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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Another Home Birth Story: Oskar Enok

And now, the post we've all been waiting for . . . .

Just kidding.

But it IS the post I've been itching to write before all accurate recollection of events completely abandons me.  And with no more inspiring intro than that, here's how birth number four (home birth number two) played out.

Oh, but first, let me just say . . . I LOVED OSKAR'S BIRTH!  It was so awesome.  So, so awesome.

Okay, onward . . . . Here just below, you will find a video slideshow of the entire birth.  It is 15 minutes long. I won't apologize for that.  I love these pictures and have Amanda to thank for documenting this amazing event for us.  The slideshow is classy and clean and I am in love with it.  If you're not a visual person, though, I've also written my usual novel following such an event as this.  :)


Saturday - June 2, 2012

I started to have considerably uncomfortable contractions in the morning.  Dan took the boys with him to pick up his mom, Mary, from the airport and run some errands.  I tried to sleep.  In the afternoon we had a midwife visit with Brooke and I put her on alert, letting her know that I was experiencing early labor - painful, but sporadic, contractions.  She checked on baby and he was still head-down and seemed to be side-lying, a perfect position all around for labor and delivery.  Hooray.  He also still had a good, strong heart beat.

After our visit, we went to lunch.

Then we picked up a crib and an air compressor (to pump up the birth tub) from two different (and lovely) friends.

After that, nothing really exciting happened.  I put my best friend, Amanda, on alert, since she had volunteered to come and photograph the birth.  Then I hunkered down and tried to rest as much as possible.  Resting was hard, though, because my contractions were way more regular and painful when I was in a prone position.  Not to mention the difficulty of resting with a toddler hopping all over you and your bed, begging for hugs and "more side" (milk).

Dan pumped up the birth tub.  It was HUGE.  As in, so huge that I had to exit and enter my bed at the end.  It was kind of annoying.

Dan also gave me a blessing of comfort.  And believe me, he said some wonderfully comforting things, but the one thing that stands out, the one thing that made me want to up and smack him irreverently in the middle of his blessing, was when he blessed me with the strength to endure "this long labor to come" . . . or something akin to that, all I really heard was "...long labor, blah, blah, blah."  Ahhhhh!  I actually scolded him for that part of his blessing!  To which scolding he patiently replied, "I'm just the messenger."

I didn't sleep too well Saturday night.  I woke up in the middle of the night and noted that contractions were still going.  I tried timing a few, but they weren't regular at all.  They managed to keep me from going back to sleep, though, because while not unbearable, they were painful.

Sunday - June 3, 2012

Sunday went much like Saturday.  I told Dan I wasn't going to church.  I knew hard labor was approaching and I wanted to use as much of early labor to rest and relax as possible.  I also asked him to stay home and keep the kids here so that they wouldn't pick up a bug right before baby's arrival.  We basically just clunked around the house all day.  Lounging.

Sunday was also the day I confessed to Dan how scared I was and how much anxiety I was feeling over this birth.  Sure, I had done a home birth before, but that was part of the problem rather than a solution.  I knew.  I knew the pain I was in for.  I knew what was coming.  I knew and I couldn't block that out.  I just couldn't.  I am afraid of pain.  There, I said it.  I mean, isn't it in our nature to avoid it at all cost, not embrace it and welcome it?  I tried the Hypnobabies CD's, but was never very diligent about reading the text and listening to the prompts.  I couldn't ever find a quiet window to do so.  Three boys, remember?  I agree that the brain can be trained to be a powerful influence over the body, but I don't know that I believe any amount of hypnotism can completely negate or override the pain of a body preparing itself for and performing the birth of another human.  Then again, maybe it's my own skepticism that inhibits my brain from doing just that.  At any rate, Dan patiently listened to me pour out all my fears and then set about building me up like a good husband.  We also tried to talk a little about all the things I was looking forward to about not being pregnant anymore: no more acid reflux, enjoying food, cuddling with Karsten, bending over and cleaning house, taking care of my family, sleeping well, eating citrus with wild abandon, drinking water without feeling the acidic burn in my belly, feeling happy, having a new baby to cuddle and caress, being a kinder wife and mother, and having no more gross aftertaste in my mouth following meals.  That's a lot I was looking forward to!  And it gave me strength as I turned to face the inevitable pain head-on.

