Monday, September 21, 2015

Gordon's Birth Story

I'm finally blogging Gordon's birth! The following are excerpts from my journal written April 1 through April 5. It is long. Enjoy!

It has been an interesting week. Monday morning (March 30), I thought my water broke with a slow leak, so I spent most of the day waiting for labor to start. It never did, so I realized I must have been mistaken. It was quite discouraging. I texted my doctor and set up an appointment for that evening. I told him I was getting nervous about still being pregnant, because my two early babies (Jill and Daniel) were 6 lbs 9 oz and 6 lbs 11 oz, and my term baby (Alice) was 9 lbs 2 oz. Since I wouldn't have a tub of water to birth in this time around, a 9 lb baby was pretty intimidating. I asked him what my induction options were. He said that since Gordon was in position, I had already successfully vaginally delivered three times, and my due date was a week away, he was willing to give me a prostaglandin to see if it would get things started. He gave me 1/2 of a dose of Cytotec and told me to swallow it the next morning (Tuesday, March 31) at 10:00, walk for an hour, then come to his office around noon. I agreed. That was much better than being stuck at the hospital, away from my home and children, possibly not progressing, and getting stuck on Pitocin.

So, I did it. My mom, the kids, and I were at Walmart, and I thought it would be a good place to walk, but it ended up being mostly standing, and labor didn't start. I went home and ate lunch. Jeff came home from the office. I texted my doctor, and we moved the appointment to 1:30, so I could have more time to walk. Jeff and I went on a walk in our neighborhood. It was hot—in the 80s. I started to feel contractions, I thought, but I wasn't too confident, because they weren't painful. It was just a tightening feeling.  They were regular though, so I figured they maybe were contractions.

Jeff and I went to the doctor's office. Gordon still looked and sounded great, and he had moved lower, and I had dilated to a 1. The doctor sent me home and told me to walk more. (I should add that his office was closed for lunch during this visit. The level of care received by Mexican doctors is amazing. He came in during lunch and let me text his cell phone directly!)

So, we went back home. Mom and Jeff engaged the children in kite flying, sand playing, and chalk drawing while I walked in ovals around the cul-de-sac, timing my contractions and enjoying watching my children enjoy themselves, wondering if this would be the last time there would only be three of them. My contractions were becoming more pronounced, about a minute long, a minute and a half apart, so we went back to the hospital about 15 or so minutes early, so I could finish walking there. We saw the doctor in his office around 4:30. I had progressed to a 2, but my contractions lost their intensity when I stopped walking.

The doctor asked me if I wanted more prostaglandin and whether I would prefer to swallow it orally or have it inserted vaginally. He also recommended that I try nipple stimulation for a minute every five minutes (along with continued walking). I opted for the vaginal insertion (Cytotec again), and he inserted a 1/4 of a pill.

Jeff and I went downstairs (the doctor's office is attached to the hospital) and ate at the restaurant. I did not have any contractions during dinner. I started walking again. I took the stairs up and down the hospital floors and walked laps on each floors incorporating the nipple stimulation while hiding in the stairwells. (Haha. I wonder if there were security cameras?)

Then we decided to try walking outside for a while. The breeze that had made my second walking bout so pleasant was now a strong wind, so it wasn't as nice (I was getting a lot of sand/dirt in my eyes), but the contractions became regular again, so I switched to just walking back and forth along the side of the building protected by the wind.

When it came time to see the doctor again at 7:30, my contractions were lasting 30 to 40 seconds with a minute and a half in between. I had progressed to a 3. The doctor stripped my membranes (did not break my water) and told me to alternate between walking and resting and to return at 10:30. (I had spent almost the entire day on my feet at this point!)

Jeff and I went home. Mom had all the kids in bed already, but Alice was a little restless, so Jeff soothed her. Each kid has been exhibiting some anxiety about me being gone in the hospital for Gordon's birth. Mom braided my hair and then went to bed. I sat around a bit, then Jeff and I started watching "The Good Lie" while I paced back and forth in the family room. (It was a great movie, by the way.) Jeff gave me a priesthood blessing, and we returned to the doctor's office. My contractions at this point were now lasting a minute each and were about a minute apart, very regular. We saw the doctor at 10:30—he opened his office for us (because it was definitely already closed for the evening). I was only at a 3. He told us to go home and sleep and then come back at 9:00 in the morning the next day.

