Saturday 24 October 2009

Birth Story

Since little Jimmy is now a month old I figure I better get my story up on the blog. If anyone reading is squeamish about "lady business" here is your fair warning. I've decided not to censor myself so there's a little bit of a gross factor and its really long. As many of you know my labor with Owain was a nightmarish experience at the Desert Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix. I was induced due to low amniotic fluid and it took nearly 4 days for me to have him. Because of this I decided that our next child would be born at home with a midwife in attendance. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant with Jimmy I got some recommendations from friends for midwifes that attend homebirths in Seattle. I met with Cindie Brown first and felt that she would be just the kind of person who would be the right mix of capable midwife but also had a hands off approach to labor and delivery. As my pregnancy progressed I met all the midwives in the practice and settled on Mel Parsons, who was a bit younger than Cindie and also a little more conservative. Fast forward to my due date of 9/12/09, I was rather LARGE and so uncomfortable. John and Owain had been in Wales for a week to attend John's dad's funeral and got back on the 10th. I had been hoping to be able to mentally block labor from starting, little did I know that I would have plenty of time left!

When we found out that Ian passed away it was truly shocking and very very sad. I did not get to spend much time with him. We had a few visits when we still lived in England and after we moved we went over once and Ian and Lyn came over last Thanksgiving. He was both a charming and infuriating father-in-law. He was one of the only people who ever expressed interest in talking to me about anthropology and he loved to debate any topic with me. At the same time he was incredibly gracious, complimenting me on my cooking and made me feel like a successful mother and wife. I am missing him and regret that he was not able to meet his new grandson. During the time that John was away I got to thinking about what to name the baby. It was John's turn to pick the middle name and he had somewhat settled on Zefram before he left. I was thinking about using John's dad's name, we decided that James Ian McFarlane, while sounding good, wouldn't be quite right since the initials would be JIM, so we decided to use Douglas, Ian's middle name. Once again the star trek fans lose out :)

The days went by slowly after my due date. I had a couple of visits to the midwife who assured me that just because I was going past my due date didn't mean I would have to deliver in the hospital. I wavered between being relaxed and confident to being completely panicked. Lyn arrived on the 14th, probably expecting me to go into labor any second. Even after suffering a huge loss Lyn was such a joy to have in our house. She took care of Owain, cleaned, and fed me (no small feat), and made me laugh. During the second week of her visit I started getting acupuncture and acupressure. I also went for a prenatal massage, hoping to get relaxed enough to get things started. On Wednesday the 23rd of Sept I went in for an ultrasound to check the amniotic fluid levels. I was so nervous as this was the reason that Owain was induced. Thankfully the fluid levels were well into the safe range. During the scan the technician said she could see that the baby had hair. For some reason this was so exciting to me, I guess because Owain was such a baldie. I just got so happy after hearing that. I know its silly but I actually believe that finding out that this baby had hair made me want to meet him. My whole mood changed after that. When I woke up the next morning I had a distinct feeling that something was going to happen that day and also that I needed to try the old tried and true castor oil labor starter. It was a busy day with lots of phone calls and visitors. My friends Anne and Kristen were coming over. I was a little bit nervous to take the castor oil and thought if I was around my girlfriends it wouldn't be so scary. I asked Kristen to pick some up on her way over. Anne brought some baking soda, as this is part of the recipe of the evil concoction recommended in one of my labor and childbirth books. I mixed 1/4 cup castor oil with 1/4 cup orange juice and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Down the hatch at 3:00pm! It was DISGUSTING to say the least. I immediately felt gross and nauseated. The bathroom trips started at 4:30 and contractions at 6:30. I called John to come home early and help me put Owain to bed and thankfully he was already on the bus. He got home and put Owie down and we sat down to have dinner. During dinner contractions became a little more painful, to the point where Lyn asked if I felt like these were different than the ones I'd been having. I said yes and we all decided it would be a good idea to call Mel before it got late and give her the heads up that something was happening. This was at 8:15, She told me to wait one hour and if the contractions were still happening call for the birth tub. One hour later things were still happening so we paged for the tub. I believe around this time I called Anne who had gone back home in the afternoon. She was here before the tub arrived, it took a long time for them to get here. I phoned Thao and Nan, who are friends that I had arranged to be here for the birth, and I started trying to get my supplies together. In my fantasies of how my labor would go I thought I would be baking a birthday cake for the baby while I was in early labor but that was impossible with all the running around trying to get things organized, I also thought I would take a shower and shave my legs and curl my hair HAHAHAH! I ended up trying to watch TiVoed episodes of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Nan arrived at about 11pm and Thao at about 11:30. John and Anne had to reset the hot water heater in the basement to get the temp up so the pool could be filled. While the pool was filling and after all the supplies had been set up John and I decided to lay down for a while and get some rest per the instructions from the midwife. I was able to lay in bed for about an hour I think and I realized that I was moaning with every contraction and keeping John awake so I came out to the living room and hung out with Nan and Thao. I got into the pool sometime past midnight I think and didn't stay in all that long because it was too hot and I was worried that it was slowing down my labor. I got out and into my robe and we all settled down in the living room and started to watch Zoolander. I was getting pretty tired so I reclined in my fab new chair and tried to snooze between contractions. At about 4:30 I was way too uncomfortable to be in that chair anymore so I got up and went to the bathroom. Lo and behold bloody show. I got excited because now I could really believe that this was it and I went into labor on my own! I got back in the tub where I stayed for nearly 8 hours. Nan and Thao took really good care of me. They timed the contractions, fed me and made sure I kept drinking water and recharge (an energy drink). Lyn got up throughout the night to lend a hand and provide encouragement. At 6:45 Owain woke up. Thao got his bottle ready and Nan got him into his swim diaper and he got in the pool with me. He was so cute playing in there and dunking his head under. He didn't get freaked out at all during my loud vocalizing during contractions and I really didn't mind him being there. John woke up right around then and began to help and comfort me through the contractions. Lyn took Owain over to Anne's house. Looking back at the Contraction Master website my contractions got a lot more intense and longer between 5 and 8am. We called Mel at 8:30am and she said she'd be there in an hour and a half. I felt that things were getting very difficult at this point. I still had between 5-6 minutes between contractions but they were so strong and I was totally exhausted in between. I threw up sometime before Mel got there and was hopeful that I was nearing transition. Boy was I wrong. Mel arrived and I was screaming and crying a lot. She told me to try and moan in a lower tone to help manage the pain and open up. I gave it a shot but was still making a bloody racket.

