Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Power of Words (Goal #57: Complete)

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.

Goal #57:  Write my Compassion sponsor children once a month for a year - COMPLETE

For the past year, I have participated in Compassion International's "Second Fridays" - an initiative that challenges sponsors to write their children on the second Friday of every month. I blogged before about how life-changing it is to these kids to receive letters from their sponsors and how crushed they are when they don't hear from them (read that post here).

After meeting my two sponsor girls, Rachael and Barbra, this past spring, it has been an even greater joy to correspond regularly with them. Though this goal is completed, I will absolutely continue my monthly letters to these precious girls. They are such a gift in my life and it is privilege to be a voice of encouragement and truth to them. 

If you sponsor a child through Compassion or similar organization, please pick up a pen and send your child a letter. You can never fully understand how powerful your words of encouragement are to them. (Watch this awesome interview of former Compassion sponsor children to get a glimpse at the difference your words can make.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weston and Isaac's Birth Story (Part 2: Delivery)

I decided to break the twins' birth story into two parts (read part one here) because there was such a night-and-day difference between the labor and delivery, they just didn't belong in the same post. 

While my labor was calm and peaceful, with me being completely in-tune with my body and in-control of what was happening to me, the delivery was chaotic and stressful, with me being so distracted that I couldn't even tell when contractions were happening. I felt out-of-control to the point of panic at times. It was not at all what I had envisioned when I pictured the delivery of my sons, however I believe it would have been far worse had our midwife Belinda not stepped in to fight for us amidst the chaos of doctors and hospital politics. (I should mention here that the OB practice we went with offered something called "collaborative care" with twins. We were to be cared for and delivered by midwives, but a doctor would be available should an emergency arise.)

Chronologically, I can piece together very little of the twins' delivery besides the fact that Weston was born first and Isaac second. Things were so crazy in the O.R. that it's hard to remember what happened when, but I'll do my best. 

When I was wheeled into the O.R., I was trying so hard to stay focused and retain the calm that I had experienced in the labor room. However, the mood in the O.R. was full of nerves from the start and it was hard not to let that affect me. From what I can remember, there were somewhere around thirteen people in the room and they seemed to all be talking at once. The lights were fully up, and even though I asked (as did my midwives) that they be dimmed, the doctor (who suddenly felt she was in charge) refused. She also refused to let us video the birth, which was a part of our birth plan that her boss had signed off on. 

As I mentioned, this doctor started taking over immediately, without even introducing herself to us, without any respect towards us or our birth plan, and without any kind of emergency at hand. She poked and prodded me and made me feel like a lifeless specimen that just happened to be in the way of her and the babies. She broke my water too soon and without my permission. Oh, and did I mention that at one point she was sitting by my... ahem... while talking on her cell phone (loudly) about another patient? Um? Seriously? At that point I still wasn't sure who this woman was (again - she never introduced herself) and was just about to yell at her to get out. 

The difference between the doctor's "care" and that of the midwives was jarring and caused me great anxiety. There was a panic-inducing moment for me where I could not even see our midwives as they had basically been pushed to the back of the room. I asked Devin, "Where are Belinda and Diane??" and he made eye contact with Belinda with a gesture of "What on earth is going on?" She gave him a wink and literally elbowed her way back into position to catch the first baby.

I had a difficult time pushing Weston out. Partly due to the stress I was suddenly under and partly because, well, I've never pushed a human out of my body before and not only was it difficult, I wasn't sure how hard I actually had to push. Very hard it turns out. 

After a little over an hour of pushing, at 7:46 a.m. on October 17th, Weston Scot was born. He was pink, crying and perfect. Belinda put him on my chest immediately and I started nursing him. He was warm and gooey and wonderfully wide-eyed. Devin was right there by my side and we couldn't seem to grasp the fact that we were suddenly parents. I wish I could remember what we said to each other in that moment, but it is all so blurry.

Too soon, this sweet moment ended as it was time to get baby number two out. Weston was taken from us and examined just a few feet away. It was difficult at first to pull my attention away from him and the nurses surrounding him in order to focus on delivering his brother, but it quickly became apparent that getting "Baby B" out would take not only an incredible amount of focus on my part, but a major battle against a nervous doctor with a scalpel that she was itching to use.  

