Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guest Post: "Overcoming Fear in Order to Heal"

The Fear of the past…
Is something that came to light when I decided to get pregnant again. I never really thought about my first labor experience, until I started thinking about having another baby. I would just look at the pictures of my daughter’s birth, and recall my baby girl being born healthy and becoming a mother for the first time. But when I got pregnant for a second time, all the memories of the labor came rushing back. The physical pain of an unnecessary pitocin induction just because I was 3 days "over due" coupled with a half way working epidural and no preparation on how to cope with contraction pain that was intense with pitocin , had created a negative and traumatic memory. The feeling that really hit me was I went against my one and only instinct I had during my labor, I took intravenous narcotic pain medicines twice, which hardly helped anyways. I had not prepared. I just thought well I will just go to the hospital and have my baby like everyone else. I had known nothing of labor, medications, inductions, and delivery methods. I should have known something before I had my first baby, but I was scared of the pain, had fear of the unknown and the whole experience of labor and delivery at 20 years of age. That first birth was out of control chaos that I didn't want to repeat.
I chose to have a birth without fear…
because this time it HAD to be different. You learn from experience and don’t repeat mistakes, right? I started researching everything I could and gathered knowledge. Most of my research was through the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Pregnancy Association. My research confirmed why my instinct told me not to take the pain meds. It also told me why my unnecessary induction experience was so painful and just overall negative, besides my daughter being born well. And I was lucky for my baby to have done well through labor and be born healthy and alert. I suffered a very painful 1st or 2nd degree episiotomy as well. I discovered that I was now personally uncomfortable with unnecessary inductions because it can easily lead to unnecessary risk and suffering for baby and mother. I asked myself, why can't labor and delivery be a happy experience? Why has everyone I known got induced, are we unable to go into labor anymore, or is just inconvenient? Is it possible to look back on your labor and think wow what a great memory? Why not? Why can't labor be a positive memory? Why not? I am a bit of a control freak and perfectionist and the thought of my negative, painful, and out of control first labor was upsetting. I needed to control my body and my labor. This was likely to be my last baby, so I wanted a positive and healing memory this time. So I decided I wanted to try to have a natural unmedicated natural child birth, but I never had full trust in myself to make it without the epidural, although it had only worked on half my stomach last time. I couldn’t let go all the way of my harbored fears from my first labor, my fear of the pain making me want an epidural, fear of getting repeat episiotomy due to scar tissue, and fear of something happening to my baby drove me to a hospital birth again. I was on a budget and read a book called Birth Made Easy by Paola Bagnall and listened to the hypnobirth Mp3 from it every night during my last trimester. I practiced positive affirmations and hypnosis with breathing to counts of four, all in hopes that I could labor all naturally. All the while I was learning to trust my instinct and trust my body, and letting go of all my harbored fears.
Then some problems arose…
At just 24 weeks of pregnancy my OB diagnosed me with low amniotic fluid and monitored me weekly with ridiculously expensive bio physical profiles. I didn't worry after finding out my levels (6-9) weren't worrisome if the baby was healthy. She did tell me to work part time and take it easy the rest of my pregnancy. I started to drink a gallon of water a day and the only caffeine I had was 1-2 sodas per week. Then I found out I was positive for group B strep. So I was glad that I chose a natural hospital birth so I could get the antibiotics for my baby. At my 38 week appointment my blood pressure went up to 130’s/85-95s, which was a little bit high for me considering I had been having low blood pressure (80/45 to 100/70) with symptoms. My doctor told me I was soft and 1-2cm dilated with baby up high, so not much going on. It started looking like an induction was in my future, because my OB was pressuring me already with the three reasons I stated above as her basis. I told her No, I am not inducing until 41 weeks, although she had tried to set up my elective induction for me for 39 weeks. Those three reasons started tricking me into thinking an induction may be needed to. I desperately wanted to labor naturally. For my baby’s health. For my perfect birth experience.
