June 10, 2013

Natural Childbirth, My Story, part III

My reasons for putting off the third installment of this series for so long are, I think, obvious to any regular readers I might have out there. The family that my children were born into is not the same. It broke, and I sometimes still can't sort out exactly when. Was it already happening when my Jasper arrived? I don't know. I think yes. But despite those fractures which I can see clearly now, he came to this world welcome, whole, healthy, and madly loved. That is this story. And despite the timing, my list-checking personality could not leave this third part of a three-part series unpublished any longer. Jasper turned 14 months old today. Here's to you, Little Bear. 

We waited a long time for Jasper. Laurelei was about to turn eight and Riles was six when Brian and I sat them down to tell them a baby was growing inside me. They were overjoyed. As was I. My third was the most...conscious? I guess is a good word...of all my pregnancies. I felt everything physically much sooner and with much more definition than I had with the others. I felt an awareness of the life inside me from the first moment I knew he was there. And I reveled in the pregnancy, the growing belly, the flutters and kicks and hiccups from within me, it seems, more than I allowed myself to do with the older two. Or maybe, I just embedded those moments more firmly in my memory because I knew it would be the very last time.

All went well with Jasper's gestation until the beginning of the third trimester, when our amazingly skilled, attune, and intelligent midwife said, "Tell me some more about the heart problems you had after Riley's birth." 

We were planning on birthing at her birth center,after all. Safety first. 

So I told her. 12 days after R was born, I was at home, and suddenly felt like I couldn't breathe. My vision blurred, I had an enormous build up of pressure in my chest and I could feel my heart drumming, very slowly, in my head. At the ER, they told me I was hyperventilating, panicking, nothing was truly wrong and sent me home. Two days later, it happened again. Actually, the pressure in my chest never really went away. This time, in triage, my heart rate rested at 40, so they ordered an ECG and checked me in. After two days in the hospital, during which my HR got as low as 29 bpm, several ECGs, a cardiac ultrasound, and some indefinite talk about a QT interval being prolonged (could send her to the hospital in Boise...specialists...medical jargon), I was suddenly released. They said the tests found nothing, having babies effects your body in strange ways, and I should go home and rest. Being two weeks postpartum and anxious for my babes, I did. Ever since then, I've had episodes of feeling that weakness, shortness of breath, chest pressure, low HR, but, despite mentioning it to several doctors, no one seemed concerned. 

But Jeanne, my midwife, was concerned. She ordered an ECG. With the results of that ECG, I was referred to a high-risk Obstetrician, and a cardiologist, and eventually, diagnosed with Junctional Bradycardia and Long QT Syndrome, a double heart disease combination which, in some corner of my mind, I knew would change my life. But, for the moment, all I could see was how this would change Jasper's birth. 

Jeanne was amazing--by my side as  I consulted with the fetal medicine specialist, found a new OBGyn, and learned all I could about my options for birthing naturally in the hospital. She provided a doula for us, free of charge. In the whirlwind, I don't think I was as grateful as I should have been. 

The plan became come in to the hospital as soon as you're sure it's real labor, rather than laboring at home and waiting. IV and continual heart monitoring required. Cardiologist on call. Fetal Medicine on call. NiCU prepped. I was terrified. 

But the night Jasper was born, nothing went as planned, in the best way possible. After slipping and falling in the snow in my bestie's driveway, walking around the track at the Y with my mom for a half hour, and stopping on the way home to have Jeanne strip my membranes, the rushes came fast and strong. Our doula, Marlene, arrived at our home around 10, and just before midnight we left for the hospital. I barely made it in the doors. Full moon. There were no rooms. I continued my labor in triage with no IV, no heart monitor, no drugs...just as I'd wanted but didn't expect to get...not even admitted to the hospital. When a room opened up 20 minutes after we arrived, my water broke as they wheeled me down the hall. I pushed. Many voices told me to stop, but I listened only to my son, ready now. We had been in the room for maybe three minutes, no doctors-but lots of nervous nurses darting around and my amazing doula calmly but firmly running the show, advocating for us- when I reached down and pushed my baby boy into my own hands. 

And despite all the fear, all the hype, all the prep, all the change, it was the three of us- mom, dad, and babe- in that moment. I laid him on my chest as the doctor arrived, and let Marlene stave off the ancie nurses for a beautiful moment in time. The blood pulsed in his umbilical cord, part him, part me, warm and strong. Riley and Laurelei arrived with Nanna moments later, and our little family reveled in the new soul on Mamma's breast. We sang to him the song which had been his for many months and still is: Hold on to me as we go, as we roll down this unfamiliar road...know you're not alone. We're going to make this place your home. 

The life changes came later. Jasper's birth was an unexpected kind of perfect. And so is he. 

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