The tension in the room between Belinda and the doctor grew as Belinda tried to fight for the natural delivery she was confident we could achieve. But amidst her confidence and ours, was the doctor's constant flow of negative, stressful commentary.

"Baby B is getting tired!"  "She doesn't have an epidural?! Then we'll have to knock her out if she doesn't deliver him soon!" "Prepare for a c-section."

This of course caused me incredible stress, which in turn caused the baby to dip in and out of "distress", which caused the doctor to panic more, which caused me to panic more, etc. She said again and again, "Baby B is getting tired," and I asked her, "What do I need to do?" Her response was, "Nothing." It became clear to me then that this doctor was not interested in anything but a cesarean and wouldn't be helpful in achieving a vaginal delivery for the second baby. In a panic - I looked at Belinda, who again, gave us a confident wink and, again, elbowed her way back into the catching position. 

Belinda told the doctor, "You need to give her a chance to labor him down. He's in position, you just need to give her body a little time."

To which the doctor responded with something like, "He's too high for me to use forceps." 

At that point, Belinda made eye-contact with me and said, "Jen I need you to push as hard as you can." Though Belinda had to tell me when to push (as mentioned before, I was so stressed I couldn't feel the contractions), I pushed hard and brought the baby down. Belinda threw a saucy look towards the doctor as if to say, "You think you need forceps, huh?"

From that point on, the delivery consisted of Belinda fighting off the doctor while trying to get me to push as hard and as often as possible. We were in a battle against time and knew that if I didn't push this baby out soon, I would be knocked out and cut open. I honestly believe that if I had allowed an epidural to be placed (which Diane did not require of me even though her boss had recommended it "just in case"), I would have ended up with a cesarean for Baby B. As it was, I didn't have an epidural placed and therefore it wasn't as convenient for the doctor to default to cesarean because she knew she'd have to completely knock me out. This, and Belinda's determination, saved us from something that was not needed or wanted.

Belinda did everything she possibly could, including asking permission to give me a small episiotomy. I allowed it, as she and I both knew that because of the pressure from the doctor my choices were a small cut there or a giant cut across the belly. That cut was the only pain I remember from the birth - it was piercing and I know I screamed from the pain. The doctor remarked, "That's not an episiotomy - it's too small." To which Belinda retorted, "It's all she needs."

Things were incredibly tense and dramatic in that room and during this part of the birth was the only time Devin cried as we both prayed over and over again, "Lord please help us." We both felt so confident that this baby could be delivered vaginally and were so fearful that we would be given an "unnecesarean" because of a nervous doctor who didn't understand or believe in the process of natural birth. It had been clear from the moment we arrived in the O.R. that a cesarean was this doctor's assumed outcome for our delivery - she seemed to be looking for an opportunity the entire time.  

For about 30 minutes or so, I pushed intensely (I knew how hard I needed to push now) while the entire room screamed at me to "PUSH!!" While it was so frustrating to have so many people yelling at me, the baby was coming down and making progress naturally. Still, the doctor was on-edge (or perhaps just angry at this point that Belinda had been right). She put me on oxygen and I could still sense her pressuring Belinda. But God bless her, Belinda stood her ground (and ours) and at 8:41a.m., Isaac Knight was born. He was bright-eyed, crying robustly and latched on like a champ. (Belinda told me later, "When he came out like that, I thought, 'Ha! That baby's not in distress!'") He was perfect and healthy and we had achieved our natural birth safely, despite the many obstacles. Pulling down Devin's surgical mask, I gave him a big, grateful kiss on the lips. I then looked a Belinda and mouthed, "Thank you!" and in response, she winked.  

* * * 
Admiring Weston shortly after his birth 
Our new family of four
My husband, my coach, my encouragement, my hero

* * * 
(L) Belinda with Isaac
(R) Jacqueline with the boys 
Devin and I can not express enough our thankfulness for the thoughtful care we received from our midwives throughout the pregnancy and during the birth. Thank you ladies for believing in us and in the natural design of pregnancy and birth. 

We are also grateful for the sweet, calming presence of our doula, Jacqueline.