Early labor starts…
At 36.5 weeks I had started walking an hour and bouncing on a yoga ball half an hour, both every night. During these activities I would practice techniques I had learned on my hypnobirth mp3 to relax my muscles so my pelvic floor would not be tense and the walking and bouncing would actually produce progress. I also took evening primrose oil and ate pineapples. I was due with my son November 21st, 2012. On Wednesday evening November 14th after my walk and ball bouncing, I started urinating very frequently with several Braxton hicks contractions. Then I had a sharp uncomfortable contraction, then another 2 minutes later. The contractions continued at 2 mins apart lasting 30sec each. I hopped in the bath tub and relaxed to my hypnobirth mp3 while excitedly pondering if this was it! My Husband packed our hospital bags and timed my contractions…and then they quit after an hour. The next day, Thursday November 15th, I felt like I was having a menstrual period. I had continual dull uterus cramps and low back ache all day with the occasional Braxton hicks contraction. Then the next morning at work, Friday November 16th, I passed bloody mucous. I knew it, I was in early labor! I was excited. I monitored my blood pressure and when I was up and about it was 135/95. It made me nervous because I knew my OB would put the pressure on at my upcoming appointment Tuesday/due date day. So I took out my book Birth Made Easy and looked up natural induction methods in the book to get those wonderful contractions going again. I had already been doing what it said. The ball bouncing, walking, sex, primrose oil, and eating pineapple daily. I continued to read and there it was, castor oil. It said for past due babies though. So I hopped on my birth club online and found the posts about girls taking castor oil. I started counting because I am a number and statistical person and found a success rate of about 30 out of 45 girls who had tried it. With no negative outcomes from any of the girls and baby’s. I had read several birth stories previously that week in which castor oil had been used and actually recommended by midwives and their babies were born healthy. I googled castor oil and came across many blogs with opinions on it and even midwives chiming in on the discussions. I found that it wasn’t studied and the common risk was meconium waters, and most of those cases were over due babies so it was hard to blame that occurrence on the castor oil alone since over due babies tend to have a risk of meconium waters anyways. I needed to have a bowel movement anyways so I decided what the heck, why not try it? It's all natural and I bet its way better than dreadful pitocin as far as the babies and my health is concerned, escpecially since I found it in my hypnobirth book and it had been used by midwifes. So I did it. I took the max recommended dosage around 2pm and did everything else I possibly could to get my contractions started. I walked, ball bounced, etc….And I waited, and got nothing but a few runny bowel movements that were not uncomfortable. I drank a gallon of water (over a couple hours time) and started sweeping the floor. I got in a foul mood suddenly and snapped at everyone around me which was my husband, brother, mother, and daughter. I started crying suddenly. I realized this may be the hormone let down before labor and yet I couldn’t control my level of simultaneous madness and sadness. So my mother and brother took my daughter to my grandmothers for dinner and I went on another long walk alone in the dark and cleared my mind . I thought about my labor and envisioned it all going as planned. I had a feeling this would be one of my last moments alone with myself and my mind and peace. And I was correct. I came in around 8pm, kissed my daughter good night and pondered looking at her as an only child one last time. I went to sleep at 10pm

At 12am Friday November 17th at 39 weeks & 3 days I was awoke by a sharp uncomfortable contraction, 2 minutes later another came. I woke up my husband who had just laid down a few minutes prior and he began to track the contractions with a handy android app called contraction calculator. I started playing my hypnobirth mp3 by Paola Bagnall and went into my deep meditative state, while controlling my breathing to a 4 count. In hypnosis, you do not think. This is a reason why it is so effective and why I mastered it with her book and mp3 my last trimester of pregnancy. The only thing your mind is focusing on is the voice of your hypnosis guide, your breathing techniques, and the occasional check that your muscles are relaxed. Without thinking, negativity and tenseness cannot creep into your mind. I could feel right before the contraction was coming and catch it by starting my breathing. I would visualize it coming in like a wave because it actually felt like that. When I breathed in, I would push out my stomach using my diaphragm and it would naturally stretch my uterus making the contraction feel better. When I would breathe out I would drop my shoulders for deeper relaxation and release any tense feeling in my pelvic floor. My mp3 track gave me positive affirmations and visualizations of my cervix easily opening like a flower bud. The contractions were strong and 2 mins apart every time and lasting a minute every time. After an hour, we called my parents and the hospital. I took a shower and did my hair and make-up in a quiet and peaceful state of mind. My dad was to stay with my daughter at my house because she was asleep, and my mom was coming with me and my husband to hospital to video tape the birth. I gave my husband and mother specific instructions on maintaining a quiet peaceful environment and how to be my birth coach a few weeks prior. We were not telling anyone I was in labor to keep it that way, peaceful and quiet with no break in my concentration of hypnosis. I paced the house and listened to my Mp3, I was so excited because with each contraction I was getting closer to meeting my baby! I was so happy I was in control of my body and handling everything so well and went into labor naturally. I called the hospital and told them the about my contractions being regular for an hour and half at 2 mins apart and they told me to come in to get me and Christians IV antibiotics before he arrived because they take a few hours to administer. I would of labored longer at home if I had not had the group b strep.
