Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Brooklyn's Birth Photos

Excitement! Today I got the photos from our home birth and couldn't wait to share some of  them. I was so lucky to have wonderful photographer > Katy Brown Photography in Albuquerque

Brooklyn's Birth

~Brooklyn Jane Ballew~

September 8, 2011
9:50 am
8 pounds 9 ounces
20.5 inches

When Mackenna was 15 months old and Jackson was just shy of turning 3 we found out we were expecting our third blessing. My third (and probably last) chance to have the natural birth I had always wanted. I made an appointment with the same OB I used for Mackenna’s birth because I felt that he was a very honest and caring provider and he had been supportive of my first VBAC attempt. After my first few appointments he informed me that neither he, nor any of his colleagues (the other 5 OB’s in town) would take a patient for a vaginal birth after 2 cesareans (and a bleeding disorder). I tried to fight back the tears and, almost defeated, asked if I did agree to another c/section would I be “allowed” to go into labor on my own rather than schedule the surgery. He said no, that the section would have to be scheduled for 39 weeks and that the only chance I’d really have at a VBA2C would be in Albuquerque at the larger hospitals that would be better equipped to handle that kind of “emergency”. But it was enough for me; it was a glimmer of hope. All I wanted was a chance.

I called three hospitals and countless doctors and all but one told me that I was too high risk and they would not take me (one said they would take me but needed to review my records and honestly I was afraid of a bait and switch so I never pursued it). I called two docs and the hospital in Espanola and the birth center in Taos and three midwives in Santa Fe and again was told that a VBA2C could not be done. Then I got a phone call. One of the midwives here in town got my message and wanted to know my story and told me to come in and meet with her. She told me that even thought it was illegal for her to take me as a client (due to the laws in our state) she felt very strongly that I could have a successful vaginal birth despite the 2 prior c/sections and having Von Willebrands (mild bleeding disorder) and so she was going to take me as her client. The relief, the excitement, the gratitude I felt, words could not express. It did take some serious research and discussion between Dustin and I to feel 100% with our decision to birth at home but in the end it came down to the fact that we had exhausted all of our other options and this was probably the last chance I’d ever have to have a vaginal birth. And all I wanted was a chance.
My pregnancy progressed very smoothly, I was very happy with my midwifery care and I anxiously awaited my baby and my VBA2C. At 40 weeks 3 days (or 39 weeks 6 days according to early ultrasound and ovulation) my labor began.
The night of the 7th we got home from church around 7:30 and I started having pretty strong contractions about 6-7 minutes apart. I timed them until we decided to go bed around 10:30. At around 11 they suddenly seemed much closer so I started timing them again and they were already 3 minutes apart. I knew it was the real thing so I thought I should probably call my midwife and let her know. As expected, the back labor set in and I needed tons of counter pressure to help take the edge off. My midwife arrived and after this the details get a little fuzzy, all I know is that I labored. I labored in the shower until I couldn’t stand up anymore. I labored kneeling at my bed. I labored in the bath tub with my midwife talking to me through each contraction. I labored and I prayed. Five hours in I told Dustin that I needed pain meds. I told him that if we went to the hospital they could not FORCE me to have a c/section, that I would have to sign for it. I told him I couldn’t do it, that it hurt too much and I wasn’t even at the “hard part”. He told me that I *could* do it and that I was just psyching myself out. He said that I would regret it and that if I left the house I was going to have a c/section. He said he would support me whatever I wanted to do and that if I wanted to leave we should tell my midwife so we could get going. So he called her upstairs and I told her what I was feeling. She told me if we left the house it would be a minimum of 2-3 hours before I could get an epidural but if I wanted to go we would go. I was scared. I was really scared I couldn’t do it. I was scared it was going to get harder and we were going to end up transferring anyways. I don’t know what really changed my mind but I know the thought of having to labor in the car was a huge deterrent for me and I really didn’t want to disappoint Dustin and my midwife. I don’t remember making the decision to stay, I think I just got distracted with another contraction and when I saw the clock again it had been hours. I do remember repeating to myself “replace fear with faith, replace fear with FAITH”. 