Additional thanks to our Bradley instructors Crystal and Paul for all the great knowledge about the natural birth process. 

There were so many answered prayers throughout this pregnancy and all the way through the birth - to those of you who spent so much time in prayer on our behalf - thank you, we were amazing at how God answered so specifically.

We are so grateful for the incredible support-team God provided us through each of you. 

And certainly, we must express our praise to God for His incredible design, for a safe pregnancy and for allowing us to take part in experiencing the miracle of birth. Praise You above all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weston and Isaac's Birth Story (Part 1: Labor)

After many months of preparing and learning (using mainly the Bradley Method), we were able to achieve the natural, unmediated childbirth that we had hoped for. We had a beautiful, peaceful labor and a delivery that can only be described as "dramatic" but one which God's hand of protection was completely involved in every step of the way. We also have to thank our incredible team of nurse-midwifes who took such wonderful care of us during the pregnancy and allowed us to let the twins come when they were ready (which happened to be 6 days past their estimated due date) and encouraged us to still go for a natural birth, even though Isaac was breech until around 38 weeks (when he turned on his own). Truly, I can not say enough positive things about midwife care - personal, encouraging, sensitive, relaxed and fun. I've honestly missed those ladies since we've had the twins - something I would never say about any other health care provider I've ever had. 

Now, without further ado, here is part one of Weston and Isaac's birth story: 

Friday night October 14th, after trying for ten straight days to induce labor naturally at home, I was pretty desperate. Desperate enough to make this video, and crazy enough to actually post my shenanigans on the Internet. Pregnancy does strange things to people. 

Saturday morning around 10:00 a.m. I started having mild, but consistent Braxton Hicks contractions, about 30 minutes apart. By that afternoon, I was having stronger, but still mild, contractions about 10 minutes apart. Devin was ready to rush to the hospital, but I wanted to wait. I didn't feel they were strong enough yet. Around 9:00 p.m. we called our midwife and doula to let them know what was going on and decided to try and get some rest as we assumed we'd be heading to the hospital later that night. 

Well. After timing contractions all night long, we were no better rested and no further along in labor. By 1:00 p.m. on Sunday I was very discouraged and very tired. I called the midwife on-call (Diane) to give her an update and beg her for some tips to get labor going stronger. Her recommendation was to "Stop timing contractions for heaven sakes and relax! Ignore the contractions until you can't anymore." She also may have prescribed "sex and a shot of whiskey"... which we may or may not have tried... 

Afterwards... I was able to sleep for a couple of hours and woke up to much stronger contractions about five-to-ten minutes apart. This is when I would say my labor actually started in earnest. I had to move around to manage the contractions - I sat on a yoga ball, did a lot of swaying and dipped into plié squats. As the contractions increased in intensity, I found it most comfortable to lean forward against the wall or door jam, do some pliés and have Devin press against my lower back. We turned the lights down, lit some candles and listened to praise and worship music. So while the contractions were intense, I was very peaceful and relaxed laboring at home. Devin was such an amazing coach - softly speaking words of encouragement to me during contractions and making sure I drank plenty of water and ate a little something in-between contractions. He was my hero the whole night. 

In labor and ready to go to the hospital
Around 6:30 p.m. we had our doula, Jacqueline, come over and I labored a little in bed with Devin rubbing my back and Jacqueline rubbing my legs/feet. Around 8:00 p.m. contractions were still very strong and about four minutes apart. I decided it was time to go to the hospital because I didn't think I could handle more than four or five of these contractions in the car (it was about a fifteen minute drive). 

When we got to the hospital, I had to concentrate very hard on my labor and try to drown out anything else that was going on around me in the waiting room. I hate hospitals and the last thing I wanted was to get distracted or stressed and slow down my labor. Finally, I got checked-in and Diane was right there to meet us in triage. She checked my progress and was delighted to announce that I was already at 6cm and 90% effaced. I was so excited that I'd progressed that much on my own at home in such a relaxed atmosphere. 

