Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Climax: Simon Edward's Arrival

alternatively titled
Giving Birth after Trauma

I still never anticipated that it would take me over a month to write Simon's birth story. Crazy how my mind has resisted writing the details, which somehow would cement in the truth of the experience I had versus the experience I had so long imagined. It's also a little different to write a story that can honestly be completely and accurately summed up with the statement, "I had a c-section." But we want the details, so the details I'll write.

We left our story off at the decision to have a c-section. Simon was transverse, firmly and solidly planted with head in my ribs and no indication of moving again.

Chris and I woke up around 4:30 the morning of Wednesday, August 20. I had been instructed to fast from all food and water after midnight, but I cheated just a little bit and drank a small glass of water. We got dressed, grabbed the last few things that weren't already packed in the car, and headed north towards the hospital. In the car, Chris made one comment of regret at missing out on the adventure of driving me to the hospital while in labor, and I admitted to some nervousness about having surgery, but other than that, conversation was light and excited for baby Simon to finally be here. We did acknowledge the possibility that, like Ben, he could have turned head down during the night and we just didn't know it yet, giving the ever so slight a chance of still trying for the VBAC. But that conversation was more a formality than an actual possibility.

We arrived at the hospital and the nurses set us up in the first bay of the Triage room in Labor and Delivery. I changed into my own gown that I had ordered online. Between that and the french braids Mom had put in my hair the night before, I looked pretty darn cute while giving birth. I received a lot of complements on that gown from the hospital staff.

My doula Brandy arrived about 45 minutes after us, which was perfect. I was already changed and mostly settled, but then she was there to provide surprisingly helpful comfort while I was poked multiple times with a variety of needles.

As per usual, the worst part of the initial hospital preparation was getting the IV. I really liked the nurse we had, but she struggled to find a good spot. She tried just above my left wrist, which didn't work, so she tried again nearer my left elbow. That failed also and resulted in a burst vein and a lovely bruise that only just now went away a month later. She called it at that point, declaring that she refused to stick one person more than twice and said she would find someone else to get the IV in. In the meantime, some guy showed up to draw blood, which he did from the back of my left hand. Another nurse came in and gave me the IV on the side of my right wrist. It was a rather awkward location, but at least it worked this time.

I had been nervous about being the hospital knowing that I would be in situations that required certain amounts of physical exposure, which I am exceptionally uncomfortable with following a certain failure during Ben's birth. The medical team was more cautious already, and after I told them what had happened before, they were exceptionally conscientious about preserving my modesty. They were very clear to me about what they were doing and why, they directed any extra people to leave the room anytime I was uncovered without me needing to ask, and they worked quickly and efficiently to get me covered back up as soon as possible. I couldn't have asked for better respect in that area.

There was a funny moment in the very beginning, when they were trying to hook up the fetal monitors. The nurse had already placed the contraction monitor right at the top of my belly and was now looking for the baby's heartbeat. She couldn't find it. I wasn't worried because he was wiggling like crazy so I knew he was fine, but the nurse was concerned. Turns out that she had to move the contraction monitor because his heartbeat was right at the top of my belly--not a normal spot for a mom about to give birth. I chuckled a bit...and let out a breath of acceptance that we really were set to have a c-section.

Once the IV was in and I was basically ready, Dr. Fredrick came in to talk to us. We went over the surgery procedures and at any point that there was an option for something, he let me pick what I wanted. I never felt pressured to choose anything a certain way. He would mention that one thing or another was easier or more convenient for him, but then he would unquestioningly agree to what I wanted regardless of his personal convenience (like when I wanted sutures rather than staples). I felt very comfortable and confident going into surgery with him as the surgeon.

The one and only thing that I REALLY didn't like about how these events went down was the fact that Chris was not allowed to come into the operating room at the very beginning. I walked myself into the room (that was a little weird...I suppose I had just assumed I'd be wheeled in on a gurney) with two nurses, but without Chris.

