Sunday, June 7, 2015

Kai's Birth Story

I knew two things with certainty about my pregnancy going into it - my family has big babies and my family has late babies. So when my due date of March 7th came and went, I wasn't bothered. I continued to get out and go to Open Gym and Playgroup with Feven, get groceries, go on a small bike ride, etc. A week passed and I still was calm and collected knowing that my mom was 3 weeks late with me and about 2 weeks late with my brother and sister.

But something happened on Day 8 overdue. I started to freak out.

My dream was to deliver at the Minnesota Birth Center, but they deal in low-risk pregnancies and would only allow you to deliver there if you were between 37 weeks and 42 weeks. I felt the clock ticking and with no signs of labor yet, I started to worry.

Luckily Day 8 past my due date happened to be a Sunday, and I felt the love of my church family as friends in the church came up to me offering support in the form of a listening ear, a good piece of advice, and the promise to pray. After being immersed in my church family that morning, I felt calmer again. This baby would eventually make his way into the world, and hopefully in time to be delivered at the MN Birth Center!

I had a check-up the following day on Monday the 16th at the Birth Center. I was going in every few days after my due date to keep tabs on the baby and make sure he was still healthy in there. He always tested very active and healthy, and on the graph they could also see that I was contracting frequently and at regular intervals. I had been having practice contractions for weeks, and while I could feel my stomach tighten during the practice contractions, they never hurt. At this appointment they also swept my membranes, which can induce labor in some women. Unfortunately, nothing happened that day, and I went home and kept going about my business, taking swigs of pineapple juice from time to time in case that method of induction worked too. :)

I awoke Tuesday morning at 4:30 in a fog and feeling uncomfortable. After waking up a bit more I realized I was having some intense cramping. At regular intervals! This baby was going to come! I was going to have a baby by noon! (Or so I thought). I couldn't fall back asleep, probably because of the excitement I felt and also because of the cramping, so I went into our family room to work through the cramps/contractions. 

They stopped by 6am.

Bummer. Maybe I wouldn't have my baby by noon. 

Zac found me in the kitchen when he woke up for the day. With excited eyes he asked what I was doing up already. I explained what had been going on and he decided to work from home that day just in case things picked up again.

The day went on like any other day, and around 2:30pm Feven and I went on a walk to the neighborhood pond. She rode her pink scooter and I carried a bag of bread for the ducks and some snacks for her and I to share. I began timing my practice contractions because they felt more frequent than usual. They were so tight sometimes that I would have to slow down my walking for a time until they passed and then resume my normal speed. I told Feven what was going on, and she noticed when I slowed and would look up at me and casually ask, "Contraction, Mom?"

We had a great time at the pond and took our time looking at the wildlife, poking the leftover ice chunks in the pond with sticks we found, and feeding the ducks. We sat down on a bench by the shore and ate our snacks together. I treasured that sunny, spring afternoon with her. My Feven and I.

My practice contractions continued, and I texted our doula to let her know. As I was preparing supper that evening I had to stop what I was doing when they came and pause through them, then resume my normal activity. Things were ramping up and not screeching to a halt like they had in the morning. Maybe my baby would come by midnight!

I figured this might be my last day pregnant, and I was bummed because I still hadn't gotten to take any "official" maternity pictures. So after supper we decided to take some pictures in between contractions. I'm so glad we sneaked them in before we had our son! Feven chose her most special dress for the occasion too. I love how they turned out!

After our impromptu photo session, I called my sister to let her know things were happening and that she should come stay the night at my house. As we put Feven to bed we told her Lindsey would be there overnight and we might be heading to the Birth Center to have our baby.

I soon put in a call to the Birth Center to notify the Nurse Midwife on call that I was in labor. I was pretty anxious about this part because I wasn't sure who I would get. There were two midwives in particular that I hoped would be on call when it was time for me to have my baby. They had seen me for most of my appointments throughout the pregnancy and I felt very comfortable with both of them. Zac and I were praying that one of them would be the one on call when it came time to deliver my baby. 

After the phone rang a few times, the Nurse Midwife on call picked up and I heard the voice of one of my favorites, Mary-Signe. I was so relieved and joyful! She encouraged me to take a hot shower and call our doula to come to the house. She said to call again once the doula was there. I could hear her children in the background - she was in the process of putting them to bed when I called.

At this point, I didn't want to take a shower at all. The contractions were getting more intense and it felt best to be on my knees with my elbows on my bed, rocking as each one came and went. But I am a rule follower, so I went and took a shower. It sucked. I couldn't use the comfort measures that were working for me when I was standing in the shower! My shower was short-lived and I stayed in just long enough to say I tried it.

