After my last day of work on Friday, August 21, 2009, I had been feeling crampy and just overall kind of "off" over the weekend, and all day Sunday I had regular, slightly painful contractions, but not anything that stopped me from going about life. Rob and I went to church Saturday night, and then he played/sang for both services on Sunday morning; I met him for a Caribou Coffee date between services. We also had the kickoff picnic/retreat for BCS (Rob's grad school) that day and we both went even though I didn't feel 100%. I remember telling people that I was 10 days away from my due date, heh.
These were taken that weekend as we took a walk and enjoyed our last weekend alone together:
The next day (Monday) I made out a grand plan for my week, figuring I had at least two weeks before Jude's arrival and I didn't want to be sitting around just w-a-i-t-i-n-g for him to come. I buzzed around doing all sorts of projects and making phone calls, feeling energetic and pretty good, with occasional cramping spells. I talked to my mom on the phone about my plans for the week and she told me she thought I was going to go into labor sooner than I thought based on my current burst of energy. I laughed. By that evening, I was having regular "cramps" (I was unwilling to call them anything else) and ended up canceling dinner/movie plans with friends to stay home and rest. Rob was at the BCS retreat, but had already decided he wasn't going to stay the night, just in case I needed him.
Tuesday morning I felt better and decided to keep on going with my to-do list for the week… and felt the need to add in making zucchini bread and oatmeal raisin cookies. For some reason, I felt this was of utmost importance. hahaha I took a nap in the afternoon and woke up at about 3pm to my first "real" contraction… it was strong and serious, not at all like the cramping I had felt earlier. By the time Rob came home from work around 5, I figured it would be a good idea to keep track, and they were averaging about 15 minutes apart, though not at all regularly spaced. We took a walk, made and ate dinner, and I took a bath. Nothing changed; I was still having contractions, but they weren't getting any closer or more difficult… just enough so that I could not rest or get comfortable. At midnight I did drift off to sleep, but had about 10 or so contractions that woke me up over the next 3 hours.
At about 3am I woke Rob up because they were coming faster and stronger- about 6 minutes apart and hard enough that they made me moan and groan much more than before. By 8am we decided to go ahead and call the midwife to figure out if I should keep my 11am regularly scheduled appointment, and then we called our parents and let them know what was going on. The midwife advised me to go ahead and go to my appointment, which I did and found out that I was about 1cm dilated and already about 75% effaced (how they measure that I have no clue, but whatever) I went from that appointment over to the chiropractor to make sure everything was good to go. (that was a difficult adjustment- she had to stop for my contractions about 4 times and it took all I had in me not to make horrible sounds, heh) Sometime after that I had the delightful experience, "losing the mucous plug". Yay.
The rest of the afternoon is pretty much a blur; I spent most of the time in the bath, and in our bedroom with soft music trying to relax through each contraction, which I did pretty well with until about 4pm when they got pretty unbearable. I remember all of a sudden wanting to talk to my Dad, so I called him and as soon as he answered I burst into tears. (wtf?? totally not me) He was so gracious to talk to me and pray for me, then he told me he had to get back to his meeting- he was signing escrow papers at the bank! By that time I wasn't handling the contractions very well anymore and I started thinking that we should go in to the hospital lest the neighbors think I was getting murdered. So we called the midwife and explained how I was feeling (or Rob did- I wasn't in any condition to talk on the phone, but I'm sure she heard me) and she told us to come on in.
Getting into the hospital was an experience in itself- the emergency entrance was under construction and the valet guy was on lunch, so they took me up in a wheelchair and I left Rob standing by the car with all our bags. I was totally NOT happy about that at all. I didn't want him to leave my side. By the time he came up to the room, I was already in the oh-so-stylish hospital gown and getting ready for the initial exam/monitoring… which told us that I was only dilated to 3cm, dangit! So what can you do but keep going. Rob got the room all set up with the little battery-operated candles we had brought, and hooked up the iPod to the speakers we brought so I could have the soothing music he put together in a playlist for me. (What a guy, huh?!)
I don't think anyone looks good in labor, despite my best efforts of doing makeup between contractions before we left home and wearing my own clothes
Rob's trying to stay positive as I moaned like a shot cow in the big bathtub in my hospital room
The next several (5ish?) hours all run together in my mind; I was in and out of the bathtub, leaning on the side of the bed, walking around the room, and laying on my side trying to relax. Rob did an amazing, amazing job being right by my side every step of the way. Honestly, he was my rock. Every time I felt like my insides were being ripped out with a blunt hook (not even kidding, it was hideously painful) I found the strength I needed by looking into his calm eyes and hearing his steady voice speaking scripture verses to me and praying for me. There were times when it was so painful and I was screaming so much I literally thought to myself in the back of my mind "holy crap, who is this? Oh… it's ME." After every particularly vocal contraction (most of them) I would apologize to the midwife and nurses for being so dang loud. They laughed at me later for being "so polite". I remember saying things like "the Chinese didn't invent torture, this is the original deal" and "I'm never having sex again!" and "my mom told me labor was like 'strong period cramps- SHE LIED!" in between contractions. For some reason everyone thought I was oh-so-funny. Ha.
At about 12am I got the the point where I couldn't mentally get on top of the contractions and manage them at all any more, so I did what any sane person would do- ask for the freaking' epidural, NOW. But Rob and my midwife reminded me that I didn't *really* want that, I really wanted a waterbirth and I *could* do it. But I was so darn exhausted after not sleeping for about 32 hours that I just couldn't manage the pain at all any more. So came to a compromise; we decided to try Nubane, which did absolutely *nothing* for the pain, it just made me feel like I had downed an entire bottle of tequila. I still have mixed feelings about taking it, on one hand I think it was a good idea because I did actually doze a bit between contractions, but because I was sleeping I couldn't feel a contraction coming on and it would catch me by surprise and be all that much worse. So after about an hour or so on the Nubane, we decided to abandon that bad idea and I went back to the bathtub to tough it out. After about an hour of pure insanity my midwife checked me and I was [finally] about 8cm, so they started getting the delivery tub ready. I felt like I could focus a bit more knowing that since they were preparing for delivery, the end *must* be in sight, right?
At about 2am I went two doors down to the room with the big delivery tub and climbed in. It was *awesome* being in the deeper water, I could change positions easily and felt much more supported by so much water. When I got in the tub I was about 9cm, so I couldn't start pushing yet, even though I was fighting the urge with everything in me. I think that might have been the worst part. My low back was burning (yep, he was posterior) and my body wanted to DO something with each contraction, but I had to hold back. So frustrating! I spent most of this waiting time on my knees facing the back of the tub, with my arms draped on the edge of the tub, my head on my arms. Rob was right in front of me outside the tub, sitting on a chair facing the back of the tub (the tub was a big jacuzzi tub like you'd find in a master bathroom, but it was out in the middle of the room, so everyone could walk around it at about hip-height) The midwife and nurse took turns spraying my lower back with the showered hose thing, while Rob rubbed my shoulders and back. The whole time I felt like I was in and out of consciousness, being tortured by the worst gut-wrenching pain I could ever imagine. I screamed and yelled so much I was hoarse for two days afterwards, but for some odd reason it helped me manage the pain. Sort of. Really, it was insanity. I honestly think I could withstand Jack Bauer-esque torture and not "talk", after living through this long, intense back-labor.
Finally at about 2:30 I was completely dilated and free to push, which brought a whole new level of exertion and- of course- pain. After every single contraction I kept asking if they could see his head; for some reason that kept me going, even though they couldn't see it, and it would be two hours of hard pushing before the little fuzzball appeared. Also, I asked the midwife how long each contraction was, and when she told me they were about 45 seconds I told myself that I could handle that. I felt like I was in control a bit more knowing the timeframe I was dealing with.
I pushed for about an hour and a half before he started actually coming out. I finally started feeling his head coming down… and going back up… and coming down… and going back. It was mentally killing me every time it slid back, but I know that's what saved me from tearing much. At one point the midwife asked if I wanted to feel his head, which I did… and it definitely creeped me out. It felt soft and jelly-like, not to mention totally foreign down there. Eesh, not a good idea. hahah Finally his little head started coming out and staying out between pushes (um, the "ring of fire"? Yeah, well-deserving of the name. Good Lord). By this point Rob had gotten into the tub and was sitting behind me, supporting me as I pulled my legs back with each push. It was actually a really comfortable position to be in; I was floating, so I wasn't sitting on my tailbone, which made me feel like the baby had all the room I could possibly give him as he came through my pelvis.
