Saturday, October 31, 2015

Lily's Birth Story

My pregnancy with Lily began just like the old wives would predict: a miserable amount of nausea and vomiting because I was now growing a sweet, little girl inside of me. Once that tapered off, the pregnancy was smooth and easy. My intuition (which I believed would reveal so much about my pregnancy with Liam but absolutely disappeared the moment the stick read positive) was clear that she would be a strong woman born with a full head of black hair. One evening I sat in the temple with the intent of just meditating on her. I felt she would be a powerful influence in the world and that her personality would be all her own. I felt I was carrying someone very special inside of me.

Lily’s birth story begins at 34 weeks. That is when we found out she was breech. 34 weeks is too early to worry about the breech position, but my midwives wanted me to prepare. While I did start trying right away to get her to turn, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that she wasn’t going to comply.

During the next few weeks I diligently did all of the “spinning babies” exercises, went to a chiropractor certified in The Webster Technique, did handstands in the pool, put ice packs on top of my belly, and even tried to will her head down with meditation. All the while, I also prepared myself for what would happen if she didn’t turn. After a lot of prayer, study and putting my faith in the Lord I came to a final thought: a c-section would be the last resort. I’m not anti-cesarean, but the Spirit has testified to me several times throughout the years that because of my uterine abnormality I want to avoid a c-section. Since the uterine abnormality was discovered, several doctors told me I would only be able to give birth by cesarean. Two years ago, I put my faith in the Lord and in my body and had an uncomplicated, vaginal birth with Liam. Now the Lord was telling me to do it again. It was frightening because there is a stigma around breech birth, but the more I researched it the more comfortable I felt. The only problem was finding an option that didn’t seem to exist anymore: a vaginal breech birth. Cue my angel-of-a-midwife, Kirsten.

The midwives I see aren’t allowed to deliver a breech baby, so my only option with them was a c-section with one of the OBGYNs they work with at the hospital. During one of my visits, Kirsten expressed her support for my decision and had confidence in my reasoning and research. She referred me to Dr. Morosky, an OBGYN who delivered breech babies. It was the only OBGYN she knew of in Connecticut who delivered breech babies. I called Dr. Morosky later that day and we talked over the phone for 45 minutes (yes, 45 minutes—unheard of!). He is in his sixties and has delivered breech babies all throughout his career (he does so because he was a breech baby). He is incredibly skilled and experienced. I could go on and on about his history as an OBGYN; suffice it to say, I would be in the hands of one of the best. When I met him in person I felt peace and comfort. He seemed so familiar to me. The Lord was lovingly guiding me along and answering my prayers. I scheduled an external cephalic version—my final hope for turning the baby— with Dr. Morosky and hoped for the best.

Dr. Morosky delivers at a hospital northeast of Hartford. That is about 2 hours away from where we live. We drove to the hospital early Saturday morning (exactly a week before Lily was born) and I was admitted for the procedure. The risks of external cephalic version are low, and Dr. Morosky has an exceptionally high success rate of 70%, so I was willing to take this last attempt at turning the baby. Honestly, I knew it wouldn’t work because that feeling was still there, but I had to know I tried every thing I could. After three extremely, awfully, terribly painful tries, the baby was still breech. They monitored her heart rate throughout the procedure and she wasn’t even fazed by the doctor trying to manually turn her. But, after the third try, the pain was so bad that my blood pressure plummeted to less than half the normal measure and I passed out on the table. The room flooded with nurses and the anesthesiologist rushed in. I, thankfully, came to and was stable in just a few minutes. We were both fine, but I was ready to go home and just let us both be. I felt relieved, knowing we had done all we could and that we had safe options for the baby to be delivered. The plan was to stop by the birth center as soon as I went into labor, double-check that she was still breech and, if she was, then we would continue the drive up to the hospital and Dr. Morosky would deliver her there. Now all I had to do was relax and enjoy the last few weeks of my pregnancy.