This was where things got a little tricky for me. It was the first time I'd set foot in an operating room since Ben's birth. The operating room had been the location of the worst part of the trauma, and I knew that being back in that environment was likely to be a strong trigger. I was right. It required a lot of serious mental concentration to keep myself relatively calm and present. The worst moment for sure was getting the epidural.

I'd had an epidural with every previous birth, but in those three instances, I was in labor at the time. Getting the epidural was still painful, but it was a willing pain knowing that it would bring relief from the intense pain I was already in. This time, I wasn't in labor and hadn't experienced any pain other than the brief discomfort of needle pricks. The epidural needle was a much, much bigger leap on the pain scale than I had experienced the last three times. It was also a lot worse because Chris wasn't there. The anesthesiologist's nurse placed her hands on my shoulders and let me lean on her. Having that counter-pressure was enormously helpful, but it definitely wasn't the same as leaning on Chris and holding onto him.

I remember one moment in particular when the thought occurred to me that this was the time I had to use all those tools and techniques that I have spent so much time learning and practicing. I could use the tools or I could succumb to the bubbles of panic threatening to rise up and take over. So, I anchored my physical self down to that operating table, concentrated my sight in on the blue dot of an i on a poster on the wall, and focused my mental energies into silently repeating phrases like "I'm safe" and "This is exactly what is supposed to happen now" and "Chris will be here in just a second." I knew he was out there somewhere, just waiting to come in as soon as they let him.

It was harder than I wanted it to be to not give in to that panic and run screaming from the room, but I'm happy to report that I succeeded. No panicking here. The nurses were fantastic. They kept a running commentary on exactly what they were doing the entire time. The most critical moment was when they stripped away my gown in order to sterilize me before placing the sheet that would cover me during surgery, and they handled that moment perfectly. The shield was already up so I didn't have to see anything, but the nurse explained exactly who was doing what and repeatedly reassured me that they were almost done. The second that I was completely sterilized, the sheet was pulled up and I was fully covered from then on out. Excellent, and as it should be.

Chris did finally make it in, after waiting something like half an hour. And surgery began. Ironically, this was the only part that no one told me. I was just hanging around waiting for them to get the show on the road...it seemed like it was taking a long time so I asked, and it turns out they were already in and about to pull out the baby. For some reason, that was funny to me.

I would describe those moments as peaceful anticipation. I had already passed the hard parts of being in the operating room, getting the epidural, and getting sterilized. Now we just had to wait for that baby.

The first comment I really heard from the doctor was, "Wow, this is a big baby!" It took a little more pulling and a little more muscle than the usual c-section, given both his size and how far up inside me he was. Dr. Fredrick did in fact get him out, though, and they immediately held him up and pulled down the curtain so I could see him right away. That was perfect. Chris jumped up to go see him, and came back within moments with the nurse and the baby. It was then that I met my son for the first time, and that was perfect, too.

Hello, Simon.

After our little bonding moment, Simon was whisked away to the nursery while my surgery was finished. Chris left with Simon, and I had a quiet moment to consider what I had just been through. I was extremely proud of myself. I had knowingly and willingly placed myself in a situation that I knew would be extremely difficult, putting myself at the mercy of strangers and trusting that everything would be ok. And it was. And I cried, but this time in a good way.

The nurse commented at one point that she generally gave moms a sedative so they could relax while getting closed up, but she didn't think I needed any since I seemed completely calm and relaxed already. I said I was fine, and I really was. So much so, in fact, that I just fell asleep anyway, without any help. One of the best naps ever, even if it was only for a few minutes.

I came to consciousness again when the baby nurse came back with a declaration of, "Any bets on how big that baby is?" I thought that was a rather unceremonious way of announcing it, especially since she wasn't talking to me at all, but whatever. I was too content to really care. The verdict of 9 pounds 15 ounces was met with gasps and chuckles of surprise from most everyone in the room. I was certainly surprised--that was nearly a two pound jump from Ben's size, who had been my biggest baby thus far. And, seriously, how on earth did a nearly 10 pound baby do so many somersaults in utero?