There went my dream of a March baby and Gordon sharing his great-grandmother's birthday!

We went to bed around 11:00 pm. My feet were so tired from all the walking. I woke up at 2:40 am and laid in bed for an hour or so trying to fall back asleep, but I couldn't, so I decided to get out of bed and time my contractions and write in my journal. It is now almost 5:00 am. My contractions are lasting around 45 seconds and coming about every 2 and a half minutes. I felt pretty nauseous for a while but never vomited. My plan is to go eat some breakfast and start walking again since I can't seem to fall back asleep. I had naively thought my fourth baby would come the quickest, but this is definitely my longest labor so far. I wonder a little if my water has broken again, but I was wrong once about that already, so I probably am again. Maybe the contractions are just putting pressure on my bladder that it can't handle. Hopefully the next time I write, I will have Gordon here! My contractions are currently about 40 seconds apart every 2 minutes 15 seconds.

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Jeff and I saw the doctor around 10:00 am. I had only progressed to a 4. I found that to be discouraging, but the doctor remained very positive. He wanted to give me a muscle relaxant (Panclasa) to help continue to soften my cervix and relax everything. Then in two hours, he wanted me admitted to the hospital, checked, and given the option of Pitocin if needed/desired by me. He checked his medicine cabinet, but didn't have any oral Panclasa, only the IV form. That was disappointing for me, because I hate IVs and had been planning to avoid that as long as possible, but a bit of medicine to encourage the dilating faster would be nice, because I was tired. I'd been in labor for a long time.

So, we went home for a few hours. Alice was super cuddly. Jill was tearful. Daniel vomited on Mom and me. Awesome. Poor little guy. He actually fell asleep on the bean bag holding the vomit bucket on his belly. I took a break from walking while I was home (so tired!), but I couldn't sleep, so I kept up the regular nipple stimulation.

Jeff and I went back to the hospital for admission around 12:30. The contractions were becoming more and more useful (as I like to say when they get more painful). The IV hookup and blood draw was pretty unpleasant. I was poked five times just looking for my veins. There is nothing quite so unpleasant (okay, that's an exaggeration) as having someone fish around under your skin, looking for a vein. Ouch. My hand is pretty bruised. Eventually they called down to the hospital laboratory, and two phlembologists came up. They hit the vein on the very first try. It seems silly to complain about the pain of finding a vein while I was in labor, but it was very unpleasant.

After an hour or so, I convinced the nurse that the doctor really had given me permission to eat and walk around instead of being hooked up to a monitor. (Vaginal deliveries by choice are not very common in Mexico. From the conversations I've had, pretty much if you can afford a C-section, then you have one. So the nurses were not used to women who wanted a vaginal birth instead of being scared by it.) So I started walking small circles in the hallway. There were only three labor rooms, so the area I had to walk in was not very large, but I was the only woman there, so I had it all to myself!

Around 3:30, I was finally given the Panclasa. I walked on. The contractions continued to grow more and more powerful and effective, and when the doctor checked me, I had made it to a 5! At this point, I was trying to not be discouraged that I was still only at a 5, but for some reason my doctor was still really positive and declared that I definitely would not need Pitocin, that my body was doing it, and the baby would come that day!

I was a little confused how I was going to birth in such a small room. I didn't think it would fit all of the people who join you when you're actually giving birth. I had started out in the "habitation" room, but at this point I was in the "labor" room. I asked and learned that next I would go into a "delivery" room.

The contractions were becoming very serious, and I told the doctor that, in my opinion, it was getting close, so we got ready to move into the delivery room. Jeff had to dress all in scrubs, and my hair and feet had to be covered. (Very different from how little I wore to birth Alice in the birthing tub!) I did get a little ornery and refused to sit in the wheelchair. Contractions are difficult enough to manage walking; they are even more difficult to manage sitting down.

I entered the delivery room, and it was terrifying, because it looked like an operating room. Jeff and I were dressed for surgery, but I had tried to ignore that, but walking into that room, I couldn't ignore the room. My very, very active labor completely stopped. Completely. No more contractions, and I was trying not to freak out. (I had asked weeks prior to tour the facilities, but they did not allow touring of the delivery rooms. Something about cleanliness or something.)