We arrived to hospital….
around 3am with contractions steadily 2 mins apart still and strong. I never turned off my mp3 but for a few minutes. They hooked me to the dreadful outer monitors and told me I was a -2 station and 2.5cm. Baby Christian was happy as a clam in my belly on the monitors. I rocked back and forth on the edge of the bed for a while then laid down since it was almost 4am and I was with no sleep. I was in deep meditation which allowed me to doze off between the contractions for a whole 2 mins at a time! My mom and husband took turns dozing off, mainly my husband. They checked me again in an hour and I was the same. This brought me out of my deep meditation and I started pacing back in forth in a 6 foot line and got a little tense. Was this a false alarm? Or do I need to get to walking and relaxing again? They came back in an hour and half and I was the same again, and offered pain meds which I of course said no to easily. So I told the nurse, “I need to get off these monitors so I can walk.” She told my Dr, who hadn’t even popped her head in yet and but was there, and the nurse came back and said “We are going to let you go home.” I thought well ok that is what I want, but I am in about 8/10 pain with the contraction, they are lasting one minute each and two minutes apart, and I am positive for group B and have been in labor almost 7 hours now with consistent contractions, so is this a good idea, to go home like this? My mind answered yes it is, because if you stay hooked up to the monitors you won’t dilate and they will give you the awful pitocin which is bad for baby. If I want to progress naturally, I need to get out of here.

We headed back home…
around 7am. The only time I ever looked at the clocks was when I went into labor at midnight and these two times in the car. In my state of hypnosis there was basically no time. The car ride intensified my contractions. When I got home I was exhausted without having slept and my contractions were very hard so I had to lie down. I was nauseous with every contraction. I had drunk another half gallon of water and was hungry, but couldn’t eat the chicken broth soup and toast my mom brought me. My husband went back to sleep and my mom sat right by my side as I laid in the bed. I was hypnotized to my hypnobirth mp3. Paola Bagnall's voice carried me through every single contraction. I visualized napping in the sun on the beach at Lake Tahoe, and I fell asleep for 2 minutes, then a wave was rolling into the shore, it was the contractions which I woke up for the duration of 1 minute to handle. This process of sleeping on the beach and then waking up to a wave continued for almost 2 hours. I was curled up in the fetal position as best as a full term pregnancy woman could. My mother eventually left when my daughter woke up to feed her breakfast. It was just me and Christian now, my son, working together. A quiet mind will wander, but a focused one will not. All my thinking mind needed to shut off was that constant soothing voice of hypnosis. I didn’t fight the contractions, I never tensed up. I breathed through every contraction to a 4 count, sleeping in between, so relaxed , it was an out of body experience. After those 2 hours in bed, I started moaning quietly through the contractions and I had to get up because the pain was very sharp in my uterus now. My heart raced and I had butterflies. I wanted to get in the bath tub instinctively. Half way there, a contraction came and I fell to my hands and knees. I remained like that till it passed. Falling down like that broke me out of hypnosis for a second and the pain was intense. I yelled for my husband and he helped me get in the bath tub. I knew getting in the bath would help me relax and relieve some pain. It was just me and him now and he kicked in to birth partner gear. He gave me positive affirmations and followed my lead. I noticed during the contractions I was peeing a little in the bath tub. I repeated the contraction section on my mp3, over and over again to concentrate on getting through just the next contraction. Just keep breathing. During this labor my life had taken on a different meaning, to just get through the next contraction. The bath was like a haze as the contractions got stronger and I started losing control of my 4 count breathing. I would exhale by blowing out a long whimper so I wouldn’t have to breathe in very much. My husband was timing it all and said the contractions were now nearly 2 minutes long. I said “Well when should we go back to hospital, it’s from an 8/10 to 9/10 pain, is that good enough to go back to hospital? Do you think it’s time, or maybe I haven’t made any progress? ” The next contraction I felt a sudden heavy pressure press down on my pelvic floor and anus. I peed a little more. I had my husband help