The Birth of Poppy Lou Eilola-Bastek

It is amazing how much women will learn from their first birth. Often they will work hard to make that birth not be repeated. This mom did that very thing!

 

In preparation for the birth of our second baby I attended a weekend class titled, “Fear to Freedom” {now called BOLD}. Eight other pregnant women attended.  We bonded as we talked about labor, fears, strengths, and visions for our upcoming births.  We also meditated; role played, and wrote birth mantras.  My mantra for this baby’s birth was:

 

I will work hard.

I will listen to my body and feel what it is telling me.

I will embrace the moment and the journey of the birth of my baby.

I own my birth.

          In addition to the “Fear to Freedom” class, Stan and I took a class on breast-feeding and sought out a doula and midwife practice that would be conducive to a normal labor and birth. Teresa led the weekend workshop and the breastfeeding class that we took. She helped me feel supported and empowered to make the birth and breastfeeding experience I envisioned a reality.  We found Intown Midwifery in Atlanta, a practice that prides themselves on treating women and birth with respect and helping them through the process.  After interviewing several doulas, we decided to hire Colleen.  She would be a gentle, guiding force throughout the preparation, labor, and birth of our baby.

The birth I envisioned was intervention free and done on my terms. Our first baby was born after several interventions including Pitocin, a doctor breaking my water, an epidural, and several long uncomfortable hours unable to eat or drink in the hospital.  That was not going to happen to my baby and me again!  It was important to me to be alert and aware to breast-feed my baby from the moment s/he was born.  I did not want this baby taken away from me for any reason at all.

Saturday morning, 11/17/2012, we went for a family walk along the Chattahoochee River, my favorite place to walk or run. Later that afternoon the very early stages of labor started while Stan and I were at the movie theater seeing Lincoln.  Lucky was at his best friend Presley’s house.  I got up every 30-40 minutes during the movie to go to the restroom.  I felt restless. I felt like something may be happening.  I was in a good mood. After the movie and a nice dinner at Marlow’s Tavern, we went to pick Lucky up. As we were leaving Presley’s house with Lucky he said, “See you tomorrow!”  Cary, Dawn, Stan and I all laughed about how funny it would be if we had to bring Lucky back to their house the next day, if I was in labor.

That evening I started to have very light contractions.  They felt like light period cramps wrapping from my back around my hips. That night I went to bed and woke up around midnight to Frankie, our dog, whimpering to go out. I prodded Stan to get up and let her out but he was too out of it (Stan is a deep sleeper).  Frustrated, I got out of bed and let her out. I went to the restroom and saw a welcome sign, my mucus plug started to come out. This was exciting and I continued to have light contractions. I texted Colleen, the doula that was going to help us with the labor and birth of this baby. I also understood that even though my mucous plug came out, it could still be several days before the baby would be born. I took a shower around midnight and laid on the couch to try and get some sleep.

The next morning contractions were still coming but nothing too painful or consistent. I took a long shower. Around 2 pm we decided to go for another walk along the Chattahoochee River. I could feel myself becoming more serious. As we walked, about 1.5 miles, I found myself stopping and holding onto Stan until it passed. Lucky was riding his bike all over the park and having fun with Frankie. When we got home I took another shower. I was beginning to get frustrated that things weren’t picking up. After the shower I decided to take a nap. It was 4 pm and I was sure that baby was not going to be born today!

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I awoke from my nap about 30 minutes later by a very strong contraction. I laid in bed for awhile and strong contractions continued to come. To get through each contraction I had to concentrate. I would run my fingertips over a textured pillow. Focusing all my attention on my fingertips really seemed to help get me through each contraction. I was in my own world, focused and listening to my body. I had been in this world since a day earlier when Stan and I were at the movies. I called Colleen and we briefly discussed the situation. She was calm and reassuring.

After lying in bed for a while I got up and told Stan that I was having stronger contractions. We decided to get into the shower. This time the shower wasn’t as relaxing so we got out fairly quickly. As the contractions were building I found it helpful to lean on my dresser or the changing table. I held my birthing stones from Teresa who led the Fear to Freedom class. Focusing on my hands and fingertips helped me work through each contraction.

It was about 6:30 pm now and I told Stan that I thought he should take Lucky to Presley’s house. I tried timing contractions for a while but I just knew what to do so I stopped that shortly after. I was tuned in to my body and listening without questioning. Stan asked if I was sure he should take Lucky and instinctively I knew it was time. He took Lucky to Presley’s around 7:30 pm. Stan turned the lights down and turned on my guided meditation (Lisa Guyman) on the house surround sound.

