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The Birth Story of Henry James
Well, after almost eight weeks, I can finally post Henry's
birth story! Our computer died on us, and we have spent weeks without online
access. His story is a long one- be warned. I was in my early birthing time
for about two days, so I included those details. If you want to read just
about the birth, skim down about half way. After an epidural with my first
birth experience, this was the absolute perfect birth and I couldn't have
asked for a better Hypnobabies experience!
I Climbed My Everest!
When I found out I was expecting baby number two, I immediately knew that I wanted to try again for a completely natural birth experience. Olivia's birth had been wonderful, and I had no complications from the epidural or the birth itself, other than lots of pain after we came home, but nothing I couldn't live with. So, upon the return of the positive pregnancy test, the search began for the best natural childbirth method I could find. I had gone into Olivia's birth with a stubborn mindset that "I can do this," and not much else. I had practiced some Lamaze breathing techniques that they showed us in childbirth preparation class, but didn't really have anything else in place. So, after laboring at home for almost 24 hours, and arriving at the hospital still at 2 cm dilated, I was more than discouraged. When my doctor decided to break my water at 4 cm four hours later, I was certainly not prepared for the overwhelming pain that would consume me.
I knew I didn't want to experience that again, so in my research, I was drawn to two natural childbirth methods. The first was the Bradley husband-coached childbirth method which stressed deep relaxation and "pain with a purpose." I knew how painful Olivia's birth had been, so this appealed to me. I liked how logical it all seemed- yes, it would hurt, but there's an end in sight and you will reach your goal if you push through the pain. However, I continued my internet searching, and stumbled across a program that touted, "No pain for Mommy, no drugs for baby- pain-free childbirth." "Yeah, right," I thought. "Have you ever given birth??" But, after reading more about the program, and visiting various related internet sights, I started to wonder, "Which would I rather have? Pain with a purpose, or no pain at all?" Well, that's a no-brainer. I'd rather have no pain- wouldn't anyone?
So, I dove head first into a program called Hypnobabies. It was
a self-hypnosis home-study program that came with multiple CDs, a birth guide
and multiple supplemental materials for my birth partner (my wonderful husband).
Everyone I told about this thought I was nuts- at first, I did too! But, then I
realized how perfect the program was. It reaffirmed everything I already knew
about childbirth but had forgotten- that birth is a natural process, that my
body was created to do this. So, I followed the schedule and listened to every
track on every CD. I even downloaded them onto my MP3 player so I could listen
while I was at work. I restructured my whole mindset about childbirth, and it
worked! Henry James' completely natural, drug-free birth story begins!
Birthing Time Begins!
Our second child was due to arrive around Halloween, but many friends and family members thought he or she would arrive before then. Because of a third trimester ultrasound that showed the baby to be "large," our midwife was hoping the same! However, on Monday, October 29, when the baby still had not arrived, my midwife decided to strip my membranes, since I was dilated to 3 centimeters and everything looked optimal for an easy birthing time. I was excited to know that the baby could be here as soon as the next day!
On Tuesday morning, October 30, I started experiencing some very light squeezing sensations in my uterus. Timing them, they were pretty regular at about 6 minutes apart, but not at all noteworthy as far as discomfort. I believe if I hadn't been waiting for them, I wouldn't have even noticed them. Olivia and I went about our day, and I was so thankful that I was able to be just her mommy for one more day. I was able to take her to school in the morning, since I had officially started my maternity leave, and I was able to meet some of her friends and their parents. Throughout the day I had lots of bloody show, and I thought that the baby might be here soon. I told Jim to leave his cell phone on all day, just in case. That afternoon, while Olivia napped, I also napped and listed to my fear release CD from Hypnobabies. I later emailed Jim to tell him that nothing was happening, and the baby wasn't coming today. I remember feeling disappointed, but knowing that it wouldn't be much longer. We were able to eat dinner together as a family and then we took Olivia to her swim lessons that night. I was uncomfortable throughout her swim lessons, but tried hard to welcome the discomfort, knowing that by welcoming it, I would begin my birthing time sooner.
