Monday, March 2, 2009

Graeme's Birth Story

I have time to myself this evening, as Mark has to stay at the barracks tonight. I sat down to write Cole's birth story, and, well...I ended up finally putting Graeme's down!

This is supposed to be a birth story, but to explain how he came out, I really have to go all the way back to how he came to be. So bear with me.

I chose to go off "the pill" the summer after we got married. I don't recall exactly how I started researching it, but I experienced many side effects, including weight gain, vision problems, extreme mood swings. I started reading books and discovered that the Protestant church is strangely silent on the issue of hormonal birth control...the Catholic church is firmly opposed to it, and upon reading much and praying much, I also became convinced that I could not continue to use hormonal birth control.

We successfully used Natural Family Planning to avoid pregnancy for a year. Graeme is the result of a high-stress month that caused my cycle to go wonky...and behold, God blessed us with Graeme! The stress, oddly enough, was an audition to get into the School of Music at the University of South Carolina to pursue a Master's degree in piano performance. I received the confirmation letter on July 1, and took the first pregnancy test on July 2. Talk about a bend in the road!

Needless to say, God drastically changed our plans. Graeme, I think of Psalm 139...from the moment of conception, God was planning your existence, writing your story already by forming you even when we hadn't "planned" to have you. After being completely surprised (we were in disbelief for a few days - I bought 3 pregnancy tests!), it is a precious memory for me that once I knew what God had done, He enabled me to embrace it with all my heart, and I was thrilled to become a mother. I never "mourned" that I didn't get a chance to pursue my masters' degree. I can see now the wonderful journey God's brought me on, being a mother, and I've never looked back.

Fast forward through my pregnancy (mild morning sickness for 14 weeks - I really enjoyed popsicles that summer!)...we moved in August to a one-bedroom apartment...and then we moved again in October to a three bedroom house with a fenced yard! God literally dropped that into our laps, and it was a wonderful place to prepare for our new baby. We found out "it" was a "he" in October, as well!

Into my second trimester, I started exploring other options for birth. I pursued an in-hospital midwife group. I liked them okay, but the more I researched and anticipated this wonderful experience of birthing a baby, the more I wanted to birth at home, or in a home-like environment. The thought of the sterile hopsital with cold floors, hard beds, needles, doctors, etc. just didn't fit the feelings I had about bringing our child into the world. Upon researching, I discovered that home birth is, statistically, safer than hospital birth, which encouraged me to pursue it. The catch for us was that the state of GA does not recognize midwives as qualified to attend homebirths (although there is an "underground" homebirth movement...we weren't quite comfortable with that at the time).

God led us to Amy at Blessed Births in Greenville, SC. It was a 2 hour drive. I think we were crazy, but at the time, it seemed like the best option. And, honestly, God had a plan for us there. Our plan was to give birth there at the birthing center. Amy had two rooms, both beautiful and restful, and I felt such a sense of peace with her caring for me during that last trimester. I anticipated laboring in the large jacuzzi tub she had, and giving birth in one of her serene rooms, with a warm, caring midwife cleaning my baby and driving home the following day.

Then I went 2 weeks past my due date. By law, Amy could only keep us up to 42 weeks, and then she was required to tell us to go see a physician. We discussed my due date (Feb. 28) and decided that it was probably off quite a bit (due to my cycle's strangeness that month), and adjusted it to March 10. Well, 2 weeks went by with nothing happening. I was really big.
I recall the discomfort of not wanting to go anywhere (because everyone asked the rather thoughtless question - "Haven't you had the baby yet?" - umm, obviously not.)...but on the other hand, I had to keep myself busy! It was discouraging.

And let me tell you, we tried everything there is known to mankind to try to get a baby out. I did dozens of internet searches for natural induction methods...we did it all. From consuming a whole pineapple in one day to castor oil to evening primrose oil to eggplant parmesan. My least favorite was black and blue cohosh. I did as many doses of that as Amy felt comfortable giving me. And walked. and walked. and walked. I'd start contracting, but it would always die off after an hour or so. We spent two weekends at Amy's center, sure that eventually labor would happen.

