Friday, February 20, 2015

Baby Callie's Birth Story

Every birth story is unique and well, Callie’s is of no exception. It all started a few days prior to Callie’s actual birth date. I began noticing that her daily movements were slowly decreasing; a sign that baby girl was conserving energy for her upcoming big day. During those few days I also noticed an increase in Braxton Hicks contraction, a burst of energy as well as an up in my appetite. With all these changes I knew that labor day was right around the corner. But exactly when was the question.
Would you have asked me what day I assumed baby girl would arrive, I would have told you January 13th, aka her due date. My first daughter was born on her due date, January 11th, so I thought Callie would be just like her sister: exactly on time. But she had other plans.
It was Amerie’s birthday weekend. She was turning 8 years-old and was feeling a bit blue because we had to skip her birthday party plans in anticipation for her baby sister’s arrival. She was threatening to be mad should her sister arrive on her birth date, leaving the pressure on me to hold out until the 13th. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
On Sunday, January 11th, I woke up at 8:30am from some much needed rest. My husband had offered to take the 6:00am puppy shift leaving me with the flexibility to sleep in for as long as I felt I needed. I had gotten a well night’s rest despite the back cramps that woke me up a few times that night. I thought nothing of them considering I had been suffering from the same back cramps for the past few nights. I proceeded to complete my morning routine of freshening up and getting dressed when IT hit me - was that a contraction? It definitely wasn’t a Braxton Hicks and it actually HURT. Instead of the tightening I normally felt directly in the center of my tummy, I felt little tightening and more of a mild pain radiating from my lower abdomen to my lower back. 
My Birthday Girls
I finished getting ready and headed downstairs to see my family. I wished my daughter a happy birthday, then another contraction hit. I paused, breathing through it as I had learned from my home hypnobirthing CD. When the wave was over I looked at my husband and said, “I think this is it”. We both smiled, excited that the day had finally arrived, when, as usual, he cracks a joke, “Aww Amerie mommy is having your baby sister on your birthday! That is just wrong!”.  Thanks. Way to make me feel guilty. Five minutes later another wave hit and my husband finally realized that I was serious.
As my husband began cleaning the house, I started tracking my contractions. They were very inconsistent, averaging around 5 minutes apart and 30 seconds to 1 minute long.  Since the pain was manageable, I decided to get the one thing I desperately needed to get done that day: grocery shopping.

I’d like to note that at this point I was in early labor as pointed out by my husband due to my happy mood. I was laughing and very much able to work through each contraction. That natural birthing class  taught him well.

Before we left, I notified my midwife of the current situation. While she was willing to head towards my house right there and then, I told her to hold off since I wasn’t 100% sure whether or not this was the real deal. Having not been in labor before, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I didn’t want to inconvenience my birthing team should my labor be false, or worse, slow.
We arrived at the store and as I shopped my husband continued to track my contractions. Throughout our trip, the pain started getting more intense, with some waves more intense than others. These surges required me to stop, focus and breath. Unfortunately, the distraction led to an incomplete shopping trip. I completely forgot to pick up food for my birthing team and missed out on some much needed pantry essentials. At least I got it done because I was finally able to rest, relax and focus.
Once groceries were put away, I got dressed into my oh so comfy home dress my mom brought home from the Philippines and attempted to take a nap. My contractions were still 4-5 minutes apart on average and still 30 seconds to 1 minute in length. The pain was getting stronger, but it was still manageable. As I laid down to rest I noticed the waves fading, with the interval time increasing to 7-10 minutes apart. I panicked thinking that I had halted labor, but at the same time I was grateful for the ability to rest. After about 30 minutes I decided to get back up. I was feeling restless and felt the need to move upstairs where I would be laboring and delivering.
Before settling upstairs, I headed to the restroom to find brown discharge in my undies (sorry, TMI!?).  In the past, brown discharge signaled something was wrong so naturally I freaked out. I texted my midwife who reassured me that everything was normal. Apparently the stretching of the cervix can cause capillaries to rupture resulting in some light bleeding. Mid text I was still on the royal throne when during a contraction I passed what looked like an odd colored blood clot. My midwife told me it must have been mucus plug. Not sure why, but I totally assumed it would be clear, hence the reason why it’s called a bloody show. Dope. Passing my mucus plug meant progress! It also meant things were about to get serious.
