Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Birth Story of Liberty Mae Graves

I feel it's really important to share birth stories. There isn't anything like giving birth and bringing forth life. It happens in so many different ways and Liberty's story is unique, just like her.

Sometimes sharing stories triggers feelings in people that they weren't aware were there. I believe everyone has to own their emotions, but for those who are sensitive or find themselves easily offended, please don't read any further. I'll share the same disclaimer I did when I shared JohnDavid's birth story:

This is a birth story, with pictures and descriptions of an actual, live birth. While I have not posted any graphic pictures, please do not continue to read if you are sensitive or easily offended by these types of pictures or descriptions. This was a beautiful and amazing moment for our family and we have chosen to share this with the people in our lives. The process of birth is an amazing testament to God and His creation. We are excited to share our journey. Thanks for your support!

To read the birth stories of my other children, click on their names.



In April of 2014 I had this inkling that I was pregnant. It was still early in my cycle, but I just felt that I was with child. On April 15th I tested. A very, very faint line showed up. The next morning I tested again and the line was a little bit darker. Within a week the lines were very OBVIOUSLY showing I was pregnant. Charting and knowing when baby was conceived gave me a due date of 12/25/2014.

I felt much better this pregnancy than I did with JohnDavid. I had food aversions but it wasn't the debilitating nausea and vomiting I had experienced with his pregnancy. I tried to enjoy the fact that I felt pretty decent.

At 20 weeks we found out we were expecting a girl! After two boys I was very excited to have a little girl! And Philip was very excited to have another reason to add to his firearm collection.

After JohnDavid was born I experienced postpartum depression, coupled with OCD and anxiety. I was a mess. There aren't words to describe how desperate and alone I felt after he was born. Added to the fact that we had moved from sunny south Texas to cold South Dakota, away from family, away from a way of life we knew was hard. Therapy and medications (Prozac) were immensely helpful but I was constantly worried that I would be thrown back into feeling that way.

I was also very, very worried about where I would give birth. Midwives are desperately needed. I searched for the majority of my pregnancy for a midwife who would do a homebirth, and continuously came up with nothing. While I liked (really liked) my OB, I couldn't help but feel nervous about the hospital and their policies. I tentatively planned to give birth unassisted in my shower but even that made me nervous. But it made me less nervous than giving birth at the hospital.

Then shortly before I was 34 weeks everything changed.

It was Monday, and I felt sick. I spent most of the day laying in bed, trying to relax. I used a rice sock to soothe my muscles which were aching, and I felt a horrible pain in my stomach. Shortly after Philip got home from work and we got the boys into bed, I realized I hadn't felt Liberty move at all that day. We decided to go to the hospital just to check on her. Shortly after we got there they found Liberty's heartbeat. It was a little high so they kept me to monitor it, as well as check me out. After a few hours Liberty had settled and I was diagnosed with "a bug", and they sent me home to sleep it off.

I spent the night throwing up. I woke up Tuesday feeling worse than I had been feeling, and experiencing severe pain in my chest. Around noon I started to struggle to breathe through the pain so Philip took me to the ER. I was admitted immediately and they did an EKG, blood work, a contrast CT scan, and gave me two doses of morphine to help with the pain and monitored Liberty. After five or six hours in the ER they couldn't find an explanation for the pain and sent me home, again. I did not want to go home. I knew something was wrong but since no tests were showing anything, it was assumed I was just over-reacting.

Wednesday morning I was barely able to move. I somehow managed to get myself to my OB's office. One of the doctors took one look at me and said I needed to be at the ER getting fluids. I hadn't peed in two days, and I was throwing up every hour. I wasn't even able to keep water down. While at my OB's office they did an NST which Liberty failed. My insurance refused to pay for me to go back to the ER but said I could receive fluids at the clinic on base.

So I went back to the base to be treated by my PCM. It was the afternoon by now and I was dizzy and fading in and out of consciousness. The nurses at the clinic were unable to get an IV started. My PCM called TriCare and demanded I be seen at the ER as he could tell I was very sick and severely dehydrated. They arranged am ambulance to take me back to the hospital but my husband arrived and was able to take me in his truck.

I was admitted to Labor and Delivery and they spent the next hour trying to get fluids started via IV. I was so dehydrated that my veins were took weak for the needles and kept "blowing". Finally they were able to get an IV started (after nine attempts). They also gave me zofran and morphine again because I was in a lot of pain. They put me on oxygen as I was still struggling to breathe.

Amazingly Liberty still handled the stress well. We were concerned about her NSTs since she had failed one earlier in the day, but she improved once fluids were started.

