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Cricket’s Birth Story

I’ve been putting off writing this for a long time.  It just seems like such a big thing to try to process emotionally and put into words.  But I need to write this down before I start to forget, so here goes.  This is a birth story, y’all.  If you don’t want to hear the nitty-gritty details of how Cricket made her way into the world, then don’t read it.  But if you do read all the way through, you will be rewarded at the end with lots of squishy baby pictures!

My sister-in-law arrived Monday, September 26th.  Before she arrived, I had been so worried about how we would handle things on our own if Cricket decided to come a little early.  With my due date at September 30th, we knew we were cutting it close with her arriving on the 26th, but the Grasshopper was 10 days late.

Still I worried.  I talked to my midwife, Sue, about it.  She gave us a few options, which helped to set my mind at ease.  We could switch from a birth center birth to a homebirth, but because of my husband’s discomfort, that wasn’t a really viable option.  We could bring the Grasshopper with us to the birth center, but I wasn’t very comfortable with that option either.  I worried that with the Grasshopper there, I would want to spend time comforting her instead of focusing on having Cricket.

Eventually, we got a solution figured out.  If Cricket started coming at night, we would take the Grasshopper with us to the birth center.  Her dad would hang out with her until morning, and then her teacher would come pick her up and take her to school (a home daycare) where she would stay until Cricket was born.  If Cricket started coming during the day, we would let her teacher know, and the Grasshopper would spend the evening at school with her teacher’s family.

Thankfully, Cricket decided to stay put until my SIL arrived on the 26th.  I truly think that my body listened to my need to have everything lined up with the Grasshopper’s care, though, because in the wee hours of the morning on the 27th, I woke up with powerful contractions.  I knew this wasn’t a drill.  This wasn’t my body getting ready.  This was it.

I went downstairs and hung out with my SIL for a while.  I sat on the birth ball, hung out, and chatted.  She was jet-lagged so she and I stayed up watching Say Yes to the Dress while things moved along.

At 4:45 AM, I texted our Doula and called Sue to let her know that I thought things were moving.

At some point, I woke up my husband and let him know that this was the real thing.  Can you believe that he thought I was mistaken?  Oh, no.  “Honey, I’ve already called Sue and Jessicka.  This is for real.”  I hung out a while longer, texted our doula and called Sue again, and took a shower.  By that time, it was time to go in to work.

My husband said he wanted to try to work for a few hours in the morning (ha!), but I told him that he needed to drop off the Grasshopper at school and come straight home.  He tried to argue, but believe me when I say that you do not win an argument with a woman in labor!

At 8 AM, as they left, I called Sue and Jessicka again to let them know what was going on.  Sue suggested I hang tight for a bit to see how things progressed.  I told her that when my SIL and my husband got back I needed to come in to the birth center because we would get to a point where I was not going to be willing to go anywhere.

So that was it.  I knew exactly what was going to happen.  Interestingly enough, this was exactly what I had imagined in my hypnobabies birth visualization!  I visualized that my SIL would arrive, I would go into labor the next day while the Grasshopper was at school, and Cricket and I would be back at home in time to welcome her home from school.  So far, things were going just the way I visualized.

It was around the time I made that realization that the contractions started getting a lot more intense.  I couldn’t talk through them.  I started to feel the need to vocalize a little bit by groaning during them.  I started listening to my birthing affirmations hypnobabies track.  (In retrospect, I should have done this right away instead of waiting until later.)

Oh, ha ha to Mr. Grasshopper for trying to tell me this wasn’t really it!

They returned shortly after taking the Grasshopper to school, and I instructed them on putting together our cosleeper (I will describe that in a separate post).  They got the furniture moved and set up, and that was it!

At 9:30 AM, we called Sue and Jessicka, hopped into the car, and headed for the birth center.

Once we got to the birth center and got settled in, it seemed like things had slowed down.  My husband put the Easy First Stage CD in the CD player, but I wasn’t paying much attention.  I sat on the birth ball while Jessicka rubbed my lower back.

