Finally!! A new post! I have learned that I need to write shorter posts--this one has taken me 4 months! Here is (hopefully) my last long one :P
When you're pregnant, people like to ask questions. This is because a pregnant belly is a conversation piece. ;) These questions include, "When are you due?" "Do you know what you're having?" "Are you excited?" "Do you have a name picked out?" Then as time goes on, some of these questions seem to be magically answered, "You look like you're ready to pop!" "You are carrying high; it must be a boy", "You must be ready to have that baby out!" (answers to questions 1-3).
Another question that is often asked although few people really care about the answer is, "Are you going to have an epidural?" Most people ask this question assuming that you will say "Yes". It's seems to be an obvious, doesn't it? ;) Besides, if you don't answer "yes", it can get awkward. "Uh... good luck with that..." haha.
Anyway, that last question was something I wrestled with for a while. Before I was pregnant, it was epidural all the way and thank you very much. I'm not afraid of big needles, I am afraid of pain, I like modern medicine. I was with my cousin when she had her first (her husband left 2 weeks earlier for a 8 month tour of the Atlantic on a naval ship). She tried going natural, had terrible back labor, and ended up with an epidural. What a relief that was--like night and day! I decided to never attempt to "go natural".
However, when I got pregnant, the thought of "going natural" nagged at the back of my mind. I sensibly ignored that nagging. And like any sensible person, I ignored that nagging for about 7 months. Then my doctor starting asking the question, "Are you planning to get an epidural?" During those 7 months, I talked to many women, including my sister who recently had an all-natural birth, my aunt, cousin, friends, heard many opinions... I decided that maybe I should seriously think about a natural birth.
So, I did. And I started having the feeling that I should prepare for a natural birth--almost like I might not have one, but I should prepare for it anyway. I hated this feeling--I was SO afraid of the pain! I didn't think I could do it--I didn't want to do it. Shortly after I decided to go along with this feeling, as I was sitting in sacrament meeting at church, I was flipping through the scriptures and came across this verse:
"A woman when she is in travail [i.e. giving birth] hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world."
What in the world?! Who put that scripture in there?! That was my first thought. Isn't it awesome how Heavenly Father places scriptures that answer our thoughts and prayers so perfectly? :) I felt like that scripture was my answer--or a confirmation of what I decided. I would prepare to "go natural".
My sister talked about the Bradley method, so I looked online and found a coach who would give us a crash course (usually the Bradley method takes 12 weeks, but we only had 7 weeks left). She had a course that was three 3-hour classes, so we went with that.
Boy am I grateful! I learned SO much from the class! First of all, the Bradley method (and most natural birth methods) have the theory that when you give birth, it's like running a marathon. Sure, you can try running it without preparation and diet, but it might be really hard and long and you may have a long and difficult recovery. I was already eating pretty healthy--rarely eating processed sugar foods, drinking plenty of water, etc. But the Bradley method recommends 80-100 grams of protein everyday, three potatoes a week, a green vegetable everyday, and other specifics as well as exercises such as Kegel and what I call the "cat stretch".
If you think about it, giving birth is a lot like running a marathon. I mean, the uterus is just one big muscle, right? And for your first baby, you can expect to be in labor for at least 12 hours. That's 12 hours of at least one large muscle contracting and relaxing, contracting and relaxing. While running, your muscles go through a similar pattern, though a marathon doesn't typically take 12 hours!
Back to Bradley. Do you know how much food it takes in order to eat 80-100 grams a day?! Yikes. But that's what I did and I am so grateful! Here was a typical day of food for me:
Breakfast: 1 egg with 2 egg whites, scrambled + 8 oz. orange juice
Snack: Yogurt + Apple
Lunch: something with meat and veggies
Snack: Peanut butter granola bar + Banana
Snack: Carrots + Celery
Dinner: something with meat and veggies
Snack: Toast with peanut butter + Chocolate milk or Cold cereal with lots of milk
And if I had carbs, they were whole grains. I ate a ton! I tried to stay away from processed foods, high sugars and fast foods.