That night when we got home, we tucked Olivia into bed and prepared her that the baby may be coming soon. We talked about all of our options as far as trick-or-treating the next night, and what would happen if Mommy and Daddy were at the hospital. She was okay with everything, for the most part. I then went and made a batch of brownies for the nurses at the hospital. Jim asked, "Do you think this baby is coming soon?" I told him that I didn't think it would be until tomorrow, but I didn't want to be doing this at 3:00 in the morning! We finally made it to bed around 10:30 or 11:00 that night after the brownies had been sliced and put on a plate and wrapped to take to the hospital. That night, the pressure waves continued throughout the night. I listened to various Hypnobabies CDs, including my deepening CD to help me fall asleep easier. But, although the pressure waves continued, they never got to the point where I thought it was necessary to go to the hospital.
When we finally started our morning on Wednesday, October 31, I told Jim that I thought he should stay home. I had a feeling that as much as we were hoping to avoid a Halloween baby, that this baby might have some different plans. We took Olivia to school, and I remember driving home on the expressway—I was so uncomfortable and I told Jim he had my permission to speed, since the pressure waves were rather uncomfortable in the car and I just wanted to get home. Every time I had a wave, I would turn my switch to off, and go completely limp. This worked until Jim was exiting on the off ramp, and he rounded the bend and I had to quickly brace myself against the window. Going limp with a speeding husband is a bit difficult! I remember asking him to just sit at the stop sign as long as he could until the pressure wave was over. The waves were bad in the car, but even worse when we were moving! At this point, we were only a few short blocks from home.
When we finally got home, I listened to the easy first stage CD, hoping to bring the waves closer together, stronger and more consistent. We called my parents to let them know that they should be on alert, and asked them if they would pick Olivia up from school at noon. We then decided to go walk around the mall to see if that would help anything. After a couple hours there, I decided to call my school to pass a message along to my students that I would not be coming to the Halloween party that afternoon as I had promised. I then asked my good friend Shantille, also our school secretary, what was taking so long- "I thought second labors were supposed to be SHORTER!?" She told me that isn't always the case, and to just hang in there. I remember thinking I had to get off the phone before another wave started.
We continued to walk around, and then finally called to check on my daughter, who was at my parents' house. She asked us when we would be coming to get her, and we told her we would be there soon. My mom invited us for lunch- she said she had cooked chili, hoping to "spice" the baby out. We went over for lunch, and as I ate, I had to stop to breathe through waves several times. We then took Olivia home for her nap, and we tried to rest as well. The rest of the day continued in this fashion, with the waves coming anywhere from 5-10 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds to 90 seconds. After Olivia's nap, we got her dressed and ready to go trick-or-treating at a few houses in the neighborhood. Several times on our walk, I had to tell her and her Daddy to go on ahead and I would catch up, since walking through the waves was difficult.
However, throughout this entire time, I never felt pain. I had to concentrate, and remind myself to relax and breathe deeply, but it wasn't terribly intense. After our trick-or-treating, we made it to our church, where they were having a Halloween celebration. I finally decided that I really didn't want to be experiencing my early birthing time in a church surrounded by screaming children in various costumes, and asked Jim if we could head home. By this time it was about 7:00 p.m. We made it home and tucked Olivia into bed. We again prepared her that Grandma might be at our house in the morning if we had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. She started to cry- "I don't want you to go to the hospital!" We reassured her that it would all be okay, and that Grandma would bring her to see us as soon as the bay was born. She also seemed to feel better knowing that we would come in and say goodbye if we had to leave.
As we left her room, I remember thinking that it was waiting time. . . Time to wait for the exact right moment to go to the hospital. I told Jim that we should probably get some rest, since we were going to have a baby soon. We headed to bed, and my headphones and CD player were ready. Throughout the next few hours, I listened to several Hypnobabies tracks- Easy First Stage, Deepening, Fear Release, Special Place. I also got myself into several positions to help the pressure I was feeling. I got on my hands and knees, sat on my birthing ball, walked around the house. The best place for me was in the shower. Finally, around midnight, Jim said, "Well, we made it to November 1- you can have the baby now!" That was the point when we started to officially time the pressure waves. We timed them for 2 hours, and they would range from 3 minutes apart to 8 minutes apart, lasting from 50 seconds to one and a half minutes. But, they were never intense enough for me to think that we had any reason to leave the house.