The last weekend she could keep me came and went. She sent us home with the plan to birth at home. Either she or a midwife friend of hers in Columbia would come and deliver the baby for us. We were disheartened, but changed gears to plan for a birth at home.

That Wednesday, I woke up with steady contractions. We called Amy - she'd sent us home with a doppler and a blood pressure monitor, and had Mark listening to the baby and checking my blood pressure. Everything was going great. Finally, we were going to have this baby!

Except the contractions didn't stop. For two days. They'd get intense and then back off to 10 min. apart. I couldn't sleep. I should have tried harder, had I known what a battle I'd be in for! I actually downed a shot of vodka in an attempt to get me a few hours of much-needed rest. It worked, thankfully! I'd sit in the bathtub for awhile. Mark was so sweet, he set up candles and music to help me relax. He got me any food that sounded good. He didn't sleep much, either, bless his heart.

Amy's midwife friend came in on Thursday, monitored me for awhile, and was confident we'd be calling her Thursday night with me ready to push. Finally, Friday morning around 4am, I felt the need to push, and started pushing around 6am. We were sure Graeme would be here soon. But by noon things weren't looking good. I got to 10cm dilated, but there was a lip of cervix that his head just would not push past. I did probably the hardest thing I've ever done, which was to stop pushing for an hour. She had me lay on my side and then switch sides, all the while refusing to let me push every time my body was screaming "PUSH!" It was awful. I was focused on getting through the next contractoin...never once considering that what was happening (the long labor, back pain, and difficult extended pushing) is the classic sign of occiput posterior position, which can cause, well, everything that happened! Ah, well, hindsight.

Around lunchtime, the midwife (who had told us she'd never had to transfer a patient to the hospital) told us that in this case, it would be best for me to transfer. Maybe if I got an epidural, I could get a bit of rest and that would help give me the strength to push past the lip. We'd not seriously considered the possibility until that point, so Mark scurried around getting things together while my body continued to contract along with the urge to push. This wasn't exactly what we had thought this would be like, to say the least.

The drive to the hospital was the second worst thing I've ever done. Ouch. Once we got there, we simply told them that I'd been at home pushing and wanted to come in for an epidural. They probably figured out what we'd been trying to do (homebirth). But when they checked me, they said, "Oh honey, you're at 8cm, this baby will be out in an hour!" Ha. I firmly told them I wanted an epidural. Now. So they gave me one. It was a bad one. They hit a nerve and sent me spinning with my ears ringing and the room twirling and my blood pressure spiking crazy high. That was the first time in this experience that I considered that I might die. I recall the sensation of wondering if I was going to die or not, as they hurried to get the epirual needle out to re-do it. I was so emotionally and physicially exhausted by then. They wanted me to try pushing some more. I did. Almost two more hours. The nurses were great, I'll say, they really wanted me to have this baby vaginally. They kept putting the somewhat-rude doctor off - he had come in, took one look, and said I should "just have a c-section".

After pushing that long, the Dr. came in and told us he could try forceps, or we could do a c-section. He wasn't comfortable with forceps, due to my being an unfamiliar patient as well as the fact that the baby was posterior. (Aha!) What a hard moment that was. We told him we needed to talk it over, but we didn't. We knew that the best decision was a c-section at this point. We both teared up...this was not the "climax" we'd anticipated over these past few months. Mark squeezed my hand, and then I started signing all the paperwork and consent forms.

I'd like to digress and mention that about a month prior, we decided to apply for Medicare to cover any potential costs. We just barely qualified, but did, so I applied. The day before I went into labor, we received the confirmation letter in the mail. Talk about Providential timing. Had we not had that, we would have faced $10,000+ in medical bills, which would have added a lot of stress to an already difficult situation. "What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows" (Matthew 10:29-31)

The epidural kicked in as they got me ready for surgery, and I think I was half-way between sleep and wakefulness. I don't remember much exept a flurry of activity and answering questions. The next thing I recall is being in the surgical room. The anesthesiologist was so nice, very light-hearted...he kept me from getting too worked up about the whole surgery experience. I remember feeling pulls and tugs and all I could see was a blue sheet. Then, I heard my baby crying, and at that sound, my whole body yearned to see him and hold my baby. It was a minute or so while they cleaned him up, and that felt like hours to me. I could hear my baby crying, but could do nothing about it! Mark was holding my hand and telling me we had a beautiful healthy son. They brought him over and Mark could hold him. I touched him with my eyes. He was beautiful. Such a strong boy! We'd been through so much, and finally, now here was our new little boy.

