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Saturday, May 3, 2014

a birth story - Sara Sargent

What an amazing story of labor and delivery! Thank you, Sara Sargent, for sharing your wonderful story of hard work (no drugs!) to bring your beautiful baby girl into the world this year! 

Love Sara's research and all of her preparations ahead of time to make sure she was ready for anything to happen. I love this story. 

All photos from Sara Sargent

1.What happened the day your baby was born? Did your water break, and if so, where were you, how did that feel? Who took you to the hospital? What helped you during labor (ice chips? music? etc.)? Any funny or scary stories about the labor itself or the birth? How long was your labor, start to finish?

My labor was 10 hours, start to finish. It was fast, intense, completely natural, and one of the most amazing (and challenging) experiences of my life.

I woke at 3AM with contractions, as I had the two previous mornings (I had false labor on & off for two days). On that morning they were different. I only waited about half an hour to wake my husband, because they were fairly intense from the start. Around 4:30 I decided to take a bath, which helped me handle the contractions much better. My husband was helping me time contractions, and after about 45 minutes told me we had had the 5-1-1 pattern for over an hour, and needed to call my doctor. 

She asked if I could walk and talk through my contractions and my answer was that I COULD but would prefer NOT to (as I had trouble continuing to talk through one). She told me it was time to head to the hospital!
We got there at 7AM and I was admitted at 3+ centimeters. I had 3 contractions on the way there, and we aren't even 10 minutes from the hospital! When we got there, it was not my OB (she had gone home) but another doctor in the practice, Dr. Chag, who I had seen the previous day. At that time, I was at 1cm and fully effaced (experiencing a lot of cramps, nausea, and false labor contractions) and he reassured me I was close. Even went so far as to say he was on call the next day and expected to see me. So when he walked in that morning, he said, "Hey, you didn't stand me up!" That was the only "funny" part of my labor! He had a great demeanor and sense of humor, and if I couldn't have my OB for delivery I was happy to have him.

My labor nurse, Sue, who was absolutely wonderful, hooked me up to the monitors, and went over our birth plan, which included not being constantly monitored. She had to have me on for almost an hour because it wasn’t picking up my contractions at first, but the baby was doing fine. I was lobbying hard to get into the bath, because it helped me so much at home, and was finally able to for about 45 minutes or an hour. My husband brought in the rest of our things and got himself something to eat and coffee. A few times while being monitored I had felt like I was going to be sick, and at the end of my bath I finally did throw up. When I got out I noticed some blood and mucusy discharge on the towel.
Got back in my gown, and was getting all set to go for a walk. I guess this part was funny too: I had it in my head I was going to need to move and do a lot to keep labor progressing, and that it was going to be LONG (my mom had a 51 hour labor with me, and they say you labor like your mother, plus I was a first time mom). 

Despite my intense contractions, I had this whole plan of, next we will go for a walk, then I will do my yoga series (I took prenatal yoga while pregnant and a Yoga for Birth method class). Yeah...that was not happening. 

I kept saying I wanted to walk, but my husband wouldn’t let me, he said they are vacuuming in the hall. I sat on the edge of the bed for a contraction and felt a trickle.... that’s when my water started to break.

Sue said she wanted to monitor again because she wasn’t sure my water was clear -- if it was just mixed with blood or some meconium. That was maybe 2-3 hours after we got there, but I never left that bed again. 

I did most of my contractions on all fours or kneeling, leaning against/over the back of the bed death gripping either the bed rail or my husband’s hand. (He jokes he still hasn’t fully regained feeling in some of his fingers.) In between I would sit back on my heels to rest. I tried changing positions a few times, but NOTHING else was comfortable. I am sure I looked completely ridiculous. I felt like I was leaking fluid, blood, mucus, etc. the entire time. I lost the gown at some point (it was driving me insane). I was completely naked and gross, but honestly did not care.
My contractions were basically one on top of the other, I had hardly any breaks. I got to the point where I didn’t want a break, though, because every time I got one, the next contraction was brutal. My husband & Sue were both amazing coaches, reminding me to breathe (my yoga breathing went completely out the window, but I was able to do some of the “sniff, ha” stuff they taught in hospital birth class). According to my husband I just said “it hurts” and “owww” over and over again. 

I tried really hard not to say “I can’t”, though it slipped out a few times. I also know I moaned and yelled a lot... I was hoarse for at least a day after.

