Monday, May 21, 2012

My Birth Story: Not what I planned


This post is going to get lengthy, so for those who would prefer not to read all the details here's the quick version.

I had a birth plan.
All-natural, non-medicated.
That didn't happen... at all.
I had an emergency c-section.
I was really sad and scared and angry.
I am at peace with it now.
I have a beautiful baby girl.
It was perfect.

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First of all, let me premise this with saying that I was a BIG advocate for an all-natural birth (and still am, if that's what you choose). I studied books, took classes, watched movies and knew all the reasons why any other way was not a good idea. I was excited to experience the sensations, the pain, the intense emotions that would come along with it. I was looking forward to her emerging from the birth canal and going directly to my arms with the umbilical cord still pumping. I had visualized it, faced my fears and I was ready!

I was 41 weeks along when Tanner and I went to the clinic for our regular check up. Since I was late they did an ultrasound and a Non-Stress Test to check on the baby. During the ultrasound they noted that my amniotic fluid was at 6.5 (5 is risky low, 10 is where you want it) so that was concerning. (But come to find out, those readings are variable depending on where the baby is located, so it wasn't too much of a concern.) During the 45 minute NST (where they do external monitoring of the baby's heart rate) I had one minor contraction and the baby's heart rate dropped from 135 BPM to 60 BPM for 40 seconds. This was definitely a concern. It never happened again, but the midwife suggested we go to the hospital to do a 3-hour NST to see if it happened again. The midwife also suggested that I may need to get induced if it looked like the baby was in danger. This was the first clue my plan was going to change. At this point I was dilated to a "fingertip" - less than a 1 - not so good.

Before we went to the hospital we went home so I could shower and get ready. While I was in the shower I started crying and praying and talking to the baby. The idea of getting induced led my mind in all sorts of directions - will I have to get Pitocin, an Epidural, will it end in a C-Section? How long will I be in labor? Why can't she just come naturally? What's wrong with my body? 

Amongst my tears I looked down at my belly and said, "Baby, you can come however you want!" And then looked up at Heaven and said, "Heavenly Father, I have done everything I know how to prepare for a natural birth, but now I turn it over to you. Help me to trust thy way." It was at the moment I felt the Spirit say in my heart, "It's not going to be what you planned." But I was still hopeful. And to show my trust in God I packed all my things and we headed to the hospital. At this point we thought we were just going for a check up, not to have a baby. When we walked inside the hospital doors I asked Tanner what he thought the likelihood was that we walked out with our baby. He said 6%. I said 10.
Just relaxin' during the Non-Stress Test

So for the next 3 hours the monitors sat on my belly and nothing happened - except for a numb bum. I had a few contractions but her HR maintained a normal rate. We thought we were about to go home and wait, until the doctor came in. Up to this point I had only been meeting with the midwives so I thought it was kind of fun to see a doctor (that feeling quickly vanished once he opened his mouth). 

He sat down and after reviewing the situation said, "Well, you just have to ask yourself how comfortable you are with a stillborn."

....What?! Excuse me??? Um.... let me see.... NOT comfortable. Is that the answer you were looking for, idiot?

I get where he is coming from, but there are so many better ways to say what he was trying to say. But whatever, I guess it was the scare we needed, because as soon as he left I burst into tears. He said, "If you were my wife, I wouldn't let you get off that monitor until the baby was born." I was really, really scared. The sweet midwife came back and apologized for his behavior. She felt he overreacted and said that she felt parents always know best, and we should follow our intuition. I appreciated the empowerment she gave us. She gave us the option to come back a little later that night and start a mild induction with the use of a prostaglandin (a pill inserted in the vagina to soften the cervix and start dilation) or forgo the induction and come back on Friday for another exam. 

Tanner and I sat in the room and for about 45 minutes went back and forth on what to do. We prayed, Tanner thought of all the logical reasons to do it and not to do it. I prayed. And finally we decided that we would do the induction. We both felt that if we waited we would be right back at the same place having to make the same decision on Friday. And the thought of getting induced brought peace to our minds, even though it was so far off from our plans. But we trusted and decided to move forward.

So we went home, unloaded the dishwasher, got Tanner's stuff and then headed to a nice dinner (the last one with just the 2 of us) and then went for a short walk up the canyon. And then took a leisurely drive to check in at the hospital. (Not the kind of the drive I expected.)

We arrived at the hospital at 9:30PM and they administered the first pill about 10:30PM and did 2 more doses over the course of the night. 

At the hospital
How I really felt about it.
Getting settled for a good night's sleep... ha.

