I am three weeks postpartum and finally finding the mental space (and time) to talk about Adeline's birth story. As many of you know, at around 34 weeks pregnant, I decided to pursue my first ever natural birth. With my first two babies (now 10 and 1.5 years old), I went the traditional epidural route. Those birth experiences were mostly uneventful, which is good I suppose. However, something was telling me I could and should try natural for our last baby. I knew I didn't want to just grin and bear it though. So I researched and ultimately dove in with the Hypnobabies Pain-Free Natural Birth Program.
NOTE: This story gets pretty graphic and a bit of TMI so beware. I'm also going to use "Hypnobabies language" for the remainder of this post in case there are Hypnobabies moms reading this. Also remember, hypnomoms...Bubble of Peace ;) . Non-hypnomoms...it's not as hippie as it sounds ;)
Labor = birth or birthing time
Contractions = birthing or pressure wave
Transition = transformation
Due date = guess date
"Why?" one of my obstetricians asked semi-judgmentally when I told her I'd be going med-free this time. Well, a few reasons. My last epidural experience wasn't great. It felt like it was more on one side than the other. Terrified to admit this to the anesthesiologist (for fear she'd have to move it), I did anyway for bigger fear of something going wrong. I was right...she had to move it. Also, it didn't work up past my hips. You know, where I actually needed it to work. So they laid me back more and it ended up traveling up too far, to the point where I felt like I couldn't breathe. They gave me an oxygen mask temporarily and after about 30 minutes I finally felt better. I've never liked the fact that I can't walk or pee for hours afterward. Also, I have two girlfriends who suffered from leaking spinal fluid due to an epidural and that terrified me enough to look into natural. Lastly, why not? I've grown a lot in the past couple years, have learned to love the concept of mind over matter, and honestly am so competitive with myself that I just wanted to prove I could do it.
I started looking up concepts I'd seen from friends' natural births. I looked up the Bradley method, birth affirmations, birth without fear, hypnobirthing, and eventually found this course called Hypnobabies. Hypnobabies is a course that teaches the philosophy of hypnobirthing in a much more detailed and thorough way. Hypnobirthing is the concept. Hypnobabies is the resource to practice and prepare for your own Hypnobabies birthing. The reason I was drawn to this particular option was because of their concept of a med-free, pain-free birthing experience. Hold on...pain-free? How? Again, totally enthralled with the concept of mind over matter, I became fascinated with Hypnobabies' practice of teaching you to interpret and feel "birthing waves" as pressure, not pain. Through following the course material and practicing daily hypnosis (including fear-clearing sessions), you literally retrain your brain on how to perceive the sensations associated with birthing.
After watching a few testimonials on YouTube and talking to some girlfriends who have done it successfully, at 35 weeks I decided to go for it. They recommend you start it at 20 weeks but it's still possible even if you start later. So I doubled up on days when I could and completed the course in just over four weeks. For my final week of pregnancy, I focused on the maintenance aspect of the course, cleaned and recleaned the house 800 times, and tried not to let my fear or doubt creep in. As my guess date approached, we were getting antsy. At my 40 week appointment (at 39 weeks 6 days), they told me they wouldn't let me go more than 8 days past my guess date. With my parents leaving the country soon (our babysitters!) and the fear of being induced compromising our birth plan, I did a lot of praying and birth ball bouncing. I had been feeling "practice pressure waves" for a couple weeks, already lost my mucous plug, and was 2 cm dilated and 75% effaced at that point.
On July 3rd, my pressure waves were consistent at around 15 minutes apart. They were growing in intensity but still too far apart to do anything about. At 5:00 pm, they began to cluster together at only 2-4 minutes apart out of nowhere. Did I mention that we'd just gotten back from the grocery store and had our entire kitchen island covered with three different meal prep projects at once?! It was a mad dash to finish eating dinner, clean up our mess, oh and pause to figure out if this was "it". After about five of those intense waves back to back, I ran upstairs and took a shower. As they continued, I decided to text my parents to come over. I warned them I wasn't sure if it was truly time because they really weren't painful but I knew that was typical of a Hypnobabies birthing time...and they were coming FAST. I started to pull my toiletries together. Chad told Audrey to wait in our bedroom with me in case I needed something. Breathing through a wave, I told her to tell Daddy to come up and pack his toiletries too. I was pretty sure this was the real deal.
