Owning a personal chef service/catering company (www.Dining-Details.com), I didn't get much downtime leading up to my due date. December is our busiest month of the year, and December 2008 was no exception. Johnny was due on the 26th, and I hoped he wouldn't come until after Christmas, just so we could get through the busy season. I had told myself I wouldn't work after Thanksgiving, but although I took it easier and easier, more due to my physical limitations than anything, I still worked several parties a week, cooking, serving, coordinating, and on and on. I was on my feet non-stop!
Robbie and I got home about 10:30- he went out to unpack the van with our other chef, I headed straight upstairs to change into some sweats. As I took off my jeans next to my dresser, and WHOOOSH!!!! My water came gushing out into a huge puddle on the floor. All systems firing, I grabbed my robe and ran down the stairs, dripping water the whole way. "Robbie!!!" I yelled out the front door... no answer. "ROBBIE!!!" No answer. Still dribbling water down the walkway, I rounded the corner and yelled "Robbie!!! My water broke!" Freshly popped beer in hand, his eyes got as wide as saucers. He actually said "Are you sure!?" Duh.
Well, we went into action! We had 3 more parties scheduled that weekend, so I got to emailing the staff, coordinating schedules and delegating duties. After that, I got my bag packed, as I had barely gotten my things together, thrown haphazardly into the bassinet for storage. I really didn't think this would come so soon!
We tried to relax. Right. We tried to sleep. Not happening. I listened to my ipod HypnoBirthing cd over and over and over. The hours flew by- suddenly it was 2 in the morning, 3 in the morning. We were monitoring contractions on Robbies iphone- of course.... "there's an AP for THAT!" Well, sure enough they were evenly spaced out in the time that we had been instructed to count to. We contacted the doula, Connie Merritt, and decided to head to the hospital- which is just 2 exits away.
It cracks me up now to think about it... I really thought I was in true labor when we went to the hospital! The nurses treated me very casually and said I would probably be sent home. I tried telling them that I was actually just very calm because of the hypnosis. As I look back, the "labor pains" were nothing more than mediocre period cramps. How could I have thought THAT was labor?! We stayed 2 hours, got monitored, walked around, slept a little. They sent me home. I texted my acupuncurist on the way home.
We got home and slept an hour. I woke up to my acupuncurist ringing the doorbell at 7 am, ready to get the labor pains on! She gave me a treatment, and sure enough, they got stronger. It was about 9 or 10 when Connie came over (we had called her about 3 times in the night- she was so patient with us, she was an angel!)
For several hours we went through first stages of labor- we walked outside, we hung out in the nursery, in my room, on the ball- its all a bit hazy now. I think we headed to the hospital around noon- I could be wrong. I was admitted right away.
In a nutshell, I listened to my ipod from the time my water broke to the time my babe was born. I labored another 7-8 hours in the hospital, listening all the time. I spent a lot of time on my knees, and a lot of time on the ball in the shower. I just remember it hurting a lot more than I could have imagined... and although I remained calm with the hypnosis, I definitely was not experiencing a pain-free labor. I think the biggest thing going against us was the exhaustion. Having worked a full 16 hour day the day before, and barely slept more than an hour or two, and going into a 20 hour labor... we were beyond exhausted. By late afternoon, my coping ability was dwindling.
I have to say, the only thing that got me through that long of a labor without drugs was the belief that I was "almost there." I had written a very clear birth plan, which I must say was followed to the T by the Scripps Encinitas staff, and so I was monitored once in a while, but the monitors did not stay on me long throughout labor. I was never given a vaginal exam, so I had no idea how much I was dilated. That was my saving grace. I just kept thinking... I MUST be close to 10! Finally at 5 pm I was talking about epidurals. I remember sitting in the shower, moaning, crying, trying to remind myself that I was more scared of epidural than no epidural. The pain was all in my back- it was unbearable. I just kept thinking that the epidural would be worse for my back and that the pain of labor would soon be over. My husband, also exhausted, supported me the whole time, reminding me constantly of my commitment to do it naturally.
Finally we agreed that the nurse should call Dr. Biter. I was ready for my exam- if I wasn't close, I was going to buckle. After the exam, I threw up all over the bed. I mean all OVER! Dr. Biter said that was great- I was at 7, and would progress very quickly after that. I went from 7-10 in an hour... a very very painful hour. (Sorry, Carol, I know that word wasn't supposed to be in my vocabulary!) Dr. Biter also told me that if he thought drugs would be better for me, he would let me go that route... but he felt that I had gotten this far-I could do it! He was super supportive of me continuing with what I had set out to do.
Another hour of pushing. Hard, crying, screaming, purple pushing. Pushing on my knees. Pushing on my side with one leg up and one leg pushing against the doctor. Pushing on the squat bar. Pushing back on my knees again. Me crying "he's not coming out!" and then whispering "Please! Johnny!! Please come out to me!" Dr. Biter reminded me... they always eventually come out.