At some point I thought to myself I don’t know if I can do this anymore, and the thought of an epidural drifted into my head. When it was time for Dr. Chag to check me again, I thought, if I am at least 7 or 8cm (where those trying for a natural birth usually say they want the epi), I can do this, I will push through. If not, I might have to get it, this is too hard. This was around 11am....maybe a little later. He said I was 7, almost 8, and I was so relieved (sort of, haha). At that point, as much as it hurt, I felt like I could do it. He said I would probably be able to push soon, and most women like that better. He was very encouraging.
I continued through transition, and started getting the urge to push. I told Sue, and she said that was good, but I had to wait and let it build. At first, that wasn’t a huge deal, but as it went on I was not happy. I wanted to push SO BAD. She said she let Dr. Chag know and he would be there soon, but the contractions kept coming and he did not. At one point, she offered to check me, because they had paged him but he didn’t respond. She thought he went down to lunch. I’m thinking, are you serious?!?! HURRY UP!! I said I would wait if she thought he’d be there soon. The last 2 or 3 contractions before he FINALLY showed up, it was SO hard not to push, I kept saying over & over, I can’t not push! I have to push! Sue told my husband later that she was very impressed with my restraint.
Dr. Chag finally came in, quickly checked me, confirmed I was ready, and explained what I should do. My first effort was useless. I didn’t like the position I was in at all, so I got back on all fours/leaning over the back of the bed, and we tried it that way. It was better (for me) but I was still having a hard time “getting it”. I pushed like that for a few contractions but the dcotor said I was going to get tired very quickly in that position and he was right. I turned back around, and got on my back. They showed me how to hold my legs and told me to curl forward when I pushed to help focus the energy forward and down. That helped a lot.
I read books, I took birth classes, I talked to people, but I was not prepared for what pushing was really like. 

I get why they say women prefer it, but it is still HARD. I also did not realize what “crowning” really was, that her head would just STAY THERE between contractions. That part was INTENSE. It took three contractions to get her head out, and the rest of her followed on that last push! She was born at 1:13PM -- barely 6 hours after we arrived at the hospital. DH said she came out with her right hand up by her face, like she was reaching to get out. I had a small superficial tear on one side (quite possibly caused by that little hand), but did not need any repair. She was immediately placed on my chest with my husband by our side. 

It was completely surreal. I was in total shock and awe... and exhausted.
This part of the experience is honestly a complete blur... I know they were talking to me and doing things, but I was in another world. I think it was partially my exhaustingly fast, intense labor, and partially that that is THE moment with your baby. After an hour or two, I finally let them take her to weigh her, and eventually (not entirely sure of the sequence of events), we decided to let my parents and mother-in-law who were waiting in the hall come in to see her.

2. What did you pack in your hospital bag? What did you forget to pack that you recommend pregnant moms to be pack in theirs?
I packed WAY too much. The number one thing I did NOT need were my clothes. 

I wore the hospital gown/robe almost the entire stay. I was glad to have a nice pair of nursing pjs with a wrap sweater for when we had some visitors. Other than that my essentials were chapstick, tissues, lanolin, my phone, and my boppy. Face wipes and toilettries for showering since all they give you is a bar of soap. It was nice to have a pair of slippers, and one of my own swaddle blankets (at our hospital we have to keep the baby in their “uniform” for security -- a diaper and white kimono tshirt).
Of course things like an outfit to wear home (stretchy/comfy/maternity clothes) and for the baby to wear home, but I don’t think people forget that. I would pack more for my husband and less for myself the next time around. Maybe some snacks. The food was fine but never enough for me, I was STARVING after giving birth & from breastfeeding.

3. What was the best part about your hospital stay (besides meeting your little one of course)?
Having everything taken care of for you! Overall I had great nurses, and (when I asked for it -- which I am not good at) they helped me and got me everything I needed. Being in the hospital was so “easy” -- though I was very emotional, hormonal, tired, etc. -- but having people constantly checking on you, administering pain meds if you need them, bringing you water, nipple cream, pads, whatever it is, I mean if they could have peed for me they would have. haha Okay, not really, but I felt safe, well-cared for, and like my baby, focusing on breastfeeding and getting to know her, was the ONLY thing I had to worry about. That was the best part for me.

4. What was the worst part about your hospital stay (besides the labor of course)?
Can I say getting the bills after? Or leaving?! I really didn’t have a “worst” part. I was blessed with a great labor & delivery experience. As I mentioned above, I had great nurses and felt well cared for while there. When I struggled -- with breastfeeding a little and then with emotions and getting ready to leave -- I was able to get the help and support I needed. I was very lucky and honestly look forward to doing it again!

5. What is your advice for new parents for surviving the hospital stay and making it more comfortable?
Know what you want and be vocal about it. Write a birth plan -- even if only for yourself -- but I recommend bringing it and giving it to your nurse when you arrive. Ask them to go over it with you and put it with your files for the rest of the staff. No one ever questioned any of our decisions, or encouraged me to do things that weren’t in keeping with that plan.
I also wrote lists for myself of things I wanted to remember, including our name choices, who to call/text after giving birth and things likes that. This may seem silly, but I like lists, and having all these things written down and organized, helped me to feel prepared & in control. 