At this point we only had about 15 minutes before Luke's 6:00 bedtime -- yes, he goes to bed at 6:00 pm and sleeps 12 hours, let me know if you want to hear about that in another blog entry! I really wanted to put my baby boy to bed "one last time" as my youngest baby. So Chad gave him a quick bath, my dad arrived to take over, and I sang, "Hush Little Baby" to my sweet Lukey, and put him into bed for the last time as a mama of two. We grabbed our bags, snacks, kissed Audrey goodbye, and headed for the hospital.
It's recommended for the hypnomom to be in hypnosis, headphones on, on the way to the hospital. So Chad called my OBGYN on the way there as I tried to tune him out and stay in hypnosis. It's also recommended that you try to birth from home as long as possible before heading to the hospital. However, with this being my third baby and contractions only a couple minutes apart, we high tailed it there.
As we parked and I got out, a pressure wave came on and I leaned into the car, forearms on the seat, swaying back and forth and breathing through it. They were getting stronger, but I honestly wouldn't call them painful. I was trained to think of it as a blood pressure cuff tightening around my abdomen and that's exactly how it felt. You know the moment right before the BP cuff releases when it's uncomfortable, but not truly painful? That's how it felt and I was proud it was working.
I got checked in, put on my own birthing gown (to feel more like me and less like a "sick patient"), and settled into the hospital bed with my ear buds in. It's the birth partner's job to pass out the Birth Preferences sheet (let me know if you'd like to see a copy of ours) to the nurses and doctors assigned to us. They are also responsible for keeping the environment as peaceful and focused as possible to help mom stay in a deep state of hypnosis during her birthing waves. He did a great job, got me everything I needed, dimmed the lights, and sat by my side.
When they checked me around 6:30 pm, I was 5 cm. Halfway there! The waves were becoming longer, with shorter breaks in between. This made it slightly more difficult to come out of "deep hypnosis" and into "eyes-open hypnosis" in between birthing waves to talk to Chad, answer questions, etc. At around 7:30 pm, I needed to breathe through my birthing waves a bit more. By 8:00 pm, I felt the need to make an audible sound with each exhale, visualizing that I was releasing the pressure. Knowing I had a break in between each wave was helping get me through, until the breaks nearly stopped.
Around 8:15 pm I asked to be checked again as they were so much closer and more intense. Surely I had to be much closer. Annabelle, our amazing delivery nurse, checked me and I was at 6.5 cm. Well that's good progress, I thought, but isn't it supposed to be so much more intense between 7 - 10 cm? That thought worried me and there entered a little bit of fear.
Oxytocin is the hormone released to begin progress birth. In fact, Pitocin (often given to induce labor) is a synthetic form of Oxytocin. Fear releases adrenaline in our bodies and is a natural anti-hormone of Oxytocin. Adrenaline can slow down birthing progress and transition the brain back to thinking of the experience as painful and fearful, rather than just pressure.
At the same time, things were changing significantly. Each wave was stronger and I couldn't find a comfortable position anymore. Standing wasn't an option because it took away from my focus during each wave. Laying on my side felt like the only option. I felt slightly more in control if I gripped the side rails of the hospital bed during my waves, but realized that was counter-intuitive to how relaxed I was supposed to be in hypnosis. But it helped, so I did it. That tensing up during each wave, rather than concentrating on relaxing didn't help my overall cause. All of a sudden, each wave wasn't getting gradually stronger; it was getting remarkably stronger. By 8:30, I felt my water break. I'd never felt my water break before. For that reason, I was oddly looking forward to that aspect of natural childbirth. I'd only ever gone into my birthing time by experiencing waves, getting an epidural, and having my water break around 8 cm while I couldn't feel it. It felt just as I'd imagined and gave me a HUGE boost of confidence and excitement that I was getting closer.
However, like I said, each wave was exponentially stronger than the other. At this point, as much as I hate to say it, my waves were officially painful.
This is when (sorry for the language), I went batshit crazy.
