Tuesday, November 11, 2008
About my Birth
I was born at the Birthing Center, in Fairbanks, Alaska. Although I was scheduled to arrive into the world on October 27, 2008, I was actually two weeks late. It was very hard for mama to be patient those last two weeks, but she managed to get a lot of projects done in that time.
The best thing about me coming late was that Emah was scheduled to come into town on November 8. By the time she arrived in town, Mama had been in labor for several days. Her labor began on a Thursday in the middle of the night. Well...she can tell you all about it...
Yes, I was worried that I would be forced to transfer my care to the hospital if I went two weeks over the due date. We had confirmation from both ultrasound and the LMP that the due date was correct, so little "Zippy" as we called him in utero, was definitely late. Thursday during the day I had seen my midwife, Vanessa Dunham, and she spent about an hour giving me an induction massage using acupressure points on my feet and legs. I was only about 10% effaced at that point, and not at all dilated. The massage must have worked, because I began to feel light menstrual type cramps in the middle of the night, signaling the start of labor. The contractions became more regular on Friday. I went for a long hike in the snow, and Da-ka took the day off. I lost part my mucus plug that afternoon, and it seemed that my waters were perhaps leaking out throughout the day. We made an awesome dinner of quiche and salad, and curled up to watch a movie. I was feeling very peaceful that evening. My doula, Kate Parks, called and offered to help speed things along for us. My contractions were about 10-12 minutes apart at that point. I opted instead to get a good night's sleep, and be ready to have the baby on Saturday.
We slept well on Friday night, with only a few contractions being intense enough to wake me. Come Saturday morning, the contractions were 15-20 minutes apart, and stayed that way most of the day. Again, I went for a long walk, hauled wood, tried nipple stimulation (which I found sped up contractions, and made them more painful, but as soon as stimulation stopped they'd slow down again). I was getting impatient again! Saturday night was a bit more of a blur. My father-in-law went and picked my mom up from the airport, as Da-ka and I were both hoping to be at the birth center by then. Mom got settled, and I was working through pretty absorbing contractions - but they were still about 10 minutes apart. Then we found out that Da-ka's mom, Shirley, had booked a flight to Fairbanks as well. She arrived around 3 AM.
I found myself sleeping between contractions, and quietly singing AUM though each one. It was a long night. Why AUM? In Sanskrit, it is said to be the sound of the universe. A is the creation, U the sustaining, and M is the conclusion of all things. Chanting through my labor gave me the focus and concentration I needed, converted the sensations into sound, and forced me to control my breath. Sunday morning, still only in early labor. Another long walk, then an appointment with Vanessa again. This time she swept my membranes (separating the bag of waters from the cervix) and told me I was about 50% effaced, and 1-2cm dilated. She assured me that things were progressing, and that all was well. Not to worry. They weren't going to transfer me to the hospital. Zippy sounded good, and my blood pressure was still quite low.
Da-ka and the Moms and I went to the video store. The car was already packed up for the birth center (it had been packed for 3 days now!). We rented a few movies, and I don't even remember what or if we watched anything. I found that the lap feature on my iphone worked really well for timing contractions, and I continued to time them in bed for a while. During that time the contractions had gotten really intense. I was no longer AUMing, as everyone else was asleep, but I could feel my body opening with each one. Finally, the contractions were about 3 minutes apart, and lasting 1 minute 45 seconds each. I had made it to active labor! It was 1:11 AM I recall when I called Kate. I was in too much pain to continue to lie down, so I decided to get up and walk. I made it to my yoga mat in the studio, and labored there until Kate arrived about 30 minutes later. Da-ka was up with me. It this point it was too intense to move during a contraction. I had some passing nausea, but never actually got sick.
Kate suggested I go downstairs and hang out on the swing. We had rigged up a labor swing the day before, and I sat on a birthing ball and hung in the swing. AUMing with each contraction, Kate massaged my hips and back, Da-ka held my hands, and the moms were now up, one on each arm, singing along with me. With a fire crackling, and the support of my loving family and Doula, I felt very blessed to be laboring in this way.
Soon enough, Kate informed me that it was time to head to the Birth Center. We had talked about having a home birth earlier, but I had decided that I really wanted to use the birth tub. Although the midwives have a tub we rented, the weight of the 200 gallons on our suspended floor was questionable. Plus, I know it made my mom infinitely more comfortable to be close to a hospital...so we made way to head into town.
The drive was slow in the middle of the night. I'm told we arrived around 4 AM. I recall laying on the bed in the birthing room (we were in the flower room, ironically, not the ocean room which has killer whales all over it! ) Vanessa took the baby's heart beat, and it was very slow. I became vividly aware of that moment. She had me get off of my right side, and his heart beat picked up. She warned me that if it slowed again, there was no question and we were transferring to the hospital. Okay...
My friend Nikol happened to be the attendant at the birth. Yet another beautiful woman to have in support! Nikol ran the bath for me, and I continued to labor on the birth ball with my birth team. As soon as I could, I got into the tub. They keep the water kindda cool, so I brought my wool prayer shawl with me to wrap around me (the wet goat). Although I liked being in the water, it wasn't as supportive as having all the hands on me outside. I know it was more awkward for Kate to help with hip pressure, and everyone had to lean over the tub to reach me. Be this as it may, I continued to labor in the tub. Da-ka sat on the edge with me, and we all continued to AUM though each contraction.
I lost all sense of time. I recall moments...opening my eyes and seeing Shirley Mom with her hands folded in prayer AUMing as the midwives checked the baby's heartbeat. My mom leaning over me and singing in my ear. Looking into my husband's eyes as I worked through transition.
I knew I was at the end of active labor and had arrived to pushing as my body began to bear down at the end of the last intense contractions. No one had to check me. And then, the most wonderful thing happened. It all stopped! I don't know how long...minutes. Maybe 10 or 15. And I slept. The contractions slowed way down, were shorter, and each push was work, but then rest in between. Total Savasana. As they began to pick up, Da-ka got into the tub with me. I sat on his lap and squatted while pushing, relaxing back on him in between. He was so encouraging and vocal and positive the whole time. It was so fast, and they could see the baby's head. When I touched him, I knew he was a boy. I had thought he was a boy at first, then began to call Zippy a she around 7 months or so, just in case. I always dreamt about my son...
At this point, Kate was so wise, she told me to turn the energy of vocalizations into pushing. No more singing now... that really helped me to keep the pushing productive.
I was brought back into the room when Vanessa told me to get out of the tub. I guess Zippy's heart rate had dropped again. The three steps from the birth tub to the bed were almost impossible. I had three contractions on the way. When I got onto the bed it was really only several pushes and he was crowning. I "blew out the candles" for a while, to help me stretch. With a few more pushes, Keet was born.
His cord was wrapped around his neck twice, and I'm told his body was a different color from his head. Vanessa worked quickly, and he was yelling and screaming within moments. My mom called out, "It's a Boy!". He was put on my chest immediately, and he began to nurse soon after. He nursed for almost an hour right away. The room cleared, and Da-ka and I were left to spend time with our son.
At some point, the placenta was delivered. We wrapped it up and kept Keet connected to it for several hours. Neither Da-ka nor I was interested in cutting the cord. After it was cut, we all got back into the bath together and got cleaned up. Keet stretched out for the first time, and actually fell asleep while Da-ka held his head.
We stayed at the Birth Center until about 4PM, then headed home, our new family was
tired, but our connections deeply forged. It was a beautiful birth!
A loving thank you to the Grandmothers, the midwives and doula, my loving husband, and my strong son. May every birth be filled with such strength, faith, and love. AUM.