In about 2 months, my little Noah boy will be one.
And it will have been 12 months since I became a new Katie…again.
How can so much life be lived in such a small amount of time?
In honor of 10 months of growth and change and adventures (for all of us!), I want to share Noah’s birth story with you as well as some thoughts on my struggles with anxiety and depression.
Noah and Isaac’s birth stories couldn’t be more different. I decided after the horrible experience I had with the epidural during Isaac’s birth, I was going to have Noah without any pain medication. I was determined. Tony and I hired an amazing doula and read lots of books on child birth and did all we could do to try and prepare.
The contractions started on Mother’s Day night, May 10th, 2015 at 7:45….right after I had eaten some of my favorite pizza and donuts (as one does). Tony was putting Isaac to bed and I was sitting in the recliner feeling uncomfortable and wondering if a nice bath would help me feel better. I had never really experienced many contractions with Isaac so I wasn’t quite sure if I was in labor or not.
Once I got in the bath, I felt better, but the contractions weren’t going away. They weren’t painful, but uncomfortable, to where I didn’t think I could just sleep or totally relax. After Isaac was asleep I told Tony how I was feeling and as I was telling him, my water broke. My water never broke with Isaac, they had to do it for me, but I was already numb from the epidural so I didn’t feel it or see it. After a call to my midwife she confirmed it was in fact my water breaking and I could stay at my house as long as I didn’t go past 12 hours without going into labor.
After my water broke, my contractions got remarkably stronger and closer together. I was able to take deep breaths and breath through them without much discomfort, but they were certainly stronger than even just an hour before. Once we realized they were coming 5 min apart, I called my doula and our babysitter we had arranged to stay with Isaac and asked them both to come to the house. Not long after my doula arrived, I was having strong enough contractions that I had to sway a bit and breath deeply to feel comfortable through them. After about an hour of that, my contractions all of a sudden just seemed to stop. My doula assured me this was normal and suggested take advantage of the break and try to sleep. So, Tony and I got in bed to try and sleep and my doula and babysitter slept too.
I couldn’t get comfortable at all. I tossed and turned and felt antsy. I mean, I WAS having a baby after all! The contractions did come from time to time, and each time they were too strong to just sleep through or even really relax. I never knew when another one might come so sleeping was very hard. I finally realized that if I prop myself up almost upright on pillows I was able to nod off a bit here and there. Tony was snoring and it made me extremely mad (ha!) so he graciously took a pillow and blanket and slept in our walk-in closet. Not anyone’s idea of a good time, but I was pretty sure I may smother him if he woke me up one more time with his snoring.
At around 4am, the contractions were getting much stronger again and more frequent. I woke Tony up (although I doubt he was getting much sleep), as well as my doula, Laura. Laura, Tony, and I were all in the bedroom and she was walking me through different positions to try with each contraction to see which helped the most. I had read about the sounds that women make in labor beforehand, so when this low moan started coming out of my mouth with each contraction, I knew that it was normal and helpful. I relaxed my mouth and jaw as much as possible, swayed my hips back and forth, and moaned deep and long sounds. After each contraction I felt wonderful and we all just sat and laughed and talked. But when another contraction was coming, we all got quiet and I did my thing. This went on for a few hours. As the contractions got stronger, I was no longer able to just sway my hips through them. I needed Tony to put both of his hands on the outside of my hips and push as hard as he possibly could through each contraction. The birth ball didn’t work for me and I couldn’t sit or lay down at all. I had to stand and sway my hips while Tony or Laura (they switched off because it is very hard work pushing that hard again and again) pushed on my hips. At around 6a, I threw up. Up until that point, I was able to somewhat converse after each contraction, but after I threw up, my contractions were so intense I couldn’t do anything but go inside myself and concentrate on each contraction. They tried playing some music for me, but I realized that I wanted it as quiet as possible. (But I never will forget having an intense contraction listening to the song Colder Weather. I was like, “What a shitty song to have on a birth playlist!” Ha! ). My midwife called me not long after that and she thought I should probably come in to be checked since I had thrown up (which can be a sign you are in transitional labor), but my doula thought, based on my attitude, demeanor, and fact that my contractions weren’t that close together, that a trip to the office would possibly cause my labor to stall. My midwife told me that I had two hours before she would need to see because my water had broken at around 8 the night before.
