Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Benjamin's Birth Story, Finally


I can't tell you how many times I have started and restarted this post. How can you capture in words the most intense, painful, wonderful, beautiful day of your life? It's a story I've wanted to share but it was a task too big for those bleary early days and is now a tiny bit fuzzy, 4.5 months later. Still, I want to tell you what I remember. It should go without saying that if you're squeamish, then this post isn't for you. I should also note that most of these are cell phone photos. The majority of the photos from my camera are on an external hard drive still in California [for now].

First, I need to give you a little back story. Grab a cup of tea because you're going to be here a while. I need to pretend you haven't been following my life over the last five totally wild and crazy years. I've lived three lifetimes in these years and that is no exaggeration! You see, I have always wanted children, for as long as I can remember. When my cousin, Trevor, was born I was 17 years old and completely in love with him. I used to hold him and daydream that he was my own. Three days after my 21st birthday I married my first husband, Alex. Super young, I know. Although we were a couple of years away from actively trying for a baby, I would have been happy to get pregnant any of that time. Four years into our marriage I started to wonder if something might be wrong and in January of 2009 it was confirmed that I have PCOS.
"I hear you but I don't see you anywhere" October 2008
"I want to be a mommy" October 2008
In June 2009 Alex and I separated and our divorce was final September 2010.  Those two years were the worst in my entire life. I was broken and completely self destructive. I turned away from God and myself. I've touched on it a bit here and there on the blog but it really is thanks to God's saving grace that I am even alive today. It was that bad. In the Summer of 2011 I packed up my car and moved to Atlanta. I was getting out of a disaster rebound relationship at the time and needed a change of scenery. I had intentions of going back to school but that never did happen.
Once in Atlanta I was staying with my grandparents and ended up getting a great job with a company I love, making new friends, and attending church again. I took a seminar called "Relating or Dating" and attended Singles Gatherings. I started creating everyday again and continued healing. Eventually, I started going to Buckhead Church because it was more accessible to me on Sundays since they have a night service that I could attend after work.

I met Benjamin in November 2011. On our first date we went to the Picasso to Warhol exhibition at the High Museum of Art Atlanta (which is also where he proposed!) In early April 2012 I found out I was pregnant. It was scary and exciting all at once. I wasn't sure what would happen with me and Ben but I was going to be a MAMA! And I loved being pregnant! I had the worst morning sickness that lasted way longer than it should have and other pregnancy-related issues like gestational gingivitis and crazy stretch marks that took over my body at the end BUT I still loved it. So much. I don't think I've ever felt or looked more beautiful.
JeniRae Photography | October 2012
It was a confusing time and in August 2012 we decided that I would go back to California to be with my family when I had the baby and figured things out. Ben was great and so optimistic when I was full of doubt. We talked and wrote each other every day and that is really when we fell in love. I look back at that time now and know that it's how things were meant to be. I'm so grateful for that time for so many reasons. I needed to be with my family and it gave Ben and me the opportunity to get to know each other in a way we hadn't before. 
I can't remember how I heard about HypnoBirthing but as soon as I did, I knew that it was for me. Because of my issues with anxiety in the past, I thought it would help set some of my pregnancy and childbirth-related angst at ease. I was referred to Carol Yeh-Garner of A Well Lived Life in San Diego. Carol teaches HypnoBirthing to expectant parents, practices HypnoFertility, (something I wish I had known about!), and Hypnotherapy to help clients with things like quitting smoking. 