They filled the birth pool and I continued (and would end) my labor in there. I have no idea what time it was but my midwife checked me and I was 8 cm dilated. That was exciting for both Dustin and me to hear since I’d never been past 4 cm. Very encouraging. I don’t know how much longer it was before I started having the urge to push. My midwife told me to listen to my body and if I felt like I needed to push, push. I started pushing at about 8:15 am. My body’s reflex to push was beyond that of anything I’ve ever felt. My quiet coping turned into incredible, uncontrollable, animal-like sounds that even now I am surprised came from me. Dustin told me later that he thought the neighbors might call the police because it was so loud. My back was on fire and nothing was helping. I just leaned over the edge of the pool, fought back the urge to vomit, begged Dustin not to stop putting pressure on my back and pushed with everything I had. I pushed for over an hour then I sat up and said “I need help”. When I said it I was fully expecting to be told that *I* had to do and no one could help me but instead my midwife didn’t miss a beat and with the next contraction she told me to push longer and without vocalizing and then she reached down and “helped me” (it felt like she was stretching me but she says she was applying counter pressure to the baby’s head and so the baby’s head was actually what was stretching me). Dustin reminded me how close I was and she told me to push exactly like I had just done again and she helped me again. I could feel progress being made! Three or four (or a hundred, it seemed) more pushes like that and baby’s head was finally out. I couldn’t believe it. I just wanted to rest my back so badly but they told me that it wouldn't stop hurting until the baby was out. So with the next contraction I mustered all my strength and I pushed one more time. The rest of my beautiful baby girl came flying out (“torpedoed” in Dustin’s words). I turned around and picked my baby up out of the water and held her to my chest. She was here and amazing and in MY arms. I did it. I pushed her out. Praise God. Brooklyn Jane was born at home in the water after 2 c/sections. She was my fastest labor (about 12 hours) and my biggest baby weighing 8 pounds 9 ounces and 20.5 inches long. 

My back finally started to relax and I got out of the tub and onto the bed still holding my girl. I started to cramp and pass a lot of clots and blood and my midwife was getting concerned because the placenta was not coming. After 45 minutes, I delivered theplacenta and everyone started to calm down. Until I passed more huge clots and blood. I was feeling a ton of pressure still, so much that I couldn’t move my legs. I had lost pretty much all color and was hardly able to hold Brooklyn. I passed yet another set of clots and at that moment Dustin, the midwife and I simultaneously said it was time to go. Dustin called the fire station (his crew was on shift) and the ambulance arrived and they carried me downstairs in the stretcher. The ride to the hospital was kind of blurry but I remember they went to close the doors after they loaded me up and I said “NO! Dustin is coming” and he climbed up with Brooklyn in his arms and we were off. They started IV’s and got me checked in. I was checked (very painfully, despite them being gentle) by three nurses until they figured out that the reason I was experiencing so much pressure was because I had a very large hematoma (bruise filled with blood, about the size of a baseball) on the right side of my vaginal wall. I also had a pretty deep second degree tear from the delivery and had already lost about 2000 cc’s of blood. They got me into surgery pretty quickly and had to open up the hematoma, drain it, then pack it to stop the bleeding and they also stitched up my tear. There was another 400 cc’s of blood in the hematoma and after the surgery I was told that my blood levels were critically low so I would have to have a transfusion (two bags, with a third discussed). All went well and I am recovering. Slowly, but everyday is better. It was not exactly the serene, romanticized homebirth experience I had envisioned but it was also more intense, empowering and healing than I ever imagined. It was attitude-adjusting and life-changing for me. Even with the complications, I feel transformed and very, very happy, blessed and at peace. Honeslty, I would take my homebirth (that some might even call traumatic) 100 times over another section and I am and will forever be beyond grateful for my incredible, selfless midwife. I am more in love with my husband that I have ever been. I know I could not have made it through any of this without him. He is the most incredible man I know. I am truly, truly content for the first time in a long time. And mostly I feel an overwhelming love for my children. They are amazing little beings that God has entrusted to me and I am so proud to call them mine. My heart is full. All praise and glory to the Father. He designed me for birth and He gave me the strength to follow HIS birth plan. He is so good.

