July 24, 2011

Birth Story - Violet Emilia - Part 1

I have another wonderful birth story for you today from the Baby Momma series - Violet Emilia!

She lives in Los Angeles, CA with her mom, Emma, and father, Anthony. Emma is a researcher for a global search firm and did an amazing job telling her birth story. Violet is now 7 month old. Take it away, Emma...

Like Sara, I'd always wanted a natural birth. At first it was partly to know what it felt like and partly to see if I could do it, like some kind of test. Enough people I knew had done it that I thought I could too. Once I actually got pregnant and learned about all of the benefits to the baby, I was more determined than ever to forgo drugs or any interventions, if at all possible. We took Bradley Method classes and ended up hiring the teacher, Cheryl, as our doula. 

Our doctor, Dr. Crane, said how your birth turns out is mostly luck. I wanted to influence what I could and the Bradley Method includes all these exercises to make sure the baby is in the right position. I never ended up doing all the prenatal yoga I envisioned and the exercise DVDs I bought went mostly unused, but I was disciplined about those damn arches and squats...anything to avoid the back labor my mom had with me. At 28 weeks, we learned the baby was in the posterior position (facing the front, which causes back labor), but by the next visit, with a lot of Bradley exercises and a few bouts of baby movement that looked like the movie Alien, I got her into the anterior position (facing my back, which is good) and she was still there for my last doctor's visit.
Dr. Crane is like an absent-minded, socialist professor in the form of a Beverly Hills OB to the rich and famous (and us). We switched to him at 24 weeks because he's known for not intervening unless he has to, but about six weeks before my due date he started saying he'd be happy if she came any time, because: "this is a big baby and you are a relatively small person." I'm not that mini and have a full set of hips, so I laughed him off and hoped she'd at least wait till I was done with work. I started having pretty regular contractions about two weeks out, so I wasn't sure she would. In the week before my due date, when I started dilating and effacing and all that fun stuff, Dr. Crane offered multiple times to sweep my membranes: "Just so you know it's an option. This is a big baby and you want a natural birth." I declined. She would come when she was ready. And when she was almost a week late and I was no longer working, I figured I might as well enjoy it. I took long walks with Anthony, my awesome husband, and got acupuncture to try to coax her out as naturally as possible; I went to a restaurant for a salad that's supposed to bring on labor within 24 hours of eating it (which seems like a clever marketing gimmick), and mostly I read and read, curled up on the couch in a very un-Bradley position (you're supposed to sit up straight). 

{Darling Emma trying to walking it out}

On Sunday morning, December 5th, five days after my due date, I woke up at 3 a.m. with strong contractions every 10 minutes. I'd had these before, but there were more of them this time, then they stretched out to about every 20 minutes as it got light out. Cheryl had said if labor's not getting stronger when the sun comes up, the baby probably won't come until dark, so I figured I had a while to wait. I tried to relax as much as possible and tried to read the last book of the Hunger Games Trilogy, but even though I'd zoomed through the first two books in a few hours, it was hard to concentrate. Anthony fixed me some stew at about 1 p.m. and then convinced me to lie down. I was able to sleep in the gaps between a couple of contractions. 

By about 4 p.m. the contractions had worked their way back to 10 minutes apart. I finally gave up on reading and Anthony made me eat some yogurt. The most amazing thing to me about my labor (besides bringing a person into the world) is that I didn't want to eat. I normally need to eat every two to three hours or I become a lunatic. I was convinced I'd want to carboload for the biggest physical challenge of my life, so I'd planned yummy meals of pancakes and snacks of mochi and Anthony had been making ice cubes out of Recharge for weeks. But whatever I put in wanted to come out and that just wasn't comfortable, so I couldn't eat and had to force myself to keep drinking. 

By 9 p.m., my contractions were generally about five minutes apart, but sometimes they were two minutes, sometimes eight minutes and a lot of times they were back to back, which I later learned is called coupling. My actual back hurt a LOT during the contractions and I kept asking Anthony to press as hard as he could on a spot by my spine. 

The idea was to stay home as long as possible, but we called Cheryl at this point to have her come over and called the doctor’s office, since we were supposed to let him know when contractions were five minutes apart. The doctor on call did notify our doctor, but he also told us that because my contractions were irregular they probably weren’t doing as much as they should and we should wait until they became more predictable to actually talk to Dr. Crane. This was frustrating, because I felt like he was telling me what was happening didn’t count, but Cheryl got to our house right after that and was able to help with another set of hands to press on my back and positions to make me more comfortable. She was just the right height for me to collapse onto during each contraction. She also told me that the pain in my back wasn't just how a contraction feels - I was having the dreaded back labor. All that curling up on the couch backfired and the baby turned in my last week of pregnancy!  This also explained the irregular contractions and coupling. Cheryl gave me some homeopathics to try to make my contractions more efficient and put me in some other, very uncomfortable positions to see if the baby would turn, but things pretty much continued on the same way. By 4 a.m. I was getting discouraged. My contractions were still two to five minutes apart and were very painful. I'd been throwing up for hours and was tired. And I uttered the dreaded words: "I want to go to the hospital to get an epidural." Cheryl just looked at me and said, "Why? All that will do is get rid of the pain." I have no idea why that shut me up, but it seemed like reasonable logic. I kept going and soon after that Dr. Crane called to check in. 

We made arrangements to meet him at his office at 6 a.m. to be checked.  When I got there I was 5 to 5 ½ cm. dilated. I was hoping for more like 8 cm, but he said this was good progress. My water looked ready to break and he called the hospital so I could be admitted directly to a labor and delivery room. If we hurried, we could get the last room with a window, which I didn't really didn't care about, but they're in high demand and I wasn't going to dawdle. 

{The view from the LA hospital}

Once I was admitted and in the labor dress I'd bought so I didn't have to wear a hospital gown, they hooked me up to a monitor. The baby’s heart rate dropped during a contraction, so I was put on a portable monitor that still let me move around. My contractions continued to be pretty much every two to five minutes, like they had been all night, but at 9 a.m. I was 8 cm dilated, which was encouraging. 

At 11:30 a.m. I was still at 8 cm. Dr. Crane convinced me to let him break the amniotic sac, which relieved some of the intense pressure I was feeling, but at 1 p.m. I was still at 8 cm.

{Emma - 34 hours in - wearing her labor dress. So much better than a hospital gown!}

By 3 p.m. I was feeling the urge to push. I even let out one of those primal screams actors playing women in labor make, but when I got checked I was STILL at 8 cm, so I had to actively resist pushing. 

I was trying to stand up because this made the contractions stronger, but I was exhausted and my legs were shaking so badly it was hard to stay upright. 

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