I didn't get much sleep that night. I was up all night worrying about what would happen. I kept hoping the medicine wouldn't work and they would send us home in the morning and we would come back when my body was naturally laboring. I read my scriptures, prayed, wrote in my journal. I asked for faith and trust in this process and whatever would end up happening. I hoped things would speed up and provide for a natural birth, but deep down I had the thought, "I'm going to end up getting a c-section." I was trying not to focus on that and to stay positive, but I just felt it. I told Tanner and even bet him $10 that's what would happen. He said, "That's a terrible bet." I know - I should have raised the stakes to at least $100. :)

I got my last dose of the prostaglandin at about 4:30AM and when I woke up at 7AM to go the bathroom my and water broke! I was so excited - things were progressing! Tanner and I said, "We're having a baby today!" And we both felt she'd come about 3PM - parent's intuition, I guess. The midwife came in and I had dilated to 2 cm - still small, but progress. She laughed too because there was way more than the 6.5 fluid the ultrasound had measured. 

I called my Doula and she arrived at 9AM just when my contractions started to increase in intensity. And she started to work her magic! I highly recommend a doula to anyone having a baby! She had all sorts of little tricks that would ease the pain of the contractions. Who knew pressing right below my knee cap would be just what I needed?

Two hours later (about 11:30AM) the midwife did a vaginal exam and the I was still at 2 cm , 90% effaced and the baby was dropped to a plus 2, which she was super surprised by. She said that usually the baby dropping is the last thing to happen. So that was encouraging. To help speed things up she suggested we do a Foley Balloon to help stretch my cervix. It's a little device they put up the vagina and then blow it up slightly to help stretch. So I agreed to do that and after about 15 minutes of poking and prodding it was in. 

And then... the sweet nurse said, "Um, Jennifer...(the midwife)..." and pointed to the monitor and then about 10 other nurses rushed in the room, slapped some oxygen on my face, plugged an IV in my arm, pulled up my robe and shaved me. One nurse was on the computer typing away frantically, the other nurse was rubbing my arm, saying "It's okay." All the while I have no idea what is going on other than I can see my baby's heart rate has dropped to 60 BPM again. Jennifer is frantically trying to get the foley balloon out of me and another nurse is on the pager yelling, "We need a doctor in room 6 immediately!" "Prepare the OR room." I look up and Tanner is staring at all the commotion just as confused as I am. I try to say, "What's going on?!" But nobody answers.

And then everyone relaxes... her heart rate stabilizes as soon as the balloon is out. 

After this they put internal monitoring in me which limits my mobility and makes me so sick of people sticking their fingers up me! My contractions are getting more intense - to the point where I am moaning and groaning and using the oxygen left behind from the scare to help me through each one. I sit on the birthing ball for a little bit and that is nice. My doula continues to rub my back to help ease the pain. 

Another 2 hours pass (1:30PM) and after determining that my contractions although increasing in intensity are irregular the midwife suggests we do some Pitocin to help start a regular pattern that will help my cervix dilate. Now this one was really hard for me. I had read and heard so many negative things about Pitocin that I really wanted to avoid it. I knew that if I did the Pitocin I would probably end up doing an epidural too because the contractions would be so intense. Both things I was so strongly against. I told the nurse I wanted to wait another 30 minutes before administering the Pitocin and although nothing would probably change in such a short time, she honored my request.

In the meantime, Tanner called my mom and asked her opinion about what to do. She felt that I should do the Pitocin, reminding us that with all 4 kids she had to be induced and my sister Jenny too, had to be induced (and then later had to get a c-section because failure to progress). I guess us Tuttle girls just like being pregnant a little too much! 

I was still against doing it, but after Tanner and I discussed it he said we should just do whatever the midwife suggests - that's why we chose her, we've already had to make too many decisions and it's wearing us thin, let's just trust that they are doing what's best for us. So we decided to do the Pitocin. By this point I was so sad and frustrated that nothing was going according to my plan that I just didn't care anymore and I was ready to get the epidural shortly afterwards. "To Hell with it all." I thought.  (You can get away with a few swears when you're in labor.) I was bitter and resentful.

After the 30 minutes I requested had passed, the midwife returned and she asked what was on my mind and I was really honest with her. Embarassingly I told her, "I just keep thinking I'm going to end up getting a C-Section." "No." She gasped. "Don't think like that!" I know. I'm not trying to be negative, I just have that feeling. I kept thinking of my sister Jenny and how she ended up getting a c-section. Does it run in the family? But my mom didn't get them and she was induced. My mind was so overwhelmed with all the thoughts and possibilities and trying to stay focused and then the pain of the contractions - I was not having fun.