Annabelle came in to check me again as she heard my "audible exhales" turn into...well...shrieking.
Annabelle:"You're about 7 cm."
Carrie: "WHAT? Only 7 cm? I can't do this for another 3 cm. I'm crying uncle. I need something. If it's this painful now, what will centimeters 8-10 feel like?!"
As you can tell, I was knocked out of hypnosis at this point. I think it was partly due to clenching onto the bed rails instead of relaxing. I'm going to say that 90% of it was how quickly everything happened. Each wave wasn't a little stronger one by one. It went from, "Ok I can totally handle this. It's tightening. It's pressure," to completely unbearable in a single contraction. There was no gradual build up between contractions to help me build up a tolerance. Why was that? Read on...
8:49 pm (still checking me)
Annabelle: "Come on, didn't you say you wanted to do this naturally?"
Carrie: "Yes but I'm not in hypnosis anymore and I can't calm down enough to get back into it."
Annabelle: "Well, you are 7 cm...well...wait. Now you are about 8. No, 8 and a half."
Carrie: "What? How is that possible?"
Annabelle: "She's pushing her head down and just dilated you to a 9. Now 9 and a half. Are you ready to have this baby?"
Carrie: "Now?! Already? I was only 7 cm a minute ago!"
Annabelle: "Yep, you're 10 now, let's go. There's no time for meds anyway. You're having this baby naturally like you wanted."
The doctors switched over at 9 pm and my doctor, last hearing that I was at 7 cm, had changed into her regular clothes and was about to pass the baton to the 9 pm doctor. Nurses started shouting out of our delivery room for her to get ready to deliver right away. Ok, really I was yelling at everyone that I was going to have this baby RIGHT NOW so someone damn well better catch her!
Seriously, though. Have you ever heard of Fetal Ejection Reflex? Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. I'd never heard of or felt it before studying natural childbirth. It's when your body will physically push out your baby for you. You're not actively choosing to push or bear down at all. It's your body's way of getting the baby out, regardless of the mother's physical condition, awareness, state, or ability to consciously push. The nurses told me to wait, the doctor was on her way.
"I'm not pushing on purpose! This baby is pushing her way out. I FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO POOOOOP!" I screamed.
I had no control over it. I was half on my back and half on my side. The doctor ran in, wearing a cotton dress, scrub pants pulled up underneath, her surgical garb on over top of everything, gloves on, and we started officially pushing.
A nurse grabbed one knee and Chad grabbed the other (something I had zero awareness of until he told me a couple days later). I was so "in the zone" and inside myself at this point that I had very little awareness over what was going on outside of me. I officially started pushing through a wave (that I could actually feel this time)! Knowing I could actively push through the pain helped so much. The first couple pushes, I could feel her head start to crown. It was such a weird sensation. Not painful per se, just....stretchy.
I took a short break between waves (less than 1 minute) and was so afraid of "the ring of fire" that I decided I would push her whole head out in these next couple pushes, in this pressure wave. About three pushes through this wave and her head slid out. This was by far the "hardest" stage of pushing. Ya know...because I was pushing out a human head. I felt instant relief as her head was out. Chad later told me that the doctor asked me to stop pushing (I didn't hear that) as she had to unwrap the cord from Adeline's neck. Fortunately, as I felt her head slip out and that pressure wave wane momentarily, I stopped pushing anyway.
This was it. I remembered with my last two that I got the rest of the body out with one additional pressure wave. Once their shoulders are out, they sort of slide out like a log flume anyway. Pardon the analogy :) . As the next pressure wave came on, I began pushing while the doctor pushed down on the bottom of me to help "make way" for Adeline's debut. About three pushes through this final pressure wave and she slid out and into the doctor's hands.
Adeline Grace Jordan, 7 pounds, 20.25" long was born on her "guess date", July 3rd.
"Length of Labor" was marked officially at 9 minutes long.
Again, I really believe this is why I was knocked out of hypnosis and unable to get back in to find comfort. I went from 6.5 cm to 10 cm and completely delivering my baby in NINE MINUTES. The upheaval my body must have had to go through to progress that quickly explains it. I truly believe in the Hypnobabies process and effectiveness. I think our rapid birthing time toward the end was an exception that I could not have predicted or prepared for, no matter how incredible the program.