me out of the bath tub. I sat down in a squatting position on the edge of a chair and had another contraction with intense pressure , it felt like my anus was turning inside out it was so intense. I got a spurt of nervous energy and paced the room before the next contraction and when it hit I sat down in a spread legged position again on the toilet this time and peed a little more in spurts, and I totally relaxed my muscles and let the pressure press down with all it had. I said “Ok it’s time to go back to the hospital because there is intense pressure coming down and seemingly out of my anus.” It was 10:30am (my husband later told me), only 3 ½ hours after we had first returned home. So my husband dressed me because I suddenly started feeling weak, limp, and shaky. He helped me to the car. The drive was horrible, I moaned loudly with very long exhales and a bucket in my lap in case I got sick. I could feel every little bump in the road. I never opened my eyes. My mp3 finally was off for the first time. I started thinking finally, previously I had only had thought when I was at the hospital and when I was in the bath tub. I was still (barely!) in control of myself. I started thinking out loud to my husband. “What if I still haven’t made any progress? If I haven’t made any progress then I will get the epidural because I am losing control! This hurts. What if this pressure and intense pain is transition? I am shaking and weak and nauseous, I think this is transition…I am scared to do this without an epidural. I understand how those girls on I didn’t know I was pregnant thought they were having a bowel movement because this pressure is all coming out of my anus” In that car ride, I became one with my body. Although I was not in hypnosis, I was still relaxing and meditating. When the contraction would hit, my breathing would become shallow and my body would become completely limp. It was like my body would take every ounce of energy from every other muscle and give it all to my uterus, and I didn’t fight it. My legs were rubber and flopped open. When the pressure would start coming down all I could feel were my lungs trying to breath correctly and the muscles of my pelvic floor, uterus and anus, and I would feel them all try to tense up and fight the pressures pain. I focused in on those muscles and I released them, I let the pressure come down as far as it wanted to without resistance. I was truly becoming one with my body and letting it do what it was designed to do. It was amazing. It was empowering. I was strong.
We got back to the hospital
Around 11am (my husband told me later) Here is the scene: Me in my red pajama pants with black dogs on them, pink and silver tennis shoes, belly hard as a rock In a tight black tee shirt, huge black sunglasses on, messy hair, moaning out loud but quietly, whispering when I spoke, my poor husband helping me into a wheel chair in front of the emergency room. He left me with the check in attendant to park the car, my mom was parking her car at the same time. The ER attendant rudely said “What’s your name and date of birth mam?” I just quietly moaned/whimpered through another contraction and ignored her. My husband came running up and answered all her check in questions. They wheeled me up the elevator and to a labor room. My nurse and husband had to put me in the bed and take my clothes off. I felt too weak to stand and the bath tub and bed had been my best friends this labor (and my hypnotherapist of course) so I happily obliged to the bed. The nurse strapped on the monitors and Christian was still performing excellent on them. The nurse tried to check me immediately and I slammed my legs shut saying “Wait till my contractions over.” She said “Well I have to check you hunny!” I said ”I know just wait”. The contraction was so intense and the pressure made me shake uncontrollably. The nurse checked me for a long uncomfortable time in which her hand was almost going in a circle and I said “What is that? Ouch! What are you doing? Please stop.” And she said “That is your baby’s head , you are fully dilated and ready to go. You already lost your bag of waters?” I said “I don’t know.” I must have left it in the bath tub and toilet right before I left and had close to none since I had low amniotic fluid throughout pregnancy. It was 11 am just 4 hours from when I left the hospital earlier. In 4 hours at home and in the car I went from 2.5cm to 10cm. But here comes the fear in my mind; is my baby going get strep? Well I can’t control that. Onto the next fear, something I can control, my previous episiotomy hurt like crazy after my epidural wore off with my first daughter, I mean I cried it was so horrible. That fear hit me like a ton of bricks. And the fear of a ring of fire during crowning my best friend had described