For exercise, I did an 8 minute yoga routine and walked to campus or rode a stationary bike for 10 minutes and sometimes lifted weights and then of course throughout the day I worked out my Kegel muscle and at night before I went to bed I did "cat stretches". Two weeks before my due date I was up to 200 Kegels a day and 60 cat stretches at night. The bike was really nice too--better than walking at that stage. The day I was due, I was still touching my toes (and clipping my own toe nails woo-hoo). I felt SO healthy! It was awesome.
The bigger my belly got, the happier I got because I knew that it meant Addie was healthy. I was hoping for an 8 pounder! I ended up gaining 37 pounds and I was so proud. Because I was healthy, I knew that all of my weight gain was just what the baby needed.
Along with eating healthy and exercising, I started practicing cleansing breathes (deep breathes in through your nose and slowly out through your lips). I did this whenever I felt a contraction or whenever Addie was really pushing on my belly. I was supposed to practice relaxing too, but I didn't do that very well...
Something else the Bradley emphasizes is the negativity of drugs during birth. On average, with an epidural the recovery is 2 months. On average without an epidural or any drugs, the recovery is 2 weeks. Things like that. Other things include the baby is awake and alert at birth and ready to breastfeed almost instantly. As we learned about this, I started actually getting excited about having a natural birth--it became what I actually wanted! This paragraph from The Womanly Guide to Breastfeeding also helped:
"Right after birth, within the first hour of life, normal infants have a prolonged period of quiet alertness, averaging forty minutes, during which they look directly at their mother's and father's face and eyes and can respond to voices. It is as though newborns have rehearsed the perfect approach to the first meeting with their parents" (p. 46).
I wanted an experience like this--and I wasn't sure if it would happen with an epidural. (Babies tend to be sleepy (adamant natural birth people would say "drugged up") when the mother has had an epidural.)
The last thing that I did is I took an herb called Birth Prep. My mom is really into herbs and stuff and my sister took this and she thinks that that's why her labor was only 7 hours (for her first). I wasn't sure if it would work, but hey! If it was going to shorten my labor, why not? I think what the herb did was make me have braxton hicks. These "fake" contractions increased as I increased the dosage and I think it helped to prepare my body for labor. My actual labor (of consistent contractions) was 9 hours--pretty good for a first, I think. Did the herb do that? No idea. ;)
Now for the moment you've been waiting for! March 10th at 11:11 p.m. contractions started. They were sporadic--ranging from 3 to 20 minutes apart. Some were hard and some were not. I was able to sleep in-between them. It was actually the perfect beginning! I was able to practice my breathing and relaxation techniques. I didn't actually plan what I was going to do for relaxation--I just didn't know what was going to work! And these contractions helped me to figure out what worked. I just told myself "Let it go" over and over again and I was able to relax my muscles and kind-of let the pain out of my body.
John knew about my contractions, but I wanted him to sleep. I woke him a couple times early in the morning. This went on until 8 or 9 a.m. in the morning and then they started to be regular--about 5 minutes apart. I got dressed, got ready for the day and went out to the living room and labored. My mom and little sister were there and everyone took turns timing the contractions. Laying on my side on the couch was actually pretty comfy.
This went on until about 11:30 a.m. when the contractions were 3 minutes apart. At noon, we decided to go to the hospital. We called our doctor and headed out! We got to the hospital, they had me put on a gown, and they took John and I to a side room where we found out I was 4 cm. and they hooked me up to the machines that determine contractions and baby's heartbeat. They said that if I progressed to 5 cm. in an hour, they would admit me; if not, I'd have to go home.
In an hour, I was a 5! They took us to a room and I labored for 4-5 hours. It was not easy. It took so much mental effort and it was difficult to find a real comfortable position. Saying the words "let it go" in my mind and taking deep cleansing breaths continued to work really well for me to relax through the pain, though. And holding John's hand also made a big difference--seriously, it's like that's all I needed from him!
I felt too nauseous to eat or drink anything all day. When we were at home, I had a couple yummy all-fruit fruit roll-ups, but that was it. Ice chips at the hospital were perfectly wonderful. ;) I was SO focused, it was seriously like I was in another world--a world of intense concentration.
When transition started (the point where most women start crying or going crazy), it was sometime after 5 p.m. and I was mentally exhausted. In the back of my mind, I knew that I could control it, but (isn't this awful?) I wasn't sure if I wanted to anymore! I was still in a zone and I could hear my mom and John talking to me and about me--but seriously people! When someone's in pain, can they concentrate on things you're trying to tell them? I needed eye contact--I think I could have stayed in control of the pain if only someone looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Annie. You can do this."