I always knew that I wanted a natural childbirth and this was the way I was going to achieve that. HypnoBirthing was right up my mom's alley as an alternative medicine major (she is now becoming a certified instructor herself!) and she graciously agreed to attending the 5 classes with me and being my birth partner. I sent Ben a copy of the book and we watched several HypnoBirth videos "together" via YouTube. Remember that CD I mentioned Benjamin loving as a baby? Comfort Zone by Steven Halpern is also the background to the affirmations and practice prompts on the HypnoBirthing CD. It's so relaxing that every time I would practice I would fall asleep. Without fail. I listened to it the entire time during childbirth (more on that in a second, I promise) and on a loop every night when Benjamin was new. Even now it's my go-to relaxation CD for the baby, especially in the car. 
As my due date was drawing nearer I started to get really anxious that Ben might not make it in time. I was trying to be okay with that but I just couldn't. We weren't sure if he should schedule a trip and hope that the baby came on time or wait until I went into labor with the possibility that he wouldn't get here on time. 3,000 miles never felt further apart then it did during that time. By the time I was 38 weeks I was full on paranoid and all but begging both Ben's to come already. Things had been progressing steadily and I was sure that the baby would be here at any time. On November 14th Ben booked a flight into Ontario for the next day. We were having a baby!!! 

But once he got here everything stalled. Of course, isn't that how it is? And before we knew it one day turned to two, turned to four, etc. I wanted Benjamin with me for support and to experience everything and was so worried that he would have to return to work before the baby was born. I was still 100% committed to a natural childbirth so we started going down the list of natural ways to induce labor. We tried EVERYTHING!
Our time together was really good too! We spent a lot of time with family and with each other, of course. We got to spend Thanksgiving together. Many hours were spent walking. Walking around the block. Walking the mall. With Christmas approaching we were able to enjoy the decorations and Christmas lights. We watched countless movies and ate good food. It was a great time for us.
Normally, Benjamin was VERY active, especially in the morning, but when I woke up on November 25th I didn't feel him. I tried not to worry too much during church but by the time service was over I was concerned enough to put a call in to my OB weekend call service. It took all day and several calls to get a doctor to return my call (not cool!) and by the time she did I had already made up my mind that we were going to the hospital to get checked out. By this time I had felt him, just not as much as normal. At the hospital everything was fine and while I was really hoping to stay and have a baby we were sent home.
The following day was my weekly appointment with my OB and by this time I had decided that I needed to have an induction. I told him our situation and because I was just a few days shy of 40 weeks he agreed to schedule it for the following day. I was so nervous but really excited! The doctor agreed to stripping my membranes during my appointment to try to get things going on their own. I was hopeful, despite my failed efforts to induce labor by eating Eggplant Parmesan (a few times!), pineapple, and even a castor oil smoothie on two separate occasions. Blech. In HypnoBirthing you learn to refer to what you're feeling as "sensations" but I never could fully embrace that. Having my membranes stripped was the first of many tear inducing painful moments. I remember thinking how much I didn't expect it to feel like that. We scheduled my induction for 7:30 AM on November 27th.

7:00 AM - The morning of my induction I called the hospital to make sure they had room for me (like I was instructed to do) and they asked us to come in at 8:00 AM.

8:10 AM - Here we are waiting to be checked in. As you can see I was really excited to be having this baby!  

We were set up in a L&D room and told that we would be moved after we had the baby (we ended up staying in that room for 3 days because they were too full to accommodate us in the post birthing rooms) and given the best natural birth-friendly nurse I could have asked for. She sat with us and went over each and every item on my birth preference plan. She was so respectful of my wishes and promised to do her best to uphold it. Seriously, she was amazing from the very beginning. Because I was already 3 cm when I came in she agreed to as little intervention as possible. I had a Heplock but she agreed to using the external fetal monitor as long as everything looked good.
9:45 AM - My water was broken. It took a while for her to get it and was another one of those things I wasn't expecting. I guess because when you hear of someone's water breaking naturally, it's often just a trickle. This was a gush that just kept coming and coming!  

The lights were kept low and we had the Comfort Zone CD playing on a boombox on the nightstand. I was listening to the affirmations and prompts in my ear on a loop the entire time. There came a point that I couldn't even hear the words but still needed to hear her soothing voice.

12:00 PM - Began walking around and bouncing on my birthing ball

1:00 PM - IV was set up for Pitocin. Sarah and Candice went with my mom to get sandwiches. I ate a couple of bites of one and had snacks throughout the day. Eating snacks is frowned upon but part of my birth plan I didn't feel the need to share. I had no complications as a result.