Not long after my phone call with my midwife, I looked at Laura and Tony and told them that I wanted to go to the hospital. I felt that if labor was going to get any more intense than it already was, then there was no way I would be able to sit in a car. So we started to get ready and Tony went to get the van. As soon as I walked into the living room on my way out the door, I had another strong contraction. Then again at the elevator.
The next contraction was right outside my condo building right in the parking lot where I had yelled at Tony for not having the van pulled around. (Side note: Walking around while in the last stages of labor is VERY hard to do.) As Tony was getting the van I had to lean against the building and have a loud and intense contraction. There were people in the parking lot staring at us. What a site! One lady didn’t realize I was in labor and thought I was getting sick and offered me a mint! Ha! My doula politely declined and explained I was in labor.
Once the van pulled up, I was lifting my leg to get in and a bunch of fluid gushed out of me (sorry not sorry…birth is messy ya’ll!). I told Tony what had happened and he helped me get in the van. Normally, we would have had a quick trip to the hospital, but it was rush hour. What Tony didn’t know while he was driving (and STOPPING AT RED LIGHTS!!), was that the baby was coming. Like, I was needing to push and I was holding the baby in with all my might. If you’ve ever been in labor and felt the urge to push, you will appreciate how extremely difficult it was for me to do this. I was in so much pain that I literally couldn’t open my mouth to tell Tony that this was basically an emergency and that he would need to stop stopping at red lights and get the heck down the road. I honestly couldn’t even say a thing. It’s like I was in shock or something.
What none of us had realized was that I had in fact been in transtional labor for quite some time and now it was time to push! I was so good at handling the intensity that no one knew just how far along I was. (Doula’s can’t check your labor progress).
We finally arrive at the hospital and as soon as the van stops in front of the emergency room I scream out, “The baby is coming!!!! I need to push NOW!!!”. You guys, you should have seen Tony’s face. I had never seen him be in shock, but he was. He thought because I was so quiet, my labor had stalled.
My doula quickly got a wheelchair and I was rushed past curious onlookers in the halls and waiting areas as I was being rushed to labor and delivery with my doula trying to tell me above my load moans and pleads for help that I can’t push yet.
We made to labor and delivery, but….there was no one at the desk.
So my doula starts yelling for help. A doctor came running and quickly got me in a room. A nurse ran in behind him and they paged my midwife. My doula pulled me out of the wheelchair and I told them that I couldn’t get in the hospital bed. So they raised the bed, threw a bunch of blankets and towels under me, and I started to push while standing on my tippy toes beside the bed. Tony came running in behind my doula just as I was making my final two pushes. With a primal yell, out came this perfect little baby, safely in the many arms awaiting under me.
As soon as he came out, I felt like a million trillion dollars. I was on the greatest and biggest and most amazing high of my whole life. I was telling all the doctors and nurses, who were all still a little stunned over what had just happened, that I loved them and was saying “You GUYS, WE DID IT!! We DID it!!! WOW! That was amazing! I love you! I love you all SO SO MUCH!”
I laughed and joked while I was holding my perfect new little guy and delivered my placenta with no problem and even got a few stitches without feeling a thing (besides the needle used to numb me, but after labor a little needle prick is SO not a big deal!).
I gazed at this new little life, amazed at how perfect he looked, and smelled, and felt.
I had done it. WE had done it.
And somehow, through a total miracle, I didn’t give birth in the van.
Experiencing labor from beginning to end without any medical intervention was such an amazing experience for me. I’m definitely not sharing this story because I think this is the best or only “right” way to give birth. I am sharing it because I am just so proud of myself for persevering through the discomfort and fear.
Facing fear and challenges has certainly not always been my strong suit, but after years of God’s work in my life, I am proud of how I have grown in this area.
