Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Delivery Take 2: Ninja Birthing

Well, my son did listen to me, even better than I listened to myself. I had obviously had enough on July 14, 2016. While I was still working, admittedly my volition to get anything done had wilted so much that it looked like an etiolated flower at the brink of winter that had previously been decimated by a voracious beetles. Possibly as a window to his personality, my son preferred the old fashioned "drop in" method rather than scheduling an appropriate time for a visit. And he sure dropped in. In fact, the whole hospital here in SF knew of him. I had nurses come up to me and say "so you're the stop and drop!", apparently the locally used medical term for precipitous labour (or labour lasting less than 3 hours from the start of regular contractions through delivery). Unfortunately, one of the reasons his birth galvanized such gossip was that precipitous births and natural births in general are a rare occurrence. The nurses who helped deliver my son thanked me for showing them what a "real birth" looked like, as they had never seen one before. 

My husband and I certainly didn't expect that I would feel off around 9 pm and and that by 11:23 pm (or 23:23- seems like repetition follows me, my previous son was born at 11:11 am) we would have a new son in our hands. Now I understand how people give birth in public places and in cars en route to hospital. You don't know it's coming and you can't stop it. The urge to push is irresistible. In fact, your body does it for you. 

According to a quick search online which you shouldn't trust the merit of, precipitous labour occurs if (i) you have it in the family (ii) had quick previous births (my mother did give birth to me in six hours and I did deliver my first in 11 hours, which according to a midwife  was a pretty strong indication that my second would be quick, albeit she failed to mention that it would be so quick I was minutes away from making a Lyft driver on his first night out seriously rethink his vocational choices), (iii) if the baby is in a perfect position to go through the birth canal (makes sense and we already knew he was primed to go) (iv) when the mother's pelvis is ready and (v) when the baby is of a smaller size (my son was born at 6lbs 10 oz or 3.005 kg) - ie if everything is aligned and in place for the big moment. My father, who seems to have read on every topic, or possibly prepares for every conversation with a prior search of the subject to be discussed, read that swimming releases hormones that lead to quick labour and I swam regularly during my pregnancy. My husband wonders whether it's the HypnoBirthing tactics I was practicing the months before birth  and which I used during the actual labour. Whatever it was, it was a mad surprise and while still bloody painful was an exhilarating experience. 

 Albeit the onslaught of labour caught me by surprise, I should have known that it was approaching as I felt increasingly spent and had stopped caring about ticking things off my list before the baby arrived. I told my husband that I was taking the next day off work as my energy and motivation were in a slump and would spend it with my mother and son. My mother, on the other hand, had decided my labour was near and went into a mad laundry fit, stampeding to the laundromat nearby so she could get multiple washings done concomitantly. I scoffed at her absurdity and went with my son to buy ingredients for dinner. As we passed the laundromat by en route home, my son was fascinated by the spinning machines so we stayed and I put him in a cart and "beeped" him round the laundromat (thankfully there was only one other person there who was lanced to their phone the entire time and didn't seem to mind nor even notice our antics).

 I felt quite tired while I was making dinner later and as we ate I told my husband I had to lie down and he was on his own in putting our first son to bed. For several weeks, I have been relaxing at night with a HypnoBirthing tape, which as skeptical as I first was, worked wonders, but that night, I could not fall into the same relaxed, almost somnambulant state. As I lay there, my back pain was increasingly worse. At 9:30 pm, my husband came in and I told him that I thought I was experiencing a bad case of Braxton-Hicks (which occurred nightly for a fortnight before the birth of my first son) and he came to rub my back and thought it pertinent to time my contractions. Since my first labour was induced and was an eruption with no breaks in contractions, I was surprised to experience the relief in the space between contractions. I had read so much on labour and yet never understood what they meant about contractions lasting and passing because my first labour was one extremely long convulsion - now I knew that a contraction was stinging back pain which wrapped its clawed grip around my body and only to release me into thankful relief. We thought this was good practice for labour, so we used the breathing and visualisation techniques from our Hypno book, until my husband, avidly clocking my contractions, realized my contractions were 5 mins apart at regular intervals. He wondered whether I was going into labour. I immediately replied I was not, it was too early, NO WAY, I am not prepared, I will keep it in and all manner of futile pleadings as I viscerally realized that my time was up and a new chapter was beginning. 