At around 10:15, my contractions were still spaced out a bit (6-10 minutes apart), and Sue suggested that my husband and I take a walk around the neighborhood.  Since things had slowed, Jessicka went across the street to check on another mom who was in labor.  I didn’t really want walk, but I went ahead and agreed to.  We walked.  Every few steps, a contraction would hit and I would need to hug my husband and groan a bit.  It was hot.  The sun was bright.  We walked down the sidewalk, across the very small parking lot, and I said, “Forget this.  I want to go back inside!”  So we did.

I was not a happy camper at this point.  I laid down on the bed where things became much more uncomfortable and painful.  Damn if it didn’t hurt!  But it seemed like the contractions were stronger laying down, so I stayed on my side.  Truth be told, I just didn’t want to move.

My contractions were still really far apart, so I sent my husband to Trader Joe’s to get me some snacks.  Davie, one of the other midwives, arrived during this time with a smoothie.  It tasted like hell, but I tried my best to drink it.  If my blood sugar dipped, I might start getting sick again and that was the last thing I wanted.  My SIL hung out with me and held a hot rice sock on my back.

By 10:50, my contractions were every 4-6 minutes apart and really intense.  With every contraction, I would holler down the hall to Sue, and she would come running in to hold my hand.  At the time, it seemed like I was shouting at her in a really demanding way, but later she told me that I just sounded lost like I was calling to her for help.

It was at this point that I started to freak out a little.  I asked Sue to check how dilated I was because I was really losing hope.  She encouraged me to wait just a bit.  At the next contraction, I started cursing and I hollered down the hall, “Where the HELL is Jessicka!”  “I’m here,” she said, “Right here!”  She had just come back.

It was 11:15 by now, and suddenly everyone was back.  My husband was back, Jessicka was back.  Sue, Dawn, and Davie (all 3 midwives were there), and dammit I wanted Sue to check me.  I know I said I didn’t want to be checked, but I wanted to know that something had been happening.  I was pissed, scared, I hurt, and I wanted to know what the deal was.

We waited through another contraction, and then Sue checked me.  I was at 9 cm with a bulging bag of waters and -1 station!  Well, that explained a lot!  I had been in transition!  No wonder I had been feeling so awful!

Hot damn! Davie, fill the tub!  Let’s have us a baby!

The wave of confidence and relief I felt when I heard I was almost completely dilated was incredible.  Suddenly I went from freaking out to ready to get down to business.  Sue was surprised as well.  My contractions were really strong, but they were so widely spaced that she was expecting me to not be nearly where I was.

They got me out of the bed and onto the toilet so I could pee before I got into the tub.  I remember getting up off the bed I told Jessicka, “Okay, I’m going to get up and then I’m going to hit the floor.  I’m not falling down, but a contraction is about to start and I need to be on my hands and knees.”  It helped. I had a few contractions on the toilet, and I did not want to be touched.  Walking from the bathroom to the tub, I went to the floor with each contraction.  But then at 11:30, into the tub I went!

When I finally got into the tub, Dawn put in the Pushing Baby Out Hypnobabies CD.  I wasn’t really ready to push.  The contractions were really painful and I just didn’t feel the urge to push.  The bag of waters was really in the way, and caused quite a bit of discomfort!  Thank goodness for the water though.  It helped immensely.

Sue suggested doing some gentle pushes with the next contraction to see if that would get my water to break.  I tried.  Really, I did.  But it hurt and my heart wasn’t in it.  She checked me again, and I was almost totally dilated except for an anterior lip.  The bag of waters was pushing so hard and was so uncomfortable with every contraction that I asked her to go ahead with the AROM.  A few contractions later, she was ready with the little hook thing, and during my next contraction, she broke my water.  This was 11:56 AM.

Now I was ready to get down to business!  At 12:05, my body started pushing and I started pushing, too.  Sue and Dawn really let me do my own thing.  They didn’t try to direct my pushing or my breathing and they allowed me to trust my body to do what it needed to do.