to me as a blowtorch after her natural birth. I said to the nurse “Ok I need an epidural first because I don’t want to feel that ring of fire thing or any cutting or tearing. It’s gonna hurt.” And she said “Oh no hunny I am so sorry it is too late for that.” and she ran out of the room. I yelled after her “But no I really need an epidural first!” My beloved mp3 was gone, my meditation was gone now, and the chaos started. My husband held my hand tight, looked me in the eyes, smiling with a tear in the corner of his eye and said “You are gonna be ok baby you can do it. I love you.” I said “Where is my mom?” She had been told to go in the waiting room while they checked me I later learned. I started to panic; I let the fear come over me like a wave as the wave of nurses started running into the room and another wave of a contraction hit me. I moaned loudly in a low pitch. I said again “Seriously I need an epidural. I drank a lot of water I promise.” They said no again. My mind told me it would hurt, but I didn’t know that for sure. It was fear of the unknown and fear of the past gripping my mind. I said “Ok, well what about some pain meds, I had those with my daughter and she was perfectly fine. I really don’t want to feel that ring of fire thing.” And a nursery nurse with her back turned to me and my husband said while unfolding the babies blanket, “We can’t give you that this late or your baby would have to be resuscitated.” My husband said no out loud and I said no in my mind. I shook my head back In forth as a response and went into my mind Why did you even ask for that, you were adamantly against that anyways because of that very fact, sedated babies and hardly any pain relief. People swarmed about the room setting up the delivery table and baby table. My nurse came over and said “I’m sorry hunny, but look you have made it through the hardest part already, all the labor!” That sentence started to settle, and started stirring something up inside me, my strength. A male Dr came in and said my Dr was delivering another baby right now and he introduced himself. I introduced myself and looked straight at him and said, “Is there anything you can do to help me?” He said “I am going to give you a local anesthetic over your scar here and start your antibiotics” I watched his hands draw the needle and felt the sting on my old scar. The Dr said “You’ll feel this sting. Ok it’s almost time, just 2 good pushes and we’ll have this baby!” My mom had just entered a few minutes ago and excitedly and nervously said “You hear that Melanie, just 2 good pushes and you’re gonna let er rip! When should she start pushing?” The room was very quiet and my eyes were closed, head tilted back. I heard people saying “You’re doing great” Then, another contraction came over me and as I moaned I felt an uncontrolled push happening with a whole lot of shaking and crazy breathing, thinking no I can’t I can’t , but my body was trying to push. The nurse told me hold my breath and started to count out loud for me. I didn’t do it like I should of, I said “I can’t”. Everyone said, "You can do it, just push hard" When that contraction stopped the room got quiet again. I felt a sharp unnatural feeling on my urethra and said “What is that?” The Dr said “I’m sorry but I have to drain your bladder real quick with this catheter because your urethra is beginning to tear from your pushing so hard” He did it fast and took it out within his 2 minute window before I was to push again. The sentences of encouragement where still stirring around inside of my mind , I had done it? I had done it. I labored naturally and controlled my pain up until this crazy transition pressure pain, anyways, just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, it was delivery time. The nurse had said the hardest part was over already, was she right? Pushing with my daughter was a piece of cake, so this should be easy too right? My perineum was numb so I won’t feel it if its injured again. I turned to the nurse and said “But what about that ring of fire? I’m starting to feel a burning sensation.” Her and the Dr replied “Just push through the pain when you feel it” I said ok, and I thought I’m going to do this this time, I am strong. I got what I wanted, a natural child birth. The sentence reawakened the strength that had only gone away momentarily. I said “Here it comes” and there it was, a huge contraction with a huge amount of pain and pressure. The nurse started her instructions. I breathed in, held it, and pushed as hard as I could, and as soon as I started to push, that contraction pain completely vanished. Like magic. So I pushed harder, and there was absolutely no pain. My mind was relieved, it was like a breath of fresh air as I only felt a huge amount of pressure and a slight burning sensation now and