Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Birth of Presley Bella Parker (Jamie's Labor Story)

My Labor Story
Jamie Beth Parker
Written: January 25, 2009
Birth of Presley Bella Parker: January 14, 2009

I am writing this story in the hopes that more women will commit to natural childbirth. My husband and my close family and friends all know that when I put my mind to something, it will happen. Anyone can put their mind to something; it’s just a matter of breaking through all the fear and doubt, and fully realizing the love and confidence available on the other side.

I started my labor at home a few weeks before I went into active labor. At first it started as tightening at the top of my abdomen (Braxton-Hicks contractions), and then it moved down lower, like menstrual cramps. I slowly became dilated with every contraction. At three weeks before my due date (January 12, 2009), I was three centimeters dilated. I was checked again by the doctor one week before my due date. At this point, I was four centimeters dilated and 80 percent effaced. I had my next appointment scheduled for January 14, 2009. Andy decided to go with me in case any decisions needed to be made regarding an induction. The night before the appointment, I noticed a bit of wetness that didn’t seem like normal discharge, but it wasn’t pouring out of me, so I figured I would ask about it at my doctor’s appointment the next day. We made sure everything was packed for the hospital before we went to the appointment, since my obstetrician is located next to the hospital. Sure enough, my midwife, Claire Szymanski, confirmed that my water had indeed broken and that we would be directly admitted to the hospital in about an hour. I was about five centimeters dilated and 90 percent effaced at this point. She told us to go have a light lunch and handle any last-minute arrangements, and to arrive at the hospital in an hour or so.

Andy and I agree that this is not how we pictured going to the hospital. We both envisioned the labor pains beginning at home, in the middle of the night, rushing to the hospital in total anticipation. Instead, Andy stopped by his work for about 15 minutes while I called my mom, sister, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law from the car to let them know the exciting news. Then, Andy and I enjoyed a nice relaxing lunch where we both just stared at each other in awe at how it was all going to happen so matter-of-factly. No drama, which is a first for me.

During this time, I also took the opportunity to remind myself that it didn’t matter how it all unfolded. I knew my commitment was to do this naturally. I wasn’t attached to it, but definitely committed one hundred percent. Meaning, I would consider an epidural or other medication if the moment called for it, but living moment by moment, I would recommit myself to natural childbirth with each contraction, with each minute that passed.

We arrived at the hospital around 1 pm, but we filled out paperwork and waited around for about an hour or so. My water had already broken, so the hospital did not send me through triage, as they normally would. They directly admitted me to a room. I think we ended up in the labor room around 2:30 pm. Our first nurse, Pam, was a joy. She even told the next nurse, Krystin, “This is Jamie, she is thinking about going natural. Scratch that. She IS going natural.” This boosted my confidence even more. One of the best pieces of advice I can give to women who want to go natural is: Surround yourself with people who believe you can do it and will stick with you no matter what. If you don’t like your nurse or feel that they are not listening to your requests, ask for another one. Krystin was a bit dry in personality, but she was definitely with me. She told me the doctor ordered for me to be put on Pitocin. At first, I was not happy to hear this, since I wanted to go completely natural, but I told her I wanted to be able to move around and be more active during my labor than most women (dance teachers just can’t be confined to a bed when they are in pain). She checked with the doctor, and although they put me on two drips of Pitocin an hour, which is a trace amount, I was still able to move around.

I started having stronger contractions while straddling a birthing ball, which is basically an exercise ball, like the ones they have at the gym. This helped open me up for more dilation. I was bouncing on the ball, while chatting with my sister, Haley, my mom, and of course, Andy. We had my IPOD playing in the background. We listened to Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and anything that played in shuffle mode. My mom began to rub my lower back with tennis balls, while Andy helped me breathe through contractions, and Haley assisted by doing what she does best… cracking jokes. I must say, she provided the best comic relief for me to keep my mind busy.

I was only allowed to have up to three people in the labor room, so my dad was patiently holding his breath in the waiting room. Haley decided to go out to dinner with him, as my labor progressed. My mom and Andy stayed to support me. At this point, around 5-ish, my labor pains became more intense. I experienced each contraction as an individual moment, and did not focus on anything in the past or the future. We switched to more soothing music on my IPOD, such as Mozart and baby lullabies. Andy helped me break through about three or four really strong contractions by reading a guided meditation to me. I followed along, word by word. For some contractions we did this hug-dance movement I had learned by watching an episode of A Baby Story on TLC where a woman chose to go natural.

After that, we tried playing Mad Libs, but that was very short-lived. I think we got through two adjectives, and that was it. Haley came back from dinner and cracked another joke, but at this point, it hurt me too much to laugh, so I told her that the comedy hour was over. She immediately got the message. My mom left the room for a moment to eat something that my dad and sister had brought her. I needed to use the bathroom, so Andy and Haley followed me with my IV and the Pitocin drip. I was standing over the toilet after emptying my bladder, and I yelped to Haley and Andy, “I feel like I need to push.” They both stood there and had no idea what to do. Haley asked, “Do you want us to get the nurse?” I said yes.

