Adrian Curtis’ Med-Free Birth Story

I actually dreamed of getting to give a blog post this title, and the day has come.

(This is a long post. You’ve been warned.)

Our son was born last week after a tiring cycle of ups and downs. I’ve hardly caught up on my sleep with having a newborn and a toddler under the same roof now, and my memories of his delivery have been swirling back up in chunks, but here’s the story:

The first question most people ask when you explain your labor is, “How long did it take?” It’s hard for me to answer that because my labor with Adrian was spread out over several weeks. At week 37, I was dilated to 4cm, 60% effaced. My OB didn’t expect to see me again after this appointment, but I still kept my schedule with him. At 39 weeks, he checked me again and found me to be dilated to 5cm with 70% effacement. He scraped my membranes at this appointment, and I left feeling a bit nauseous. On the way out, I stopped off at my acupuncturist’s office. We made an appointment for the following morning at 10:30am, assuming I didn’t have a new baby before then.

I went home feeling some irregular contractions, and decided to do some walking and bouncing on the exercise ball to see if that’d bring on anything significant. My contractions got stronger with physical activity, and came as close together one minute. However, they weren’t consistent, ever. I’d experience contractions every two minutes for about 10 minutes, but then I’d have one spaced out to three or four minutes apart from the one before it. It was frustrating, because I’d been trained to understand that true labor is exact; if your contractions don’t stay exactly the same interval apart for at least an hour, you’re not in labor. So, by popular definition, I wasn’t in labor.

I left a message for my OB’s nurse, and she called back and told my husband that though my contractions were not consistent, they were all indeed less than five minutes apart, and that my doctor would like to see me. I’d settled in to take a bath and do some meditation when my husband relayed the news, and I had fears about going back to the hospital. If this wasn’t actually labor, I’d be faced with another stalled situation like I faced when I went in for Kennedy’s birth. I didn’t want to place myself in a situation where doctors and nurses were pushing things on me. I didn’t stick to my birth plan before, but I was adamant about doing it right this time. If I never give birth to any other children, I don’t want regret to loom over me because I never had the wherewithal to stand up for myself in labor and delivery. I sat in the tub and prayed, I asked for a sign of something and got nothing, but ultimately figured I’d go back to the OB just to see if I was dilating anymore.

About 40 minutes later, I was back with the OB, and he confirmed I was dilated to 6cm. I’d dilated one more centimeter between seeing him late that morning, and at about 4:30 in the afternoon. I was clearly progressing through something, so my husband and I agreed to go down to labor and delivery.

Once in L&D, I began moving and staying in motion to bring back and keep my contractions coming. Maybe now they’d get consistent, my water would break, and I’d be pushing out a baby a couple hours later.

They didn’t.

Five hours after my admission, my contractions stopped. I’d dilated a little past 6cm, but overall, nothing was happening. I requested a discharge, and the attending physician advised me that going home wasn’t a good idea. For starters, this was my second child, and labor with second, third, fourth babies tends to go faster than the first. Given that I was so far dilated, if my water indeed broke en route to the house, we could be faced with an emergency situation where baby is born in the car on the side of the road, or possibly at home. I didn’t want a home birth (or a car birth…). She also had a feeling that something might happen during the course of the night, and perhaps my baby would be born in the morning. We went back and forth for a while, but ultimately, I decided to stay the night. I still refused Pitocin as well as an artificial breaking of my water. I also declined all medicines offered to help me sleep except for Benadryl, only because I’d taken it prior in the pregnancy for the same purpose.