By the time he got back, candles were lit, my meditation was up really loud and I was in the zone. Stan wanted to time the contractions on the app I had downloaded but we didn’t have time to do it consistently. He really got to work on his end of things. He stayed calm, listened to everything I said. He called the midwives and the doula. His instincts kicked in and he started asking me questions to try to give info to the midwife. They wanted to speak with me, but I could not talk to the midwives or Colleen. I was deeply focused. He got our food/ drinks and bag packed. Stan told me that the midwives said it was time to get ready to go. He called Colleen and she said she would head to the hospital. It was time for us to head for the hospital too, but it was not an easy trip to the car. I just kept reminding myself that I had to work hard, that I could do this. I could not talk or communicate well with Stan. I had on huge sweatpants, a tank top, and my son’s huge fleece cowboy blanket was around my shoulders.

Stan tried to get me in the car for what seemed like a very long time. Making the transition from my home, the comfortable place I had created to labor in, to the car and then hospital was proving to be very difficult. In retrospect, that trip from our house to the car was valuable labor time. I would take about 5 steps, stop for a contraction, then take 5 more steps and breathe. Stan said the whole process took about 25 minutes.  I eventually got into the backseat, facing backwards as Stan drove us down to the Atlanta Medical Center (AMC).

Upon arriving, we couldn’t find the right door to go in. The entrance they told us to go in during orientation was locked on this night! Instead of dropping me off at the locked door, we parked in the parking structure and walked around to the emergency entrance. I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes and they were very strong. I remember focusing on my finger tips as I rubbed them along a cement wall to make it through a contraction.

We ended up walking in the ER doors of AMC. It was obvious that I was in active labor and the receptionist directed us to the elevators to go up to labor and delivery. They asked if I wanted a wheel chair and were shocked when I said no. The entire time I was in active labor I had to be standing up. The thought of sitting down or even laying down at this point sounded awful to me. I hobbled to the elevators and down the hall of the labor and delivery floor. It was about 10 pm and I had been in active labor for about 5 hours even though it seemed like 15 minutes! The trip from car to the labor and delivery doors took about 20 minutes, more valuable labor that I was going through outside the hospital room.

Colleen met us at the labor and delivery entrance door and I remember a huge sense of relief come over my body when I saw her. She looked relaxed and happy in her bright white doula t-shirt. I knew she was going to help me. She gave me a hug. When the next contraction came, she placed her hands on my back and I felt immediate physical relief. I hobbled to the room that was ready for me.

I tested positive for Group B streptococcus (GBS) early in my pregnancy. This was the source of a lot of stress because the routine treatment for GBS is for the mother to be treated with IV antibiotics while at the hospital in labor. I did not want to labor in the hospital. I wanted to labor in the comfort of my home for as long as possible. I was aware of the side effects of antibiotics, which included yeast infections. I was afraid that this would affect my ability to breastfeed successfully because with Lucky we struggled through thrush and several bouts of mastitis. Leading up to my due date I took a strong probiotic and ate a lot of yogurt. Teresa helped give me the peace of mind that if any breastfeeding issues arose, we would tackle them together. When I got to the room at AMC, I was hooked up to an IV and given 1 dose of the antibiotics. With the help of our doula, I was able to move about with the IV in my arm. They wanted to administer a second dose, but there was no time.

Things get a little hazy here… When I planned my birth experience, I didn’t want anyone “checking” me. I didn’t want anyone putting their fingers or hands in my vagina and telling me how dilated I was. In fact, during the entire second half of my pregnancy I was not checked vaginally. For me, like it is for many women, it is uncomfortable and felt unnecessary to have other people’s appendages in my body. But as we were settling into the room at AMC I wanted to know what kind of progress my body was making in addition to the consistent and strong contractions.

At 10:30pm, Linda, the midwife did a pelvic exam and I was 7-8 cm dilated. Everyone in the room, especially the nurse, was very surprised at how far along I was for when I arrived at the hospital. I was well on my way to having my sweet baby! I was uncomfortable but I felt strong and I knew I had planned to have the best possible team around me. With each contraction, Colleen would place her hands on my lower back and it seemed to magically reduce the pain. I didn’t know if I wanted to sit, stand, walk or lay down. I kept thinking I had to go to the bathroom and I kept walking to the bathroom and then back to the bed, to the sink and then back to the toilet. Sitting was not a good position for me unless I was on the toilet. I stood next to the bed and began to feel a tremendous amount of pressure. I remember feeling like I had to push but I wasn’t sure if I was going to pee or if it was a different kind of push. I just stood next to the bed and pushed with a hard grunt and I think I broke my water and peed all at the same time! I was rambling that I did not know what to do, and Linda just kept saying she thought it was time to start pushing.  It was time to start pushing. After several minutes of prodding and encouragement by Linda, Colleen, and Stan, they finally got me up on the bed and I sat with the back all the way up.