not the contraction anymore. When I got to the count of 6 I started moaning out my held breath, like a relief moan, I knew I probably shouldn’t have but it felt right. I felt my baby moving through the birth canal and it didn’t hurt. The feedback of feeling successful movement of my baby helped me focus on my pushing. I took another breath and I pushed again two more times for long 10 counts and then the contraction ended. The Dr said the head was nearly out and with the next contraction I could meet my baby. This statement, coupled with a nonexistent ring of fire, a numbed perineum, and the super awesome newly discovered fact that when I pushed my pain actually went away, gave me so much excitement! A huge smile came across my face. I asked the nurse “Can we let my bed up higher?” , so I’d be like sitting and she said no, and before I could argue here came my contraction. I took that huge breath in and held it and pushed as hard as I could, I really used every ounce of strength I had in my pushing. I started to moan as I exhaled again through the last couple of seconds of each breath, I thought about that nurse telling me no and my moan got loud. The Dr said “Ok stop, his head is out” I excitedly demanded “I want to hold him!” They said hold on, and ok now push again, and I did with a higher pitch moan, and whooosh, out he came! The Dr put my son on stomach and I was over taken with emotion and joy crying “My baby, my baby! " My baby boy quietly opened his eyes and squinted up trying to find me and my voice, I was in awe as he looked at me. I don’t know if he had started to breath yet, I don’t think he had, but the Dr gave him a little rub and he started to cry. I said “He's so little! It’s ok sweet baby ” Dr clamped the cord and daddy cut it while he was on my chest still. I was so overtaken with emotion! Then they took him to his little bed a few feet away and cleaned him up and weighed him and he stopped crying and started looking around calmly. The Dr said he did have to give me a very small episiotomy, just a few stitches, because the scar tissue was not stretching although he had was trying to stretch the perineum for me. The Dr massaged out my placenta and sutured me quickly; he kept saying that I had done a great job, and an amazing job pushing. I closed my eyes and sighed in relief. I said “It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be” My son was born Saturday November 21st 2012 at 11:26 am, only 26 minutes after arriving to the hospital at 11am. I labored 4.5hrs at the hospital and 6.5hrs at home. I lost control and let that fear creep in right before delivery for about 10 minutes during my 11 and half hour long labor. Christian Lee Willis was perfectly healthy and was 7lbs 2oz and 21 inches in length at 39weeks and 3days gestation. He had no cone head shaping at all and no puffy eye lids and was born fairly clean. After about 20 minutes of cleaning him up and measuring him in the same room as me, they gave him back to me and left us all alone. He nursed for 20 minutes with ease, just quietly staring with squinty eyes at me and his new food source, just like my daughter did after her birth. My brother and daughter came in and I let my husband and daughter hold our baby boy. Then I fed him again. I hoped up with ease a little less than an hour after delivery. Recovery was so much easier than the first time, although my urethra and bladder were sore for months from being stretched. The contractions were much easier to handle because I could catch them as they came on like wave, building up to a peak, and they were focused on my uterus, with a max total of 9/10 pain in transition. Compared to 10/10 pain with pitocin contractions for several hours with my first birth and they were so hard to handle because they took over my entire stomach and came on out of nowhere immediately strong. My body created a natural epidural due to adrenaline and other hormones that were left undisturbed throughout labor also due to the vagina being stretched so much after crowning that it just goes numb from nerve compression, I started to reflect on what just happened. I had my healing experience that I so desperately needed after my first birth experience. I trusted my body and just let go. I just gave birth without fear. I am strong.
After my experience I discovered Birth Without Fear blog and decided to write my story so I wouldn't forget the details, to inspire women, and to show my children when their first children are one the way. I also found this quote that spoke to me, and it is my hopes that my story and this quote will find someone who is pregnant and inspire them to believe that they are strong.

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Please follow Melanie on Instagram @Mama_Mel_Mel to learn more about her and her family!