Before we started the Pitocin the midwife did one more vaginal exam and unfortunately I had actually gotten a little tighter and the baby had receded - a baby by 3PM didn't seem so likely anymore. You think my body was a little stressed?! Okay, whatever, give me the damn Pitocin.

While we were waiting for the Pitocin to arrive the midwife wanted to show me a position that would help decrease the pain of a contraction. So she had me sit straight up in my bed with my knees bent and my heels by my bum and then she pressed really hard on my knees. It felt okay, there was some pressure down in my groin area when she did it, so she tried again and then the sweet nurse said, "Um... Jennifer..." And BAM...

Once again, 10 nurses rush in, slap on the oxygen, the IV is already in, lay back my bed, put me on my side, pull off my necklaces, the doctor rushes in, the midwife sticks her finger up me, "The baby isn't responding..." "Get the OR ready!" "It already is." "The baby's not responding..." Heart rate is still low... And then it happens...

"We're going to rush you to do an emergency C-section." (As they were wheeling me out, I told Tanner he owed me $10. He didn't laugh.)

And then I lost it.

"Why?!" "It wasn't supposed to happen this way."I cried aloud. "It wasn't supposed to be like this." I was so frustrated that all my efforts - all those months of planning, visualizing, facing my fears, reading books, demonizing pitocin, epidurals and c-sections as wrong and invasive had all ended up at this point. And then I realized they never said the baby was okay. And my attention quickly turned from me to the baby. I grabbed my belly and cried, "Come on baby, stay with me. You can make it. Come on baby! Please."

The overhead lights rushed by as they wheeled me down the hall and into the Operation Room and then hoisted me onto the bed, stretched out my arms, and put on one of those nasty hair caps I never wanted to wear while giving birth.

They were rushing quickly trying to get the baby to stabilize and finally she did! Which was so fabulous because then they didn't have to rush through the procedure. Tanner came in and he was crying too. That's when I felt stronger, "Don't cry. It's okay. It's all perfect. This is how it's meant to be." It made me sad to see him scared and crying. Tanner doesn't get emotional very often.

Because the baby was doing okay they were able to do a spinal block and didn't have to put me out completely. They turned me to my side and shot the needle down my back right on cue with a contraction and I said... "This is awesome." It wasn't. Then it all went numb. 

The doctor told me when he was going to start and I was so scared about the thought of them cutting me open I started to cry again and I told Tanner to distract me, but he didn't know what to talk about so we sang hymns. First, "I am a Child of God" and then "A Child's Prayer". I could feel tugging and then I felt a big emptiness as they pulled out the baby. Tanner peaked over the curtain and said, "Our baby! She's here!" She was born at 3:05PM - parent's intuition for sure.

Not sure what's what, but that is her bum.
You wanted to see that right?

And then I realized, "Hey, I can't see her." I yelled out, "I love you, baby. Mommy is here for you. Daddy is with you. I love you." I felt sorry I couldn't hold her on my skin immediately, I didn't want her to feel lonely or abandoned. I was so glad Tanner was there with her to keep her safe. 

A little bit of a cone head, but it went away quickly. 


After they cleaned her up Tanner brought her over to me and she was so tiny and sweet and beautiful and healthy, and I was happy. 

My first look at my sweet baby girl.
The Happy Family

When they opened me up they identified the problem - her head was so far down the birth canal and the umbilical cord was right next to her ear and draped around her neck that any pressure or wrong position would tighten it and cut off the oxygen thus resulting in a lower heart rate. 

They stitched me up which took about 45 minutes and then they had to monitor me for another hour before I could hold and feed my baby. Tanner and I did FaceTime so I was able to see her get bathed which was fun and by that point I decided I got to be with her for 41 weeks, now it's daddy's turn.

Finally they wheeled me down and I was able to hold my sweet baby girl for the first time. It was a surreal experience - this is my child?! She felt so peaceful, so safe, so warm.


Mama and Baby

I didn't feel a huge blast of immediate love like I thought I might - and now that she's 12 days old I realize the love comes and grows more and more each day as I am with her and get to know her and care for her. But I did feel an immediate deep connection to her and I wanted to love and protect her and do everything right for her.

My body was wiped out. I was tired physically and more so emotionally.

Friends and family came to visit and asked me about my experience, I had a few more tears surface in sharing the story, but overall I was just thankful it all ended well. I had heard people say before, "It doesn't matter how your baby gets here, as long as she's safe and healthy." I disagreed with that before. I thought it did matter how your baby got here and I had the perfect plan to get my baby here. But now, it's true, it really doesn't matter. And there's no right or wrong way, just different ways and they're all perfect.