Rob could see what was going on, and he says that in one contraction I pushed him out to about his eyebrows, then on the next contraction I pushed him all the way out in one big rush. From my perspective, I saw my legs and empty white space of tub and water, then all of a sudden there was a tiny bluish *someone* floating right there! It was absolutely surreal to see him for the first time. I didn't' feel a rush of joy or anything yet, just a sense of relief that the pain was gone and an amazement that there was a person in the room who hadn't been there before. I heard the midwife say that the cord was around his neck, and then I saw her spin him around under the water to get it off, which she did very quickly. As soon as it was off, she immediately popped him up out of the water and onto my chest. I looked at him and he wasn't breathing and his eyes were just staring straight ahead. It was really freaky for a second, and Rob immediately started praying out loud for him. Then I saw his eyes move back and forth and I just *knew* he was going to be okay, even though he wasn't breathing yet. The nurses started suctioning him out, but he still didn't breathe, so the midwife told us she had to cut the cord (we had said that Rob wanted to do that after it stopped pulsing, but there wasn't time to wait for that) and get him out and help him breathe.
The nurses rubbed him down and suctioned him at a warmer right next to the tub and saying scary things like "breathe, Baby! Breathe!" Rob was still praying out loud for him as they worked on him for what seemed like an eternity. Finally we heard a little gasp and he started breathing, but not crying. When they gave him back to Rob and I to hold and look at in the tub, we both started crying and thanking the Lord for our little gift. Rob sang the song that he had been singing to him every night for the past nine months, and everyone in the room started crying. It was an amazing moment of worship and thanks to the Lord for carrying us through and giving us this little guy.
We held him in the tub for about 45 minutes, then the nurse wanted to do his newborn tests, and get me out of the tub and cleaned up. At that point they weighed him and he cried his first real cry. When they saw that he was so small (5lbs 3 oz) they did a bunch of tests on him and saw that his blood sugar level was very low, although that wasn't too much of a concern at that point. I held him while they helped me deliver the placenta and all that, and get one stitch in a very small tear. I was worried about that part of labor/delivery because some people said that was the most painful part, but it was a total breeze, I didn't even know what was going on. I think that was actually the only part that was easy for me!
We were then wheeled in my bed back to our original room where we tried to get him to eat a bit. Since his blood sugar was low, they brought in an eyedropper of formula to get into his system right away as well. An hour or so later, while I was taking another (felt like my 700th) bath to get cleaned up and into some clothes, they did another round of tests to determine if he was early or full-term, and they decided that he was indeed 40 weeks, even though the early ultrasound (and my calculations) put him at 39 weeks at that point.
First newborn picture!
That's also when they did another blood sugar test and found that it had dropped since the first one, which was cause for concern since he had already eaten and that should have brought his blood sugar UP, not down. About 5 minutes later a bunch of doctors and nurses crowded into the room and started all talking at once about how small he was and how his blood sugar was low and next thing I knew they were taking him down to the NICU. All I really remember about that was looking over at Rob and saying "stay with him, I'm fine", then everybody was gone. About a half hour or so later I started wondering why I hadn't heard anything, so got up and started walking down the hall in search of the NICU. (I forgot that I had a hospital phone right next to me- I think I was a little irrational!) When I found it and saw Rob there watching 3 nurses trying to get the IV line into Jude's tiny arm I totally lost it. I cried and cried and asked what the heck was going on and why nobody kept me in the loop and why Rob didn't have his phone so I could find him. The nurses assured me that everything was fine and we should go back to our room and eat some breakfast, which we did. I slept for about 3 hours until the NICU nurse called us in to try to feed him again. That started our 5-day stay in the NICU, watching his blood sugar levels, fighting jaundice, and teaching him how to eat.
All that gauze and tape and tubes make me want to cry even now!
Preemie diapers were almost too big!
He didn't take too well right away to either the bottle or breast, so feeding times were scary and stressful for me. But with care and attention, he learned how to eat and they started backing off the amount of glucose they were giving him in the IV. As he was able to maintain his blood sugar on his own, they reduced the glucose bit by bit over the next 4 days until he was completely off of it. That was the day that we got to take him to our room! It felt so amazing to go to sleep that night with our own little man sleeping beside us.
They still wanted to monitor him to see how he did without any assistance for about 24 hours before sending him home with us, so we all stayed another day until we got the go-ahead from all the doctors. On Monday morning they gave us the all-clear and we left the hospital at about 12 noon, just a few hours short of 6 days before we checked in the previous Wednesday. It was almost surreal driving home with this new, teeny-tiny little person to take care of.
Trying to wear his newborn-size going home outfit I had packed for him!
The first few weeks were pretty rough with having to closely monitor his feedings and going to one doctor or another just about every day. I had some complications (retained a part of the bag of waters inside me) about 8 days after the birth that earned me a trip to the emergency room and an ultrasound, but thankfully everything turned out alright. My mom was a HUGE help, she arrived in Minneapolis the evening after Jude was born, and once we got home from the hospital she did SO much for us. My dad got here about a week after Jude was born, and my brothers all came out on his 3-week "birthday". I definitely got spoiled having my family here for a whole month; I don't think I made one meal or went to the grocery store once during that time!
Taking our first walk!
Sleeping on Daddy.
Jude is now 10 months old and a *very* busy crawler, and oh so talkative... just like his parents. I can't believe how much FUN it is to be a mamma!
I planned and prepared for an unmedicated childbirth using the Hypnobirthing method and I am happy and grateful to say that I was able to achieve that goal. While I would not call my experience a "textbook" hypnobirth, nor did I follow all the hypnobirthing recommendations (such as the use of certain language), I do attribute a good bit of my success to that method. My labor began on the morning that I turned 41 weeks pregnant.
40 Weeks pregnant the day of my husband's MBA graduation...I was quite the spectacle.
Tuesday 1:30 AM
I awaken from my shallow pregnant sleep to use the bathroom (again), and after peeing I find that I'm super nauseous. I start to dry heave and I reflect on the fact that even leaning over the toilet to puke is harder at 10 months pregnant. I'm also feeling something similar to strong period cramps and my back aches. Something in my brain tells me that things might be adding up to early signs of labor, but the more sensible neurons in my brain remind me that I think EVERYTHING is a sign of labor. I go back to bed and sleep fitfully.
Tuesday 3 AM - 5 AM
I am having trouble sleeping as I am experiencing a contraction every 10 - 20 minutes or so. All my tossing and turning wakes up Husband and I tell him what's going on. He does some acupressure on me (specific points to help induce labor) as we listen to the Hypnobirthing relaxation CD. I'm really hoping that this all means something.
[Husband’s comment: At this point I’m not sure what is or is not a sign that Laura is going into labor. You kind of have to assume that it could come any time and that no matter how many times labor appears to have cried wolf, we have to be prepared.]
Tuesday 8 AM
Midwife Exam (these are now taking place twice a week since I'm over 40 weeks). I'm hooked up to the monitors for the non-stress test, which monitors both the baby’s heartbeat and contractions, and they leave me in the exam room alone with Husband. I’m disappointed when no contractions show up, even though I had been having them intermittently all morning. Finally one shows up on the monitor and it's exciting to see. The internal exam reveals that I've dilated another centimeter and I am now 3 cm dilated, 80% effaced, and the baby remains engaged at a 0 to -1 station. The midwife sweeps my membranes, explaining that it can help push things over the edge if a woman is very close to labor.
[Husband’s comment: By this point I’m used to Laura being checked like some sort of automobile.]
Tuesday 9:30 AM - 1 PM
I continue to feel contractions randomly, perhaps one or two each hour, further increasing my suspicions that I might be in early labor.
Tuesday 1 PM
Husband and I take his parents, who have extended their visit from Florida in hopes to be around for the birth, to lunch at an Indian Buffet. I choose to eat an assortment of vegetarian delights - lots of lentils, chickpeas, and spinach. Basically, I eat 800 grams of fiber. This will come back to haunt me...
[Husband’s comment: This still haunts me... :) ]
Tuesday 2:30 PM – 4 PM
I take a nap and am roused time and again by contractions. I don't care - I am just getting really excited that at exactly 41 weeks things are FINALLY happening.
Tuesday 4 PM
The answer to Is this labor or not? starts to tip favorably towards the THIS IS LABOR! side. Contractions have not only continued to come, but they seem to be getting more regular. At this point I'm still able to talk during them and if asked to describe them I would say it still feels like a bad period cramp with accompanying back pain. They kind of hurt, but nothing out of the realm that I've experienced before. Husband and I begin to time the contractions using contractionmaster.com.
