Women’s Health: Is this normal?

During pregnancy, and often for months or years to follow, we realize that our bodies have gone through changes that are impacting our daily lives. Some of these issues may be common, but that does not mean that they should go untreated. We are lucky to have someone right here in south central South Dakota who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of women’s health concerns. We thank Physical Therapist Samantha Novotny for sharing her insight with us here! Continue reading

A birth story – preparation, perseverance, and the sweet rewards

My labor story began when I was about 35 weeks pregnant.  I had heard over and over how great Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth was, so I finally decided to buy a copy.  It was warm and fuzzy and all things good.  The positive birth stories gave me such encouragement about what natural birth could be.  What most struck me was how Ina May discussed a woman’s mindset in labor.  She explained how much power our minds can have over our bodies-especially in labor.  She also talked about letting contractions do their job, and instead of bracing yourself to get through them, relaxing and allowing the contraction to work.  This was my third birth.  After laboring and pushing for three hours, my first had ended in a csection.  My second was a VBAC, and although it was great to have a VBAC, deep down I knew natural birth could be better.

Friday morning at about 5:00, I started having contractions.  I was two days past my estimated due date.  They didn’t exactly hurt; they were annoyingly uncomfortable, and they were regular.  I went about my day, but they didn’t stop.  Late that afternoon, I lay down for a while, and they still didn’t stop.  I couldn’t help but time them; they were about 20 minutes apart.  I thought, “this is it”.  I was so excited to meet my baby.  My husband and I started to make arrangements for our older children, but when it came to deciding that it was time for them to spend the night elsewhere, I couldn’t do it.  I wasn’t ready for my two year old to spend her first night away from me.  I was in tears at the thought.  As a typically non-emotional person, these tears convinced me something was happening.  We decided we’d keep them home, and have someone come stay in the night if necessary.  The contractions sped up to about every 12 minutes, but around 10:00 p.m., they stopped.  I took my disappointment to bed and tried to rest as much as possible.

I woke at 1:00 a.m. with contractions again.  I wasn’t able to get comfortable, so I got out of bed.  I didn’t bother to wake my husband.  I figured I’d let him get as much rest as possible.  At 4:30, I woke my husband and told him I was going for a walk.  It was misting and cold, and I wasn’t happy about being in that kind of weather.  I was crabby.  I wanted this to happen, and even though the weather was less than desirable, I was ready and willing to do what I could to get labor going.  I walked a couple of miles, as my contractions gradually sped up.  I was feeling more upbeat now.  When I got home, I decided to rest a bit.  As soon as I did, the contractions slowed.  I was disheartened.

After taking our older children to their grandparents, my husband and I drove around the countryside for a few hours.  It was nice to have some alone time with him…even if it was interrupted by contractions every 20 or so minutes.  That evening, things were much of the same, so my in-laws brought the kids home.  I still wasn’t prepared to spend a night away from my babies if I didn’t absolutely have to, and I was glad to see them.  Hearing about their day, and getting them ready for bed helped distract me from my obsessive thoughts about labor.

I didn’t rest much that night.  I tossed and turned while trying to ignore the contractions, but thoughts of labor still consumed my mind.  The contractions were starting to aggravate me.  They didn’t hurt, but I was getting annoyed.  I either wanted them to REALLY happen, or to stop.  The in between was waning.  It had become some sort of mind game, and I was beginning to loose my lead.

The next morning was Sunday.  I decided not to go to church.  Even though the pain wasn’t much, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit in a church pew for an hour and pretend nothing was happening.  My mom came and got our kids.  I decided this was it.  This baby was coming today (at least I really hoped so)!  My husband and I did everything we could to “start” labor.  You name an old wives tale; we did it.  It was still cold and rainy.  I wanted to walk, but it was raining too hard to do so outside, and I hate treadmills.  I called a connection, and she let us into the local gym.

My husband and I walked and walked and walked.  We climbed stairs, and we walked, and we climbed stairs.  All weekend I had been trying really hard to stay hydrated and well nourished.  After each contraction, I would take a sip of water.  I could tell the contractions were getting more intense and getting closer together.  I prayed that they wouldn’t slow down again.  I so badly wanted this to happen.  We walked and climbed stairs at a pretty good clip for almost an hour.  I went back and forth from thinking this was a good idea to help things move along and thinking it was really dumb to be exerting this much energy right before delivering a baby.  Finally, I vomited.  This was nothing new to me.  I had vomited during each of my previous births.  I felt like labor was really going to happen.

We went home, and I took a long hot shower.  I tried to relax as much as possible, but I couldn’t.  My mind was racing.  This was finally it, and I felt like I had drunk an entire case of Red Bull.  I labored at home for a few more hours, and we called our doula.  The contractions weren’t all that close together, but they were getting stronger.  I tried to remember what I had learned from Ina May.  I let the contractions do their job.  When a contraction would start, I would concentrate with all of my might on relaxing.  With each deep breath, I repeated in my head “open”.  I didn’t fight them.  Instead, I allowed my body and mind to work in unison.  Our doula and my husband squeezed my hips, and I was amazed at how much this relieved the low back pain.

I decided that we should head to the hospital.  I knew I wasn’t close to delivering, but I knew the paperwork, blood draw and IV start that awaited me could take some time, as I have a history of very difficult veins, and I did not want to go through all of that while in transition.  I was also anxious to get into the tub at the hospital.  I knew from my previous birth that the big tub would feel great on my back labor.

