Birth Plans (Part 8)

This is another post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (View the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

“You dodged a bullet on that one!” the Obstetrician said as he entered the room. He had just reviewed my 30-week ultrasound checking the status of my placenta previa. “Our rule of thumb is the placenta needs to be 2 centimeters away from the cervix for a vaginal delivery. Yours measured 2.1 centimeters.”

“Wonderful!” I said with relief. I was so grateful Jesus had kept Lily safe, and bleeding wasn’t a concern through the final weeks of the pregnancy.

My perspective on facing another labor had shifted from dread to gratitude. I decided to make the most of it and read as many books on childbirth as I could. I wanted to clear my head after my first childbirth, and prepare as best I could for this one. I browsed books on amazon and made a list of those I could get from the library, then started checking out a few at a time.

I read books by obstetricians, midwives, childbirth educators, an obstetric-anesthesiologist, and a labor and delivery nurse. Some writers said childbirth wouldn’t hurt if you weren’t afraid of it. Some said it wouldn’t hurt if you relaxed completely. Some said it would still hurt but you could distract yourself with complex breathing techniques. Some said it would still hurt but you could do it if you believed you could do it and had support. Some said it would still hurt but you could just use pain-relieving medications. Some said it would still hurt but it was supposed to so you could labor responsively. I took pages and pages of notes, typed them up, and filed them in a three-ringed binder like any nerd who is having too much fun would do.

After all my reading, I decided epidurals really weren’t that scary (the obstetric anesthesiologist convinced me of that) and mine probably spared me a C-section (since Brayden and I couldn’t survive infinite labor). And after reading lots of birth stories, I understood this time around that my best might not be enough, there are many factors beyond my control, and help is something to be really grateful for. I also learned a lot about the anatomy and process of labor, and some coping strategies which I typed into a nice long reference list for David.

My confidence in facing another labor was growing (along with the thickness of my glasses), until one last ultrasound showed something that caused me to begin dreading all over again . . .

To be continued . . .

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Birth Plans (Part 7)

This is another post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (View the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

“Why don’t we choose her name?” David said after we came home from the ultrasound. He knew I needed to focus on the happy news of carrying a girl, instead of her risky situation. We pulled our original lists from two years prior, printed more lists from online, and sat down at the kitchen table together. After awhile, we decided “Lily” was still our favorite.

“Let’s pray for her,” David said. I laid my head on his shoulder and started to cry again as he prayed for Lily by name. He prayed for her protection and safety, and for a full-term healthy daughter . . . “But ultimately God, we entrust her to You,” he prayed. “Do you want to pray?” he asked.
“I think you covered it,” I said.

I’ve heard different teachings on faith and prayer. Some say if you have enough faith, God will give you what you pray for, because Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). But a couple chapters later, Jesus prayed, “Father, everything is possible for You. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will ” (Mark 14:36). Jesus asked for the “cup” of suffering to be taken from Him, and it wasn’t. But we know He wasn’t lacking faith — He still suffered because God had a bigger purpose.

I don’t always know what God is doing (like why this girl won the HGTV Dream Home 2017 instead of me). But I know God hears me, I know He loves me, I know He can do anything, I know He has everything pass through His hands first, I know He’s working for my good, and I know He sees the eternal perspective. But somehow my super-hero cape keeps ending up in the laundry, which means I still worry and I still cry and I still wonder what’s going on sometimes.

As the weeks passed, I thought a lot about Lily and prayed for her often. One Sunday after church, my two-year-old showed me a picture he colored that read, “Jesus can do anything.” I put it on the refrigerator as usual, but left it there long after the usual sneak-it-into-the-trash window had passed, loving the reminder. I also listened to “God Is Able” from Hillsong over and over (and over and over) again for encouragement.

My family also covered me and Lily in prayer, and I didn’t experience bleeding. I also felt unusual peace. Soon it was time for my 30-week ultrasound re-check.

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Birth Plans (Part 6)

This is another post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (View the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

“Have you had any bleeding?” the sonographer asked.
This doesn’t sound good, I thought. It was my 20-week ultrasound, and my husband, sister Heidi and I had just learned I was carrying a girl. My first daughter!
“No,” I said. “Why?”
“Well . . . it looks like you have a placenta previa.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s when your placenta covers part of your cervix.” (The placenta is the organ that grows inside the womb. It’s sends all the nutrient and oxygen-rich blood through the umbilical cord to the baby. The cervix is the baby’s exit door. Placenta previa is when the baby’s lifeline covers their exit door.)
“What does it mean?” I asked.
“Well . . .” she hesitated. “It means you might need a C-section. The doctor will explain more.”
“Okay,” I said. That didn’t sound so bad. I didn’t really want a C-section, but I didn’t really want to go through labor again either!

