up – How am I loving myself…in this moment. All my fears about this birth came back to one thing…me being hard on myself, embarrassed, feeling like a failure, disappointed in my body. By asking myself ‘How I am loving myself in this moment’, I was able to let go of all the negativity and pressure on myself to do it right, I was able to stop judging myself and even let go of this being a VBAC birth and just Let It Be! Let it be and Breath became my mantras for the birth. By the time I went into labor I truly was at peace and was able to view it as “just a normal, healthy birth.” I was able to let it be, without an attachment to what this birth should look like, how I should sound, where exactly she should be born, even who should be with me. I completely trusted my body, my baby, my birth team, and God that everything was exactly as it should be.

I’m making myself sound like the model of perfection when it comes to being a completely peaceful, spiritual, connected pregnant woman ready to bring her baby into the world. Don’t be fooled.

On Monday, April 4th, I was 39 weeks and 4 days. I had a prenatal appointment and I was CONVINCED I would never go into labor. I know that sounds absurd but I think a part of me truly thought I would have to be taken to the hospital and induced at 43 or 44 weeks (that’s the limit I was giving myself). I had been having a lot of contractions the last 3 or 4 days, much like I did with my son, and they would always stop when I went to sleep. I felt like this was a huge tease and I just ended up frustrated. In my mind, so far my “labor” was mimicking my son’s and I knew how that ended up. My midwife assured me that of course I would naturally go into labor. My body knew how to conceive the baby, grow the baby, and it knew how and when to birth the baby too. Uh-huh, I know, I’m a doula, I’ve given that speech many times. I still didn’t think the baby was coming. Imagine my surprise the next morning when I woke up and saw a hint of bloody show. I woke up my husband and told him. His response was underwhelming to say the least and then I remembered I should probably clue him in as to what that is and means. “Marcus, it means the baby is coming, SOON! Like maybe today!” and then I burst into tears. That got him out of bed. I was completely flooded with emotion. When he asked me why I was crying I said,  “I have to do this now, it’s really happening and I have to do it. I’m scared!” He said all the right things and built my confidence back up, reminding me how exciting this was. I perked up and we went about our day, celebrating what may be the last day as a family of 3. The contractions came kind of sporadically throughout the day. They weren’t too strong, but they were consistently picking up. As the day wore on I knew we still had some time. We watched a movie that night and went to bed. The contractions did continue throughout the night but I slept through most of them and when they did wake me up they were still 30-40 minutes apart.

I awoke the next morning surprisingly refreshed and still very excited. This had to be the day! It was her due date and I like punctuality in a baby!  It was funny too because throughout my pregnancy I always had a feeling she would be born sometime between April 5th and 7th. The morning was beautiful, it was nice and cool, gray outside (if you live in Phoenix you know why I said it was beautiful). It was exactly as I had always pictured it. The contractions at this point were coming more steadily but they still weren’t very strong and were still lingering between 10 and 15 minutes apart. I was actually extremely excited because I finally had a night without the contractions stopping, and still had some show. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I had called my midwife to give her a heads up and my doula as well. My doula told me she had another mom in early labor and may have to call her backup to attend my birth. I knew her back up and love her, so that helped, and I was happy to recognize that this drastic change in my “birth plan” didn’t shake me at all. That alone gave me confidence that I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing, loving myself and letting “it” be. 

We were going about our day but the contractions were getting strong enough that I didn’t want to go anywhere. Around this time I had a revelation. I never went into labor with Rocco. I never once in my entire 24 hour labor process with Rocco had a contraction that felt like these. That gave me so much peace! In that realization I was able to wipe the slate clean. I felt like it was the last step in giving me a completely fresh start with this birth, a clean slate to let my body do what it was designed to do. I was in such a happy place, truly enjoying early labor and all the sensations I was feeling and the company of my husband and son. We took lots of pictures and rolled on the birth ball and talked to Rocco about how his little sister was coming.  