The rest of the story is mostly a blur to me now. I was taken out of the OR and back to the Triage room, where Mom had arrived and was waiting with Brandy. Chris came back with Simon, and we all posed for pictures while soaking in the joy of it all.

This isn't the story that I had hoped to tell, but it is the story that I have, and it's the best that this story could be. And it has the best ending.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rising Action

Anyone who spent any time around me while I was pregnant probably heard mention of the fact that I really wanted to have the baby on Thursday, August 14. I wanted the girls to already be in school so I didn't have to worry about them during the day, I wanted to take the most advantage of my mom being in town starting the 16th, I wanted labor all said and done before Chris started fall semester on the 18th, and finally, my number one reason: Jane was born on Monday, Megan was born on Tuesday, and Ben was born on Wednesday. I really wanted baby #4 to come on Thursday.

Our ultrasound came on Wednesday the 13th. Knowing that I had a transverse/breech baby (or rather a baby with an "unstable lie," meaning he moved a lot) really put on the pressure for my Thursday.

It's hard to say if the drive home from the ultrasound was more or less depressing than I anticipated. Honestly, I didn't think we'd be going to the hospital that day. As much as I wanted it, as much as I was hoping for it, I don't think I ever thought it would actually happen. We'll count that as a tender mercy because everyone else--Chris and the kids--took it harder than I did in that moment. The drive to the babysitter's house was quiet. We didn't have anything new to talk about. Picking up the kids was torture. They were disappointed that the baby wasn't coming, and they were rather indignant that we weren't letting them spend the night at their friend's house. But, we went home anyway and pretended to continue with life as usual. Which that night meant buying dinner somewhere and watching tv until bedtime...even though it was a school night.

Kim (midwife) called me again that evening and, thankfully, she totally believed me now about Simon's acrobatics. Probably having the word from the chiropractor of him being head down contradicted by the word "breech" from the ultrasound tech only two hours later gave her more confidence than my word alone. Regardless of where that belief came from, it had the happy effect of instigating a new plan: If baby went head down at any moment, day or night, GO TO THE HOSPITAL. We wanted to get him head down and then break my water as quickly as humanly possible. Without the fluid he wouldn't be able to move again, and without the fluid I would go into labor. There was still greater risk of a c-section this way, but at least I would have a chance at a vaginal delivery if we could just get him to stay head down.

And then the fateful 14th arrived. Any hope I had of achieving my long-dreamed-of VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) was quickly disappearing, but I was willing to put in a grand effort if it would give me any chance of having a baby that day, that Thursday. We dropped Ben off at Grant's house for the day, went out to breakfast, then went home for what I now consider The Last Great Battle for a VBAC.

My Fight

For documentation, and for personal proof of what I was willing to do, here is (albeit somewhat unflattering) photographic evidence of a few of the techniques we employed to get baby into a better position. All of these techniques are intended to open up the abdomen and pelvis to allow the baby to slide into the optimal position for labor and delivery.

The forward-leaning inversion--I did this for about 30 seconds, two or three times a day, every day since we first learned that Simon was transverse. I got pretty good at getting myself up and down, which is really quite impressive given my general lack of mobility and flexibility.

The breech tilt--I hated this one and only managed to do it a few times, for only a few minutes on each occasion. Spinning Babies said you can do it for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, but I would get horribly nauseous after just a bit and really had to get back up before I threw up.

It was also really hard to get up and down from this one on my own. Chris helped, but even then I always got nervous that I was going to randomly fall over. Or break the ironing board.

P.S. If anyone is interested, we were watching Firefly.

In addition to those, I quit sitting on the couch. Per explanation from the chiropractor, reclining/relaxing the spine would likely produce the opposite effect I was going for and keep baby in his undesirable location. Wanting to avoid that, I then spent several hours every day (or at least as much as I could physically and mentally stand without going insane) sitting on an exercise ball.

