Wednesday, November 26

Birth Story - Aliza Johanna

This was written the day after Aliza's birth. It's long and I haven't had time to give it a good edit, but I hate to wait for a good time to get it done because our life is just so very full these days!

About an hour after her birth. The Klinik uses these hand-knitted caps on babies, very German! 
Our much anticipated second daughter and fifth child arrived on Wednesday, September 10, 2014, at 8:43am at the FilderKlinik in Filderstadt, Germany. We are still considering names.

I was given the birth I had hoped, prepared and prayed for - relatively quick, all natural, and well supported by the clinic, trusting my own instincts to guide me in labor positions and how to employ Ryan to help me. I feel so thankful for my healthy shape-shifting body and the gift of a healthy precious baby to add to our family.

Baby girl was due September 12. I had made it known among friends and family that I was hoping she would come on a day numbered 5 or 0 in keeping with most of our family’s birthdays (McKay 4/10, Morgan 10/15, Easton 12/20, Ryan 9/25). Jake and I are 8/14 and 12/28, so kind of a pattern still. August 30th and September 5th came and went, lots going on in our house right now with the unknowns of Ryan’s delayed work contract approval, the current contract ending on the 15th, an interview for a job in Hawaii, school starting for McKay and Morgan, first time homeschooling Easton, my Primary President calling managing the routine summer turnover of 1/3 of the ward in children and staffing, and Ryan’s early morning Seminary calling starting up again. Our life is very full at this time!

On Tuesday night, September 9th, there was a Europe Area Sisters Meeting and I watched it via live broadcast from Frankfurt in my bed that evening. Technology ROCKS! I sat up propped by pillows hoping gravity would encourage labor in addition to a full day’s activity and wearing a pendant with clary sage and Whisper blend essential oils that my friend Stacey had shared with me. The meeting was really wonderful and reflective of many subtle changes and considerations recently being seen by the Church in regards to women. Apostles Elder M. Russell Ballard and his wife Barbara and Elder Bednar and his wife Susan were the key speakers for the night, joined by Elder Hallstrom (of the Presidency of the 70) and his wife Diane, and the Area President Elder JosĂ© Teixeira and his wife. The Apostles held this broadcast while in Europe I believe to reorganize a stake or two among other things, but they both reiterated that they were holding this special meeting simply to say thank you on behalf of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to the women for “standing strong” and their “simple steady goodness” among the secular influences of our day. Really great messages shared by the sisters and elders!

Afterward, I went to clean up dinner, a little miffed that it hadn’t been done by the kids and Ryan. But I just couldn’t leave it for tomorrow and wake up to feeling behind again. While I was finishing up, Ryan came in and said that he’d gotten the final offer from SRA and it hadn’t budged from the initial contingency offer. He was completely frustrated. SRA had been awarded the new contract Ryan has been on for almost 6 years now with US European Command here in Stuttgart, Germany. I was too tired to be supportive as his wheels were turning. He felt deflated, wondering how it was that they were doing nothing to honor the expertise and cultivated network he brought to the table. All project managers were offered the same salary regardless of how long they’d worked there. I was simply relieved the offer came and that we knew we could live on it. Was it less than we make now and mean that we couldn’t “build wealth and travel” like we’ve been able to before? Undoubtedly! But on the eve of having our fifth child and all that we have going on right now, Ryan’s job security is premium piece of mind for me since job hunting is an uncertain and lengthy process. At this time, I do not have the earning potential he does, nor ability to jump into the workforce. I tried to smooth things over with him as we went to bed but he was too keyed up as I drifted off to sleep around 11:30 or so.

At 3:45 I was awoken with an image of my baby descending through the birth canal and realized the pain I was feeling was probably a contraction. Five minutes later I had another contraction - the kind of pressure and pain of opening up. This continued for 30 minutes of regular contractions before I got up and started assembling my go bag. Good thing I’d written up a list although I was very distracted and the list was incomplete. (I’d forgotten to list my “Mutterpass” and we showed up at the Klinik without it. It’s the German version of a woman’s health record through her reproductive years.) At almost 5am, contractions were still regular so I woke Ryan up and let him know. By 5:30 he’d gotten the kids up to get dressed so we could take them to Josie and John Pitkin’s home on the way to the Klinik.