Transition was not fun and I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. The nurse checked me and I was 8 cm. She said that if my water broke, I'd most likely get to a 10 and start pushing. So, in-between contractions I stomped around, trying to get my water to break--haha. After a few more contractions, ta da! Like the nurse predicted, I was almost immediately at a 10. The doctors came in and everyone got ready for when I felt like pushing.
After some crazy contractions, I felt an enormous urge to do something--not necessarily to push, but something needed to happen! I assumed this was the need to push. I wish now that someone would have helped me get into a comfortable position (or as comfortable as possible). My legs were in the right place, but the way I was sitting was awful. But of course I was in so much pain, I didn't think about it. My doctor took his seat and announced, "I see strawberry blonde!" That got us all excited.
The contractions were so intense and almost right on top of each other--I was completely out of control. And I knew I needed to push, but I had no idea how! I didn't know where to focus or what to do. And I didn't want to push too hard because I didn't want to tear. I couldn't figure out how to breathe and again, everyone seemed to be talking to me or about me without actually helping at all.
A lot of people say that when it comes time to push, it's a relief, but not for me. It was so much worse. And I could tell that I was doing exactly what I shouldn't be doing: holding back. If you try to keep the baby from coming out, it can get dangerous. I was afraid of the possible pain and I didn't want to tear.
After a few attempts at pushing, they couldn't get a heart rate on the baby. They tried the little thing they screw on the top of the baby's head, but still couldn't get a reading. My doctor looked at me and said, "Annie, we need to get the baby out right now." Now that I look back on it, I think this is just what I needed.
I didn't feel scared; I remember yelling, "Tell me what to do!" And the doctor said to push as if having a bowel movement (sorry to be so open). (There is some debate about that technique--some say that it is more likely to cause tearing.) So I pushed--it was weird--it was still so hard to really figure it out, but after a couple times I figured it out and in 12 minutes and with lots of noise (totally movie birth scene, people!), out she came at 5:47 p.m.!
She didn't cry and she had swallowed maconium, so they rushed her over to a little warm table to pump the fluid out of her lungs. They gave me patocin to hurry up the placenta and shrink my uterus (awesome!) and gave me a shot of something and started stitching me up. I hadn't realized it, but once they couldn't hear the heartbeat, a crew had come in to be ready for the baby. Pretty cool. After about ten minutes, I got to hold little Addie. She started grunting, though, after a couple minutes, so they whisked her away for a cpap and John followed.
To be honest, the delivery was pretty traumatic for John and I. I didn't mind when they took Adaline away because it gave me a little time to cope with what just happened. My doctor is a new doctor, so it took him 30 minutes to stitch me up--I barely tore to a 3. There I sat with my legs still sprawled out for 30 min.! It got really cold in that hospital gown. :P
After the stitching up was done, they wheeled me to the NICU to see John and Adaline for a few minutes. She was doing great. John looked like he was having fun. We met the dinner person on our way and I guess they didn't expect me down at "mother & baby" for a couple more hours, so we got him to get me a dinner.
Mom helped get me situated in the room and as soon as Adaline arrived, we tried breastfeeding and she was awesome! First time's a charm! She was sooo alert and attentive to John and I--it was wonderful.
I will be honest. Because the birth was somewhat traumatic for me, I wondered if I loved little Addie as much I should. One of the things they tell you with going natural is that you will feel more love for your child than if you had an epidural. Now, don't be offended, epidural mothers! Who knows if this is really true. Besides, in my case it wasn't. The second night we were in the hospital, she couldn't stop crying and I was worried that maybe I wasn't producing enough colostrum? The nurses had told us multiple times that they could take her to the nursery if I needed sleep, so reluctantly we decided to have them take her and perhaps give her a little formula. Here is my little baby, just crying her heart out and the nurse takes her away! I bawled.
We later found out that she was just cold. ;) When they got her to the nursery and put her under the heat lamps, she feel right asleep--haha. Anyway, it felt good to know that I really cared about her and loved her as much as I was hoping.
Thank you for reading this extremely long post! I promise I will try to be shorter in the future. Love you all!