And now I really started vocalizing.  I was actually not aware that I could make sounds like that!  I think I sounded like a cow!  I grunted and groaned and growled.  In retrospect, I feel a little embarrassed about it, but nature really did take over, and I was just along for the ride.  I really think that the Hypnobabies practice was helping me to allow my body to do what I needed to do.

I pushed for a few minutes, but I was kind of on my back.  I remember at one point reaching down and feeling her head.  I felt a ridge and was really worried that the cord was getting pinched.  Sue checked between contractions and reassured me that the ridge I felt were the plates in Cricket’s skull compressing as she moved through my pelvis.  Our bodies were both doing exactly what they were supposed to do.

I was having trouble pushing.  I was sitting up, but I had slid down a little so I was reclined a bit, and that made things more difficult.  Sue tried to get me to curl around Cricket more to help push, but I had a hard time doing that.  I just kept sliding down in the tub, and my motivation to move was nonexistent.  If there were a next time, I would tell Sue to zap me in the butt with a cattle prod.  I think it would’ve been easier if I would’ve been in a different position.

I think at some point I yelled at Dawn (or Davie?) to shut off the CD.  The noise was bugging me and I wasn’t paying attention anyway.

Around the time that Cricket started to crown (or maybe before?) Sue reached down to see if some perineal massage would help give some comfort, and she had only barely touched me when I screamed at her, “DON’T TOUCH ME!”  Which in retrospect is kind of funny since I had written into my birth plan that I definitely wanted her to do that.  It’s amazing how your body tells you what you do and do not need.  I could feel myself tearing a bit, and when she laid hands on me (gently I might add!), it just intensified the feeling.

Again, I surprised myself by how I was able to vocalize.  I was able to tell my birth attendants what I needed without feeling too shy to do so, and I was able to allow my body to make the noises it needed to help push Cricket out.  A few times I felt myself panicking and the pitch of my sounds would rise up into a higher register.  Each time that happened, it seemed like Sue or Dawn would get my attention very gently by laying a hand on my shoulder and quietly saying my name.  And I would bring my voice down into the low, belly sounds.  Keeping my voice low and deep helped me to feel more in control and helped keep the pressure low in my belly to help me push.  I think the Hypnobabies class really helped me to feel comfortable using my voice during Cricket’s birth.

Cricket crowned pretty quickly, but she didn’t come out all in one push.  Her head stuck out under the water, and Sue said, “You need to get up out of the water now.”  Something about the way she said it motivated me, and my husband and Jessica helped me to stand up.  I think Sue was expecting me to get all the way out of the tub, but as soon as I stood up, I had another contraction, and… BLOOOP!  OUT SHE CAME!

(For those keeping track, the time was 12:24 PM)

Sue made it around in time to catch her, and half a heartbeat later, Sue was passing her between my legs for me to hold.  At first I felt really confused and I didn’t want to take her.  I couldn’t really figure out what had happened, but I reached down and grabbed her because Sue was telling me to. As soon as she was in my arms and I felt her weight the confusion lifted, and I realized who she was and what we had just done.

And we sat down for a good snuggle in the tub.  It was the most amazing feeling.  It told my husband later that it was about a hundred times harder than running a marathon.  It was like I had walked through fire and come out a new person.  It was amazing.

 

Bless her, little Cricket was such a little cuddle bug!  I just held her and cuddled her and a few minutes later I nursed her and I cuddled her some more.  It was awesome.  She was so warm and soft and covered in vernix (sorry about your shirt Sue!).  She was so alert, too!  She just looked around quietly taking everything in.

 

Sue, Dawn and Jessicka were making bets on how big she was.  To me, she just looked like a squishy newborn, but apparently she looked pretty big.  Sue bet that she was 10 lbs 11 oz and Dawn bet that she was 10 lbs 6 oz.

We waited quite a while in the tub.  In my birth preferences, I wanted to wait for the cord to stop pulsing before we cut it, and it pulsed for a long time!  It was a big, strong placenta!  Finally, at 1:04 PM, it stopped pulsing.  We clamped the cord and my SIL cut it.  Her papa was too squicked out to do that and I was high up in Happy Babyland.  So she got the honors.