Chris was great and since we had managed to borrow two exercise balls from friends at church, he would sit with me. Ben joined in sometimes, too.

As if being pregnant wasn't tiring enough on its own. Oh, I also spent several hours on and off with an ice pack tucked inside my shirt, pressed up against baby's head. The idea there was to make that spot particularly uncomfortable so he'd be inspired to move. It worked...several times. Just never lasted quite long enough.

The Decision

Perhaps you recall that Simon flipped at least seven times in just three days, and continued to do so several more times in the next four days. At least a dozen flips (or more) within a week, the most devastating of which was between the chiropractor visit and the ultrasound. Enough somersaults that we finally got word to be on call for an immediate drive to the hospital at any possible moment.

After that ultrasound, he never moved again.

Oh my goodness I wish I was kidding. I thought it was impossible for him to randomly start moving after he had stayed head down for so long in the pregnancy. I thought it was even more impossible for him to stop so abruptly and so thoroughly.

But after a week of having my uterus turned into a gymnasium, baby settled down with his head in my ribs and his feet kicking my hips, and there he firmly stayed.

We saw Kim the following Tuesday, August 19. The nurse asked if I wanted to be checked to see if I was dilating at all, and I politely said no. I knew I wasn't dilating because his head wasn't there to make me dilate. When I explained that he was transverse (or breech, opinions seemed to differ slightly) she got an excited look on her face and said, "Oh, have you heard of Spinning Babies??"

Yes. Yes I have.

I was again measuring small, which is normal for a transverse baby. Kim asked what we wanted to do and without hesitation, but with tangible disappointment, I told her we wanted a c-section. I had done everything I could possibly do to get him to turn. I had prayed harder than I think I ever have. Without the option of an external version (I can't believe I would ever, ever wish I could voluntarily do that again!), there wasn't anything else for us to do but wait, and I was done waiting. Without any hope that something would happen, having lost the belief that he would turn and I'd go to the hospital to have my water broken, it seemed best to just move on. Let's be done being pregnant, let's be done waiting to see if maybe he'd turn again even though he hadn't for nearly a week now, let's be done physically tormenting myself without result. Let's just have a baby.

I will forever be grateful that Kim agreed with me. There was no trying to talk me out of it, there was no questioning if I was really sure, there was only support and acceptance. Phone calls were made and we left the office with a c-section scheduled for Wednesday, August 20 at 7:30 am.

Side note: I could potentially have waited just one day longer and requested my c-section for Thursday, but I didn't for the sake of Christopher. Fall semester had started and his one class is on Tuesday and Thursday. We could have been done with surgery and settled into a room long before he would have needed to leave to make it to class, but it just wasn't worth it to have him miss out on that important day.

And so, we went home. Again. But this time, we had conversations with the kids to tell them that we would be leaving early in the morning to go to the hospital and have the baby--for real this time!--while Grandma stayed to take care of them. We repacked the hospital bags in the car and ate roast and potatoes for dinner and played Yahtzee until we went to bed to pretend to sleep for the next few hours. Baby anticipation is known for causing insomnia.

to be concluded...
I promise, eventually I'll actually get to the part where Simon is born

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


It has been an interesting progression from Simon's actual birthday up to now when I'm writing this. I had intended to write the birth story within a day or two of it happening, when all the details could be fresh and accurate, but that didn't happen. Recovery was worse than I had hoped, which took a lot of my effort and attention. Once that had settled down a bit, I found that there was just too much past interfering with my writing the present. So much anticipation and preparation and wondering and fear and hope for so long, it was hard to set that down for a minute, even just long enough to write the details.

My solution to that dilemma is to write this to Tannie. When Audrey Jane was born, way back when we still lived in our Twin Creek townhouse with the orange shag carpet in Logan, Tannie and JeriLynn brought us dinner. I remember that they brought everything in disposable containers, which was the first time that it occurred to me how much nicer that was since I then didn't have to worry about returning any bowls or pans. They each took a turn holding Jane, then Tannie quickly handed the baby back and said, "So tell me about the birth."