I ended up receiving four bags of fluid to help with the dehydration. By that time my OB had seen me. After looking over test results and some other issues, they believed that I had an intestinal blockage. And ultrasound the next day would confirm that. The blockage was causing things to back up into my stomach causing the severe nausea and heartburn. After a cocktail of *alot* of magnesium citrate, as well as some other not-so-fun stuff, the blockage cleared.

I was given several medications to help with everything. I learned quickly that just about the only food my body would tolerate was dry cheerios, occasionally a slice of bread with butter. Even with medication all other foods caused nausea, heartburn, and a lot of discomfort. But I was able to hydrate so my OB just watched me carefully.

The next week while I rested at home, I discovered a bump on my back. It was scabbed over, itchy, and bled, a lot. I assumed it was from when I had cut myself with a broken bra clasp. I couldn't remember much but I figured I had just been scratching it a lot during the week and not paying attention. However, instead of getting better, it continued to grow.

Within a week it had doubled in size and was slightly smaller than a golf ball. It bled constantly, but didn't hurt. I knew it needed to be removed so I saw my PCM to see what it was and what could be done about it. I was still very weak and sick and unable to eat much. I was losing weight and my energy was plummeting.

My PCM felt it was too big to be removed in office and felt it should be surgically removed. He believed it was a growth called a pyrogenic granuloma. These often appear on pregnant women, on the face, gums, or neck. At least mine was on my back. It was ugly, huge, and an actual bloody mess.

The problem we faced now was I was 35 weeks pregnant and surgery wasn't exactly ideal. Plus I had to wait for the referral to see the surgeon and plan a surgery date. I was also not in the best condition health wise. My OB and her team kept a VERY close eye on me at each appointment but ultimately all we could do was wait and try to keep me hydrated/fed and keep Liberty healthy. They did NSTs at every appointment. She passed then all.

For the next four weeks I waited to see the surgeon. The earliest date they had was Dec. 18th.

During this time I was struggling. I was depressed, extremely anxious, angry, hungry, and tired. I felt like my body was betraying me. Pregnancy is suppose to be a time of enjoyment and excitement and I was so weak that somedays I wondered how I'd make it through labor.

Local friends and friends far away lifted me up in prayer, positive thoughts, and encouraged me daily with notes, texts, feeding my family, watching my boys, and visiting with me to keep me company. As an extrovert I THRIVE on social interaction and that was some of the best medicine.

A sweet gift basket from friends. 

Finally Dec. 18th arrived. I was feeling pretty good, but emotionally I was spent. My parents were due to arrive on the 20th, and I could not WAIT to have my mom with me.

The surgeon looked at my back, and measured the growth. It was around the size of a tennis ball now and sticking out about an inch. He had an opening for surgery the NEXT day. I nearly hugged him. But now we had a different set of issues. I was 39 weeks pregnant and general anesthesia isn't typically recommended unless it's a life-threatening situation. Dr. Greene (the surgeon) said he'd call my OB but to consider myself scheduled for surgery. The granuloma needed to be removed.

We got home that evening and I was completely spent. My husband recognized that and told me to go upstairs and relax. He took care of feeding the boys dinner and I tried to relax alone in our bedroom.

While I was up there, in the quiet, I realized I was contracting. Not hard contractions but noticeable and consistent. I have a history of prodormal labor so I wasn't really paying paying too much attention to it. But I did notice each one felt a little stronger. My phone rang in the midst of one and it was the hospital. They were calling to do surgery pre-admissions. While I was on the phone with them I was standing and swaying and noticed that each contraction caused a small, tiny, trickle of fluid. I was pretty sure it was not pee but with a third pregnancy and all at that point I couldn't be totally sure anymore.

I got off the phone with admissions and decided I needed to call my OB. No sooner had I decided that, my phone rang again and it was my OB. I told her what was going on and she said "You know Kym, I know you want to let this baby come on her own time but I would feel much better if you had the baby tonight, before surgery. And with what's going on, and your history of labors going very fast, I believe you will handle an extra push to get this baby out."

I cried. I was so relieved. I told her we'd be at the hospital in a few hours and I told Liberty I'd be holding her before morning.

I ran downstairs to tell Philip we were going to the hospital to have Liberty. He just nodded. I think he was more relieved than me that his wife finally wouldn't be pregnant anymore!

Next I called childcare for our boys. Some of our best friends had agreed to keep the boys while I was having Liberty if she came before my parents arrived. Beth would also be with me during labor and I was excited to tell her it was "Go time"!

I had already packed my bag, and the boys bags, so Philip packed a quick overnight bag and I decided to take a shower. Contractions were still consistent and were starting to get a little more painful. In the flurry of excitement I hadn't felt them but once I was alone in the shower they started to come in waves that required breathing and concentration. I talked to Liberty through each one, telling her it was time to come out and willing my body to continue on with labor.