Tuesday 5 PM - 7 PM
Contractions continue to come and the timing between them gets closer and closer together. During this two hour period I move from contractions 10 minutes apart to 6 minutes apart. Each contraction is 30 - 45 seconds long. I find myself needing to stop whatever I'm doing when the contraction comes on and just breathe. This feels stronger than menstrual cramps, or at least a more concentrated type of intensity. My back is hurting. In between contractions I feel generally fine, although I still feel slight cramping. I update my blog and Facebook, text my sister and call my Mom. I'm feeling pretty darn sure that I'm in labor and I have Husband place a call to our doula to keep her apprised of the situation. Husband makes me eat a granola bar, but I have no appetite.
[Husband’s comment: For the first time I start to think "Holy Shit, I’m on! I need to get myself prepared." I can’t help but follow Laura around like some kind of lost puppy and just watch her and ask her incessantly "Can I get you anything? Water? Trail mix?" etc., etc.]
Tuesday 7 PM – 8 PM
Contractions continue to get stronger and stronger. The act of going up the stairs is enough to trigger a contraction even if I just had one a minute ago and it makes going upstairs to pee in between the contractions a little tricky. I decide to change into a short gray tank nightgown so I can feel more comfortable as I labor. My back pain seems to have eased up and I’m not feeling it during contractions. Contractions are 5-6 minutes apart and are lasting 30-45 seconds.
Tuesday 8 - 9 PM
Husband dims the lights, lights some candles, and puts on relaxation music. I request to listen to the Hynobirthing birthing affirmations CD a couple times. I begin to moan during contractions, which is sort of weirding me out, but I do find that it helps to ease the pain of the contractions as it makes me focus on my breathing. Contractions are 4-5 minutes apart and are lasting 45-60 seconds. The back pain seems to be making a reappearance.
[Husband’s comment: Now, I’m a bit concerned. My wife sounds like a cow or goat bleating in the fields. Momentary thoughts of "Can the neighbors hear?" visit my brain but are quickly extinguished, as more serious questions like "Are you prepared to see this get worse?" arise.]
Tuesday 9 – 10 PM
Husband places a call to the doula at 9 PM and asks her to head over as contractions continue to come more frequently and are lasting longer. Each one requires dedicated and focused breathing to get through it and I find myself most comfortable leaning on the back of the couch. The moaning continues to get louder and the sounds coming out of my mouth are “OOOOOOH” and “AHHHHH.” I remember reading that these sounds keep your jaw loose, which in turn keeps your uterus and body relaxed and makes laboring more productive. Interesting that it’s working for me and I do it seemingly unconsciously. My back is really hurting again and sitting on the birthing ball feels terrible although leaning over it during contractions is somewhat helpful. I have an urge to tense up my shoulders with each contraction and it's hard to keep them relaxed. Contractions are coming every 3-4 minutes and are lasting 45-60 seconds. I change back into my regular maternity clothes in preparation for the trip to the hospital.
[Husband’s comment: Laura seems like she’s in her own world now. She’s very focused and I’m a bundle of nerves. I try to stay busy by packing the car and having everything prepared for the trip. I’m nervous as hell and want to go for a run so I can relieve the tension but there’s no way that’s happening now and, besides, I already went for one earlier in the day. I try to show a calm face for her but inside I’m all nervous energy.]
Tuesday 10 PM
Just prior to the doula arriving, I became adamant that it is time to go to the hospital as I felt labor is progressing very rapidly. The doula questions this as she suspects I still have a ways to go in terms of laboring, but follows my lead. Seconds after the doula arrives, we get into the car and head to the hospital. I sit in the front seat and the doula rubs my shoulders during contractions. I remarked that I wouldn't mind if the contractions came more infrequently in the car (as I have heard can happen), but that is not the case for me. The window is open and I wonder if the man walking down the street is thinking with alarm, "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?" as I loudly moan my way through a contraction. I am grateful that this car ride is taking place during a time when the highways are free of much traffic.
[Husband’s comment: Laura was essentially turning my Subaru Forrester into a cop car, providing the warning siren as we sped to the hospital. I felt kind of strange driving through downtown with a woman moaning really loudly in my car with the windows open but again I just had to go with the flow.]
Tuesday 10:30 PM
We arrive at the hospital and pull up in front of the Emergency Entrance as the main entrances are now closed. I ask Husband and the doula to wait for me to have one more contraction before we head in, as the ER lobby is full of people. I can’t help but want to avoid making other people feel creeped out by seeing a very pregnant lady moaning in labor. Husband drops us off and goes to park the car. The doula and I make our way through the hospital, having to stop a few times along the way. I grip the wall rail and am able to moan more quietly during these contractions. Each time, though, nurses and other staff stops to ask if we need assistance. This vaguely embarrasses me but, of course, they must see it all the time. Again, I'm grateful that this is happening at 10:30 PM at night and not in the middle of the day when there would be so many people around to observe me.
[Husband’s comment: I really didn’t like being separated from Laura at this point but felt confident she was in good hands with our doula. I tried to park the car as quickly and safely as possible, as I was anxious to be back by Laura’s side.]
Tuesday 10:40 PM
We get upstairs to labor & delivery and check in. I go pee and as I turn to leave the bathroom I am suddenly very nauseous. I go back to the toilet and throw up. I remark to the doula, "Gross. It smells like my lunch". She laughs and helps me back to the little observation room when they hook me up to the monitors. I am very uncomfortable laboring in the bed with a blood pressure cuff on my arm and monitors around my belly. My BP is initially very high, but when taken again it is normal. The monitors reveal that baby is doing great. The midwife comes into check me and I'm dilated to 6 cm. She comments that I did over half of my laboring at home. Some part of my brain is glad that I was able to accomplish so much at home, but the bigger part of my brain is registering the fact that "Oh my god, these contractions are really hurting and I’m only halfway through?!”.
[Husband’s comment: I get the car parked and get all the bags, pillows, etc. It feels like I’m bringing stuff in for some sort of Bed and Breakfast, because we have lots of bags, etc. In fact, I carried in two pillows, a nursing pillow, a cooler, a backpack, my briefcase, Laura’s purse and a rolling suitcase and had to walk a ways because the main entrance that was by the ramp was closed, as it was after ten. My back started killing me and my shoulder was in a death pinch, which made me start sweating. Now, as I’m walking around the perimeter of the hospital, I think to myself, this pain in my shoulder and back is nothing compared to what she’s going through right now. Do I need to moan like a goat? No. So clearly I’m not in any pain. I finally reach Laura just after she puked and is getting her blood pressure measured.]
Tuesday 11 PM
We move to a much larger labor & delivery room and I change back into my gray nightgown to labor in. I try a couple different positions for laboring - leaning over the bed with my hands on the bed and then leaning over the birthing ball which is sitting on the bed. Neither is relieving my pain much, so I decide to try laboring in the tub. Husband changes into swimming trunks to help push on my back and massage me during contractions as I was feeling a lot of back pain. The doula also assists with massage and putting pressure on my back. I labor in the tub for several contractions, but feel the urge to try a new position so I get back out. I am very loud during each contraction, directing my AHHHHs, OOOOOHs, and OOOOOOOs to my uterus. I even start throwing in some OWWWWWWs, cause, dude, it hurt. I find it very helpful to direct the attention and breathing directly to the uterus with these crazy loud noises. Somewhere deep in my brain I wonder if the other laboring women can hear me. It doesn’t occur to me that if I can’t hear anyone else, they probably can’t hear me.
Tuesday 11:15 PM
The midwife checks me again in the bed and I’m at 8 cm. She states that she thinks she should break my water as it might help relieve some of the pressure. I allow her to do this, but don’t notice any decrease in pressure. There is a slight amount of meconium in the amniotic fluid so she places a call to have additional people in the room to check the baby when she is born as the meconium can get into the baby’s lungs when she draws her first breath.
Tuesday 11:30 PM
The contractions continue to come fast and furious. The midwife, in trying to assess where I’m at in labor, asks me if I am feeling like I need to push or maybe poop. I tell her that I definitely feel like I need to poop. And it’s not just a feeling; I really do need to poop - remember the 800 grams of fiber at the Indian buffet at lunch? I try going to the bathroom, but fears of the baby falling into the toilet prevent me from going (not to mention feeling AWK having the bathroom door open and a bunch of people waiting for me in the other room). I head back to the bed and work through the contractions with Husband putting pressure on my back and hips. And then it happens. I poo a little without being aware that I'm doing it. So it turns out I’m one of those kinds of women – the pooping kind. And now I want you to promptly forget I ever told you this.