At around 11:30, when I was getting pretty pruny from being in the tub for so long Mel suggested that I get out and go to the bathroom. After some hemming and hawing I agreed and got out. The change in position triggered a sudden contraction that caught me off guard. Thank god John was there in front of me so I could just fall onto him and hang on for dear life. I made it to the toilet and WOW it hurt real bad to sit there. I believe I said something like get me the hell off this toilet! The order of events are hazy now but I think I went back in the tub for a short while and then got out again and went to the bedroom. Once on the bed things got nuts pain wise. I puked a few times and started to feel like pushing but Mel wasn't sure I was ready to really push so I had to try and breathe through it as much as I could. I think I was on the bed doing this for almost three hours. Anne came over at this time and asked if she could come in. I was so glad she was there. Seeing a fresh face gave me a renewed energy, plus she started giving me counter pressure on my lower back which was really helpful. It was during those hours on the bed that I really realized what birthing babies was all about. I was so connected to the women there. My friend Thao, who had been supportive of me wanting a homebirth ever since I told her about it became more than a friend in those moments. There was a contraction that was so rough and so long the only thing that got me through it was her voice, her hand holding mine, her presence there. I was surrounded by my team and they really worked as a team. I was the most vulnerable I've ever been in my life there naked writhing in pain but I never felt alone. I did say and think all kinds of crazy things though. I remember thinking that it was so unfair that women had to go through all this to have a baby and why was so much pain necessary? Looking back now I realize that there was some sense to the pain and there was also fairness. When I would have an awful contraction I would get a nice long break before the next one, sometimes ten minutes or more.

Mel started to plant the idea in my mind that I needed to get up and let gravity help me out and that I should try to pee because maybe a full bladder was blocking the way. I really didn't want to get up, as with any position change I knew it would bring a cluster of contractions but eventually I got my head around the idea and stood up. I ended up peeing right on the floor (on a towel on top of plastic :) ) I had some contractions while standing and swaying, then I took a few steps to head down the hall and back to the tub and all of a sudden I could feel burning and I knew he was on his way. I yelled out "he's coming NOW!" and everyone said "get to the tub!" I waddled really fast down the hall and got into the tub. I told John he should get in too so he went and got his swim trunks on super fast and jumped in. It took a minute before I had another pushing contraction. I remember telling Mel that I wasn't pushing as hard as I could and she said that's good you should do what feels right. So I halfheartedly pushed though another one and then on the third try I reached down and could feel his head coming out. I cannot tell you how incredible this was. I had full control at this point and was able to go pretty slow. Something in my brain just clicked and I decided that I was ready for him to be born so I went for it and the rest of his head came out and his body shot right out after. I reached down and scooped him out of the water. After a couple of seconds he gave a little cry and just snuggled up to me. He was born completely in his bag of waters. Mel later told me that she pulled the bag apart at his face because she was a little weirded out about him being born with his bag intact and also in the water. He was covered in vernix which felt so sticky to me and somewhat unpleasant but somehow I didn't mind it too much. John and I just looked at him and cuddled him for a while.

