August 31, 2011

The home birth of Melody Grace (2008)

I knew before I even got pregnant that I wanted a natural birth this time. The hospital birth of my son was a parade of intervention after intervention, which led to a much longer and more painful recovery than is necessary in a normal birth. Going into the hospital changed my birth from a perfectly healthy, normal occurrence into a medical situation in which my body was assumed to be incapable of birthing on its own. I knew then that it wasn't right, but I wasn't educated enough to stand up for myself. This time I knew I would fight to make it different. My plan was to birth with a midwife in a birth center, but I soon came to find that Dayton, Ohio doesn't have any freestanding birth centers. Home birth wasn't even an option at first. It took many books and stories to allow me to even entertain the idea, and then I was sure I'd have to have a midwife here directing the entire process. By the time I began researching midwives to do home births I was past 30 weeks pregnant, and we had hit some financial problems. Now we couldn't afford a traditional midwife, and there were no birth centers. I was so stubborn about going to the hospital that I would say, "I'm just having the baby at home by myself!" My husband was quite sure that the idea of a home birth was some fad I was trying to fall in line with, and hopefully this crazy hormone-induced desire would quickly fade away. I'd just sit in silence and hope the day would come when I'd go into labor and we just "didn't make it to the hospital in time". I started researching home births and unassisted births even more and realized that a midwife was not necessary in the birthing process at all - when my body wanted to push out the baby it would push her out whether I was ready or not, and whether a midwife was encouraging me or not. I became really confident in my ability to have the baby naturally with no medical assistance, but my husband was not okay with that idea.After many arguments we stopped discussing it. One night he came to me and said he had done a little research on his own about hospital births in America and was now completely supportive of me having her at home, he was just scared of there being nobody there that really knew what was going on. We asked a good friend of mine to come who had had a home birth herself (with a midwife) a year and a half ago. She had a friend that had attended some births as a lay midwife, but wasn't really doing them now, as she was working full time and couldn't guarantee that she could make it. She said she would come at the end - for the birth - if she could. That was good enough for me.

I really thought the baby was going to be early, but 40 weeks came and went without the slightest contraction. I didn't go to the doctor anymore after 40 weeks, because I knew they would push really hard for an induction, and I knew that she was perfectly healthy. 42 weeks came and went and I began to let others' concerns worry me. What if I reached 43 weeks? Was I endangering my baby? Was it a bigger risk to let her stay in to 43 or 44 weeks, or to get induced? She was still moving like crazy, and that was my assurance that right then she was still fine. I prayed a lot, begging God to let me go into spontaneous labor NOW, because I was losing my confidence.

Saturday, August 2nd, I had a clear mucous-y discharge all day, but I didn't realize that it was my mucous plug because it wasn't bloody at all. That night around 10:30 my husband went over to a friend's house and I started having contractions. They were only about 5-7 minutes apart, and they hurt - but I played a game of cards with my sister and picked up the house a little. I wasn't sure if they were going to stop or not so I didn't want to get my hopes up. I knew that my husband was going to a movie around midnight, and at 1:30 I called him and told him that I was having contractions and they weren't slowing down, and they were getting more intense. He couldn't hear me, and said he'd be home by 3. I laid in my bed for most of the contractions, on my side. They were so much stronger than I had anticipated. I had envisioned the labor to be easy at home, and in the dim-lit bathroom I would take a bath and listen to soft music while I quietly moaned through my contractions. It was nothing like that! They started so intense that I didn't want to move - at all. I couldn't go to the bathroom, I had no desire to get in the water, and I didn't really want to be touched. It just hurt. At 3:15am I called my friend over and she and my sister let me labor privately in my room while they cleaned my house :) She told me to moan a deep "o" through the contractions, to open up my cervix. High pitch noises or panicky painful yells tend to close up your body. So I began "o-ing", and I "O-ed" through every contraction for the next 4 hours. When it got really intense I was yelling "O". I have no idea how my 2 year old slept through it just a hallway away. Dominic still wasn't home at 4 and I got really mad. His phone was dead or off, and I had no idea what he was doing. By 5 am I was ready to divorce him, and he came running up the stairs to see if I was okay. Apparently his friend's car had broken down and he'd been walking for the last couple hours. His phone was dead. I was still mad at him but happy he was there. He rubbed my back and tried his hardest not to laugh at my "o's". At about 6:30 The contractions were so intense and there was so little break between them that I didn't think I could go on. I knew I was too far along to get an epidural if I did go to the hospital, but I was sure I couldn't last any longer. I was so miserable. At this point my friend told me to go pee, which made me mad because I knew it would help but I had no idea how I was going to get to the bathroom. So I crawled, stopping along the way to yell through each contraction. I hadn't made it to the toilet by the time the second friend showed up; I was still on my hands and knees on the bathroom floor. I didn't know how far along I was - I couldn't check myself and I was really annoyed because I didn't know when to push. I had anticipated the intense "urge to push" that everybody talks about, but it really wasn't very strong for me. I got really scared and panicky, because the pain was so intense and I didn't think it was ever going to end. This was transition, which even though I thought I had prepared for, I completely forgot about when it was happening and assumed I was just dying :)