When my body started pushing the placenta out (1:15), I remember groaning and saying, “Why?  Why won’t it just leave me alone?”  But we got that done, too.  Apparently it was a huge placenta, and I got a nifty placenta anatomy lesson from Dawn a little later, which was very cool.

Sue and Dawn gave me plenty of time to relax and snuggle with Cricket.  When they did the newborn exam and weighed Cricket, it turned out that no one had been right about her weight.  She was 11 lbs!  Eleven.  She was huge!  She was the 3rd largest baby Sue and Dawn had ever delivered and the biggest Jessicka had ever assisted with!

I had to get some stitches. I was pushing like the blue blazes, and she was 11 lbs after all.  But Sue got it done quickly.  By 4 PM that same day, we were home and settled in.

A few days after she was born, my husband said, “Are you ever going to stop bragging about how big she is?”  Nope!  I had an 11 lb baby without meds!  I feel like superwoman!  Sometimes I wonder if I’m still riding high on the hormones from Cricket’s birth!  No, by now it’s just the oxytocin from nursing that keeps me feeling so good!

It was an incredible experience.  9 hours of labor start to finish. 20 minutes of pushing.  One enormous and beautiful child.  Who could ask for more?  My husband was awesome.  My midwives were unbelievable. Jessicka was incredible.  I think I had the best birth team on the planet!

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Writing My Birth Plan

It’s time to write out my birthing preferences and make a birth plan!

Writing out my birth preferences this time around is so different from writing my Birth Plan from when the Grasshopper was born.

The hospital where I had her provided a template, so I based my plan off of that so that I could give them information in a format with which they were already familiar and comfortable.

With the hospital birth, there was so much more to worry about.  The Birth Plan, while certainly not adversarial, was much more of a defense against unnecessary interventions.  I had to specify things like no episiotomies, no continuous internal monitoring, give the baby to me immediately instead of delaying with newborn procedures, don’t give the baby formula or pacifiers, etc.  Even using the format provided by the hospital, the Birth Plan was very much a defense for the Grasshopper and me against the standard protocol of the hospital.

I don’t have to do that this time and it’s blowing my mind!  All of those things I have to prepare for and defend against?  Those are things that my midwives don’t do anyway.  This notion of having my midwives working with me as a team that I already know and am totally comfortable with as opposed to a nurse I’ve never met who may or may not respect my right to informed consent is just incredible.

I’m not The Patient in Room 326.  I’m me.  They know me, and they respect me as an individual.

Because of all of this, my birth preferences are much shorter than they were the last time around.

So, without further ado…

My Birth Preferences

I don’t want to know baby size until after she’s born.  No estimates please.  I know I can birth her “big” or not.  Baby size estimates can be off by more than a pound, and since I’ve already had a baby vaginally, I know that I don’t have a pelvic issue that would prevent my pelvis from opening to allow the baby to pass.  At 8 lbs 6 oz, the Grasshopper came out at a pretty respectable size.  Women have “big” babies all the time.  It’s just not something I want to have to worry about.

I don’t want to have internal checks until I am ready to push.  Last time, knowing that I was walking around for a month at 3 cm weighed on my mind, and when I got to the hospital I found I was “only” at 5 cm.  Knowing this just shattered my belief in myself, so I’d just rather not know.  Realistically, it’s perfectly possible to go from 5 cm to 10 cm in an hour or less.  I know this rationally, but emotionally, those kinds of cold, hard numbers can be disheartening.  If I’m in active labor, I have faith that my body is doing its job in its own time.

For those of you who may be considering this as a preference, you may encounter a health care provider who just really wants to start doing internal checks once you reach a certain number of weeks.  They may do this just out of habit or they may tell you they need to “establish a baseline.”  This is completely bogus.  The baseline for dilation is… not being dilated at all!  This isn’t a subjective thing.  You’re either dilated or not.  This is a measurement on a ruler.  There is also absolutely nothing you gain from knowing this number as it will give you no indication of when you’ll go into labor.  You could go from 0 cm to 10 cm in the space of 8 hours.  Or you could walk around dilated to 3 or 4 cm for weeks.  There’s no value in knowing this number, and every time someone reaches up in there you deal with risks: introduction of bacteria, accidental rupture of membranes, the temptation to strip your membranes without your consent, etc.

