Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New priorities and my birth story

5 minutes postnatal.  Can you tell I'm surprised?!
Peter Jasper Schroeder born 11/4 at 1:15 am 5lbs. 13 oz, 18.5 inches long

Okay - I have a confession to make.  I never really thought that what I did with my urban homestead was very time consuming or very special.  I imagined that anyone given enough interest could create a food rich oasis in their yard because I could do it and I was a crazy busy sort of person.
Well.  I've recently discovered that I was seriously mistaken.  If I showed you a picture of my yard right now it looks like one of the "don't" pictures (designed to piss off your neighbors!) from a landscaping book.
And here's why!  I've spent last 40 weeks growing a different kind of seed.  A little human who is the product of a huge amount of love and care between my amazing partner, Peter and a lot of support and care from our community.  Given a general malaise in my first trimester and the outrageous heat of much of the summer and autumn I had ZERO motivation to do anything homestead style except barely keep things watered (and that mostly because my love helped).  I think I probably spent 15 minutes almost every day and some days more and never considered that was a real investment of time because I never had anything that REALLY took my time.  So be it.  I wouldn't change a thing AND I have much more compassion and understanding of how challenging it is to have a family and do anything else.

and I suppose this is the end of my "single girl" blogs.  But one last story about how my little luv a lump arrived. Warning: It's the long winded version :)