Linda, Colleen and Stan were all around me. I started pushing. With each push I knew my baby was getting closer to me but it seemed to be taking forever! It was so much. When Linda said she could see the baby’s head I genuinely thought she was lying to me. When the baby finally started to crown, it was very, very difficult to get her past that point. Someone in the room later remarked that they had never seen a baby crown for as long as this baby. I was being very loud with each push, screaming and grunting. It wasn’t working; I just couldn’t get her past that point. Linda and Colleen encouraged me to turn all of my vocalization inward and use it to push the baby out! I did exactly what they said and finally our sweet baby was born. I had only pushed for about 25 minutes.

I remember the first time I saw my big, beautiful girl. She was fat, round, and very blue. She wasn’t crying. Linda told Stan if he wanted to cut the cord that he had to do it quickly, something we had not planned. Stan cut the cord and she still wasn’t crying! She was taken to the side of the room immediately after the cord was cut and a team started sucking from her mouth and rubbing her chest. I didn’t know exactly what was happening. I was so scared. I kept crying out in the room, “Where is my baby? Is she okay?”

Colleen placed her hands on my cheeks and looked me right in the eyes. She told me to take a deep breath, to breath with her. I was very overwhelmed as I had been planning to bring our baby to my chest right away, but that did not happen. Linda remained very calm and Stan went over to be with our baby as they worked for what seemed like an eternity to get her breathing.  I began to calm down with Colleen, Linda, and Stan reassuring me and then Poppy started to cry! Stan and I both started crying almost instantly with her first cries. We were both so relieved to hear her and know that it was all going to be OK. It was important to me that the nurses did not bathe her or wipe the vernix off of her body. I just wanted to hold my baby on my skin. It took another few minutes of making sure she was okay.

Finally, after what seemed like an hour, but was only a few minutes, Poppy was looking at me in my arms. I worked so hard! I was so amazed to see her and she was so big, 8 lbs. 6.5 oz., 21″ long! She was breathing and trying to clutch onto me as she laid right on my bare skin.

I was not prepared for the strong and consistent contractions I continued to have after she was born. While I was in labor I kept reassuring myself that after I birthed my baby the pain would be over. That was not the case! I guess it is more common with second births that contractions continue after the baby is born. Mine were particularly strong.

Poppy latched on to my nipple very quickly and started suckling. This was the beginning of a fantastic breastfeeding relationship between her and I. After 30 minutes or so, Stan held Poppy for the first time. He was anxious to hold her too, but I just did not want to let my sweet girl go! At this point, I was still having very strong, regular postpartum contractions. Linda very carefully sutured the upper part of my labia where I tore while giving birth. Colleen made sure I was as comfortable as I could be and then began packing up. She had finished her part in assisting in the birth of our baby. Thankfully, she would spend several hours helping our family adjust in our home in the weeks following Poppy’s birth.

After about an hour of resting in the labor room, we were supposed to be moved to the postpartum care room that was on a different floor of the hospital. As I stood up to get in a wheel chair, I passed out and without knowing it I vomited. They gave me a bag of fluid through the IV and tried to move me again about an hour and half later. As we were going down the hallway, me in a wheel chair and Stan pushing Poppy in a rolling crib, I passed out and vomited again! The thought of going back into the birthing room to get another bag of fluid was very distressing to me. Linda very calmly took care of the situation. She arranged for me to go the postpartum floor and receive the IV fluids there. In the end, I’m not sure what the reason was for passing out. I don’t think I was dehydrated as I ate and drank throughout my labor.

Stan, Poppy, and I stayed in the cozy recovery room that night together. Lucky came to meet his baby sister the next day. My mom arrived from Detroit and stayed with me the second night. On Tuesday, we hit the road and headed to our home in Marietta. In the next several weeks I would solely focus on nursing our baby. I had so much support from Stan and the many amazing women in my life. My mom, Colleen, Teresa and my many strong sister friends were there for me during all of the early trials and tribulations of nursing and adjusting to a family of four.

Birthing changes your life forever. It is a woman-centered event that requires preparation. Putting the effort in to finding women who understand labor and respect my decisions, my body, and my birth plan was worth the time and effort.  I am now six months postpartum. I look back on my experience and I am so proud of what I did for my baby and my family. With the help of knowledgeable, confident women, trained in the art of normal childbirth, and my supportive husband, I had a joyful birth experience. I hope Poppy will always carry with her the collective strength, confidence, and determination of the group of people that were present on the day she was born.

 

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