The day after Katie's arrival my mom was visiting me and we had a conversation that helped me come to peace with this whole experience for good. We determined Katie is a Type 3 (active, reactive, intense, passionate) and she was teasing me saying, "Katie was in the birth canal saying 'There has got to be a faster way to get out of here.' and so she was probably tugging on the umbilical cord just to get things moving." Her birth certainly was a Type 3 intense, everybody-on-their-feet kind of experience. She moved everyone into action and didn't even follow the plan! I was able to laugh about it and realized that it really was the perfect birth experience for my sweet baby.

Sweet Baby Katie.

The reason I was so passionate about a natural birth was because I wanted to do the best thing for my baby and I thought that was only the way. Well, turns out it isn't. My labor and delivery story is not the story I expected to tell, but it was perfect and I am grateful for it.

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It's been almost 2 weeks since my c-section and I have been tempted to ask "Why did it happen this way?" "What would have happened if we had just waited?" "Did we do the right thing?" But I have to stop myself and reflect on the feelings Tanner and I both had when we made the decision to be induced. There was no denying the sweet peace and relief we felt when we made up our minds to move in that direction. And anything that happened after that we trust was all part of the grander plan. And that is how I have come to peace with it all. I trust in God, I know His way is better than mine. Even though I may not see it or understand, I just have to trust the little feelings I get along the way. And that is what I did, so I know we did the right thing.

I am healing quickly. We stayed in the hospital for 4 days and I was treated like a queen. I love the staff at American Fork Hospital. (The food is another story...) They are all so kind and attentive. The doctor said walking usually is hard, but I was up and walking around after 5 days, slowly, but nonetheless, walking. I am feeling really good today, almost at full strength. My incision is healing quickly, I am able to carry Katie and walk around. I still need plenty of rest - but what new parent doesn't?

Daddy's Little Girl
Love this picture!
Salmon, carrots and broccoli 4 days straight.
The "best" thing on the menu.
Happy to be heading home, well 2 of us are.

My sister and I were listing all the benefits of having a c-section versus a vaginal birth and we had a good laugh - count your blessings, right?! It's all perfect and I am so grateful for a healthy and happy baby. I will be introducing her here shortly!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

any day now...

My due date has come and gone - just by a few days, but the anticipation of Baby Girl's arrival is ever increasing.

I posted an update on Facebook that she hadn't arrived yet and everyone told me to "Hang in there." "She'll come at the perfect time." I know. And I'm not anxious. Well, okay... I just lied. I wasn't anxious yesterday when I posted that. I thought, "She can come when she wants and I'm fine with that." But this morning I was ready and rearing to get things moving! So I guess the words of advice did come in handy. (And I've tried all the self-inducing methods - clary sage, basil, blue cohosh, red raspberry tea, castor oil, acupressure, sex... still no baby.)

So here I am, still childless. Oh, well. She''ll come at the perfect time! As the days draw nearer I find myself pondering more and more frequently on what it will be like to have my very own child! My whole life I have anticipated and dreamed of this moment - becoming a mother. I played with dolls until I was 14 always and after I put away the dolls I started making plans for what I would be like as a mom.

I just can't wrap my head around it all - nor my heart. I know the love I have for my parents is going to quadruple the moment I meet my baby, because then I'll have an idea of how much they love me.

I love my baby girl, but I just don't know how much yet. I have heard women say that the moment the baby comes out you are enveloped in an immediate love for the baby. I am so excited to experience that, because honestly, I haven't yet and I can't really imagine what it will be like.

I wonder what she'll look like, how I will relate to her, if I will know what to do when she is crying, or if I'll even know how to hold her right. Wow, there are just so many things about being a parent that I don't even know yet!!! But how would I know, I've haven't been one yet!

So, a few kid-less days (hours?) remain for me and Tanner and I have been thinking about all the things that are about to change:

Sleeping in until noon on Sundays - or until 9 (or 8 or 7...) on any day most likely
"Quick" errands
An empty backseat
Speeding up at the yellow light
Not being able to drive in the carpool lane (definitely excited about this change!)
"Want to go to a movie?" "Okay!"
Undisturbed sleep
Walking by myself - a stroller will be in tow from now on
Ignoring the baby aisles at the grocery store
Doing what I want when I want
Only doing my laundry
Unoccupied rooms upstairs
Empty arms
Swearing (just kidding, she'll have to get used to that. just kidding!)

And that's just a short list of the many changes that are to come, I'm sure.

All good changes though. I had the thought today - this is why I am here on earth - to be a mother and to be part of an eternal family - wow! I'm so grateful God has entrusted me with this sweet baby girl and I am excited for the journey to begin. A little nervous, yes, but that's fine, she's maybe a little nervous too, but the 3 of us will figure it out and have a great time along the way!

See you soon Baby Girl!!!