She was the first person who ever asked and the first person who listened with genuine interest and appropriate emotional response. Beyond that, I've talked to her the most and told her more about all of my birth stories than anyone besides Chris. It's normal and natural for me to talk to her about my birth stories. Since she now lives nearly 2,000 miles away preventing us from talking in person and since I haven't yet really told anyone about Simon's birth, I'm going to pretend Tannie is sitting here on the couch with me and I'll tell her the story. We'll be occasionally interrupted mid-sentence by small children, but we'll come back like nothing happened and keep the story going.

As with any good story, our exposition starts several weeks before the main event.

The Premonition

Once I was far enough into my third trimester for baby's position to be determined from the outside, Simon was head down. This was different than all three of my previous pregnancies--everyone had been transverse until the very end. The girls moved head down within two or three weeks of my due date, Ben stayed transverse until two days before my due date. I was really excited that Simon was already head down and hoped that he would stay that way. I had other things to worry about.

There was one day, just one day, in June when I thought that maybe baby wasn't head down anymore. The thought was jarring, sending me really quick back to Ben's birth and all the uncertainty and stress caused by his flipping around at the last second. There is a page about it in my trauma journal, in which I created this graphic.

It represents my flashbacks to the last few weeks before Ben was born. I did a lot to get him to turn so I wouldn't need to have a c-section. I used techniques from spinningbabies.com that involved an ironing board. I went to a chiropractor twice a day every day for two weeks, hauling Jane and Megan in with me every time. I felt crazy the whole time, trying as best I could to change the situation and getting increasingly worried that it wasn't going to work.

As you may recall, it didn't work. We tried everything all the way up to doing an external version, which failed, before we finally gave up and gave in and accepted a c-section. The thought of potentially needing to do all that again this time around was extremely stressful.

This episode in June was short-lived, luckily. The next time I saw the midwife baby was head down. I wasn't ever sure whether he had actually flipped or not, it was just enough to make me consider what might happen were I to face that eventuality. I never did come to any satisfactory solution at that time, but I had at least looked at the possibility on purpose.

Which set us up well for when he turned transverse at 37 weeks.

The Reality

Chris had finished his summer class and had a few weeks break before fall semester, so he stayed home from school and came to my appointment with me. When I walked into that appointment, I was really hoping to discuss methods of encouraging baby to come as soon as possible. I wanted him to stay inside as long as he needed to for his own health and development, but if there was anything I could do to bring that along I wanted to know.

In the back of my mind, I was quietly nervous for this appointment. Baby felt different in the couple of days before...the kicks weren't in the same place, and I couldn't move as well because there was more baby in my ribs than it had seemed before. (On the plus side, I also didn't have to use the bathroom as often.)

The first note that something was off was Beverly, the midwife, saying that I was measuring small. She felt around my belly for a bit, then pointed at a spot high up on my right side, just under my ribs, and said, "I'm pretty sure that's his head."

I had a knot in my stomach as she left the room to track down an ultrasound machine to confirm what she suspected. I don't remember saying much, though Chris was optimistic. We still had three weeks before baby was actually due, that gave him a lot of time to turn back around and me still be able to go into labor naturally. If he didn't turn on his own, we already knew a lot of the tricks to get him to flip.

The ultrasound confirmed that he was, in fact, transverse. We had just enough discussion right then to say that he would probably turn back on his own, but if he didn't, our options were a bit more limited since they would not do an external version at any point because I'd had a previous c-section. We were on our own for natural interventions.

