Thursday, May 29, 2014

Guest Mama: Zella's Birth

One of my first friends as a freshman in college was a sweet supporter named Christi. Christi has such a gentle spirit, and she and her good friend Mandy took me, a seriously homesick and possibly depressed girl, under their wings when I really needed it that first semester. I will always appreciate them for that. In April, Christi gave birth to her first child, a beautiful little girl named Zella. She and her husband Bobby have been ecstatic over Zella's arrival, although they have experienced exhausting times as new parents, as Zella seems to have problems with gas and possible food intolerances. They have noticed some recent improvement though, and Christi has been taking Zella on walks in her k'tan wrap (bottommost pic below), which she thinks helps aid the passage of air for baby Zella. Christi was gracious enough to share her birth story on this blog. If you'd be so kind as to send warm thoughts and positive vibes her way, I know she would appreciate it. We are definitely talking about one tired mama. Following is the birth story of Zella Simone Tom, in the words of Christi.

Zella Simone Tom. 7 lbs, 11 ounces. 20 inches long. Labor started at 1:30AM, we arrived at the hospital at 5:30AM, and she was born at 6:37AM on April 16, 2014.

 To begin with, my mom had short, fast births. I had wanted to hire a doula, but we couldn't afford it. My mom kept saying I probably wouldn't have time for one to be helpful. It turns out she was right.

In terms of preparation, I did take prenatal yoga classes at The Yoga Room with Celeste McNeal throughout my pregnancy. These classes were super helpful to learn how to relax and breathe and stretch. Bobby and I also took natural childbirth classes through New Joy Birth with Chris Maricle that were also super helpful. I want to give Chris a hug because of how wonderful the breathing training was, especially when I was trying not to push and then when I needed to push.

I went on walks once or twice a week, and I started swimming once a week the last month. I also read Natural Hospital Birth and Ina May's Guide to Natural Childbirth.

Our due date was April 19th, and Zella came three days early. I had serious Braxton-Hicks contractions three weeks before for 24 hours, and then regular Braxton-Hicks off and on after that. This led me not to believe I was really in labor when I was.

The Story:
At 1:30AM I woke up with contractions that were medium, and I felt like they could be gas plus contractions. I sat on the toilet and passed gas and pooped a little while reading articles online. Something about a Cuban refugee baseball player smuggled to the U.S. I was going back and forth from timing contractions and reading. They were around five to eight minutes apart.

I tried to go back to bed, but the contractions were worse lying down. I went downstairs and tried the couch and the other toilet. I ate three prunes. The contractions got stronger and I started deep breathing during them. I didn't think they were serious yet because they had only been going on for an hour or two. I tried sitting on the exercise ball and hated it. I leaned on the ball and that was okay.

Things began getting serious quickly. I came back upstairs and at 3:00AM the contractions were four minutes apart and I had to do deep breathing. I woke up Bobby and told him I was going to shower for the heat and to see if they would go away or get better. I took a shower and had three contractions in the ten minutes I took to shower. I didn't even shampoo.  I had to hold on to the wall during them. I went back and breathed while leaning on the bed and put on clean underwear and Bobby's pajamas (basketball shorts and a giant panda t-shirt). I knew it was serious because I didn't want to put on my clothes because I didn't have time and didn't want anything constricting me.

At 4:30AM, I told Bobby to shower and get ready. I called my mom and told her to get ready, and I had a couple of contractions while I was on the phone with her. I had to pass the phone to Bobby when I had a contraction the first time. The second time I just breathed, and my mom told me I was doing good. I told her to call and leave a message with Grandma Murf to pray. I called and left a message with our doctor. She called back and wished us luck and said this sounded for real. She said another doctor would be on call. In the meantime, Bobby packed the car with our suitcase, pillows, and baby car seat. I was a bit frustrated that he asked me during a contraction if we needed a car seat in the car. We left and I had two contractions on the walk to the car. Bobby had started letting me squeeze his two fingers during contractions. This would prove to be my worst car ride ever.

By this time sitting down was abhorrent and painful during a contraction. The car ride was therefore very intimidating. I had three contractions on the drive there. I had my eyes closed and squeezed Bobby's hand and the door handle and breathed during contractions. I felt shaky and cold. I prayed out loud that God would slow down my labor so I wouldn't have another contraction in the car. Driving up and around and around in the parking garage, I started feeling queasy and made Bobby stop the car during the contraction. We were on the fourth level. We made it to level six and left all our supplies in the car. (They kept asking for our birth plan right after the baby was born and I kept saying it was still in the car. :) God has a sense of humor and didn't let me be a control freak.)