I stood up against the sink so her heart rate could be checked with the Doppler, and of course it was just fine. I turned around to face the sink and began pushing with the next contraction - mostly to see if it did anything that I could notice. All of a sudden my water popped -more like exploded - under me. It was so weird - it was really that huge gush you see in the movies. Looking back I don't understand why that happened, because at that point she should have been engaged so well in my pelvis there should have only been a bare trickle. Anyway, it gave me some hope that this was finally progressing, and I pushed again with the next contraction. I felt her head moving down in the birth canal finally, and I sort of freaked out. I pushed continuously for minutes (I have no idea how long this actually took) until she was all out, but it was in vain, because she was coming out slowly and carefully, even though I was trying to get her out as quickly as possible. I think this caused me to tear a little bit. I just wanted it to be over so badly.

My husband caught her in his hands at 7:33 am on Sunday morning, August 3rd! Once she was out and I knew Dominic had her I didn't even look - I immediately leaned into the sink and started bawling. I couldn't believe it was finally over! I didn't think I was strong enough the whole time I was doing it. I was so miserable - and once she was out I fell apart out of the relief that it was over. I felt so accomplished - I seriously was Superwoman! Everything was working against me, and everything still worked perfectly. That's the power of my God's design! After a moment I sat down on the bathroom floor and held her, and I'd say 5 minutes after she was born I pushed the placenta out. When the cord stopped pulsing we clamped and cut it, and then everyone helped Melody and I to MY bed and we stayed there all day. It was so nice to be home, in my own bed. It looked like the placenta may have been missing some pieces. Throughout that first day I passed 3 or 4 clots, and one of them was huge - like grapefruit size. My friend looked through it, and our general idea was that the placenta was coming out in these clots. At one point that day I tried to walk to the bathroom and I passed out on my way back - my husband caught me and carried me back to the bed. I was very light-headed and dizzy those first 2 days, even just sitting up. We assumed it was normal, and probably from the blood clots. About 3 days later I had almost stopped bleeding. Then I finally went downstairs for the first time, and moving around for the next couple of days caused me to start bleeding again. I didn't feel well, and even though I assumed it was normal I didn't like how bad I felt. I was very dizzy, and when I stood up for more than a minute or two I got very sick feeling all over. I just generally felt unwell.

8 days after the birth, Monday morning, I was a wreck. I felt the worst I had ever felt - like my whole body was shutting down. I thought it was because I had been doing too much walking up and downt he stairs, but I had planned to go to the doctor that day anyway for a check up (this day I had an appointment for Melody and I to both be seen for the first time - she was perfectly healthy and I saw no reason to take her around a bunch of sick kids just for the doctor to tell me she was healthy, which I already knew.). We spent 4 hours there waiting for my blood results, where they said that my iron was really low and I needed to take some iron and get some sleep. Then they discovered I had a low fever of 101, which prompts the concern of infection, so an ultrasound was done to check for placenta that would be causing it. There was placenta in my uterus still, which was a big shock to me because I had stopped bleeding so quickly and my uterus had clamped down really well immediately after delivery. She said I would have to have surgery that night and be in the hospital on antibiotics for a couple of days. I started freaking out. It was terrifying to me, and I didn't know how my husband would care for both kids at home, or if I could be away from my newborn that long. I was really scared of being put to sleep. The procedure was a D&C, and it sounded really horrible to me. It ended up being a very easy surgery - I didn't remember a thing and I didn't have any pain afterward. I did lose a great deal of blood during the surgery, which lessened my already very low hemoglobin count, so the next day they gave me a blood transfusion. They kept me through that second night, and I came home Wednesday morning.

I was definitely not expecting to have any complications after the birth, so all of these things were a huge shock and disappointment to me. We decided not to share any of this with out families - I didn't want anybody to think I had made a bad decision with the home birth. The fact is that this would have happened whether I was in the hospital or at home, only in the hospital they would have caught it before I left instead of me having to wait a week before discovering there was a problem. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have changed a thing about my birth. The home birth in no way caused the placental retention. I am so ecstatic that she was born at home. My birth was painful but so empowering, and my recovery was hard but the doctors knew how to put my body back in balance. I am so thankful for everyone that was involved in entire 2 weeks, doctors included. It was amazing, and I feel blessed to have been able to do it, especially with how hard the American medical system is trying to make it practically illegal.

Melody Grace Gorski was approximately 8lb 11oz, 20.5 inches long. She is gorgeous :) The doctors were worried because she was 42 weeks and 3 days late, but she wasn't late at all. She is so perfect and healthy. She was exactly on time.

My body is not a lemon. 

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