Baby Peter was "technically" due on 10/31 but when we initially called my Mom to tell her about being pregnant she was very excited and said she'd had a dream that I had a baby on 11/4 so we figured that was when he would arrive.  On 11/3 I started to have contractions that seemed they were working towards being regularly spaced.  When we started timing them they were coming at off intervals and were at least 30 minutes apart so big Peter figured we were in this for the long haul and I assumed the same.  Most new Moms here of parents being turned away from the hospital because they aren't in active labor and we've all heard stories of 36 and 48 hour labors.  I was dealing with the sensation but recognized that this was going to be an intense ride.  It felt like I was being turned inside out with each one but there were also much milder contractions every once in a while that made me doubt that I was really laboring yet.  By evening the contractions had gotten even less regular.  We called our wonderful doula, Haize Hawke, and she said I should try to relax and get some rest.  Peter wanted to make sure he was rested and strong for what we imagined  the next day would bring and I was hoping to relax enough to also get some sleep.  We called it a night around 9.  I woke up around midnight from stronger contractions.  These were intense waves.  I would moan my way through them and practice the balloon breath (making space in my belly with my breath and leaning forward) but it was hard to concentrate on anything except how intense it was. I got the birthing ball out and rolled around on that and moaned.  I tried leaning forward onto the bed and moaning.  Mostly I just moaned and felt sorry for myself.  I figured I was just barely laboring and how the holy f&*k was I going to deal with this all the next day if it got worse?!
Eventually I ran a hot bath and got in.  This helped a lot.  Still moaning through each wave, still feeling miserable and without any clear way to relieve the intensity, still being turned inside out with each one.
At around 1 am (before daylight savings time came into effect) I heard Peter's phone indicate a text and yelled for him to pick up his phone thinking it might be our doula.  It was a friend from germany (who else texts in the middle of the night?) but it got him up to check on me.  I reassured him that I was okay and that he should get some rest. He went back to sleep.
Eventually the plumbing was having issues as I would drain the cool water to refill with hot so I gave up on the tub and went back to bed to find another way to manage the sensations I was experiencing. I was sitting on my heels then leaning forward and giving myself up to the contraction.  It HURT! and it felt like it was about as much as I could stand.
Suddenly I felt this wave of having to bear down (i.e. "the urge to push").  I think Peter was finally awake as this was happening.  I think I told him that I could feel babies head. I think I told him that he needed to call Haize.  I think I also told him we ought to get an ambulance.  I'm not totally sure about any of this.  I told him I could feel a head moving in my birth canal.  He got Haize on the phone and she heard me roar and say that I had to push.  She asked how frequent my contractions were and I'd just noticed that they were coming at 3 minute intervals.  She told Peter that we should not get in the car - that the baby was coming soon and he should call the paramedics and then call her back so she could talk him through how to deliver a baby.  When Peter was out of the bedroom (trying to get reception to talk on the phone I think) I put my hand down to feel what was going on.  What I felt is  hard to describe (I imagine it's par for the course if you're a birth professional).  Everything stretched, swollen, heavy, and weirdly extraterrestrial.  The closest I can come to a description is that it was the most extreme form of having my body  taken over and that I was turned into a vessel rather than the being the operator.  Much of pregnancy was like that but now I consider that the "lite" form!
I felt every sensation as he moved through my birth canal.  I felt like the only thing in the world that mattered was pushing my baby out.  I felt the "ring of fire" with the stretch of my perineum and I felt tissue split to make the space for baby (this without any sensation of pain at all).  I told Peter to look for his head as I could feel it moving through.  He said he saw something else (amniotic sac apparently as my water hadn't broken yet).  With the next push there was baby Peters head and I felt the "pop" as it emerged.  Big Peter took hold of him and with another push out came his body.  I turned myself around to look at our baby.  He was a little gray and didn't look completely human - more like a doll.  We watched him as his dark eyes looked back at us.  He was attached to me via the thick and blueish umbilical cord.  I touched him to encourage him to breath and we saw some bubbles come out of his mouth and then the sucking of air and a wale as he took his first breath and started to turn pink.  What a relief!  What a miracle!  I reached down for him and held him at my chest and Peter went to try and find some reception to call the paramedics and I scooped into babies mouth to make sure his airway was clear.  I thought to check the clock so we'd have an idea of his birth time (1:15 am) then I remembered that we had to keep him warm and the only thing I could reach was my bathrobe on the floor.  Shortly after Peter returned from calling the ambulance, Haize arrived.  She checked baby and gave him high Apgar scores - she said he was likely a 10! Great color, great lungs!  Our boy could scream already!  She started checking me and cleaning some of the birth goo off (birthing is messy business!) and then after about ten minutes, the paramedics arrived.  Within seconds there were eight big muscle-bound men smelling of diesel fuel in full fireman gear with medical kits in our bedroom.  I was still on the bed in a lovely blissed out state of post birth triumph and hormonal high but it did strike me as a rather serious invasion of my privacy that I was naked and spread eagle with an umbilical cord sticking out of me to greet all these strangers.  They did there own round of checking on baby and me and at some point they helped me move from the bed onto a stretcher and little Peter and I got carried to the ambulance (that, a fire truck and one other emergency vehicle had all arrived with the entourage) and whisked away to Arcadia Methodist where we had initially intended to give birth. 
Once we arrived at the hospital they called my Ob/gyn, Dr. Dorothy Hong to help me deliver the placenta and to check me out.  I was very happy to have such a talented and meticulous surgeon stitch up the tears but in all honesty the post partum part of birth was equally and perhaps even more hard to manage than the contractions.  Dr. Hong pressed on my uterus to help expel the placenta and I grabbed the sides of the hospital bed and shouted, "Jesus, that HURTS!" and the stitching (even with a local anaesthetic) was really no fun at all.  Also the fact that baby Peter was on the other side of the room getting weighed and measured and cleaned off (water only!) made it especially hard.  Also the fact that I had my calves up in bed stirrups so the doctor could do her work while friends and family were walking around the room was another violation to my sense of propriety - I imagine birth in any hospital is an exercise in surrendering your privacy and sense of appropriateness. In the end of getting all doctored up (I think this took hours) I got my baby back and got to take the elevator up to the maternity ward and big Peter and I tried to get some rest as the sun was coming up.  We then spent the next 24 hours plus in the hospital at the request of the pediatrician on staff and I'm glad we did.  We got excellent help with breastfeeding (not nearly as simple as one might imagine) and I got wonderful support and care from the nurses and great supplies to help heal my aching nether regions. Another pro for the hospital was that the bed moves up or down at the push of a button (wish I had that on our bed at home)! and even though the food SUCKED (seriously?! this is what they feed sick people?  This is what MAKES people sick!) they had an awesome tray/table set up that made eating in bed super easy.  We didn't get any of the shots or eye ointment or other things that they tried to encourage us to do (big Peter had done a lot of research into these newborn protocols and really felt they were not necessary in our case).  I'm sure they thought we were wacky but they weren't rude about it.
Basically I felt like we had the best of both worlds.  We got to have an intimate beautiful (if somewhat surprising) home birth experience and then have impeccable surgical level care to heal the small amount of damage I had as well as lovely, caring nurses to dote on me and swaddle my baby like pros so Mom and Dad could get some sleep.
Would I recommend a home birth after this experience?  I feel like I'd consider a home birth if we did it again.  Peter (my partner) does not share my sentiments! I know we were blessed and incredibly lucky and it all went very smoothly.  I imagine if we'd had a midwife (or our doula) present who had a lot of homebirth experience it might have felt a little less scary (and also slightly less intimate).  I'm a bit on the fence.  Certainly my body knew what to do.  I also was carrying a very small baby (he was less than 6 lbs) and have a generous pelvis.  If those were reversed and he didn't come out so easily I'm not sure what we would have done on our own.  I'm also clear that there are rare times when you NEED a C-section to ensure baby's health and it's really comforting to know that it's only a few minutes away if you are in a hospital. 
Anyway, the ultimate outcome is the one in which both mother and baby turn out well and mother is empowered and feels safe.  I've been told multiple times that elaborate birth plans are a joke and we had a nice simple one that specified no unnecessary interventions.  Turns out fate had another plan for us!  No need for a birth plan at all - we had an unassisted home birth!  I would NEVER have planned that and I still got the outcome I intended.  All in all I am delighted with our crazy adventure, with the fact that Daddy caught the baby, and with my ability to manage the sensations of labor, delivery, and post-partum recovery. Now it's all about trying to get through the day when I've only slept in segments that are maximum 3 hours in length!  Welcome to parenthood!

P.S. I should also credit my doula, Haize Hawke, for putting me on a regime of supplements to help speed labor as well as an incredible pre-natal chiropractic session with Dr. Kolleen at Focus Chiropractic and an incredible accupuncture session that Friday with Roxy Han in Pasadena with helping to create my "precipitous labor".  Thanks guys!


  1. Joan-I've been waiting for this and am so happy to read your birth story and continue my joy for your arrival. I liked how honest and reflective your story is. I think one of the birth stories I resonate most with and enjoyed reading. I just like that you are not all one way or the other but like I said just real honest and down to earth. You will help many other Moms!!

  2. So glad your unassisted home birth was a success too! I am glad I didn't have a fire brigade in my bedroom afterwards, but I might have traded a lot for the comfort (?) of stirrups instead of our dining room chairs during the stitching process ;)