The doctor checked me, and I was at a 7, but my contractions were still stopped. I admitted to the doctor that I found the room to be very scary and distressing, and he comforted me, explaining that the laws required all births to occur in an operating room in case an emergency C-section became necessary. He let me walk around the room, and I told myself over and over again that it was the perfect place for Gordon to be born. A nurse made a joke about birthing in frog positions, so I did some squats into a kind of frog position (very low to the floor). You should have seen their faces! They really had no idea what to think of this American woman who kept walking around instead of screaming for drugs.

The talking to myself and walking (and froggie squats!) must have done the trick, because the contractions came back with gusto. The doctor told me to push during the contractions to continue stretching out and dilating further. I was still walking around the operating room at this point and ended up peeing all over the floor. (You try being in active labor, walking around, and pushing and not peeing your pants. I dare you!) I had had the IV in for many hours by that point, so I was full of liquids and had lots of pee to come out. Delightful. I tried to stop it and went to the bathroom to relieve what was left in my bladder.

Then it was back to the delivery room. I continued walking. (I wonder how many miles I walked in total this labor?) Finally, I really, really couldn't walk anymore, because Gordon was so low and just really there, so I asked if I could climb onto the operating table.

The doctor had me push through some contractions, and I finally stretched out to a 9. Jeff was by my side for the whole process, making me laugh and encouraging me.

For a large portion of the delivery, it really felt like he and I were alone in the room. No one else was touching me except for Jeff (and very occasionally the doctor), and I was listening only to him. He had to repeat to me what other people were telling me. I was very focused. It's hard not to be focused when your body is doing what mine was doing.

After some pushing, I was really, really tired and discouraged. I had been in labor for over 18 straight hours and had had almost no sleep. I wanted to give up. I didn't think I could push Gordon out. Jeff stood by my side and told me that I was amazing and that I could do it. He said it over and over again, so I decided to believe him. I think that I subconsciously realized that it was a little late at this point to back out. I really, really wanted to quit though. This was way more intense than my water birth with Alice.

For this birth, I was strangely adamant about music playing. I didn't have music for any of my prior three births. For Alice's, I had the hypnobirthing CD on in the background. But for this one, the doctor was playing music on his iPhone, random Spanish music. I got upset whenever the music would stop (like if the doctor received a text or something). Almost the only thing I said during this part of the birth was "¿A dónde fue la música? En serio, quiero la música ahora!" The nurses thought I was being funny, but I was being serious. Jeff understood and always got the music back on for me.

Finally, finally, I reached the point where I received no relief or rest between contractions. Prior to this, I would take little breaks in between to gather up strength, but at this point, even if I didn't push, it was still excruciating and unbelievable, so there was no point in resting, because it wasn't restful. I had to push. I had no choice. This part was actually painful. Very painful. I made lots of guttural sounds, not high screaming, but low noises. During these pushes, my water broke, which was a really odd sensation. I don't know how to describe it. Imagine having a balloon inside of you and popping it and feeling that pressure release. Yeah, that description doesn't do it justice. Just take my word for it—weird feeling.

At this point, Jeffrey told me that I needed to take a really deep breath before pushing, and I needed to push as hard as I could while he counted to ten for me. This was really, really hard, but Jeffrey kept telling me how amazing I was and how close Gordon's head was, and since I got no relief when I wasn't pushing, I decided to do it. I moaned/yelled/groaned and let Jeffrey talk me through the pushing and pain.

There was one nurse who kept telling me to not push with my throat and to relax my throat muscles. That was probably really important advice, but she was interrupting my "Mimi Jeff" bubble, and I found her annoying. I wish she had told Jeff and let him tell me. (Although in hindsight I am impressed that I could still understand Spanish during it all.)

Gordon finally crowned, and then his body plopped out. I'm not going to try to describe the pain of crowning. Wow. It's really something! And the feeling of the body just kind of plopping out after the unbelievable crowning is very hard to describe also. You'll just have to try it sometime for yourself. ;)

The cord was around his neck. I wonder if that was why his descent was so slow. He was laid on my belly for skin to skin, but he wasn't breathing very well, so they whisked him away. I then delivered the placenta—what an amazing organ that is! And I required no stitches! Yay! My doctor's stretching while I was doing little pushes had not been comfortable at all, but apparently it worked, because I didn't tear!