2:00 PM - We were told that really just a small amount of Pitocin was being used, equivalent to about 3 drops per hour. The fetal heart monitor was tracking inconsistent rates so the nurses kept coming in to move the electrodes to try to get a better lead. When that wasn't working she had either Ben or my mom hold them in place. It was a lot of work and I have no idea for how long they took turns holding them in place. I wanted to avoid using the internal heart monitor at all costs but eventually I was told that I had no choice. 

3:45 PM - Internal heart monitor inserted. I was naturally very upset with having to do this as I was well aware that the process meant screwing the monitor into my son's head.
4:00 PM - Approaching 7 cm dilated. 

4:53 PM - I was told I requested a cold towel and said, "But don't mess my hair up."
6:00 PM - The doctor came in to meet me (she was from my OB's practice but I hadn't met her before) and check my cervix. She said I was 7 to 8 cm and she would be back.

6:30 PM - I am agreeing to and wanting pain medication. I was completely out of it and I remember saying over and over that I felt like I was going to poop and that it hurt so bad. My mom had been rubbing my back for hours. I didn't end up getting anything for pain because the anesthesiologist was unavailable.

7:00 PM - I know the baby is coming. The nurses have come in to set up the room. The doctor should be here soon.

7:23 PM - The nurses say I am complete and it is time. My nurse from this morning was supposed to be off at 7:00 PM but I ask her to stay and she stays the entire time.
7:43 PM - With my mom and Benjamin at my side, my sisters, Aimee and Sarah, along my best friend, Candice in the room, the nurses receive my son.

My mom later told me that the cord was wrapped around his neck and he was bluish when he came out but the nurses very quickly addressed the situation and he was handed to me pink and perfect. The entire process was unreal and intense. I've never worked so hard with my body and yet in many ways I was outside myself. Once he was born I was spent. You can see in the photo above that my eyes are closed and I am out of it. It took a few minutes for me to really grasp that I was holding my baby. 

What happened afterward is really a blur. I think because I was coming down off of the biggest adrenaline rush of my life. I remember the doctor coming in and checking me. I had wanted the placenta birthed naturally, without traction, but seem to remember it being a bit forced. That was one of the very few things I wasn't terribly happy with. Because I had torn "a little" she also gave me stitches.

It was part of my birth preferences that Benjamin and  I be skin to skin for his first hour of life for bonding and breastfeeding. After quickly wiping him down a bit he was put in my arms. This was the first time he breastfed at less than 1 hour old. It makes me teary just looking at it. Look how small and beautiful he was and all that hair he had. He was perfect. (You can read more about our breastfeeding journey and challenges here, here, and here. It's past time for another update!)
<< This is our one and only family photo while in the hospital. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't think to take other/nicer ones during our stay but that's ok. It's kind of funny to me that I was so worried about my hair earlier in the day. Not to mention the days leading up to this day where I talked all the time about wanting my hair nice; my makeup done. By this moment in the game just about every one and their sister had seen me naked so that no longer mattered. We were so in love and in awe of it all. Of our son. I mentioned it in my first letter to Benjamin, but "the early days were a blur of astonishment." We couldn't believe we successfully brought him into the world. We couldn't believe how perfect he was . We couldn't believe we were parents and he was our son. What an incredible responsibility and blessing he is. God is so good.

People always ask me, "Did HypnoBirthing work?" and my answer is absolutely. Did I feel pain? Yes. Was I anxious and scared at times? Yes. But HypnoBirthing gave me vital tools to get through it. HypnoBirthing empowered me. My natural birth didn't go 100% the way I set out for it to go but my son's health and well being remained top priority. I knew that compromise was one of those important tools I might have to utilize and because of that I can tell you today that my natural birth story is a good one. As cliche as it sounds I now know that I could do anything I set my mind to.
Benjamin Alexander Pete III | Born at 7:43 PM on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 | Measuring 7 lb. 7 oz. + 21 in.
Phew, did you make it?!? Thank you! Thank you for taking the time to read all of that. Thank you for coming back time and again and supporting me us with your virtual hugs, comments, and emails. I love and appreciate every one of them!

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