Monday, June 2, 2014

The Day I became a Mother

 This Friday was no different than most Fridays at work. My students were in P.E. and I was just about to pick them up. I checked my phone. I was supposed to hear back from the midwives about my blood draw. They were slightly worried about pre-eclyampsia and were going to call me with results. I was supposed to hear by noon. It was 10 a.m. and I had a voice mail--it was one of the midwives asking me to call back "As soon as possible."

I don't remember the formalities that took place at the beginning of the call, I only remember, "Sharlee, you have pre-eclampsia and the doctor would like to induce today. I know it's not ideal and I'm so sorry. I'd like you to leave work, call Zach, and meet me at the hospital. Call me when you are on your way so I can meet you there." 

I didn't call Zach, I sent him a quick message instead as I went to pick my kids up from P.E. On my way back from P.E. I told my kids to keep going while I stopped into the office and grabbed my brand new boss. (My old boss had left at Christmas break. I had known this new principal for two weeks). Teary-eyed and terrified, I told her I needed to leave--I had to be induced and I was supposed to meet my husband at home. 

The roads were a bit icy that day and she insisted on driving me home. I went to my room, quickly said goodbye to my students, and walked down the hall. I felt so sad, disappointed, and scared. People were hugging me and wishing me well. They were already congratulating me, but I was not happy. 

I could not make myself feel excited that I was meeting my baby. I was only focused on "This wasn't how it was supposed to be." I had read all the books on natural labor. I had taken an extensive class so that I would be prepared. I had a healthy pregnancy. All of my plans went out the window and I was having a hard time rewiring my brain. After 10 months of planning a natural birth, I was being forced into the opposite in a number of minutes. 

While I waited for Zach to come home I made a few phone calls and cried. I still packed all of our "comfort measures" from birthing class--just in case I could manage an induced labor without medication. (I guess there was somewhere in there a TINY bit of hope in my heart). I vacuumed the floor and got our things ready. Zach came home and we were off, leaving as a family of two to return as a family of three. 

On our wedding day, I was starving and Zach and I stopped in at McDonald's (it was the closest place) and grabbed chicken nuggets before our temple sealing. The day I was supposed to meet my baby, I was also starving. We only saw it fitting to grab some chicken nuggets on the way to the hospital. After the food was gone, I was no longer distracted. The tears came and I felt angry. I said to Zach, "This is terrifying. I can't believe that people actually choose to do this! I'm going to have to force my body to do something it's not ready for because I got sick. This sucks." 

Zach tried to be sympathetic, but he is a different kind of person than me. I could tell that he was actually excited that we were going to meet our baby. My body shook as we got closer and closer to the hospital. Then I remembered the doula I was supposed to meet for coffee/hot chocolate the next day. We had decided on a doula at the last minute and she came highly recommended by someone we trusted. I sent her  a message. "I guess I am being induced today. I won't be able to meet you tomorrow. I'm sorry."

"Oh. I'm sorry. I know we haven't met yet, but I could still come to the hospital if you'd like me to when I get off of work tonight."

I thought it over and in less than a minute I responded. "I would actually like that. I am so scared." 

I had never met this woman but I was agreeing to let her be present at the birth--if that gives any indication of how frightened I was. 

I do not take medicine very often. I go to the doctor even less frequently. I prefer to take care of my body as naturally as possible. The idea of forcing my body into something it wasn't time for seemed brutal and I feared I wouldn't be able to do it without medication. 

We met my midwife at the hospital and she helped get us admitted. While we waited to meet with the doctor, my midwife discussed induction options with me. I had decided to ask about a Foley Bulb Catheter which mechanically starts the induction process--it was a  medicine-free option and I wanted to stay away from the medication as long as I possibly could.

As I met with the doctor I was so grateful for our decision to have prenatal care at our birthing center. The center we chose works hard to develop a real relationship with the doctors in the area. This particular doctor is one they worked with frequently and he was very sensitive to the fact that I didn't want to be there and that I wanted a natural birth. He promised me that he would try to make sure I got as close to what I wanted as I could possibly be while still keeping me and the baby safe. I nodded and thanked him with tears in my eyes. The tears came from both my fear and my gratitude that this man was being so compassionate. 