We walked through the lobby and down the breezeway, stopping three times for contractions. I held on and leaned on Bobby. I felt the intense need to push and started blowing small breaths to stop. During a contraction, I told Bobby to not chew his gum. It was wiggling me and I just couldn't handle it. 

Once we arrived at the hospital at 5:30AM, things were kind of blurry until her birth just over an hour later.  I remember that the nurses walked me into a check-in area and asked if I had to pee and gave me a cup. I had a contraction and couldn't pee at all. And I missed having Bobby's hand to squeeze. The nurse wanted me to get on the bed and I was fighting it. I kept standing up and getting off because the contractions were so strong and I was trying not to push. They put a monitor on and Zella's heart rate was stressed during contractions. They asked silly questions that I'm pretty sure I answered in all the pre-op check-in paperwork. I accidentally told a nurse to "Shut up, please!" when she asked questions during a contraction.

Finally, they got me to stay on the bed for a minute and checked my cervix and said I was complete. I felt vindicated and a bit scared. They asked if I had wanted an epidural and I said no. They said good! They rushed to get me a wheelchair and to a delivery room. They said my water hadn't broken but was bulging. They said there was a doctor there but they were paging my doctor, Dr. Dietz, to come because she was on call until 7:00AM.

I had a contraction as they wheeled me down the hall. I was really trying not to push, but my water broke as we entered the room. Lots of nurses were zooming around setting things up. A nurse decided to tell me it was okay to push if I didn't mind the possibility of my doctor not making it. They took the bed apart and let me put my feet on pegs. My mom arrived and stood in the background, telling me I was doing great and breathing great. I was relieved to stop fighting it but couldn't remember how to push effectively. During one contraction, I told Bobby I really wanted to bite him.

And then Dietz arrived. She took control, grabbed my left leg and ordered Bobby to take my other leg. She said it was time to push like I was pooping but to relax my legs and spread them and to curl up my body and put my chin to my chest. I pushed three times through a contraction. Then tried to rest and breathe. Then pushed again, and the next push I was serious and pushed into the pressure and pain. I felt stretching and abdominal pain. Dietz said I was almost there and the baby was coming. I didn't believe her but I pushed and felt my face go red and hot. She said she had a lot of hair. My mom echoed, "She has hair!" I didn't believe them either. Her head came out and her body slid right out afterwards. They put her on my chest and started cleaning her. She cried loudly. They waited a bit and then clamped the cord. Bobby cut it and it squirted blood. I was afraid I'd feel more contractions to deliver the placenta, but it came out without me realizing it.

Afterwards, Dietz sewed up a second-degree tear and a nurse cleaned me up with cold water. I shivered and shook from adrenaline and endorphins. They gave me a local anesthetic. They also asked if I wanted pain meds, and I didn't. I just focused on Zella and the pain was manageable. I was still in shock that she came out of me and that I was no longer pregnant.

We tried some breastfeeding once we got into the postpartum room. Zella gave me several hickeys before I realized what we were doing. She has a strong suck and gets very determined when she eats, and angrily cries when interrupted by gas or me. Bobby was in charge of diapers and the weird merconium poops. He wasn't fazed by her loud screams and fussing.

My retrospective thoughts:
Dietz's coworker came by the next day and said she's never personally seen someone come to the hospital complete--and she's never heard of a first time mom doing it. Hearing this and thinking of the experience, I feel alternately thankful, humbled, and crazy proud. The scary part was wanting to push when I got to the hospital and knowing I couldn't yet. But I got to soon.

I opted for no epidural. The contractions weren't quite pain. They were more like medium menstrual cramp pain in waves that were bad 30 to 40 seconds and then 'okay' pain the last 60 seconds. However, I experienced a crazy pressure when I needed to push. There was also pain during pushing, but pushing was pretty short and intense. It was like being on a fast moving train and not being able to stop.

If I hadn't read and gone to classes and practiced breathing, I probably would have fallen apart because it was overwhelming and would have been scary if I hadn't known what to expect. Also, I had been praying for a smooth, fast birth. Wish granted!

* If you're interested in reading other natural birth stories, you can read about my labor with Van in parts one and two, Mikah's birth with Adelaide, and Keri's birth with Callen, or you can click on the Birth Stories label on the left of the screen.

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