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Persephone's Birth

Thanks again for the fantastic class. It really helped me through this second birth. I feel like the birth stories of my two daughters were so different, I had to share them with you:

The day before my daughter Matilda was born, I got hit by a major wave of nesting. It was a good thing I got in a nap that afternoon because I wasn't able to even sleep that night due to my contractions starting up. I started timing my contractions around one in the morning, and we arrived at the hospital around two. My water broke--just a trickle--as I was walking into the hospital. Triage was straight-forward as the nurses tested the fluid and confirmed that it was amniotic fluid; when they checked my cervix again after admittance, my water broke a second time--in a gush--and it was discovered there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. The nurses reassured me that it was normal, and there was no rush--I could have the baby vaginally as planned. After hooking me up to an IV (it took them four tries to get it properly placed), I labored in the tub for a bit, then asked for IV medication as it felt like my contractions were stronger--I think I was dilated to about an 8 then. It was about that time that things started getting difficult. I experienced trauma, even if others might not call what I went through a "traumatic birth." The medication made everything seem foggy, and it was hard to concentrate on the progression of the birth. The CNM who had been hovering silently nearby during labor was urging me to push, even though I wasn't feeling the urge. I tried and strained, and she kept telling me that I was pushing incorrectly. Finally, there was a shift change, and another CNM came to take over. The first thing she did was check my cervix--and she found that I was not fully effaced. (The previous CNM had not checked, and I suspect she just wanted the birth to happen before her shift was over.) I got another dose of the IV medication to get my body to relax, and it started to wear off about the time I was ready to push. I had been laboring on my hands and knees and leaning on the peanut ball, even when dozing on the second dose of IV medication--and I was a little shocked when the CNM and nurses shifted me onto my back and put my feet in the stirrups. I was already uncomfortable, and the CNM was encouraging my husband and another nurse to pull back on my legs until I felt my hips pop, even though I was begging them to stop. I could see the baby's head crowning, and I could even see her eyes peaking out--in my fog, I thought she looked like an alien. The CNM told me that the baby needed to get out, and if I couldn't push her out, they were going to have to do an episiotomy. That threat was what gave me the final urge to push--I literally screamed out, "No!"--and Matilda didn't just slide out, she practically flew in a slippery mess all at once. They took her away to get her mouth suctioned, and after begging the CNM to not give me stitches for a small, first-degree tear, the nurses plopped Matilda on top of me (where she promptly pooped in my hand). Labor had lasted ten hours from the time my water broke. I felt disconnected from her, still dazed from exhaustion and the IV medication. I could vaguely appreciate that she was holding up her head like a champ, looking around, and when my husband spoke, she twisted to stare up at him. But for me, there wasn't an instant connection--that gradually came about in the weeks to come. Instead, there was this lingering fog that carried into or triggered a severe bout of postpartum depression. I had a previous history of depression and suspected that I would be prone to PPD, but it hit me very hard. Looking back, I do suspect that the IV-medication-induced fog along with the other traumatic factors left me vulnerable to PPD. It is a little painful even now to look back on those experiences, although I can look back with sympathy for my "past self" that went through that while looking forward with a determination to make future births more positive.

