Monday, June 20, 2016

The Amazingly Difficult and Beautiful Story of Sarah Lamar's Birth


This is loooong. With Graves's birth story, I wrote one post that was basically "just the facts", another one of pictures, and then another one of reflections, mostly comparing his and Annie's birth. This time I decided to chronicle the experience and share my feelings and the pictures all in one place.

I really like to write these right away and it feels like so much time has already passed. In reality, most of the details are still fresh, but I knew I wanted to go ahead and get it down quickly.

I'll go ahead and say that, much like the whole pregnancy, it was the hardest, most humbling thing I've done in my life. It was very, very different from Graves's birth. I think a lot of factors contributed to it- I'll explain more but for one thing, I didn't get off to as easy of as start. The car broke down on the way to hospital (no lie) and the admittance process was so long and tedious.  So that all already had me anxious. But I also just think the labor itself was very different. With Graves I got to the hospital and was dilated to nine centimeters but then I stayed there for SIX hours. However, I felt like those six hours were about as comfortable and relaxed as labor could be for me (they were by no means painless and it was hard, but I was surprised at how calm and in control I felt a good bit of the time). This was almost the exact opposite. I was only a six when I got there but from that point until the point Sarah Lamar was in my arms was literally about three hours. So it was a super quick labor. But it was much more difficult to manage. The contractions were strong and rapid and there was hardly any break between them. The other big factor at play was not having a doula this time. I think all three of those things (starting off highly anxious, it being a very different labor in and of itself, and not having a doula) came into play.

Anyway, backing up- at my doctor's appointment earlier in the week I had been about 4 cm dilated, eighty percent effaced, and at a +1 station. Even though all that was kind of really uncomfortable, it was nice that a lot of the work of labor was done ahead of time. My due date came and went on Thursday, the ninth. Friday was a bit frustrating but Peyton happened to be off work due to a scheduling mix up on Saturday and we had a great day.

Saturday night we got the kids to bed and I got on the computer and did a few things and did English with Annie. I prayed and prayed that I'd go into labor that night because I so desperately wanted Cookie to be there and she was in town for her best friend's wedding that night and was headed back to Nashville the next day.  Not only that, but I was starting to get bad anxiety about everything- I wasn't feeling the baby move as much, I was uncomfortable and in a lot of pain, and I was scared that the clock was ticking towards an induction even though I knew my doctor would let me go to forty two weeks.

I had some guacamole and started feeling some contractions. I tried not to get too excited because I'd been having irregular contractions for a month. But then I felt a significant change in the baby's position and knew she had dropped even more. The contractions got stronger and I started timing them. They were still about eight minutes apart but I woke up Peyton. He was pretty alarmed as he is when he's woken up. I was glad he had gotten a couple of hours of sleep because he had been so tired. He called his dad and we texted Cookie and Carrie and told them we'd keep them posted. I was still not one hundred percent convinced it was labor (mostly just because it had taken so long coming and I was still in disbelief that I was really going to get to do this one more time) but by the time his dad arrived and we got in the car, I knew it was the real thing. We kissed the kids goodbye and I was glad they were already asleep.

This is where the story gets crazy. On the way to the hospital the car broke down! It was seriously like a movie. We were about a mile from the hospital at a light and Peyton couldn't get the clutch out of neutral. He called his dad and we waited through several lights trying to figure out if we should call an ambulance or what to do. He finally jammed the clutch in and forced it into first gear and then in second and we just puttered that way to the hospital and then he left it in the road with the flashers on.

We went in and the check in process was kind of irritating. First of all, I had to fill out a lot of paperwork which was annoying especially since they had told me that since I had been to urgent care a couple of times during the pregnancy it was already done. I was having some HARD contractions and couldn't even sit still through them.

Well, then they finally got it done and put me in an observing room in urgent care. I explained that I wanted to keep on my t-shirt and not wear a hospital gown and they seemed weirded out but were fine with it. It's just not comfortable like the delivery room and it stressed me out so bad. Plus, several people had warned me about "third babies" and how fast they come, and especially with being so dilated leading up to labor, I didn't really want to push the baby out in there. I was getting highly anxious and Peyton was still trying to figure out about the car situation. He left at one point after I told him to but then I called him and told him he had to get back and deal with the car later. Apparently, he was actually going to get my bags so they wouldn't be towed away with the car. Which I'm INCREDIBLY thankful for in hindsight. They finally checked me and I was at a six. I was a little disappointed since I arrived at the hospital at 9 cm with Graves (but I also stayed at nine for six hours so I knew it was kind of irrelevant). They told me they'd get some stuff ready and send me up to Labor and Delivery. After that, I got in my own room pretty quickly. Peyton had been texting Cookie and Carrie and since it was one in the morning at that point and Cookie and Minnie were both heading up to the hospital they all determined that Carrie would stay home.