So now you're thinking the birth story is over, right? Oh how I wish that were true. As you know, the delivery of the placenta is the third phase of birth. It's usually completely uneventful and largely unnoticed by the new mom, doting on her sweet baby laying on her chest. With my first two, I was barely a participant in delivering the placenta and didn't even really know it was happening. No issues whatsoever.
Five minutes passed with no progress of the placenta detaching. Then ten minutes. I asked how long it usually takes. The doctor answered, "Usually 5 - 15 minutes." She didn't seem too worried so I just soaked up my sweet, slimy baby lying on my chest. The doctor began massaging my tummy, not with a nice flat palm, but with the tips of her fingers pushed together. THAT was painful. I was obviously still out of hypnosis with no indication that I would need to get back into it so I just powered through, focused on Adeline, and assumed my placenta would be out any minute.
They decided to administer Pitocin to help bring on more waves and convince the placenta to detach and be delivered. Five more minutes passed, no progress.
Carrie: "What happens if it doesn't come out on its own?"
Doctor: "Well, I can manually remove it. But I'm really not supposed to do that. It must be attached to a muscle or something."
10 minutes later, 25 minutes total (of continual abdomen "massaging")...
Doctor: "I can't leave it in there much longer. Thirty minutes is usually the maximum we're comfortable leaving it in there before we have to retrieve it manually."
I subconsciously asked myself how she'd manually retrieve it but fearing I knew the answer, I didn't ask.
She allowed it to go to 40 minutes after Adeline was born until she told me she had to get it out so we didn't risk infection. Ironically, manually removing it also introduces the risk of infection. Regardless, it does have to come out.
She asked me to push a few times. Nothing.
Over the course of the next 15 minutes, the doctor reached in, practically up to her forearm, and attempted to manually detach my placenta. Completely unmedicated. It felt like I imagine a personified pumpkin would feel as it's getting the seeds scraped out.
She attempted to do it in only "five second" increments, to make it more manageable for me to accept each time she had to "go back in". Her five second counts were not to scale. She said she got most of it but still felt some in there. At this point I was begging for drugs. Anything. This was far and away, infinitely more painful than the actual childbirth experience was.
Believe it or not, I am sparing the details of this horrific experience. Adeline remained on my chest the whole time. Nurses offered to take her so I could "focus". Focus on what? The forearm up my vagina? No, thank you. She was helping me NOT focus on it. My only regret is the screaming and writhing around I was doing with her on my chest.
The doctor took a couple minute break while they gave me morphine for the final bit. As they predicted, it barely "took the edge off" but that was better than nothing. One final five second (truly 30 second) extraction and the doctor said she got it all. I was completely unconvinced. Considering I was literally screaming and begging her to stop that whole time, I'm sure she just wanted it to be over too. There wasn't a single nurse in the following two days who didn't offer their sympathy for what I had to go through there at the end. Apparently the story of my craziness spread quickly.
I lost a lot of blood during that last episode and was marked high risk due to postpartum hemorrhaging. The day we got home from the hospital, we turned right back around and went to the ER as I experienced shortness of breath, which is apparently a big deal postpartum. It turns out I was quite anemic, only one "point" away from needing a blood transfusion. I was put on an iron supplement and sent home within a few hours thankfully.
Two weeks later, I began hemorrhaging, passing baseball sized clots, resulting in a call to 911, an ambulance ride to the ER, and an internal ultrasound. They discovered that there was still some retained placenta in there after all. The doctor really can't be blamed. Some amount of retained placenta isn't uncommon. Especially with my unmedicated thrashing, it was probably easier on everyone for her to just call it at that point. I had been feeling symptoms of heaviness and pressure down there in my two weeks postpartum to the point that I was afraid I had organ prolapse. After I passed that remaining placenta and clotting, those symptoms disappeared immediately.
Believe it or not, Adeline and I had a beautifully healthy and normal pregnancy and birthing experience. Four months of daily vomiting, nine minutes of difficult time during our birthing, about 20 excruciating minutes of placenta drama, and two ER visits...
I'd say that was all worth it for our final little miracle baby.