On Saturday morning, October 10th, after the best night’s sleep I had in a while, a contraction woke me up around 6:30 a.m. I lay in bed for a little while feeling a few more come and go and thinking, There is no way this is real labor. I woke up Joel by saying, “Guess what I’ve been feeling? Contractions!” We both just laughed it off. I was 11 days late with Liam, and the women in my family have a history of going late—like 2 weeks to a month late—with all of their babies, so the last thing I expect is to have a baby before my due date. With Liam, the doctors kept telling me he would be early and had me prepared to have a baby by 37 weeks. It wasn’t until an entire month later that Liam arrived. This time around, I spaced the baby prep out and had only partially packed my hospital bag and washed some baby clothes by this point.

We went ahead with our morning, making breakfast and laughing over remarks like, “We could have a baby today!” or “How shocked would our families be!” and “We are totally unprepared!” My jokes started turning into nervous laughter when I felt the contractions coming regularly. At around 7:00 a.m. I told Joel that we should probably get what we can finished this morning just in case we do have the baby today. We made a list: finish packing the hospital bag, wash the car seat cover, install the car seat, pack a bag for Liam, change the sheets and throw a meal in the crockpot. Labor with Liam lasted 36 hours, so we were expecting to not even leave the house until later that day. The baby’s position felt exactly the same as it had been for the last few weeks. I could feel her head up by my rib cage. I knew she was still breech, so we decided to drive straight to the hospital instead of stopping by the birth center. Around 7:45 a.m. I called a friend and asked her to pick up Liam and Joel threw in a load of laundry. The next hour felt like 10 minutes.

I felt frustrated because I could barely move into the next room without another contraction coming along and stopping me in my tracks. I was no help in getting anything done. Liam was toddling around, trying to take the birthing ball I was practically bouncing on from one room to the next because I couldn’t walk very well. I kept telling Joel that I could feel the weight of the contractions in my bottom and, after hearing that, Liam repeatedly asked me if I needed him to check my diaper. He also brought me one of his binkies because I was in pain. He is a sweet and funny little boy. Around that time I told Joel to call Dr. Morosky and finish what we could because we needed to get in the car soon. Dr. Morosky said it might be false labor but we were welcome to come to the hospital. I knew it wasn’t false labor and even if we ended up being at the hospital for a while I just wanted to get myself settled there. We had a 2-hour car ride ahead of us and it sounded more miserable the more time went by.  

I felt like such a wimp---how would I make it through any more labor if I could barely handle these first couple of hours? The contractions were intense and they came practically on top of each other. I remembered parts of my labor with Liam being just like this and I was only dilated to one centimeter at that point, so the intensity didn’t make me think I was progressing quickly. It took me so long to just put on a shirt and pants because I couldn’t find a break between contractions. I felt nauseous and a cold sweat came on. I started to think, “I can’t do this. I’m not going to make it. Just let me stay here. I don’t want to move!” Those were all symptoms of transition I felt with Liam, but that didn’t register at all. I kept brushing off the pain because I did not think for a second that I was in the final stage of labor. It was 8:40-ish and our friend picked up Liam. I said a quick prayer in my head, asking the Lord for comfort, relief and guidance. I told Joel I would use the bathroom one last time and then we would get in the car. As soon as I sat down I felt a HUGE contraction. It felt like my whole body went into it. I yelled, without even knowing what I was saying, “I think the baby is coming!” Then I felt another HUGE contraction and heard a loud POP. “Uhh…my water just broke!” That’s when I knew the baby was on her way out. I was completely shocked. Joel said, “That’s okay, we will just go to Norwalk hospital instead. Let’s go!” My water didn’t break on its own with Liam, so Joel thought we still had at least enough time to make it to the nearest hospital. “I felt another huge contraction and this time my entire body PUSHED. I felt like someone had taken over and I was just a bystander. I reached down and felt the baby’s bottom coming out. It was soft and squishy. I yelled, “NO, the baby is coming out NOW!” I told Joel to call 911. The phone call to 911 lasted 8 minutes and the following happened in just that short time.

