Friday, August 7, 2015

Imogen Amara: A Birth Story



Today, Imogen is one year old. I'm finally stopping to write her birth story down, before it's too fuzzy in my memory.

Once I had my cerclage removed, I expected that Imogen would be born within a day or two. I guess I just thought if it had taken so much to keep her in, that she'd come quickly and easily.  Immediately after removing the cerclage, I was 1-2 cm dilated.  I was a bit discouraged, but my doctor encouraged me to just go about my normal business and see what happened! If I didn't end up in labor soon, then I was to return the next week for another check.  

The next week came, and I was disappointed to learn I was only 2-3 centimeters dilated.  I was totally, totally surprised that even with nothing keeping her in, this baby was going to take her time!  Another week came, and my doctor reported that I was now 6-7 centimeters. He said I had the option to either strip my membranes right there and then in the office, break my water, or go home and wait it out.  He was wary however, that given my history of preterm labor and relatively quick and easy labors (with Evie) that he did not want me walking around at 6-7 centimeters dilated for long and potentially having an unplanned home birth.

Kemi and I talked it over, and decided we would come back in to the office the following day, with the expectation that the doctor would strip my membranes and, if needed, break my water to get things going. We wanted to go home and come back the next day that way we would have time to set out Evie's clothes and food, line up childcare, clean the house, and just all-around get things ready to bring home baby!

The next day we came in with nervous excitement to the doctor's office at 7:30 am.  My doctor stripped my membranes in the office, and then sent me across the street to the hospital to check in.  We sat in triage filling out forms and waiting for a nurse to come up and pick me up. At this point my doctor said I was having contractions, but just like with Evie, I was completely unaware of them, and if I was, they weren't painful.  The triage nurses were joking that I was the only patient they'd had sitting there 7 centimeters dilated, reading a book! 

After a half hour or so, a nurse came and picked me up in a wheelchair and brought us to our room.  They got an initial read on the baby and the contractions, and then basically left us alone, encouraging me to stay active, walk the halls, and do whatever I could to get these contractions coming closer together.  If not, my doctor would return in an hour or so to break my bag of waters.

By 10 am, despite walking and squatting and lunging, my contractions hadn't really picked up, so my doctor broke my bag of waters. Just like with Evie, within 20-30 minutes of my bag of waters breaking, my contractions became intense, painful, and closer together.

I would regret if I didn't say that throughout the labor, I was so grateful to have a doctor who really allowed me to have the birth I wanted.  He advocated for me, and the nurses came in and said "well, Doctor C. says you are not to have an IV, and that we should not limit your movement." It was a huge blessing to not have a contraction monitor or an IV in.  I was able to move around just like I would have at home, but with the knowledge that I was in a hospital, should an emergency arise.  For a moderately "crunchy" mama, being able to have as close to a "home birth" as I could (with a high-risk pregnancy) was a huge blessing.  With Evie, I was surprised by how much time the nurses left me on the contraction monitor, which restricts you to the bed.  With Imogen, I asked my doctor if we could limit that, and he was happy to oblige. Particularly because of my high-risk pregnancies, I will never have a home birth.  I'm thankful I've found what works for me…a natural hospital birth.

I took a shower, and when I got out and dried my face with the towel, I smelled Celeste. Hospital linens just have a certain smell, and my last encounter with that smell was in the hospital when I delivered Celeste. Immediately, I was transported back to that day, but I put it aside and tried to concentrate on what I needed to do for this baby.

We kept walking the halls, squatting, trying to get things to pick up.  My contractions were painful, more so than I remembered with Evie.  I felt out of shape and weak, and discouraged, but we kept it up.    All afternoon.  By 3:00 pm, my doctor came in to check my progress.  He said I was surprisingly not at 10 centimeters yet, but he wanted me to try to push to get to 10,  just like I had with Evie.  

Immediately when he started talking about pushing, I was filled with anxiety.  I knew I couldn't. Could not bring myself to do it. I asked him for a little more time to try to get to 10 on my own.  He said I could wait a little longer, but only an hour or so. 

Around 4:00, he was back and tried to encourage me. "Come on! It's time to have a baby! Let's push!" And again, I felt terrified. If I could have run out of the room, I probably would have.  I could only describe it as if I were standing on a ledge and somebody said, "ok, it's time to jump!" I just could not bring myself to do it. I refused to push, and asked him to leave.  He was frustrated, and told me he had two patients to worry about: me and the baby. He said to call him when I was ready to have a baby.  I was even more upset by this, feeling like he was disappointed in me. I was disappointed in myself, and in my body, and didn't know why I couldn't do what I knew I had to do. None of the nurses understood why I wouldn't do it.  They kept telling me "all you have to do is push, and it will be over!"

It was one of the most gripping senses of anxiety and deep-down fear that I've ever experienced, and I think it was just natural to try to run from that fear and avoid it.  As time went on and I knew my doctor was going to make me push soon, I became more and more anxious.  I began to lie about my contractions to the nurses.  Because I wasn't wearing a fetal monitor, they would see my face scrunch up, and would ask if I was having a contraction. I began to smile through them and tell the nurses I wasn't.  I knew if they thought my contractions were getting closer together, they'd call the doctor in.  As I'm reading this, I realize it won't make any sense to any woman who has ever had a baby. For most women, all they want is to hear that it's time to push!  For me, I wanted to keep this baby inside of me forever, where I knew she was safe. I think something in my subconscious knew the truth that if Celeste had stayed in longer, she would have survived. While she was inside of me, she was safe. It was coming into this world that made her leave this world.  Inside, my babies were healthy and protected, but I felt that somehow pushing and delivering Imogen would somehow risk her life.

I asked Kemi to call my mom and sister and get them in the room.  I knew somehow that if they were there, I could do it.  He called. My sister was 30 minutes away, and my mom was with Evie and my grandmother, about 10 minutes from the hospital.  I felt my eyes well up.  I wanted them there with me so badly.  I just knew if they were there I could do it and I was so afraid they wouldn't make it in time.  What seemed like only minutes later, my mom walked in the door.

I felt immediate relief.

She had been told that I was refusing to push, and when she came in the room she said "What's going on!? Why won't you push sweetie? That's crazy!"

"It smells like Celeste. Everything is just like it was with Celeste."
I couldn't admit what it was until my mom was in the room.

My doctor, my wonderful, loving doctor, interrupted and said:
"No, Corinna. It's like Evie. It's just like with Evie. This pregnancy is healthy. And normal. There is nothing to worry about."  

Kemi, my mom, sister, and doctor all continued to encourage me that he was right, and it was time.  I hadn't been so fearful since delivering Celeste, and being in labor again was bringing me back to that day in a way that I hadn't expected.  It wasn't until my doctor told me the baby's heart rate was making some dips he was uncomfortable with that I was able to put my fears aside for the baby.  We got into position, and after 30 minutes of pushes, I heard Kemi say "another girl!" and there she was, being laid on my chest, warm and wet and perfect.


I was so relieved it was over, so relieved to have my third daughter in my arms, healthy and right where she should be.

It's fun for me to look back on that day, and remember what it was like.  I don't know how many more babies we'll get, but I'm thankful for the three girls I've held in my arms, and the blessing to carry them and be their mama.



I was also real thankful for the Jimmy John's my brothers brought me afterwards. Man, giving up deli sandwiches for 9 months is tough :)

We have a tradition of taking a picture of Kemi with each of our girls on the day we leave the hospital, just him and them and we have them displayed at home.  I treasure each of those three pictures.  Also, those little lady hands kill me.





Dr. C with Immi