Beverly did give us the information for a chiropractor who specializes in the Webster Method for flipping breech babies, as well as general pregnancy health. I called her on our way home from the appointment. I explained our situation and asked to get an adjustment as soon as possible. She said she could see me the following Wednesday, six days away. I asked if she possibly had anything sooner, and she responded with, "wow, you're really freaking out about this, aren't you?" Given my history, I thought I was handling this new development remarkably well up to that point. Her comment just made me cry. I really really didn't want my baby to be in the wrong position.

That was Thursday morning. By Thursday night, he was head down. I breathed a sigh of relief and prayed that he would stay there. I put on a pregnancy brace to help keep him in place and went to sleep. When I woke up on Friday morning, I put on a stronger brace to really hold him head down...and within a couple of hours, he was transverse again. Through the course of Saturday, he was head down at least twice again before again settling in sideways. I gave up on the braces.

All of these somersaults were quite unsettling to me. A lot of the drama of Ben's birth resulted from him changing position repeatedly, but in truth, Ben only actually flipped twice. He was firmly transverse for weeks and weeks, then went head down the night before my scheduled c-section. They induced me and while I was in labor, he flipped to breech and we did the c-section then. Only two flips. In roughly 48 hours, Simon had flipped at least seven times.

Our next trip to the midwives' office came on Tuesday. Chris joined me again, and this time we saw midwife Kim. It was hands down the worst appointment I'd ever had with her. Of the three midwives in the office she had always been my favorite, but that went out the window pretty quick on this day. First problem was that I don't think she believed me when I said how much Simon had turned. He was--go figure--head down when she checked. I think she thought I was exaggerating. I mentioned some concern that with moving so much, the umbilical cord may have gotten wrapped around his neck. Again, she didn't seem to care. She just repeatedly said that 25% of babies are born with the cord around their neck...she never did say how many of those babies were fine.

Additionally, I was asking questions about the possibility of inducing me. I was attempting a VBAC and inductions are simply not allowed. The risk of uterine rupture is significantly higher with pitocin, so it just isn't done. I knew that. Beverly had mentioned the possibility, though, of breaking water as a way to induce. Wait until he's head down, then break my water so we for sure go into labor while he's head down and can't move again. When I proposed that idea to Kim, she looked at us like we were crazy. She said it was unnecessary, he was already head down, he's fine, no worries, don't bother, we'll go into labor fine. I, ahem, disagreed and the longer we talked, the more upset I got and the more apparent my distress became. I did not appreciate not being believed.

In the end, she humored me by scheduling an ultrasound to check both baby's position and the location of the cord. She also said she would call Dr. Fredrick, the OB in the practice, and find out what he was willing to let them do. We left then, and I cried again. It was just getting to be too much. Sigh. We didn't have a lot of time to think about it, though, because we went straight from there to the chiropractor, Dr. April. She did an adjustment, scheduled me again for the next day, and gave me some exercises to do in the meantime. She seemed quite optimistic, too, because baby was still head down.

That evening, Kim called back and said that Dr. Fredrick had given permission for my water to be broken. The plan then was to wait until the ultrasound to make sure everything was good, then go straight to the hospital to break my water and have a baby. Wednesday afternoon brought us back to Dr. April. Baby was still head down, so we made arrangements with babysitters for the kids to (potentially) stay overnight, we loaded all the hospital bags in the car, and headed out for the ultrasound.

He was breech. Everything else looked good, but he was breech.

to be continued...
this is way too long for just one post

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ben's Turn!

Finally, finally, FINALLY Benjamin got to start his very own preschool class! He's been ever so excited to get to do what his sisters have been doing for so long. So excited, in fact, that he insisted on eating breakfast with his backpack on.

We're doing a preschool co-op with four other moms in our ward. It'll be our turn to have preschool at our house in a few weeks, and he's equally excited for that.

When I went to pick him up afterwards, he couldn't help but jump up and down while telling me about what they did during preschool. He had a new green folder with all his papers inside, which he showed to me, to the girls, to our friends who came over for lunch, to Dad when he got home, and several times to himself--"This is a game. I match the right letters in the boxes. I made a flag. This is a song." I couldn't get as good of a pick-up picture because he wouldn't stop talking about it all (remind you of any sister of his?)

