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Background: I had an army of doctors after the birth of my 1st daughter at 34weeks and continued with a highly qualified team of Western medical doctors well into my 2nd pregnancy. (Testing for underlying disorders, blood clotting, lupus, heart conditions, etc.) Even though we had no real diagnosis prior to getting pregnant, my pregnancy was classified as "high risk" from the very beginning (even though I do not have chronic hyptertension or any other health issues). This was simply because I had a previous history-and not because of anything actually going on with my 2nd pregnancy. My husband and I went along with this, thinking we were doing what was best and being overly cautious about everything. I finally came to realize how ridiculous this was- my baby and my body were totally, perfectly healthy, and by treating me as though I was "high risk" I was MAKING MYSELF "high risk"- what a silly thing to do! If at any time I showed any signs of actually being "high risk" we decided we could THEN use medical interventions- but until then I was only going to cause myself to be ill.

I had always wanted a natural homebirth but didn't think it possible with my medical history. However, after being told that if my 2nd baby was posterior I would automatically have a C-section I freaked out. My blood work was all coming back normal. My blood pressure was perfect. What in the WORLD was I doing to my baby? (*My first baby, in addition to being a preemie, had shoulder dystocia and was posterior)

After a brief search, we sought the care of a wonderful lay midwife who did all of my prenatals from 16 weeks on concurrently with a high-risk specialist. I elected for natural care (accupuncture, vitamins, diet, exercise) as a preventative measure for my blood pressure. I made a commitment from 16 weeks on that instead of treating my pregnancy as an illness I would embrace it as a natural, wonderul process. After all, we had PLANNED this baby- it wasn't a "risk" it was an amazing journey to bring another baby into our lives and our family. I received AMAZINGLY WATCHFUL prenatal care from my midwife. If anything she was more intent on monitering my health and my baby's health than even my perinatologist. I trusted her (and still trust her) to the fullest degree possible. She completely changed my opinion of midwives that can only deal with "low risk" pregnancies.

Unfortunatley we did not get our homebirth, but in a lot of ways having a hospital birth was perhaps meant to be- because it healed a lot of really garring, open wounds from my first hospital birth.

Sorry-this is super long.

I lost my plug on Wednesday between 34 weeks, 5 days and 36 weeks 5 days... so I had a cervical check- and the baby was at 0 station. This concerned my midwife because of the due date discrepency and she wanted me to be assessed for preterm labor.

So off to L & D we went... the baby had moved BACK to a -2 station and I hadn't dialated at all... so my midwife felt a little better and told me to go home, be on "pelvic rest" and to watch it until she came back from vacation. She of course left the partner midwife (who was HER midwife) in charge and we all felt like I would at least make it until July 22 when she returned from vacation. Didn't quite make it...

The following Wednesday my daughter and I were on our own as my husband was working in Arizona. I was feeling swollen and crampy and sort of just "big"- my pregnancy was catching up to me. After Katherine woke up from her nap I did something rather unusual- I took a really, really long bath. Kate played with me in the bathroom and I told her to tell Mia that it was okay to come out. I had no idea the baby would take us seriously!

We took a nice walk that evening. I had read that posterior babies often respond to walking and that there is something about the natural movement of walking that encourages babies to be where they are supposed to be- so I wasn't about to let our exercise routine slip by. After going to bed I kept waking up for no apparent reason. I rose early in the morning and didn't feel like eating breakfast at all- I couldn't even convince myself to take my prenatal vitamins, something I had done every single morning for over 3 years.

I went for a check-in with the OBGYN, who (along with the midwife) wanted to do an ultrasound just to make sure the baby looked okay. The baby looked great- she was taking practice breaths and her movement was excellent. However, her head was REALLY low (which I could tell). The doctor asked if she could check me, and I agreed. I was shocked when she told me I was 3-4 centimeters dilated. I had already been on an epidural by that point with my first birth!

