Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Birth Story | 4.23.15 | Jacksonville Photographer

Warning: This may be LONG! Not for the weary readers!

My Birth Story | Paige Schicker | Baby Emery

My first idea of birth, from the time I was really young until the time I found out I was pregnant, was that it was terrifying, dreadful, exhausting and the worst pain ever. I had it all figured out, "I want an epidural immediately, I don't want to feel anything!". I started out going to an OBGYN, which was the only "normal" option I was aware of. It's not that I didn't like the place or the doctors, but it just seemed so impersonal. You were in, you were out. I felt like just another patient out of the many they see every day. Then one day I heard about a documentary called The Business of Being Born. I found the entirety of it on YouTube, sat down one afternoon by myself and watched it. If you don't know anything about this documentary, it was produced by Ricky Lake, and encompasses the truths about maternity care in America, and the differences between hospital births with OBGYN's, and births at Birth Centers or Home Births with Midwives. Before even finishing the documentary, I had changed my mind about birth COMPLETELY. It was eye-opening, inspiring, empowering, enlightening, and motivating. The second my husband Derek got home from work that day I had him sit down and watch it, as I watched it a second time, still just amazed. It ended, and the first thing he said was, "Yep, we are switching to a midwife." I totally agreed. 

The very next day I called Fruitful Vine Midwifery. There were only two Birth Centers in Jacksonville at the time, and Fruitful Vine was the closest to us, only about a 10 minute drive. We made plans to go to their open house to tour the facility and meet their founder and fellow midwife, Sharon. That day came and Derek and I sat down in their "family room" with several other couples, many who already had young children whom were playing with toys in the corner. That right there spoke volumes, to see mothers who had the hospital birth experience, interested in switching over to this Birth Center. Sharon sat in a rocking chair at the front of the room and began telling us all about Fruitful Vine, their vision, and their statistics in contrast to the hospitals within the area. With a less than 5% transfer rate {and most of those only due to a mother's exhaustion and personal want of an epidural}, very little intervention when it comes to a mother's labor, and the very comforting, homey atmosphere, I was ready to commit. There are two birthing rooms in the building, one larger than the other, but both very cozy, they looked like bedrooms with inviting tubs in case you'd like to labor or birth in the water {which I did}. Right after the tour, I walked straight up to the reception desk and made my first appointment, I believe I was around 16 weeks pregnant at the time. I called my OBGYN and had them transfer my records over the next day. 

My attitude towards my pregnancy and upcoming labor/birth completely changed. I wasn't afraid anymore. I was excited. I was looking forward to every second of it. I felt empowered as a woman who's body was created for exactly this. THIS. An all natural, med-free birth in a calm, safe environment. Most people hear the word "midwife" or "birth center" or "home birth" and cringe. One of the first questions I was asked by people was "what hospital are you going to deliver at?" and when I told them I was going to a Birth Center with Midwives I got this crazy look from them, like I was some kind of weirdo who was going to go give birth in a barn. The most common misconception is that giving birth outside of a hospital is dangerous. I assure you it is not. If you think about the timeline of human life on Earth, the stretch of time that hospital births became the "norm" it so minuscule that it probably wouldn't even be noticeable. Only for the last century or so have women been giving birth in hospitals. For tens of thousands of years prior, it was absolutely normal for women to give birth in their home, with a midwife. If it's so dangerous, how are we all here? 

Anyway, I could go on and on about all of that, so let's move forward. The weeks passed, and Derek and I actually decided to take a Bradley Method class {husband-coached childbirth}. It was a 12 week, once a week course and was so worth it. We learned everything there is to know about pregnancy, the different stages of labor, pain management and coping mechanisms, and everything in-between. It was great, and we felt as prepared as we possibly could be for the unknown. 

