Tag: natural birth

Revisiting the birth plan

I’ve mentioned it before, but I can’t get enough of birth stories. I love hearing about how women realized they were in labor, how quickly (or slowly) things progressed, how long they pushed for, and what their recovery was like. When I was pregnant, I read a lot of birth stories (Hello Bee has a ton) and also looked at some birth plans. With the birth stories you see a lot of “this wasn’t on my birth plan,” or, “I had on my birth plan that I wanted, but…,” but no one includes their actual birth plan with the birth story. Women usually share their birth plans while they’re still pregnant so then you’re left wondering if they actually got that water birth with no medical intervention and subsequent placenta encapsulation to improve recovery they were banking on.

I hadn’t necessarily been planning on writing a birth plan but per my midwife’s request, I wrote and handed one over at 38 weeks. We’re at a point now where things like the Golden Hour, delayed cord clamping, and putting off procedures (shots, testing, etc.) are common place. Through my previous work I already had a good grasp on what the standard procedures were at the 3 main hospitals for delivery in Buffalo (plus my OB/GYN’s standards), and I felt confident that even if I didn’t write a birth plan, I was going to be happy with the outcome (because I wasn’t eating my placenta or anything like that).

Everything my plan included was based on experience (I’m pretty sure your first labor is just a trial run) and Googling a combination of “birth plan” and “natural birth.” I wanted to dip my toes in natural birth, but by that point was 100% okay with getting an epidural. Because of this, I wanted to keep everything pretty open–don’t offer me anything, but don’t call me a baby if I ask for it.

Before I move on, keep in mind that Maggie’s delivery went far better than I ever could have asked for. That being said, it was comical comparing what I had requested with what actually happened. I actually sat down a few weeks after Maggie was born and commentated the below on an extra copy of her birth plan. So if you’re pregnant and looking for a relaxed birth plan, you’ve come to the right place–just ignore the pink. And if you’ve gone through this before, you can sit back and commiserate over best-laid plans.

This is pretty much Maggie in a nutshell.

Leading up to labor I’d like

  • Internal exams only if indicated, and not until 40 weeks if myself and the baby are healthy. I’m 39 weeks pregnant, and just spent 3 nights sleeping in a hospital bed with a 2.5 year old on oxygen and an IV having Albuterol-induced night terrors before moving into a new house. Do whatever you want. Oh, 1/2 cm and posterior? Let me go schedule my 41 week appointment. 
  • To wait at least 7 days past due date before induction is discussed, as long as the baby and myself are healthy. Can we make that 3 weeks? I’d like to take a nap first.
  • To use natural induction techniques prior to medical intervention to induce or speed up labor, if necessary. Try and tell me raspberry leaf tea “might” get things going. (Prodromal labor FTW)
  • Use the lowest dose of Pitocin if induction is absolutely necessary. Get that sh*t away from me.

During labor I’d like…

  • Dim lights. I’m not opening my eyes until this is OVER. Break out the stadium lights.
  • The room as quiet as possible. I’m not sure who this random male student is, but please tell him to keep up the between-contractions exchange.
  • My husband to be present at all times. And attached to the end of my arm. Is that your phone? PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE.
  • To be allowed to eat and drink. Thanks for offering but do I look like I want to puke my brains out? Where’s the wet washcloth? Give me a wet washcloth!
  • Heparin or saline lock only. To quote my midwife, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”
  • Medical pain relief only if requested. Me: “GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL.” Midwife: ditto the above.
  • Only intermittent fetal monitoring if necessary. Yea, no, no time for this either.
  • To be able to move freely. Just try to pry my body out of the fetal position.
  • To use a shower, birthing ball, or birthing tub and for these to be present in the room. Nurse: “Ha! I don’t think you’re getting in the jacuzzi. Moving on now.”
  • If neither midwife from OB/GYN Associates is available, to be delivered by a Mercy midwife (not a doctor).

During delivery I’d like…

  • To be able to deliver in any position (squatting, lying on side, reclining, etc.). Just tell me what to do to get her out of me. And then put me in that position.
  • To push without time limits as long as the baby and I are not at risk. 18 minutes later…
  • Have perineal support if indicated. High fives for slashing my recovery time. (No joke, if this isn’t on your birth plan PUT IT ON THERE. I went from 30-some stitches and weeks of having to sit on a donut pillow with Lily, to no stitches, no swelling, and no peeing in my pants with Maggie.)