As most people I suppose in this age of almost instant gratification of our curiosity, whether it be a geographic, scientific or historical fact for the gratification of our esoteric desires, or it be the ready indulgence of our hypochondriac tendencies, in which a minor bruise can lead to all manner of dire and even fatal hypothesis, or as in our case, an urgent need to assess a perplexing situation, as I breathed and howled through another surge, my husband asked Google whether his wife was going into labour. I am not sure what site he found first, but his answer was a reproduction of questions which he referred back to me. Are your contractions regular? Have they been occurring for over an hour? Do they start from your back and surge outward? Yes, yes, yes I cried and then accepted my fate. I then had a sudden urge to go to the bathroom (the OB that delivered my son advised me that the deluge of pee I thought I expelled at that time was really part of my amniotic fluid rupturing, the rest, to her distress, ruptured in her face as I pushed my son out) with my husband running after me and advising me that since I reeked of chlorine from the pool it might be a good idea to have a shower, so that our son's first smell would not be a pool and lead to an almost indecent lifelong attraction to swimming and cleaning products. The warm water of the shower on my back really aided my pain and we caught the water for a bath, as I wanted to try labouring in the bath, having read that this was apparently the way to go for some relief. Possibly birthing tubs are different, but your regular bath is quite possibly the most uncomfortable place to labour. I stayed in there maybe 10 seconds before I stumbled back to bed in a fashion not befitting any biped. I was afraid my howling would rouse our first son and tried to deepen my breathing away from my screams as I experienced contractions in the foetal position. We thought we would have hours to endure and I found that despite all my yoga instruction, despite the advise for a birthing ball and squatting, as adrenalin shook my body, all that aided me was to retreat inside, to curl up like my son inside me and accept what was happening without any action on my part. While lying flat on your side is meant to be the exact opposite of what to do in labour as it is meant to delay it while all manner of acrobatic positions are taught instead to quicken the process, the foetal position did not delay any arrival. Instead, my back bore teeth and clamped its jaws around me until I felt an irresistible urge to push. Knowing there was nothing left to expel except my baby and remembering the feeling of pushing from my first birth, I sprang up, holding my sides and got dressed, telling my husband that the baby was coming NOW.  

While I had a dalliance with home birth, when the prospect of delivering at home was eminent, and the proposition was concrete rather than merely theoretical, I knew I wanted to go to hospital. I wanted a natural childbirth, true, but one in a sterile environment with medical personnel at the ready lest anything went wrong. If my son needed oxygen, we would have seconds to act and I didn't want to take that risk. I grabbed the first pair of jeans, the first shirt, the first bra and pants I could grasp and slowly, with my mother holding my hand, limped down our four flights of stairs as my husband, who was incredulous that this could be happening so quickly, scrambled to get his wallet, his phone and call a car. I had no ID, no keys, no phone. 

Out on the street, with an ever increasing uncontrollable need to push, I couldn't stand up and leant against an unusually carious vehicular creature for our green city, as my husband raced to find the Lyft driver that was not where he should have been and not picking up his phone. I heard him yelling and racing back and then I saw a young man with an avidly good heart, jump out of his car and stop traffic on the thoroughfare of Pine Street. The Lyft driver crossed the street and looked terrified as I entered his car, as we assured him the hospital was only a few blocks away, it was evident from his facial twitches that he was calculating the probability of my delivery in his car and the monetary consequence of the succeeding clean up. Fortunately, for him the hospital was only 5 minutes away and he dropped us off at 11:10 pm. 

As I stumbled into emergency, hunched over, crossing my legs as best I could as I walked, I yelled at reception without any elegance or utility of grammar, "second baby, urge to push!" in such a recursive howling manner that two nurses came to take me to maternity as the baffled receptionist called out to us "I just need to know your name!" as they wheeled me to the maternity ward. Later we were told that two previous times that evening they had rushed down when the receptionist had called a delivery downstairs, they only discovered to their chagrin, that people had been ordering Thai food. 