So no thanks on the internal checks for me!

Please feel free to suggest position changes!  I tend to freeze up when I’m in an unfamiliar situation and don’t know precisely how things are going to go.  I know that everyone says your body will tell you what to do when you’re birthing, but I really do tend to freeze up.  I’m so glad to have a great doula and team of midwives who will be willing to make recommendations if they notice me getting stuck.  Last time I felt like I just sat on the bed and didn’t know what to do.  I asked for the epidural so quickly that I didn’t really get the chance to see what my body would tell me.  I’m just not sure what to expect, so I’m very open to suggestions!

Please avoid using the word pain?  Instead, I prefer to talk about things like “intensity” and “pressure.”  This is a Hypnobabies thing.  In so many of the Hypnobabies birth stories, it seems like the mom is doing great until a nurse comes in and asks about pain level.  Then, suddenly, she loses her focus and starts feeling out of control.  Since “pain relief” in the form of medication really isn’t an option, I just prefer not to visit this area at all.  We can use words like “intensity” and “pressure” instead.

Please no AROM.  AROM stands for Artificial Rupture of Membranes.  That’s when they go in and manually break your water.  There are about a gillion reasons why this is not a very good idea, but rather than list it all here, I’ll simply refer you to this article from Midwife Thinking in Australia: In Defense of the Amniotic Sac.

I would like to birth my baby in the water.  That’s right!  We’re planning to have a water birth!  There are many reasons why water birth can be a great option:

  • The warmth from the water serves as a natural way to ease the discomforts of labor.
  • The weightlessness that the water provides allows women to move and change positions easier.
  • The water helps to soften the tissues allowing the perineum to stretch more easily to accommodate the baby.
  • The warmth of the water provides a much more gentle transition for the baby from the womb into the outside world.

I’m just really pleased to have the opportunity to use the birth pool at the birth center to have this baby.  I know this will help me so much during my birthing time to stay comfortable and composed.

GBS+:  I’d like to get the IV line placed and the antibiotics run as fast as possible.  Then I would like to have the line pulled completely.  I just don’t want an IV hanging off me.  They’re distracting and upsetting to me right now.  I don’t know for sure if I am GBS+ (group B strep positive), but I’m operating under the assumption that I am.  This way, if I am, I won’t feel disappointed, and if I’m not I can feel pleased about having one less thing to deal with.  It’s a bit up in the air at this point, but since I don’t know if I have group B strep or not, I think that’s okay.

Please no directed pushing.  I would like to follow the signals of my body and allow it to do its work gently and naturally.  Also please don’t count while I push or have a contraction.  What I’m really trying to avoid here is “purple pushing.”  That’s where you hold your breath and pushpushpushpushpush until they tell you to stop.  This can reduce oxygen flow to the baby, and it’s really exhausting.  On top of that, this kind of hard pushing can cause tearing as the baby moves too fast down the birth canal.  So I just don’t want to do it.  My body will tell me when to push.  We’ll just listen to that and go with the flow.  In Hypnobabies, we learn about “Aaaahing” the baby out.  That’s just what I intend to do.

Please delay cord clamping. Since we donated the Grasshopper’s cord blood, delayed clamping was not an option for us.  This time, however, we won’t donate the blood.  Instead, we’ll be allowing all of our baby’s blood supply time to move from the placenta into her body.  According to this article, around 21% of her blood is in the placenta.  She needs all of that iron- and oxygen-rich blood.  It’s hers.  I often wonder if some of the Grasshopper’s early sleepiness and weakness during nursing would have been helped by delaying the cord clamping.  For this baby, we’ll wait until the cord stops pulsing, and then we’ll clamp and cut the cord.