After delivery I’d like…

  • To immediately hold my baby and breastfeed.
  • Delay cord clamping until the cord stops pulsing. Oh, the cord’s around her neck? No, I don’t want to leave it there. Oxygen > iron, y’all. 
  • To not have my baby taken off of me for any reason as long as we are healthy. Okay, she’s getting sticky now. Can we get a bath over here?
  • To delay weighing, bathing, and any tests or treatments for one hour post birth. Or 4 hours if there’s no room at the inn. Ahem, nursery.
  • No bottles or formula given or offered.
  • Pacifiers only to be given by myself or my husband. *stuffs all the free pacifiers in pocket*

The one aspect of my birth plan I did the most looking into (asked my yoga group and my midwife) and felt confident would come to fruition was the moving freely. I didn’t love laboring in a reclined position with Lily (I did a lot of squatting and bouncing before my epidural), and so fully armed myself with knowledge of favorable birthing positions. When it came down to it though, the traditional Western birthing position I had scoffed at was right for me. They literally pried me out of the fetal position onto my back and I felt immediate relief and went right from transition to pushing. I didn’t ask but I’m pretty sure my nurse and midwife could somehow tell this would work, because I had discussed the logistics of birthing on all fours with them and they were completely supportive of it. They did everything else I had asked for, so I’m guessing they relied on experience to take the reins on this one and I’m so glad they did.

A Birth Story

It’s been three years(!) since I last wrote a post. I’ve been wanting to get Maggie’s birth story written down since it happened, so I’m going to jump right back in with it.

Margaret Emmelise O’Connor was due, according to me, on April 24th, 2016, and according to my OB on April 21st. With this pregnancy, like my first, I had experienced Braxton Hicks since about 13 weeks on. This time, however, I had been having real contractions since about 36 weeks, and my midwife let me know it was prodromal labor and could occur for several more weeks. The good news was that prodromal labor preps your body for the real thing. The bad news: I was exhausted. It fortunately came in waves, so I sometimes had a few days reprieve.

My main midwife had been really enthusiastic about my plans to have a natural birth after having been induced with my first. At my 38-ish week appointment, things changed. I had my first cervical check, and her face just dropped. She told me my cervix was posterior, which is unfavorable for labor. With a posterior cervix, you can experience strong contractions that don’t result in progress. She said I would likely go past my due date, and might end up getting induced. She assured me we would try all of the natural labor induction methods first, and I went home and chugged my raspberry leaf tea.

The next Monday before my Thursday due date was uncharacteristically beautiful for late-April in Western NY. I was walking in the park near work thinking about how nice it was going to be to have a few weeks at home with Lily before the baby was born. After finding out I qualified for extended medical leave, I had decided the next day would be my last day of work. I really wish I had gone out earlier than 39+ weeks, but I hadn’t known I could use EML. At my appointment on Tuesday, my other midwife agreed I still had a few more weeks to go. That night I had some pretty intense contractions, but ultimately fell asleep.

I spent the next day at the zoo with Lily and my mother-in-law, breathing through inconsistent contractions. My MIL later said she had no idea I was having contractions then and that she couldn’t believe I spent hours walking around the zoo and even carrying my 2 1/2 year old. A big part of me figured I had a few more weeks of feeling like this, and that I needed to carry on like normal. That afternoon while Lily napped I baked and prepped a real dinner, which I hadn’t done in weeks. I started timing my contractions but ended up stopping because they were anywhere from 1-13 minutes apart. After she woke up we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening playing outside. I chatted with my dad on the phone a bit and joked that maybe there’d be a baby that night. It was such a nice day and evening.

That night I started having more contractions around bed time. I again started timing them. I kept having to get out of bed to walk through the contractions, so I ended up going downstairs to sleep on the couch. I was able to sleep in between them until at least 2 or 3 am. I remember after my first birth thinking it was crazy people could fall asleep between contractions spaced less than 5 minutes apart, but here I was doing it. They were again inconsistent and I wasn’t in a huge amount of pain. I was mostly just annoyed that I was going to have to deal with this every night for a few weeks, because again, they were inconsistently spaced. I had a few that were 45 seconds apart, and some that were over 10 minutes apart. Around 4 am I got in our jet tub to see if that would help. It slowed everything down a bit and felt awesome. I decided to call my office, though, because I had been having contractions for such a long time at this point. It was really exciting getting to select the “If you think you’re in labor, please press 3” option! I explained what had been going on and that I wasn’t in a huge amount of pain but wondered if I should get checked. They said yes, and I said I wanted to wait to get to the hospital until about 7am because my MIL needed to come over.

