Monday, June 30, 2014

Everett Sage: a birth story.

40 weeks and 6 days pregnant, standing in front of the hospital on June 10, 2014:

This is what I wrote in my journal the morning Everett was born:
"Yesterday afternoon we got some surprising news that our baby is breech at 41 weeks. Today, we head into the hospital. It was an emotional evening last night, because this was not quite what we had planned for baby's arrival. After much meditation and prayer, I have a peace today. There were a few obstacles in this pregnancy as there are in most journeys that are worthwhile to embark upon, and here is yet another when it was completely unexpected. Throughout the entire pregnancy I have kept returning to one word: gratitude. For the chance to even experience this amazing process of bringing a life into the world, for each little movement inside my belly. For all of it, because life just wouldn't be as beautiful without the challenges. We don't always get to choose how the stories in our life unfold, but we do get to choose how we enter into them. And so I enter into today with an overwhelmingly grateful heart, for this is the day I will likely meet my baby."

Let me back up a bit. When I first got pregnant, I knew almost nothing about birth. I had never really thought about what type of birth experience I wanted to have, never really cared to learn more about the topic. During the first trimester of pregnancy, I didn't research anything about birth or parenthood for fear that I would get my hopes up too much and then be extra devastated if we had a miscarriage. Then finally when the second trimester rolled around, I figured I should probably start learning about something. As I began reading, I decided that I wanted to try for an unmedicated birth. There were various reasons for this decision. As I read the birth stories of women, natural, unmedicated childbirth seemed so empowering and beautiful. I wanted to be able to hold my baby immediately after he/ she was born for bonding and breastfeeding, so I wanted a vaginal birth. In my research, it seemed that the use of an epidural is more likely to lead to the use of other interventions. Also, I wanted to be able to move around, change positions, and be present. We did all that we could to prepare for childbirth. I read books, we took a class focused on unmedicated birth and pain coping practices, we hired a doula, we typed out a birth plan, made copies, shared it with our doctor, and bought treats for nurses at the hospital. We prepared, knowing that it was a process we weren't in control over, and then we waited.

At my 39 week appointment, our doctor checked my cervix so that he could make sure the baby was in the proper position for labor and delivery. He said I was 3 cm dilated and 70% effaced. He checked to see if the baby's head was in the right position, and told me everything looked good for a vaginal birth like we wanted. He predicted I would have the baby in the next week and wouldn't even make it to my 40 week appointment. Then, at my 40 week appointment, he checked me again. I was 4 cm dilated. He predicted I would have the baby in the next few days. Every day, we waited. I never imagined how challenging the wait would be at the end, each day and night wondering if it would be the day. Even though I knew it was totally normal to go past a due date, it began to weigh on me when the baby wasn't coming. I knew I didn't want to be induced if it could be avoided, so I really wanted labor to begin on its own, but nothing was happening. I went into my 41 week appointment a bit discouraged. Even though I was only five days past my due date, I thought I would have surely had the baby already because I had been 4 cm dilated for over a week. As I checked in, even the nurse was surprised to see me. "I've never had a patient who has been 4 cm dilated for over a week and not had a baby," she said. 

The doctor came in to check my cervix as he had done the past two weeks, only this time, he glanced up at me with a look of concern. "I think I'm feeling the baby's butt," he said, "I think your baby might be breech." He took us into the ultrasound room, and sure enough, our baby was head up and butt down, with one leg up and one leg down. It was a big surprise to us all, including our doctor. He went over our options with us, and then let us have about fifteen minutes to ourselves. No one in his practice delivers breech babies vaginally, so he couldn't give us that option, but he said if we wanted to we could try to find someone who would do it. He could do an external version to try to turn the baby. This is a procedure that has to be done in a hospital and consists of the doctor pushing the woman's stomach to try to turn the baby. We could just schedule a cesarean. If we chose to do nothing, as soon as I went into labor, we would have to go to the hospital and have a cesarean, but since I had been 4 cm dilated for over a week, the doctor thought that maybe I wasn't going into labor because the baby wasn't putting enough pressure on my cervix since it wasn't head down.

I cried in the doctor's office while he was away. This wasn't what I had been preparing or hoping for. It was a lot to process at almost 41 weeks pregnant. We didn't have a lot of time to make our decision; the news of a breech baby was such a surprise to us at that point. We decided our best option and best chance for having the type of birth we wanted was to do the external version. The best case scenario would be that the baby would turn. The risks included the baby's heart rate dropping and an immediate emergency cesarean, but we figured if it didn't work we would have a cesarean anyway, so we wanted at least the chance for the baby to turn. The other downside is it would be painful for me. We scheduled an appointment for the version for 11:00 am the following day. Our best chance was trying to turn the baby as soon as possible. 

I continued crying on the way home from the doctor's office in the car and then on the couch at home. We called our doula to update her, and she spoke positive words to us. She said that sometimes babies need to be in a certain position for reasons that are beyond our knowledge, and that for some reason, our baby maybe needed to be breech. We don't always know why things happen the way they do, and sometimes they are meant to be.

That night we tried natural ways to turn the baby- ice, peppermint oil, and funny positions hanging off the couch with pillows. We ordered in from our favorite pizza place. We tried to enjoy what might be our last night at home as a family of two. I tried to get some sleep without much success.