[Husband’s comment: While standing behind Laura when she was leaning on the birthing ball, which was placed on the bed for higher support, I was massaging her back and putting downward pressure on her hips to ease the pain. Somehow a little nugget of poop dropped to the floor unbeknownst to either of us and as I moved away from her to help her into another position, my toe swept through the little turd, causing me to gag a bit.]
Wednesday 11:45 PM
I make it through each contraction by staring at a very specific point, either on the wall or somewhere in the room. In between contractions I drop into a heavily relaxed state, staring without really seeing into space.
Wednesday 12:00 AM
My moaning during contractions begins to change and they now are even more guttural and include almost a ferocious grunting (I was unaware of it). The midwife asks me how I want to deliver the baby; whether it be on my side, on my back, or on my hands and knees. I opt to get in the bed, mostly just because I don’t want to have to make a choice. I just pick it. I climb into the bed and the midwife does an internal exam. I’m just over 9 cm.
[Husband’s comment: during all of these contractions, which continue to escalate, I’m kind of freaking out, though I only show it occasionally. I can’t stand to see the woman I love in such pain. I want more than anything for this to end. I want to say, "OK, just kidding we don’t want the baby, let’s just go home and we’ll do this again in a year or two." The fact that this was irreversible and that we were going to go through this until the end was a bit intense. I mean, there’s no pause, no time out, no nothing. Just contraction after contraction, one at a time like some sort of metered battery of progress. Always moving forward.]
Wednesday 12:30 AM
Several more contractions later, the midwife checks me again and says I’m almost there. She pushes aside the last part of my cervical lip and then explains that now I am in the pushing phase and can start using the contractions to push the baby out. At first, I’m not exactly sure how to push, but when I bear down pooping style, everyone praises what a good push it was so I figure that is the way to go. When I push, a nurse holds one leg back and my doula holds my other leg. I note the clock on the wall above the midwife and I figure to myself that I’ll have this baby before 1 AM. I’m excited about the prospect, but unable to really dwell much on it. At this point, I just want this to be over.
Wednesday 12:45 AM
It occurs to me that an epidural would take away this pain, but I know they don’t give them this late in the game. Even with the pain, I don’t really want the epidural. I can be stubborn about some things and a natural birth was one of them.
Wednesday 1:00 AM
I continue to use the contractions to push the baby out. The feeling is so uncomfortable and there is no rest in between contractions as there is so much pressure all the time. I’m feeling confused why this is taking so long since I was under the impression a person just pushes a few times and the baby slides out. Clearly I missed learning about pushing along the way, as I didn’t know that pushing could take hours. I try asking the midwife exactly how much longer this will all take. She gives a vague gentle answer about things going in their own time and not being able to predict it. I ask again for a general time reference – will this be done in 5 minutes, 10? Maybe 20? She states that we will be calling my parents by 2 AM to tell them about the baby. I feel slightly panicky and ask, “Another hour of this!?” And she clarifies that she means the baby will come sooner than that, but by 2 AM we will be ready to call parents. This pacifies me.
Wednesday 1:05 AM
Husband keeps putting a cold washcloth to my forehead and telling me to focus on how cool it feels. This is really helpful because it gives me an alternative to focusing on the physical sensations elsewhere in my body.
Wednesday 1:15 AM
Oh my god, I’m still pushing. I watch the clock tick, tick, tick by. The midwife asks me if I want a mirror to see the baby’s head. I give a vehement, “NO!”. In fact, I say, “NO, thank you” in a weird display of politeness.
Wednesday 1:20 AM
Husband tries putting the cool washcloth on my cheeks and my chest. He gets a firm, “NO, THANK YOU” and goes back to just putting it on my forehead.
[Husband’s comment: Actually, she swatted me away like some annoying fly while saying ‘No, thank you.’ She was firm but polite throughout the entire process. I was amazed.]
Wednesday 1:25 AM
The midwife says that one more push and the baby will be out. She tells me to reach down and feel my baby’s head. The thought of that does not float my boat. The midwife gets another firm, “NO, thank you” from me. She tells me, “One more push and the baby will be out!”. FINALLY! I wait for the contraction so I can push.
[Husband’s comment: At this point Laura’s nethers look like a mound between her legs. You can see that the baby’s head is pushing the entire area up. Crazily, the top of the baby’s head is sitting just outside of her and is clearly visible. I really wasn’t sure what I was looking at but didn’t dare say anything about it. I thought for sure that the baby was going to have a true cone head. It’s incredible how that head bends and conforms with the flexible plates!]
Wednesday 1:26 AM
Wednesday 1:27 AM
Still no contraction.
Wednesday 1:28 AM
WHERE THE FUCKING HELL IS THE CONTRACTION!?
Thursday 1:29 AM
I ask the midwife, “Where is the contraction? I don’t understand!? Why did they stop? Where is it? Where is it?”
[Husband’s comment: This was a brief moment of humor for the rest of us. For the last how many ever hours, Laura has been struggling through the contractions and now she’s asking for one. I looked up and everyone was trying not to laugh but all held it in, appropriately.]
Wednesday 1:30 AM
The contraction comes. I bear down and…
Wednesday 1:31 AM
With a final push, Arabella Grace emerges into the world facing up (this was the reason for all the back pain). The rest of her body slips out very quickly along with her head. She is placed on my stomach and Husband cuts her cord. Because of the small amount of meconium in the amniotic fluid, she is brought over to a warmer and looked at. She appears to be perfectly healthy and there is no meconium in her lungs. Her apgar scores are 9 and 9.
Wednesday 1:38 AM
After Bella is checked out, the nurses instruct Husband to take off his shirt in order to have skin-to-skin contact with the baby to keep her warm. He brings her over to me and places her on my chest. Husband and I both cry and are overwhelmed with emotion.
Wednesday 1:40 AM
The midwife explains to me that I will need to deliver the placenta now, which will require some pushing, although nothing like delivery of the baby. After the placenta is delivered, I begin bleeding profusely and the midwife is having a hard time finding the source of the bleeding. In the end, I am hemorrhaging and lose over a pint of blood. To stop the bleeding they need to get my uterus to contract which requires a shot of pitocin and something called cytotec, which they administered rectally (RECTALLY – can’t a woman get a break??). They also inject me multiple times with Novocaine, which is painful and burns. At this point I’m feeling really frustrated by the situation and I just want people to stop touching me.
In spite of the drama going on down below, Bella remains on my chest. We initiate breastfeeding. Bella takes to it right away, but I do feel distracted. The blood pressure cuff keeps checking my blood pressure and I beg the nurse to let me take it off. She, of course, cannot because after the blood loss they need to make sure my vital signs remain stable. Once the profuse bleeding has stopped, the midwife assesses the damage and I have a second degree tear. She stitches me up and the nurses do a lot of pressing on my uterus (LEAVE ME ALONE!) and then by 2:30 AM, we are finally left alone.
[Husband’s comment: This was the hardest part for me. On the one hand, the baby was out and appeared healthy and happy but Laura was still on the table and there was a quiet concentration and bit of concern on the part of the midwife and nurses and they weren’t necessarily communicating what the problem was. Laura was losing, what looked to me like, a ton of blood, which was literally cascading down from her and over the table and into some kind of bag they had set up to catch the fluids, etc. The midwife kept saying that she couldn’t find the source of the bleeding, which to me meant this was not good. Also, Laura was still in pain and discomfort from all the measures they were taking to stop the bleeding and I was in a panic but again couldn’t or didn’t want to lose it for fear it would upset Laura or the baby. I was really worried that something was going to happen to Laura and there was nothing I could do about it. Fortunately, after some time, everything was getting better but there was a time that I was seriously about to break.]
Wednesday 2:30 AM
Husband stretches and says, “Ow, my back really hurts.” I say to him, “DUDE, you did not just say that”, but I think it’s funny. He then looks down and remarks, “What happened? Why am I only wearing my swimming trunks?”
Bella and I continue to bond as she lies on my chest. Husband stands by the side of the bed (after putting his shirt back on) and we just gaze at our baby, at what we’ve done.
And so our life begins…
Our little family at Bella's first birthday party.
If you would like to read more about the life and times of me and my family, you can find us at Navigating the Mothership. I blogged my entire pregnancy at Preggy Blonde. My tips on achieving an unmedicated childbirth are found here.
