(Updates publishing at bottom of post + more on twitter)
My hands smell like Dreft. I am surrounded, on my bed, by a foreign sea of pink. My belly periodically morphs into the shape of an almond, pointy end suggestively aiming toward the door… Every ten minutes.
All signs suggest that I am in latent labor, though these contractions may be uneventful Braxton Hicks. No reason to split hairs, as I have an OB appointment this morning and a quick cervical check will solve the progress issue.
Which leaves me just enough time to think. And think. And watch my shifting belly transform and harden, followed by a swift kick from within, strongly suggesting that my daughter blames me for hassling her serene environment.
These are the days in which I hone my birth plan, wrap up loose ends, and begin to focus. What I am sure I have forgotten from my two previous births comes sliding back into place for our third child almost effortlessly.
Ready or not, she is coming. I’m leaning toward “ready.” Or not.
I am thoroughly confident in my ability to labor and deliver my babies. My labors are relatively short yet fiercely painful due to their rapid nature, but they are wholly tolerable. My birth days are my favorite days. I embrace every moment of them and look forward to them, eagerly.
It is that looking forward bit that you have caught me in today. Moments of preparation that I believe make all the difference.
My birth plans are based around as natural a birth process as possible, exemplified by the Six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices. I go into labor with the goal of labor beginning naturally, laboring without medical intervention or pain medications, a vaginal birth, and as little separation from the baby as possible to ensure our best shot at breastfeeding successfully.
You could drape sheaves of wheat and swaths of lavender around my birth plans.
Unfortunately, they don’t always play out as planned. Complications are the hallmarks of a well-lived life.
But that doesn’t mean that I can’t plan for complications. Go ahead and laugh, God, I’m breaking out my annotation asterisks for those “just in case” footnotes.
Olive is due October 29, little more than two weeks from today. One of my favorite parts of labor is the actual act of going into labor. The exhilaration and excitement of it. This pregnancy may not include that bit of excitement, however. My OB has suggested that since Q was born after a brief labor and Goose after a labor lasting a mere hour and resulting in one push, allowing a natural beginning to labor may be too dangerous this time. In short, he said that I could “have this baby in the car.”
Inducing labor seems alien to me and I fought his suggestion as such. Why mess with something that isn’t broken? We went back and forth on the issue right up until my trip to the Type A Mom conference in September. Surrounded by hundreds of mothers and dozens of doulas and midwives, I found myself ensconced in a wealth of experience and a plethora of opinion.
Not all of it welcome (for instance, I am well aware that this labor may last 78 hours, that infant death rates in US hospitals might not be stellar, and that having a midwife may have been a better choice) but every bit of it interesting and valuable.
By Sunday night, I felt confident that I had a stronger hand to play in talking him down from the ledge of induction. The following Monday morning greeted me with test results that suggested otherwise: Positive for Group B Strep.
Briefly, Group B Strep may be found in up to 30% of pregnant women and necessitates intravenous antibiotics for a period of time (commonly 4 hours) prior to delivery in order to protect the baby from exposure. The significance for me is that my labors don’t generally last 4 hours, start to finish. This single test result seemed to trump my last playable hand against inducing labor.
I was facing two safety issues vs. my desire to have a natural beginning to labor, which represented to me a reduction of a variety of safety issues but none that seemed to outweigh birth on the side of the road or exposure to GBS.
Complication #1, hi, howyadoin’?
So I keep rolling. My OB and I negotiating the onset of labor on a week-to-week basis, which is good enough for me, as he keeps listening and I keep talking. Our goal to stay just ahead of when I would begin labor on my own.
Regardless of how labor might begin with Olive, one of my most adamant goals is that I be allowed to labor naturally and without intervention. For me, that means freedom of movement and no drugs. At least that’s the goal. God, I hear You snickering.
When I was pregnant with Q, Maguire and I attended a Lamaze class in New Orleans. The Lamaze method has moved away from being the breathing technique-based method people still think of it as and more toward a holistic process, offering a wide range of classes and educational materials to instill confidence and arm mothers with a skill set for labor. That said, the breathing techniques really resonated with us and remain my favorite resource for labor.
Seriously, I have been able to avoid using pain medications during labor entirely because of my use of the Lamaze breathing techniques and pre-labor preparedness their approach offers. I’m not afraid of labor. I trust myself and my decisions. I’m not afraid of the pain. In fact, thanks to that first Lamaze class and subsequent research I did before Q was born, I didn’t even think of it as “pain,” as each contraction was evidence of a physical process that I could visualize and identify. Evidence that labor was working!
