Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sophia's Birth Story

The week of the birth I was busy trying to get things done, while also taking the girls to do fun things, and battling the strange joint pain and inflammation that would come every afternoon or evening and make it hard to do anything. I was a little bit stressed, and sometimes a grumpy mom. Not as peaceful a birth week as I had hoped! But things worked out. I had some lovely outings with friends, Jeff helped with cleaning, and I finally finished the freezer meals the night before. 

Getting these girls to help is no small task, but holding a movie over their head helped
Made lasagna for the first time! One for that night, one for the freezer

We were blessed to have some wonderful friends watch the girls the day of the birth, and they even let us bring them the night before my induction, saving us a lot of hassle in the morning. Thank you to the Hoyts!

These cuties all ready to go to the Hoyt's house for the night. My heart!
As I wrote in my previous post, I was being induced at 38 weeks and 4 days due to my mild case of cholestasis of pregnancy. I did not want to be induced, but felt good about following this recommendation and a lot of peace about the day of June 15. I delivered OSU Wexner Medical Center, and have only good things to say about the hospital, and the midwives I saw.

The morning of I felt anxious and ready to get started. It took a while getting checked in and things. Despite my efforts to eat dates and bounce on a yoga ball, I was still only dilated to 1 cm. The plan was to start with a foley balloon and a medication, the name of which escapes me, in order to dilate my cervix in preparation for pitocin. I was told that rarely does the foley balloon start actual labor.

It was 9:30 am by the time they had inserted the balloon and medication. It wasn't too comfortable and I followed the advice to rest. I was wishing I could pee but I kept drinking water anyway and hoped for the optimistic two hours rather than four that it could take to dilate to a 4. I closed my eyes for a while and then watched Fixer Upper.  During that time Jeff walked the 200 feet across the street to his office to work for a couple hours since he doesn't get paternal leave and has limited sick leave. 

Lo and behold, after 2 hours I had dilated to 4 cm! The nurse even double checked after pulling out the balloon. The policy is to not do anything (like pitocin) for a total of 4 hours after the balloon is in, so I waited. The cool thing was, I was starting to feel actual contractions about every 5 minutes.

Thank Heaven above, I was in labor! I didn't have to get pitocin. I didn't have to have an IV in my port. I didn't have to have continuous fetal monitoring and would be free to walk the halls with ease. Answered. Prayer.

So walk the halls I did. Jeff was with me during the whole process, except when I was resting with the balloon. 

A big thank you to my friend Jennie for coming and capturing these moments!

During contractions I am very focused and just breathe through or moan. Jeff knows I like quiet and no touch, and others in the room usually catch on pretty quickly. In the hall there was a bar I could hold during a contraction. The nurse recommended I squat during a contraction. I tried, but for me it didn't feel too good. I just sort of sat a little bit. 

I was SO grateful to have a midwife around during the whole process. She gave me a sort of assignment every 30 minutes that I could try if I liked. Every 30 minutes I had to be checked on the heart monitor, so that timing worked out. 

The next thing I tried was leaning over the back of the upright bed. This felt very relaxing for me. This is when we got out my ocean wave sounds. I had started using that as background for my mindful breathing and stretching months before, and it had a really relaxing effect on the whole room. Again, just breathing or moaning through contractions and getting encouragement but mostly quiet.

Next I sat backwards on the toilet, leaning on pillows. She said 15 minutes was a good goal for this one as it is intense and after a while your legs will hurt. I was still really calm even though contractions were getting more intense. At this point an image of a lavender field and bees buzzing came into my head and I went with it. For the next while, every time I had a contraction I would go to that place and imagine the details. I next moved back to walking the halls and kept up this visualization. 

After that I was happy to move to the bed. This seemed like a good time to try the "peanut ball" my nurse was so enthusiastic about. It is perfect for opening your pelvis while lying on your side. This is the same position I was in with Abby during transition. I figured I was close to that point. And I was. Things were getting more intense. I knew from before that transition would be quick, and that is what got me through it. At this point I dropped the lavender and visualized the head descending into the pelvis. Contractions were rough, but in between I could sigh and smile and think about meeting my baby girl. 

I was dilated to a 7 and the midwife said they could break my water and have a baby within an hour. I agreed. 