Later I realized (and it will be clear why) that I was really glad for how it worked out. Carrie is absolutely one of best friends but I wouldn't want anyone else in the world besides the two people who were in there to see what went on in that room. ANYONE. Honestly, I'm SO glad it was Peyton and Cookie. I was apologizing to Cookie about it and her JOB is vaginas (she's a nurse at a urology clinic). I'm so, so thankful that it is. I found out later from Peyton that she asked him if it'd be okay to for her to watch them stitch up my tear because she had never seen that before. He said he felt like he was sure I'd be fine with it :) And I'm also so grateful Peyton isn't one of those guys I read about one time who can never look at their wives sexually again after they give birth. Peyton is so exactly the opposite. He reminded me of the time he had the opportunity during pharmacy school to watch a mentally ill woman who was not taking good care of her hygiene needs have a breast exam and a pap smear. Ain't nothing gonna phase those two =)

I know I shouldn't be like this and that there's no shame in any of it and in theory I think birth is so beautiful, despite all it entails and honestly I wouldn't mind one bit being on the "other side" and think being a doula would be one of the most amazing things in the world. But I'm sort of modest with stuff like that and it felt mortifying since it was ME. It was literally the most undignified and vulnerable I've ever felt in my whole life. I was walking around in a t-shirt without bottoms dripping stuff after my water broke and having to use a bed pan. Now that I'm a few days out, though, I absolutely love reflecting on it.

Anyway, I moved up to the delivery room and Cookie and Minnie arrived. Minnie stayed in the waiting room (see the above paragraphs, Minnie would have come UNDONE). I explained again that I wanted to wear my clothes and they were fine with that. The nurses asked me a bunch of questions and I got my IV set up. They also explained that since I had tested positive for Group B Strep they didn't want to break my water right away because they needed me to labor long enough to get the antibiotics in. I had my water broken with both Annie and Graves but it wasn't until later in the labor so I wasn't too worried but it did make me a little anxious the more I thought about it.

I was having pretty heavy contractions really close together and was having a really hard time. I'd grab the bed rail or Peyton's hand and just try to get through them. This was probably around one thirty or two and they checked me and said I was still at a six. That was pretty disheartening as hard as the contractions were coming.
I felt like I really couldn't get on top of the contractions and there was just no way to relax. I wasn't like screaming, but I was REALLY vocal. It wasn't crying either but my voice was so shaky and "teary" and I kept telling Peyton I was scared. I think the thing I struggled most with was just not knowing how long I'd have to do it for.

Peyton actually left for a bit to deal with the tow truck and my contractions sort of slowed down. I finally got a break in between them, maybe a few breaks that were like five minutes. And I really was able to relax a bit. It helped me refocus and I was so glad for it because right after that I went to the bathroom and my water broke and I was able to be rested up for some more really strong contractions and the pushing. I was just in a better mental place than I had been probably since we left home.

The contractions got even closer and stronger after that. Peyton said there was literally no real break. He said that he was looking at the monitor (it goes from zero to a hundred) and I'd get up to about eighty five but then the lowest they'd go back down was like forty. That was TOUGH.

Then I started to feel the urge to push, even though when they checked me I was only at eight centimeters. The nurses really urged me not to because it can make your cervix inflamed, which makes the whole process even harder. But it was just pretty much impossible not to. I decided I'd make a deal with myself and try to limit it to once per contraction. I can't explain it but I just didn't feel like I could hold back more than that. It was like trying to hold it when you REALLY have to teetee. At some point, it's just going to come.  Plus, I knew I was going to be severely uncomfortable, not to mention anxious, if I didn't just let my body do it's thing.
This went on for I'm not sure how long but it was thankfully a pretty short stage. I went from an eight to complete in less than an hour- my guess is about thirty minutes.

The pushing was hardly anything. I mean, at the time I didn't feel that way. I told Cookie that I was "so scared she wouldn't come out", which is really similar to what I said when I was pushing with Graves. It seems so funny looking back on it. Anyway, I pushed through literally three contractions that were about a minute apart. The nurse said she guessed that I pushed for five minutes, definitely less than ten.