The ultrasound concluded and we waited to meet with the Obstetrician. She spoke very calmly and kindly: “Often, this resolves. As the uterus grows during the pregnancy, the placenta often migrates up and away from the cervix. Sometimes a previa is partial, where the cervix is partially covered. Those are more likely to resolve. Yours is a complete previa, so your cervix is fully covered.”
“Okay,” I said.
“The risk here is excessive bleeding from the placenta,” she continued. “Babies can asphyxiate in the womb due to excessive blood loss. This also increases your risk for blood transfusions. Sometimes we deliver the baby early if there is a lot of bleeding, but it depends on how far along you are. Most babies who make it to 34 weeks won’t suffer neurological damage. But again, this often resolves. We’ll do another ultrasound at 30 weeks to see where this is at. If you have any bleeding, let us know.”

I could tell she didn’t want to upset me, and I held it together for awhile. But when we arrived back at my mom’s house to pick up our son, I sat in the car and started crying. “It almost feels like I shouldn’t get attached to her,” I cried. “But it’s too late! I already am!”

David and I talked and prayed together, and then we went inside and showed our son a picture of his baby sister. I wanted to focus on the happy news of carrying a daughter, but was struggling. I didn’t care about labor or C-sections with “asphyxiate in the womb,” “blood transfusions” and “neurological damage” stuck in my head. I just wanted my baby to be okay.

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Birth Plans (Part 5)

This is another post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (View the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

It was 4:00 AM and the OB doctor-on-call yawned as I pushed out the baby. David and I had decided to wait to find out the gender (which meant we had lots of rubber-ducky baby clothes), and after a short time the doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” It was a relief to hear those words and know the labor and delivery were finally over and I could hold my prize. As I reached to take my son for the first time, he started peeing all over me . . . but I didn’t care.

I held and nursed him awhile, then my nurse helped me to the bathroom so I could get cleaned up, and I finally saw what others had been seeing . . . my hair looked awful. It was matted up and stuck to the back of my head in a really hideous way. Laboring in the tub had made it wet, and then tossing my head during contractions had matted it up (in the picture, it looks like it’s sticking up because I’m leaning against the bed, but it was sticking up like that all by itself). When my mom saw me, she left and came back with a detangling spray and carefully combed it out.

David and I hadn’t landed on a name for our baby prior to his birth, but we had narrowed it down to our favorites. We decided he looked more like a “Brayden” than an “Ethan,” and announced it to our family and friends.

I was a little embarrassed to admit to others that my plans for an all-natural childbirth had fallen through. I didn’t know why my labor was dysfunctional, so it seemed I must’ve labored “wrong”. But I was holding my healthy baby, and those feelings faded into the background.

We took Brayden home and got to know each other. I nursed him constantly, felt chronically sleep-deprived, endured many headaches, and felt all the while like I was doing what I was born to do. Once, at one of his well-child checks, I asked the doctor why Brayden kept waking me up at night. “You could try giving him rice cereal to keep him full longer,” said the doctor.
“Are you talking about Rice Krispies?” I asked.
“No! Don’t give that kid Rice Krispies!” he said. “Rice cereal. It’s in the baby aisle.”

Two years later we decided to grow our family by another, and I was facing — now with dread instead of confidence — another labor experience. But at my 20-week ultrasound I received some unexpected news . . .

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Birth Plans (Part 4)

This is the fourth post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (View the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

David said he could see it on my face — that I looked hopeless. The last several hours of strong labor had produced no progress, and my cervix (baby’s exit door) was thickening back up. For the first time, I started considering pain relief. I was doing my best to cope and it wasn’t enough.

Since I am the nerd who carefully reads all the material from my doctor’s office and does additional reading and research, I knew there were two primary types of pain-relief in labor: IV pain-relief to take the edge off, and epidurals (tube of medication placed in the epidural space below the spinal cord) to cause numbness in the lower half. I also knew there were some possible side-effects to both, so I opted for the IV pain relief first. The results were quick, and while contractions still hurt, I was falling asleep in between. The nurse came back as the medication started to wear off, and told me I was at nine centimeters . . . not quite far enough to deliver the baby. I had tasted the wonders of medication and did NOT want to go back to hard labor and zero progress. I decided to get the epidural.