Jeff guesses transition was about 20. I got a little louder. I was gripping the mattress. Sometimes I moaned with an wide open mouth, thinking of Ina May's teachings that the state of mouth reflects onto the state of the cervix. Sometimes I breathed a quick breath like through a straw. Whatever came to mind I just did! This part was not fun, but again, I knew it wouldn't be long, and Jeff did too, and he kept reminding me of that. I think with labor a big key is not resisting the pain. The pain is bringing your baby. (Maybe it's not that simple for everyone, but for me that seems to work). 

I'm not sure about all the details or the order of the events of the next few minutes. At some point they took away the peanut ball, asked me to stop gripping the mattress and to hold my leg instead. At some point I sort of felt a painful urge to poop and voiced this. "That's the baby coming!" is the reply I expected and received. 

I have read many stories where pushing feels so satisfying it's not really painful. As I wrote this post, I started writing that it did hurt for me, but it was quick. Jeff thinks I was pushing for 5 or 10 minutes tops. However, after looking at the pictures I have, I'm not sure I remember this part very clearly. I can see from the photos that I was in pain, and then after the photo of the head crowning (not included here), my face looks very calm. So maybe pushing didn't hurt! I don't remember. It was quick anyway.

Baby girl was born at 3:55 pm. There had been meconium in my water, for the third time. But this time, as I was informed when I asked at a previous appointment, I would still be able to hold my baby immediately, while the team checked her breathing and everything. So grateful policies like this are changing!

When I am pushing I am totally in the zone of my body. I remember forcing myself to open my eyes and look down when I knew the baby was coming. I think I closed them again though. But being able to hold that slimy body right away helped me to snap out of my intense focus on my own body, and focus on her. This was so nice! A big difference from when I birthed Abby unmedicated and she was immediately taken away to be checked. In that case I felt a huge feeling of accomplishment and relief but was not bonding with my baby -- the very reward for my efforts! 

When she first came out she seemed gray and was not crying. The chord was wrapped around her neck once. The hospital practices delayed chord clamping (how much cooler can a hospital get?) but after 30 seconds they clamped the chord and then she pinked up and started crying.

It's a wonderful feeling holding my baby and knowing that being on my chest is the very best place in the world for her to be. And there she was! We spent probably an hour like this, trying breastfeeding on and off when she was interested. Precious time.

It also comforted me to hold her because after delivery there were some complications with getting my placenta out, having too much bleeding and needing some blood clots removed. This involved the midwife literally reaching her hand into my uterus to get everything out and prevent a need for surgery. Let's just say at that point I was happy to get some pain medication pumped into my IV along with the pitocin and other medication they gave me to facilitate recovery.

The midwife told me that my placenta showed some signs of aging, so it was good she came early. This was confirmation that we did the right thing being induced. Heavenly Father was looking out for this girl!

A boring hospital room sure becomes a sacred space when a baby is delivered. We love this baby girl, and are so grateful for the many blessings that accompanied her birth. At 6 lb 8 oz she is the smallest baby I've had by over a pound. Her size is not only cute, but also reminds me that Heavenly Father was involved in the timing of her birth.

We love Sophia Renee!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Cholestasis and Thoughts on Natural Birth

This pregnancy I have been diagnosed with cholestasis of pregnancy. Otherwise I am very healthy and this pregnancy has been pretty smooth, or typical. I am starting to feel that fatigue that comes toward the end, but I just try to keep my day simple, and not stay up too late, and I get through. The end is in sight!

Cholestasis is a condition where for some reason (probably pregnancy hormones) your liver slows down the production of bile. This causes a build up of bile acids in the liver, which can spill into the blood stream. The main symptom is itchiness.

However, there are also risks to the baby. There is an increased risk of unexplained stillbirth, so it is recommended that the mother be induced early, between 37-38 weeks.

When I found out about this I was of course a little stressed. A few days later I asked Jeff for a priesthood blessing, and was assured that the baby would be fine, but also counseled to follow the advice of the medical professionals.

So for some time now we have known (after double and triple checking) that it is recommended that I be delivered early. Early on we looked at the calendar and felt really good about June 15. That is 38 1/2 weeks for me.

