May 28, 2009

First Pictures of Ivy

The chubby little newborn
Yes, I was as tired as I look.
Nursing Ivy for the first time
Looking at Daddy
Jared, the proud new dad
Cute little feet
My brother Matt with his new niece
Three days old
Four days old now (and I still look tired)
Such cute little eyes
After her first bath at home

May 26, 2009

Ivy's Birth

Our sweet little baby was born Sunday, May 17th at 4:12 p.m. She weighed 8 lbs. 6 oz. and was 21 inches long. She was two weeks overdue, which is probably why she was a lot bigger than we expected, but she's as healthy as can be. Her name is Ivy Marjorie Campbell. The name Ivy was inspired by her Grandma Campbell, whose name is Vie. Her middle name is after my mother, who passed away in 2001. From the moment Ivy was born, I thought she was the most perfect thing I'd ever seen.

A little background information: During my pregnancy, around 5 or 6 months, I became curious about natural childbirth. I had never really thought about it before, probably because most people I knew had epidurals and their labors went well and their babies were healthy. Still, I wondered what the experience would be like and I knew that most women throughout history had done it, so I figured I could too. After doing a lot of research on the subject, I felt even more sure that I wanted to go without an epidural because, in addition to just wanting to experience it, I also wanted to lower the risk of complications as much as possible (although the epidural itself is very low risk, a higher rate of c-sections, forceps, etc. are associated with it). I also liked the idea of having more control during the birth and being educated on every intervention. After talking to several people and reading even more, I decided to do a Hypnobabies home study course. Don't worry, it's not as weird as it sounds. It's just a very effective way to learn relaxation, to gain confidence about childbirth, and to become free of fear.

I was due on May 3rd, but of course, two agonizingly slow weeks went by. I chose to wait two weeks to get induced because, once again, being induced raises the chances of a c-section and all that, plus I had read and heard everywhere that getting induced is much more painful. However, I decided that the risks of my baby being too overdue were higher than the risks of getting induced, so I set the date for May 17th.

We went into the hospital at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. After taking a while to get things started, they put me on Pitocin around 8:00. I went for about two hours just trying to rest since the contractions were very mild at this point. Around 10:00, I was dilated to a 3 ½ and almost completely effaced, so I called my doula (a labor support person, very helpful) at this time. By the way, her name is Michelle Pate and she didn't charge me because it was the first birth she had attended, and she was great. From here, I completely stopped looking at the clock and just paid attention to relaxing through contractions. When I was dilated to a 4, I agreed to have my water broken. I hadn't wanted it done before, but my nurse assured me that it would help things go faster and I decided I felt fine with it because the baby's heart rate had been fine through contractions so far. From this point on, the contractions were very strong and very close together. In fact, the Pitocin was turned up too high for a while and I began having continuous contractions with no break whatsoever for several minutes. I got really nauseous around this time and threw up, but then I felt much better. I asked the nurse to turn off the Pitocin to see if I could continue on my own. She did, but after about 45 minutes, my contractions had slowed down too much, so they put me back on, but at a much lower dose. This is where my husband Jared and my doula became essential. The only pain I felt during contractions was in my back because the baby was posterior (face up) and her head was pushing against my spine. I didn't feel a thing in my belly the entire labor besides tightening—not even menstrual-like cramping, like most people describe. I was lying on my side most of the time and every time I had a contraction, Jared and Michelle would push against my knees and my back. I can't tell you how much this helped to relieve the back labor. So, it continued this way for several hours, but it felt much shorter to me. I felt like I was dreaming. I didn't really want to think about anything except relaxing and breathing deeply. Relaxing was the easy part for me; it was very automatic. I got another cervix check and was told I was at 6 1/2. I got spasms in my legs after this, which I remember thinking was a good thing because it meant I was in transition. Then sometime later, I was checked again and told I was at 8 1/2. I asked the nurse to turn off the Pitocin again, and almost immediately after that, I felt like I needed to push. I stopped wanting my knees and back pushed on too, so I knew something was changing. The nurse checked me again, and in only 10 minutes I had gone from 8 1/2 to 10. I couldn't believe it. It had felt so short to me and I had never even thought about an epidural. Once I started wanting to push, I kind of woke up from my dreamlike state and let my body push when it wanted to. The doctor and nurse were telling me to push, but I pretty much ignored them and pushed when it felt right. The pushing wasn't exactly easy, but it wasn't very painful either. Jared would disagree, because the sounds I was making seemed painful, I'm sure. All I knew was that it helped to make noise. I was glad to have a way to release the pressure built up from so many contractions, and pushing, along with making noise (i.e. yelling), was a relief. The doctor was concerned about Ivy’s heart rate at this time, but I never felt afraid. In only 30 minutes from the time I started wanting to push, Ivy was born. She had to be suctioned because there was meconium (baby poop) in the amniotic fluid. Then I was able to hold her, but I think it took me a while to realize that she was really my baby because she looked too big and too perfect to have been inside me. I couldn't believe I had done it; it felt completely surreal. It only took 8 hours, which is pretty short for a first-time mother, but even better, it only felt like 2 or 3 hours to me.

Ivy was very alert for the first few hours after being born, which was great because we were able to see her beautiful eyes staring at us right away. I was also able to nurse her in the first hour, which she did wonderfully. My doctor told me he was surprised that I did it, but that I was great. By the way, pretty much everyone who knows me didn’t think I could go without an epidural—most of them let me know. It was definitely an adventure that I enjoyed having and I'd do it again. Everything was perfect to me.

One more thing: Although I enjoyed my experience, I don't think that it was superior in any way to a medicated labor. When a baby is born, it's an amazing miracle, no matter how it happens. The one birth I've witnessed was my sister-in-law Ashley having her daughter Isabella with an epidural. It was just as special, and in fact, it made me cry although my own daughter's birth didn't (I think I must have had too much of a rush to cry). I guess what I would like people to get out of my experience is that if you have a desire to have a natural childbirth, it's completely possible. I knew I could do it because any woman can do it. But even more importantly, I believe women should educate themselves to find out what their options are. I really liked being able to make an informed decision whenever I was asked if I wanted something. I didn't feel any fear at all going into it because I had learned everything I could and had prepared myself in every possible way.
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