So since this blog has primarily been about my journey through pregnancy, I suppose it is fitting that, even three months postpartum, I can still post about pregnancy! No, I am not pregnant again (no intention of that any time soon), but my emotions are still clearly linked with the idea of being pregnant.
First, I should say, I am completely in love with my baby. It really is true that a mom loves her child more and more every day. I ache when I am away from him. I look forward to nursing him, I am in bliss when I see his smile, and I can't get enough of his baby sounds and baby giggles. He is turning pages in books, he's been rolling over for months, standing and lifting his neck since the day he was born, singing, playing in the pool, still hiccuping, still crying, still cuddling. I have so much love for him that probably only other parents can comprehend.
That is not to say I haven't felt other emotions. And while I may get into more of them in another post, for now, I'll focus on my feelings toward pregnancy.
As you all know, I loved being pregnant. I posted about it, I relished my belly, I took many pictures of my pregnancy body, I savored every moment that I could--I was not ready to end my pregnancy. When my water broke a week early, my first reaction was, "You've got to be kidding me. Now? Ugh." I wanted my last week. If I had had my last week, perhaps I would have gotten to that state most women talk about--the time when you are ready to get the baby out of you, ready to be rid of acid reflux and backaches and finally meet your baby. Perhaps. However, most likely, if I had another week, I still would not have been ready to part with my pregnancy. More of a good thing doesn't necessarily make you want to end that good thing.
While I was in the hospital with our baby, my emotions were completely tied to my little son. I was not thinking of being pregnant, but merely focusing on the present. I was emotional when it came to the baby, but this was no surprise.
What was a surprise was my emotional state when Mike and I first sat down in the car on the way home from the hospital.
We open the car doors and I see a towel in the passenger seat. The towel I had placed there at 3am, when leaving the apartment after my water had broken, "just in case." As Mike pulls the car out of the parking lot, my throat tightens up. My mind recalls the excitement of the start of labor. The quietness of the apartment we left in the middle of the night. The rain we encountered as we drove to the place of our baby's birth.
And then, I start to cry. And I mean, really cry. And I am not a big crier. Mike tries to comfort me, but he doesn't know how, and honestly, I don't know how to tell him to comfort me. I don't even know why I am crying. Granted, I know I have barely slept for days, I have a new set of hormones since I am breastfeeding, my life has changed forever, and I am now in one of the biggest roles I will have throughout my life. All these things can make any new mom cry. But these thoughts do not appear to be my triggers.
When we arrive at home, I see towels heaped together from when I took my shower before we left for the hospital. I see the wedge I used to support my belly in bed. I see my prenatal vitamins and dha. I see the baby bottle we used to write notes in to our womb baby. When we take our baby to the pediatrician's, I see my OB's office on the way. And these things all make me cry. I miss being pregnant. I miss it so badly that it hurts. I feel as though the love of my life ended our relationship and I am heartbroken. I am overly sensitive to things Mike says, and when I cry or tell him how he has hurt my feelings, he gets defensive and short with me, and it makes me cry more. He doesn't know how to deal with an emotional Me. I tell him to bear with me and be kind to me because I don't know why I am crying and I do not feel like myself at all. He says he will try, but he is not used to this. He and I both escaped my pregnancy without dealing with an emotional hormonal woman. I felt like myself up until the end and it is not until now that I understand what some women may have been dealing with for nine months.
I pray to God to end this phase of my emotions quickly. I tell my friend that I do not like how I feel when I am reminded of being pregnant. My friends who have had babies tell me this will pass. That everyone is emotional at first, even if not in the same way. They liken my sentiment to the feeling of preparing for a wedding, then when the wedding is over and the marriage has begun. You are happy to be married, but all the planning and excitement of getting married is over, and so there is naturally a letdown. The day after Christmas.
I comfort myself in knowing this is just a phase. As with the end of a relationship, there is a time of sadness, but you always know that things will get better with time, and eventually, you will find someone else who you will love even more. I know I will eventually stop feeling this pain remembering the joy of pregnancy, but for now, it hurts.
Three months later...