We got to the hospital around 6:30 p.m.  As promised, my veins proved difficult, and the IV start wasn’t happening.  The nurse checked me, and I was four centimeters dilated.  I asked to get in the tub.  “After we start your IV,” the nurse said.  I was annoyed, but tried not to get worked up about it.  I labored through warm packs on my arms, three attempts to start an IV, paperwork and blood work over the course of an hour.  I wanted in the tub.  Even though I had asked a couple of times with the same answer, I asked again.  “The doctor is on her way.  After she checks you, and we get your IV started, you can get in the tub,” was the answer.

The doctor came as I was having a contraction.  My dear doctor holds a special place in my heart.  She’s been my physician for over a decade.  She’s been with me through many heath challenges and many life changes.  She had been my doctor for my first two births.  She’s calm, kind and caring, and my husband and I feel very comfortable with her.  She asked how I was doing.  In between deep breaths of the contractions, I said, “I really want to get in the tub.”  She said, “Well let’s get you in there,” as she started the water running and gathering towels.  I told her about the IV start.  The damn IV that might not be that big of a deal, but as a VBAC, it’s a little extra insurance.  No one wants to start an IV in veins like mine during an emergency.  She said, “You’ve been in labor twice before; you know what transition is like.  When you get close to that point, you let us know, and we’ll get the IV in.”  I mentioned that I didn’t mind the idea of an IV started while I was in the tub, but the nurse didn’t seem interested.

Finally, I was in the tub.  Relief.  It felt great.  The ease of back labor came with the hot water.  My husband and our doula turned the lights down low, and played soft music from a phone.  It was calm.  It was quiet.  It was wonderful.  Although the hot water felt so good, I started shivering uncontrollably.  No matter how I tried to relax, I couldn’t stop it.  The tub is long and wide, but not all that deep, so the top of my belly was above the water line.  I thought maybe I was shaking, because my tummy was cold.  Thankfully, the showerhead is attached to a hose, and our doula held the running showerhead over my stomach.  This seemed to help.  During a contraction, I would lean forward as she sprayed the water on my low back while my husband held my hand and quietly reminded me to relax and breathe.  I kept telling myself, “open”.  It really was quite lovely, and I find myself relaxing with the memory.  After each contraction, as we all sat in amiable silence, I rested my head on a pillow of towels.  I drifted in and out of sleep during those few short minutes of rest between contractions.  At one point, I even slept enough to have a short dream.  My legs began to feel restless, and with each contraction I had to move them.  I just couldn’t get them comfortable.  Looking back, I know this was the baby moving down.

With a soft knock on the door, the nurse let us know that the doctor wanted to check me and possibly break my water.  No-I wasn’t ready to get out.  Had I really been in the tub that long?  Time had sort of stood still, and I was surprised to learn almost an hour and a half had passed.  I didn’t even bother putting my gown back on, because I knew I was getting back in the tub.  I hadn’t gone through transition yet, and there was no way I was going to transition anywhere but that tub.  Our doula helped me to the bed, and draped a towel over me.  The doctor came in, and I planned to discuss with her my intentions of returning to the tub, but I thought I’d see what she had to say about my progress first.  She checked me, and said I was dilated to a 9 ½!  My husband, our doula and I all exchanged a look of shock and might have even said in unison, “when did THAT happen?!”.  The tub had been far too peaceful and wonderful to be transition!  I guess I wasn’t getting back in the tub.

The doctor broke my water, and with the next contraction, I felt my body pushing.  I couldn’t help it; I couldn’t stop it.  The next two contractions were a little less intense, as a nurse finally got the IV started, and then I was ready!  The lights remained low, and the soft music continued to play.  What little talking was done was done so in low tones, and I appreciated that.   The quiet, dim room felt tranquil.  With each contraction, I felt the urge to push, and followed my body’s command.  My husband was on my right and our doula on the left-each holding a hand as they encouraged me.  I pushed when the instincts of my body instructed, for as long as they instructed.  After each contraction, I tried to “hold” the baby, so as not to loose progress.  The doctor told me each time how much further the baby had come with soft words of encouragement and praise.  At 10:45 pm, after 40 minutes of pushing, I gave my biggest and hardest push, and our beautiful baby girl was born.  Her warm, wet, perfectly sweet body was placed on my naked chest.  She had gracefully made the incredible transition from one home to the next.  She was lovely.

After congratulating us, and taking a few pictures, our doula left.  I spent the next few hours of skin-to-skin with our lovely.  She nursed off and on as my husband and I stared at her beautiful face.  She was our incredible reward for the days of steadfastness and hard work.

We opted against eye drops and the hepatitis vaccine, and the nurse did the vitamin K shot while baby nursed.  Eventually, it was time for me to go to my postpartum room.  While we transferred rooms, the nurse took baby to the nursery to weigh her.  They returned her quickly, as we had decided to delay her first bath.  My husband and I were surprised to hear she weighed 8 lbs 11 oz!  After some snuggles with Daddy, she returned to my chest to nurse.  It was nice to have her at nighttime, and get so many hours alone with her before visitors.  We spent our first night together just as we would so many to follow…soft music playing, skin-to-skin, nursing and gazing into each other’s eyes.  And just like I did that first night, so many times when I look at the lovely baby asleep on my chest, I thank God for my healthy baby, my loving husband, our wonderful doula, my great doctor and a beautiful birth experience.

Mylah’s Birth

I woke up around 2:30 am on Monday morning with contractions. They were coming every 6 or 7 minutes, although I tried not to time them. I couldn’t go back to sleep, but I stayed in bed and tried to rest as much as possible, hoping that this was the real thing! Continue reading

How do I prepare for birth?

For many of us, birth is not something that we have a lot of personal experience with. We may hear stories from friends and family, and we have probably seen scenes of women in labor in the movies and television shows. But let’s be honest, that is a very small, and sometimes greatly inaccurate, representation of childbirth. So how do we know what to expect?

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