Before I could even ask, the doctor mentioned the catheter. I was so grateful and agreed to it. We said goodbye to the midwife and about an hour later, the catheter was placed. Within the hour, the doula showed up. She was young--really young. And petite. But I liked her. She seemed kind and that is exactly what I needed. 

 I won't say that I handled the catheter well (as my husband and mom can attest). It wasn't a natural thing I was doing and I knew it. It was placed for 12 hours and I literally never got used to it or over it. I probably threw a fit about it every hour on the hour. Our doula, Sondra, wanted me to calm down a bit so we got out a card game we had brought along (remember that hopeful packing?) My mom, Zach, Sondra, and I played an entire game of Quiddler. I won--and yes, while in the midst of early labor. I was having relatively regular contractions during the game and I got out my phone app to time them. 

During the game I was silently praying that the baby would come on his/her own. I remember pleading with the baby, "Please come. Just start coming now." And when the contractions became more regular, I said to everyone in the room, 'If I go into labor on my own, I think I can do it. I really think I can."

From this point on, my concept of time is a little off. I know that I spent a little over an hour in the bathtub. It seemed to help ease my discomfort and I was able to nod off a little. It also gave my team a bit of a break as they were not sleeping right along with me. When the water got too cold, I finally ventured out of the tub and back to reality. At some point I also watched episodes of Fraiser on my notebook while trying to make it through contractions.

When the contractions started picking up some time in the very early morning, Zach and I started using one of our techniques we had decided on in class. Zach would give me a word to spell and I would spell it back one letter at a time. For example, he gave me the word antelope.I would start with 'A. An. Ant. Ante. Antel. Antelo. Antelop. Antelope." I would do this until the contraction was over. We interspersed spelling with Friends trivia questions. Those tactics helped give my mind something to do and focus on and they worked rather well. 

In the morning, before the sun was up, my dear new doctor came in to tell me goodbye and take the catheter out. He was leaving me in the hands of another doctor. He removed the catheter and told me I was probably 2 or 3 cm dilated. He reminded me that the new doctor would discuss the next step with me and I would probably choose between small doses of Pitocin or having my water broken. 

This was the moment I had been putting off. I didn't want a new doctor, I had already changed out of my beloved midwives' care to this man's. I trusted him. Now I had to decide if I trusted this new doctor? I also did not want to decide between Pitocin and having my water broken. Thanks to the homework I had to do for my child-birthing class, I knew the pros and cons of each. I didn't want to do either, but I knew when the time came to choose I would choose having my water broken. 

While we waited to meet the new doctor, I was talking to my room full of support and said, "Why do they keep telling me I have to choose something. Isn't it possible that I'm already in labor? I've been having regular contractions." After I said that, Sondra encouraged me to ask the doctor if I could have a little more time to labor on my own and just see what she said. 

Soon after that, the doctor came in. She shook my hand and told me that she'd have a resident with her for delivery. She discussed my history (midwives, pre-eclampsia, change of plans). She also strongly sympathized and said, "I am guessing you really don't want a C-Section." To which I nodded my head repeatedly and said, "No, I really REALLY don't want a C-Section." She started talking options and started to tell me she'd be back and I'd make a decision in a little while. I spoke up, "I have been having somewhat regular contractions. Is there any way I can have a little time to see if my body will do this on its own?" She wasn't opposed to the idea (which was a huge relief) and asked if I wanted to be checked. 

Truthfully I didn't want to be checked, but I knew I was in a hospital and the only way I was going to get my way was to let them check me. My plans had gone out the window and I had to shift my priorities. She checked me and I was at a 5. I was elated! I had been hoping I was at least a 3. I really had been laboring through the night. 

She told me that she would give me some more time if I would get up and walk. I got out of the hospital bed so quickly. I changed into my next outfit. (I brought my own nightgown and clothes to labor in.) My outfit was a pair of (short) short (which looked ridiculous with my heavy legs filled with the water I was retaining) and one of Zach's t-shirts I had packed as a comfort measure. 

We started walking the halls. Before I had even rounded the corner, I had a very intense contraction. More came as I walked the halls. My labor started to get really intense with that little walk and from then on it was survival mode. 