Morning came, and still nothing. I looked over at my exhausted husband, told him we’d need to go home, and asked the nurse for discharge papers. Thankfully, they let me go without a fight. I was already defeated, so I’m glad they didn’t come at me with swords raised. I felt embarrassed. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let my husband down, though he insists that I didn’t:

We grabbed some breakfast at IHOP, went to my parents’ house to check in on Kennedy, and killed a little time before my acupuncture appointment. Acupuncture helped release some tension, and I felt a few more contractions while lying on the table during treatment. I thanked my doctor for his help and left for home. I needed a nap and a shower. I wanted to relish in the environment of my own house. I wanted to give my body a chance to do what it needed to do without pressure, though I’d stayed relatively calm through everything thus far. And I needed to find a safe space to just pray and be still. I took a nap and woke to my husband walking in with a fresh Cobb salad he’d crafted me (Cobb salads were my main craving during those last few weeks of pregnancy). We ate together, snuggled up to watch some TV, and then he asked if I’d like to take a walk with him. We took the dogs and decided to walk around the block a few times. My contractions returned, and once again they were close together. We agreed that if they came closer than three minutes together, we’d go to the hospital and continue walking around the pond there. We knew we were close, and we didn’t want to chance having our baby at home. I also told my husband that if labor stalled again, I’d take the Pitocin. He asked if I was sure, and truthfully, I wasn’t. But after two days of back and forth, my body was tired. I was tired. I couldn’t keep putting him through this. I just wanted it to be over.

It’s 5pm, we’re back in Labor & Delivery, and I’m even back in the same room as before. My mother showed up, much to our surprise, and decided to ride it out with us. I chat with the nurses about what had happened the night before, and I ask if I should just go onto Pitocin right away. The nurse admitting me advises that if I want to indeed stay natural for this process, perhaps breaking the water is a better way to go. Given how far dilated I was (which was 7cm at this point) that’d be sure to kick start things for real, and help me avoid the drugs. I refused at first – and this wasn’t because I had a logical reason for doing so – I was afraid. I used the excuse that having my water broken ruined my labor with Kennedy before, but that wasn’t an informed deduction of my process with her. When my water was broken with Kennedy, I had already been on Pitocin for about three hours. Pitocin is known to make contractions much more intense, so the pain I felt after having my water broken was indeed painful, but beyond what it probably would’ve been had I just had my water broken on its own. Another more glaring reality that I didn’t want to face: The water would have to break at some point, regardless. Delaying having my water broken was like delaying the inevitable end that I claimed to want so bad. Labor hurts, Antoinette, and you said you wanted to do this, so just do it. Thank you, internal voice. Once again, you knew exactly what to say.

I had to wait two hours to have the doctor come break my water. A host of other pregnant women came in around the same time as I did, but they were all progressing through their labors and required immediate care. I sat and waited, and waited, and waited. I got frustrated with myself again, snapped at the nurse whose fault it wasn’t, and finally got the doctor to “crochet hook“ my amniotic sack. “This is when shit gets real,” I whispered to my husband. My mother nodded…

Hour One of Dry Labor:

The first few contractions weren’t so bad, but by the fourth one, I was feeling it. They were about five minutes apart, so I had some time to rest and crack jokes in between them, but they were rough when they hit. I coped by squeezing my husband’s hands and practicing slow breathing. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought, but I was nowhere near the peak of what was coming.

Hour Two of Dry Labor:

At this point, I’m sitting on my exercise ball exclusively. Somehow, the ball helped alleviate some of the pressure in my back. Not by much. Pain was at level 10 at this point during contractions, and I was feeling extremely nauseous. The contractions were also lasting longer, making them harder to endure. I squeezed my husband’s hands, and my mom did things like apply lip balm to my lips and pass me drinks when I asked.

About an hour and a half after my water was broken, the nausea became so bad that…I vomited. Everything hurt so bad, and I’d been pounding clear juices and water to stay hydrated. The breathing I had to do to cope with each contraction left me with dry mouth, and my once freezing hospital room suddenly felt like a sauna. I had to pee at one point, and the walk from the exercise ball to the bathroom felt like miles. Despite what others had said, laboring on the toilet wasn’t any more comfortable. Get me back to my ball I thought. Walking hurt; gravity turned my level 10 pain into 11, and I just couldn’t do it. I shuffled back to the ball as quickly as I could after peeing. The mesh panties and pad they’d given me to wear were soaked in amniotic fluid. I asked for a change, but ultimately decided that I’d just stay commando. They’d only be in the way later.