The funny thing is, I have about the most mild case of cholestasis possible. This, and some other things lead me to believe this is just meant to be this time around.

First of all, it was amazing that my friend Jennie noticed me itching my arms, and told me to talk to my midwife about it. What my midwife told me about cholestasis actually convinced that I didn't have it. But they ordered labs and my blood level was just high enough to diagnose. A second blood draw a couple weeks later, my level was even lower. For many weeks I have not even been itchy at all.

Another interesting factor is that I had been stressing about when to have my mom come -- trying to avoid her choir rehearsal times and concert dates, but choosing between having her come for the birth and staying shorter, or coming later (somehow surviving) and staying longer. I went back and forth and neither of us felt a rush for her to buy plane tickets.

Additionally, as a post-doc, Jeff does not have any vacation days, personal time off, not to mention paternal leave. And his sick days have stipulations. So I was pretty worried about getting help and support while recovering and adjusting to life with a newborn and two other children.

I have now been officially scheduled to be induced June 15. Because my case is so mild, and I am having non-stress tests every week, the high-risk OB is comfortable letting me wait till 39 weeks to be induced.

This date solves those problems! My mom knows when to come and can stay a good amount of time. Jeff and I chose a day that is a Friday, so he can just use one sick day initially, and be with me that first special weekend.

So while I would otherwise never want to be induced, I of course want to protect the baby, and this is working out as a blessing for me as well. I am so grateful for the peace I feel.

That said, it is interesting, because I have been reading this most wonderful things about birth, and am looking so forward to doing it again with no epidural. I am slightly sad that I will have to be induced artificially, and will have to be in the hospital for the entire labor process, instead of starting at home. I imagine it will be more challenging to do it naturally with pitocin, but I am grateful to know of many other women who have done it.

It is important for me to just let myself be sad about this, but I also think I will work out as best as possible. I have midwives that are supportive of my desires to have a natural birth, the hospital has many options for laboring positions available, they will allow me to give birth in whatever position I like. Also, I know I need to keep my mind open, and whatever needs to happen will be fine.

But you better believe, I will be doing all the natural things the week of my induction, to help my body prepare!

Can I share some beautiful passages from a birth story in my new favorite book, The Gift of Giving Life?

In sharing this, I realized that some women reading this may have not yet had the opportunity to give birth, and others who have given birth, may have had a very different experience. That is ok. Just like with anything that is good and true, I think it is worth sharing for that very reason -- it is good and true.

This is from the story of Neoma Gould, who was actually induced for medical reasons as well. The labor was not easy, but with the support of her husband, using the birthing ball, receiving a priesthood blessing, and laboring in the hot bath, she made it to transition and pushing without getting an epidural.

"At that point [pushing] all breathing patterns went out the window. I made all sorts of moaning sounds...the pushing went fast. Before I knew it, the baby just slimed right out. I was surprised. I remember being amazed at how when the baby came out the pain relief was instantaneous and complete. It was all gone, and I felt wonderful -- exhausted but wonderful. Our baby was here. He was beautiful and perfect.

"I was overwhelmed by feeling of awe at what my body had just done. It was so hard. It was so painful and yet it was incredibly fulfilling and empowering. I was so glad I chose to experience all of it. I felt so close to God.... billions of women all over the world and throughout the millennia had experience this same thing. They had all felt contractions. We had all come nigh unto death to bring forth life.

"Since then I've reflected on how going through a natural birth has helped me better understand Christ's Atonement. During the intensely painful part of labor, I remember wondering if there was any other way, but I knew the only way for this spirit to come to earth was through my body. I chose to submit my desires to God's will.

"...I know God chose to have His children come to earth through pregnancy, labor and delivery, with all its discomforts and joys. He must have designed it this way for a reason. Heavenly Father didn't do this to women as a punishment, but as a blessing."

Sheri Dew has said, "Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us. 