Finally, around 2 a.m., I told Jim to just forget this whole timing thing, and to go get some rest. I planned to do the same. However, what I found was that anytime I tried to rest, the pressure waves would get further apart, but more intense. I was not comfortable in bed, so off I went around the house to try to find comfortable positions. For the next several hours (the actual time of the morning made no difference to me), I again tried several positions- I showered in the hot shower three times, with the warm soothing water beating down on me. I sat on my birthing ball in the living room, leaning against the couch, watching infomercials on television. I sat on my birthing ball in the bedroom, listening to Jim breathe as he slept. I rocked in the glider in the baby's room, talking to him and asking him to join our family. I rocked on my hands and knees in the living room- I hated this position because it put so much pressure on my back, which sounds strange, since it should have taken pressure off my back!
Finally the waves were getting more intense, and I had to ask
Jim to get up to help me through them. As each one started, we had to use both
of our sets of hands to create counter-pressure on my body. He would put his
hands on the outside of my hips and push in with all his might. I would ball my
fists up, and push on my lower back. In between waves, he would nap on the
floor. As I felt one starting, I would say, "Okay," wanting to stay as "off" as
possible, and we would take our
positions. If he wasn't there at the start of the wave, it would be so much more uncomfortable. But, again, I still didn't feel the all- consuming pain I had experienced with Olivia's birth, so I still didn't think it was time to go anywhere. I knew how miserable I felt at 4 centimeters with her, and I was waiting for that same sensation again. Little did I know at the time, that sensation would never come.
Finally around 6:30 on the morning of November 1, I decided that
we could head to the hospital. It wasn't because anything changed, and it wasn't
because I was that much more uncomfortable. It was more of the fact that I
really needed a change of scenery. In the back of my mind, I was thinking,
"Goodness gracious. If I have been in my birthing time for two days and nothing
is happening, I am going to ask my midwife to break my water and get things
hopping!" I called the hospital and told the nurse what had been happening for
the last few days and asked if we should come in. She told us to
make our way in, and asked when we thought we would be there. I told her I didn't think it would be until 7 or 7:30.
We called my parents and asked them to make their way over. We arranged for my dad to take Olivia to school that morning, and Jim hopped into the shower. I went in to wake Olivia up for school, and got some breakfast ready for her. I explained what was happening. By the time my parents arrived and Jim was done freshening up, I was hungry! I made some toast, knowing that the hospital probably wouldn't be serving me any meals! We finally made our way out the door a little bit after 7:30 that morning. The drive to the hospital was beautiful. The air was clean and crisp and the sun was low in the sky- so bright it was hard to see out the front window of the car.
We arrived at the hospital around 8:00, and checked in at the
front desk. The man at the desk asked my name and if I was here for a procedure-
my response was, "Well, I'm hoping to have a baby pretty soon." Duh. He then
told me to make my way to the waiting area and someone would take me up soon. He
then looked at me and asked, "You aren't in labor right
now, are you?" "Well, actually, yes," was my response, and then I doubted myself. If this guy can't tell that I'm about to have a baby, maybe we should go back home! My pressure waves seemed to ease up when I thought that and the walk to the elevators was not as unbearable as I thought it should have been. We rode up in the elevator with another woman, who happened to be the lactation consultant, and I was listening intently to my Easy First Stage on my headphones. She looked at my mom, and said, "Today's the day," and my confidence lifted. I thought to myself, "Today is a beautiful day to give birth- a beautiful day to welcome my baby to the world!"
We got off the elevator, and they took us right into a room where the nurse handed me a gown and asked me to change. I was listening to my MP3 player with easy first stage running the entire time. I changed my clothes and moved to the rocking chair where I sat and waited for someone to come in and start the hospital procedures. The sun was shining through the window, and my mom, Jim and I chatted in between the pressure waves. I was still smiling at this point- another reason to worry that I had come too soon.