Have you ever seen the twins episode of 16 and Pregnant? That’s my life. Well, minus the sixteen part. And I’m married. And not from West Virginia. But the accidental twins? THAT’S me!
My husband, Paul, and I were not planning to start a family yet when I found out I was pregnant. He was 31, I was 27, and we were (and still are!) up to our eyeballs in student loan debt. Babies were not yet a priority (although, if I am to be completely honest, we had started talking about talking about starting a family).
When I went in for my doctor’s appointment to confirm my pregnancy they put me at about five weeks along. When I went back in for my first ultrasound a few weeks later I was adjusted back to five weeks again. Apparently, when you’re pregnant with twins your hormone levels are higher, as if you were further along with just one baby. It was at this ultrasound that my husband and I got dealt the shock of our lives. There were two babies in there!
My pregnancy was awesome! I LOVED being pregnant. I was a little pukey for the first trimester, but I only missed one day of work because of it. I gained a total of 45 pounds throughout the entire pregnancy. I think I was a good sport throughout, too! I even went to a bachelorette weekend and was the coolest pregnant chick ever to solicit drinks for the bride-to-be! I think so, anyway…
And then I hit 29 weeks over the Christmas weekend. In the week before Christmas, I was admitted to Labor and Delivery at the request of my doctor for monitoring. I’d been contracting almost my whole second trimester and the first time I got hooked up for a non-stress test, they started to fret that my contractions were more real than I’d let on. Labor and Delivery did not agree, though. They gave me fluids and sent me home!
A day later I went in to L&D again, this time with excruciating back pain. They kept me overnight this time and upon release I was told I'd maybe passed kidney stones, had a UTI, some preterm labor cramping, or I needed to go to the bathroom, or anything else inconclusive and not helpful. I was already tired of being poked and prodded at this point.
Then, just one day later, I had some bloody show, which freaked me out and sent me right back in to labor and delivery, but bored the crap out of my on-call physician and she sent me back home again. Note: I LOVE my doctor. Not so thrilled with this other one from the practice...
Beginning Wednesday before Christmas, the 23rd, I had bloody show every time I went to the bathroom. According to everything I read, it means nothing by itself. It can mean that labor is approaching, that I have hours, days, or weeks left. So I made the decision to get through my holiday without another dead-end hospital trip. By now I was 30 weeks pregnant with my twins.
My mom, dad, and sister came on the 24th and we had a FABULOUS Christmas. I had diarrhea three days in a row while they were visiting, and on Christmas day I began the first day of endless swelling in my feet and ankles. They left early on Sunday morning and I set an appointment for first thing Monday morning to go over all my symptoms at the doctor's office with my doctor.
Before all of this had transpired, I had been assigned to a high risk doctor (all twin pregnancies are handled this way by my doctor’s office). We found out in my second trimester that one of my babies has a condition known as gastroschisis. Basically, her bowel (part of the lower intestines) was herniated outside of the belly and was kind of floating in the sac. It’s really not a huge deal, many babies are born with their tummies on the outside, but it does require a pediatric surgeon (which my teaching hospital doesn’t currently have on staff) and a NICU stay during recovery. My twins were also mono-di, which means they have separate sacs, but share one placenta. This sort of complicates an already closely-monitored pregnancy, but it never presented any problem for us. In any case, we were told we’d need to travel two hours away to UNC Hospital for delivery, when the time came.
My husband teaches and was on break, so he went with me to my appointment that Monday. We did a quick ultrasound and saw my cervical length had shortened. For those of you who have no reason to know, the cervix is long and thin during pregnancy and it gets shorter and wider as you approach delivery. The fun part about the bloody show, the swelling, the cervical length, etc. is that it all means NOTHING. I could carry to 40 weeks with just those symptoms. The problem was that we were already high-risk and needed to get to my delivery hospital. After chatting with my UNC doctors, my Greenville doctor asked that Paul and I head up to UNC for awhile for some bed rest and monitoring. Bleh, right? Bed rest? I’d made it SO FAR without hearing those dreaded words!
Paul and I went home, packed our clothes, laptops (thank goodness!), and other items. Then, we went by the office and picked up some work to get me through a few days, and stopped at Bear Rock Cafe to get a sandwich for the ride. As I shifted my weight to get out of the car, WOOSH!!! All of a sudden there is warm liquid running down my legs and ALL OVER my new car upholstery. Sorry to have to note that, but DANG IT, that’s a pain to clean! Anyhow, Paul was immediately in motion trying to get me buckled back in to drive us over to labor and delivery at our own hospital. By now I'm crying and telling him that maybe I'd just peed myself. A lot. And wasn't stopping. By the way, it was not a little water when the "water breaks." It was TONS of water. Ew.
We got admitted to the hospital where my doctor came in to see me and found I was slightly dilated, and having super-mild contractions. I was thinking that maybe we'd get an ambulance ride up to UNC for delivery, since it looked like we were going to start the labor process. My doctor agreed in moving us, but felt that an ambulance was just too slow. I was going to take a Helicopter. For real.
How INSANE is that?? Paul and his folks went ahead and got on the road to UNC and I got loaded up into a BK something-something chopper and away I went from Pitt County to Orange County. While in the air, my contractions picked up, but not terribly. I was admitted to UNC without a hiccup, started on more meds, and met with a doctor.
At this point my parents and sister began driving down from VA to meet us. The doctor starts talking about holding off delivery for a minimum of 48 hours (can they DO that?!), how I'm not really "laboring" yet... Mom and Dad want to turn around and go home to Va. You see, my sister was moving into Clemson (in SC) that weekend and they'd not begun getting her loaded and ready for that. They thought maybe they should head back, take care of her, and return closer to delivery. Can you imagine this road trip? They had just left NC for northern Virginia, needed to load my sister, drive to SC, and then return to NC for my delivery. I’m sure this was all very logical, except that I wanted my mommy. They weren't turning around if I had anything to say about it! I didn't really say anything, though. I just blubbered about being scared and wanting my mommy. They asked to speak to my doctor many times during our conversation and I just bawled and bawled that they needed to HURRY!
I'm so mature during times of stress.
As soon as they’d agreed to come on, and my in-laws had gone to get a hotel, I start contracting. HARD. I probably had four contractions that lasted several minutes each and they hurt SO BAD. Now, my mother did natural birth and I hear that there are supposed benefits to being able to feel when you're laboring, but forget that. My babies were breached, I knew I was going to be a c-section, I wanted SOMETHING for the pain! Turns out there was no time for that, they prepped an OR and it was go time!
My mom and dad arrived and the in-laws returned just as I was wheeled in to the operating room. Within an hour, both of my children were born! They ended up putting me all the way under because the epidural would not numb me (go figure, I don't even take Advil and a SPINAL SHOT won't numb me).
My beautiful Alexis was born first and Samantha immediately followed. The pediatric surgeon looked at Sam's bowels and determined that she had little enough exposed to try immediate surgery. She only had one surgery, at the bedside of her delivery, and was quickly on her way to recovery.
We spent four weeks in the NICU at UNC (I lived in the Ronald McDonald House during this time, God bless them!). We were then transferred back to our own hospital’s step-down nursery before finally being discharged. When it was all said and done, my girls did 35 (Alexis) and 50 (Samantha) days in the NICU.
(This is a picture of my girls at just a few weeks old.)
They’re now six months old, adjusted to 4 months to account for when they were supposed to be born. They are laughing and having hysterical baby-talk conversations with one-another, and almost sitting unassisted. Samantha has never had any complications from her surgery. The actual birth part of my birth story has a million holes in it. Every doctor’s appointment I went to, they told me something I didn’t know. For example, Alexis was already on her way down my birth canal (backwards!) by the time they got me into the OR! Even though I was nothing like I thought it would be, it was still amazing. My girls are the greatest thing I have ever done!
Our birth story begins in May, 2008, when I figured out that JD Man and I were expecting our first baby, 5 months after our wedding. I had never really seen myself giving birth in a routine hospital setting, and, after a lot of reading, had already decided on a home birth before I ever knew we were pregnant. JD Man needed no convincing as his own mother had given birth to 8 of her 9 children at home. He's the oldest and was not born at home simply because back in the time and place he was born, most midwives did not deliver first babies at home. I, too, being the oldest in my family, was the only one not born at home and had grown up with the idea that birth and birthing at home was perfectly normal. My mom gave birth to 9 of her 10 children at home and we seemed to be friends with a lot of other families who did the same thing. I guess you could say I was brought up with a healthy view of birth, even though I couldn't have argued it. It was just all so normal to me. It was painful, but it wasn't anything to be afraid of. It was what it was. And no, we were not one of those families where all the children are present at a younger sibling's birth. Not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's what you want, but what I'm saying is that you don't have to have your children watch you give birth for them to know that it's not something to be afraid of and that it's a perfectly normal process.