I settled upstairs next to my birthing pool. I had a blanket to keep me warm, a rice sock for comfort, oils for strength and relaxation, my yoga ball to lean on and my phone on the charger, playing my hypnobirthing CD. My wonderful neighbor had just taken Amerie for a fun day with her friends, leaving me with peace and quiet. My husband had also settled with me upstairs, watching football as he provided me with whatever support I needed.
At around 2:00pm, active labor hit. My contractions were 3 minutes apart and 45 seconds to over 1 minute in length. The beginning, peak and end of each wave was more distinct and with each surge I had to stop, focus and really breath. The pain was strong, yet bearable, yet enough to destroy my appetite and induce nausea and mild vomiting. I felt most of it in my lower abdomen and some in my lower back. It felt like a super strong menstrual cramp combined with a little burn – no doubt a result of my hips opening up. I tried several different coping methods but nothing worked. The heated rice sock made the pain worse; the oils I gave up on quickly; movement was uncomfortable; and counter pressure/massaging did little for me. What did work was visualization.
When I felt a surge coming on I would immediately pause, close my eyes, place my hands near my abdomen and visualize numbing light waves radiating from my hands into my abdomen and around my back (yes, Piper was my favorite Charmed character! Ha!). While chanting the word “numb”, this numbing light would continue to circulate until the wave faded away.  While it didn’t completely stop the discomfort, it did provide me a few seconds of pain free bliss. Like a break in the midst of a storm. It was nice and it gave me something to concentrate on. Sadly, this didn’t last for too long. As soon as things progressed, my focused shifted to breathing through the pain and less on trying to numb it.
At a little before 3:00pm, I texted my midwife to provide her an update on my progress. After chatting a bit about how I felt things were moving along, she offered to head my way to hang out, palpate the baby’s position and check me vaginally IF I so desired to know how much I had dilated. Although I was hesitant to say yes, thinking things were still moving slowly, my husband pushed me to agree. Having her nearby would put both of our minds at ease knowing she’s there should things speed up. Plus, honestly I wanted to know baby’s position. I wanted to be mentally prepared to push out a breeched baby if she shifted.
While waiting for my midwife to arrive, things slowly progressed. My contractions were getting closer together, being 3 minutes apart on average and 1 minute in length. The nausea worsened and unfortunately, I was throwing up. I attempted to stay hydrated and nibbled on crackers when I could. It helped. Sort of.
At a little before 5:00pm, my midwife arrived followed by my doula. At this point my spirits were still high. I was feeling a bit tired but I was still happy and smiling. I was super excited to see them both as it meant, for me anyways, that I would soon be seeing this baby. It was also nice to have additional support for both my husband and I. My midwife visited me briefly to check on how I was doing and then proceeded to put a plan of action into place. In about an hour she would palpate baby’s position and check me vaginally to see how far I was dilated and go from there. She figured with my team there now, my labor will no doubt progress and boy did it! That was one very long hour! The contractions picked up and were getting harder to manage. The pain had moved more towards my hips and felt more like a burning sensation than a cramp. My husband offered to squeeze my hips but I found little relief with the counter pressure. Not sure why nothing worked. I realized later that the way I cope with pain is staying still and focusing. Weird.
Sometime around 6:00pm my midwife checked the baby’s position as well my cervix for dilation. Baby was head down (wohoo!!!!) and I was 9 centimeters dilated!! I couldn’t believe it! I was further along than I thought! I was in transitional labor! My cervix was stretchy and things were progressing beautifully. Hearing that I was so close gave me a boost of confidence and energy. If I’ve made it this far, then I can totally finish.