My blood pressures were rather scary- not numbers that my midwife would deliver at home- even if I was considered full term. However, I had no protein and I felt GREAT (other than being in labor). Because of the issue with my due dates it was just determined that I was better off to just come on back to the hospital to be monitored, and if I was progressing naturally then I would just go ahead and have the baby- if I wasn't, they would monitor my BP's and possibly just send me home or elect to induce if I started to develop preeclampsia (or for other signs of distress from me or the baby). At this point my husband ditched his meeting and headed back to the airport in Phoenix, where the next flight out was at 1 PM. It was deja vu- he was in Salt Lake City when I was admitted with our first baby.

After driving myself home and then driving myself back (contractions the entire time) I walked into the hospital, luggage, camera bag, and tripod in tow. The woman at the reception desk looked at me as though I were some kind of freak... (it was the "oh, you poor unwed mother" look). The nurse came in to check me in and after a few minutes finally asked.

"Do you have anyone coming or...?"

I started laughing. I was all alone...and having a baby...but not for long. Jennifer B. (midwife) arrived within minutes, along with my friend Jammie- and it was like having instant drugs. The midwife told me to drop my shoulders. Yep, drop my shoulders. Instead of fighting my contractions and tensing up, I was able to relax into them. She knew (without me being hooked up to any darn monitors) when a contraction was starting and when it was ending.

At this point I was STARVING- I hadn't eaten all day! I had a bunch of crackers and some chicken noodle soup- I was so thrilled to be eating! The three of us were honestly having a grand old time, talking about this and that (Jennifer is an extraordinary woman and honestly I was a little resentful of being in labor because I wanted to hear all about her adventures) and dealing with contractions as they came. Jammie put my hair up for me, patted my back, and talked to Jennifer. Just hearing everyone else be "normal" made things okay. In my head I was screaming through contractions, but Jammie said I was totally calm. It felt like a really natural, smooth process. Have a tough contraction, get a break. Have a tough contraction, get a break. That's the fun part. Feeling like you can "deal". Feeling in "control". It's the manageable part of labor.

At my next cervical check I was 5-6- so I was definitely in labor, all on my own. Whoo hoo! The contractions were spread apart far enough that I had enough time to deal with them- I also had a really cool pattern where I would have one strong one, two baby ones, and then a strong one. Jennifer said the baby ones were working on keeping my cervix opened, so it was easy to deal with those. I was finally not talking through contractions. I needed to concentrate. Still, I felt totally able.

And then... I started to feel nauseous- like I wanted to throw up. And I felt like I had to use the bathroom, which was super uncomfortable. Finally...relief... I was able to sit down and use the bathroom. Contractions after that were more intense, but much easier to handle. I thought sitting on the toilet and just hanging out would be comfortable but it just intensified the contractions. I spent some time standing over the sink, spitting... my mouth just had this vile taste and I wanted to throw up but couldn't. Jennifer held my hair. (That's when you know you have a saint for a midwife). I started to feel a bit panicky, but thankfully I had a break in between contractions to gather my wits and feel like I could do it, and then I would start another contraction. They felt productive. They felt like they were doing something. However, I still felt I was in charge.

The position I liked best was kneeling beside the bed on a pillow. This way they could strap me to the monitor for the baby and I could still move. I hated that da*n monitor, but the doc allowed intermittent monitoring of the baby and I didn't have to be hooked up to the other belt (to monitor contractions) at all.

They checked me at this point only because I was really, really starting to get uncomfortable and the throwing up is a sign of transition. I was 6-7.

Jennifer said she thought we were waiting for Daddy to show up. It was totally true- I kept waiting for Corey. He finally arrived around 5.

As long as my BP's stayed below a certain # I was allowed to move around and not be on the monitors- and so I think it was by sheer will that I told my blood pressures to stay below that number. The doctor came in to talk to us and offered to break my water. Jennifer talked this through with us- because we really wanted as little intervention as possible, and was this an okay thing to do? With someone who is hypertensive, breaking the water will usually progress labor- especially with a second baby. She said it would probably go really fast. I was freaked out about the prospect of labor being MORE intense, so we opted to walk the halls a little bit. This is when it's nice to have a husband who is 6'4. I leaned on him A LOT. After the walk I got in the tub and at first my contractions slowed- and then intensified to a whole new level. I could not get comfortable in the tub. I liked the noise of the jets though- they were comforting. It was about now that I started to moan through contractions instead of being very, very quiet.