Gordon was 8 lbs 4 oz and 20 inches long. Jeff went with Gordon to the nursery where Gordon was examined, given oxygen, and placed in an incubator.

I was wheeled off to yet another room: the "recovery" room. I had to stay there for an hour, drifting in and out of sleep, while a nurse monitored me. I was given Pitocin, just in case of hemorrhaging. I didn't want Pitocin, but Jeff was with Gordon, and I was in no state to argue at that point. I had already "bucked" their system enough; I decided to just go with the flow and accept the Mexican laws regarding birth. I already had the IV in anyway. I was also given some light pain medication. I was awake enough to decline the strong stuff. ;)

Finally I was deemed fit enough to return to the first room I had started in, the "habitation" room. Jeff was there waiting for me. I was given some delicious food, but it was not enough. I needed more food. I was also told that I was not allowed to go to the bathroom and that I could not have my IV removed yet. I was trying to decide whether I had the energy to contact my doctor and fight the system some more. Jeff went off to request to have Gordon returned to us. Apparently the standard here is to have the baby observed in the nursery under care of the doctors and nurses for the first three hours of life, but I wanted to hold my baby and start nursing, and I'm a feisty American, so we pushed. I had to sign a waiver, but they finally gave me back my baby.

Gordon was beautiful! Newborns usually aren't all that attractive, but Gordon really, really was.

My doctor came in to check on me and inform my nurse that, yes, I was allowed to eat, move, and have my IV removed. I don't know if he had failed to tell her earlier, or if it was just so different from the norm that she didn't believe him or didn't check the notes or something, but she hadn't believed me when I told her those things earlier.

She still moved slowly. It felt like hours later that she finally removed the horrible IV and scavenged up more food for me.

At this point, I was about as exhausted as I've ever been, so I let Gordon go back to the nursery and slept for a few hours. I got him back in the morning. He was all right at nursing, but I'm still a failure at getting newborns to open their mouths wide enough to not hurt me so much during the initial latching. Or maybe it just always hurts at first. Who knows. It is baby number four, and I still don't have that figured out. At least I have the experience to know that nursing stops being painful after a while and becomes easy peasy.

So, I thought my water broke on March 30, but I was wrong and contractions never began. I was nervous about Jeff's upcoming trip, about having a huge baby, and about having a "land" birth (rather than a water birth), so I talked to my doctor. Contractions started on March 31 around 11:00 am or so. I was admitted to the hospital on April 1 around 12:30 pm. Gordon was born at 6:40 pm, and we were discharged from the hospital on April 2 at 1:30 pm. Wow!

One of the things I loved about this hospital is that they let me sleep instead of waking me up constantly like they do in American hospitals.

What I didn't like as much was the assumption that I was just like all of their other patients. It wasn't fun to frequently disagree/fight with them. (But I guess I am a little picky when it comes to my birth experiences.) I am glad that I had my doctor on my side!

All of the other children love Gordon already, which is a relief. I was a little nervous. Unfortunately, there is a lot of sick in the house. Alice on Monday and Tuesday, Daniel on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jill on Wednesday and Thursday, and Jeff on Friday and Saturday (today). I hope Gordon, Mom, and I don't catch it. It is a fever and vomit bug. Gordon has been an amazing sleeper so far. Thank goodness, because I'm very tired. But I DID IT!!! [End of journal entries: April 5, 2015.]

And now for some pictures. :)

Courtesy of Kimberly Fritz, here I am still pregnant

My last picture as a mother of only three children

Laboring at home, taking a break from walking

 So much sickness in the house

Laboring at the hospital. Oh how I hate you IV! Walking, walking, walking . . .
(Pioneer children song, anyone?)

I did it! I really did it! I honestly could not have done it without Jeff. Call me crazy, but Alice's and Gordon's births were times when I have never felt closer to or more loved by my husband. I cannot describe what it is like to feel the physical experience I was feeling and to have my husband's voice  guiding me through it.