One night, on February 27th, we were at a going away party for a friend when I started to feel different. I just knew that labor would probably start within the next 24 hours. And sure enough, a few hours later at about 12:30 in the morning I woke up to very mild contractions. I got excited, but tried my best to sleep through them and get as much rest as I could. At about 3:00a.m. I got up to use the restroom and Derek woke up, sat up out of bed and asked "what's wrong?". I casually said, "Oh I'm just in labor, but it's ok, go back to sleep". Of course neither of us were able to sleep anymore, so we spent the wee hours of the morning timing my contractions and watching TV in bed. I called my doula, Melynda, to give her the heads up, and Derek called the midwife on-call {Samantha} to let her know as well. We were using an app that timed contractions and their frequency, so she had us take a screen-shot of the times and text them to her. They were still between 4 and 6 minutes apart, and totally manageable. The sun came up and we tried to get some things done, like take care of the dogs and make sure everything was ready and in the car. We were absolutely expecting to be back home by that afternoon {you only stay at the birth center for about 4 hours after giving birth, and then get to go home}. So the contractions got closer together, some were under 2 minutes apart, so at 9:00a.m. we went to the birth center. Another mom was in labor also and had claimed the larger of the two birthing rooms. Samantha checked me and I was only at about 2cm dilated. She advised us to go back home, rest, eat, and come back once the contractions were stronger. Around 11:00am we decided to go back in, and had Melynda meet us there, prepared to stay and have this baby. But this time I was only at 3cm. I'm not going to lie, I was getting a little discouraged, I wasn't expecting it to take this long. So again, we left, Melynda riding with us, and stopped by Tropical Smoothie to get something to eat. My labor came with nausea, and in the car I threw up into a pot while Derek was in Tropical Smoothie. Fun stuff. We went back home, I tried to keep some food down, and the 3 of us watched The Wedding Singer to pass some time. I walked back and forth, stopping to brace for contractions, as Melynda or Derek would come over and rub my back or squeeze my hips for counter-pressure. Around 2:00pm we headed back to Fruitful Vine, this time I refused to leave, I couldn't sit in the car anymore. I was 4cm when we arrived, so we made our way into our birthing room and got set-up and comfortable. My contractions were strong, but still manageable, I just had to breathe through them. They filled the tub for me and I got in, and man did it feel good. I had the jets going and just sat back and relaxed as much as I could. Derek had my personal playlist of music playing softly {as not to disturb the laboring mom in the next room}. The midwives intermittently took my temperature and blood pressure and made sure I was drinking water to stay hydrated, since I had been throwing up. After a few minutes in the tub my temperature got a little high, so I had to get out and cool down for a bit. I sat on the bed in my bathing suit, sipped on water, and shared some conversation. Melynda sat on the floor, looking totally tranced with her eyes closed as she listened to the music and waited patiently to be needed. Samantha came in a little while later to check me again, and I was at a 6 {the cervical check was super painful by the way, on top on having contractions}. It had been probably 5 or 6 hours since the last check {where I had been at a 4}. I was surprised and disappointed that I hadn't progressed further, especially since my contractions were much stronger and closer together now. The sun had gone down, it was getting later, and it was becoming more painful. It was like all of a sudden the surges went from manageable to excruciating, and it became increasingly more difficult to try to relax through them. I started to wince, cringe, tighten up, hold my breath and vocalize through them, when I should've been breathing long and deep {as Melynda tried to do with me}, and relax my body. But I found myself fighting it, despite how hard I tried not to. I attempted different positions to help manage the pain, from squatting to leaning and sitting on a birthing ball, to hands and knees. Nothing helped. Samantha suggested I try walking the halls, as staying upright and mobile was great for progression and bringing baby down. So I  walked back and forth, very slowly, stopping to lean against the wall or against Derek as a contraction crashed over me. Once I had to run to the toilet to throw up, barely making it. It was really late now. Probably around 10:00pm. I was trying to sip on water and keep it down, I wanted to cry I was in so much pain. My photographer finally arrived as we paced the halls. I couldn't bring myself to walk anymore so we went back into the room. Hours ago the mom next door had given birth to a baby boy, I heard his first cries. She had since gone home with her little one, and I was still here, struggling to maintain my sanity. They cleaned up her room and we migrated, as this room was much larger. Samantha checked me once more around midnight. 