I would say that Preschool Day 1 was a definite success.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Part XI: Pregnancy after Trauma, 3rd Trimester

There was a decided shift between second and third trimester in my mental and emotional health. I was much more comfortable with the idea of giving birth and mostly just wanted to get it over with already. Physically, well, we had all the joys inherent to getting more and more pregnant.

Since I haven't yet posted my pregnancy pictures on my blog, here is the progression through Simon's pregnancy.

15 weeks

20 weeks--halfway!

26 weeks--my all-time favorite pregnancy picture

30 weeks

37 weeks

40 weeks

And now back on topic.

There were four major things that made the significant positive differences in my preparing for giving birth: therapy, my trauma journal, one I'm not going to write about, and reading. I had quite the stack of books that I regularly referred to, read, and re-read. Many of my journaling prompts were inspired by these books.

Another important step was building my birth team. First and foremost was Chris. He was more involved in this pregnancy than he ever has been before, and he put a lot of effort into understanding what I wanted and needed. He listened to me anytime I needed to talk and he learned enough about birth (and how it related to my traumas) to have his own opinions about how things ought to happen, and he knew the birth plan as well as me. It was the most connected I've ever felt with him while having a baby.

While my therapist was obviously not present for the birth, she was an important part of my preparation, as already noted. I also hired a doula for the first time. We had just a little bit of a rocky start with trying to actually meet up, but once I finally met her, I really liked her. She is relatively new to the field and while I felt like I knew almost as much about birth as her, it was very comforting to know that I would have someone with me who would know what to do and have the clarity of a not-in-labor brain to execute it.

Finally, I considered my mom to be part of my birth team. She was scheduled to fly in two days before my due date. I wasn't sure if she'd be here when the baby was born or if he'd come early, so I wasn't necessarily counting on her being with me at the hospital. I was definitely counting on her, though, for my postpartum help. I wasn't worried nearly at all about my other kids knowing that she would be there to take care of them while I took care of myself and baby.

Team on call, birth plan laid out, all there was to do now was wait for the baby. In my journal is a series of pictures I drew that I believe illustrate the amazing success I had in my preparations. Compare these pictures to what I shared last time.

imagining my labor
the river represents the progression of labor throughout the pictures

 waiting for labor to start
at home, shown by the background (a depiction of the view out my living room window)
kids are there

labor has started, represented by the boat
in the beginning, the kids are still home with me
Chris is on his way

labor in full swing
kids gone
Chris and doula Brandy are supporting me

transition labor/traveling to hospital
the work has greatly intensified now
Chris and Brandy are still supporting me and guiding me to where I need to be

the delivery
completely at the mercy of the natural process
happy to be able to do something
a sign of getting close to the end
baby is almost here

quiet relaxation
baby is here
everything is well
just enjoying each other

This was labor as I imagined it. This is what I wanted. And the fact that I was able to draw these pictures with a reasonable expectation that it would play out this way and that I was willing to put in the work to make it happen is a huge testament to how much I had accomplished since Ben was born.

Granted, we now know that it didn't work out that way.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Boys

After Megan was born, I really enjoyed being able to refer to her and Audrey as "the girls." Now that I have Ben and Simon, it's actually kind of trippy to refer to them as "the boys." Fun adjustment, though.

It has been noted by many, many people that Simon looks a lot like Ben. I admit to calling Simon Ben more than once while we were in the hospital. Just to prove that everyone who has made the comment is correct and that I am justified in my name slippage, I have compiled photographic evidence that they do, in fact, look the same. Not in chronological order.

First up, the boys (ha) modeling the "I was just born" look.

A facial closeup.

Lounging on the couch.

Sleeping in the bassinet. Still love this bassinet, by the way.

And for my personal favorites, they each model their first non-white t-shirt outfit.