I think we were both quite anxious for the next hour or so as they had to stitch me up and took Graeme away. The next thing I remember is being in the recovery room and they brought Graeme in, and were doing things to him (footprint, vit. k shot, etc.) and I just wanted to tell them to stop everything and let me be with my baby! Mark was there taking videos of him, and I called my parents. Finally, I got to hold Graeme. And honestly, I kept holding him and holding him. I think sometime early the next morning the nurse persuaded me to put him down in his little bassinet, but I just couldn't stop cuddling with him. He was so tiny, and needy. And tired! Well, no wonder! He slept a ton the first 24 hours. We both did.

Recovering from a c-section wasn't a breeze, but it wasn't terrible. All told, we were thankful to have a healthy baby and a healthy Momma. Amy got to meet Graeme a few weeks later. He liked her :)

Marcus Graeme was 9lb 10oz, 22 1/2 in long. He was born at 7:30pm on Friday, March 30, a full month and two days later than my first due date. I wouldn't trade his birth experience for a different one. We don't regret our decisions through the whole process. We learned much! Most of all, Graeme's story is a reflection of God's faithfulness - in spite of our weakness, in disregard to our "plans"...God's plans are not ours, and His ways are truly amazing.

Isaiah 25:1
O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done marvelous things,
things planned long ago.



Melonie said...

What a rough road - but so worth it. What a sweetie pie he is!

My son climbed up on my lap and started crying out BAYBEEEE! BAYBEE!! about the adorable pictures. His birthday is 2 July - the anniversary of your test!

Myra said...

Wow Amanda!! I loved reading Graeme's birth story! What an experience!! I understand some of what you went through with unexpected turns in the birthing process. I recently posted Ridley's story on my FB page. Btw, I love your blog...

seamwrite said...

One of these days I will share with you the journal I kept for Graeme during that incredible 48 hour period. It is a testament to the goodness of God and the power of intercessory prayer. And I suppose an interesting peek into the mind of his Nonnie! Loved reading and re-living the experience from your perspective. What a blessing your boys are - and how blessed to have such wonderful parents!

Lydia Bowman said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing your story. I'm sorry though that you didn't get to use Amy for the birth. She's amazing. Did you use her with Cole? I guess I'll have to wait for that birth story. =) We had our firstborn with Amy as midwife when we lived in Greenville. And I totally understand the feeling of wanting to just hold your baby after all that hard work!

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing Graeme's story, Amanda. You've inspired me to write my babies' birth stories down. Sadly enough, I haven't done any of them. I'm looking forward to reading Cole's story. :)

By the way, I finally got around to responding to your question on my blog. I'm nursing Noah every 2 to 2 1/2 hours during the day, and whenever he wakes up at night. Right now he's just waking up once. I feel like my supply is really good right now, so if he ends up not gaining well I'll wonder if there are enough calories/fat in my milk. I try to get a lot of good, healthy fats, although it sure is tempting to get my fat from ice cream all the time. :)

I am actually still feeling my milk let down, and I am still leaking (in the past I have never experienced either of those past 2 or 3 weeks postpartum). Noah seems satisfied after I feed him, so I think that he is getting enough. I would love to nurse him for at least a year. We'll see!

Amanda said...

Lydia - we moved to Virginia in August, so I wasn't able to use Amy for Cole's birth (of course, I also went 2 wks 6 days with him, as well!). She was a delight through my pre-natals with Graeme, I loved her.

Laura - I'll come check that post on your blog, but I'm SO glad to hear that the nursing is going very well with Noah. That is an answer to prayer!