This is where my concept of time gets really hazy. Spelling no longer worked for me so I found comfort in Sondra and Zach squeezing my hips during contractions or finding different positions to labor in. I coped through the contractions with counting. I was holding fingers out to count seconds, when Sondra noticed this she started to use it to help me. She counted out loud with me.

I was never more grateful for our child-birthing class than I was during this time. I was using breathing as a way of coping. Zach would notice when I was not breathing in rhythm and was getting anxious or upset. He would hold on to me and coach me through my breathing. I cannot say how much rhythm in my breathing helped me have something to focus on. 

At some point I was checked again and I was at an 8. Things were moving pretty fast (or at least that's how it felt) and I was handling it just fine. The nurse started setting up the delivery table and I was starting to feel excited. I was doing this! My baby was cooperating and things were going great! I won't say I wasn't in pain, but up until that point I was just working hard to have my way---I wanted a natural labor and I was pretty much getting it. 

"I'm going to start having this baby any minute." I thought. "Transition is the hardest, but usually fastest part of labor." I reminded myself.

And then it got intense.  I was in pain, I was exhausted, and I felt done. I was barely able to make it through one contraction before the next one came. I couldn't even catch my breath. I remember crying to everyone and saying, "I'm just so tired."



I remember Zach taking a call at some point during this difficult time. He was talking to the midwife that had met and talked with us the day before. He was telling her how things were going and explained that I didn't have to have Pitocin and things were progressing. At some point in their conversation, she asked if Holly could/should meet us at the hospital. He told her yes, but didn't tell me.

You see, Holly was (is) my very favorite midwife. She was actually a student, but she saw me through my entire pregnancy. From the first "appointment" I had after a little scare, where she tried to reassure me. She was the one who held the doppler while we listened to our baby's heartbeat for the first time. And she was the one who cried with me through the tears of anxiety I had toward the end...as I was worried I wouldn't connect with my baby. She cried as she promised me I would. I had wanted her to be present at the birth and certain circumstances for her schooling almost guaranteed she would be there unless she was out of town. Zach and I literally prayed every night after January 1st that Holly could be present for the birth of our baby. 

When Holly walked through the door to my hospital room, my heart filled with gratitude and love. I was not able to vocalize any of those thoughts as I was in too much pain and I was far too tired, but I was so relieved to have her there. She knew me. She knew my pregnancy. She knew my concerns and my worries. I would be okay. 

My mom and Holly
The resident came in and offered to check me again. No progress. What?!?! She offered to break my water to see if things would start moving faster. I remember telling her, 'I don't have enough time between contractions to really discuss and think about it. It's a decision I don't feel capable of making right now." 

We tried different positions for me to labor in. I suppose we tried to find a balance between alleviating my pain and helping the baby to move and progress. Unfortunately, I could not do both at the same time. Any positions that helped the baby move, were significantly more painful. Sondra helped me deal with those by telling me. Let's just try this position for 2 contractions and then we'll try something else. I could deal much better if I knew there was an end to something even if it wasn't this labor. 

The doctor came in again and offered to check me. At this point, I didn't care. I let her. And I was almost a 9. It was becoming unbearable. She offered to break my water again. I declined...again. For as much pain as I was in, I was certainly determined to have as few interventions as possible. 


I kept trying different positions and people kept asking me if I felt like I had to push. I wanted to feel like that, so I kept thinking "Maybe I need to push?" Holly told me that I would KNOW when I had to push. She was right. When the moment came, I knew and there was no stopping it. Our bodies are so incredible that way. The best moment came during that time. My water broke. I was so thrilled...the last little intervention they had kept offering me, was no longer necessary. My baby was cooperating so well and s/he was coming. The nurse called the doctor to let her know it was time. 

The doctor checked me one final time and it was go time. Finally. Begin the pushing stage. Some women say they enjoy that stage. I won't necessarily say that I enjoyed it---but it was the most intense stage and with that intensity my body  started creating a very (VERY) high dose of its own drugs. I was actually drifting in and out of sleep between contractions and pushing. In those stages of "sleep" I saw the name Bill spelled Bi11. It would flash a certain number of times before it was time to push again. My body had truly created its own way of coping. At one point I said, "Herbivore" out loud. I must have been dreaming or something about something, but I can't remember. Holly asked Zach if it was a code word. "Not that I know of." He replied. I heard all of this talking but I couldn't respond. The task at hand demanded every bit of energy I had.