I felt the contractions again and Mel said I could try to push the placenta out any time. I pushed and thought I had delivered it but unfortunately it was a giant blood clot and they just kept coming. The water got darker and darker and before long I couldn't see my hands under the water. Mel gave me a shot of pitocin in my leg but I just kept on bleeding. I started to feel really weak and dizzy. They set up towels and chux pads on the floor and I crawled out of the tub and laid down with my feet up with Anne's help. Mel tried to get an iv in but couldn't find a vein. I was frustrated at her because I knew as soon as I got some fluids in me I would feel better. My ears were ringing so loudly and every time she would pick up my hand looking for a vein it would be flopping around because I had no strength left whatsoever. Mel asked Jen, her assistant to do the iv. I was worried at this point because Jen had trouble just taking blood from me during an office visit! Jen was determined however and got the iv in on the first try. It made my hand and arm cold as the saline started flowing in. Soon I was feeling a lot better. After a little bit Thao brought Jimmy over to nurse, just having him near me seemed to make me stronger. I finally felt like I had enough power to deliver the placenta. I put all my effort into it and out it came. It was ginormous! Mel said it was the biggest one she'd ever seen. I guess that's why it took so long to detach (over an hour). I laid there for what seemed like a long time while everyone marveled over the placenta which looking back now is really comical to me. Finally it was time to get up and have a shower. I got up and even being held up couldn't make it to the bathroom so I laid down again in the hallway, legs up again, thanks Anne! My ear were ringing again and when I spoke it sounded like I was talking into a tin can. Eventually the yucky feeling passed and I was able to crawl to the bathtub and get cleaned up. While in the tub I talked with Mel for a while and then called Kristen to tell her the Jimmy was finally here. Anne brought him in and some photos were taken. I then crawled to the bed and got in to snuggle with John and Jimmy. Eventually I was strong enough to go back to the bathroom and pee and brush my teeth and take out my contacts. I went back to bed and Thao fed me the Chinese take out that John ordered YUM and Jimmy got his newborn exam right there on our bed. That is when I found out he weighed 9lbs 7oz I was shocked at what a big boy he is. I was not expecting that one bit. Everything got cleaned up and laundry was started. Mel finished up her paperwork and one by one people began to leave. Thao called for the tub people to come and pick it up. Lyn and Owain came home around 6:45. Owain came in to meet his little brother it was a magical moment for me and went so well. Owain has been an absolute star with Jimmy. He is gentle and loving and very interested in him. I know there may be trouble down the road but I am truly enjoying the precious moments when they interact.

Since the birth I've had some time to reflect on the whole experience and some things stick out to me. I never had a vaginal exam during my labor to determine how dilated I was. I think this was a good thing for me as I would have been distracted by the knowledge and possibly discouraged that I wasn't as far along as I thought I should be. I also thought that Jimmy was going to be smaller than Owain. When Jimmy was crowning, if I had known that he was going to be over 9 pounds I think I would have been really scared to push him out and may not have relished it so much or I might have rushed it and done myself an injury, as it was I did not tear at all. Jimmy's birth changed me and healed the mental wounds I had from Owain's birth. I hope that homebirth is legalized in all the states soon and that health insurance companies will wake up and start covering midwife assisted homebirths.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Birthday Boys!

Here are some pictures from Sunday when Owain turned two and Isaiah turned 2 364/365ths. Heather made cup-cakes and then we went to the aquarium. It was nice.

Saturday 17 October 2009


Kristi and Isaiah have come to visit. Owain and Isaiah get on really well and keep having high-pitched screaming matches which is delightful. Owain turns two tomorrow and Isaiah has his birthday before he leaves as well so we'll probably have a bit of a party.

Jimmy is a bit snotty at the moment but still getting chubby. He can lift his head up briefly but this comes a distant fourth after sleeping, eating and burping.

And I got an infected gum and had all my wisdom teeth removed! Here's me with my ice pack on. Click the photo for a picture of my bloody souvenirs.

Suffice to say, I didn't start back at work this week.

Saturday 10 October 2009


Owain is two in a week and he's got lots of pressies already but nothing's going to top the playset he got from Grandpa Jim. Friends of ours brought their drills and ladders and children round first this this morning and put the whole thing up in about half a day.
From Making Owain's Playset

James is doing well and starting to be properly cute now. I've taken lots and lots of baby photos. Here's are a few...