An interesting thing to note here that Zac pointed out to me is that my labor started in the early morning that day but stopped by the time Feven woke up, and it ramped up again as she was going to bed. It was as if my body paused labor so that I could care for her during the day. I feel so strongly connected to her, and I do believe that my body was most relaxed when I knew she was tucked in and asleep for the night.

Another interesting thing I noticed was that my contractions had been somewhat irregular prior to calling the Birth Center, but once I heard Mary-Signe's voice, they became regular and three minutes apart. It seemed my body relaxed into labor when I knew I was comfortable with the caregiver who would be attending me. There is a definite connection between the mind and body!

Our doula and my sister arrived at about 8:30 as I was finishing my shower. I came out to the living room to greet them and assumed my comfortable position kneeling and resting my elbows on a chair. We conversed in between contractions, but during the contractions it felt best to close my eyes, rock, and have it quiet.

We called the Birth Center again and Mary-Signe spoke with our doula, Tara. Then Mary-Signe asked to speak with me. It just so happened that it was during a contraction and all that came out was a faint "hello," too faint for her to hear. Zac put the phone up to his ear and said, "Yeah, talking to Amber is not going to happen right now." Mary-Signe then told us to come in.

We gathered our things and loaded up into two cars - Tara in hers and Zac and I in ours. I was not thrilled about the drive in to Minneapolis. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the Birth Center from our home, which I calculated would be about 6-7 contractions to get through in the car. Supposedly combs can help during a contraction if you hold them and squeeze them in your hands. Unfortunately, our doula didn't have her two combs with her like she usually does, so we grabbed the comb from Feven's hair care box and I squeezed that on the way to the Birth Center.

My eyes were closed most of the time while I labored in the back seat of the car, but the times they were open I caught glimpses of the Minneapolis skyline at night. It was beautiful.

We arrived at the Birth Center about 10:15pm. The Birth Center is in a beautifully-renovated older home in Minneapolis. We parked in the back driveway in the alley, and Mary-Signe met us at the back door. I wanted to smile at her, but I think I cringed and paused as another contraction came on.

We made our way up the steps and she let me know that nobody was currently laboring there, so I had my choice of the two birth suites. I had to have my blood drawn (one of the things I hate most in life) during my pregnancy, and that blood draw happened to have been in the Birthing Suite 1, so I happily chose Birthing Suite 2 to put that blood draw out of my mind. AND Birthing Suite 2 was the closest suite to me at the time and I sensed that another contraction was coming!

I went in, quickly removed my shoes, and knelt beside the couch. I placed my elbows on the couch and rode through another contraction.

I stayed there for a time until the IV was ready. I had to have an IV during labor (not my favorite thing) but I was thankful I was just getting the IV at that moment, and not sooner. If my water broke earlier that day, I would have had to go into the Birth Center and get the IV started right away. My sister-in-law told me during my third trimester about how eating dates could help the bag of waters to stay in-tact longer, so I faithfully ate my dates everyday during the last trimester. Thank God for those dates!

I laid on the bed and Mary-Signe tried to put the IV in. I say tried because even though my eyes were looking elsewhere, I could tell by how long it was taking that it was not going well. This was a first for me because I have "great" veins for blood draws. They are visible, huge, and nobody has ever had a problem. Until I was in labor. For some reason, my laboring self was baffled by this and I remarked, "But I have good veins!" It was what I was clinging to. However, that statement, "I have good veins" I learned later came out sounding like, "I have good veins, so the problem must clearly be on YOUR end." Mary-Signe in her tact and grace offered to get someone else to try. In the moment her offer didn't make sense to me and I thought, "Of course not! You can do this and I am comfortable with you" but knowing that my statement came out as accusatory I can understand now why she offered to have someone else do it!

She got the needle in and the IV hooked up, and I laid on my left side for 20 minutes while the meds dripped in. That was one of the hardest parts of labor because I wasn't able to move much during the contractions. What helped was throwing my across Zac as he rubbed my back or my head as each contraction came and went. Just knowing he was right there was comforting and helped.

Finally the IV was done and I was so relieved. It was time for me to get into the warm tub, a good reward! Now, let me say here that I wasn't married to the idea of a water birth, but I thought I'd give it a try. It couldn't hurt, right? If I didn't like it, I could just get out.

As it turned out, the huge, warm tub felt so good! I assumed a similar position to what had been working for me to get through the contractions before, and I just kind of hung over the side of the tub. Mary-Signe even got a pillow for me to rest my arms on, so it was quite comfortable! Zac and Tara were a great support team, offering me alternating drinks of water and gatorade. Zac even got some of my favorite music playing. However, I was really in the zone, so I don't remember listening to much of it, I can just name a few of the artists I recall hearing while going in and out of the fog.