Finally, around 8:30, our nurse finally made it in to check on us. She was fun and spunky, and was a great listener as we explained that we were aiming for a completely natural childbirth. I told her, "I don't even want to meet the anesthesiologist." She laughed and said, "That's fine, I won't bring one in!" She then went through some routine paperwork that we would need to fill out. Then came the moment of truth- she asked to check me to see where I was. I lay down on the bed, and put my switch into off. I said "peace" to myself as she checked. I think I was mentally prepared to hear that I was at a 3. Her reaction was great- "Wow! You go, girl! You're already at 6 to 7 cm!" I was so relieved I actually started to cry! My goal was to arrive at 7 centimeters, and I had! That just solidified the natural childbirth process for me. I knew how close I was, and an epidural would be pointless!
She then hooked me up to the monitors for a test strip to make
sure baby was handling the contractions okay. According to the monitors, the
bay's heart rate looked fine and the contractions were "off the chart,"
literally. They would reach the top of the graph, and plateau off because the
graph didn't go any higher. However, I can honestly say that I was not in any
pain. After 20 minutes, our nurse came back and told me she had called my
midwife, Cathy, to let her know I was here and Cathy said she would come over to
the hospital if we felt that we needed her. I told her she didn't need to come
just yet- we were doing just fine. I told her I would let her know when I felt
any urge to push, and she could call her then!
We continued through our morning rather uneventfully. By this point, my mother-in-law had arrived to give us some support, so in the room were Jim, my mom, my mother-in-law and me. I spent some time in the shower, which helped so much. The warm water was so relaxing, and there didn't seem to be as much pressure in my back when I was in the shower. After about 20 minutes or so, I hopped out and dreaded getting back into the hospital gown. So, I put on my black cami top and tied the gown around my waist. (The gown eventually disappeared altogether I believe). The pressure waves were still very bearable and I spent the next several waves in different positions around the room. At one point, seeing how uncomfortable I was in my back and hips, the nurse suggested I get onto my knees on the bed and lean over the top of it to relieve some of the back pressure. That was the most uncomfortable position I had been in the entire time- it was horrible, so I quickly vowed not to do that again!!
At this point, the nurses changed shifts and our new nurses were also so wonderful! One nurse was younger and new to the hospital, so she was in complete awe of the entire Hypnobabies process. They had read through my birth plan, obviously, from the way they were interacting with me and my family. They were so encouraging and upbeat. Every time they came in, they would tell me how wonderful I was doing and how relaxed I looked. Around this time, I must have expressed some discouragement because the next thing I knew, the nurse was bringing in the birthing ball for me to sit on and lean against the bed. This was great, and it was a good position for me. I stayed there for a while.
Finally, around 1:00 p.m., Cathy showed up to see how things
were going. She checked me and told me I was at 8-9 centimeters, and asked if I
would like her to break my water. We deliberated, and she explained that if she
would have broken my water earlier, the baby would be here by now. She said the
baby was very low and if she breaks the water, it would move things along
faster. However, she also said that she would be willing to wait it out and let
it break on its own- whatever I wanted to do. I weighed my options carefully
because with my first birth, breaking the bag of water was actually what brought
on the most intense pain, and eventually lead to the epidural (at least, in my
mind). However, I was only at 4 centimeters with my first birth, and now, I was
at 8-9. So, logically, I knew even if pain kicked in, I wouldn't have long to
endure. So, I gave her the go-ahead. The water was clear, and things did get
This is the part of my birthing time that I remember the most clearly, even though I was using my hypnosis the most. I could no longer lie down or sit- I had to be standing, and my most comfortable, encouraging position was leaning my forehead against Jim's shoulder, with my arms around his neck, rocking with each wave. As he would feel me tense up, he would whisper, "Go to your special place," and I would picture myself sitting on the beach at sunset with the waves crashing on the shore, holding my baby in my arms. Just imagining that helped so much. Other times, he would just whisper, "Relax," or "Release," and my body would go limp.
Looking back, I am most impressed with Hypnobabies at this point
in the birthing process- after my first birth experience, I expected pain after
the midwife broke my water. Because I was expecting it, it was even more likely
to happen. But, since I continued to use my hypnosis, I never felt the pain I
felt with Olivia's birth. I can only attribute that to Hypnobabies!