I remember speaking to the nurse between contractions and not finishing my sentence before the next one hit. Nothing had really been textbook up to this point, but I do remember reading very clearly that labor is progressing when the woman is unable to speak through contractions. I definitely couldn’t talk through these. It was all I could do to intentionally breathe. Around the end of this second hour was when I asked to be checked for progression. I felt more pressure in my pelvis, and was hopeful that perhaps I’d be there.

I was dilated to 8cm with 100% effacement. Only 8?! F—!!!!! The nurse told me not to be discouraged. I was progressing, these contractions weren’t for nothing, and my baby’s position had descended significantly since her last check. She told me to be calm and trust in this process. Fatigue was setting in at this point, but I nodded with her. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I looked at my mom, and my face must’ve explained it all, because without my speaking she just said to me, “You are almost there, and I’m so proud.” I couldn’t respond. I didn’t know how to feel. I just whispered ever so softly to myself, “I can do this…I can do this…” That’s when my husband whispered to me, “You ARE doing this, my queen…” My cracking heart healed over.

Hour Three of Dry Labor:

At this point, the physical and mental fatigue was taking its toll. I told my husband and mother repeatedly that I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take. About 10 minutes after I’d been told I was at 8cm, I asked for another check. The nurse found me to be at 9cm, and I heard her call the doctor…”Doctor, she’s dilated from 8 to 9cm in 10 minutes. I think you should stay nearby.”

Is that a good sign? Will I breeze through this last centimeter quickly? Jesus, please, if there was EVER a time for you to step in and save me, it is now. Please…

They left me in the bed at this point (all these “checks” you’re reading about are happening in the hospital bed – not on the ball). It’s not the most comfortable place to be, but nothing really is anymore. From this vantage point, I can see my mom’s face clearly, and my husband is on the other side of the bed, still holding my hand. The nurse quietly encourages me, and I keep hoping that the immense pressure I feel with each contraction is helping me dilate that much faster to 10. The contractions seem to be lasting longer at this point, but it’s hard to tell if they’re just longer, or if they’re doubling up. The nurse is talking me through each one by saying things like, “That was the peak…” “You should start to feel some relief…” “That one’s over…” Yes, I could feel these things myself, but having someone to “coach” me through these painful periods gave me something else to concentrate on. However, as I’m barely holding on to get through the peaks of these contractions, I catch a glimpse of my mom’s face as she’s glancing at the monitor and back at me. I see a look of panic cross her face as she views the monitor, and she looks away from me quickly. I thought, “Oh no. This is gonna be a double…yep, this is a double.” The contraction strengthens to its peak, lessens in intensity a bit, but then strengthens to peak again. This all lasts for about 90 seconds. I’m still breathing slowly with longer exhalations, but that measure is really just for keeping me calm. The pain is what it is and will not go away until this is over.

I gasp and whisper the word “pressure” to the nurse, and she decides to check me again. “You’re about 9.5cm,” she says. I wince. She calls the doctor again and says, “Doctor, she’s at anterior lip. Are you close?” quick pause “All right, thank you.”

“My wife pushes fast,” my husband advised, “so make sure the doctor is ready, please.” (Refer to Kennedy Faye’s birth story to understand why he said this)

Then she turns to me and advises that only a small piece of my cervix is lying in the way. Baby is in perfect position, effacement is complete. She advises that with the next contraction, I give a gentle push – she will attempt to pull the cervix up so that it’s out of the way. I pull my knees to my chest as she instructs, and give the best push I can. It was weak. I was out of energy. Oh, and if I didn’t mention it, I was in the worst pain of my life.

But her strategy worked.

The next part is a little blurry, but a lot of folks started showing up. A doctor, another nurse, a respiratory therapist, a pediatric nurse, and at least two other people associated with baby’s care upon birth. The end of the bed detaches, and my waist is suddenly at the edge. The doctor instructs me to pull my knees back, wait for the next contraction, take in a deep breath, and push with everything I have. It’s go-time, finally. THIS is what I came here for. C’mon, Antoinette, let’s get this done.