This is when the really hard labor kicked in (around 5:30-6 pm). We turned off the music. My mom came back into the room as I sat in the bed next to Andy, leaning on his shoulder for support and moaning. We simply breathed together through each contraction. The Breathing and Relaxation course we took at the hospital was well worth it. My mom began to press harder with the tennis balls on my lower back. I kept focusing my thoughts on each contraction and how each one made me more dilated than the last one, essentially bringing us closer to meeting our daughter. The nurse finally came. A new one this time. Her name was Krissy. She was even dryer than Krystin, but was extremely focused on her job. She did not get caught up in any drama or bother herself with coddling me, that is for sure. She was simply there to do her job. For some reason, her way of being just worked for the moment, even though it seemed like she didn’t believe that I would go natural. Who knows what she was thinking. Like I said, she was very dry, just there to do her job and help deliver our baby.

I remember screaming through about seven or eight really bad contractions for about 20 minutes as I transitioned into the pushing phase. My acupuncturist and holistic healer once told me that allowing my throat to open up through vocals and/or breathing can actually help move labor along. Everything is connected in the body. This may sound a bit graphic, but the throat is very similar to the vagina, the lips very similar to labia… and so on, and so forth. Thus, opening the throat can help open the birth canal. This transitional labor was very tough. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had about two or three more of these contractions (as the baby moved through the canal), I would have asked for an epidural. Haley and I were talking the other day and she said she thinks it would have been too late at that point. Thankfully, it was time to push.

Before I went to the hospital, my birth plan was to have Andy and my mom in the labor room supporting me, while Haley would serve as relief if my mom or Andy needed a break. Then, I was planning to have my mom and Haley leave when I started pushing, so Andy and I could be alone for the birth of our daughter. Once I got ready to push, however, I realized it did not make sense to ask anyone to leave. Each person had played a unique role in helping me get to this point. Andy positioned himself on my left side, by my head, while Haley and my mom each held my left and right legs, respectively. Krissy, the dry nurse, was near my head on my right side coaching me. My midwife, Claire, had thankfully made it to the hospital in time to deliver the baby. She kept saying, “You were made for this, girl” and “I can’t believe I just saw you in my office earlier today, and now you are ready to deliver.” We all could not fathom how fast everything had happened. There was also a doctor available, the head of my practice (All About Women), Dr. Helen McCullough. She stopped by to check on me in the very beginning of my labor, ordered the Pitocin, and then came back for the delivery. During the pushing, she stayed on my left side, while Claire stayed on my right. Both were just staring down at me and seemed impressed with my progress.

As I pushed, I remember screaming again. Dr. McCullough calmly said, “Jamie, now it’s time to use your energy for pushing, not screaming.” This was a good point. All of my cheerleaders (Andy, Haley, and my mom), including the doctors, and even Krissy, were counting to 10 with each push. I felt their energy all around me, like a positive force field. I pushed for about 20 minutes. I describe my pushing phase as seven sets of pushes. I pushed about three times per set, so I guess you could say it took me approximately 21 pushes to get her out. Again, I focused… each push bringing me closer to meeting our daughter.

If you are easily nauseated, skip this next paragraph. I pushed really hard towards the end of the pushing phase, bearing down with all of my might (and every back muscle I have), when this huge wave of yellowish fluid came gushing out from between my legs. My sister and my mom both jumped back in horror, but to their credit, they held steadily onto my ankles, keeping them raised. Knowing how Haley does not like the sight of blood or guts, I lovingly asked my sister, “Are you ok?” She choked back her laughter and asked, “Am I ok? Are YOU ok?” It was quite hilarious, actually. I must’ve been delirious or having some kind of out-of-body experience to have asked that. It all happened so quickly.

I remember an extreme burning sensation as the baby’s head came through. Claire aided this process by putting some gel around my vagina and pressing down on my perineum. They did not do an episiotomy. Later, they told me I had second-degree tearing. Once her head was out, we needed one last push for the shoulders. I breathed deep and pushed again. This was probably the most painful part, but also the quickest. Presley arrived at 7:34 pm. As they placed her on my chest, Andy cut her umbilical cord and blessed her with his tears. I was still in shock. Although, I remember thinking she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. This moment was nothing short of a miracle. For the first time, I could not focus. My mind went blank.

Andy, my mom, and Haley followed Presley around the cleaning and testing area in the labor room, while I delivered the placenta and was all stitched up. When the nurse brought our daughter back to me as a little bundle, it all hit me. I cried my eyes out. I have never loved so fiercely in all of my life. Now that we are home and Presley is over a week old, I feel exactly the same. In fact, although it seems impossible, somehow, I love her more each day.

Before I went into labor, my mantra was: “I AM MADE TO DELIVER NATURALLY!” Now, it is: “I AM A BREASTFEEDING MOM!” There is no doubt in my mind that I will continue breastfeeding our daughter. It doesn’t matter how it unfolds. All that matters is my commitment.



Marilyn said...

Way to go Jamie!!! :-) Your new little angel is so incredible! We are really proud of you that you stuck it out, and happy that you were lucky enough to be able to do it the way you wanted with supportive family members at hand (and feet). We love you!

jmedancer said...

Thanks! Not exactly as I pictured, with my mom and Haley holding my legs, but it just worked, ya know! Haha. Love you too. Looking forward to this Friday...