The kids were abuzz with excitement to go to Josie’s house and that the baby was coming! Ryan told the kids to let me be during contractions and they were really sweet. Through one contraction, McKay (8) came up and softly rubbed my back as I leaned on the piano. The contractions at this point really did require me to stop and breath through them. Ryan helped me finish packing up a bag of food for the kids and I had a bag with changes of clothes for the kids and diapers for Jake. Then there was my suitcase. I knew I was forgetting one or more important thing as we turned off the lights and left.

On Sunday night, Ryan and I had realized this week could be rather complicated if I had the baby because of his potential in-processing for the new contract and seeing to coverage of the kids. I emailed a few friends to see what their week looked like, made a schedule and list of everyone’s phone numbers and addresses. My Primary Secretary, Josie, wanted to help and kept her week open. She's such a godsend! My visiting teacher, Ashley Andersen, said she could provide rides or watch kids. My homeschool co-op friends, Anna Palfreyman and Emily Eskelsen would pitch in where they could. It wasn’t a detailed, perfect plan but it was a starting point. I'm so grateful for being able to rely on good friends while so far away from family back home!

We dropped off the kids at 6 to Josie’s and it was another 10 minutes to the FilderKlinik. As we got out of the van, Ryan opened the trunk and we realized he’d given my suitcase to Josie rather than the duffel with their things. Classic! We got into the building and he called the Pitkins to see if John could come swap the bags. The stuff we needed immediately was in my regular bag I carry - the camera, my ID, phone, camera charger and such. We’d be okay. As we got to registration, I started a contraction and the woman just told us to make our way to labor and delivery “Entribung” or something. Essentially, we just had to following these guiding dots on the floor. As we made our way there Ryan and I got separated because he had to finish his call to Pitkins before he lost his signal. He quickly caught up to me for I’d sat down for a couple contractions in front of the elevator.

I chose this FrauenKlinik because I liked the feel of the rooms and staff when I visited in late June. Böblingen Krankenhaus was essentially like giving birth in the US in it’s medical interventionist approach while being a midwife-assisted birth. This time around I really hoped I could be brave and try a natural birth with the assistance of Ryan and supportive like-minded midwives. I’d watched “The Business of Being Born” series this past year, read Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth” twice, followed a few blogs on this topic, and sought out the wisdom and experience of a handful of friends and family members. All together, they confirmed previous birth experiences and feelings I've had so I felt led to pursue a natural birth if the pregnancy remained healthy and normal. I am so grateful for the medical world and the options available to women giving birth these days. I begrudge no one what they choose for their births because only they know what they are willing and able to handle for each of their births and there are unforeseen circumstances that require all that modern medicine can offer.

This time around, however, I felt my body could give birth naturally if I could get over my fears and work through it. I knew that Ryan is and would be a great birth partner because he is intuitively calm and supportive - he just needed to know from me what was helpful and not helpful. I wanted to see if I could do this, surrender to it and own it. In labor now, I was scared but hopeful I wouldn’t lose my nerve. No narcotics and epidurals are offered at this Klinik and it was go time!

A midwife, Isabelle, greeted us, fresh on her shift for the day. She spoke near perfect English and was just the perfect temperament for us. She put us in a labor room and soon had me hooked up to a fetal monitor to get the initial 30 minute baseline readings. I laid on the bed for the first 15 minutes or so and then decided to stand through contractions again like I had at home.

After my recent second read through and highlighting of Gaskin’s book about a month ago, I’d written up a quick page and a half cheat sheet for Ryan. As we got into our room at the Klinik I told him to pull it out and review. The key was for him to see how I labored and help me relax through contractions so that I would work with them, not against them. For me, this meant I needed to focus on relaxing my brow, my jaw, my shoulders, allow my birth canal sphincter to open up, and to relax my calves and feet. Ryan was to help me do this and remind me to breath/moan low and deeply and not panic and tense up. As a contraction begins to build, I always find some fixed point to stare at and focus on. We figured out quickly that I don’t like a lot of talking while I’m in labor. Of the mantras I’d gleaned through the book, I only wanted to hear short words or phrases like “open” and “relax.” I felt a lot of pressure on my tailbone so I told Ryan to apply pressure there. We figured out rubbing with the palm was not my favorite, but that firm pressure of a few fingers on that area like one was slowly playing a few notes on a piano felt better.