After a little while, I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. I knew that this was just the baby, but I really felt like I wanted to sit on the toilet! So, I went into the bathroom and upon the first pressure wave there, I pushed down and felt the stretching of my tissue. As I pushed, I kind of grunted, and just said, "Oh, burning, burning. . .!" It kind of surprised me because I didn't expect to feel that quite yet. My midwife stuck her head in and asked me to come back to the bed and lie down because she wanted to have a good view. (I should interject here that at this point, my midwife knew the baby was going to be big and she was a little concerned about him getting stuck. She never conveyed her fear to me, and it was only after the birth that we found out that she had a surgical nurse join us and special equipment in the room in case anything were to go wrong. Thankfully nothing did!)
-P*** in mentioned in the next 2 paragraphs- hypnomoms, use your
bubble of peace-I made my way back to the bed, and laid down on my back- not the
way I envisioned giving birth, but he was coming, whether I wanted to be in this
position or not. When I got to the bed, I felt like things slowed down. My waves
weren't as intense, and that urge I felt while I was on the toilet kind of
disappeared. I gave a few feeble pushes with the next few waves, but every time
my midwife checked to see where the baby's head was, I could feel myself tense
up. I don't know if it was a mental block about giving birth in the
supine position, or the burning sensation I felt during my first push, but I knew I wasn't doing the pushing stage justice. Until
this point, we had easy first stage and push your baby out playing aloud in the room. But, when things came to this point, I didn't want to hear Kerry's voice any more. I just wanted to do it, so I asked someone to just turn the CD player off.
After about 30 minutes, I could feel his head stretching my perineum, and I knew he was close. This was the point where things became intense and, to be honest, quite painful. I felt as though my pubic bones were separating (which, in all reality, they could have been!). As I felt the burning from his head, my first instinct was to push my legs straight, almost away from the sensation. After a few moments like this, though, my primal urges kicked in, and I was pushing and grunting just like I would imagine a cavewoman doing. I couldn't control the sounds that came out of me. At no time did anyone count or tell me to hold my breath. I wouldn't have been able to if I tried! I could feel his head moving down and out- lots of hair- but I also felt as though I was tearing upward. I verbalized this, and Cathy took a look, and said I wasn't- that it was just the skin stretching. This was the point when I knew it was time to get him completely out, regardless of any pain, pressure or fear. I logically thought in my head, "The only way to make this pain stop is to make it stronger," and I started reciting in my head a refrain from one of my daughter's books (We're Going on a Bear Hunt)- "You can't go under it, you can't go over it, you have to go through it!" As I pushed him out, I could feel every part of his body that came through my birth canal. I knew when one shoulder was out, and I knew when the other shoulder was out. I could feel his barrel chest inside of me, and I thought to myself, "Why are we stopping?!?" Gradually, he slipped out, and Cathy announced to all of us, "It's a boy!" He greeted us by peeing on everyone. As Cathy placed him on my belly, she said, "He's huge," and indeed he was! He arrived on November 1, 2007 at 3:29 p.m., after a slow and steady birthing time.
After the cord stopped pulsing, Jim cut it, and we were able to hold him a little longer and just get a good look at him. We asked not to have drops in his eyes and asked for a longer bonding time than usual, during which time, he peed on us some more! When we finally weighed him, we were all surprised at what he weighed, but I think I was the most shocked- Henry James weighed 9 pounds, 12 ounces and was 21 inches long. I knew he would be bigger than Olivia (she was 8 pounds, 12 ounces), but no where near that big! At that point, I felt myself swell with pride. I had just birthed a baby who is nearly 10 pounds, and it never once occurred to me to ask for drugs! Talk about feeling like Superwoman- I had climbed my very own Mt. Everest!
I feel the need to mention that after he was born, our nurse confided in us that she had never witnessed a completely natural birth, and she kept telling us how beautiful it was. She said we gave her hope. Also, as I spent the next 24 hours at the hospital, the talk of Henry's birth made the way through the floor. As the nurses came in to check on me, they asked if I needed anything for any pain I might be having (which is standard procedure). When I told them I didn't hurt at all, they were shocked. I don't know why- I mean, my goodness, I only had a baby, not surgery. It's not supposed to hurt!