Either Sondra or Holly suggested a sugar boost in the form of juice or soda. They asked Zach what I would prefer and he told them cranberry juice. I took sips between pushes. I had the biggest cheerleading team in my room. Everyone was cheering me on, telling me how well I was doing, and encouraging me. I was caught between believing the baby would be here soon and believing the end would never come.

I knew the end was in sight when they so kindly asked me what my preferences were after birth.  I had only written a birth plan in the case of an emergency hospital transfer. I hadn't needed one for the birthing center. I quickly rattled off everything I could remember, "I want immediate skin to skin, we're delaying cord clamping, Zach's cutting the cord, Zach will be the one to tell me the gender, we're declining eye ointment, and we want the Vitamin K shot." How I was able to rattle off those things is beyond me, but I am forever grateful that they asked and that I could remember.
If you look closely, you can see the band on my wrist
The next thing we knew, they were putting bands on my wrist, Zach's wrist, and had a band ready for the baby. The nurse was explaining that the bands told the hospital staff that we were all a family. Zach and I looked at each other in such anticipation, Zach already had tears in his eyes. We were about to meet our baby. 

I truly could see the end coming when they asked me to take off my shirt since I wanted immediate skin to skin contact. The resident said, "There's not going to be time, you'll need to take it off now." Those words were music to my ears. I was looking so forward to having that babe on my chest...and being out of pain.

After a few more minutes of pushing, with energy I don't know how I found, our baby was born. The next few seconds went so quickly. As I tried to catch my breath I heard Zach say over her loud wails, "It's a little girl!" He was crying and there was so much excitement in his voice. And, as though at the same exact moment, that little girl was directly on my bare chest.
 I looked at her and she immediately stopped crying and looked up at me. The wails had stopped but there was still a furrow in her brow.
My mom was on the phone with my dad and she came over and looked at her, "Oh she's cute!" she said, tears falling.

"She is cute." I thought to myself. "Beautiful." She was so beautiful and she just had this look that told me she needed me. It is that moment that I recognized I was what she needed and she would need all of me. I knew I was a mother in that moment.
I had been so scared of becoming a mom. I worried I'd be too selfish. I worried it would be too hard. I worried it would change me too much. There were a lot of things I had worried about, but as I said the words, "Hi JaiseAnn. Hi baby." to my daughter for the first time, I knew that I was made to be her mom.





My fears of motherhood diminished with one glance at that furrowed brow. She was mine and she needed me. I was made for her. We were made for each other. 

The day I became a mom is a day that I relive over and over in my mind. It is the day that dreams that I didn't know I had came true. 

In my short time in this journey through motherhood, that's what I've learned it's all about. Every day something happens and I fall in love with this role. Things I never knew would fulfill me--like the first time she grabbed a toy or her hand on my chest when I'm feeding her, make my heart overflow. Motherhood is full of surprises. The best part is those surprises are often granted wishes you never even knew to ask for. 



7 comments:

  1. Sharlee, this is so incredibly beautiful. Tears, tears are streaming down my face right now. You are SO strong in SO many ways - and you can be PROUD of your birthing experience. Our bodies are so amazing and I'm in awe of you and yours. I'm smiling ear to ear for you right now - what an exciting and emotional story to share with her when she is older!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just read this again. It is THAT good.

      Delete
    2. Thank you, Lauren! I think someone needs to write a post on how to respond to comments that leave you speechless. I appreciate your kind words so much. As you know, your birth story was my favorite. I had high hopes of having an experience like yours and I was relieved when plans changed, but some still managed to stay the same. :)

      Delete
  2. WOW! I got all choked up reading this! Birth stories always do that to me... it really is such a miracle. This was beautiful and I'm so glad you got to do things as much as possible your way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I used to love reading birth stories, but they were never an emotional experience for me until now! Crazy how motherhood does that to you. I am grateful that I got things to go mostly my way, too. Unfortunately, that's not how my recovery went. More on that later!

      Delete
  3. I've found everyone's birth stories so interesting!! Thanks for sharing yours friend :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Amberly. Long before I had kids I was obsessed with birth stories. Thanks for reading!

      Delete

I read, value, and respond to all comments--please share.