In come my knees, here comes the tightening of the next contraction, I take a deep breath, and start pushing. Up until this point, my noise level hadn’t reached much above a whisper, but upon starting the push, I screamed. I let out a feral, raw, maternal scream. I was that voice you hear behind closed doors when a woman is in labor. My entire bottom half seemed to be coming apart. My mom’s face was sympathetic, as well as impressed. She did this twice, and now I was finally getting to see what it was all about.

Another deep breath in, and another push. I gave this one more of me because I wanted to this part to just be over. Suddenly, it was as if the Earth was opening up. I saw the moon and stars, heard a symphony playing, saw a dolphin swim past, felt an earthquake, and oh my gosh, ring of fire, ring of fire, RING OF FIRE. RING OF FIRE.

I couldn’t tell how far I’d gotten, but I kept taking in deep breaths and concentrating on the push. Everyone seemed to be cheering. My entire body was trembling. I was covered in a cold sweat. I’d ditched the gown and was completely nude. I didn’t care who saw or what anyone thought; I just wanted my baby.

Somewhere amidst the chaos, I found my doctor’s voice. She calmly advised that I look down at my baby, whose face was looking up at me with two arms free. “Reach down and pull up your baby, she said.” I paused and looked to my husband’s face. “Pull him out,” he said. I reached down and pulled a slippery, slightly grayish blue, extremely warm newborn out of my own birth canal and up to my chest, and the post-birth euphoria I’d met last time pounded me in the face, heart, and lungs with unbridled, unmedicated intensity. This was the greatest moment of my life.

And just like that, it was over. Placenta came out, breastfeeding went off without a hitch, I got moved to a recovery room, and my family and I got to celebrate our new blessing. I’m still piecing together my observations after this experience, but having done this with an epidural before, and without any drugs this time, I’d have to say that I will choose the med-free route again if we decide to welcome a third child.

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8lbs, 5oz, 21 inches of perfect

I’ll be back to write more about second-time momhood later.

Home Stretch

Today is the start of my third trimester, and I can’t help but marvel over just exactly where the time has gone. This baby has been with me through one road trip to Nashville, two hurricanes, three birthdays (not mine, obviously, but my mom’s, dad’s, and Kennedy’s), three major holidays and the preparation for a fourth, lots of ups and downs with regard to aches and pains, and a weight gain of about 16lbs after an initial weight loss of 8lbs (so I’ve actually gained 24lbs).

I’ve told all my friends and family that it’s likely that this will be my last pregnancy. I have no idea what the future holds, if I will want another after our son has arrived, or if it’s even in the cards according to God’s plans for us, but because I’m treating this like it’s the last time, I’m going about things very differently than I did before.

This is where I come to a tough spot in this blog post, because I’d normally freely divulge just what my intentions are with the remainder of gestation for our son and how I want his delivery to be both similar, and different from, his sister’s. Normally, I’d write in depth about all the ways I’ve changed since August 2013, making me a different kind of mom now. I am not opposed to speaking about these aspects of my newest bundle and myself, but I don’t want to put much onto this blog for the time being as part of my larger move to become a more private person (hence why I set fire to all my social media accounts this year).

My skirting the larger subject of labor begs the question of why I bothered to bring the subject up in the first place. It’s simple: I am anxious to meet him. I’m anxious to see how much better at this I’ve gotten since the first time around. I look forward to the day, whenever it comes, that I can hold him in my arms. I anticipated meeting my daughter this way, but I was so new to the mom experience that I was a little too infatuated with just pregnancy. Pregnancy is beautiful (as is breastfeeding, attachment parenting, cosleeping, etc.), but it’s definitely just 1/8 of the tip of the iceberg. Raising a child these past three years has taught me that there is much more that awaits. I do enjoy the bump as an accessory, though.

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Help! My House is too Quiet!