Fast forward to Sunday evening.  Contractions were more painful and becoming more regular.  I asked Dan to get the tub ready with the liner so that we wouldn't have to worry about that once things started moving much faster.  He got the liner out and began attempting to fit it to the tub only to discover that the liner we had purchased from the midwives was not compatible with the tub they had brought.  So, we called the midwives and Dan raced out to Sunshine's house in La Jolla to pick up the right tub to go along with our liner.  A bonus?  It was a smaller tub.  The downside?  When Dan pumped it up, we discovered a leak.  So, using super glue and duct tape, we patched it up as best we could.  At this point, my contractions were about 10 minutes apart and I was starting to have to moan through them, with Dan pressing on my back to help alleviate the back labor I always experience.

So, with tub all set to go and the kids having been put to bed, Dan, Mary, and I set about reading our separate books in the living room, with Dan hopping up every few minutes to help me through a contraction by pressing on my back while I leaned over the arm of the couch.  Dan was sporting the Sony eReader, totally engrossed in one of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series books.  Mary was reading a mystery novel.  And I was trying to read book two of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series.  I knew things were getting serious when I could no longer concentrate on the book.

That's when I told Dan I was going to call the midwife.  I think he was still skeptical; he didn't want a repeat of last time when we called the night before Karsten's birth and Jamin came out in the middle of the night only to tell me, "Oh, honey, this isn't a laboring cervix."  Bah!  But, I told Dan that I wanted Karly to check my cervix and if I was far enough along (which I was pretty sure I was, based on my labor patterns), break my water.  After two days of laboring, I wanted to get this show on the road.  When meeting with my midwives throughout this pregnancy, I had emphasized how much I didn't want any kind of intervention.  I wanted everything to progress naturally, even if that meant giving birth to baby Oskar en caul.  But, feelings change and I also didn't want a long, drawn-out event that would leave me exhausted just when I needed the energy to push.

So Karly came.  And I called Amanda and told her our midwife was on the way.  Karly arrived around 11:40pm.  Amanda, about an hour later (I also had called her later).  When Karly got here, she checked my cervix and told me I was dilated to 5cm, about 75% effaced, with baby at 0 station (hadn't descended at all).  I asked her if it was enough to have my water broken.  She said, "sure!"  So during my next contraction, she broke my water and I hopped into my now-filled-with-blessed-warm-water birth tub.  Sure enough, things picked right up.  Fifteen minutes later, I was dilated to 7cm, 85% effaced, with baby at +1 station.  Yippee!  However, that meant that contractions were now almost unbearable - transition, anyone?  I was moaning deeply, almost growling, through each one.  I also couldn't really find relief for my legs.  The one position I liked and favored made them go numb pretty quickly, but I couldn't handle the back pain during contractions in any other position.  As I progressed, I began to have little urges to push here and there.  Karly was wonderfully hands-off.  She would talk me through what was happening with my body based solely on the sounds I was making, but beyond that she let me and my body do our thing.  Dan got a pitcher and poured warm water over my back during contractions.  That was so helpful, though I do remember shoving away the pitcher and random BYU cup at one point because I was annoyed to death of them knocking around back by my rear.  Another funny/frustrating thing that happened was when we noticed that the birth tub was losing air, despite our patch job, and discovered a new leak.  There was no way we could fix it, though.  Things were happening too fast.  So Dan went and got his bike pump and would just pump it right back up every now and then.