The ability to give birth is part of our divine inheritance as women, whether or not you have gone through it yet. I love the beautiful things I am learning as I read story after story of a variety of different birth experiences -- hospital births, home births, C-sections, inductions-- where all of the women have a prayerful attitude and a spiritual perspective. (shameless plug for this incredible book!!! I can't say enough good about it)

I am so excited to give birth again and to meet this little girl!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Abigail's Birth Story (from 2015)

I am finally at a point where I'm excited to have a baby, and even to give birth. I recently re-read Abby's birth story, and now I'm reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (highly recommend it!). The first half of the book is simply positive stories of "natural", or un-medicated births. It's wonderful and amazing to read. I'm also looking forward to reading The Gift of Giving life, which should be on it's way from amazon.

I just thought I would share a summary plus excerpts from my journal about Abby's birth. She was born August 11, 2015.

The day before I had an appointment and was dilated 2 cm. I took Elena to the park because it was "only" 91 degrees. I got Mexican food with a friend. I packed a hospital bag and wrote down Elena's bedtime routine. I took Elena swimming. I had thoughts that "I can do this!" in thinking about doing it without an epidural. The thing that occurred to me is, my body knows what to do, I have to let it happen.

I started having mild contractions at 2 in the morning. I stayed in bed till about 6:00. We had breakfast, I went on a walk outside and talked on the phone to my mom and sisters. I knew I needed to stay busy and save my labor-coping techniques for later. My awesome friends took Elena on a play-date. They had planned this before and what good timing! Jeff went to work for part of the day and our dear friend Jane came to be with me.

I stayed calm and breathed through contractions, sometimes leaning forward on the exercise ball. In the afternoon I still felt so calm that I wasn't sure whether to go to the hospital, but the contractions were very consistent, so we went around 4 pm or so. In the car things were getting more intense so I started moaning when I felt a contraction starting. When I was admitted I was at a 4 1/2 or 5. The nurses let me do my thing. When I was having a contraction I was in the zone. But in between I would talk with Jeff. He was so proud of me.

I spent a lot of time leaning forward on the exercise ball. I asked the nurses if there was anything I should try besides moaning. The nurse explained that slow breathing is good for relaxation but fast rhythmic breathing is to distract yourself. That's when I started chanting vowels like "ah, ah, ah"

I tried standing for a while. I leaned on a cabinet. We had ocean waves sounds playing. This is when it was starting to get pretty hard. But I realized, the pain and discomfort is coming from the baby descending into my pelvis. But that is the goal! The only way out is down. So I tried really hard to embrace the pain - both mentally and physically by not resisting and closing my legs. This was difficult, and I didn't always succeed, but I believe it helped. I even managed to do some tiny squats during contractions a few times.

After doing that for a bit I was exhausted and went back to the ball. However the leaning over was starting to hurt my lower back. I thought it was time to try the bed. I lied on my side with my legs propped open. It was getting really painful. I was clinging to the side rail. It was harder to relax. I wanted to be checked and was hoping I had earned 8 cm by now, but was at a 7. I didn't know if I could do this. Jeff asked the nurses how long it might take, and they said it can be 1 cm per hour. Horrible answer. I couldn't do three more hours. But deep down I still didn't want an epidural. Vocalizing my doubts got me encouragement from Jeff and the nurses.

I got through another contraction or so and the nurses came back and asked if I thought things might have changed. I said yes, because I want to push. Moans turned to screams. It just felt so natural. There was a little chaos because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to push. They checked me again and I was 10 cm dilated. More screaming, some attempts at pushing, some attempts to stop. On one push my water broke, and I was happy to think this was really happening, and it was satisfying to have productive pushing.

They had me move to my back and scoot down which was super hard. But from this point on I knew it was almost over. There was a lot of pressure and a bit of that burning people talk about, but it didn't feel as raw as I thought - I must have had some good, natural pain killing chemicals going on. It all went fast after that. There was one point when the older nurse got my attention, made eye contact and reminded me to wait until the doctor said I could push, so I would tear badly. She told me the hollering was wasting my energy. I understood. I calmed down.

All I remember is really soon I was pushing and the nurse and Jeff could see her head, and soon I could feel her head pop out, and then the rest.

I did it! I couldn't believe it. I was so happy and relieved. Abby was purple but they said she was fine. I suddenly became aware there was a total thunder storm going on outside. So cool! I soon got to hold her skin to skin. She was smaller than Elena. Jeff told me I was much more alert and happy after this birth that with Elena when I had the epidural.