We dropped off the boys with Matt and Beth around 10pm, and I got hugs and excited well-wishes from them and their kids. Beth said she'd meet me at the hospital after the kids got settled and I got settled in a room. They only live a few miles from the hospital so we arrived and got into an Labor and Delivery room pretty quickly.

I took this selfie and shared it on Instagram and Facebook "Ugly pink labor gown, but that means it's time to meet my daughter!"

I met my nurse and we went over the various plans for the day, and my birth plan. Having had two unmedicated births, I told the nurse I would prefer to be unmedicated this time as well but honestly I didn't care how the baby arrived. Just that she arrived. I was so sick, tired, hungry, and miserable that I was just ready to be done.

The nurse hooked me up to monitors and we noticed Liberty's heart rate was erratic again. It would decel with each contraction, and the contractions were mild. She also wasn't moving much and my blood pressure was high.

I had been so upset about not having a homebirth but I came to peace that God had allowed for Liberty and I to be where we needed to be. I will advocate for homebirth till the day I die, but homebirth is not right for every woman in every situation. Ultimately with my blood pressure issues and other things going on, homebirth would not have been right for Liberty and I. I still mourn that. I often wonder if I had been under the care of a very watchful homebirth midwife if things would have gotten so bad. But I won't know and I can't drive myself crazy wondering.

Beth arrived soon and brought me chocolate. Since I was having surgery the next day I couldn't eat after midnight. My nurse recommended I try to eat since I was in early labor and I'd need the energy. Nothing sounded edible but I managed to eat several Dove chocolate hearts and sip some water.

My OB arrived about ten minutes later and checked me. I was completely effaced and about 3 cm dilated. I was opening a little more with each contraction and she was able to stretch me to about 5-6cm. Since I was contracting on my own my OB asked if I'd prefer to have my water broken instead of starting pitocin. Knowing my body works pretty fast once my water breaks, I opted for that.

She broke my water around 11:30 pm and immediately got a look of concern on her face. Instead of seeing a clear gush of water, it was green, thick, chunky meconium. And that's when my calm, "I-can-do-this" attitude faded and I began to panic. All I could think was of a dear friend who had lost her baby several months earlier in an eerily similar situation.

Philip, Beth, the nurse and my OB were incredibly supportive but I felt really worried. I could barely relax, all the stress of the last five weeks was coming on all at once. My nurse suggested that I rest and she would sit with me but the contractions were starting to get really strong and I didn't feel like I could rest, or cope with contractions. Each one caused a gush of fluid that was dark and murky, and it scared me.

My OB mentioned she'd like to start pitocin and get Liberty out quickly and I agreed. At that point I realized that I needed to do what would help me relax the most and help Liberty calm down, and I told Philip I wanted an epidural. I wanted to rest, and sleep for the first time in five weeks and not be in pain. They said I could get one after the pitocin was started.

For the first time the whole pregnancy I felt at peace. I felt like things would be okay.

Around midnight the pitocin was started, and we (the OB and I) choose to increase it every thirty minutes instead of every fifteen. My nurse brought me a little more food and then reminded me because of surgery I would have to stop eating after that, but I could keep having water. I still wasn't hungry but I did eat a little bit more knowing I'd be hungry after labor was over.

Around 12:45 I was very sleepy and wanted to rest so I asked for an epidural again. Contractions weren't painful, just annoying, but I really wanted to sleep. The anesthesiologist arrived around one am and the epidural was in place a few minutes later. It was strange. My legs and lower back went numb and then I immediately became warm. I could feel my feet and move them, but I was relaxed. Contractions continued and I opted to rest after visiting with Beth for a bit.

At 2:00am I awoke and was very itchy. It was like when your foot has been asleep and wakes up, that kind of itch. The nurse told me that some people react like that to an epidural so she gave me benadryl. Not even five minutes later I felt a VERY strong contraction and felt the urge to push. I told the nurse, who looked confused. She said I shouldn't feel anything. She checked me and found that I was "only six centimeters so it wasn't time to push."

She was wrong. My hips were splitting open. I yelled at Philip to wake up and furiously pressed the button to release more medicine into the epidural. I could feel everything. All the memories of JohnDavid's birth came flooding back and I begged Philip and Beth to push their fist into my hips with each contraction. Counter-pressure felt amazing. Contractions were incredibly strong and I was able to move my legs, and get into better positions. Once again I told the nurse I needed to push and she said "No, you are only six centimeters. Let's get the anesthesiologist back in here." She left the room and I looked at Philip and told him the baby was coming.