And now my memory fails me a bit and things are kind of patchy from here on out.  I think I retreated deep, deep down inside myself.  I know that I was starting to feel nauseated with every contraction, so I asked Dan to put a cool washcloth on my head.  He sat down opposite me, on the dry side of the tub, and held the cloth on there.  And he just held it on there for the rest of the time until Oskar was born, flipping it and changing it out for another when it would become warm.  His hands were positioned over my ears and for some reason I took solace in the sense of solitude that afforded me as I listened to my own vocalizations echoing in my head throughout each contraction.  I squeezed Dan's wrists and arms mercilessly.  So much so, in fact, that he said he started to have to counter push against my attempts to crush my own skull.  I thought he was exaggerating until I experienced my oh-so-sore pectoral muscles the next day.  YOWZA!  I must have thought to put an end to my own misery by squishing my brain.  Nice.  :)  I distinctly remember starting to feel the ring of fire.  It was worse this time than last.  Way worse.  There wasn't much moaning going on anymore.  Karly checked me one last time just to confirm that I was 10cm and to make sure there was no belligerent lip of cervix blocking the way for Oskar (like there had been for each of the other boys).  Everything checked out fine and once Karly was in position behind me, supporting my perineum with her hand, I started to push with wild abandon.  I LOVE this part of labor because I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  What I didn't love this time around was my weak legs.  They were numb, falling asleep, and achy all at the same time.  They seriously HURT.  But, nothing like the action going on around my baby!  All told, I pushed for maybe 15 minutes before Oskar popped out.  Head came first and there we stalled for a moment while I reached down and rubbed his little cranium affectionately.  And then I gathered my strength and pushed the rest of him on out into the water.  2:14am.  Ah, sweet relief.  I reached down to pull my baby onto my chest, but he only came about halfway out of the water before I couldn't pull him anymore.  I looked down and was surprised to find the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck AND both shoulders (like a backpack).  Our little spiderman had been busy spinning himself a web these past nine months, I guess, only to get himself caught in it while trying to emerge from his cocoon.  So, I started tugging, trying to find a loose end to capitalize on without strangling Oskar or yanking my placenta out of my uterus.  Dan and Amanda and Mary all mentioned afterward how primal my reaction was, how very "mama bear" I became when tackling that darn umbilical cord.  My actions probably appeared frantic and desperate, but mostly I was just frustrated that I couldn't get my baby to my chest.  It's amazing how instinctual that one motion is and when it wasn't a fluid, sweeping one, when something interrupted it, my fight came out in force.  At any rate, somehow Karly and I managed to get all the cord off of Oskar and I pulled him the rest of the way onto my chest.  Once on my chest, it became clear that Oskar wasn't breathing great yet, but Karly wasn't worried at all considering he had, and I quote Karly, "one of the longest umbilical cords I have ever seen!"  It was still pulsing oxygen to him beautifully while I rubbed his back and blew in his face to stimulate his lungs into action.  It wasn't until Karly removed his water-warmed blanket that he really belted out his objections and his lungs came into their own.  Then a new blanket was promptly placed over him and I moaned out the placenta.  Sunshine arrived at the birth at 2:16, just after Oskar was born.  After looking around at my bloodied water, I decided it'd be a good time to move on to the bed and relax with my darling little man.

One of the cruelest injustices of nature is for a laboring woman to be lulled into a sense of achievement and completion after her baby and placenta are birthed.  For you see, after all that drama, then come the after-birth pains, the contractions to shrink the uterus.  And with every child, they're worse.  Oh. My. Goodness.  They were worse.  I had all these noble intentions of declining any kind of medication after Oskar arrived, but as soon as Karly offered those two little ibuprofen pills, I was eagerly looking around for some water to pound them down with.  And until they took effect, I was having to moan through those after-birth contractions just as though they were active labor pains!  SO NOT COOL, GOD!

But, at least the prize was won.  I was finished with all that pain I'd been dreading and my little trophy was happily sucking away on my breast.  I was alive and healthy with no tearing bad enough to warrant sutures.  Oskar was alive and healthy.  And instead of cursing God for the pains I had yet to endure, I was grateful for how this blessed event had unfolded.  I finally got my water birth!