With me being so close, my midwife and doula suggested my husband get the pool ready. During the hour it took to fill up the pool, my doula continued to provide me with physical and verbal support with each wave. When my face was tense, she told me to relax it. When I started breathing heavily, she slowed my breath down. The support helped me to mentally sink deeper into my body and work with it versus against it. It’s amazing how much easier it is to get through each contraction when you relax, surrender and allow your body to do its thing.  At this point I was exhausted; so much so that I would doze off or sleep in between contractions to conserve the little bit of energy I had left. I was feeling drowsy and oddly cold.
After about an hour, the pool was ready. In between surges, my husband helped me into the pool. He asked me if I wanted my bathing suit top, but without a word, I stripped my dress off and headed towards the pool. I can hear him laugh and say, “okay then. I guess you’re going in naked”. This made me chuckle. Modesty really does go out the window when you’re in hard labor. I mean what’s a pair of boobs!? Might as well be comfortable right? As soon as I stepped in I felt immediate relief! The warm water provided just enough support to take off some of the pressure from the baby and the contractions.
Within minutes of getting into the pool the contractions started picking up. The peak of each wave was so intense that it took everything in me to make it through, including some low moaning.  My hips were burning and baby girl was consistently moving which, can I say, was way worse than the burning hips. I could feel every single little wiggle and kick and it tickled every sensitive nerve. If there was a moment I felt like Ripley from Aliens, it was when Callie was moving in my stomach during a contraction. Cringe. It was during this phase when I needed and used the most support from my husband and birthing team.
I was in transitional labor, moving to the pushing stage, and at my wits end. I started freaking out, thinking that I couldn’t do anymore. At some point I even stated that having a home birth was a horrible idea. (Sorry!) Multiple times I told my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore because I had no energy left and the pain seemed almost unbearable. Of course, thanks to the class, his response was a reminder that the moment I felt like that, it meant it was almost time to push. He held my hands through each contraction and helped me regulate my breathing during times when I would freak out and work against the surge. My birthing team reminded me often to keep my face relaxed and breathed with me as well. They helped me stay focus. I needed them and they were there for me. Without them I could have easily lost it. Besides mental support, they also helped me stay hydrated and cool since I was finally getting heated due to the warm water and the increase in physical work.
I don’t recall much of what was happening around me. I was so drained, drowsy and in the zone that my surroundings barely existed. I do recall our midwife in training arriving just in time and someone stating that it was 7 something in the evening.
After several minutes of seriously intense contractions, I started to feel the pressure to push at the peak of each wave. At first I thought it was me wanting to push but I quickly realized it was my body doing the pushing.  I found it pretty cool how distinct the beginning, peak and end of each wave felt. At the start of a contraction, I could feel the pain creeping up. It was my signal to prepare and start breathing. After several seconds of creeping pain, it would peak and my body would start pushing. After 3-4 pushes, the pressure and discomfort would dissipate and I would dwell in the moment of pain free bliss. Oh how much I appreciated each break, even if it was for only a minute! Pushing was the best part of labor. It felt so good to finally work WITH my surges instead of just THROUGH them.
In between a set of surges, my midwife checked for progress and could feel my baby’s head still surrounded by a bubble of amniotic fluid. Yep, baby was still in her sac! Of course, I wanted to feel and so I did. It was the most incredible thing to feel my baby’s head still surrounded by her temporary home. It was in that moment that I thanked God for our little miracle and praised him for his creativity. When you look at the stars or feel a baby’s head in sac you can’t help but think about how ingenious God truly is. Still feeling baby in sac had my birthing team pretty excited, hoping that maybe, just maybe baby would be born en cal. It would be a pretty cool thing to see! So fingers crossed we did.
After several minutes of pushing, little progress was made. My water had yet to break and I could still feel baby’s head about an inch or so in. I had been in the same kneeling position since I had gotten into the pool so it was time to move around. My midwife asked me to lift one leg up and keep it there during my next contraction. I knew doing so would not only open my hips to allow baby to move down but I also knew it would hurt like hell. Even though I didn’t want to move, an opinion I clearly voiced to my midwife (haha!), I did it anyways knowing it would help. And it did…hurt worse, but that just meant it was doing something. Of course, seeing progression encouraged my midwife to suggest more movement and additional position changes.