When it comes to labor and delivery, I’m your ideal mix of the crunchy touchy-feely mom and the cerebral analytical mom. Well, that and a touch of “Katie Holmes gagged and bound during a Scientology birth” because, for whatever reason, I also simply close my eyes and become silent during the entire process. No one was more surprised by my silent focus than I was… save for the occasional threat against my husband’s life.
Labor isn’t labor without a little threat of homicide thrown in.
As it turned out, those breathing techniques I am so fond of are not easily stored in my long-term memory, though. This is where you came in, fabulous readers. After losing the breathing patterns after my last births, I turned to twitter a couple of months ago in hopes that some of the midwives and doulas that follow me could point me toward the specific breathing patterns I used successfully before.
A task that seemed easy, until I realized that Lamaze truly does not routinely stress specific breathing patterns any longer. Regardless, specific patterns happened to have worked for me and I was set on finding them. And you heard me.
Thanks to an astounding network of friends and followers that truly do listen, Lamaze International came to me and offered help. As you can imagine, I was thrilled. Actually, that is an understatement.
Rather than just get my questions answered, Lamaze International agreed to be a Featured Sponsor of Velveteen Mind during my birth process. The best part so far? I was able to have a bit of a refresher course in Lamaze directly from the woman that literally wrote the book on Lamaze!
Judith Lothian, author of The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence, is utterly amazing and took time to hold a refresher course over the phone with me last week. What should have been a brief 15 minute session turned into an hour-long sharing of stories and marveling at women’s capacity to embrace the birth process, roll with the punches, and trust their bodies with confidence. (We recorded our session and may share bits of in the future, so stay in touch!)
What appealed to me the most about working with Lamaze International as a sponsor, however, was their willingness to discuss what happens when complications arise and our gorgeous birth plans begin to fall apart. I do not and never have viewed Lamaze as an “all or nothing” approach and wanted to take this opportunity to demonstrate how we can hope and plan for the most natural birth in the world but still prepare for the inevitable curve ball.
The Lamaze birth method may aim for the ideal, but I believe that it fits beautifully into the less-than-ideal, as well.
Which is where you find me today.
Faced with the possibility of inducing labor in order to avoid a too-rapid birth outside of the hospital and the threat of exposing Olive to GBS, I am mildly surprised to now be sitting in bed and counting contractions.
My OB and I are delicately attempting to stay roughly 4 hours ahead of when my labor would naturally begin, which is almost laughable. The best of both worlds, indeed.
As my belly contracts and points toward the door, I am also keenly aware that I need to somehow convince this little darling to stay put because her father has up and flown to Texas. Complication #2, hi, nicetomeetcha! Just as with my first two babies, I am laboring under a “don’t have that baby yet” mandate from my husband. He flew out to Dallas this morning and won’t be back until late tonight.
Olive, consider yourself grounded until Tuesday.
Until then, I prepare. I am washing all of her lusciously soft clothes and blankets in Dreft, washing myself in memories of loads of laundry schlepped out to our backyard laundry shed in the heat of a New Orleans summer when Q was a baby. I am marveling at how small these socks are and how I always think my babies will be able to wear these precious 0-3 month caps but inevitably will be born with 3-6 month size heads.
I am turning to twitter to share my frustrations and concerns with a support group of true friends to whom I owe great thanks. Always.
You make a vast world seem so much smaller.
And I watch. I watch you, Olive, patiently rebel against my body as it squeezes you and suggests that greater things than floating and kicking about are in your future. I breathe in your brothers as they kiss the suggestion of you and ask when you’ll be here. When they can hold you. If you can really hear them.
Two of those “greater things” that await you. With all of our love, we await you.
*Update: Whew. Too exhausted to edit what I’ve already written, so here is the status post-OB appointment-- now 80% effaced and 2cm dilated.
I was too distracted to ask him what station she was at, but he immediately said, “Woah, her head is right there!” so I’m thinking it’s lower than the -2 station from Wednesday. So far so good, legs fingers crossed we make it ‘til Tuesday, at the earliest.
*Update Wednesday, 10/14/09: Contractions still 10 minutes apart, but no sign of pain. I'm beginning to think that this is why my active labors progress so rapidly-- I do most of it at home, relaxed-ish, with my feet up. Already 80% effaced, I should walk in at 8cm at this rate.
Huge thanks to my twitter friends for putting up with my mood-swinging updates!
Be sure to follow me on twitter, where I’ll be posting updates as we move along!~~~
As always, click photos for their sources.