Because I’d forgotten my Mutterpass, they had no information on me and my history which was troubling but not insurmountable because I was calm, laboring well, and “experienced.” We were trying to figure out who to call and bring it to us while Isabelle did my internal exam. She found my cervix very pliable and I was dilated 6-7 centimeters!!! YAY!!! I was so happy and relieved! I knew I was doing something right by really letting standing/gravity help me work with contractions. She continued her exam through a contraction to see how well they were working and said they were nice and strong. I would be moving to a delivery room soon she said!

Isabelle then manipulated my belly to feel the position of the baby’s back, legs and head asked me to stay on the monitor, laying on my left side on the bed so that the baby could turn just a bit to a more optimal birth position. Meanwhile, Ryan was needed down at registration. Isabelle stayed with me, but she was busy getting everything situated to transfer me to a delivery room around the corner. Soon she wheeled me and our stuff there, finishing room preparations as I had a few more contractions. Not fun on my side in the bed in a hallway!

At this point I had begun low moaning the word “open” over and over through contractions and trying to focus on head to toe relaxing and not fighting each contraction as it swept over me. During the very short breaks between contractions I felt exhausted and would almost doze off before the next one would start. Each contraction also raised my temperature so that I felt hot and sweaty during it but then normal temperature during the reprieves. I remember thinking that during prior labors I would have never moaned aloud in a hallway! I had been to inhibited to make a sound until during Jake’s labor last time when I let out some grand hollers and screams during pushing which terrified Ryan!

Finally Isabelle brought me into the delivery room which had a birthing bed, tub, birth stool, all the amenities — it was the room I’d hoped to get because it was so large and well lit from big windows. For a fleeting minute I’d wondered if I should try for a water birth, it sounded nice. But there was no time to really consider it because another contraction was upon me. I told her I wanted to stand and lean on the bed. Actually, I believe I only said the word “Stand” in a caveman grunt and she could tell what I was going to do by watching me labor in the other room. She raised the end of the bed to about elbow height for me to lean on. (This was a miracle because the bed was completely temperamental any time she tried to work the controls later.) Soon Ryan was there again and it’s all pretty much a blur from there because contractions were progressively stronger and closer together.

Ryan was helping to apply pressure on my tailbone or maybe he and Isabelle both were. A staff doctor was also in the room but I still don’t remember her name. She had a kind, experienced face so I felt in good hands should she be needed. My water broke during the peak of a hard contraction and I said I wanted to push. Ryan attests that everyone kicked into serious action. This baby was coming fast!

Each contraction now threatened my sanity and had the burning sensation I knew was the head crowning. It is at this point when you want someone to tell you one more contraction and baby’s out because you literally don’t know if you will survive being torn in two from within! I was still standing and Ryan had grabbed my hands from across the bed and was trying to tell me to keep calm and to focus on something but I don’t remember what. At one point of intensity in a contraction, I actually bit his hand I was gripping! He squawked and I released, but man - don’t mess with a woman in labor, we can’t be held accountable for what we’ll do! (The kids love to share this detail now!)

Isabelle told me she was applying heated oil cloths which I understand is to help prevent tearing during crowning. That did provide some relief but next thing I knew she and the doctor and Ryan were demanding that I sit on the birthing stool for better stability. They gently but firmly lowered me against my instincts onto the stool. My legs were shaking and she was coming so quickly that they didn't want Aliza to slip out too fast for them to safely catch! Ryan was now behind me on a chair higher than mine and I was resting against him between his legs. I must have only pushed a couple more times and our baby girl was born! I don’t remember being able to focus on anything during those last insane pushes until my eyes settled on her on my chest. We hadn’t even had time to take off my skirt, bra, or shirt! It had all gone so quickly! (I’m so grateful for this because I’m a rather modest person and had feared the midwives would demand I labor naked as a friend had experienced here.)

What an incredible comfort it was to be cradled against Ryan as we welcomed this new baby girl to the world! I was so relieved she was here and that the hardest part of labor was now done! And I was so relieved that she and I were healthy to my knowledge at the moment! I had tears in my eyes, she was here!!! I’d been given the birth I’d hoped, prepared, and prayed for. So many things can and do go awry during a birth and I was just so grateful for a smooth delivery! We were so blessed!!! I had Ryan, this wonderful man I love - who somehow puts up with me - to enjoy this beautiful, wide-eyed little lady with. Ryan was so shocked at how fast it all went! He was incredulous and so very proud of me! It was one of the best, most fulfilling moments of my life!