Although I was present at my two youngest brothers' births when I was 15 and 17, I don't remember either event being a really monumental occasion that changed my view of birth. It was the same as I always knew it to be, although I did stand in the corner when I was 15, horrified at the idea of seeing my mom's “area”, and when my littlest brother was born when I was 17, I was practically the midwife's assistant as her assistants didn't make it until the absolute last minute. I was still weirded out about seeing my mom like that, but a lot things had happened, and a lot of maturing went on in those 2 years, and I just buckled down and did what I needed to do to help out.
So, almost exactly 3 years after my youngest brother's birth, I found out that I was pregnant, and, although I was pretty sure what we were going to end up doing, I looked into my options and did some more research just like any good firstborn child would do. When I discovered where our national maternity care was and how, in most hospitals, many often unnecessary procedures took place, and how those procedures often led to more procedures, my original idea of giving birth at home was turned into my for-sure-except-for-an-actual-emergency plan. I totally trusted my body and just felt I needed the time and the space to labor and simply let my body do what it needed to do. I always knew that transfer and c-section were always a possibility, but I never really worried about it. Maybe I was naïve and maybe I should have been more mentally prepared for the chance that something might not go according to plan, but I figured I deal with that if it ever came to that.
JD Man and I read “Husband Coached Childbirth” by Dr. Robert Bradley together and attended a birthing class for home birthing couples suggested by my certified nurse midwife (CNM), Pam. Although, I'm pretty sure the classes and the model pelvis and charts were much more beneficial for JD Man as I could have taught the actual pain-handling techniques and tips the teacher shared, just from the vast amount of extra internet reading I had done. I seriously read and read and watched birth videos on YouTube and then read some more. I quit my full-time cow-milking job in June as JD Man didn't want me doing that past the first trimester, but continued my part-time bridal shop job. I only mention that to say that I had lots of time for reading birthy stuff and forming opinions. I was pretty sure that labor was intense, but if you concentrated hard enough it could be practically painless. I was almost to the point where I thought anyone who got any epidural was a big baby. ALMOST, I said!
We painted the nursery, put together our birth supplies, and just got ready in general. My original due date was November 8th, 2008, but that came and went and Pam sent us for a biophysical ultrasound where we found out that my actual due date was “sometime in December, ” which is a whole different story for another post called “Why I Will Never Go On Hormonal Birth Control Again.” Let's just say I went through the mental torture of being 2 weeks “overdue” only to find out that I had to face the last 4-8 mentally grueling weeks of pregnancy all over again.
FINALLY, Christmas rolled around and I began to feel resigned to the idea that I would be pregnant for a long, long time. We were busy with family things and I no longer woke up every morning wondering if this could possibly be the day I finally went into labor. It was more like, “Maybe. Meh, whatever.” The non-stress tests were all showing a healthy baby and healthy placenta, so I just plodded along. And I do mean plodded. I was the hugest pregnant woman. Ever. And you'll just have to trust me on that as I have no good photos of me at that stage. Mostly because I hated having pictures taken of me- I was just too huge.
Early labor at my grandparent's house.
Finally, on December 27th, a Saturday, I began having sporadic contractions beginning in the early afternoon. They weren't anything major- I didn't even really notice them. They definitely weren't painful, just strong tightenings. I'd think in the farthest back of my mind, “Oh, there's one.” and a little while later, “There's another one.” We had a family get-together and gift exchange that evening, so I spent the afternoon preparing some snack stuff I was supposed to bring (I actually begged to be given something to do since I was so bored waiting to go into labor), surfing the web, wrapping a few gifts. The gathering was for supper and yummy holiday foods, along with PRESENTS! at my Opa and Oma's (the German names for Grandpa and Grandma). We got there around 4 p.m., and during supper I sat through several contractions and thought, “Man, these things are kinda getting regular and maybe a little painful,” and kept half an eye on the clock as the evening progressed.
Somewhere halfway through the chaos that is my family's gift exchange, I went to the bathroom several times because my granny panties were suddenly very wet. At that point, I wasn't sure if my water was leaking or what. Now, looking back, I'm pretty sure it was my mucus plug. I know, the mucus plug for a lot of women involves chunks of, just that, mucus. But it can also come out as thick, gooey discharge. I know- lovely picture, isn't it? My aunt gave me a pantyliner and I went back to the wrapping paper jungle in the living room, contracting away. At that point, the contractions were 8-10 minutes apart and 30 seconds long- not too much to get excited about.
As the evening progressed, so did the contractions; But I wouldn't really have described them as painful, per se. Just, in Ina May Gaskin's words, an interesting sensation that I needed to pay attention to.
Finally, through a game of Balderdash with my aunts and cousins, I started needing to actually kinda concentrate on those sensations. By this time, it was almost 10:30 pm and I told JD Man I wanted to go home so I could get some sleep before things got serious. By then, contractions were 6 minutes apart and 45 seconds long.
I called Pam on the way home, just to give her a heads up, even though I wasn't yet to the standard contractions-5-minutes-apart-and-1-minute-long place, but I had no idea how things were going to go and wanted to talk to her before she went to bed rather than have things start moving really quickly and have to rudely awaken her at 1 am. Although, I'm pretty sure she's used to that happening. She said she'd have one of her assistants stop by and check up on things. Of course, as soon as I walked through the door, everything seemed to stop. Well, slowed down a lot, I guess I should say. The contractions, while they didn't get any shorter, spread out to something like 15 minutes apart. I was not happy.
Assistant came and checked me- I was between 2 and 3 cm, up from 1 cm at my last appointment several days before. She could feel G's head, and the bag of waters was still intact, so she said she'd stick around for another hour to see what happened. I was supposed to try and sleep, but I was way too excited. It was completely annoying. I wanted to be able to go to sleep for several hours and wake up in “real” active labor. Enough of this little piddly stuff, give me the real thing!
I had JD Man rub the pressure points above the insides of my ankles to get things moving again. That hurt. No, not the actual contractions, just the pressure points. I guess as you get closer to labor, those areas get really sore, especially when someone's pressing on them with their thumbs. But it did what it was supposed to do and the contractions started coming more regularly again, this time 5 minutes apart and averaging a good 60-90 seconds long.
And that's the way it stayed all night long.
I rocked in the rocking chair for awhile, with JD Man dozing on the floor in front of me, then took a nice hot shower. Contractions didn't slow down or stop in the shower, so I was finally convinced in my head, that yes, this really was the real thing. I got into bed and tried to sleep between the contractions for a few hours. That kind of sucked. At this point, the excitement had kind of worn off and I was tired. I wanted to either be able to get a couple of hours of good sleep or else be in heavy active labor so I could have this baby and then get some sleep. Those hours of trying to sleep passed with falling asleep for 3 or 4 minutes, breathing through a contraction and then falling asleep again. The midwife's assistant who had come around 11 pm ended up coming down with the flu or something, so Pam came around 4:30 am to relieve her.
Pam checked me then and I was about 4 cm, with ruptured membranes. We figured my water must have broken while I was in the shower because I definitely hadn't noticed a stream, even a small one, of fluid anywhere else during the night. I tried to sleep a little more and then got up and started moving around. I did everything I'd read about getting the baby to move down and really get things moving. I squatted, “baby danced,” pelvic rocks, pretty much everything. The only thing I didn't do and probably should have was go out and walk. But it was late December and cold and I wasn't about to get changed out of my nice comfy nightie into something decent. Hey, at this point I didn't even have sweat pants or anything of the sort to fit my gigantesorous butt.
I should mention here that JD Man was being an absolute gem. He kept me company, made sure I kept sipping my Cherry Limeade (not sure I will every drink that stuff again without thinking of being in labor), pressed on my back through my little bit of back labor, and giving me bites of granola bar.
Around noon, I was bored. Sure, I had to concentrate through the contractions, but they were still only coming every 3-4 minutes. Pam had just done a cervical check and I was only 6 cm dilated. I know, I know, only 6 cm, more than halfway and better than 4 cm, but I wanted be more like an 8. I really wasn't having a hard time coping with these contractions. I was just focusing on my breathing and letting my whole body relax. I was like, “This isn't so bad.” and I kind of wanted to get to the part that everyone warns you about, the “OMGoodness, good CRAP!” part, just to get it over with. Haha, silly me.