The contractions were pretty intense, so I decided to try the nitrous oxide gas that the Birth Center had just begun offering. I had to sign a waiver and I scribbled just enough marks on the paper to pass as my name and they got the machine hooked up. I breathed into the mask in between contractions, as it was too hard for me to do it during contractions. As I felt a contraction coming on, I would reach the mask out and a hand would come forward to grab it while I worked through the contraction. After the contraction passed, I'd reach my hand out and the mask would be placed in my hand again. I think it was my doula managing the mask, but I don't remember! I just know it was always there. I later learned that for my body, the nitrous oxide was not effective during that time. When I used it after delivery, I really got to LaLa Land, so I think I labored without really feeling the effects of the nitrous oxide. However, it was nice to have something else to concentrate on, and using it fell into a nice rhythm which I think was really helpful.

After an hour and a half laboring in the tub, I needed to get out. They have a practice at the Birth Center to have women labor in tub for only 90 minutes at a time, after which they like the women to get out, change positions, and move around to help keep labor going. They also refill the tub at that time with warm water again.

I was not thrilled about getting out of the tub. I felt comfortable and safe in there, and so warm and cozy! I stepped out with assistance and begun shivering immediately. My midwife suggested I try to use the bathroom, so I went into the small bathroom in the room. She also encouraged me to try and push while on the toilet, but in my head I was thinking, "There's no way I'm going to push here! What if I push my baby out into the toilet?!?!" The bathroom felt so small and the lighting felt too bright compared to the dim lighting in the rest of the room. The time in the bathroom was a time I felt very vulnerable during labor. The small bathroom was filled with people - me on the toilet, my midwife squatting in front of me with her back against the bathroom wall, Zac beside me wedged between the toilet and the sink, our doula near the door, and a nurse and nurse in training in the doorway. Through the fog of labor I realized I didn't like how I was feeling and I needed approximately half of the people to leave the room for me to feel more comfortable. I scrutinized each person in the room.

The midwife...hmmmm...probably pretty important. She should stay.
Zac...yep, he should definitely stay.
The doula....well...she's important but maybe not as critical as Zac and the midwife. She could go if I needed her to.
The nurse...well I already have the midwife there to address any medical concerns...she could go.
The nurse in training...well if the nurse is gone, the nurse in training can go too.

So I politely asked the doula, nurse, and nurse in training to leave.

However, I was told later by my dear husband that my request didn't come out as politely as I had envisioned. It came out more like a pointing motion and "You, you, and you," then a shooing motion accompanied by "get out." Whoops. :)

My midwife encouraged me to stand in the bathroom and labor standing for awhile to see if that helped the baby move down. I wrapped my arms around Zac's neck and tried to push standing up. It didn't feel very effective or comfortable, but I tried anyway.

Finally the tub was ready for me to get back in - thank goodness! I happily got back in. Zac sat on the edge of the tub this time with his legs in the water. I used his knees as a support and began pushing.
And then my body figured out how to push and I began PUSHING. It dawned on me as I looked around the room that I was the only one there who could get this baby out, so I began giving it my all. All of a sudden his head was out. I won't go into detail, but just state that it's a super strange feeling to have a baby head sticking out of your body. I didn't care for it much, so I gave pushing my everything and three pushes later the rest of him came out.

They placed him in my arms, and I remember holding him against my chest, his little butt in one hand and I rubbed his back with my other hand. He was crying BIG cries, and I tried to soothe him and it was all so absolutely surreal. I kept saying over and over again, "He's out! He really came out!" And like that my labor was over. It was crazy.

We waited for the cord to stop pulsing, then Mary-Signe asked if either of us wanted to cut the cord. No thank you. I think we actually both averted our eyes when she did that! Afterward, Mary-Signe remarked to the nurse something about the cord and they studied it. I asked about it later, and learned that he had a knot in his cord, but also an unusually thick layer of jelly-like material in the cord. I don't know the technical term, but the jelly-like material helps protect the cord from a variety of things, including knots. Because that layer was so thick, our baby continued getting the oxygen and nutrition he needed while in the womb. I'm so thankful.

I passed him to Zac who was now out of the tub, and I made my way to the bed to deliver the placenta. Mary-Signe told me to push and I looked at her thinking, "You've gotta be kidding me. I just birthed a baby and I think my work here is done." However, rule-follower that I am, I mustered up some energy and delivered the placenta no problem.