Laboring in the tub - so grateful that our midwives
pushed for the hospital to get one of these 
We moved into the labor room and because I wasn't hooked up to an IV, epidual or any monitors, I was able to sit in a labor tub which was beyond amazing. I'm not even kidding when I say being in that warm water cut the pain in half. It also made it easier for me to move around and maintain a low squat while relaxing on the side of the tub. We had the lights low, the room quite and worship music on softly. Devin was constantly by my side offering love and encouragement and pressing my back through each contraction. Jacqueline was there to assist Devin and she quoted uplifting scripture verses often. Diane sat back and let me run things, only checking the babies' heart rates every-once-in-a-while, but otherwise staying hands-off an allowing Devin and I (with Jacqueline's assistance) to do what we needed to do. Diane kept the "hospital feel" of the labor down to a bare minimum and I was so grateful. While it was certainly difficult physically, I felt at peace and was in complete control of my labor.

I started transition around 2:00 a.m. (maybe??) and the contractions were very intense and one right on top on another. If I wasn't in the tub, I was shaking like crazy and in horrible discomfort. It was incredibly hard, but I knew transition meant it would be time to push soon and meet my babies. I was so focused on the labor that I had to come out of a comma-like haze anytime someone asked me a question or gave me something to drink.

Then, I'm not sure what happened (neither were our doula or midwife), I just seemed to stall. I was still in transition with horribly intense, constant contractions, but I just stayed in that phase for hours. I think maybe my body was just worn-out because even though contractions were only minutes apart, I was falling asleep in-between them. It was an exhausting few hours, but I knew my body was doing what it needed to do and I was thankful to have a birth team that wasn't rushing me or telling me I had "failure to progress." 

Sometime between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. I started trying to push while in the tub. Then I moved to the bed and pushed a few times on my hands and knees and then used the squat bar. It was so helpful to be able to move around like I needed to. It helped me feel calm and in-control, which helped me to be able to manage the labor better. 

By 6:30 a.m. Diane announced it was time to move into delivery. Unfortunately, with twins, the hospital policies forced us to delivery in the O.R. "just in case". As they wheeled me into the O.R. I had to fight really hard to stay focused and calm - the peaceful atmosphere of the labor room was replaced by movement, bright lights and lots of people I'd never seen before. Just as we reached the O.R. our other midwife Belinda joined us. She had been in Las Vegas all weekend and had joked with me that she and I had a "date" on Monday to deliver my babies. Sure enough, she had stayed abreast of our labor via texts from Diane and had made it back in time to catch our little ones. Which ended up being such an answer to prayer because while Diane's calming, hands-off presence gave us a beautiful labor, we were going to need Belinda's spunk and determination to get us through what was waiting for us in the O.R. 

Up Next: "Part Two: Delivery"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hold your horses y'all

Being pregnant with twins past forty-weeks, plus posting a rather ridiculous video of yourself on the internet tends to get you some attention. And I'm not gonna lie - the attention was kinda fun. The flip-side of the this new-found "popularity" is that you have to keep people updated. Which twin-induced sleep deprivation makes a bit difficult.

A whole bunch of you have asked me when I'm going to post the twins' birth story and I promise I'm working on it. :-) It's about halfway done, but between keeping my kids alive with my body and trying to work through some of the more emotional aspects of their birth, the writing is slow going. The 2:30am and 5:30am feedings did not go well today, so I've decided just to get up and give up trying to go back to sleep. I've gotten dressed, am munching on a delicious asiago cheese bagel, am getting ready to down some coffee and gearing up to work some more on the birth story. Lofty I know, but it's worth a try. 

Here's the super-duper abridge basics:

I successfully had a natural, unmedicated birth with both boys, though Isaac's birth took some fighting off a scalpel-happy doctor. It was a long labor, but a very calm, peaceful one (the delivery was a different story all together). Both boys were born alert and healthy (Apgar scores of 8 and 8.5) and nursed immediately and very successfully. Devin was involved in the birth the whole time and was an incredible husband-coach. Also - I adore our midwives Diane and Belinda, they gave us the most wonderful birth possible and I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the option of midwife care even though I was carrying twins. 

More to come in the (hopefully) near future. For now, here's a look at our sweet boys at two days old:

Weston Scot: Born Oct 17th at 7:46am, 7lbs, 3oz, 20.5 inches 
Isaac Knight: Born Oct 17th at 8:41am, 7lbs, 9oz, 21 inches