Our doula and our parents met us at the hospital on Tuesday, June 10 at 10:00 am. It was possibly going to be the day we met our baby. I was ready. I had spent time alone to process the situation the best I could, and I came to the hospital that day with a heart full of gratitude for whatever way our baby might be joining our family. It was going to be a beautiful experience.

We checked in, talked with our doctor, said our good-byes to our parents, met our nurse, and filled out paperwork. I was hooked up to a fetal heart rate monitor and an IV. Apparently, I was having contractions, or so the nurse told me. The external version to try to turn the baby took about twenty minutes. It was really painful. The doctor was pressing so hard on my stomach that he was shaking and sweating. The amount of force he was using was impressive. Matt held my hand and rubbed my head. Our doula rubbed my feet and spoke positive words. Ultimately, the version didn't work. The baby wouldn't turn. Our doctor would deliver our baby via cesarean.

Things moved quickly from there on out. Our doctor told our parents the news. Our moms came back to see us. Matt got to put on scrubs. I was wheeled to the operating room alone, which was a bit intimidating, because although I was excited to meet my baby, I was about to have major surgery, and I didn't know what to expect. The nurses quickly put me at ease. They were so friendly and explained everything that was going on, and that eased my fear. Matt had to wait outside while I got a spinal anesthesia, which didn't hurt a bit. I laid down and Matt was brought to me. He stayed by my head and there was a sheet put up in front of us. 

I realize now looking back on my journey that my fear of having a cesarean birth was that somehow the birth experience wouldn't be as beautiful as it would have been with a vaginal birth. That maybe I wouldn't feel present or a part of it. Although I have nothing to compare it to, giving birth was the most beautiful experience of my life. I'm tearing up just thinking about that moment now. We knew the cesarean would take about fifteen minutes. The doctor told Matt he would hold up our baby and let him announce it as a boy or a girl, since we didn't find out during the pregnancy. For those fifteen minutes, Matt was close to me and we were just waiting to meet our baby. It was completely surreal, filled with such anticipation and excitement. I felt pressure, but no pain. I was crying tears of joy, because I knew I was going to see my baby's face any minute. Time went by so quickly at that point. In a matter of moments, our doctor held up the baby for Matt to see. It was a boy, Matt said. I was still crying. The doctor held the baby up for me to see, and all I could think was he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my whole life. I felt an immediate love and connection that was so incredible. Matt was able to hold him right away, and he brought him to me. We were face to face to face, our little family of three. I could not believe how perfect he was and how much love I had for our little guy. It was the best feeling in the whole world. 

I watched while they weighed and measured the baby, and then Matt brought him to me again before they had to leave me. This was another part of the cesarean birth I was dreading- being away from my brand new baby, but it really felt like I was only alone for about five minutes before they wheeled me to recovery and put him on my chest, and I knew Matt was with our baby the entire time. 

Once in recovery, it was just Matt, Everett, and me. Matt placed Everett on my chest, and I have never known such happiness. I wanted to freeze time in that moment and just enjoy the new life we had brought into the world. We had a couple of hours with just our little family of three- cuddle time, skin to skin, trying to breastfeed, running our fingers over his eyes, nose, lips, fingers, toes, and each little hair on his head.     

Finally, before they were going to move me into my postpartum room, Matt went out to the waiting room to tell both of our parents the news- It's a boy and his name is Everett Sage! 

The rest of the day was so full of joy. All of the grandparents met our beautiful boy and held him. I held him on my chest. Matt held him on his chest. We were all smiles and full of a deep love that only a baby can bring to one's heart. 

Once all the visitors had gone, and it was again just Matt, Everett, and me we marveled at the new little life that had joined our family. Matt and I should have been so tired after all that transpired in the past 24 hours, but we just couldn't stop staring at our boy long enough to think about sleep. Going to sleep would mean not holding him, not looking at him. We stayed awake as long as our tired bodies would let us, and went to sleep sometime near midnight. The best day of our lives had come to an end, but really, it was just the beginning.


In the hospital room after the version was unsuccessful in turning the baby:
The first look I had at my baby. It's a boy, Matt announced. What a magical moment. I remember thinking to myself, he's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Everett getting weighed at 7 pounds, 12 ounces:
Holding my boy for the first time. Best feeling in the world:
Family bonding time:
In the post-partum room, a new family of three:
Meeting the grandparents:

Meeting the aunt and uncle (FaceTiming my brother):
Beautiful boy:
Going home from the hospital on my mom's birthday:
Glad to be home. Here we are about to go on our first family walk the day we got home. I couldn't even make it around the block, but that was okay:


I wanted to write this out to help me process my experience, since everything happened so differently from what we had expected. I was disappointed when we first found out we had a breech baby, but by the time it was clear we would have to have the cesarean, I had pushed that disappointment aside, and went into the room I would deliver my baby in with confidence and peace. I feel happy and empowered with my birth experience. I grew a baby for ten months and then did what needed to be done to bring the baby healthily into the world. I pushed my expectations and plans aside for what was best for my baby. I sacrificed my body, and I have a scar to show it. I thought I would be disappointed to have a scar on my body, but I now look at it with pride, because it is a reminder of the most beautiful and sacrificial experience of my life- the day and the way my baby was brought into the world. 

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