Monday, November 4, 2013

Trust and Surrender: Lessons from pregnancy, labor, and beyond.

Snuggling with Laurel Mei (Photo by Jason Pratt)
On Saturday, October 5th, we welcomed Laurel Mei Pratt into the world and into our family. I had a beautiful, out-of-hospital birth at The Midwife Center: Jason and I arrived there at 7pm, Laurel was born just before 10pm, and by 7am we were back home where Jason and my dad (parents drove up from VA) fixed us a big pancake and bacon breakfast.

Aside from the profound lack of sleep that comes from having a newborn and a three-year-old (no more "sleep when the baby sleeps," sigh), the past few weeks have been pretty amazing. Laurel nurses like a champ, soothes easily, and sleeps often. Cadence has made the adjustment to big sisterhood rather gracefully. It's been cool, and sometimes trying, to see how she works through the changes Laurel has made to the rhythm of our day. I feel incredibly blessed to have been entrusted with these amazing girls and to be supported by loving family and friends.

I attribute much of the positive transition of the past month to the lessons I had to learn (and relearn) in the weeks before Laurel's birth. I can best describe those weeks as a constant roller-coaster of emotions, mostly because of expectations I had. It was rather rough, except for those times I was able to trust and surrender.

Laurel Mei Pratt (Photo by Mary)
One of the expectations I had through this pregnancy was that I would remain a good candidate for an out-of-hospital birth. While I fully understood that something may happen during the pregnancy that would warrant a planned hospital birth (for example, a breach position at full-term), I didn't truly believe that would be the case. However, two weeks before Laurel was born I tested positive for group B strep. I'll spare you the details, but due to my particular circumstance, I was advised that my choices would be to receive a strong (nasty) antibiotic during a planned hospital birth or to refuse treatment, thereby exposing my baby to an increased risk of NICU requiring, albeit rare, illness. I went with a third option, which involved lots of advocating for myself, clarifying communications, and hustling my way through some last minute testing.

In the end everything worked out: Three days before Laurel was born, I was able to confirm that I could receive a different antibiotic and we were back to accepting treatment at a planned center birth. However, the stress took a toll and the experience made me question the choices I made regarding my care providers. I wasn't able to get past the anger and feelings of betrayal until I surrendered to the experience and put my trust in the belief that everything would go well and that my labor team would provide the support I needed.

Another expectation I had was that labor would be similar to last time except that it would occur sooner and that the pushing phase would be short. Ha! Cadence was a week early and my labor started, without question, when my water broke, followed several hours later by regular contractions that quickly escalated. With Laurel, I had regular contractions off and on during the weeks before her birth. I found myself still pregnant at 39 weeks and a day, and I was, frankly, annoyed. When contractions started up, again, in the mid-morning, I begrudgingly began tracking them, again, certain that they would, again, stall. Although they continued through the day, I wasn't truly convinced that this was the real deal until 6pm, when the contractions had intensified greatly and remained intense even when I was laying down. Two hours later, I was settled in at the birth center and beginning to push. Again, the expectant voice in my head began cheering, "Almost there! A few more pushes and you'll be done!" Ha!

Proud Big Sister (Photo by Mary)
The following two hours were challenging, to say the least. The pain was very different (worse), compared to my first labor. I was constantly talking myself back from the edge of panic and my labor supports (midwife, nurse, and Jason) spent much of the the time reminding me to relax and doing what they could to make me more comfortable. To make it through, I needed to trust my team, my body, and my baby. Ultimately, I had to surrender to this birth process, let go of my expectations (stop looking at the clock!), and let it happen. Just before 10pm, Laurel made her grand entrance sunny-side-up (which likely explains the false starts and long pushing phase), bright pink, and healthy as can be.

Trust and Surrender. It's a good mantra for active listening, too. Often when challenging conversations go awry, it's because we're trying too hard to control the outcome and the course of the conversation, allowing other agendas to get in the way of understanding one another. When we trust the process of active listening and then surrender to the fact that we can't control someone else's feelings, perceptions, or actions, then everything goes much more smoothly. If only I could take the kind of support I had during labor into all of my challenging conversations! I'll have to settle for the memory of soothing hands stroking my back, the gentle reminder to relax and let it happen, the mantra to Trust and Surrender.

The active listening primer series will continue shortly, as I figure out the new rhythm of life with a toddler and a newborn!

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  1. Oh those darned expectations. I had to chuckle at the image of you checking the clock! :)

    Congratulations and I'm glad everything went smoothly. xoxo

  2. Thanks, Rayna! Labor can be pretty amusing - more so looking back at it than in the moment, perhaps. I think that's why every sitcom seems to have a labor episode. :)