When I was a little girl I began to struggle with anxiety and depression. It would get so bad that I wouldn’t want to leave my house or go to school. I didn’t do sleepovers or parties with my girlfriends like everyone else. I was trapped in fear. I developed OCD because I was so desperate to feel some kind of control in my life. I would change my underwear many times a day and would clean my bedroom from top to bottom all the time. I had to have all my dolls lined up a certain way. I also wouldn’t eat much other than chicken noodle soup with crackers, toaster strudels, and mini-pizzas. This went on through middle school, high school and college. I started abusing alcohol at 16 and didn’t stop until I was in my late 20’s. I hid from fear all my life in one way or another. I avoided pain and change and challenges as much as was possible and still function (at least somewhat) normally.
When I became pregnant with Isaac, my first baby boy, I had pregnancy depression and anxiety. I would have panic attacks regularly and had to get help from a counselor in order to complete my pregnancy without taking an antidepressant. After Isaac was born, I had the baby blues and was on the verge of PPD, but by around the 3 month mark started to feel remarkably better.
So, when I got pregnant with Noah, I was determined that this would be different for me. There is so much you can’t control in pregnancy and child birth, and although I wanted to have a plan, my goal was to face my fears and challenge myself.
Weeks after Noah’s arrival I realized I had severe PPA (Postpartum anxiety) and had to seek medical help at the hospital. Remembering how I had persevered through Noah’s birth helped me to keep going through treatment even when I was exhausted or feeling hopeless. I had proven to myself that I could do hard things. And believe me, recovery from PPD/PPA/PPP is HARD. In my lowest moments I would start to believe the lie that life was going to be like it was for me when I was a little girl. That I would become so consumed with anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to live normally.
Had I not just accomplished something so amazing, I may have gotten stuck there.
In order to take each baby step I needed to recover, I would think back to moments in my labor with Noah in which the contractions were so intense that I thought my whole body might fold in on itself, and yet, I got through it. I swayed and moaned and breathed and just allowed the intensity to wash over me. It was intense, but I didn’t fight against it. It was doing a good work in me with an end result that would bring life.
I had to allow it to happen.
And that is what I had to do with my PPA.
When contractions intensify it means you are closer to birth. The contractions and the sensations they cause aren’t harmful, but anyone that says they wouldn’t want them to end would have to be lying. This is how I felt about my postpartum anxiety. It was like a contraction in a way. The feelings were so intense and I didn’t want them to stay, but I also knew that if I were to resist and try and wish them away or push them away, it wouldn’t help me. I needed to sit with them. Let them come. It was there that I realized what was causing me so much anxiety and was able to deal with it. When I looked at my journey of healing in this way, it made it much easier for me. The anxiety wasn’t something to fight off per se or see as bad, it was telling me something and I needed to listen.
It was telling me that I needed more sleep.
So I listened and got more sleep with the help of my husband.
It was telling me that I needed medication.
So I tried different medications until I found one that helped.
It was telling me that I needed to be kind and very very gentle with myself.
So I was.
It was telling me to exercise and get out in the sunshine as much as I could.
So I made sure to do so as much as I could.
It was telling me to get help to take care of both boys and the house.
So I did.
It was telling me that I can’t control it.
So I didn’t try.
It was showing me that God is so near to those that are tired and weary.
So I depended on Him for everything.
When I think of my experiences in life with anxiety and depression, I think of Jacob and how he wrestled with God. In order to wrestle you have to get very close. Jacob could have fought with God, but that’s not what the Bible says he did. It says he wrestled with him. I believe there is in important distinction between the two. You don’t have to touch someone to fight with them. You can send them an email or even fight in your own head with them without them even knowing. But to wrestle you have to wrap yourself around someone. Instead of fighting with my mental illness, I wrestle with it. Sometimes I am the one on top and sometimes I’m not, but I am determined to continue to grapple with it and not let it run wild in my heart and mind. Sometimes winning the wrestling match means I can only just barely get through the day, and sometimes it means that I am a total badass; doing all the things and then some more of the things. Wrestling with anxiety and giving birth are similar in many ways. Each offer a birth, or rebirth.
It’s good to be back to writing. I have so much more to share. I hope you will stop back by.