They came in to monitor the baby and I wanted out of the tub. I was totally naked...and never managed to get dressed after this. (I'm still SHOCKED that I gave birth this way in a hopsital- even at home I had planned on wearing a top of some sort). I went to the bed and Sarah (the OB) came to do a cervical check. I was at an 8. She broke my bag of waters and it felt AWESOME. Totally, completely awesome. My midwife told me later it was a positive sign that my waters were probably ready to break anyway- (the bag was bulging) and I was relieved to hear that.

I was willing to have my water broken because I was afraid that if my BP's soared any higher we would be stuck in the bed and risk having things be more medically controlled. I think having the waters broken was a totally okay thing to do- and in fact my midwife said that if I were at home and the situation were the same she would have been able to break my waters as well (not something I knew midwives did, but they can!).

Immediately the contractions went to a new level of intensity. It wasn't horrible, it actually seemed like a natural step up from where the contractions were at in the bathtub. I wanted to sit on the toilet, but that was REALLY intense. It was at this point (sitting on the commode) that I started begging (at the top of my lungs) for an epidrual. I looked Jennifer straight in the eyes and begged for drugs. Any drugs. Knock me out, why don't you? I told her over and over again that I couldn't do it. I also knew there was no way I could sit still long enough for an anesthesiologist to put a needle in my back. I felt pretty pissed off that I knew I couldn't have drugs but that sure as heck didn't stop me from asking for them! I felt completely out of control to the pain. I looked into Jennifer's eyes. She was totally empathetic. She didn't look like she felt sorry for me, she didn't look like I was crazy, and if had to prove it I'd say Jennifer's eyes looked like they were in pain for me. I can't even begin to tell you about the strength that I borrowed from this woman. She never looked away, she never left me, she never acted as though anything were weird or abnormal or required "emergency help". Everyone was calm, in control, efficient. The complete opposite of having a preemie with shoulder dystocia.

She told me over and over again that I could. She continued to offer me whatever I needed (she never, ever told me "NO" to the epidural). She kept telling me I was in transition, it was almost time to push, that it was supposed to feel this way, that it was normal, that I was okay...

The nurse (Erin) kept trying to stick the doppler on my belly to hear the baby, and I hated it- I hated the feeling of the goopy jell, of having her in front of me, and having that monitor on me. I kept pushing it out of the way and cursing at her. (Later, when I apologized, she said I was great, and that at least I didn't hit, bite, or slap her, which I guess has actually been done on a pretty regular basis). Erin offered me a drug to "take the edge off" like stadol and I just looked at her. I never said "yes" or "no" because I was too busy having a baby. I was too far along for any drug by that point but they were all humoring me.

I just didn't believe Jennifer when she said I was almost done. I thought for sure it was going to get worse than that, and I knew I would absolutely not make it. I kept telling myself "ON THE NEXT BABY I'M GETTING DRUGS!" Within a few minutes after that realization, I somehow was in the bed, laying down, and suddenly, I was pushing. I was mad because it hurt. I don't remember it hurting with Katherine. I was REALLY not thrilled with that. I made a lot of noise. Then I was really quiet for a little bit because I was literally sitting through contractions. I refused to push- IT HURT! And I think I was trying to fool everyone by somehow pretending I wasn't having contractions. Jennifer was right there the whole time, wiping my forehead, holding my legs, telling me that as soon as I pushed her out it was all going to be over and I would have a cute baby to look at.

So I'm not really proud of screaming at the doctor that there was no way I could do it, or of begging for the epidural... but seriously, I had NO idea I could have a baby on my own will power.

I started pushing at 8 PM.

I could tell the baby was pretty far from being born, and I felt like it was going to be forever before I pushed her out. I literally felt myself give up- I decided that my body would just naturally push her out or they would end up cutting me open. But somehow around 8:40 or so I finally pushed. And pushed. And pushed. And just about 4 pushes later, her head and shoulders were out and one push later I had a chubby, winkled baby on my chest and I was in shock. I had no idea I could do that.

