Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tilly's Birth Story

First and foremost, I'd like to note that I caught her. Literally. She was dropping toward the floor and I stuck my hand out and caught her like she was a softball.

But a lot happened before that.

Sarah and I had been planning a home birth. Hattie, after all, was born at home (yes, by choice), and by all accounts, she's turned out fine. At 2-years-old and counting, she's talking and walking and pretending to be a giant spider--all the normal things.

Some mounting complications prompted us to reconsider our original plan. As this long-stagnant blog has indicated, Sarah spent a while in the hospital for a stomach bug. Shortly after her recovery, we were forced to move into a new house. We believe her sickness and the stress of the move conspired to start contractions, far too early. She went on bed rest.

Once she got her contractions under control, Sarah's blood pressure began rising, to borderline dangerous levels. We worked at keeping her healthy, and rest coupled with a high-protein diet seemed to be effective, taking us into a window in which the baby was considered full term.

Two weeks before her due date, Sarah began to have trouble feeling the baby move. After a particularly long stretch of apparent fetal inactivity (about 18 hours), we went to the hospital to get checked out. Turns out the baby was fine with a strong heartbeat, but Sarah's amniotic fluid was almost dangerously low.

Together, we considered the string of complications and consulted with our midwife and an OB who helped us when Sarah had been sick. We all ultimately agreed that induction would be the safest route, especially since the baby was doing so well (even if she wasn't really moving around). We could wait and try to get Sarah's amniotic fluids back up to safe levels, but if she worsened, we'd be going into labor with a less-healthy baby and more stressed Sarah.

The biggest relief to Sarah came in learning that she wouldn't have to be given any Pitocin--her biggest fear. In fact, all she needed was Cervidil, a minimally invasive drug that would kickstart contractions. It didn't even go in her bloodstream.

After making the decision to induce, we were checked into a birthing suite at French Hospital. We decided to pretend like we were at a hotel with room service--people brought us food, there was a TV and an adjustable bed, and staffers changed the sheets if necessary.

We hastily wrote a birth plan, noting that Sarah didn't want any pain medications, that I wanted to catch the baby if possible and cut the cord, and we generally wanted as natural a birth as safe and possible. All of the nurses and our OB agreed with the plan. We were impressed with how receptive everyone was to our wishes. The first nurse who attended Sarah noted that she had had a home birth 30 years earlier and believed in the birthing process. She assured us she would make sure that her replacement at the next shift felt the same way.

Sarah got her first dose (and an IV with hydrating fluids and some antibiotics, too) at about 6 p.m. on Sunday. Sporadic contractions began after a few hours and ran throughout the night. At the next morning, they gave her a second dose, and regular contractions soon began in earnest. She eventually hit her stride and labored mostly with just the two of us (and occasional visits from the nurses). Sarah didn't want anyone else around--probably in reaction to Hattie's birth, attended by myself, our midwife, her three assistants, both our moms, Sarah's sister, our friend Andrea, and her newborn Natalie. This time around, Sarah wanted me and only me. I was husband, father, and doula all rolled into one.

Our nurse, Suzanne, complimented Sarah on how well she relaxed and responded to my voice and touch. She said she could tell that we worked well together as a couple.

Throughout the labor, Sarah threw up several times, but that was still a marked improvement upon her first labor experience. She thinks the IV keeping her hydrated was a big part of how good she felt.

At about 1 p.m., Sarah was checked: 7 centimeters. Sarah got up to take a long, hot shower, and then her mom and sister brought Hattie so they'd be ready when the pushing started.

At about 3 p.m., the doctor checked Sarah again. She was at 8 centimeters, and the OB felt Sarah would labor for a while longer. Sarah's sister, Mary Rose, stuck around for support, and I continued encouraging Sarah to relax, change positions often, and go to the bathroom.

On one trip to the bathroom, she began pushing. I know, because I asked her: "Are you pushing?" She said she couldn't stop, so I called the nurse in. Sarah's bag of waters broke. I looked, and could see the baby crowning. The nurse told Sarah to walk back to the bed between contractions, but Sarah asked if she could have the baby on the toilet. When the nurse told her that wasn't an option, Sarah decided to get on all fours on the bathroom floor, which was fine by everyone.

She pushed once, maybe twice more. Our nurse, Suzanne, was calm and happy. Staffers stuffed blankets and liners as best they could under Sarah's hands and legs. The doctor arrived and asked for oil. I looked and saw a bulge where the baby would be coming out and stuck my hand there. A moment later, Sarah gave a push, and at 3:30 p.m., Matilda Jane Miller's head dropped into my waiting palm. Her body flopped along my arm.

Sarah's mom and Hattie had been in the hallway, but came back when they heard what was clearly Tilly being born. Upon realizing that Grandma couldn't get into the room, Hattie assessed the situation and reached out for a passing nurse so she could get in on the action.

In the bathroom, I quickly lifted Tilly to my chest, and in so doing accidentally tore the umbilical cord. Our doctor pinched off the cord and clamped it almost immediately for minimal blood loss to the baby. And she didn't even flinch. Seriously, the OB was a machine. We highly recommend her.

Someone asked Sarah how she felt, and she said, "I feel great!" My wife is awesome! Tilly was bundled and given to Sarah, who returned to bed to snuggle our new daughter and encourage her to nurse. Sarah suffered a second-degree tear (not as bad as with Hattie), but was otherwise fine.

Hattie almost immediately tried to feed Tilly some pretzels and apple juice. After a traditional post-partum dinner from Firestone (courtesy of the Rookses) and some light visiting, Sarah, Tilly, and I settled in for a good night's sleep before going home the next morning. Before we checked out, all of the staffers who had contibuted to our care checked in again. The nurse Suzanne told us she had been honored and blessed to be a part of Tilly's birth, which meant a lot to us.

We were honored and blessed by the help and encouragement we received from family, friends, and others throughout this pregnancy and birth. We're excited for you to meet Tilly, and if you've met her already, we're excited for you to see her again.