Gordon Philip Collett Boling
(Boling is included only on his Mexican documents; 
we removed it for his American documents, but I like using it!)

My wonderful friend Liz came over while I was at the hospital and decorated my house 
(with some help from my older kids).

Mama, I couldn't have done it without you. 
Thank you so much for coming to Mexico and caring for my other babies, so I could birth one more!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Roots and Wings

The vast majority of my yard is concrete and rocks. (Attractive rocks, but still rocks.) Other than the rocks and concrete, I have two planters. Both were empty when I moved in. The one in the backyard has been completely overtaken by an impressively healthy weed.

When it started growing, I didn't think it would amount to much, and I had a newborn and bird mites and a husband going on work trips, so it just wasn't a priority. Also, the planter is very deep, and the ledge is wide, and it just seemed like a lot of trouble to go after it.

A few months passed, and now I have this. It's kind of pretty in a wild way, and it has totally taken over. Apparently it needs almost no water, because I've never watered it, and it certainly doesn't rain very often here, and it is very, very hot.


The planter in the front was much easier to work with. While my parents visited after Gordon was born, my dad and mom bought me some dirt, peat moss, and magnolia plants. My dad and Daniel planted them. I've been watering them faithfully, and I have so far been rewarded with one flower. In hindsight, I wonder if I should have chosen a more desert-like plant.


The children were required to each bring a plant to school to keep there throughout the school year. While the kids were picking out plants, I decided to buy two more plants to put in the planter with the magnolias to see if they were hardier and happier in the heat.

I had four magnolias, but one of them was just barely hanging on, clearly dying, so I decided to finish the death process and chuck it.

I dug it up quite easily and threw it away. It appeared to have an even smaller root system than the potted plant I replaced it with.

Next I wanted to move one of the other magnolias so that the plants would be somewhat evenly spaced. After having removed a magnolia so easily, I didn't think this would be a difficult task.

I soon discovered that this magnolia had an extensive root system. It was much wider and deeper than that of the magnolia plant resting at the bottom of my trash can.

I did finally dig all the way around the roots and move it over.

That was over a week ago, and I am happy to say that the magnolia I moved did not shrivel up and die. It did lose some leaves and no more flowers have bloomed, but the majority of the plant is healthy, and I see some promising leaf clusters that could give me flowers in the future.

Later that day, I thought about the plants. They were the same kind of plant, purchased from the same nursery, planted in the same planter box, receiving the same amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients. Yet one died, and the other thrived and even survived a second move.

The difference?

Their roots.

I have moved a lot in my life, and now it appears that I will continue moving a lot. There are many difficult aspects of moving: finding new schools, figuring out where the grocery store is, making new friends, (and with our current life situation) learning new languages, and trying to navigate new cultures.

Some might think it is impossible to grow roots in just two or three short years.

Some might say that you can either have roots or wings, but not both.

But I am going to follow the example of my magnolia plants. Both were removed from their original location and placed in a new one. The first was in stasis. It did not grow. It did not change, did not adapt. It did not attempt to put forth any new roots.

And it died. It was tossed in the trash can like it was trash.

The second altered its life. It changed; it grew. It put forth roots and spread them down and out and deep. It thrived enough to grow me a flower.

And then when I moved it again, because of those strong roots and its ability to grow roots, it is now surviving in its new location, and it is showing promise to thrive and flower again.

And that is what I must do.

Grow roots everywhere I go.

Because the alternative is not pleasant to think about.

And because I want to thrive.

It hurts to think of all the friends I've loved and left (or who have left me), and it especially pains me to think of my family that is too far away, but even more unbearable would be to have never had those relationships at all. To move from place to place and never gain anything except new mailing addresses.

1985–1989: New York
1989–1993: Michigan
1993–1997: São Paulo, Brazil
1997–2004: Indiana
2004–2009: Utah
2009–2013: Ohio
2013–2014: Virginia
2015–2016: Ciudad Juárez, México
2017–2018: Who knows? But it will be great!

I know how to move, how to love a new place, how to make friends, how to find new hobbies, and how to put down roots. And I know how to do it again and again and again. I know how to flower. I may lose some leaves, but I will blossom.

And now I just need to figure out how to teach this skill to my kids.