Birth Story – PART 2
August 13, 2010

TO THE HOSPITAL/ ACTIVE LABOR

I’m dressed in my nightgown, robe and flip flops.

We emerge from our hotel room – me, Bob, Mom and Laurie – just as an elderly woman with a cane emerges from her room two doors down. We look at her, she looks at us and says, “Go ahead, I’m slow.” I have no energy to say this out loud, but I think, “You have no idea how slow we’re about to be.”

I’m walking like a prisoner with my ankles chained together. Shuffling down the hallway. Holding my belly. We get to the top of the stairs and I announce: “Contraction.”

I stop. I grab someone’s hand. Bob, Mom and Laurie close in around me. There are hands on my back. I’m breathing and fighting through this one. I just want to make it to the car. I’m aware that we have an audience to my contraction. I ride the wave and as it starts to smooth out, I look at the woman. Her eyes are WIDE. So wide.

She asks,

“Is she having her baby right now?!”

And my mom says,

“Any moment.”

Once we get to the car my mom mentions that that woman will be telling this story all day. And sure enough she was…. as Laurie found out when she went back to the hotel. The woman at the front desk said that the elderly woman was telling everyone about the lady who was having her baby “right there on the stairs.”

If only that were true.

BIRTH ROOM 6

We get to the hospital around 2PM. Melinda won’t be here until about 4PM. So a nurse examines me. And she says that I’m only 2 centimeters dilated and only 80% effaced. So according to her, I went BACKWARDS! More disappointment.

I’m swiftly hooked up to these monitors and told to lie down on MY back in the bed.

This is not a good position for me.

I do not want to lie down on my back.

I can’t control the contractions this way.

They tell me I have to wait until Melinda gets there before I can move or take those monitors off. And then it hits me…. the worst effing contraction yet. And I have no power over it from this lying on my back position.

“I’m gonna puke,”  I say once the contraction passes.

I have no energy to say anything so it’s not a surprise that no one hears me. I say it louder.

“I’m gonna puke. Seriously!”

Laurie is in my face in no time with a puke bag and there I go… vomiting up what little water and food (a bite of peach) into the barf bag. (Yes, labor is messy and gross….I know)

I hate throwing up. Really hate it. I always cry when I throw up. This was no exception. Tears just sit in my eyes as I wonder how the hell I’m going to get through this.

After the vomiting incident, they let me sit on the edge of the bed. Much better. But still. My state of mind has shifted from the MY BODY WAS MADE TO DO THIS positive frame of mind to I DON’T WANT TO FEEL THIS PAIN ANYMORE!

Instead of chanting, “Pain is not real,” I’m thinking, “I never want to do this again!”

“I cannot take this pain a second longer!”

and

“Just get this baby out of me!”

The IV drip

I pee in a cup. They test my pee and before long I’m on an IV fluid drip. I am totally depleted from being up the whole night.

After a while it is determined that the IV isn’t working the way they want. They test my pee again and switch me to a glucose drip. To get me calories. Apparently my body is feeding off of itself. I have nothing to give. And I am in active labor. And only 2 centimeters dilated? How is this going to work?!

Laurie convinces me that when Melinda arrives, we will find that I am further dilated and effaced. And when Melinda does arrive, I cry. From relief. I try to hold it back, but either Bob or Laurie (can’t remember which) reminds me that crying releases Oxytocin which helps with the labor. So I cry.

She examines me and finds that I am indeed (finally) 3 centimeters dilated and 90 something effaced. Good news, indeed. I feel much better.

At this point I’m officially admitted to the hospital.

And I’m already thinking about the epidural.

Pain Management

Around 5PM I start talking about it.

“I’m thinking about an epidural,” I tell everyone. “I just don’t know how much more pain I can take. It’s been so long.”

Melinda suggests that the glucose drip could actually help energize me and I might not want the epidural after that. So I agree to wait to see what the drip does. And I decide to wait in the bath. My mom joins me. At first it feels great to be in the tub again. I fall asleep between contractions and wake up into torture. This is not good. So I get out. Make my way back to the room. And sit on the edge of the bed.

I feel defeated. Laurie asks if I want to try the birth ball again.

No. I just want to sit here on the edge of the bed.

Do I want music?

No.

Do I want to try the toilet again?

No.

I just want to sit on the edge of the bed. Actually… I just want this all to be over.

But I’m here and I’m having contractions and being coached. So there’s nothing to do but this.

I can do this. I breathe and manage to let the pain rush over me. There are times where I am so still. So calm. Eerily. I actually amaze myself with how calm and still I can be while so much craziness is happening on the inside. For example, during the insertion of the IV I remained completely still during a contraction.

Other times I swear. I start to say, “Mother F…” and I stop myself. Until Laurie says, “It’s okay, you can say it.” So I do.