So I blogged. At the time, I had a Momaroo/Xanga account, so I just updated my bloggy friends, telling them that I was finally in labor, had been since last night, and was at 6 cm. Shortly afterwards, things finally started feeling more serious. Meaning, the contractions were getting a lot harder and much closer together. I also started feeling shaky and like I was going to puke. In fact, JD Man grabbed a container and I was all set to vomit, down to mentally telling myself I could go ahead and throw up. My mouth started watering and everything. And then after a half a minute of waiting, the urge would go away and I would feel better. This happened several more times before G was born and I was so wishing I could just go ahead and throw up. I'd read that vomiting often helps women dilate because of the Sphincter Law- when they let go and relax up top, their cervix also relaxes and often opens up another cm or two. But no such luck for me. Then again, since I was all relaxed and ready to puke, maybe my body didn't actually need to throw up, maybe I gained a half a centimeter or two just by preparing myself to throw up.
JD Man remembered for me that these were all signs of being in transition and that made me very happy. Maybe I would have this baby before it got dark again. For some reason, after laboring all night, the thought of actually giving birth while it was still daylight buoyed me. Just before 2 pm on Sunday, the 28th, I was checked and was at 7 cm. Yay! This was more like it, both the progress and the intensity. Around 2:30, Pam offered a narcotics shot to take the edge off of the contractions and maybe help me get a little sleep. She didn't pressure me, just told that I was doing a great job without it but wanted me to know that she had it and would give it to me if I felt I needed it. At that point, I told her that I didn't want it, but would keep it in mind if, by the next check, I hadn't progressed.
And that's how I got through the remainder of my 6-hour transition stage- telling myself, that maybe, if wasn't any further along in an hour or whatever, I would go ahead and get the shot. I never got it, but setting those small goals really helped. Now I'm really glad that I didn't get it- if I remember correctly, the shot was Demerol or something similar and since then I've read stories and had friends who got that stuff and said it made them dizzy and just plain made them feel drunk, without really doing too much for the contractions. No thank-you! Things were blurry enough without it!
But yes, transition. That was when I realized that this is what all the fuss is about. I can't even tell you how long or how far apart my contractions were, but it didn't seem like I got a break. It was quite literally a blur of trying to breath slowly, deeply, letting go, wanting to freak out and run away from it, but knowing that any step in that direction would be futile and make things that much more painful and so forcing myself to accept the intensity. JD Man was wonderful, looking into my eyes, breathing with me. His eyes were my focal point. If he glanced away or if I got the feeling that he was zoning out (I mean, come on, he was tired too) and looking through me, rather than at me, I would breath/gasp/whisper, “Lookatme, lookatme, lookatme!”
When I said I wasn't getting a break between contractions, I meant it. I couldn't tell where one contraction ended and the next one started- they all seemed to run together. I could only tell when they were peaking. Now, I know they weren't solid because there was a point when Pam checked the fetal heart tones with the Doppler and told me that I could breath normally because the contraction was over, but I couldn't tell. I now realize that the sensation of my cervix dilating was far more painful for me than the contractions were. I have no idea if the cervical pain had anything to do with the fact that my water had broken 12+ hours before and G's head was pressing down against my still dilating cervix with no water bag to cushion it, or if it was totally normal and didn't realize that there's more painful things involved in labor than just the contractions. I just know it hurt. It wasn't like it ebbed and flowed as much as contractions. It was very constant, always there but becoming much more intense during a contraction. There were several contractions during which I felt myself beginning to pass out- everything started getting dark and fuzzy. And then I'd breath and things started to clear up again.
During the first several hours of hard transition labor, I mainly soaked in the tub. Hot, hot water with an equally hot washcloth pressed to my lower stomach/pelvic area seemed to be the only thing the halfway helped with the pain. After awhile, the fact that the water kept getting cold annoyed me, so I started to alternate between the toilet and the tub, with a few contractions on the bed. It became a mental exercise to just get through this contraction before thinking about the next one.
Somewhere in that space of hazy time, I was checked again and was something like an 8 ½, but I can't remember exactly when or how far from the end that was. I remember sitting on the toilet, sweating it out, watching it get dark and thinking that, yes, I would be in pain forever and I couldn't just do this one contraction at a time thing anymore. That's when I started into the mental part of transition. Up until that point, I'd had confidence that I could do it. Sure it was hard and painful and required a lot of concentration, but I was dealing. But now I was pretty sure I could not do it anymore. Pam's other assistant, Debbie, had come around 10:30 that morning and she was the best during that transition stage. She was the only one who could rub my back just so while I was sitting there on the toilet.
Funny toilet/transition story: after laboring there for awhile, either I wanted to get up myself, or someone else had suggested it, but I couldn't because my feet and lower legs had fallen asleep! Please tell me that I'm not the only person this happens to if sitting in the toilet for too long. So between contractions, I had to bounce and move my feet to get the blood flowing so I could stand up.
After the toilet, I just stood and rocked in the doorway between our bedroom and the bathroom, hanging onto the door frame. It was at this point that I think I actually said, “Ok, now I know why women get the epidural. Now I know why women schedule their c-sections!” And then right after that I asked, or rather, begged Pam to just give me the shot she had offered me several hours earlier. She said that I had progressed too far and that I would be pushing in just a little bit. I honestly did not believe her. I figured if it had taken this long to “only” dilate this far, it would take another couple of hours to be complete. And if the rest of those few hours were going to be this intense, nope, I couldn't do it. Of course, this was all very classic late-transition stage thinking and feelings.
It was probably not even 5 minutes later when I asked her for the shot the second time and again she said no, but that she wanted to go ahead and check me again and see where I was at. So I laid down on the bed and she checked and announced that I was a good 9.75 cm, basically there was just a lip. Can't remember if it was anterior or posterior though. But she did tell me that I could go ahead and give a little push with the next contraction. I began to just put a little “oomph” and grunt into that next contraction and, lo and behold, within 30 seconds I had my first pushing contraction!
People, let me tell you: that was the second best moment out of the whole experience, G coming out being the absolute best, of course. So much of the pain went away and it felt so, honestly and truly, good! It felt like I was actually doing something when I pushed and with the pain mostly gone, yeah, it pretty much just a “wow” feeling. I guess I really can say that I do know a little bit about what they're talking about when I hear that stuff on orgasmic birth. Sure, it's totally, totally different, but pushing a baby down and orgasm share a lot of the same feelings and I can very much see why women would compare the two. Of course, I would never claim that I actually had an orgasmic birth, but I think I got a little glimpse of the whole idea.
With my first push, everything happened kind of fast. Pam had JD Man hold one leg for me and Debbie held the other. I'm not sure if it was on the first or second push that they were able to see G's head, but it was pretty quick into the pushing process. I remember somewhere along the line, Debbie and Pam looking at the clock (it was a few minutes after 7 pm) and commenting that we'd have a baby by 8:30-9:00, since a 1 ½ – 2 hour pushing stage is very normal for first-time moms. Hehe, I showed them. It only took a few pushes until he was crowning.
Now, I know a lot of women who have never given birth before think that the whole crowning and baby-coming-out-of-your-vagina thing is the most painful part of giving birth vaginally, but it is totally not. Sure, it's intense and sharp and there's a reason it's called “the ring of fire”, but it's also very short- seriously, it lasts for a few seconds. At least, it did for me. I had always been told and read that when the baby started crowning I would be told to stop pushing for a little bit to allow the perineum to stretch and help prevent tearing. Well, Pam never told me to stop. During that burning feeling, I was fully expecting to be told to stop and pant or something, nobody ever said anything. I credit the olive oil that Debbie was massaging into my perineum and pushing exactly the way I felt I needed to push what was got me through crowning with no major tears. It was a fight between pushing like crazy just to get the head out and stop the burning, and holding back from pushing because I felt like I was going to tear. Also, there was some high-pitched screeches that I think acted as a “relief valve” (I'm a farmer/mechanic's wife, what can I say?) for some of my pushing energy- making noise during pushing means you won't push with as much force, which is exactly the way it was designed to be. This was the only time during the whole labor that I actually made any kind of noise resembling screaming- this to the people who think that unmedicated labor means screaming your head off. No, in most cases a lot of low moaning and humming and maybe a few shrieks are all that are involved in the noise department.