Followed closely by screaming in the car seat. Same car seat, same emotional expression. You'd think they were related or something.

I can tell the difference between them just from their faces, but Chris and kids were correctly identifying them based on clothing and blankets. I suppose I should label them all for your sake, but...I didn't. Anybody want to guess who is who?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Part X: Pregnancy after Trauma, 2nd Trimester

First trimester was characterized by fear of miscarriage and finding the right doctor. Second trimester was characterized by the range of emotional responses to the thought, "Oh, crap, I have to give birth again."

In my past therapy experiences, as I was originally dealing with my traumatic experiences with Ben's birth, I learned that art and some measure of visual expression was helpful for me in figuring out what was actually going on in my head in order to work through it. In light of that knowledge, I bought this journal to use during this pregnancy.

Some pages were cute and fun, like all the pictures of my babies. Bonus points if you can correctly identify everyone on the right.

Other pages, however, were stark illustrations of the fears in my mind and representations of the panic attacks I had on a fairly regular basis for a few months. For your interest's sake and because I think my journal pages look really cool, I'll share three of the major mental battles I went through in the course of my second trimester.

After everything I went through with Ben's and Audrey's births (see the right sidebar for links to those stories), the idea of giving birth was just about the most terrifying thought possible for me. It was almost ok, though, when I thought about the baby that would result. Unless, of course, something horrible happened to the baby.

Within the course of just a few weeks, I had several different friends and acquaintances experience personal trials and tragedies involving their newborn babies. I was pretty darn sure that if I was meant to face something like that, there was no possible way I could get through it. And thus was born this journal page.

That particular event was resolved through much prayer and scripture reassurance, which resulted in a much more comforting journal page--reminders of Who is really in charge and that no matter what happens, we have been sealed in the temple so we will have our family together no matter what.

The single biggest panic attack that I ever had throughout the entire pregnancy came early in March. I don't remember all the details of the day, but I had lined up a babysitter for an appointment that ended up being cancelled for some reason. I kept the babysitter anyway and took myself out to breakfast. Too much thinking during that meal lead to a panic attack revealing a belief that I can't give birth, someone else has to do it for me.

It was the visit to my third and chosen doctor that gave me hope again that I could actually have a baby and not only survive, but do it well.

I am only sharing a fraction of what is in my journal here, so you're missing the progressions through several other fears and problems I faced, as well as decisions I made. One such decision was a very thoroughly investigated decision of home birth versus hospital birth. One trigger to that debate was the lack of trust I had developed for medical staff, illustrated here.

Each of these pictures is accompanied by a quote that was said to me at some point during labor--one picture from Ben's birth, the rest were from Audrey Jane's. They were all individual moments in a bigger picture that served to undermine any comfort and confidence I had in a hospital setting.

In the end, we still chose a hospital birth for various reasons, and it was done very intentionally with eyes wide open. (And because I'm writing this almost two weeks after giving birth, I can report that it was indeed the right decision.)

Considering the kinds of mental battles I was fighting during this pregnancy and the effects they were having on me and my ability to run life as usual, I opted to go back to therapy. It took one failed attempt (a therapist that obviously didn't know anything about birth and told me flat out that I had no control over the situation so get over it now--worst advice ever) before finding a therapist that I liked, and even then it took a session of me saying "Here's everything I don't like about you and here's how I want us to work together differently" before we really clicked. Once we did, though, it was smooth sailing in therapy land. In birth preparation land, it looked something like this.

I followed a fairly consistent pattern, cycling through five stages:

I can and I will have the birth that I want.

too many obstacles, too much money, not enough information, not enough support, IT'S TOO HARD

repeat trauma, unhandled abuse, anxiety, failure

Active Avoidance
ANYTHING BUT birth: coloring, quilting, netflix, shopping...but not real life, either

Tentative Exploration
there are options, it is possible, maybe...

I went to therapy almost once a week throughout the second and third trimesters, and thankfully made some seriously enormous progress. More on that in the next post.