I was surprised that my pain hadn't ended completely. It wasn't this total pain free utopia like it was with Kate. However, I got to hold this squirmy, chubby, healthy baby in my arms for a long time. The cord was short so I couldn't pull her up very far. After a while Corey got to cut the cord, which was a first for him. A few minutes later I pushed out the placenta, which wasn't like pushing out a baby (no bones) but didn't feel great either. Once it was out THEN I felt that "after labor euphoria"- the pain was *almost* gone. I had no stitches and no tearing, not even a graze. Kegels, baby, kegels. I had to be reminded a lot, but my midwife was good at that. Do your kegels and your squats. I've now had two kids to where I practiced that daily and proof that it works.

They asked me (ASKED ME!) if they could take the baby to weigh her. I couldn't believe it. A healthy 7 lbs, 7 oz at (by LMP) 37 weeks, 6 days.

They weighed her and brought her right back to me. She never was suctioned or had those nasty eye drops. She latched on to my breast right away, on the left side, and she opened her eyes and then went to sleep.

I started shaking when they took her away, like I was freezing cold. I think I was in shock. They gave me warm blankets and a warm gown and got me cleaned up. I handed the baby to Jennifer while the nurse got me cleaned up and then before I knew it we were in the wheel chair, headed for the recovery floor. In my arms was a warm little chunky baby.

I started weeping as the wheel chair rolled down the hallway.

When I had Katherine they kept me in the high risk room on mag sulfate for about two days, and then they transferred me one night without warning. They put me in a wheel chair and all of my stuff on a cart and they wheeled me to the family floor past a hallway where every single door had a sign that said "its a girl" or "its a boy". My door had no sign at all. It was as if I had never given birth at all. That night I slept in a double bed with my husband and all night you could hear babies crying. My baby was in the NICU, no where near me or the floor, and still on a CPAP and I couldn't even hold her. I felt (and still feel) as though it were some kind of cruel and unusual punishment.

So when I was yet again being pushed in this wheel chair down a long hallway past doors with signs on them I couldn't help but cry. Erin actually cried with me. It was totally intense and amazing- it was somehow what made having a hospital birth worth it- I don't have to be petrified anymore.

I of course didn't sleep a wink, I needed my other little girl. I woke up Corey at 6 AM to get up and go home to get Katherine. When she got there I finally felt myself feel exhausted. I had my girls together in one place.

My accupuncturist had a home birth about 8 months ago, and she told me once at the beginning of our therapy that she thought about her daughter's birth nearly every day. I couldn't imagine something like that, when I had fought for nearly three years to forget about my first birth. Now I understand. Weeks later I'm still reliving almost every moment, thinking about every push, remembering contractions, movement, people, the way the rain fell outside, the feeling of having a newly born person lay on my belly.

Women who choose drugs often say there is no medal at the end, and that women who go natural do it to themselves and don't deserve any extra credit. Not true. I have a medal, and I have major extra credit. So there.

Coolest part? Going to see the pediatrician.
"Drugs used in labor?"
"REALLY?" Yep. None. I began realizing that if I had indeed had any drugs that it gets put on my baby's chart. Amelia started "clean". There is my medal. Amelia rolled over to her side and then to her back at 4 days old. She could hold her head up immediately after birth. She had mild jaundice and still was active and alert and nurses like a champ. Do I think having a drug free birth made a difference? Absolutely.

Giving birth to Amelia has changed a lot of things. I was so sad and disappointed after my first birth- I had prepared for a baby well before conception, I was in good shape, I read eveything I could, I had a midwife, I worked out, I kept dedicated protein counts- and at the end I felt my body failed me. I just didn't know I had it in me to have a natural birth. I must have believed it because I planned a homebirth, but to actually go through with a natural birth is just incredible. I feel amazing. I feel like I understand so much more about my body, my baby, my life- giving birth should be like that. It should be one of those experiences that changes you- not just something you survive or get through or tolerate. Not everyone is given this opportunity- no matter how diligent you plan or prepare for childbirth. Sometimes bad things happen to good mommies...and sometimes really good things happen. I'm so grateful for both experiences because it has brought me two beautiful, healthy baby girls.
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