“Shall I bring to the point of birth, and not give delivery?' says the Lord.”

~Isaiah. 66:9

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mackenna's Birth

~Mackenna Marie Ballew~
August 11, 2009
5:32 pm
8 pounds 5 ounces
20.5 inches

I switched to another OB who was very supportive of my plans to have a VBAC.  My pregnancy went very smoothly and my VBAC was in sight. At 39 weeks, we rented our house out and moved in with my parents. Dustin was pretty busy working, we already had renters scheduled to move in and we had a lot of stuff to get moved so I ran around packing and moving as much as I could. I figured the worst thing that could happen from me lifting (relatively) heavy boxes would be going into labor and at 39 weeks that is a welcomed event. I did go into labor but not until 40 weeks 1 day. I woke up to my water breaking at 2 am. I labored at home for 8 hours then decided to head to the hospital. I lied and told them my water broke at 9 so that I’d be “allowed” more time to labor. I was checked in triage and again in my room. They confirmed I was in labor and I was already at 4 cm (I was excited because it was farther then I got with my son). The nurses also “let” me labor in the shower which helped tremendously with the back labor (again) but started getting worried when they could keep the baby’s heart rate on the monitor. They adjusted it and adjusted it and had me move around but they couldn’t keep her heart rate on there consistently so they decided it was time to call my doc.

He came in and checked me and said he could definitely feel the baby but it wasn’t her head. He brought in an ultrasound and confirmed that baby had flipped frank breech. (Looking back I could almost pinpoint the moment that she flipped while I was moving things, but it just never occurred to me that the pressure from lifting stuff would cause a baby to flip.)  I couldn’t even look at the screen because I knew she was going to be breech and I knew that meant I was going to have another c/section (my doc and hospital don’t do breech births). I fell into Dustin’s arms and sobbed. My VBAC was so close and it had slipped right through my fingers. They took me to the OR and did not allow Dustin in the room while they did the spinal. I was still crying from the news that I had to have a section and then the guy doing my spinal missed and I could feel the blood running down my back. And then he missed again and more blood, I was sobbing asking them to please let Dustin in the room. I was seriously afraid they were going to injure me. He finally got my spinal in properly and they let Dustin into the room and I calmed down. Again I laid numb, waiting to get to see and hold my baby. Again, I had my baby taken out of my body. Again, I wasn’t there for the bath, weight, footprints, or to nurse or even have skin to skin contact with my child.

My recovery from this surgery was much faster and easier. I think in part because the nerves were already destroyed in that area and in part because I had a 17 month old that needed me to still be his mommy. Nursing also went a lot more smoothly and I didn’t suffer from PPD. I attribute all of that to going into labor naturally when my body and my baby were ready.  I was again disappointed but not like the first time. I felt like I was given the chance to have a natural birth and at the time I did not know that a frank breech baby could be delivered vaginally so I felt like this c/section was warranted. I did feel frustration and guilt about my actions being the reason she flipped but other than that I just felt resolved to try again with our next baby.