Counter-pressure

Both Laurie and Mom are struggling to give me enough counter pressure in my back and I want Bob up by my face so I can stare into his eyes and squeeze the life out of his hands. They try the tennis ball. But that isn’t enough. They aren’t able to meet my demands of PUSH HARDER! I begin thinking perhaps we should have brought the rolling pin.

But Mom, always using her head, comes up with the perfect solution. By using her head. Literally. Here’s a picture.

Mom uses her head to apply counter-pressure during a contraction

I know, I know. Too much. But it’s one of the only pictures I have of the labor. Had I known anyone had taken that picture at the time I would have smacked them so hard. I actually think it was Bob who took the picture. Which means he must have been on a break. After two weeks it is hard to remember.

THE SAFE WORD

A few weeks before my due date, Laurie had suggested we come up with a code word for labor… this word would be used in the event that I wanted everyone to know that I was serious about not going on without pain management. That I had given everything and truly couldn’t take it anymore.

It would be my version of “uncle.”

Having a word for a moment like this is important because you will say all sorts of things in the middle of a contraction that you don’t necessarily mean. So the “code word” would let everyone know I was serious.

Bob’s response was, “Oh, like a safe word!” And we laughed. And started calling it a safe word. My Labor Safe word was Gorilla.

I think about Gorilla. But I don’t say it yet.

Melinda tells me that she’s going to step out for fifteen minutes and then we are going to have to talk about pain management.

I then say it in my head.

Gorilla. Gorilla. Gorilla.

TO BE CONTINUED… (I have to feed the baby)

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what the heck is a doula?
July 18, 2010

In my last post I mentioned that we have a doula. I got a couple of questions about that such as, “Who’s Doula?” and I thought I should explain.

Firstly, a doula is not a who but a what.

From the DONA International Website:

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

A birth doula…

“…guides and supports women and their partners continuously through labor and birth. The doula is on call for you, arrives at your home or the hospital when you need her, and remains with you continuously, with few or no breaks, until after the baby is born.” – from The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin

So how did we come to hire a doula? Well…

What if I go into labor when Bob is away?

The longer Bob’s San Francisco work gig went on, the more stressed I became about being alone on an island and going into labor. These questions haunted me:

What if Bob doesn’t make it on time?

How do I do this alone?

Who will drive me to the ferry?

What if Bob doesn’t make it on time?

What if my labor starts in the middle of the night? (There are no ferries in the middle of the night.)

How long will I be alone?

What if Bob doesn’t make it on time?

Will I be alone in the hospital waiting for my midwife to arrive from Orcas?

Who will help me through labor?

How will my midwife get from Orcas to the mainland in the middle of the night?

What do I do?!

A Solution

My friend Jenn – who has given me priceless advice, a treasure of hand-me-downs and emotional support – had mentioned that they worked with a doula and how amazing it was to have her. This doula happened to be the nurse that assisted my midwife on her Friday Harbor visits… also the same person that leads the birth classes here in the islands. Her name is Laurie Gallo.

I liked Laurie immediately. Every time I got on the scale she would say, “Perfect.” Every time she took my blood pressure she would say, “Perfect.” Again. And she just had this way about her that made me feel at ease. When Jenn mentioned that she was also an amazing doula I started thinking about the idea of hiring her.

When Melinda, my midwife, told me that I needed to find a way to put my anxieties about Bob missing the birth out of my mind… I thought about Laurie. Melinda said that I just needed to prepare as much as possible and then let it go. I thought that if I had someone I could call in the middle of the night to be with me in labor, then I wouldn’t be as worried about Bob not being there. Of course it would absolutely break my heart for Bob to miss the birth… but if anything would have me stop freaking out about every little pain or Braxton-Hicks contraction, this would be it.

So we decided to meet with Laurie to talk to her about being our doula and what that would entail.

Another Sign From the Universe

Laurie and I exchanged a couple of e-mails to set up our meeting. My e-mail signature has a link to my blogs… both Love in the Time of Foreclosure and Two Years on an Island. I get this e-mail back from Laurie that says,

“So – I had already fallen in love with this couple I’d heard on “The Story” and it turns out to be you both.”

This to me was a sign from the universe. How crazy is that? She heard our story on NPR. I couldn’t help but think this was meant to be. We’d found the perfect person to be our doula. She knows our whole story because she heard us on “The Story” and she ‘gets’ us.

When Laurie arrived for our meeting, she came prepared with quotes from our segment on “The Story.” She had noted things we said that pertained to child birth and/or parenting and demonstrated that we would make great parents. She correlated what we went through to childbirth and told us we were well-equipped. She recalled a story I told about the night before we had to be out of our house when our friend Brian took my tear-streaked glasses off my face and cleaned them for me. That, she said, is what a doula does. (So, Brian… if you ever get tired of Boston Court… you’d apparently make a great doula. Think about it.)

We couldn’t have asked for a better connection. She really did get us. And she created this really open space where we could share our hopes, fears and goals in a totally authentic manner. That meeting sealed it for us. We had found our doula. And my anxieties disappeared.