 I kept screaming I needed to push so they took me straight to a room and called the OB. I didn't wait, I took my jeans and pants off - I knew it was near. I heard through the din a nurse wondering why we waited so long to come to hospital and my husband, baffled replying that everything started less than 2 hours ago. The OB came in and gently asked if she could see how far along I was, her face expressing such a serene expression of incredulity that the howling woman in front of her was about to deliver. Her mignons prepared the usual hospital tools that accompany labour expecting her declaration that I was to labour for another few hours. Instead, her eyes widening, she said I was ready to push, a medical certification of the exact information that I had told her. I tried to sit up and she held me down, "you have to lie down" she warned. I argued against this, I did not want labour against gravity I began seething through clenched teeth, until I realized both my husband and the OB were saying that my baby's head was coming out and that if I sat up, I would sit on it. I was next told to hold my legs, but I didn't understand what anyone was saying. My husband said I had a look of shock, that I appeared to on another plane, completely unaware of what was happening, gripped in the clench of instinct. He later explained the doctor was afraid I was going to knock her out with my legs and that I was told to hunch over to increase the strength of my push with my legs in a frog position. I have but a dim, suspect memory of this. 

I do remember my pushes. It took three pushes to bring my son into this world, into the light of this life. I do remember, unlike my previous labor, which ended to my dismay after numerous hours of non-stop contractions in a capitulation to pain relief, that the pushing stung, albeit not enough to merit its colloquial description as a "ring of fire" and I distinctly remember feeling the contours of his body as he came out. 

As my son was brought into this world, my husband told me to take my bra and shirt off - I had forgotten I was wearing them, so that my son could be placed on my chest. I felt exhilarated. I couldn't believe that he had been born. I couldn't believe my labour was so short and that he came out so quickly or that I only had a minor tear. The doctor asked if I wanted a shot of pitocin. I asked what for and she replied to stop me from hemorrhaging. I asked if I were hemorrhaging and when she replied in the negative, I decided to refuse. 

In the end, in a most surprising way, I got what I wanted - a completely natural birth. No pain medication, no IV, no hospital gown - no admittance even to hospital. I am recovering much quicker. Even after ten minutes, I was able to walk and wanted to, albeit the nurse was very hesitant to allow me to do this. I walked home from the hospital. If I weren't bruised and battered from breastfeeding right now, I'd probably feel great. Last time I couldn't walk for nearly two weeks. You never know how it will play out, but if you can have a natural birth, it seems you recover better from it. Of course, maybe I'm recovering faster because this is my second birth. In any case, I'm glad I didn't spend $8,000 for three pushes at the birth center or pay a midwife $5,000 to manage my thirteen minutes of labour in the hospital. You can have a completely natural labour in hospital - in fact, where you give birth doesn't really matter as long as you can create and fortify your own internal environment in a manner that secures and relaxes you. There's no need to give birth in an arabesque or on top of a mountain at sunset overlooking the sea. Birth has its own will and will come in its own way - the best thing to do, as Bruce Lee said, was to "be like water" and let it flow. 

I'm not quite sure whether my son would like to own the shirt I gave birth to him one day. It started its life as a dress which I bought at the SoHO young designer's market when I first moved to NYC in 2005. It's a blue dress with a girl samurai on it that means business. I had no inkling then that it would be a favourite maternity shirt of mine throughout both pregnancies and that I would give birth to my second son in it. Looking back now, I can't think of a more fitting dress to have given birth to my son in.







Thursday, July 14, 2016

D Day Approaches

Less than two weeks to go until Baby 2 arrives. I suppose I should have the nesting surge right now, but instead I am just increasingly bloody tired. I'm hoping this means that baby is not due just yet, because there are a few things to finalize at work before he does. I've made this request, now we shall see whether he listens to his mother. In the meantime, strangers, ever so keen to make unsolicited comments, continue to ask me as they pass me by, "when was the due date?" and "you must be really tired of being pregnant" and other sage comments. Comments like these would previously itch my irascibility which I would scratch with all manner of witty insults under a l'esprit de'escalier once my target had long gone, but now they flow over me, heard but not processed as I am further enveloped in a waiting mist. The eddies of life are slowing down into gentle ebbs and flows as this new phase approaches, so that all may recede into the background when Baby 2 arrives (all but Baby 1, who isn't a baby anymore).