But anyways, yeah, that's my theory as to why I didn't tear. Not that I think there's never a time and place for panting and not pushing to allow for tissue to stretch, but it's what seemed to work for me. Or I could go with the theory that some women tear and some women don't and I just happen to be one of the lucky ones.
So anyways, here I was, laying flat on my back, legs in the air- definitely not the position I'd imagined myself pushing in, since it's generally considered the least helpful position for pushing a baby out and I always just figured I'd squat or something. But it got the job done and I'm pretty sure that Pam would have been fine with a different position, had pushing lasted any longer.
So I finally (because it felt like a long time, even though I'm sure it was only 30 seconds or so) eased his head out and then pushed once more to get his body out. Pam caught him and within seconds I sat up, asked, “Can I have him?”, and then pretty much grabbed G out of her hands. It actually makes me laugh now when I think about it because I can't believe I actually just grabbed him from her. Seriously, she had just caught him and held him up when all of a sudden I took him. And then I realized what I had done and apologized for being so rude. Everyone just chuckled and told me that I had earned that baby and I could most definitely have him.
And yes, I referred to him as a “him” from the very first minute, even though we hadn't found out the gender beforehand. I hadn't gotten a real good look when Pam had held him up and as soon as I had him in my arms, Debbie put a towel over him to keep him warm, so I asked, “Is it a G? Is it a boy?” and JD Man told me that yes, our intuitions had been right (he and I had both had very strong hunches that G was a boy during the entire pregnancy) and we did indeed have a G (it would have been a D had he been a girl). He was born 8 minutes from my first pushing contraction. So much for 8:30-9:00!
And then we just sunk into the fog that comes with meeting your new little person. G cried as soon as he was born, so there were no concerns there. I'm pretty sure Pam did his Apgar scores without taking him, because I know I held him for awhile after he was born. So we just sat there and looked at him. I remember being in a bit of shock with the thought that, wow, I had a baby! And this right here was my baby! And I can't believe this is my baby that just came out of me! I honestly can't remember what was going on around me during those first few moments. I'm sure Pam and Debbie were cleaning me up and somewhere along the line Pam had JD Man cut the umbilical cord.
On the phone with Cuz K.
The first non-G thing I thought about was my poor 18-year-old cousin who had called less than a half hour before he was born and I was pretty sure she was worried for me since she knew when I had gone into labor and was probably expecting a call for a long time already. So I called her and told that he was here, just to ease her mind. She happened to be at a friend's house just a few miles away and I told her it was fine if she came over- because I totally wanted to show my baby off!
Shortly after I hung up, Pam had me give a little tiny push to deliver the placenta. I think at this point, Debbie took G to do all that belly palpating and joint swiveling. This was also when I asked Pam if I had torn at all, as that had been one of my biggest fears and I was sure I had since I hadn't ever quit pushing. She said that there were no tears, all I had amounted to the equivalent of a brush burn, or a “skid mark” in birthy language. She said, “No, you honestly don't even look like you just had a baby!” And this was within 30 minutes of giving birth. You have no idea how good that felt to be told that. In fact, I have no idea why that felt so good or why I took it as a compliment, but for some reason I felt quite proud of myself and my intact, never-given-birth looking lower regions. And I don't even have a husband who was anywhere near concerned about what I would look or feel like after birth. Yeah, go figure...
I think Cuz K arrived right after Debbie washed me up and helped me into a clean, unsweaty nightie, because I'm pretty sure I was mostly cleaned up by the time K poked her head into the bedroom. Then, a couple of my aunts and my Oma showed up. Somewhere in there, I stood up for the first time after birth and Debbie filled a peri bottle with warm water and had me do that first, blankity-blank HORRIBLE pee. YeeeeeeeOOOOOW! Doesn't matter whether you tear or not- those toilet trips in the first few days after birth BUUUUURN like, well, a really bad thing! While I was in the bathroom, putting on my lovely adult-size diaper, Pam and Debbie finished bathing and dressing G and changed the bedsheets, getting rid of all the dirty Chux pads. They actually did an amazing job of covering everything with Chux before the birth- I don't think there was any nastiness on the old set of sheets we'd put on the bed in preparation for the birth- the Chux caught it all.
So, all cleaned up, I climbed into my lovely fresh bed (I'd been awake for 36 hours, almost straight, at this point) and cuddled up with my baby, my hubby and a bunch of my female relatives around, on the hugest high of my LIFE! Seriously, that cocktail of hormones that kicks in after birth, when it's not impeded by all kinds of drugs running through the body, is addicting! I look forward to giving birth again just for that insane, blissful high! Of course, getting another baby out of the whole deal would be nice too. ;)
My Oma and aunts had come over because they'd been waiting and waiting to hear what was going on and one of my aunts was only in the area for Christmas and was heading back to Indiana the next morning. I was glad to have them there. They fixed me up a little plate of cheese and ring bologna and crackers and oohed and aahed. And it was just so fun to show off my little man.
My dear MIL
JD Man's mom came over about the same time (she lived just down the road) and ended up staying the night so we wouldn't have to be alone a newborn the very first night- which was awesome!
I am including a few pictures with this post, but not very many because, sadly, since I'm the photographer in the family, these are the only ones I have from directly after the birth. Note to self: definitely get someone to take photos during my next labor and delivery!
Catchin' some rays at 2 days old, warding off the yellow tinge.
I can totally say I've learned some things and had my opinions changed a bit since I've given birth myself. I know exactly why women get epidurals or just want to skip the pain altogether. Even though it's not a bad kind of pain that tells you something is wrong, such as breaking your arm, it is intense. I do, however, believe that given the knowledge of how to naturally deal with labor pain, having freedom of movement, as well being surrounded by people who support a woman's body and her desire to give birth naturally, that a very high percentage of women with uncomplicated, normal, low-risk pregnancies could give birth without pain relief. I very firmly believe that. I don't believe that line, “Well, just wait until you go into labor and see what you can handle before you rule out an epidural” because almost every single woman will get to a place in her labor where she honestly doesn't believe she can handle one more contraction. But that's the beauty of it- you do handle that next contraction and the next one and the next one, until you get to that awesome pushing stage and even more awesome birth and post-birth high! You do what you were absolutely sure you couldn't do and it feels amazing. That's why so many women who give birth naturally say afterwards that they feel like they can accomplish anything after that.
But please don't think I look down my nose at anyone who gets the blessed epi. I've been there and I can honestly not say that I wouldn't have got the epidural had I been in the hospital. With that kind of relief just down the hall during that kind of intensity? Yeah, I don't think so. Particularly if I'd been hooked up to an IV and strapped down with a fetal monitor and not able to move very well. That's if I wouldn't have a c-section for “failure to progress,” as would have very likely happened had I been in the hospital.
Do I think that home birth is right for everyone? Absolutely not. There are certain hormones that come into play and can make labor progress or stop completely, depending on how safe and comfortable the mom feels. If a mom is giving birth at home because someone else wants her to and she's freaked out, it's not going to work very well. Every woman needs to give birth where she feels is right for her- not because of what other people are telling her, but what her gut is telling her. Be that hospital, birthing center, or at home. I personally would be terrified to give birth in a hospital, just because I know how once you do one intervention, others can quickly follow and things can go downhill really fast from there. And I don't know that I would have the guts, especially during labor, to say no or to stand up for myself.
No, I don't believe birth is all about the experience- I'll do whatever is truly necessary for the health and well being of my baby. But I do think that the births of our children are something we as women carry with us for the rest of our lives and when both we and our care providers trust our bodies to handle the pain and get the job done, women and babies reap the benefits. But I guess I'm an all or nothing person. I want to have the full experience. I want to work hard, at anything, not just birth, just so once I've accomplished it, I can “shoot for the good feeling” (anybody remember that line from 'The Andy Griffith Show'?) and feel really rewarded for the work and effort I put in.
And that, my dear ladies (and the odd man reading this), is the birth story of my first child, G. Oh, and my opinions too. So sorry it's so foreverly long. I did edit. At least, I tried.
Welcome to Everybody Births! I'm so excited to share this blog with all of you. When I was pregnant in 2009, I was obsessed with reading birth stories. I thought every detail was fascinating, and I figured the more I read about every possible scenario, the more prepared I might be when it was my turn.
My goal for this blogsite is to create a space on the internet dedicated entirely to stories about births. No two stories will be the same, and every story is welcome.
If you are interested in sending in your story, please visit the contribution page on the menu or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grab a Badge For Your Blog
Copy this code to add this badge to your website or blog: