September 19, 2011

Hurricane Levon

The Perfect Storm of a Home Birth & Hospital Transfer
Levon is my first and only child, so, naturally, I wanted to have a birth that I thought was best for him and for me. I decided to have a home birth for a lot of reasons. The number one reason that got me researching it was experiencing my sister's four births. She had two hospital births (the first riddled with intervention and medication, the second almost all natural until transition and at that point became epidural assisted), one beautiful home birth, and one beautiful home water birth, both assisted by midwives. I wanted my child to be born in a safe environment, a comfortable environment, one that he has experienced from the womb his entire gestational period inside of me. One that was quiet and loving, free of fluorescent lights and intrusion from strangers. One where he recognized the feelings our home embodied. I spent months educating myself on how I wanted it to be, how it would go, and how it could potentially go. I wanted to be one hundred percent prepared for whatever could happen. I wanted my baby to know the power of birth! My husband and I took a Hypnobirthing class that opened our eyes to a whole world of beautiful birth stories, advice from other home birthing mothers, and loads of valuable information that would help us bring our baby earth side, beautifully, and calmly. This is how it went...

On Saturday, August 27th 2011, my husband Patrick, our two dogs, and I were at my sister Haley's house for dinner and a visit. We were hanging around like we normally do on the weekends and decided to take the dogs for a long walk around the neighborhood. We got the dogs ready, my sister got her 4 children ready, her tiniest child in the Moby, and we set off. The entire stretch of road is about a one mile walk. Once we were finished and were back in the house I said to her that the bottom of my uterus felt different, in a way I hadn't experienced before. It felt low and crampy and my uterus wasn't tense. She asked if it was a Braxton Hicks contraction and I told her I didn't think so, that it definitely didn't feel like one.  I sloughed it off, thinking it was due to taking such a long walk.

A few weeks earlier, I had read online somewhere that eating pineapple could potentially induce labor, so, I downed about half of one, and relaxed on the couch. We hung around at Haley's house until 10 or 11 that evening. Once we got home, we were going to do a perennial massage before bed. We got out the evening primrose oil, I got the bed ready with all my pillows stacked up for back support, and Patrick sat down on the birth ball. We did about 15-20 minutes of massage and got ready for bed. We took the dogs out, brushed our teeth, and hit the hay, as they say.

Not more than three hours later, on August 28th 2011, the day Hurricane Irene was due to blow through our state, I awoke with an aching feeling in my back that I hadn't felt at all during my pregnancy. I looked up at the clock, it was 2:30 in the morning, and I, of course, had to pee. I slowly got up and realized how wide awake I was, all of a sudden. I walked in the dark to the bathroom as I normally do, but this time decided to turn on the light. My dog, Happy, was in there as she usually is, asleep by the toilet. I sat down and did my business and felt more than just urine. I wiped and to my astonishment, found a pinkish tinge to the toilet paper. My water had broken and was slowly leaking out! I was feeling nervous and excited by this point and had to collect myself and make sure this was really happening... after all, I was only 38 weeks and 3 days along. I wiped a few more times to make sure what I was seeing and feeling was my waters. It definitely was. I walked back to the bedroom and shook Patrick's shoulder to wake him up. I told him that it's time and I think my water broke. He jumped out of bed and followed me to the bathroom to see my proof. He agreed that it was most definitely my waters. At 2:25am, I called my sister, to let her know that today was the day and to get ready to come over and she told me to call my midwives. I got off the phone with her and my husband called one of my midwives, Jenna, to let her know I was in early labor and to be ready to come over once my labor had progressed. She told us to try to relax and get some rest and to call her early in the morning, or as soon as anything had changed.

At around 3:15am, Haley and her two month old son, Emris, showed up. It was pouring rain, so, Patrick went out to help her unload her car, and bring all of her things inside. We were talking in the kitchen for a bit and she told me that she had called our mother to let her know I was in early labor and that she should head over to watch Haley's kids and my dogs. On the drive, my Mom hit a sewer cover that was pushed up by the rain into the road and blew out a tire. She was okay and uninjured, thankfully, and would have to wait for a tow truck and the police to get there to give her a ride.

As my contractions slowly progressed, I packed up the dogs things so they would be ready to go to my sister's house during the birth. Once I was done, I said goodbye to them both, they loaded up into the car, nervously and a little scared, during the thunder, lightning, and rain outside, and headed off to Haley's.

For the next couple hours, I paced the house and breathed through light contractions. My sister returned from dropping the dogs off, and my husband took a short nap. I tried to lie down next to him and get some rest, but could barely keep my eyes closed and couldn't breathe through my contractions properly lying down like that. I got up because I was feeling a bit stir crazy and a little hungry so I decided to make us each an omelet. After I finished cooking and eating, my sister decided to take a nap as well, so I turned the lights off in the living room and took the birth ball into my bedroom where my husband was napping. I laid over the ball, with a pillow under my knees, breathing through stronger contractions compared to what I had been experiencing. It was around 8:00 in the morning now. About twenty minutes later, my knees were sore from the floor so I got up and ventured back out to the living room. I sat with my sister for a bit, watching some television, drinking Red Raspberry Leaf tea (as I had religiously, for the duration of my second and third trimesters), while my husband slept.

At around 9:30, I was sitting on the chaise lounge and I had awoken Patrick to come out and sit with me. My contractions were steadily getting stronger, but I was still in early labor. I could talk through them. So, taking the opportunity before my contractions were so strong she wouldn't want to leave, Haley asked me if she could run to the store to get ingredients to make beef stew in the crockpot. I told her I didn't mind, so she packed up Emris and off they went. While she was gone, Patrick and I went outside on the porch to enjoy the sound and feel of the rain, and the cool air on my skin. By the time we were ready to come back inside, Haley was just getting back with the food, it was close to 10:30.

(Trying to cool off during contractions.)
I took up residence again on the birth ball and Haley was cutting up some watermelon to keep me energized and hydrated. My midwife, Jenna, showed up during the watermelon, she took the baby's heart tones and checked my blood pressure as I was lightly bouncing on the birth ball. By now, some of my contractions were very intense, and I cried a little bit during some of them, which was something new, because until this point I had made no noise, I was just breathing through them.

(Jenna checking baby's heart tones.)
I found that I couldn't sit on the birth ball any longer. I was uncomfortable and went to the bathroom to try to breathe through more contractions on the toilet. It wasn't working for me; it was extremely warm in there. I left the bathroom, and was pacing from room to room, leaning over the kitchen table to breathe through contractions and returning to the living room to stand in front of the fan with my arms up on my husband, leaning onto him through my contractions.

(Leaning on my husband for support.)
(Myself, my husband, and my midwife Jenna in our room.)
By noon I was starting to vocalize a bit through my contractions, and Jenna moved all of her tools into the bedroom to get everything set up. I followed her in, too, to stand in front of the air conditioner to try to cool down and my other midwife, Becky arrived. My contractions were now so intense that I threw up into a trashcan. I had to go to the bathroom, so Patrick came with me, and while I was in there I felt like I needed to push. It was around 12:45 in the afternoon. I called my midwives in and let them know how I was feeling and they told me they would feel more comfortable if I went back into the bedroom - my bathroom is very small - and they also wanted to check me to see if I was ready to push. I reluctantly agreed - I didn't want to move. They checked me and I was 8cm, and they wanted me to wait a little longer. I stayed on my bed, on my hands and knees on pillows for a little bit and turned over onto my back, propped up on pillows to breathe through my contractions. This is about when time was skewed for me...

(My sweet husband supporting me.)
I had my midwives check me again almost an hour later because my contractions were closer and stronger and I wanted to see if I could push yet. Jenna said she was pretty sure I was at 10cm but she couldn't feel if there was cervix under the baby's head. She couldn't reach to tell in the position I was in, she told me she was almost 100% sure I was at 10, and I could push!

I started pushing at 1:30 in the afternoon. I was growing more and more uncomfortable with each contraction. I switched between a few positions, on my back propped up with pillows, to hands and knees, and again, on to my back. I was so exhausted I couldn't stand up any more, let alone hold myself up. I remember repeating over and over again after every push, "Can you see anything yet?" Always with the same answer from Jenna, "not yet, but you're making progress. You're doing so well!" I was getting frustrated.

At 2:55, my midwives told me that if I could, I should try squatting with the support of my husband, off the side of the bed. I reluctantly agreed, and that was the position that made him descend past my pubic bone, and they were able to see his head! Finally! What I had been waiting to hear! I happily found out that my baby had a bunch of hair! I couldn't hold myself up any more and my husband was getting weak, too, so I got back up on the bed and lay down on my back, propped up with pillows. Patrick was on my right side, and my midwife Becky was on my left side and they had suggested supporting my legs so I could push against them. We got into position and I pushed through a few contractions. While we were waiting for another contraction to come, Patrick and I both felt his head and all of his hair, what an amazing feeling... touching my baby's head as he descended through my birth canal!

(My midwife Becky in the background and my husband Patrick supporting me, squatting to move Levon down past my pubic bone.)

(Look at all of Levon's hair!)
Roughly 20 minutes later, our baby was born at 3:30pm. He was 7lbs 8oz and 20 inches long! His head came out so fast and I was impatient and couldn't wait for another contraction after two hard hours of pushing, so I gave it my all and pushed the rest of his body out not even 15 seconds later! Jenna and Patrick caught him and put him up on my chest. He was covered in so much vernix he looked like a frosted cake! It was the most amazing moment of my life! Haley took a bunch of pictures of us bonding with our baby, of the skin to skin contact with Mother and child. She had tried to take video of his first experiences in the world but, sadly, our memory card was full.

(Levon's first moment in the world, covered in vernix!)

(First moments with Mommy & Daddy!)

(Eye contact with Daddy!)

About one minute after he was born, Jenna said she needed Pitocin, and FAST, I was hemorrhaging. Becky was trying to get it ready; Jenna needed a bunch of gauze, and so she had Haley rip open a bunch of packages to pack my birth canal with to try to stop the bleeding. She urgently told my sister to call 911 due to the amount of blood loss. Seconds later Becky gave me the Pitocin shot in my thigh. I was also given a suppository to try to control the bleeding, to no avail. The bleeding would not stop. I was concerned but was staying as relaxed as possible and was trying to enjoy my baby, trying to get in as much skin to skin contact as possible, through all of the chaos.
(Skin to skin contact with Mommy!)
Four minutes later, the ambulance arrived. The EMT's tried to get the bleeding to stop but couldn't. They packed more gauze into the birth canal. They were asking me and my midwives a bunch of questions about my home birth. They brought in the stretcher, and transferred me onto it. While they were transferring me onto the stretcher, Jenna took Levon into the living room and cut his cord down, so it would be shorter. She asked Haley if I would have wanted Levon admitted to the hospital with me, Haley told her "no, I don't think she would want that." And she was right. Jenna brought my son to the hospital in her car.

I was loaded up into the ambulance with Becky holding the gauze in and applying pressure. I was having strong contractions still because my uterus was trying to deliver my placenta; I remember screaming out in pain. It hurt worse than any of my labor had. The EMT's gave me a saline drip, and a shot of pain medication to take the edge off. I was worried it would be in my breast milk, they told me it was nothing to worry about.

Not 5 minutes later, I was at the hospital and was being rushed to the Maternity Ward to get my placenta delivered so that the bleeding could be stopped. I was brought to a brightly lit room, transferred from the stretcher onto a hospital bed. During the transition, the sheet I had been brought in on ripped and they had to get a new one to transfer me onto the bed. The OB-GYN came in and he thought I had delivered my placenta, but it was actually all of the gauze coming out. He did a manual exam and found that my placenta wouldn't let go of the uterine wall, I was screaming and swearing, the exam hurt so intensely, it was so much pressure and my body wanted nothing more than to let go of the placenta... I was still having painful contractions. He tried to gently pull the umbilical cord to help it come out and he decided it was definitely stuck and wouldn't come out on its own. He told me I had to go into surgery and gave me the option of going under general anesthesia or having heavy pain medication. I went back and forth with him, I was angry I had to have surgery. I wasn't clear that I had to have surgery either way; I had lost so much blood I couldn't think clearly, I just wanted to be with my baby. I told him I wanted to keep my placenta. He said that was fine, and I calmed down. I came to understand the severity of the situation, and I opted for the anesthesia. I wish I had more time to make an informed decision but under the circumstances, I sadly said goodbye to my husband and to my baby and I was wheeled off to surgery.

I remember watching the lights on the ceiling fly by as I was pushed into the O.R. The anesthesiologist came in and told me what he was going to do. To start, he gave me a shot of Fentanyl to take the edge of off my contractions. I barely remember talking to him about having a breathing tube put in because of the anesthesia. The OB-GYN was talking to me about what he was going to do, he asked the nurse for some sort of sharp sounding tool, but it didn't faze me, I couldn't feel anything anymore. Not the thoughts in my head, nothing. The last few things that are somewhat clear to me are getting something put in an IV, someone taking my blood for testing, my legs strapped up in stirrups, and my hands tied down to the table, on either side of me.

I woke up, what felt like hours later... it had only been about 20 minutes. Everything was very foggy. My legs and arms had been freed, I was sore all over due to the medication they gave me to make my muscles relax (first they seize up, and then relax completely; it felt like running a marathon). The OB-GYN was talking to me, told me exactly what he did, he was so nice, he made me feel extremely comfortable and I was so happy to be alive. Better yet, so happy to be able to back to my husband and son!

(Levon in the hospital on Mommy's bed, about to get weighed.)
I was wheeled back to the room I had started in, to see my husband and baby's beautiful faces waiting for me! Both of my midwives and my sister were there. They were all so happy to see me! I took a few moments to come to a little bit more, and my son was given to me, finally. We were able to get more skin to skin contact and we tried breastfeeding for the first time. He latched on like a pro, I am so thankful we were able to have the skin to skin contact we did in the first five minutes of his life. He ate and I just took in all of him… his beautiful face, his gorgeous skin, his tiny fingers and toes! He was everything I imagined he would be! I thought to myself, this whole process was worth it, and I would do it again, and again, for him.

(Breastfeeding for the first time.)

(So, so, so tired.)
(Jenna weighing Levon.)
(Levon with Daddy.)
In conclusion, I had the beautiful home birth that I wanted, for my son and for myself… the peaceful, quiet birth that I had imagined. Free of intrusion from strangers. I was able to feel free to contract on my time, to walk around, to just breathe and do what I felt necessary for my labor to progress naturally. I had a fast and productive laboring period - I was in active labor for only five hours, because I was able to stand us much as I wanted, to walk around… to labor as a woman in my own space. I also experienced a wonderful hospital stay - with an OB-GYN who did his job perfectly, and a staff of nurses who knew their boundaries when it came to my un-admitted home birthed son, who were un-invasive when it came to my husband and our bonding time together. All in all, I had the best of both worlds - the home birth of a lifetime, and the much needed hospital care that saved my life.

(My sweet, sweet baby boy.)

(Proud parents!)

1 comment:

  1. beautiful and emotional. left me in tears. thanks for sharing :) --your friend in Oregon