Of course, there is always the possibility of the unforeseen, which I cannot speak to, as I didn’t have that experience. However, I was prepared for that, in a sense, too. I had in my birth plan what I wanted to happen in the event of a c-section, or emergency situation. I had formula samples, my pump, and bottles ready at home. 

Though I never truly questioned that I could or would breastfeed, or that everything else would go “according to plan”, I thought it through and tried to be at peace with the fact that anything could happen.
In terms of making it more comfortable, I brought pillows and blankets from home (the sleeping arrangements for the partner are not great at our hospital), and I think having a few personal items, like your own pillow, slippers, anything that makes YOU feel a little bit at home, help too. Try to relax and just let them take care of you, that’s their job.

6. How soon after you got home after the hospital stay did you feel back to *slightly normal*?
???? Three months?! I’m not sure. It has been an up & down journey for me (I am 4 1/2 months postpartum).
Physically, my recovery was easy in many ways. I had no drugs, no tearing or episiotomy, and no complications. I bled for about 2-3 weeks, but it was only heavy for a short period of time. I had a lot of round ligament pain during my pregnancy, and I felt “afterpains”, if you will, in the same area that bothered me then for quite some time. My doctor did a 2 week (it was actually almost 3 due to the fact that I delivered around the holidays) and then 10 week follow up. I was basically healed at 3 weeks postpartum, but I did not feel 100%. 

At 10 weeks, I was much closer to “normal”, had been back to a bikram yoga class, and started getting out a lot more. I was struggling mentally/emotionally at that point, though. My doctor prescribed medication at that visit, and it has been a process over the last 8 weeks or so to really start feeling like myself again. This has included going back to work, adjusting dosage, and again, getting out more, thank goodness the weather is FINALLY getting nicer.

7. What was it like the first moment you saw your baby or held your baby?
Surreal. Incredible. Overwhelming. As I mentioned above, I was exhausted and in somewhat of a state of shock. 

Though my labor was pretty short, I had no drugs and no breaks. I pushed for about an hour, and for awhile I didn’t really get the hang of it, I don’t think. So that took a lot out of me. When Holly was born, I felt like I didn’t get to look at her, “see” her, and get to know her for awhile. I was tired, and very caught up in what was supposed to or going to happen (trying to get her to the breast, when were they going to take her to do newborn procedures, etc.). 

I didn’t just STOP, stare at her and feel all the emotions until we got out of the delivery room, I showered, ate, everything was done, and it was just our little family in our recovery room. 

Then it was truly amazing -- love, joy, obsession, pride, peace. I was completely in love with her in every possible sense of the word at that point.

8. Anything you would do differently?
Not much. I would ask to see a lactation consultant sooner. I thought we were doing great, and then my nipples started to hurt and one was bleeding. A LC usually comes to see you right away, but the timing was off our first night, and they didn’t have one available the day after I gave birth for some reason. I figured out our latching problems on my own using Lucie’s List (OBSESSED with that site, by the way, she is SO helpful, and hilarious!) When I spoke up and asked for help the nurses were great, and I saw two LCs on our last day. They reinforced what I had read and showed me some other tricks, so I’m glad I asked and got their help.
I think I would also take up the massage therapist on her offer (she came at kind of a weird/bad time, but a massage sure would have been nice!) I wouldn’t bring quite so much stuff.

9. What is your advice to moms headed for labor soon?
Same as above... Do your research, planning, etc. Whatever it is that helps you feel calm and in control. Consider all the options, and all the possibilities.
My husband was adamant that I shouldn’t worry or think about the “what ifs”. He believed all along that everything would go perfectly, that we would have a healthy little baby, and I would have no trouble breastfeeding. (He actually didn’t believe I could do the whole natural/no drugs labor thing, but on that he has been proved wrong! I think he was scared more for himself, not wanting to see me in pain. He is super proud I did it, though, and brags about me now! )
I don’t agree with him on not thinking about the “what ifs”. Certainly don’t get bogged down in it, but I was never scared of labor because I felt like I knew all the things that COULD happen. I was mentally prepared, on some level, and made decisions about what I wanted in those situations ahead of time. 

I have talked to people who have been through scary or bad labor/birth experiences, and most of them did not ever think it could happen to them. I’m sure that’s not the case for everyone, and I dont have first-hand experience, but most said things like, I planned a water birth, I never expected this, I didn’t even know it could happen. As far as breastfeeding success, many said they didn’t get the help or support they needed, they weren’t vocal about what they wanted, and they felt set up to fail because they just expected it to come easily, since it’s so “natural”. I took all these stories and advice to heart, and my attitude was to hope for and expect the best, but prepare for the possible, and possibly even the worst.
Also -- TAKE EVERYTHING. Pads, peri bottles, mesh undies, diapers and wipes, etc. A nurse told me that anything that goes into your room, can’t come out. So it just gets tossed and wasted if you don’t use or take it. Ugh, I hate that! You’re paying for it, too, so don’t even feel bad for one second.

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