Of course every day we ask our little boy to please wait until the weekend to make his way into the world. Bob is even more specific. He is constantly telling my belly to wait until July 25th. We’ll see if our son complies. I hope he does. Bob’s leave from work begins this Friday. He’ll be home Friday morning for four weeks. The plan is for him to take two weeks of vacation and to work two weeks remotely. After that? Well… we’re just taking things day by day for now.

Oatmeal bread and fresh strawberries

I couldn’t be more happy to have hired Laurie to be my doula. Here are some things she does that make a difference for me:

-Makes me delicious gluten-free oatmeal bread with chocolate chips and raisins

-Provides me with large mason jars filled with homemade trail mix

-Gives me fresh strawberries from her garden (the best I’ve ever had!)

-Lends me books to help me prepare for the birth

-Lets me know I’m on her mind.

-Challenges me to call her in the middle of the night – for any question or concern.

-Tells me on a regular basis, “Your baby will come out anyway.” (can be applied successfully in response to a number of questions/concerns… such as, “I haven’t been doing yoga.”)

-Assures me that I am more than ready and am totally capable of delivering naturally (my goal.)

-Is knowledgeable, gentle, caring and non-judgmental.

And so much more. Between my midwife and doula, I feel so taken care of. I never thought I would be the “type” to have a midwife and a doula. This place is what opened me up to the possibility. And I’m so grateful. I love my team!

Only 6 more days

As of today, I am six days away from my due date. And (I almost don’t even want to type this) but it seems that nothing is imminent. It looks like he might actually comply with our request to wait until the 25th. But if he does decide to make an early appearance between my mom, Laurie our doula, Melinda our midwife and Virgin America Airlines to fly Bob from San Francisco to Seattle, we have quite the plan.

In the meantime, I’m drinking lots of water, spending quality time with my mom, sleeping as much as possible and getting things ready. Now to finish writing my birth plan…

DONA International – What is a doula?

what a difference a year makes
June 30, 2010

Pablo & I on the Mt. Finlayson trail on SJI - photo by EM Lewis

It’s June 30th.

The day almost went completely by without me realizing the significance. Bob just reminded me.

One year ago today we finished clearing out our house in Silver Lake, closed the door, drove away, handed over the keys, drove towards Chicago with nothing but a blank slate and received the e-mail that would lead us to this house on an island…

That was one year ago today. Twelve months. Just one year!

I just re-read the post that I wrote that morning and I can remember all of it so clearly.

The exhaustion. The feeling of just being ‘done.’ The despair. The OVERWHELM. I was so over it all.

I remember feeling hot, sweaty and smelly. I remember the ache of my feet hurting. (That’s not hard given that my feet ache now for a completely different reason.) The pure exhaustion.

I wrote that I never wanted to have stuff ever again. I took pictures of our stuff out on the curb. I remember feeling like it would never end. Like we’d never be done and the house would never be empty.

But eventually it was. Empty. And the stuff… gone. And we had nothing in front of us but possibility.

On that day one year ago I never would have predicted that in just one year I’d be about ready to have a baby and living in a 1910 farmhouse on San Juan Island.

Isn’t it amazing how much can happen in one year?!

I truly feel blessed.

Reading my post from June 30, 2009 on “Love in the Time of Foreclosure,” what moves me the most is the thought of our friends. How much they helped us… were there for us every step of the way. And how much we’re supported by everyone around us now. Both friends from far away and new friends here on the island. Your support and generosity means everything to us. Thank you!

Last year we said goodbye to a house/ This year we say hello to a baby

Another thing that occurred to me while reading that post…

I wrote about my meltdown on our last night in the house- June 29, 2009. There was a moment where I just sat on the kitchen floor and cried to Bob, “I can’t do it. I can’t. I just can’t!”

As soon as I read that I thought about child birth.

I thought about my impending labor and how there is likely to be a very similar moment.

Me crying to Bob that I can’t do it. I can’t. I just can’t. I’ll likely be exhausted and beyond pain and just done. And I’ll cry to Bob. And he’ll be there to remind me that I can. And then I will. Somehow. But instead of the end result being a blank slate, it will be a baby boy. A new addition to our family.

A year ago today our lives changed forever.

And they are about to REALLY change forever all over again. Just 12 months later.

How do I feel about all of that? Humbled. Grateful. Inspired by life.

Thanks for reminding me, Bob. I guess it’s a good thing that the day almost went by without me remembering. But I’m glad to have the opportunity to acknowledge how far we have come. It’s good to be grateful.

If you’d like to read the post I wrote one year ago today, here it is:

“The Last Night (I Can’t Wait To Have Nothing!)” – Love in the Time of Foreclosure

And if you know anyone who is in the process of losing their house or facing challenging times…. please share this post with them. I believe it helps tremendously to see how much can change in just one year.

Thank you!

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