“Epidurals are wonderful things, Julie,” said my nurse. “I’ve had epidurals for my two deliveries, and everything went fine.” The anesthesiologist arrived, and stared at me for a moment (I found out later why).
“Do you consent to the epidural?” he asked. “Rare complications include seizure, spinal headache, and paralysis.”
I sat on the edge of the bed, shivering from the labor. “Yes, okay,” I said.

The epidural was placed and I laid back down. Soon I noticed my right side going numb, but could still feel lots of pain on my left side. “I’m not going paralyzed, am I?” I asked my nurse, half joking, half unsure what going paralyzed would feel like (or not feel like).
“No, you’re not,” she said. “Lay on your left side to try and drain the medication over.” Laying on my side didn’t fix the problem, so the anesthesiologist came back in to straighten the tube . . . and the beautiful peace of numbness was mine. I fell asleep, totally exhausted, and woke up two hours later to the doctor-on-call setting up for delivery.

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Birth Plans (Part 3)

This is the third post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (Read the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

“You’re stalling out on us, Julie,” the OB doctor-on-call said when she arrived. “Why don’t you labor in the tub a bit more? Maybe things will pick up.” I labored in the tub awhile, but didn’t enjoy it any more than the first time, and eventually laid back down.

A shift-change occurred, and I was assigned a new labor nurse. She told David to help me breathe, since I was hyperventilating and gritting my teeth during contractions. He encouraged me to breathe properly, and I encouraged him to shut up . . . (not really — he was very sweet).

Meanwhile, my parents, younger sister, brother-in-law and baby nephew arrived and waited in the waiting room. My sister had delivered her firstborn one month prior, and had not used pain-relief. My Mom had done the same with her deliveries. It was my time to prove I was one of the girls (any pressure I felt was self-inflicted — they are too modest to brag). David went out to greet everyone and update them on my progress (or lack of it). “Great news!” He said when he came back. “Your sister says when she made it to six centimeters everything went really quickly!”
“Everybody’s different,” I said.

Two hours later, the Doctor came back and told me I was still at six centimeters, and needed to choose between Pitocin (synthetic Oxytocin via an IV, to strengthen labor), or having my water broken (also meant to strengthen labor). I had been at the hospital ten hours with two centimeters of progress. I was still committed to completing my labor medication-free, so I opted to have my water broken. Labor became stronger, and I started noticing pain in my lower back.

My nurse suggested different labor positions in an attempt to relieve the back pain, but they only seemed to make the pain worse. Finally, an hour after my water was broken, I received good news: “You’re at eight centimeters,” my nurse said. “You’ll probably start to feel like pushing soon, so call me when you notice anything.”

Several hours passed and I didn’t have the urge to push. Around midnight, she checked my progress again. “You’re still at eight centimeters and your cervix is thickening back up,” she said. “You need to relax.”

Several thoughts ran through my mind at that point, including, “I didn’t know it was possible to reverse progress . . .” and, “I really don’t want to be in labor for the rest of my life . . .” and, “I wonder if she’s ever had a baby . . .”

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Birth Plans (Part 2)

This is the second post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (Read the first post here.)

Before heading to the hospital, I took some time to put on my make-up and fix my hair. I’d remembered seeing pictures of my beautiful mother after her first childbirth, and didn’t want to look as awful as she had (sorry Mom!) for my hospital pictures . . .

We followed the 5-1-1 rule we’d been taught in our childbirth class (contractions coming five minutes apart, lasting a minute each, for one hour) as our sign it was time to leave for the hospital, and arrived around 10AM on a Monday morning.

“I think I’m in labor,” I told the lady behind the desk at the maternity ward. We were led to a triage unit where I was assigned a labor nurse who told me I was four centimeters dilated. That was encouraging, but my nurse wasn’t convinced.
“Why don’t you either go home until labor picks up a bit more, or walk the halls for awhile?” she suggested. I opted to walk. After two hours, contractions had picked up. I was doubling over, groaning and grabbing those convenient hand-rails lining the halls. My labor nurse seemed quite pleased, and told my husband “We’ll be admitting her.”

She led me to my labor/delivery room and offered to run some bath water so I could labor in the tub awhile. The tub wasn’t as great as I had imagined . . . neither was the rocking chair or the birthing ball. The nurse came around 2 o’clock and told me my four hours at the hospital of walking/tub/birthing ball/rocking chair had produced another entire centimeter, “Maybe even a centimeter and a half,” she said (I’m pretty sure the “half” was meant as a morale-booster).

I spent the next four hours walking/rocking/resting, and squeezing David’s hand really tightly. By 6 o’clock my progress had seemed to stop around 6 centimeters, so the OB doctor-on-call came to see me.

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