The minute the baby came out I felt so much relief. I distinctively remember worrying several times during the really bad contractions that I would be so exhausted and anxious and touched out from the experience it would be hours (or days) before I could really bond with her. That was decidedly, gratefully not the case at all. [With Graves, I did feel like I wasn't able to be as present in some ways in those very first few moments as I was with Annie because of all I had gone through, but for some unknown reason I didn't feel like that was the case at all this time.]

I held her on my chest and I was laughing and talking like normal while the doctor stitched me up. That was painful and so was delivering the placenta, but it was nothing compared to what I had just done. I apologized to the nurses for being so "high maintenance" and they basically told me I was a rock star, especially as little as I am, giving birth to an almost eight pound baby with no drugs. They were really sweet.

Cookie went and got Minnie after they finished my stitches (I had a small tear) I hopped up and went to the bathroom and put back on my shorts to get ready to move to the recovery room. The nurses laughed so hard at me bouncing around putting back on my shoes and shorts. That is one of the great perks of a drug free labor. With Annie I remember Peyton having to almost carry me to the bathroom a good while after the birth before my epidural wore off.

 They weighed the baby and did all that stuff and then I got to nurse her. She nursed for a LONG time.

I will say that I knew I would probably have a hard time with a lot of the strategies I had read about- breathing and relaxation exercises and such. I've mentioned it before, but I'm just not very self-aware when it comes to physiology. I can't make my body do things. I have a terrible time with Kegals and I can't even make myself burp. I loved having Carol Ann, my old doula, because she knew how to do everything- pressure points, and massaging, and directing me in what I needed to do.

This time, I came up with my own strategies for labor. I thought about how I'd mostly need to be in control of my emotions/mental space so I could regulate them in a way I couldn't regulate the physical stuff. I asked Peyton to think of encouraging things to say ahead of time (I think he forgot to do this ahead of time but he still did great with it) and I made a playlist with music I love (that I totally ended up not using because it seemed super abrasive and annoying in the moment). I reminded myself of how I'd be able to hold my baby soon and I prayed through it ALOT. Like a lot.

And my one big strategy that I didn't come up with until I was in the moment was counting backwards. I've actually done it before in painful/uncomfortable situations like getting blood drawn (and now I'm doing it when Sallie latches on to nurshe, ha!) but not for something so lengthy. Anyway, each time a contraction would start I'd count backwards from thirty, then from twenty, and then from ten. I'd keep counting back from ten until it was over. This would probably not be an at all effective strategy for like a twelve hour labor but since mine was so short this type of just "pushing through" the pain, rather than trying to relax through it, worked surprisingly well.

It's interesting to think about. Speaking of my reading, I was reading the Bradley book and it was talking about how MANY women describe their natural births as "pain free". Um? That's just not my experience. And I hate to invalidate anyone else's experience but I'm tempted to call BS. The book talked about how contractions are just a muscle working. Well, my uterus working like that feels way different than other muscles. (The Bradley book also says "nature always gives you a break between contractions". Okay, but no.) Peyton told me that during one of the most intense parts they asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten and I said "well, I want to say a ten but I know it'll get worse". But I didn't reconsider much and stuck with calling it a ten. Also, on the pain scale do you rate the pain against the worst pain YOU'VE ever felt or the pain you assume exists as possible to experience? I assumed the former. P says I'm not objective because people get their limbs shot off and that has to hurt more than a contraction. Which yes, but I've never felt that.

I tried to really notice the sensation of the contractions. I know this is weird and it's part of my compulsive nature but one reason I really wanted to do this again was because I just wanted to notice the sensation and experience it more than I did with Graves. Of course I did notice it but I wasn't aware it was possibly the last time so I didn't think to really try to concentrate and remember what it felt like. This is a big deal with me with lots of things. I just try to remember what it felt like the first time Peyton and I kissed, or the first time one of my babies nursed, or how their little hair felt on my skin. I don't know why it matters but it does.

I feel like contractions feel like a really sharp, cramp like pain. It's like the most intense period cramps multiplied by ten. Peyton and I were talking about it and I was saying how to me the contractions really probably hurt worse than the pushing part. I always say that and then it seems like it can't be true but Peyton said it really seemed that way to him from observing how I acted. Anyway, I was describing the difference and I told him that with pushing the baby out you feel your skin stretch and tear and it burns but I compared the contractions to one of those severe, sharp leg cramps you wake up in the night with and that it felt like getting hit, or really rather squeezed really hard in the stomach. He said he'd choose his flesh ripping over the leg cramp, too. I guess it just depends on if your prefer your muscles squeezed or your skin stretched. Haha.