That evening things really started picking up and we decided to get the room set up. The night before we had set up the birth pool and now we were pulling out all the towels and other supplies and getting them into place. I was now vocalizing through contractions and they were between 8 and 10 minutes apart. I think the intensity was starting to scare me a little bit and I decided to let Rocco go with his grandparents and had the intention of letting him stay the night. A few hours later though, during a really intense contraction I started crying and told Marcus I needed Rocco home. It didn’t make sense to me in the moment, I just needed him, my heart literally felt like it was aching for him. So Marcus called him home and we decided to call the midwife and doula as well. As soon as we called the midwife over I had a gut feeling that it was too early for that (for me, I'm incredibly private apparently!) and my labor would stop. Although I enjoyed their company, my labor immediately spaced out, upon just CALLING them! My contractions had been about 7 minutes apart, now they were back to 10-15. So after about an hour and a quick check of baby’s heart tones, I sent everyone home and Rocco, Marcus and I labored together again. My contractions immediately picked back up, no kidding as soon as I closed the door behind them. Right back to about 7 min apart again but even more intense than before. Rocco sang the vocalizations with me, which was extremely comforting. 

We put Rocco to bed around 8:30 and labor started becoming hard. We filled up the bathtub and I labored there for a while. I tried out different positions trying to figure out what felt best and most progressive. I ended up on my hands and knees. After an hour or two in the tub I was tired and decided to get out and try to watch a movie to distract myself. It wasn’t very distracting, I was having to work. I was getting tired though and the contractions were still far enough apart that I thought I could get some sleep. So I cuddled and dozed with Marcus for a while before deciding to go to bed. The previous night my contractions spaced way out when I went to sleep so I figured they would do that again allowing me to get a good nights rest and we would have the baby in the morning. I think I did sleep for a few hours, lightly being woken every once in awhile. Then I remember having one contraction that was DIFFERENT, I didn’t know what to do through it! I woke Marcus up and said in strong voice “ I think we should call the midwives”, then the contraction ended and I began to waver on that statement and told him I thought I was fine I was going to try to sleep some more. So I laid back down and was awoken 4 more times with the same intensity. Once that 4th contraction hit I looked at the clock and realized it had been less than 20 minutes. These were coming fast now. I couldn’t sleep anymore and I couldn’t lay down. I had to be on my hands and knees. I woke Marcus up again during the 5th contraction and told him to call the midwives NOW, and then told him to start filling the birth tub. I needed to be in the water.

It was about 2:30 in the morning at this point. We lit the candles in our room and I got into the warm tub on my hands and knees, fully awake now and again excited. I wasn’t going to have to wait another day to meet my baby. 

My time line is foggy from this point on, I never looked at the clock again until she was born, but I did look at my chart afterward so I can at least form my story. The midwives arrived somewhere around 3:30am. They checked Maya’s heart rate, asked if I needed anything and then left us alone to do our thing. I was vocalizing now through each contraction and enjoying the peaceful, dark space, lit only by candle light, alone with my husband. The contractions were a little rough and at this stage I was trying to wrap my head around them. Around 4:30 I asked Marcus to call my friend Mandi to come over for Rocco when he woke up.  

Now everyone was in place, I didn’t feel the need to call the doula yet,  Marcus and I were enjoying laboring together. As the sun rose I got this overwhelming feeling of peace. The light streamed through the window and shown directly onto “my birth shrine” as I liked to call it. It was so beautiful and the intensity of what was happening started to hit me. I started crying, sobbing. I saw my midwife creep around the door, probably a little concerned, but I just looked at Marcus and said between my sobs, “I’m just so happy right now, we’re actually doing this, it’s really going to happen!” This was such an amazing point of my labor. My husband and I were connecting, we were laughing, and talking between contractions and I remember telling him, “this really isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.” My son came in and hung out with us for a little while. I wish I could bottle those moments forever. 