24 hours after labor had begun. And I was still only at a 6. I wanted to cry. She broke my waters as a last resort, in hopes that would help me progress. Contractions became excruciating and unbearable. They were back to back, and felt like knives twisting inside me. I tried the tub again, but the water was cooler, so as not to raise my temperature {and that made it uncomfortable, I was freezing}. The water didn't help. I was still in agony, and so exhausted. I knew everyone else was too. I started to feel terrible about this labor taking so long. Fatigue was setting in. It was almost 3a.m. now and Samantha checked me one last time. I was STILL at a 6. That's when she advised that we transfer to the hospital. We had tried absolutely everything we could, and had given it so much time to no avail. Plus, I was so worn out I could barely see straight. So as terrified as I was about going to the hospital and what that entailed, I agreed, and off we went. Derek drove as fast as he could, as I cried out in pain during every contraction. Of course we couldn't find the entrance to the ER and parked at the wrong building. My photographer Jennifer pulled up behind us and had us hop in, as she knew where to go. So she dropped us off at the ER entrance and I was wheeled up to labor & delivery on the 3rd floor. I had to be checked in, and the receptionist wanted to ask me a million questions and have me fill out all these forms, and I could barely contain myself as I felt like I was dying, I just wanted to get an epidural NOW. So we finally were taken to our room and the anesthesiologist came in to give me the epidural. At this point I didn't even feel bad about it, I was just so desperate for some relief and some rest. As I was hooked up to monitors and IV's, our families walked in. I guess Derek had called them to let them know where we were and they had come for support. It was nice to see everyone. My epidural took a while to kick in, but once it did I was beyond relieved. I laid back and tried to get some sleep. Melynda went to the waiting room and did the same, and Derek curled up in the recliner next to me and dozed off as well. We only slept about an hour when the nurse came in to check me. Miraculously I was fully dilated and the baby's head was only about 2 inches away. She said "It's time to push". I guess I just needed rest. 
She asked if I wanted to mirror to see the baby come out and I did. She got it in place, Melynda and Derek held my legs, and I started pushing. Samantha actually came up to the hospital to witness the birth as well. It was 8:40a.m. when I started pushing, and we only expected a couple of pushes to bring Emery into the world. An hour went by. Two hours went by. I was still pushing, and there was still no baby. My epidural wore off, and I started feeling all of the pain again. It was horrible. I tried squatting and pushing, that didn't work. I got on my hands and knees to help the baby get into a better position, and I had to stay that way for about 30 minutes as they put in a Pitocin drip to help things along {which I REALLY didn't want, as it makes contractions stronger and closer together}. I begged for them to give me more epidural, but they said they wanted me to feel where I was pushing, so they insisted. I turned back over to try pushing again, this time another doctor came in to assist. Nothing was working. Everyone knew I didn't want a C-Section, so the medical staff did exhausted every other option in hopes of giving me the vaginal birth I wanted. I was now on oxygen, so tired that I didn't even have the strength to push anymore, but I tried. They finally decided to try vacuuming her out as a last resort. About 10 nurses flooded the room, they got a huge bright spotlight shining down there, and began suctioning as I pushed. I asked if it was working and the doctor said it was, so I pushed with all my might. And after a few minutes she said "nope, it's not going to work". And what did she do? She PUSHED the baby back up inside me. Holy crap was that just awful. And everyone ran around preparing for a C-Section. I didn't care at this point. I said "Please, just do it, just get her out". I was done. My body had given out, my strength was gone, I was a limp noodle. They rolled me into the operating room, and Derek stayed behind with tears in his eyes as they prepped me. They dosed me up with more epidural and morphine, and the pain finally ceased once more. I immediately felt sick and had to turn my head to throw up. It also became difficult to breathe, as the epidural had numbed my diaphragm. The nurse raised the table a bit to help. Derek came in wearing scrubs and a mask and sat beside me. I could tell he was scared, but I was so out of it I just gave in and let it be. The epidural took so long to start numbing me that they were afraid they were going to have to put me to sleep for the operation, and I begged them not to. They gave it a couple more minutes and it finally started working, so they began. I felt a lot of pressure and tugging, but no pain. And then they told me to look and help up my baby over the curtain for me to see before whisking her off. She was born at 2:58pm on March 1st. About 36 hours after labor had begun. The first thing I noticed was all of her hair, and all I wanted to know was if it was a girl {I had been so worried all pregnancy that she would come out a boy}. I waited to hear her cry, and Derek went over to be with her. Soon after, they brought her over and placed her on my chest as she wailed. I couldn't see her as she was right up under my head and I couldn't move, but I spoke softly to her and I remember wanting to see what she looked like. I dozed off here and there during this time due to mere lack of sleep and the medication. They eventually took her and Derek followed, as they closed me up and wheeled me to the recovery room. Our family had already gotten to see Emery, but came in a few at a time to hold her and to see me. I was super nauseous and out of it, I couldn't enjoy the moment. I couldn't even hold her at first because I was still shaky from the drugs wearing off. It's still blurry, but I do remember each person holding her, some shedding some tears of joy. I was taken to our permanent room, which was all ours with two beds so Derek got to sleep in one at night. The rest of that day was a complete blur. I felt terrible physically, I just wanted to sleep. I had to try to recover while also making my attempt at breastfeeding, which was challenging and super painful. The lactation consultant at the hospital came in a few times to help, but I just couldn't get her to latch without it feeling like she was chomping away at me. 