There was no stopping my body, so I started to work with it. Lily’s bottom and right leg came out. Then came her left leg, and torso. I tried to keep my hands off (which some say is best in a breech birth so as not to stimulate the baby) but I gently held her feet up so they weren’t dangling in the cold water. Next came her shoulders and arms. While I was delivering her body, Joel was on the phone with 911 relaying instructions and updates. While he was giving them our information I yelled “The baby is out!” He then put 911 on speakerphone, set the phone down and ran into the bathroom. When he saw Lily’s entire body dangling out of me, he panicked and rushed forward to pull her out. He said that for a split second he forgot she was breech and thought her head was in the water.  At that exact moment (thank goodness) my body pushed her head out and she practically glided into Joel’s hands. Joel held her and screamed, “Her neck! The cord is wrapped around her neck!” He tried to take the cord off of her neck but there was no slack. He started to cry, handed me the baby and stepped backward out of the bathroom. I could see him pacing back and forth in the hallway crying, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!”

First, a breech birth is a strange thing to see. The first video I had watched of a breech birth made me feel queasy and I love birth videos. I warned him that he should watch a breech birth before the baby came because I knew it would scare him. Second, he still wasn’t used to what a baby looks like when it is born. When Liam was born Joel thought he was dead because he didn’t know that some babies come out kind of limp and grey-ish. So to not only see our baby girl come out bottom first, he also saw her limp and grey with the cord wrapped tightly around her neck.

I told him that she was okay and took the baby from him. I held her head with one hand and unwound it from the cord instead of trying to unwrap the cord itself. The cord was wrapped around her neck maybe 3 or 4 times. I asked Joel to find a bulb syringe—which he found and brought it to me extremely fast. Then I laid her in my lap and rubbed her back and torso trying to stimulate her. Joel said he could hear me saying, “Come on baby…Come on baby.” I wiped off her mouth and nose. In a matter of seconds she turned a beautiful shade of pink and slowly opened her eyes. She looked straight at me. That connection made everything feel calm and quiet. She cried. I took off my shirt, held her to my chest and wrapped a towel around us. She was fine. I was fine. We were all fine.

And she is here! Elizabeth “Lily” Magaly da Silva Castro. Born at 8:51 a.m. 5 pounds 12 ounces. 20 inches.

I had the feeling of stepping back into my body—the cold toilet underneath me (yes, she was born on a toilet!) and a wet, squirmy baby in my arms—as the room flooded with police officers and paramedics. They tied the cord with some shoelaces and a few minutes later I delivered the placenta. The paramedics and police officers arrived a few minutes after she was born. 

I was in our teeny, tiny bathroom, inside of our tiny apartment, but I felt as happy and peaceful as I do sitting inside the holiest of temples. I smiled as I cut the cord with the paramedic at my feet, smiled as they wheeled us out on the stretcher, and smiled all the way to the hospital. Later, during my hospital stay, my nurse said she watched me come in “just beaming from ear to ear looking like a queen being carried in on her throne!” 

Lily’s birth wasn’t scary or traumatic for me. It was incredible to witness the miracle of the human body working so perfectly and to work alongside it to deliver my baby. God blessed me with calmness, He guided me, and He prepared me. The years of reading, studying and just being fascinated by childbirth prepared me for that moment. Lily coming five days early, being so little, and coming so quickly were not just coincidences. The last month, from finding out she was breech to holding her in my arms, played out like a symphony. Every note in its place, delivered perfectly. It was beautiful to be a part of. 

Joel and I could not decide on a name during my pregnancy. We had the hardest time even coming up with a list of possibilities. After Lily was born, we sat in the NICU (she was fine, they just brought her there because she was born outside of the hospital and breech) and looked up the meanings of the names on our list. Elizabeth means “pledged to God” which reminded us of how we owe everything to Him—especially this strong and healthy baby. Her nickname “Lily” (less common than others, but still a derivative of Elizabeth) comes from the New Testament verse, “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.” Our Lily is a tiny, delicate thing, but her strength runs deep as roots in the soil. Before she was even born, and especially during her birth, she taught us to trust in the Lord and she will always be a symbol of faith. Her middle name “Magaly” (mah-gah-LEE) is after Joel’s mother who was also breech, born at home and delivered by her mother. Fitting, yes?