During the next few contractions I moved from kneeling on my left leg, with my right leg up to kneeling on my right, with my left up to squatting while leaning back on my husband. I ended up staying in the back lean for the remainder of my delivery as things seemed to quickly progress in that position. With each surge I breathed my baby down as my body gently pushed. Soon I felt my baby’s head slowly beginning to emerge.
Despite what I learned in class the crowning phase did not last through only one contraction. For multiple contractions, baby’s head would slowly crown, and then retract with each rest. I really thought each and everytime that I would push that sucker fully out, but I was greeted with disappointment each time the surge would end. It was then I actually wished the contractions would last longer so I could push her out faster. Of course, my midwife reminded me slow and steady meant less chance of damage or tear, which now I’m thankful for. After a few peek-a-book surges, it was finally time to push baby girl all the way out
Right before I delivered, I was pushing through a surge when I felt an odd pop. I exclaimed to my birthing team that I felt a pop and was sure my water just broke. My midwife was a bit surprised and a bit doubtful that my water had broke considering that she didn’t see anything when it happened. Of course, it didn’t matter because it was then when I could really feel the pressure of baby’s head coming down.
It took two contractions to push baby girl out. With the first contraction, I pushed her head half-way out before my wave ended. Yes, I rested with half a baby’s head out. The pressure was intense, the ring of fire “pain”, not so much. I can no doubt thank the water for the lack of fire. Naturally, I panicked a bit due to the pressure, asking my midwife what to do. She calmly told me to wait and, in the meantime, distracted me by showing me via the mirror my baby’s head. She encouraged me to touch my baby’s sweet head but unfortunately I was holding myself up and felt too weak to move. I was afraid if I moved, my butt would plop right onto the floor of the pool and squish my poor baby’s noggin. So I watched and waited.
Seeing her precious little head brought on this weird wave of energy and awareness. Instead of feeling tired and in the zone, I automatically “woke up”, excited and ready to push.
With the next contraction, I pushed with all my might and her head finally came out! Oh the relief! Her head emerged mid-surge so naturally my body was still pushing. I told my midwife I still needed to push, so with a little wiggle help from my midwife, I used the last bit of energy from the end of my surge and pushed her little body out. My midwife caught her and called for my husband to grab her as he had planned. Unfortunately, the man was in such a daze that it took her a few calls of his name to finally get his attention. Once he realized what was going on, he reached down, grabbed baby Callie out of the water and placed her on my chest. Immediately she cried and so did I.
This is the only photo I have. My plans to take pics went out the window.
Later on I learned that baby girl’s head was pointing straight down towards the floor of the pool hence the reason for my midwife’s assistance. The wiggle was to help get baby girl unstuck. After a brief discussion over Callie's ultrasounds we noticed she always had a hand near her face. My midwife stated that Callie most likely had her hand under her chin, therefore explaining why it took longer than expected to push her out and also why my midwife felt the need to do a little shimmy during my final push. When she wiggled her I could definitely feel as if something was being unstuck or pulled. No doubt she was trying to emerge head and hand first.
In that moment a flood of emotions hit me: relief, excitement, euphoria, love, empowerment. I did it. I really did it! Baby girl was finally here, her tiny little naked body nuzzled in my arms. I couldn’t believe it. I cried, proud of my accomplishment, of the work I did and the reward that followed. I sat there in a new zone, completely smitten by my beautiful, miracle baby. That was until I realized I hadn’t checked the sex yet. I opened my baby’s little legs and sure enough it was a girl! Whew! I could finally wash everything!
As I sat there, cuddling my new baby, my midwife and birthing team started prepping to move me from pool to bed. As my doula recorded some info about my recent delivery, I heard her mention the timing of Callie’s birth at 9:24pm. I looked at her shocked that it was past 9:00pm! I couldn’t believe that I had been in the pool for at over two hours, pushing for at least an hour. I honestly thought I had been in there for a shorter amount of time. It’s amazing how time becomes non-existent during those last couple of hours of labor.