Kennedy spent the night with her grandparents last night, and Fabian left the house early today to go work on prep for a party he’s catering this Saturday. This is the first morning I’ve had alone in…years! It’s so quiet in here that I’m confused.

I’m used to having someone asking me for something constantly, or hearing children’s shows/music as consistent background, as well as being interrupted while I work, and wondering every two minutes, “What’s she doing?” if I haven’t seen or heard my daughter in a while.

I got five hours of uninterrupted work done. I cooked eggs and bacon for breakfast and nobody hounded me for my bacon. I didn’t have to fight with anybody over first use of the master bathroom this morning. I woke up on my own – no toddler alarms or under the sheets nudging.

Even now, as I get ready to head out the door, I only have myself to worry about.

And while all of this probably sounds like a paid vacation or something, I’m actually not sure how to handle it all. I miss my husband! I miss our daughter! I like the chaos of mornings as a WAHM. Can’t wait to get back to normal tomorrow.

This all just affirms that I really have become Mommy AF.

 

I have to pee. #PregnancyProblems

Happy Birthday, Mom

My mom and I celebrated her birthday together last month, and it was a big deal because at this point, my mom has now outlived her own mother, who died at age 57 after hospitalization with pneumonia. I’ve written about my grandmother on this blog a few times before, so if you’re not familiar with that story, you may want to look back for a moment.

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That’s us! Christmas 2011

Spending time with my mom is a big deal for other reasons too. For six years, we lived on opposite coasts. As well as we did during that time with getting along, it was grueling. It was painful. It was difficult. Now that I have the chance to see her on a daily basis again, it’s important for me to take time out to do things with her.

One might argue that I’m trying to make up for lost time. Perhaps that’s true. Though we shared tons of details over the phone, my mom wasn’t as involved with the planning process of my wedding as most moms would be, simply due to distance. I couldn’t have my mother at my first baby shower because I wanted her at the birth of my daughter instead. I spent a lot of money flying east because it was important for me to see her each year (sadly, one year, I couldn’t make it happen).

My mom and I are also in the minority for mother/daughter relationships that I’ve seen in the people around me. Moms and daughters tend to love each other intrinsically, but that doesn’t automatically make them close. Some moms are overbearing and controlling, they berate their daughters, or they even experience extreme jealousy of them. For as long as I can remember, my mom has always served as an example to me. She’s pushed me to be more and do more. We don’t always agree or get along, but none of our disagreements have ever gone unresolved. Now that I’m an adult, she supports me on my journey through marriage and motherhood. She gives me pointers on my journey through the professional world. Each day that I get with her, I feel grateful. We don’t get to choose our parents, but I’m certainly glad I got the parents that I did.

I’m also looking forward to spending as much time as I possibly can cherishing my mom. ❤

The Potty Training Chronicles, Volume 4

It’s been a year in the making, but I think Kennedy is now very comfortable with using the potty seat instead of diapers or pull-ups. She will run to the potty and pull her pants down when she needs to go, and we’ve been throwing parades for her every time as well as providing positive reinforcement.

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I’m excited to move her on to this new phase of life because diapers…they be EXPENSIVE. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also sad that my baby isn’t really a baby anymore. Other moms have told me it’s a normal feeling, but I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that. I suppose a new chapter in motherhood has begun for me.

“You make this look so easy…”

I don’t like to talk on the phone, but today I got to connect on the phone with a really close friend of mine who is a lot like my little sister. She updated me on how life’s been since we last spoke, and when I explained to her how things were on my end she asked, “How do you do all of this? I have a hard time handling my own responsibilities, but you do so much more.”

It’s the echo of what many people have asked and said to me in the past seven months, and as I near the anniversary of my departure from California, I see clear evidence now of just how much my life has changed since I left there. I will always have a California soul right down to my core, but I’ve grown a lot since August 25, 2014.