That day in the temple I knew she would be a powerful influence; I just never expected it to start so early in her life. We are blessed to have Lily in our family, and her birth story is one for the books.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My new definition of "busy"

Someday my baby will nap in his crib (not in my arms) and I will have a moment to write again...but for now I will enjoy snuggling him and staring at his peaceful, sleepy face. 

I can't get enough of his silly face either. 

Awake or asleep, this baby has my full attention.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Baby Blessing

Since my mom and Joel's mom overlapped their visit, we decided last minute to have his blessing the next week. It was special to have family there and we wish we could've had all of our family attend. Liam was still so teeny tiny, and we were a bit frazzled, but it turned out to be just fine.

The morning of, I stared at him for a while in awe that I had a baby and he was going to receive a name and a blessing. How was I at this point in my life already? Liam looked like an angel and he was so small.

It was a special day not only for Liam but for Joel, as well. It was Joel's turn to do something for Liam that I could not do. To commemorate, I bought him a new tie and had Liam's monogram and the date of his blessing embroidered on the inside. I plan to give one to Joel for each child. His part as a father and priesthood leader is so important to our family.

After the blessing we went to my aunt Sarah's house for lunch. Sarah (we actually call her Bear) nicknamed Liam "Yum Yum" when I was pregnant with him. Now the family calls him that and we love it. He's delicious, so it fits.

Ryan & Joel

Maggie & Patricia

We love that we live so close to my mom's side of the family. It was great to be able to celebrate this day with them. We appreciate their love and support.

Ella & AJ giving him love pats & kisses

My cousin Elizabeth & Aunt Buffy

Aunt Sarah & Uncle Michael

We never got a chance to catch the details of Liam in his blessing outfit before he spit up all over it, so a week later I took the following pictures. It was fun to dress him up again. The blanket he was wrapped in on his blessing day is the one behind him in these pictures. My sister, Rachael, crocheted it. It's beautiful and so soft. It is so special to me that I don't want to use it for anything else!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Liam's Birth Story (Part 2)

When she told me I hadn’t progressed at all I, surprisingly, felt much less discouraged than the first time I heard it. I was disappointed, but by this point I felt like I had done everything I could possibly do. I wasn’t angry or embarrassed. My body was run ragged, but my mind was clear and I was ready to start making some choices. I had prayed for the gift of discernment so that I could make difficult decisions during labor if I had to and do what was best in my situation. I didn’t want someone else making those decisions for me and I didn’t want unnecessary intervention. Cathy said I had two options from this point: I could keep laboring on through a second night, or I could check into the hospital and be put on Pitocin (a drug that intensifies labor to help you dilate more quickly). She left it at that and exited the room so Joel, my mom and I could discuss what to do next. It was sort of funny because I looked at the two of them and they were completely deadpan and silent. Finally I said, "I think it's best to go to the hospital now," and I could see them both relax with relief. They knew how much I did not want to go to the hospital (hospitals make me so anxious) so they didn't want to pressure me into it, but they thought it was the right choice. Cathy came back in and I told her my decision. She had the same reaction as Joel and my mom. Cathy and I both agreed that a vaginal delivery was our ultimate goal (besides mine & baby’s health, of course). I knew there was a high possibility that if I continued to labor on my own that I would never dilate. Having two cervixes can stop the cervix of the pregnant uterus from pushing forward and dilating. Cathy said that one of the women with a didelphic uterus that she assisted never dilated on her own.  This option increased my chance of an emergency cesarean birth and I wanted to avoid that at all cost. So we discussed the dosage of Pitocin she would put me on and how she would be my caregiver at the hospital. The birthing center is directly across the street from the hospital and the midwives have a great relationship with the staff. They deliver babies there all of the time. She highly recommended I get an epidural because of the combination of Pitocin and already having been through 28 hours of labor. While epidurals can start a snowball effect of complications, they can also help by relaxing the mother. I still didn’t want an epidural, but I knew she was right. We then headed over to the hospital, Cathy close behind, and as I hobbled into Labor & Delivery (oh was I a sight to see!) I knew this was the right step. We were going to have a baby soon.