My body was pushing. I couldn't stop. The nurse returned a few minutes later and through a strong contraction I yelled "The baby is coming!!" She still didn't believe me and didn't check me, but instead continued to stare at the contraction monitor screen and fuss with the computer. She put her hand on my shoulder and told me the anesthesiologist would be there soon so try to relax.

My legs were shaking and my hips and back were opening. I knew from having two other babies that my baby would be out soon. I told the nurse to call the doctor right then, and then I screamed. The hardest contraction hit and it was all I could do to stay on the bed. I tried to stand but I was attached to too many machines so I just rolled to the side and yelled at Beth and Philip to keep pushing into my hips.

Finally the nurse decided to check me. She sat on the edge of the bed and looked between my legs to see that Liberty's head was crowning. "Mama, don't push. The baby is right there. Don't push."

*Pause for rant.*

This is really the only part of the whole hospital birth that irritates me. All I could think was if I had been under the care of my midwife (Salli) who I had with JohnDavid and she had watched this, she would have known fifteen minutes prior that I was pushing. She wouldn't have been distracted by monitors and computers supposedly telling her what I was doing and, she would have been watching *me* and monitoring *me* and the *baby*, not computers.

Also - when a baby is a crowning is a really awful time to tell a mother to "stop pushing". Guess what, at that point you have no control over it.

*Okay, end rant.*

She hurried to the phone and called for the nurses, the NICU, and the OB. She got off the phone and said "Your doctor will be here soon."

Thankfully the head L&D nurse came into the room and took over. She calmly stood at the edge of the bed and told me to look at her and guide my baby out. I looked at her, looked at Philip, grabbed the edge of the bed and pushed, and out came Liberty, at 2:29am.

Liberty wasn't crying, and she was so covered in green and black sludge I couldn't even see her face. The nurse immediately cut the cord and they started to clear her airway to help her breathe. After what felt like forever (but was probably only like 45 seconds) she uttered a muffled little cry.

The OB arrived at this point, and helped me deliver the placenta and check for tears or abrasions. There were none so she helped clean me and congratulate me.

Liberty was weighed and measured, she arrived at 7lbs, 6oz, and was 19 inches long. My little peanut! I kept saying how small she was and the nurse responded "She's actually pretty average, you just have big babies!" (JohnDavid was 9lbs 3oz, 21.5 inches and Andrew was 8lbs, 5.9oz, 21.5 inches.)

And then she was placed in my arms. She nursed wonderfully, and we spent the rest of the morning cuddling, nursing, and sleeping.

Around 10am we were moved to a postpartum room, and shortly after that she met her brothers for the first time, and wore her first bow!

At 1:30pm I was taken into surgery. Due to the size of the growth, surgery took longer than expected, and then I apparently am very violent coming out of anesthesia so they kept me in recovery until I quit trying to punch the nurses. I went back to my room around 6pm. Liberty hung out with her daddy during that time, snuggling, and cuddling!

I had not been able to pump any colostrum prior to surgery and the hospital did not have any, so while I was in surgery Liberty was given formula. I add this because I am a very, very strong advocate for breastfeeding. My boys never had formula, and I have always done what I could to avoid it. But there are situations where it is needed. Formula in and of itself does not need to be vilified. Mothers and fathers who choose to formula feed do not need to be vilified. However, I will continue to speak out against formula companies (ahem Nestle) who have incredibly unethical practices in regards to marketing and advertising. I will also speak out against hospitals and doctors who push formula over breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is hard and parents NEED support. Support is not handing them a "formula kit" when they leave the hospital and saying "Well, just in case...."

This is not bashing anyone who chooses or has to use formula. I'm so thankful it was available to Liberty. I would have preferred donor milk or my own, but it was *NOT* an option, and that's often not an option other mothers have. Support parents and how they choose to feed their kids, but realize it's still okay to question practices that undermine a mother who *WANTS* to breastfeed.

After surgery the nurses knew I wanted to keep breastfeeding and they were so incredibly supportive. They also were aware that I had not eaten since midnight the day before, and it wasn't much, so they brought me food every hour - fruit, sandwiches, snacks, and warm meals from the cafeteria.

We went home Saturday evening and a few hours later my parents arrived.

Five days later we celebrated the most amazing Christmas.

I'm so thankful she's here and she's part of our family. I'm thankful for the experience, even if it wasn't what I would have preferred.

If you are considering midwifery at all, look into states with smaller populations and less access to medical treatment. Midwives are needed so badly. As are understanding OBs, and natural birth/family-friendly hospitals. Families need to know they have options available to them, even if they don't use them!

Thanks for sharing in our amazing journey!

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