I mentioned this in Graves's birth post, but I'm so fascinated by the sounds and expressions of birth. One of my only true regrets is that I didn't get a video. I will say that I'm abundantly grateful for the pictures I got and I feel like that almost didn't happen. Peyton knew how important that was to me but in the moment we were both so consumed. Probably less than an hour before Sallie got here, Peyton mentioned the camera and asked if I wanted Cookie to take some pictures. I said yes, for sure. They ended up being such amazing pictures that I'll cherish forever and I wasn't sad at all that we didn't splurge for birth photography. She took some really, really intimate ones that I doubt anyone but Peyton and I (and Sarah Lamar is she wants to) will ever see. I'm so thankful for them. I had really wanted that kind of pictures but I was a little embarrassed or something and I hadn't expressed it to anyone, even Peyton.

It's so my compulsiveness again, but there were so many tiny things I wanted to do differently about this birth/hospital stay. Just being more organized for the hospital stay (as for as what the big kids would wear and that kind of thing) and having a playlist and bringing cute pjs rather than grungy t-shirts. And then more important things- like the pictures. The fact that I'm bothered so much about the video really upsets me. I know it's post partum hormones but I feel like I'm doing a terrible job of appreciating what I've been given (e.g. spending too much time grieving hat this is our last little baby instead of just enjoying her). At the same time, like I said, I know in this case, a lot of it is my obsessive nature. I used to have a thing where if I did something wrong- took a wrong turn driving for example- I'd have to go back and redo the whole process, rather than just getting back on track. In kindergarten, I used to erase holes in my paper trying to get it perfect. Birth isn't like that. It's not sustainable to keep going back and doing it over trying to get the perfect outcome. And newsflash- the perfect outcome is the precious baby.

As far as the sounds go, I always make more high "whiney" noises rather than moaning sounds. This time I feel like it was a little different because I was a lot more verbal rather than just making noises. I remember telling Peyton so many times "I'm so scared". Which is interesting in itself. I remember pain being a part of Graves's birth, but not fear. I think the intensity and chaos created that fear. And I think the feeling I had that the pain I was dealing with wouldn't be sustainable for very long created fear.

The hardest part, I think was just not knowing how long it would be. They were so intense and the fact that they were coming right on top of each other (or it seemed like it- I really felt like I was getting NO breaks) made it so hard but I knew it would probably be a quick labor. I just kept thinking "HOW LONG?" though. If someone had been able to say "you'll be done in less than two hours" I probably could have relaxed a lot more. I mean, duh. But that was the hardest thing for me. Knowing it would get worse before it was over and not knowing when it would be over.

Clearly, it was a VERY short labor in the greater scheme of things and I'm not complaining but so many people who had been contracting for weeks and were as progressed as I was when they got to the hospital had told me that they pushed the baby out within an hour of getting there. So I was a little disappointed when they checked me the second time especially and I was still at a six. In retrospect, that seems so dumb given that start to finish the labor was like four hours.

Another thing that was really hard for me was feeling like I needed to be my own advocate in a lot of ways. First of all, Peyton and Cookie both reminded me a couple of times that I could get the medicine. Cookie was like "you do not have to do this, you don't need to torture yourself, don't be a martyr". But she said it one time and I told her it was really important to me and she never mentioned it again. Peyton didn't sugguest it as strongly and he said he brought it up two times at the beginning and once more and that was it. And he's apologized so much and been so kind to me about it. I know he and Cookie just had a hard time seeing me in so much pain. With Peyton he just wanted me to know I had the option and he wouldn't think any less of me if I took it.  Cookie said she never got worried about me during Graves's birth like she did this time. I looked back at the pictures, and yep, it even looks more serene:
 Graves's Birth_20110412_001Graves's Birth_20110412_005

The other part of that was the nurses. They were actually really sweet and in some ways UMC was great because they kind of let you do your thing (like wearing my own clothes). But there were several things that made everything more difficult. First of all, as I mentioned, I was positive for Group B Strep. They told me that they wanted to get a full dose of the medicine in me (by IV so it would take a few hours) and they didn't want to break my water until after that and that just sort of made me anxious since I knew that's what speed labor up with the other two.

They also had a really hard time keeping the baby on the monitor and at one point they told me that they really needed me to stay in the bed for a twenty minute stretch. I knew that'd be hard but I wanted to make sure she was okay so I agreed. Then one of the nurses said "and try to be as still as possible". WHAT? That's just not very possible with a natural labor. I did my best but I was so frustrated. And- this is in no way anyone's fault- but the whole not pushing thing was so hard.