We called my MIL and she got to the house about 6:30am on April 21st, my due date. Lily was still asleep while we got everything in the car. She woke up just a few minutes before we were going to leave, and I carried her downstairs. I remember thinking how little her hands looked. I set her down at the bottom of the stairs and let her walk into the living room while I had a contraction. I could tell my MIL was a little annoyed we had asked her to come over because I didn’t look like I was in labor. We got into the car and I cried about saying goodbye to Lily. It still makes me want to cry thinking of it.

On the way to the hospital my contractions slowed way down. I only had I think 4 during the entire 20 minute drive, and they weren’t strong. I had one on the way from the car to the maternity floor, and we arrived at about 7:05am. I was only 2cm dilated when the nurse checked me and a bit embarrassed. She said that I should walk the halls and if I didn’t progress after four hours, they’d send me home. We asked about walking in the park right outside and they said no which I was bummed about because it was nice out. About 7:55 we started walking the halls, after Ryan did some work in the room and they got me all checked in. We walked past the jam-packed nursery where there were at least 12 babies. A few minutes in, Ryan told me some joke and I started laughing. Suddenly, liquid splattered all over the ground and I said “Either my water just broke, or I peed my pants.” I was SO excited that my water broke! It was just like the movies. A nurse came over and I apologized but she said “You go girl!”

We headed back to the room and they tested the fluid and said it wasn’t my water. I was pretty convinced, so when I felt another gush in the bathroom and also lost my mucus plug and had my bloody show all at once, I had them test it again and it was positive. Suddenly, I had my first real contraction. This was at about 8:55am. I now know that I was in transition. After another 2 of those I was yelling at Ryan to get off the phone and that I didn’t care he was finishing up work. The nurse checked me and I was 7cm dilated. They shuffled me to the delivery room and onto the bed where I promptly curled into the fetal position. They couldn’t convince me to move so I stayed there a bit. Another nurse who had read my birth plan which included my desire to labor in a tub came in, took one look at me, and said “Oh, you’re not getting in the tub!”

In line with my birth plan they dimmed the lights and kept it quiet. I wouldn’t open my eyes, and told Ryan I didn’t think I could do it without an epidural. They said there wasn’t any time, and somehow got me to roll onto my left side. My midwife–not the one I usually had, but I was ultimately very happy with her–came in and said “Are you kidding?!” She was so surprised to see me in labor. She wanted to do a cervical check but I refused–the last one had been so painful. My body was bearing down on it’s own and every time I was convinced I was going to puke but I didn’t. They made me get on my back, which I was terrified to do because I was in so much pain. Then all of a sudden I was out of transition and ready to push! Just like in the movies again, I felt awesome between each push and was carrying on a conversation with this student. My midwife applied a warm compress like I had requested, and I attribute this to not tearing and having very limited swelling. The experience of pushing was so different this time, and strangely I didn’t feel like I was doing as great of a job. I pushed for about 20 minutes total. I remember thinking my entire body was going to rip open, and saying this in wonder after one push. I was excited about going through the experience of each stage of labor. And then suddenly she was here! They put Maggie on my chest and I said “She’s so tiny!” She was longer and a little skinnier than Lily so looked so scrawny. Margaret Emmelise O’Connor was born 9:53am, 21 inches and 8lbs 3oz. She just lay on me for the longest time, just like I had requested. The cord was wrapped around her neck but they still asked if I wanted to wait to clamp it, according to my birth plan (“No!”). We had extra skin-to-skin time before she was washed up because there weren’t any rooms available. Eventually they brought us to our room and Maggie to the nursery for her shots. I took a shower and was amazed at how much better I felt after Maggie’s birth than Lily’s. I also wasn’t starving. Ryan texted our family while we were still in the labor room and they were all shocked to see pics of the baby. My mom actually said to her friends at work “Who’s baby is this?” because it had gone so quickly. I was in active labor for under three hours!

My delivery could not have gone any better. I think the only thing that was harder this time was them pushing on my stomach afterwards. That was worse than the entire birthing process, and my contractions were bad for the days following. I had some retained placenta as well and actually had to get an ultrasound after passing some tissue. I was, and still am, so excited to think about her birth. It was incredible to be able to recognize each stage as I was in it.

To this day, Maggie is such a chill baby. It was like she didn’t want to impose on us with her birth. We convinced them to let us go home the next afternoon instead of staying another night. We had already spent several nights in the hospital just over a month earlier when Lily had RSV, and we were ready to go home. We didn’t even go straight home though–we went to my in-laws where everyone got to see her again and we got to pick Lily up. I felt so dramatically better this time around that we really launched right back into our lives. We even went out to a bakery for cookies the next day and people were amazed at how new she was. Even in the hospital, I felt like myself so much more quickly than I had with Lily. It’s been a whirlwind since Maggie was born, and so difficult dividing my time between my two girls. She is the sweetest thing though, and I can’t wait to watch her grow into a little girl.

baby-maggie

Itty-bitty week-old Maggie Moo.