The past couple of months labour has been prominent in my thoughts, albeit I have focused on me. What will it be like this time? Will it hurt as much? Will it be as fast? Will I have to be induced? Will I tear? The past few days, I've been wondering what it will be like for him. It's interesting that both birth and death are described as being brought from darkness into a light (as people with near death experiences or clinical death have told us, although I wonder whether they see what they are expecting to see and whether people from non Judeo-Christian backgrounds would have other views). From darkness to light, from water to air, from sound to silence, from warmth to cold. Thinking about the similarities, it may gives some credence to the thought that it's all a recursive pattern, that death may be the beginning of another life. Maybe it is no coincidence that the 40 days a soul stays on earth, according to Christian teaching matches the 40 days Tibetan thinking provides before a soul takes on a new life. In any case, we spend so much time thinking and fearing labour, that we forget what a momentous change it is for our babies (and yes I am imputing my own thinking onto you here)- we feel their descent, but so must they. Our muscles push them out into light (in fact the Italian term for birth is "dare al luce" or "bring to light" which is my favourite term for birth). If babies feel what we feel is this entry into the world full of our fear and pain pierced by their first cry? Would they feel comfort if we were relaxed? I'm not sure whether this is possible, but I am going to attempt it. I've been listening to HypnoBirthing tapes regularly and as skeptical as I was when I started, I can find myself in a state of relaxation such that my constant discomfort recedes. Maybe there's something to it. Of course, it hasn't been put to the test of real labour yet, so we'll so it works there. Last time the mantras I took with me to ease me into relaxation were not stashed - I wanted darkness and silence (albeit I continually pierced it with my own screams). Hopefully this time it will be different - no induction and more relaxed breathing. After all, as we relax, we loosen and isn't that what labour is all about? Maybe we need a new definition to avoid the cognitive dissonance of saying oxymorons such as "an easy releaxed labour"... From now until D-Day I'm going to eschew this word and thinking of "birthing", "bringing to light", "arrival"....


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Sibling Rivalry

It's already started. My older son is aware that there is somebody else attracting attention and he is already executing a strategy to nullify this attempted conquest of his territory. While before he looked at the enlargement of my belly with some bemusement, since we have been earnestly discussing his brother's arrival with him, he now looks at my belly with a mix of competition and chagrin. He wants to cuddle more (a plus for mama!) but he expects prime time on the belly, which can be quite uncomfortable for me at times. The current occupant is also not taking lightly to the previous tenant eyeing his property, possibly exacerbating his anxiety in knowing his lease is soon up (wouldn't I be in distress if SF tenant protections applied to my uterine tenant??). So while I've been told by numerous people that the two brothers will fight like little tiger cubs, I didn't expect that the battle would start raging before my younger son was even born. They've already had their first scuffle. My older son jumped on my stomach and my younger son kicked, resulting in my older son, who was on my stomach, pushing back on him, and my younger son kicking back more forcefully until I placed my older son on the floor and separated them.

I've been trying to use the Bananas in Pyjamas stuffed toys to show him how brothers get along (I'm not actually sure if the bananas were brothers, but he seems to go with it). I had my dad in Oz chase down B1 and B2 and send them over and while my son adores them and plays with them often, albeit he is very disinterested in stuffed toys and only wants to play with trucks, boats, trains, planes and anything with a motor, telling him about how the brothers get along is not sinking in as much as I would like (re: scuffle above - B1 and B2 would never act like that!). I'm also fascinated that while one of my son's favourite foods is bananas, he has taken to these stuffed banana toys and understands very well that they are bananas. He's even held B1 while eating a banana and thought nothing of it. I seem to be the only one here that finds this somewhat strange...

Part of my older son's competition seems to be his wanting to nurse again. I haven't nursed him since February, so I was surprised that the past few days he has been coming up to me and tapping my breast asking for milk. If that's the case now, I worry what he is going to think when he sees me nursing his younger brother. My husband is firmly resolved in me secluding myself when I nurse to avoid an incident, but considering how much time you spend nursing the first few months, secluding myself away from my older son to be with my younger son may also incense him. I suppose just like most things respecting parenting, we'll just wing it and sees what works best.