In the meantime my husband had decided to FaceTime my family of six to tell them the good news and to show off baby Callie who was still in the pool with me, as butt naked as I was. Thankfully I was too exhausted and too infatuated to realize what he was doing. If I was all there I’m sure her would have gotten fussed at for exposing me!  At the same time though, I’m sure I would have laughed as I fell in love with his excitement. There’s nothing more sweet than to see your husband’s eyes light up over the birth of his new baby. That night I fell in love with him all over again.
Disclaimer: before I proceed I have to warn that things do get a bit gory. While natural, some may find the following events hard to stomach. Fair warning.
After a few moments of cuddling, it was time to move me from pool to bed. My entire team helped me as I stood up and stepped out of the pool with my still attached to the cord baby in hand. Things were going great, so it was quite a shock to see, as soon as I stood up, a huge gush of blood hit the floor. Everyone jumped in surprise then immediately got right into action, swiftly moving me to the bed so I could lie down and stop the increase of the giant mess I was causing. I was embarrassed, of course, but not surprised. The same thing happened to me when I delivered my first daughter in the hospital and I was given pitocin to help.
Once I was on the bed, my birthing team got into action. While my husband and student midwife jumped right in to cleaning, my midwife and doula focused on me. Since my iron was running low during my pregnancy, the massive amount of blood loss was a bit of concern for my midwife since it could lead to hemorrhaging. Even after the delivery of the placenta, the bleeding continued. Being proactive, my midwife instructed to give me a dose of shepherds purse tincture as well as a piece of fresh placenta to hold in between my cheek and teeth to prevent hemorrhaging while my doula started tracking my vitals every 10 minutes or so to make sure everything remained stable. I was also asked to drink as much coconut water as I possibly could and to eat some food even though I had no desire to do either. Things were looking a bit shaky at first, but after an hour or so, my bleeding slowed down and my vitals leveled out. The power of the placenta!
During this time, my midwife allowed my husband to cut the cord which was still attached to my baby and placenta. During my pre-natal visits, she suggested, and I agreed, that we would wait until the placenta was delivered and until the cord turned white and stopped pulsating, to cut it. This would ensure that my baby received all of the nutrient, stem cell dense blood from her cord and placenta. After they were detached, Callie’s little nub was sealed while my placenta was given to my doula to encapsulate.
She also checked my vagina for any tears, which, unfortunately, I did have one. Surprisingly, it wasn’t at the same site where I was given an episiotomy during my delivery with Amerie. Instead it was at an angle. My midwife concluded that Callie indeed emerged hand and head first. What I felt being unstuck during my delivery was most likely her little arm or elbow, thus resulting in the tear. Thankfully it wasn’t too bad to need stitches! 
With a sigh of relief that everything was finally looking positive for me, my midwife and doula proceeded to care for my newborn who was currently latched on and nursing beautifully. My husband weighed her in at 6lbs, 15 ounces and she measured at 21.5 inches long – a huge difference from my 8lb first born. They also checked her body as well as her reflexes to make sure everything looked normal. Of course, she passed. She was perfect!
My midwife and husband weighing baby Callie
 After a few snuggles, my birthing team closed up shop and headed out around 12:30am. If my body didn’t make such a spectacle, they probably would have made it out sooner - something I feel so bad about, especially since they never got a chance to really eat anything due to my lack of awareness. However, I have to believe that everything happens for a reason; even if it results in me being completely embarrassed! The important thing though, was that baby and I were aye okay.

Say hello to baby Callie
 As soon as they left, the three of us crashed for the night. It took a moment for the adrenaline from just giving birth to finally subside before I could fall asleep. I was happy, extremely proud of my accomplishments, and overly smitten with my little bundle of joy. Our long wait was over. Our little miracle had finally entered this world and I was not ready to take my eyes off of her. As I lied in bed next to her, examining every detail of her, I smiled and thanked God for our little gift. He gave us her. It was at that moment that I finally felt at peace, ready to finally close my eyes and rest. A new journey had just begun for our family and I couldn’t wait to see what sort of adventures we would have together. <3

My squishy little baby not even a day old!