After my emotional pouring things picked up to a new level and by 9:30am I thought we were going to have the baby. I started feeling a little grunty and pushy. I asked Mandi and Rocco to leave as I was feeling like I was starting to lose it a little. I remember crying to Marcus “This is so much harder than I thought it was going to be!” and I was ready to call my doula.

I hit a point where vocalizing wasn’t doing it for me anymore and I really did feel like I was going to lose it. My midwife recognized this and began talking me through the contractions. She started describing what I was feeling and encouraged me to surrender to that feeling, even though it was scary. I took her advice and closed my eyes and FELT what she was saying and calmly slowly breathed out and allowed my body to surrender to the incredible power and force I was feeling. I FELT my hips widen and I FELT my cervix opening and I FELT my daughters head moving down. It may sound impossible, but in one contraction I felt that huge shift and I realized that even though this was harder than anything I’d ever done and more than anything I’d imagined labor to be, that it would be ok. I was ok. For the next hour or so, I labored, almost silently, allowing these intensely powerful sensations to move through me. I even began sleeping inbetween contractions. 

My midwife was in complete awe of this transformation from roaring birthing goddess to silence and serenity. I should note that even though all looked calm from the outside and I was calm mentally…my body was a powerful storm moving through me during this stage of labor.

I though I had it under control and then BAM! I think this may have been her worming her way toward and under my pubic bone. All of a sudden, even though I was ok, I was not ok with this (laboring) any more. I was DONE! For REAL! I started whining about how I didn’t want to do it, how I wasn’t sure how important this was to me anymore (having a homebirth) and how I wasn’t even sure it was working. To this point,  over 12 hours by now, I had yet to be checked so I had no idea how far dilated I was. My midwife asked if I would like to be checked and know. I was too scared. I didn’t know what I was going to do if she said I was a 5…or a 2. So, I stayed there, on my hands and knees, the same spot I had been for the last 10-12 hours and silently tried to figure out a way to have an epidural without going to the hospital. You may think I’m joking. I’m not. Once I realized I would indeed have to transfer for some pain relief I tried to figure how I could bypass triage, an IV, being checked, and the cathetar and just have the epidural. Seriously, I was SERIOUSLY trying to figure this out. While I was trying to hatch a plan to just walk straight in the hospital and hop up on a bed for an epidural it occurred to me that before I could even do that I would have to get out of the tub, put something on and get in the car! Yeah that wasn’t happening. Crap.

So, at this point, my midwife and doula suggested moving, since I really hadn’t changed positions in a VERY long time! I was terrified to get out of the water. They suggested a shower, so that at least I would still be in water, but standing and gravity may be the little extra something baby needs to get out. This did not sound appealing to me and so for the next 20 min while they tried to help me see that getting out really probably was worth a try, I continued to work on a new plan out of this (labor). I did finally agree to get in the shower and in the shower I finally made a decision. I would get checked. If I was a 5 (that’s how far I was dilated when I had my cesarean last time) I would go to the hospital and deal with all the crap and get an epidural. If I was closer than that, I would continue and find a reserve of strength. After a few crazy contractions and crying to my husband (who was at this point convinced I was baling and going to the hospital) I gathered the strength to get out and get checked.

I made my way to my bed and….I was an 8! Although my midwife assured me that she was positive I was a 9 with contractions. I was ELATED. I didn’t have to dig for strength, I felt like I had just downed a Red Bull. I was ready to do this! I’m actually not sure my outward disposition changed that much but inside I was like “Ok, we’re close, let’s ROCK IT OUT!”