Jackson's Birth

~Jackson Thomas Ballew~
February 28, 2008
7:50 am
7 pounds 15 ounces
19.5 inches

07.07.07. Two pink lines. Exciting. Terrifying. Amazing. I already knew I wanted a natural birth. I created a birth plan that specifically laid out what I did and did not want as part of my birth. I took hypnobirthing classes to prepare for a drug free labor. I used an OB that everyone told me was the best in town. My pregnancy progressed very smoothly. Until I was 30 weeks along and my blood pressure readings started going up and they stayed up until I was 36 weeks when my OB told me I was pre-eclamptic and scheduled an induction at 38 weeks. Every fiber of my being told me not to do it and I asked if we could put it off a little longer, if there was anything I could do to lower my blood pressure, if there were ANY other options. She insisted that I was pre-eclamptic and that postponing the induction was dangerous for me and my baby and so I complied. The morning of the induction I woke up and asked Dustin “What if I just don’t go in? What will they do?” He had also been scared into thinking that the baby was in danger and convinced me that it was best to just go forward with the induction.  When I set foot in that hospital, my natural birth plans ended then and there.

They took my blood pressure when I got there and it was completely normal (thank you acupuncture) so I refused to proceed with the induction until I spoke to my OB. At this point I still believed that she had my (and my baby’s) best interest in mind. Three hours later she came and spoke with me and told me that at any moment my blood pressure could spike and I would be risking my baby’s life. And so it began. I labored without pain meds on pitocin for 42 hours (with nothing but back labor) and for about an hour had what seemed like a continuous contraction (later I learned it was my uterus hyper stimulated) but when I told the nurses about it they told me that they could turn the pit off but it would just stall my labor. My records say "Patient requested that the pitocin be turned off" with nothing about the hyper stimulation. I had my water broken and at least 10 of the most painful cervical checks ever (so bad that 10 weeks post partum when I had intercourse for the first time again, I was still swollen and bruised and it was ridiculously painful).  All this and I never dilated past 3 cm.  I refused the epidural several times because my hypnosis was working wonderfully but the nurses and my OB insisted that I was not dilating because I was not relaxing and that the epidural would help. I finally gave in due to sheer exhaustion and 6 hours after the epidural I was still at 3 cm and my water had been broken for 2 days now so I was told I had to have a cesearan. I was wheeled into the OR where my son was taken out of my body while I laid numb, swollen and crying. And while I was waiting to be sewn up my OB decided to use me as a learning tool for some intern that was in the OR and she moved my uterus all around and proceeded to point out my organs and ovaries and other insides. Nevermind the obviously distraught mama who was waiting to hold her baby for the first time. I wasn’t the first person (second or third, even) to hold my baby.  I could barely see him when Dustin held him near my head while they sewed me up. I didn’t get to see him weighed or bathed or put him to my breast. It would be almost 2 hours before I finally had him in my arms.

He came out extremely swollen and bruised with a misshapen head since he was being pressed against an almost closed cervix. We had a hard time nursing, I suffered from PPD for about 2 months (I am very lucky and grateful that it was not longer), and I was filled with anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness and guilt toward his birth. I loved and adored my little man but hated my birth experience. No one seemed to understand and, like so many other c-section mamas, I was told “at least you have a healthy baby.” Probably the most dismissive and hurtful thing that people can say because it completely invalidates what I was feeling and says that my experience doesn’t matter. It assumes that I had a choice between my baby's safety/health or having a section but that was not the case. *MY* section was not an emergency, my section was not necessary and my section was not wanted. I understand that the surgery has it’s place and can be life-saving, but mine was not so comments like that did not make me feel better. They made me feel more alone, more wrong for feeling what I felt. I tried to push past the anger by planning a VBAC for our next baby but over the years I learned more details about my birth that the anger and resentment just grew. I found out that I never had any protein in my urine or edema or any other signs or symptoms of pre-eclampsia aside from the elevated pressure readings. I also learned that those readings were just at the high end of normal. I learned that blood pressures for people over 200 pounds (which I definitely was at 30 weeks) are supposed to be taken with a large cuff to prevent false high readings. I learned that my OB was scheduled for vacation the week of my due date. I learned that her c-section rate was one of the highest in town.  I learned that she diagnosed me with CPD in my records instead of saying that it was a failed induction. I learned and I learned and I learned and I used it all to fuel my passion for taking back my birth.  When my son was 8 months old I saw those two beautiful lines again and my journey to VBAC began.