Apparently my birth was hard. Connie and Dr. Biter both admitted later that it was indeed a dramatic labor. I wasn't built with birthing hips... my tiny little pelvis made for a bit of an obstacle course for little Johny to maneuver through. He kept getting stuck. My labor pain was almost entirely in my back. I kept trying to breathe through the "sensation" but instead ended up yelling "my back my back my back!" It was some seriously intense pressure, that sensation!!!He did finally come out as I was on my knees. Robbie caught him, and passed him through my legs to me. He was so slippery I was scared I would drop him. I looked at him, and he was exactly what I had dreamed of- I recognized him immediately. I cried and hugged him and said "We did it! We did it!!!"
One thing I can say is Thank God for perenial massage. Johnny did finally come out (there is a lot more drama I could get into describing that last hour, but I will spare you more details) without any tears or cutting. I attribute that to my speedy recovery. My body bounced back literally in a day.
What made me choose HypnoBirthing? I had met Jennifer Lindeman, another practitioner, years ago, and was intrigued by the thought of it. I have always been a person to think outside the box- rather than just go along with the status quo. I question things, and investigate alternative options... especially if it means something the "harder" way... I have never been one to take the short cut. I did go through a period between being interested and being committed to HypnoBirthing, in which I joked around that I would be walking in backward to get my epidural. When the baby was actually kicking inside me, another instinct set forth... the instinct to research pros and cons of epidurals and hypnobirthing. I googled and googled. I was looking mostly for horror stories of HypnoBirthing. All I found were horror stories of epidurals. I honestly couldn't find a single negative experience online about HynoBirthing. The more I researched side effects and effects on baby, I became more frightened of the epidural than of labor pain. The decision to go through with the HypnoBirthing didn't take much- it was more instinctual and characteristic of me than not to do something alternative and holistic. What I learned through hypnobirthing was more than how to relax during labor; I was completely empowered to make decisions on my own and my baby's behalf, since I understood what to expect, what to decline, and what to be wary of. Birthing is complicated... though most people>seem to approach it with a lot less investigation or question. Regardless of whether I had actually gone through with the natural birth after all was said and done, I still would have felt better knowing what I knew, being empowered and educated, and getting as far as I physically could on my own. It would not have been failure to give into the "help"- I would have still been better off than having never learned and practiced HypnoBirthing. The breathing and the relaxation meditation did work for me. I practiced it a lot leading up to labor, just by listening to my ipod each night. At one point, probably at about hour 15, I had my blood taken. I had my head slumped in Robbie's lap as I breathed through the draw. I heard the nurse, as though in a dream, say something about never having seen someone so relaxed at that point. That made me feel great! I didn't even realize how relaxed I was because I was so "in my zone." I literally listened to that meditation for 20 straight hours. (We put it on the speakers during my times in the shower). Even though the last couple hours were not perfect HypnoBirthing, the meditation was the key to my success.
One of the best things that came out of the experience was Carol's recommendation to hire a doula. Because of our uncertainty with our due date falling so close to our busy catering season, she recommended we have someone to help us just in case Robbie couldn't be there right away. Good call!!! Turned out that having Connie was best for both me AND Robbie. She aided me through labor, but more importantly gave Robbie cues and reminders to help him aid me through labor. She made suggestions about positioning, eating, drinking, showering...whatever, them let Robbie take the lead in facilitating. When Robbie needed a break (labor is exhausting for Dad too!) she was there to take over supporting me. One of the other great things was that she took lots of photos for us of the birth! Robbie could catch Johnny as he came out, and focus on me and baby, not be behind the camara! In a nutshell, having a doula didn't take away from Robbie's role- it added to it by helping him be the best supporter and cheerleader through the whole experience. She was invaluable.
Johnny came way before we expected him... I mean I found out I was pregnant when we were engaged to be married. We wanted kids, but didn't know we would be blessed with that quite so soon. We had rearranged our wedding plans and lives to prepare for Johnny. He fought all odds, and grew in a body wrought with 15 years worth of birth control pills. This little guy was DESTINED to come to us. He decided to come 2 weeks early, in the midst of holiday catering season. And then, he took his time coming out to meet us. The 11th was a regular day... the 12th, 12-12, was a full moon night, a stormy, cloud covered night. He graced us with his presence as the clouds parted in the sky and the full moon shone into our hospital room. He was a soul who knew when he wanted to come from the beginning.
Johnny has proven to be a baby who knows ehat he wants, communicates well, and loves A LOT. He has demanded from us a higher level of parenting with his extreme 4 months of colic, reflux, gas, and under developed nervous system. I changed my diet. we tried an arsenal of homeopathic and pharmeceutical remedies. We counted down the days to 3 months. Nothing changed. Here we are at 4 and a half month, and he has become the dream baby. He is full of smiles and cuddles, and has transformed into a happy, healthy, FUN bundle of joy. He still tells us exactly what he wants... but now that we "get" him, we are getting along just fine.
Natural birth was not what I had expected. I had wanted the "Orgasmic" birth! Mine was quite the opposite. BUT, with that said, I wouldn't change a thing, and I certainly will aim for another natural birth with my next child. He is SOOOOOO worth it!
Thank you to Carol Yeh-Garner, Dr. Biter, Connie Merritt, and the team that helped my husband and I birth our baby boy in a beautiful, natural way. I cannot imagine going about birth any differently.
Congratulations Julie & Robbie! Thanks for sharing your birth story!