I recently gave birth to my second daughter, Persephone. It was during this latest pregnancy that I took the Intuitive Birth class. My pregnancies with Matilda and Persephone were very similar up until the third trimester: at 34 weeks with Persephone, I suddenly started getting very strong and regular contractions. I showed up to the hospital, had it confirmed that I was in preterm labor, and received a shot to stop the contractions--there didn't seem to be any signs of dilation or effacement for my cervix. Things just seemed to get weirder, though. I kept getting contractions on and off for the remainder of my pregnancy, and twice more I got very regular contractions and went to the hospital--once at about 37 weeks and once at about 38 weeks. Both of the "term labors" had regular contractions but no continuation of dilation or effacement--the nurse at 37 weeks even told me to come back when I was "really in pain." The nurse at 38 weeks was much more sympathetic, explaining that I was in labor but not "active labor." It was physically and emotionally exhausting to be in and out of labor, although I did get some practice in with some of the tips from the Intuitive Birth class: I wore something comfortable--a wrap and a nursing bra; I listened to soothing drum music and danced and moved on the birthing ball to ease the pain of the contractions; I wore some essential oils on a bracelet to remind me of the "safe place" I had created in meditation. Being sent home from triage three times without my baby gave me opportunities to try other mindfulness skills: deep breathing through moments of sadness; allowing myself to embrace the sorrow and then to embrace the joy; talking to my baby about how much I wanted her here but that I wanted her to be healthy most of all. After considering the effects that this on-and-off labor was having on my mental health and that of my husband, I decided I wanted to try out an induction. My CNM--from a different practice--was confident it wouldn't take much to push me into active labor, so I likely wouldn't need the more drastic measure of pitocin to induce me. The CNM explained the hospital would call at 6 in the morning to confirm that I would be coming in (if it was a busy night, they might need to reschedule). I woke up around 5 and couldn't sleep; I had some minor contractions, but nothing regular. I prayed for comfort, and felt some measure of peace and reassurance. Then, about 5:45, my water broke--in a full-out pop-and-gush, movie-style. The contractions were immediately stronger and faster, two to three minutes apart, and I struggled to get out to the car. The pain had me texting the CNM mentioning I would be wanting an epidural even before we arrived at the hospital, although I was managing it pretty well with the breathing exercises and visualization meditation, along with aiming to use low, deep hums rather than screams to let out the pain. We got into the room about 6:30--passing triage because the midwife rushed out to get me--and they started an IV (it took only two tries to get it placed this time around). My blood was rushed off to get approval for the epidural, and by the time things came back, I was already feeling the urge to push. They gave me a spinal anesthetic instead--and I managed to hold still through a contraction while they administered it--and the relief from the pain was instant. I was calm and aware of everything again, and I could still feel the pressure to push. With the midwife's guidance, I pushed with the next several contractions. I was reclined in a squat, holding my own legs out of the way in a very open position, feeling in control. Just after 7:30--two hours after my water broke and just one hour after we arrived at the hospital--I pushed the baby out. It was a good thing that we hadn't left the house later or had to transport my toddler to a sitter (my mother was at our house) or got held up on triage. I could have very likely had to give birth in the car or the hallway of the hospital! It certainly made me glad in hindsight that I had taken the previous "false starts" seriously given how fast my body moved through active labor. I got to hold little Persephone in all her wonderful mess. To my surprise, she instantly started gumming her fists and rooting to nurse, and she latched on within minutes after birth. Most importantly, though, I felt a burst of joy and relief holding Persephone that I had completely missed with Matilda's birth. I hadn't been surrounded by fog or trauma: even the "false starts" had been opportunities to practice positive birthing techniques, even if I didn't have opportunities to pull out a birthing ball or essential oils during the final hour. It was a beautiful experience, and more than I could have asked for. I had such a small tear, it didn't even really rate on a degree scale. There is some swelling on Persephone's head, likely caused by the weeks of contractions pressing her against an unyielding cervix, but it's expected to heal over the coming months. It's too soon yet to see if PPD will kick in, even without the trauma, but I took preventative measures to have medication ready in case it does come about again.

It's a bit surreal to look at how drastically different these two births were for me. It seems like they should have happened to two different people. Even with the frustrations I encountered with Persephone's pregnancy, I would take them any day to experience again the calm and control I cultivated and planned--as much as you can plan these things. I'm immensely grateful for the tools I have from the Intuitive Birth class that enabled me to have a much more positive experience this time around. I'm so glad I took your class, Holly. It made such a difference. Hopefully you find my stories interesting. It'll be interesting to see how any future births compare to these two!

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