For the baby, no Vitamin K shots and (if I am not GBS+) no eye drops.  Vitamin K shots are really only needed if your family has a history of blood clotting disorders.  That’s not an issue for us.  Unless the baby comes out with significant bruising, there’s no reason to give this shot.  The eye-drops are only needed if the mom has chlamydia.  They’re also recommended if the mom is GBS+.  I definitely don’t have any sexually transmitted diseases, so as long as I’m not GBS+, there’s no need for the eye goop.

I would like an unmanaged 3rd stage and deliver the placenta on my own.  Would also like to avoid the shot of pitocin unless it’s really and truly necessary.  The 3rd stage of labor is the part where you deliver the placenta.  During a managed 3rd stage, the healthcare providers may tug on the cord or “massage” the mom’s belly to help the placenta come out more quickly.  The “massage” is pretty forceful and brutal, so banish the thought of a comfortable, relaxing belly massage.  Picture instead people shoving against the mom’s belly with all their strength to manually push out the placenta.  Really unpleasant.  The cord pulling and the “massage” can also cause increased bleeding, hemorrhage, and the risk of the placenta breaking up and leaving pieces behind.  Hello infection!  I’ll pass.  The pitocin shot is something to help curtail bleeding.  If I’m not bleeding heavily, I’ll just skip that as well.  As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

 

Those are my birth preferences.  It’s a fairly short list.  I’ll be talking about these with my midwife at my 36 week appointment later today.  It’s so refreshing not to have to worry about defending myself against unnecessary hospital policies.  I love that I am included as a member of my own birth team this time around.

Birthing Positions and Water Birth Positions

I’m going to be sharing a full write-up of my birthing preferences a little later, but I wanted to take some time to talk about birthing positions.  This is a really important aspect of birth.

What you see in movies?  The woman flat on her back, legs up in the air, yelling her head off?  That’s a terrible way to push out a baby.  This position actually closes the pelvis off and forces the woman to push uphill.  No part of that is good for childbirth.  There’s only one reason to birth a baby in this position: to make it easier for the doctor.  You know, he doesn’t have to bend down that way.  He can sit on the chair or stand up.  Much more comfortable for him, right?  And that’s what’s most important after all: making sure your doctor is comfortable.

Before I go into this further, take a look at this article that lists the pros and cons of different birth positions.  Scroll down to the bottom to read the pros and cons of birthing on your back with your legs in the air.  Do you notice anything?  There are no pros for this!  That’s right.  There’s nothing good about this.  Only cons.

So you might gather from all of this that I want to push our baby out in a position other than flat on my back.  Honestly, I’m not sure how I will want to birth the baby.  On all fours?  Squatting?

I very much intend to use the birth pool.  So how does that work with birthing positions?  Honestly, I have no clue!  With the Grasshopper, I had an epidural.  I was paralyzed from the waist down.  I was, you guessed it, flat on my back with my legs up in the air.

I have a hard time doing things if I can’t try it out ahead of time, or at least visualize it.  It’s why I never asked to use the squat bar at the hospital before getting the epidural with the Grasshopper.  It’s why I asked my midwives to let me try out the birth stool during my second appointment.  It’s why I really, really need a doula.  If I’m not sure how to do something, I just freeze up.  I’m not sure why.  I just do.  So this is why I’m trying to familiarize myself as much as possible with water birth and various birth positions.

Like they say in my hypnobabies course, I’m having to retrain my mind to remove the flat-on-the-back, legs-in-the-air positioning from my concept of “normal” and replace it with a new normal which includes movement and various different positions.

There seems to be an incredible variety in how women choose to birth in a tub.  I have to wonder if the water helps facilitate that.  I’m only 31 weeks, and already I feel huge and awkward.  I have to wonder if the weightlessness of the water allows them to move their bodies more easily for greater comfort during birth.

I think I may even fill up our bathtub here at home at some point and do some of my Hypnobabies practicing in the water.  I really hope doing this kind of visualization and practice will help me to feel more confident during my birthing time.  I plan to talk to my doula and let her know that I do tend to freeze up.  I want her to be able to watch for this and give me a nudge if she sees this happening.  But I also want to find some empowerment on my own, and watching the women in these videos give birth really helps me to find that within myself.