 Then after my water broke they told me I really needed to stop getting up to go to the bathroom because they didn't want me to push on the toilet. First of all, I wasn't fully dilated so I wasn't going to like give birth in the toilet. Secondly, even if I was, I assume it'd take several pushes to get her out. This is one area where River Oaks definitely won out (the nurses there let me use the potty even after my water broke). I told them I had to be able to and that I not only needed to teetee but I needed to potty. OMG. This younger nurse kept telling me that she promised it was the baby. I was like "nope, I can tell the difference- I'm not good at knowing my own body- but I know what's my unborn child and what's the guacamole I just ate". Sure enough after I told them I HAD to do something about it, they brought me a bed pan. And sure enough, business had to be taken care of. Peyton knows that one of my WORST FEARS IN LIFE is pooping on the bed while giving birth so (much) later he was like "how did it feel to experience one of your worst fears in life?" I can laugh now but I was so, so mortified over it. At least, he reminded me, it doesn't compare to this story. OMG.

I did realize later that the nurse in L&D was right out of school. She clearly had a few months of births under her belt but this could have easily been one of the first natural births she's experienced. She was really sweet and at the end kept telling me what a rockstar I was but I do wish some things had been done differently.

I'll be really honest. I still can't believe I did it sometimes. There were several times I really thought I'd cave. With Graves I remember saying exactly one time "I don't think I can do this" but even then I didn't really feel like I was asking for the drugs. This time I remember saying "I'm just not sure" so many times when the option was presented to me. I do remember telling Cookie how very important it was to me and that I wanted to keep trying and I remember the nurse saying that I didn't have much longer of a window to get the epidural (I could still get some other pain medicine, though). And I remember thinking "I'll be glad when that window closes and it's not an option".

There's clearly no way to know how close I came to it, but it sort of makes me shiver thinking of how close it might have been. I know I would have regretted it forever and I'm pretty sure it would have put me in a bad mental place for awhile (not to say that any of this is good or admirable, or how it should be, I just know that's how I would have reacted). Fear of regret is a big motivation for me, I've realized. When we were picking Sarah Lamar's name, it's finally what helped me decide. There was actually a name I was more "drawn" to, that I'd been in love with for much of the pregnancy, but I knew in my heart I would have regrets about not naming her Sarah Lamar, regrets I wouldn't have about not using the other name. Looking back on her that night, I think fear of regret is one of the huge motivating factors that helped me achieve the birth I desperately wanted.

Another huge factor was quite simply the Lord. I didn't necessarily feel that as much with Graves's birth. But in this situation I leaned on Him like I have few other times in my life. From start to finish, I know He got me through it. I prayed so hard for Cookie to be there and that detail will never, ever be overlooked when I reflect on Sallie's birth story. And I prayed so hard through those intense contractions. I sometimes hate it when people say "It wasn't me, it was the Lord". Not because I don't believe them; I guess just because it sounds trite or something. And also sometimes I think it can come off as false humility. But it's true. I really don't think it would have happened the way it did apart from Him.

I've talked so much to Peyton about all these things and the craziness and chaos of the whole thing, it's almost hard to wrap my head around it, especially since it all happened so fast. He's been so sweet and encouraging and has told me multiple times how proud he was of me. And he's told me stories from those hours I don't even remember. Which, if you know me, is such a special gift.

Also, he told me that it was kind of special not having a doula. He said in some ways it seemed less crazy to him. I think because he was able to just squeeze my hand and tell me I was doing good and rub a wet washcloth on my face without someone giving him lots of directions. I know some husbands don't want to "share" the experience with a doula and that was never Peyton, but it seemed so sweet when he described it. 

I've sort of gotten off budget with my "spendy money" and Peyton told me that we could just figure it out within the budget rather than me having to pay it back (subbing next Fall, ect.) since we didn't end up spending money on a doula. Looking back, I guess I might do it differently but I'm sort of glad I didn't have one just because it was an additional new experience and because I showed myself that I could manage my own pain through a chaotic experience and even advocate for myself when things were really wild.

I feel like there were so many crazy things that were sort of working against me but I still did it and honestly, I don't think I'd change a thing about it. Like Graves's birth, it was so empowering, probably even to a greater degree because of the greater difficulty.

Aside that it is what brought us to our girl. I'm just a week away from it and I can smile so big thinking about what a fierce entrance our littlest spitfire made into the world.
 

For those interested:
The Amazing Story of Ann Peyton's Birth
The Amazingly Different Story of Graves's Birth


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