Despite the horror of my labor and delivery, I was glad my baby girl was here and healthy. I will admit, it took {and is still taking} a long time to really get over what I went through. It was traumatizing, and I've had to truly mourn the loss of my natural birth that I had prepared so much for. I see birth stories on Facebook, and photos of home births, and natural births in hospital, and I've had to scroll over them because it was too hard to look at. To see those happy moms holding their babies for the first time, in total bliss. I didn't get that. I was one of the unlucky ones. I felt as though my body let me down, and that was hard. I swore off ever having another child, but now, almost 8 weeks later, I am slowly coming to terms with my experience. While it will probably always haunt me in the back of my mind, I'm recovering. A C-Section is no joke, and I don't understand how some women actually CHOOSE to have one when there is no medical need. The recovery is difficult, LONG, and makes caring for a newborn that much more challenging. To the point that it's hard to enjoy the first few weeks, because you are confined to the bed, or in my case, the couch. I do plan on having one more child, and I will do everything in my power to make sure I at least am given the chance at having a VBAC. 

I am so in love with my daughter, she is perfect and beautiful, as every mother would say about her own child {but really, she is}. It hasn't been easy, and at times I thought I would lose my mind, but things are getting better as we, as a family, learn each other, and grow together. 

I want to thank Melynda and Samantha first off, for staying with me the WHOLE time, all the way through Emery's birth. For comforting me, for motivating me, for helping me through it all. For being my voice when I wasn't able to think straight, and for being such a great support, during and after. 

Thank you to our families who helped us so much the first few weeks. You guys made all the difference.

But most of all I want to thank my husband. I look through these photos from my labor and there isn't one that he isn't in. He was by my side through all of it, every moment, and despite not knowing how to comfort me, he held his composure and stayed strong for me. He was my rock, he was my shoulder to lean on {literally}, he was the face I needed to look into to get me through it. I love him more than ever now that I see him as a loving father, and I don't know what life would be like without him. 

Labor Photographer | Jennifer Michelle
Doula | Melynda Smith {}
Birth Center | Fruitful Vine
Midwife | Samantha

After the transfer to the hospital 

My sweet Doula Melynda and Photographer Jessica Michelle taking an artsy selfie

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Baby Addison | Newborn Lifestyle | 4.15.15 | Jacksonville Newborn Photographer

Back in January of this year I had the pleasure of photographing Alisha & Scott's maternity session as they were expecting their first baby. Their daughter, miss Addison, was born on March 28th, a tiny but long little cutie! It was a privilege to be able to enter their home and capture this beautiful new family in all of their sweetness. Congratulations Alisha & Scott, she's precious!

Addison | 19 days young