Now, I have to make sure I account for all those who were present in the home for Oskar's birth.  Miss Amanda did a FANTASTIC job capturing Oskar's birth on "film."  She was everywhere, but I was never aware of her presence.  And the pictures she took?  W-O-W.  I am so beyond thrilled with them!  She could seriously make a living out of this kind of thing.  :)  Mary pulled up a chair and enjoyed watching the show.  She was quick to help if something was needed outside the birthing room.  She's the one who brought me my first meal after Oskar's birth - brown rice hot cereal with almonds, bananas, blueberries, and strawberries.  Mmmmmmm!  I've covered Dan and Karly.  I had asked Soren and Anders if they would help film Oskar's birth.  Soren has a waterproof camera.  But as things were, we didn't even wake them up for the birth let alone to film it.  It just went down too fast.  Plus, Soren would never have been able to get in there with his camera.  We were a bit cramped as it was.  Anyway, so we woke Soren up right after Oskar made his debut.  He was a little disappointed that he'd missed his chance to film it, but in the end he was mostly just tired and opted to go right back to bed.  Then we woke up Anders and he was so excited to meet his new little brother.  He didn't want to go back to bed at all and stayed up with us for a long time before we finally made him go get more sleep.  He kept saying things like, "Oskar is my new favorite brother" and "I love Oskar the best."  It was so cute.  Karsten got to meet baby Oskar when he woke up in the morning and the first thing he said, with his arms outstretched toward the baby, was "a hode it, Okar (pronounced Ah-kur)?"  He wanted to hold him.  Later in the morning, as I was lying on my side in bed, wrapped around the baby, Karsten lunged over my hip for a look-see and said, "Cuuuuute, baby Okar" in his darling little voice.  He loves to rub Oskar's soft hair and kiss his fuzzy cheekies.  Never satisfied with just one side, he usually can be found wrenching Oskar's head around in order to get to the other side, too.  He's also very aware of Oskar - both when he's in the room with us and when he's absent - Karsten always wants to know where Oskar is and then go check him out at that location.  It's darling.  Anders gave Oskar a kiss on his cheek, but wasn't impressed with his smell (probably a little bit of newborn mixed with blood) and hasn't voluntarily kissed him since then, though he does ask us daily if we're ever going to give Oskar a bath.  Soren decided he doesn't like dark hair on newborns and can't wait until we buzz him so he fits in better with our family of blondies (though Anders has light brown hair more like his mama's).

And now, a tangent:

I have to write about this.  I just have to.  It's too important not to.  You see, I need to compare my home births, because while I wrote up a glowing report of my home birth with Jamin last time (Karsten's birth), I was never really satisfied with the way things played out.  There was something missing with that home birth, which supports my belief that birth isn't always just about the end result.  Emotionally, birth is about so much more than just the healthy baby at the end of the labor, though that's definitely an important element of a satisfactory birth.

Here are the things I wasn't thrilled about with my labor and delivery with Jamin:

~ She was annoyed at having been bothered in the middle of the night when we had our false alarm.  She even said, "yeah, we like our birth mothers who let us sleep through the night."
~ She was very militaristic; she marched right in and started bossing my little gathering around.
~ She wouldn't let me choose my body's positions based on what felt right to me.
~ She shut my dad down when he was asking me a question about which camera to use (a question I dearly would have loved to answer!).
~ She made less-than-stellar remarks about the cramped state of our bedroom.
~ She didn't even try to accommodate my desire to have a water birth.  I don't even remember how she responded when I asked her about the ideal time to fill it up; I just remember that the response made it clear that it wasn't going to happen.
~ She shut me down every time I asked her to assess my progress.  She told me to stop "over-analyzing" the process and just focus on breathing.
~ I ended up birthing flat on my back, a position I was loathe to birth from, but that Jamin maneuvered me into.