I’m not sure why but I just stayed on the bed, I was kind of just leaned over it on the birthing ball. Being out of the water and standing did make the contractions even more intense but I knew it was a good thing, we were really getting somewhere. Not too long after being checked, maybe 3 or 4 contractions, my water POPPED! It sounded, and felt, like a water balloon has just exploded between my legs, and unfortunately for my doula, I’m pretty sure it popped all over her. Marcus was extremely grossed out, poor guy, body fluids have never been his thing :)

From the time my water broke to Maya being born and in my arms was only 40 minutes, so you can imagine how intense things got after that. I did feel like my contractions spaced out a tad to give me a bit more of a break but they remained extremely intense. I was roaring through each one and soon got pushy. Once we started pushing, internally I was so excited. I mentally went into work mode and just focused on getting her out. I beared down to push, mainly because I wanted to. I had read all the things about gently breathing your baby out and letting the contractions be the main force. That sounded nice when I was reading it, but now that I was in it, I just really wanted to put some power behind it. So! That's what I did. I remember bearing down and roaring and thinking while I was roaring "oh my gosh Marcus is probably freaking out with the way I sound!" So when the contraction was over I looked at him completely calm and normal, like any other day and said "I'm ok, really I am, that's just what I've got to do during the contractions." He smiled at me and said "it's ok, you do your thing". A couple more contractions and my midwife told me to feel my baby's head. I did, and it was really cool and really hard! I mean I know baby's heads are hard, and people told me that it's weird when you feel it because it's hard…and they were right! It is weird! I was still on hands and knees so I didn't want to keep my hand on her head to push. I just kept at it and finally during one hard push my midwife said "that's it! that's what you've got to do!" Pretty sure I just mumbled ok but in my head I said "Oh hell no! We are NOT doing that for the next hour!" So the next push, I gave it my all, and I could hear the excitement in the room, but I didn't get her quite out. "That's ok, one more time, I've got one more in me" I took advantage of my break between contractions, which I will add was kind of surreal because in the moment of the contraction the intensity of the pain and emotion is immeasurable but then the contraction fades and you open your eyes and everything is still…your body, your mind, the voices in the room…and you just wait. Anyways, I felt it rising in me again, and I closed my eyes and set my mind to task and I gave one HELLUVA push! There's not really words to describe it, which is probably why I just screamed, but then her head was out! My mind was swirling and I could hear everyone talking but it was kind of like a background movie. My doula refocused me and a minute later I pushed her body out.

Maya was born into her daddy's hands at exactly 3pm on April 7th, 2012. He immediately passed her under me and into my arms and I just held her. I cuddled her into my chest and talked to her. I DID IT!! I couldn't believe it was over and we had done it! I didn't cry or become emotional like I had imagined. I think I was a bit in shock and just….happy! The gravity of what we had just done hadn't hit me yet. My son came into the room just minutes after Maya was born and we had a beautiful family moment, the 4 of us cuddled on our bed, introducing Maya to her big brother. 

I think the recovery might have been my favorite part of VBACing! I couldn't believe that not even an hour after I gave birth I was up and going to the bathroom. I was a little scared to stand up at first and my midwife had to talk me through it before I even attempted. I was scared it was going to hurt like it does after a cesarean. I was pleasantly AMAZED to feel COMPLETELY FINE! I was on cloud nine for the next week. A couple hours after the birth I got up and did my hair and makeup and had my husband take pictures because I wanted to look as good as I felt. I remember standing naked in the mirror a week postpartum and saying "damn honey, come look, I look SO GOOD!" I was a week postpartum ladies, we know what I really looked like, but that's a testament to how amazing I felt. The physical recovery was cake, emotionally nothing could shake me or steal my joy and most importantly for me, I was so in love with my baby.   

I want to add that the gravity of what we had done didn't hit me until 6 weeks later as I drove to my first ICAN meeting since her birth. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw her back there, sleeping peacefully in her carseat and had de ja vu of looking back at my sleeping son that day, nearly 2 years ago, when I drove to my very first ICAN meeting, completely broken. I pulled over and sobbed for a good 5 minutes, recognizing that we had come full circle and I would now be carrying my VBAC baby in to meet all the women who had supported me and that I was now supporting. 
Thank you so much to all those who believed I could do it and gave me your unwavering support and love.