I do manage a lot. As a wife, it’s my job to stay on board with my husband with regard to finances, parenting, caring for our pets, caring for our home, etc. As a mom who works from home, I juggle my responsibilities to work with the joyful obligations I have to my daughter and her well-being. I’m also a coach and fitness motivator through Beachbody as well as a full time MBA student, so I study, I connect with people, I work with my growing team of coaches, I hold myself accountable, and I work hard every day to boost my business. I also try to make time to do the things that really keep me going such as keeping God first, exercising, dancing, making music, and even being all around lazy on the couch or in bed with Netflix. I maintain this lifestyle and I love the life that I have, but it’s not easy…

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When you’re a new business owner, everything falls on you. Vacation time? Sure! You can take as much time off as you want, but don’t get mad when your profits reflect the lack of effort you’ve put into your work.

Sleeping in? Pretty much a luxury at this point as your child will likely be up around 7:30 or 8am, and I’ve learned as a parent that it’s just easier to wake up before your kids do.

I work a lot. From the time that I wake, until I fall into bed to zone out to The Boondocks or American Dad at night, I work. It’s often a 10-12 hour day, despite my attempts to keep office hours, because even when I’m not “open for business,” I’m still doing business stuff like posting grades or setting up challenge groups. I’ve forced myself to embrace being a morning person so that I can get more done. I don’t leave the house, but I put in hours just like any commuting, office chair occupying, conventional employee at a typical firm.

My jobs pay me back in much more than just paychecks or benefits. It’s a balance, but I like that I can rock a sleeping toddler in my arms and also read over student work. I like that I can set up shop in the living room as Kennedy plays with blocks not even a foot away from me. It makes me happy that I can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my family on days Fabian has off. My very full life also has very positive perks, and for that I am so grateful.

I get to make some more room on my plate come February, as school will be over for me then. Until that date, I’m just going to keep going. It may look like it’s a breeze, but I promise it’s not. What it is, though, is a very full, very fulfilling and blessed life.

The Potty Training Chronicles, Volume 1

When I was 10 months old, my parents were pleasantly surprised to learn that they would soon be welcoming a second child, unexpectedly conceiving my brother about seven months after I was born. Of course, they were overjoyed, but on a fixed income they needed to make some crafty decisions to stretch their budget to accommodate two children. My father, always the innovator, decided it’d be a good idea to start potty training me to get me out of diapers before my brother arrived. I started walking at 12 months, and talking soon after that, so the groundwork was laid for a successful journey from Pampers to potty.

About a month ago, my dad imparted his advice on starting this process with Kennedy, and we decided to give it a try. Fabian bought her a pink plastic throne, and we started getting the two acquainted.

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Best seat in the house.

At first, she wasn’t having any of it. We’d sit her on it (with pants on) and she’d go running and screaming into the night as if we’d made her hug The Boogeyman. That lasted for about a week.

Then, she started sitting on it while watching either of us in the bathroom (because she feels like we always need an audience to do our business). We’d tell her things like “Potty time!” or “Pee pee!” as she’d perch herself across from the toilet on her awesome new chair that moved all over the house. She wasn’t making the connection for what it was for, but at this point, she knew potties were for sitting on.

Next, we started sitting her on it after dinner, pants off, for about a 30-minute duration. No expectations, just sit there. If you do something, that’s an added bonus and we will throw you a parade.

We threw about four parades during this phase.

It was a tornado of tears and screams when we started the seating process sans pants. She’d look at us like, “What’s WITH you sickos?! My vagina’s cold!” When she finally would calm down, she’d put her hands all over herself. I can’t blame her on that one. For once she was able to touch herself in places that were normally shrouded under a diaper. Curiosity abounds.

Now, at five weeks in, Kennedy sits on the potty regularly after dinner and does her business. I think she’s making the connection that after she does something in the pot she gets praise and can get up. She’s still not talking yet, though, at least not enough to communicate when and if she needs to go. I’ve always connected that action with successful potty training. My dad, on the other hand, says that as long as a child understands what the potty is for, the rest can come later.

I’m already making plans for the money we will save when we don’t have to buy cases of diapers anymore.

Stay tuned…