Here are the reasons I LOVE Karly and Co:

~ From the very beginning they were respectful of my desire to have a really hands-off, midwife-assisted birth.  I even told them the first time I met with them that I basically wanted to have an unassisted home birth with them in the corner to jump in "just in case."  They didn't even bat an eyelash at such a strong declaration of independence.
~ When I called her to come, Karly didn't care to know how far apart my contractions were or how long their duration.  She just said, "If you're ready to have me there - if you want me there - I'm coming."
~ While she didn't find a corner, she did sit down on the floor next to a wall and just watch me from there, helping out only when I asked her to push on my back in Dan's absence or to check baby's heart beat.
~ Karly was really good about giving me unobtrusive status updates when I expressed a desire to have them.  She didn't check me all the time to monitor my progression, she just listened to the noises I was making and gave me feedback based on that.
~ Karly is really, really personable.  She is outgoing and pleasant and seems to get along with anyone.  She was great with my birth guests.
~ While she encouraged me to try out different positions in order to attempt to alleviate back labor, she was never audacious enough to tell me what I could or couldn't do with my body.  She let me choose what position I wanted to labor in and which I would birth in.

Basically, throughout my maternity visits with Karly, Sunshine, and Brooke I came to realize that what Jamin took from me by being so controlling was ownership of my birth experience.  It left me feeling like a weakling rather than an empowered birth mother.  My experience with Karly was the exact opposite, and some of that may be because I knew better what I wanted out of my home birth based on what was missing from the first one, but whatever the reason, I'll be forever grateful to Karly for allowing me to take back my confidence and emerge feeling not just satisfied, but triumphant.

I owned this birth.  Owned it.

Final score:

Name - Oskar Enok Bagel
Birth Date & Time - Monday, June 4, 2012 at 2:14am
Weight - 9 lbs. 1 oz.
Height - 21 3/4"
Head Circumference - BIG  :)

And now, a brief glimpse at how *easy* it is to take pictures of four boys:

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Courtney said...

Congratulations! I'm glad you were so happy with your birth!

Robyn Larson said...

What a wonderful birth story. I'm so glad everything went well and you are happy with your experience. The slide show was amazing. Your friend did a great job capturing this wonderful event. Congratulations to you and Dan on the arrival of Oskar!

Eunice said...

I'm so impressed with Amanda's camera skills! I love your perspective on life and that you are willing to share your family with the rest of us. Congratulations to your little tribe and to you! Job well done!

Daniel said...

Here I am, sitting in my hotel room trying to keep myself occupied with appropriate Sabbath activities. I went to church and chatted with friends. Sara isn't answering her phone (surprise, surprise). :) Then I saw this. Wow, Lizzie! That was AWESOME! So inspiring it makes ME want to have a baby. Ok, maybe not that inspiring, but still. That's the closest I've ever been to a birth (other than the one when I graced the world with my presence, but I don't remember that one). I loved it. Amanda did a fantastic job with the pics. And Karly looks great at 2:00AM.

Lizzie, you're amazing! Can I share this with a few friends?

Love you!

jannar13 said...

I loved sharing this amazing experience with you. I would have loved to birth my children this way. Tears are flowing as I think of you. You continue to be a great example to me. Great job momma!

lindsey. said...

I just paused the video to write this comment. I was three pictures in when I started to cry. This is beautiful and you are so beautiful. And may all women have a moment in their lives in which their husbands look at them the way yours looks at you. I love you all very much - you are a beautiful family.

Lisa said...

This is the post I have been waiting for!! I am so glad that your birth was everything you wanted it to be. Congrats on another sweet baby boy. I always enjoy reading about the birth of your boys. You are a talented writer. Your kids will be so thankful to read them when they are older. Love you guys!

Sara said...

Okay, I just burst out laughing at the "so not cool God" comment- HAHAHA!! I agree. Afterbirth contractions are awful! Wow, you DID have a fast birth! Talk about moving....and inspirational. I love your account. I can't wait for your book. Seriously. Can you send me that last part comparing midwife styles? I know some ladies who would love it. And you got your water birth!!!!! YAY! I was so grateful for that last time too- it makes a big difference! I didn't like the cramped and sore legs either though....wish they would make actual water birth tubs that women can switch positions in, grab an overhead bar, or lean over, etc..

Sara said...

Oh, and Daniel- phooey. I'm perfect at answering the phone. hehe, I know, I know. Someday it'll be surgically implanted in my tooth, and then you will always be able to reach me....

Laurie said...

Congratulations on your new little boy! You are amazing!