So that's it! I am excited that this time I will have a midwife in the hospital with me. I am seeing midwives at OSU's medical center and one of them will be there during my labor and birth. Also, in the hospital they have birthing stools, squat bard, and tubs. And I can deliver in whatever position I want. No more scooting down to the edge of the bed for the doctor!

Giving birth naturally is super empowering, and the more I read birth stories from Ina May's book the more I realize it is kind of the culmination of other things I'm learning about mindfulness. Looking forward to doing this again at the end of June!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Next Right Thing

It has been a while since I've blogged! But when I looked at the date of my last post, it makes sense. That would have been just before I started entering first trimester nausea and fatigue.

Despite having done it twice before, and despite being in really great mental and physical shape before becoming pregnant, first trimester knocked me down again! It's just hard to not feel well enough to do anything, but bored/sad that you can't do anything. And despite all the emotional progress I had made, I was really struggling to be excited to have a baby (babies are the hardest thing I've ever done, are you kidding me? Why am I doing this!) or to even be able to acknowledge the reality that it was happening. I preferred to stay in denial.

God's words to Eve in Genesis were becoming pretty real to me:

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;
Genesis 3:16

Sorrow! Does anyone else feel it at times? Also, I found it helpful to read that the footnote for 'multiply' says that the Hebrew means"increase thy discomfort and thy size (i.e. in the condition and process of pregnancy)." Definitely relevant and validating. It's part of the process.

Well, now I'm in second trimester and feeling much better. I've been able to exercise again, which feels great physically and helps my sanity. I'm getting more excited to meet this little girl as well.

Yesterday I posted this photo to my instagram stories of me doing crow pose. That morning I did some living room zumba/pilates/yoga. For maybe twenty minutes. That's how I roll. I'm sore today!

Then later that day for a little reality check I also shared this photo of me, literally lying in my laundry on my bed. (I guess I lost the original file, sorry)

I was tired! I was also sad because it seemed like my two year old, Abby, was starting to lose the afternoon nap. I had tried quiet time for the first time, and it worked, but only for the 25 minutes I had my timer going (start small). Now, both girls were on separate devices, which I didn't really feel great about, and I felt like I couldn't get up. Not a good feeling. 

I share this because something interesting happened with Elena that served as a reminder to me of the fact that we can always turn our day around.

Earlier, in the process of teaching Elena about nap time, she had been defiant and disobedient and lost the previously discussed privilege of having candy after quiet time. I have recently embraced rewards, a big step for me, and it's been very useful! Well needless to say she was very upset and had a hard time with it. Watching Abby get a treat for staying in her room was also difficult. But we got through the afternoon. 

Eventually I was able to get myself up, get the girls off the phones, and started folding laundry, and listening to music to brighten my day. Elena folded some towels to work toward earning her daily dime for doing three jobs (another new thing for me!) She was so cheerful and said, "this is a great day! I'm so glad we could go see my new pre-school this morning." 

It just struck me what a change this was from earlier. But I also felt better. Sure I felt kind of lazy when I was lying in my bed, but I tried to give myself compassion and thought, "I'm tired. I'm pregnant, and I exercised, and did a lot this morning, and I'm tired." I also practiced some thought work I have learned from Jody Moore (Bold New Mom podcast -- listen to it!) and let myself feel sad about the nap time thing, but not let it escalate to worry. Anxiety, she teaches, is always about the future. I told myself, even if she doesn't nap anymore, I will figure it out. It will be ok. 

And now we were busy folding laundry and/or playing as the case may be. It would be a fine day! 

Something I heard once that stuck with me, is when you are in one of those low moments (like lying on your bed feeling like you can't get up, and feeling lame about it) is to think, "what is the next right thing?" Don't worry about the past, don't worry about the future. Just take the next step forward. We can all do that, at any given moment! So I tried to take this opportunity to point out to Elena how before she was having a hard time, and now she was feeling so much better, and how we can always turn our day better. This led to having a family home evening lesson on Enos and repentance. Such a gift we have, to always be able to change.

Overall, I have been learning and growing so much lately, and if anyone wants to talk about the deeper aspects of motherhood or life, you know where to find me! I want nothing more than to have these conversations.

Have a great day!