Aragorn’s Birth Story, by Lisa

Sep 16, 2012 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Birth Stories

It took a long time for my partner and I to decide we wanted to have a baby. Neither of us had ever imagined ourselves as parents, nor did we have any experience with babies. The idea of having a child grew out of our desire to expand and share our special and wonderful relationship, and the inner feeling that we could be part of a phenomenon much bigger than either of us: the joining of two persons into a unique new being. I wanted to experience the transformation into the unknown; challenge myself to discover a Self that would never be revealed if I continued simply on my current path. Would we regret taking this risk? I thought of that often because the risk is huge. I had a strong intuition that I would have a boy, but I wanted a girl. Would we like our child? Would this be overall a good or bad experience? I worried about how I would feel when this little babe entered the world and our future would start to be revealed. A loving and supportive birth experience seemed crucial for establishing that early bond with my baby that I so craved.

It was snowing on Thurs., March 7, 2002 – a very special occurrence in Seattle. I’d been walking for days. I had had regular, fairly long contractions every 5-15 minutes since Mon afternoon, but they were not progressing. I called Theresa, the University of Washington (UW) Midwifery nurse, on Thursday at 5pm. She checked with the midwife on call, Cory, and we decided I should come in for an exam. If I was experiencing prodromal labor, they would stop the contractions to avoid fatiguing my uterus before active labor. If I was dilated, then it was time to go to the hospital anyway. As it turned out, I was 4-5cm dilated, so the big adventure began.

We checked into Labor and Delivery Room 4 at UW, which had a view of Mt Rainier. For a couple of hours, my partner Peter and I felt very intimate. We were so excited. I was breathing deeply and well through the contractions. We spent time in the jacuzzi, enjoying our last minutes as just the two of us. I called my labor support team; my friend, Susie and doula, Kim, but didn’t really want them there right away. We were happy to be alone for a while. We felt so optimistic this was going to be an easy birth since the early dilation had been so manageable. Susie headed up to Seattle since she had a long drive from Olympia through the snow. Kim would wait for us to call her to come in.

Cory did a vaginal exam probably around 10pm and discovered that I hadn’t dilated any further. We hadn’t discussed what we would do in that case, so I was quite surprised when during the exam she announced that she wanted to break my water immediately. I felt forced to make a rush decision, and frustrated that she hadn’t prepared me for this. I feared that this was the beginning of a snowball of intervention. It seemed like the best way to speed up dilation, however, and I was a little discouraged after all that time not to have progressed. I told Cory to go ahead, and she pulled out the “crochet hook”. I didn’t feel anything other than the gush. I knew then that I wanted Kim there very much. I felt I needed an advocate to help me prepare for any more decisions, someone with both my and the midwife’s perspective in mind and knowledge of all the alternatives. As it turned out, Kim probably prevented some interventions, and greatly eased my mind about others.

The pain and frequency of the contractions grew considerably after breaking the water. I had lost some of my focus during the decision-making about rupturing membranes. That was a real eye-opener for me. I got really clear that self-confidence is absolutely essential for good pain management. Every time there was a hint that I would need some kind of intervention, I lost self-confidence, the pain got worse, and I was more likely to want more intervention.

Susie and Kim got there around 11pm. I was in the tub having back to back contractions for up to 5 minutes. It was pretty tough not to get a break. We used the tub and walked the halls. I was apprehensive about each change of position, especially anything that required a vertical orientation. I hadn’t expected that. Even going to the bathroom hurt a lot. I didn’t yet get that I would have to change my attitude to let this baby out. I still thought it would pretty much happen by itself.

It went on that way for hours. It was about 3am when Cory did another exam. I was only 6cm dilated. Something had to shift. Cory proposed using an intrauterine probe to determine whether the baby was stuck or my contractions just weren’t strong enough due to fatigue. Kim helped enormously in considering the choices. We had a very thorough discussion, deciding finally to do the probe around 5. As everyone expected, my uterus was tired; without stronger contractions the baby would stay put. We learned from another exam that he was caught on the lip of my swelling cervix. I needed pitocin and I needed to rest.

The epidural was a godsend. I slept from 8- 11am. I awoke refreshed. A new midwife was on duty, Cindy, with whom I felt much more comfortable. I was past transition and ready to push. This was the best news I had had all night. At first I couldn’t feel much and my team directed my pushes. After a while it became clear that pushing was putting a lot of stress on baby Aragorn. I had to wear an oxygen mask, which turned out to be quite annoying. I also had to restrict pushing to alternate contractions so his heart had time to recover.

After a few hours he still wasn’t dropping. That was so discouraging! Vacuum extraction might be needed if he didn’t get a move on. But this time instead of becoming overwhelmed, I felt determined. I was willing to do whatever it took to avoid the vacuum. The epidural had been expertly done so I had strength and feeling in my legs. Since the baby was posterior, I spent some time in yoga positions. I did a bunch of “cat cows” and rested in “child’s pose”. That helped him turn around, but he still wasn’t rushing down the shoot. Then Kim came up with the outrageous idea of doing the “Erickson maneuver” or “supported lap squat”. She had never tried it with an epidural and had to modify it, but we were all game. Poor Peter scrambled into the bed in front of me, and my entire team was employed pulling my legs over his. The goal was to stretch out my pelvis and lower it as much as possible in relation to my legs. Miraculously, it did the trick — he finally dropped below 0 station. Triumphant, I collapsed on my side.

The final leg was still really long. The epidural had worn off enough so that I could feel almost everything now and knew when to push. His heart rate still dropped with every contraction, and frighteningly so when I lay on my right side. So I was stuck on my left side for the rest of the afternoon, pushing every other contraction. I pulled my legs up to my ears for each push. Peter counted 9 breaths for each push, and I did 3-4 pushes/contraction. They were well controlled and regular. It seemed to take forever.

Finally, everyone yelled that they could see the head while I was pushing. I couldn’t wear my glasses because of the oxygen mask, so I couldn’t see anything in the mirror. Then I felt it. My fingers touched his head and I was hooked. I got my 5th wind. I kept my hand on his head until he finally came out. At 4:55pm, March 8, 2002, we finally met our baby boy. He was healthy, strong, 8lbs 2oz, 22″ long. I couldn’t believe it. All I knew was that nothing else mattered now that I had a little baby in my arms. It was so much more intense than anything I had imagined. I knew I would do anything for this little baby, and my higher power would only introduce him into my life to enrich it. I had the exact support I needed, both emotionally and medically, to allow me to be present and connected with my baby. I am grateful to everyone who witnessed and contributed to this birth experience. Of course, I am most grateful to Aragorn for pushing me to my limit, and doing his part by being healthy and strong. I adore my baby boy more than I ever thought I could care about anything. Of course, most of my growth as a parent is yet to unfold, but my experience of his birth was everything I hoped it would be.
A comment on natural birth: I had hoped to have a natural birth, and I did. The medication I received didn’t interfere with my process or my connection with my baby. The epidural gave me the break I needed, without making the birth feel any less natural. Knowing the hospital facilities were there if I needed them helped me relax. I trusted Cindy, the midwife and Kim to guarantee I would not have any more intervention than was necessary, and they did. I am grateful for the whole experience and everyone who played a crucial role.

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