I expected my time in the hospital to be more pleasant. (No pain thanks to the epidural—this should be the easy part, right?) But the next 6 hours were much worse than the last 28 hours. I had an I.V. in one arm and the other was being poked for multiple vials of blood. Monitors were strapped tightly around my belly and I was lying awkwardly in bed because of the numbness of the epidural. I hated it. I felt confined and claustrophobic. I felt like a sick patient. It was a whole different world than the last day and a half. My heart rate monitor kept going off because I could not get my anxiety under control. A few hours into it, half of my body was so numb I felt like I couldn’t breathe and the other half was barely numb at all so I could still feel the contractions. I had an amazing Nurse—she was an ANGEL!—that was motherly and empathetic but tough. I really appreciated how she listened to me. She convinced the anesthesiologist that something was wrong with the epidural. Eventually he came in and redid the epidural and discovered the tube had slipped out. When he was redoing the epidural, I know now that I was going through transition. I was doing everything I could not to throw up but I vomited anyway. They wouldn’t let me drink water because I would throw it back up but I felt like I was about to pass out. I felt like I was outside of my body and dreaming. I was so exhausted but, because of the pain and my anxiety, I still hadn’t been able to sleep. Once the second epidural was administered, I got about a half an hour of sleep until Cathy came in to check me and said, “You’re a 10. Let’s start pushing!” We were all shocked. It had only been 6 hours since I was admitted to the hospital and they expected it to take double that time. Joel jumped up from the couch (he had fallen asleep) and came to my side. My mom came to my other side to help me with the oxygen mask between pushes (those deep breaths felt like I was being pumped with extra strength). Pushing was awesome. 34 hours of having no control over my progress and finally, I did! That, plus Cathy’s very specific coaching, is probably why it went so quickly. After less than 20 minutes of pushing, Liam was born at 2:10am. I remember I kept thinking Finally! Finally!

William da Silva Castro
7 lbs. 2 oz., 20 inches

I got a good look at Liam’s face and he looked exactly like Joel. I looked up at Joel to tell him and I caught him wiping away tears from his eyes. It was a sweet moment. It had all happened so quickly that we were both caught of guard. We cried and hugged each other. We both couldn’t believe that Liam was actually here. He was covered in meconium so they had to suction him off to the side, but they kept him in the room because he was doing fine in a matter of seconds. 

Thanks to Cathy, the SuperMidwife, I only had a tiny tear and was cleaned up pretty quickly. I held my sweet, baby boy in my arms and nursed him. Then we all just stared at the little miracle. It’s amazing how calm and happy everyone was after the tumult of labor. We ate, laughed and adored our newborn. They are magical, those babies. From that moment on he had changed everything. Our present and future had been changed and even the way we thought about our past. We’ve never loved anything so much. 

Remember how two days earlier I did my hair so they would look good in these pictures?? HA!

Once the exhaustion hit me again, the Nurse wrapped Liam and placed him in Joel’s arms without asking him if he wanted to hold him. She said she never asks dads that question, she just hands them the baby. For a couple of hours, as I slept, Joel held Liam. That was a very important time for the both of them.

As difficult as some moments were, Joel and I both feel blessed that everything turned out the way it did. It wasn’t ideal but, under the circumstances, it was the best way things could have gone. I’m grateful for my past experiences of “mind over matter” when it came to pain and anxiety. I didn’t realize it, but it was the best training for labor. Hypnobabies is a great resource that works wonders for some women, and I used a few of their visualizations, but in the end I already had an ingrained way of dealing with pain and Hypnobabies mostly got in the way. I think I’m going to read more about The Bradley Method for next time around though. I’m also grateful for modern medicine and trained professionals that helped when my body couldn’t do what it needed to. I’m happy that I got to see what labor was like for me outside and inside of a hospital, with and without medication. It wasn’t a traumatic experience and I actually look forward to next time. This article I read a week after Liam was born could not have captured my feelings about childbirth any better. It is my extreme sport. Cathy gave me her word that with the next baby I will only labor for 4 hours and the baby will pop right out. I’m holding her to it! ;)

Grandma Ann & Liam
Showing us his tricks--he could lift his head and turn from side to side

Going home outfit. I remember thinking there was no way he would fit into this tiny outfit. 

Now we are a family of three