I did tear a bit during the delivery and had to get stitched up after that. It was painful to be stitched up, far more painful than the labor itself, and I squeezed Zac's hand to help with the pain. He told me later that that time was one of the hardest for him, to see me in so much pain. At one point they placed my new baby on my chest again and that was a nice distraction. I also used nitrous oxide during the stitching and that's when I really got to LaLa Land and felt the effects of it.

Soon it was over and we could just BE. All the work was done, now it was just time to be a family. We shared with the staff that his name was Kairus, or Kai for short. We watched Kai open his big eyes to take in the world around him, then doze off when it became overwhelming. We watched him eat for the first time, such a miracle to witness the things that are just instinctual. We looked him over, held his tiny hands and rubbed his back and his feet. We had a son. Wow, what a gift.

After an hour or more they took Kai's measurements. We were all surprised when Mary-Signe announced that he was 10 pounds! I mean, he looked big, but TEN POUNDS?!? Wow! They lamented that they hadn't weighed him sooner after birth because he may have weighed in even higher! (He went to the bathroom a few times between being born and being weighed.)

They took his feet to an ink pad to make his birth certificate, but his feet were so big that they had to redo the birth certificate at least once, maybe twice, I can't remember. His feet didn't fit on the ink pad and they had trouble fitting his footprint onto the space on the birth certificate! Our gigantic baby...

The birth center has a tradition of making fresh bread for the mama after a baby is born, so I was treated to warm, homemade bread with butter then. It was delicious, but I was so distracted by my new son that I didn't eat much of it!

Around 5am our doula Tara took her leave. Zac was totally zonked out sleeping at this point and we debated about waking him to say goodbye but decided against it. I was still running on adrenaline and not tired in the least. I was still in disbelief that our son Kai was really here.

I called my sister around 5am to let her know that Kai was born and she should bring Feven to the birth center at 6:15. The birth center happened to be on the way to my sister's house from mine and she had to be home by 7 to resume her mama duties. It worked out beautifully.

The staff got an herbal bath ready for me, and Kai and I went into the warm tub together again. The herbal bath felt so good and smelled so good. I loved that bath. I could have stayed in there forever, but I noticed it was approaching the time Feven would arrive and I wanted to be ready for her. I got out and got Kai and I dressed. It was so special to dress him for the first time. So many firsts.

Soon my sister arrived with Feven. My sister was so thoughtful - she sent Feven in by herself first to allow us those special moments as a family. Kai was laying on the bed, me sitting beside him, and Feven came over and just started smiling. She couldn't believe that was really our baby! She loved him so much from the moment she knew about him in the womb, and her love continued to pour out when she met him face-to-face. Even now, her love for him overflows and I can tell he senses it. He always smiles when she walks into the room or he hears her voice.

She sat on the bed beside him and touched him and took it all in. It was so special. We snapped a few pictures of the two of them together, including this one of her holding him for the first time.

About 7am we were ready to leave, but my heart was racing whenever I stood up. I had forgotten to eat throughout labor and after (except for some bites of bread) and I didn't do a fantastic job of drinking fluids either. We decided to start there, so I ate the rest of my bread as well as some dried fruit and nuts. I downed a whole gatorade and laid low while the food nourished my body. The nurse kept monitoring me and about 8am we felt ready to leave.

It was the strangest feeling to leave the birth center at 8am with our new baby. It was a Wednesday morning and rush hour in the city. Everyone was driving to work, but we were driving home with our new son. Our whole world had changed overnight and I felt like rolling down the windows and shouting, "Look what's in our back seat! A new BABY!" For everyone else it was just another workday. For us, we were embarking on the next chapter of our lives.

It was such an honor for me to get to experience pregnancy, labor and delivery. I loved it. There were some hard days being pregnant, but I knew on those hard days that the symptoms I was feeling were signs that the baby was okay. Labor wasn't fun all the time, but it was so very doable. I had excellent training ahead of time too through Blooma which empowered me to rock my labor! Our bodies are made to do this, we don't have to fear it. Labor is NOT like the movies where a woman suddenly goes into labor and is screaming constantly! My labor involved a special walk with my daughter, cooking my family supper, a nice soak in the tub, low lights, and just waiting for my body to be ready to birth Kai. It was manageable, beautiful and empowering. This whole process has given me a deep appreciation for my body and what it is capable of, and a deeper appreciation for the way God designed us. So many small things happen during pregnancy, labor, and delivery all for very specific reasons for the benefit of the mother and baby. Birth is not something to be feared, but rather something sacred. I count myself very lucky to have gotten to experience it.