 

#3: It’s not cheating

When I was pregnant, I was adamant about doing everything naturally.  A natural delivery was only part of this plan.  We were going to swaddle!  No Boppy Pillow on this girl’s registry!  Our baby would be toted in a sling!  Cloth diapers only for this munchkin!  After all, old school mommies are the best mommies.  Guess how many of those we accomplished?

Zero.

As I watched my intentions vanish into the distance while my life became simultaneously easier, I felt as though I were cheating.  If mothers had been doing these things for centuries, why couldn’t I?  Giving in and using modern developments like the Halo and baby carriers meant I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

Eventually I realized I was.  I tried to deliver naturally.  I tried to swaddle my baby.  None of these things worked.  Recently I received a Summer Infant Swaddleme from another mom.  I commented on how I couldn’t have enough of these because Lily spits up on them at night.  Her response?  “I felt like I was cheating, but these are great.”  Hallelujah!  Guess what?  She had tried swaddling first, too.  We weren’t cheating.  We were doing what was best for our babies.  Cheating is scheduling a C-section without medical reason, or bringing a nanny along on your lunch dates.  So here’s my bit on how I realized that “giving up” on each of these things I felt so strongly about really wasn’t giving up at all.

#1:  Cloth diapering: We were all stocked up on Best Bottoms.  They were supposed to be easy to use, even for the reluctant caregiver or family member.  And they are.  However, they are simply too big for even hefty newborns like my own.  She was swimming in them when we tried at about 2 weeks. Thankfully my sister in law anticipated this and had gifted us an Honest Company diaper cake.  We used those for about 3 weeks, but now we are all cloth, all the time.

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I make pooping in your pants look adorbs.

#2:  Swaddling:  Around month 7 of my pregnancy, Ryan and I watched a video on swaddling (the baby whisperer one).  We were really into this concept, and excited we were going to do the right thing–the thing everyone in every non-Western culture knew was best–and swaddle our baby.  We would not be using that Halo sleep sack the hospital gave us!  Guess what I’m using all those expensive Aiden and Anais swaddle blankets for?  Burp cloths.  I ripped into that sleep sack before even leaving the hospital.  She just likes to flail her arms around and breaks out of a swaddle.  Plus her hands keep her entertained when she’s awake at night, and sometimes she can stick them in her mouth.

#3:  Boppy Pillow:  Pre-nursing, I thought Boppy Pillows were a sign of weakness.  Now I know they’re the same as the regular bed pillows our fore-mothers used, just shaped differently.  Side note:  I have a Mobo, which is a less expensive Boppy and it has a vibrating thing inside.

#4:  Slings:  I had visions of myself walking with Lily in a sling through parks and down village streets, catching the approving and jealous eyes of onlookers.  Riiiiight.  Lily hated the sling.  You know what she loves?  Carriers.  She screamed when I stuck her in the sling, and fell right asleep in the carrier.

#5:  Natural Deliveries:  Ryan and I planned on having an epidural-free delivery.  His aunt did Lamaze classes with us.  I listened to hypnosis apps (that’s a lie–I never made it all the way through without falling asleep).  Simply having been an athlete and running through pain made me feel prepared.  We discussed my plans to take Nubain if I felt I needed it.  I didn’t make a rigid birth plan because I wanted to make sure that after the fact I could love on my baby and not be hung up on my delivery not going exactly my way.  I got induced and a few hours later things started picking up pretty quickly.  I decided to get Nubain at 5pm, when I was 3cm dilated.  The Nubain didn’t touch the pain or help me relax, but it did make me dilate 4cm in two hours.  My contractions were abnormally long with extended peaks, and I had less than a 10 second break between each one.  Two contractions after I saw fear spread across my notoriously calm husband’s face, I asked for an epidural.  My nurse, who had been very supportive of me not getting an IV or extensive pain meds, agreed it was time.  When my nurse from the previous night came in afterwards, she said “This is what epidurals are for.  They’re not for those women who come in and have two contractions and give up.”  She was referring to the fact that the Pitocin had made my delivery completely “unnatural”.  This helped me realize that having a natural birth in very unnatural circumstances isn’t necessarily realistic.  Would I have an epidural again?  Probably not.  But that’s because I don’t plan on getting induced ever again.

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Can’t feel my legs, but I can feel that little girl.