I can say that time and God do work wonders for pain. I no longer feel out of control with my emotions and I do feel like myself again. I am well passed the crying-out-of-the-blue stage. I am reasonable with Mike once again and I am all around happy. I have always loved being a mom to my baby, but the joys I find each day continue to grow and grow. I am socially busy most weekends and many weekdays. Mike and I have dates out to movies and dinner; I attend a rehearsal and production of the theatre class I taught; we go to parties and events with our son (and he does well!); we take a family vacation to Vermont. We thank God every day for giving us a healthy, happy, strong, beautiful baby. I do not think or talk of being pregnant very much now.
When reminded, I do still miss being pregnant. The past few months I have seen the onslaught of my pregnant friends reach their last few weeks pre-baby. When my good friend enjoys her pregnancy, I am so utterly excited for her to have her baby. I talk to her often and when she tells me she thinks she is in labor, I feel overwhelmed with happiness for her. When other friends complain about their aches and discomfort in being pregnant, I crave to feel that irritating acid reflux again, for my lower back to ache, and for me to feel the baby "all up in my ribs" so that driving is uncomfortable. I still tear up when I see pregnant women walking in town and despite my friends' third trimester complaints, I can't help but think silently to myself, "But you are so lucky!" Yes, evolution and God have worked well to program my body for procreation! I am glad that the logical part of my brain would not allow me to attempt to get pregnant for another year or two, because I am not ready to handle a toddler and infant quite yet. I also know that a second pregnancy cannot be like the first. I will have my hands full with an active boy. I will be in a different place. I will know what I am in for during the newborn months. And I may not have such an easy pregnancy as my first.
But for now, thinking of my pregnant hard belly, the kicks and movements felt in my uterus, the special honor of exclusively housing a tiny life for nine months, the excitement of waiting to meet my baby--my eyes do still mist up. But now, thinking of those precious memories, through my misty eyes, I smile as well.
Birthing Story Part III: The Delivery April 15, 2009: 11am-1pm
My OB is gone, and the room feels somewhat empty, even though our doula, Mike, our nurse, Mary and a student nurse, Linda, are all present. Mary wastes no time in telling me to start pushing as my doctor ordered.
Since the epidural is clearly not working, she tells me to pull my legs back and hold them toward me. I want to push them away from me, but she says that will not help. I tell her I need to pull or push on something. I keep pushing through each contraction, but I do not feel as comfortable as I think I could.
I then remember a story a friend has told me about a woman pushing through labor. While the woman held one end of a bed sheet, someone else held the other end by her legs. The woman pulled on the sheet resisting the other person, and this helped her understand how she should be pushing.
I tell Mary this story and ask if there is a way I can try something like that.
“Hm…” she says. “I can get out the bar.” She goes to a closet and pulls out a metal bar then attaches it over the bed. She takes a sheet and loops it through the top of the bar and hands me the other end.
“You can pull on this and sort of climb up the sheet. That might help.”
So I grab onto the sheet and during the next contraction, I pull myself up by grasping the sheet and holding on as tightly as I can. Mike holds back one leg and Laura holds back the other.
I find that pulling on the sheet does make pushing easier. I am not sure if I am pushing better, but I feel I am using more of my muscles which want to be used, and somehow it helps me to focus. So for the next hour and a half, we proceed like this. Mike tells me later that I push against his holding my leg so hard that he has to prop his elbow against the metal bar and his hand to my leg, creating a sort of brace with his arm bone. Laura manages to hold me back without this assistance and we do not know how she made it through the next 90 minutes of my pushing against her!
The nursing student counts three series of 10 for me to push through during each contraction. Because my contractions are long, I have additional time after my third round of pushing, so, after a while, I ask if I can push again. The nurse tells me I can if I have the strength for it. I find that pushing through the contractions relieves more of the pressure and pain than simply breathing through each, so while I am expending a great deal of energy, I choose to push a fourth time during most contractions.
After 45 minutes or so, my OB and the resident return for the remainder of the pushing. There are now at least seven people always present at one time (and by the end, eight), and they form an amazing cheering team for me. The mood is still happy, light, jovial. It is surreal from my perspective, especially since I push with my eyes closed, focusing only on that moment. But I appreciate the happiness felt in the room.
I am exhausted, but I also discover a rhythm. I listen for the doctors’ reactions to my pushes and gauge what kind seems to be most effective. When I figure this out, I continue to push at my maximum strength. I realize the best kind of pushing is one which I use my whole body for, making me feel as though I am going to throw up—so I focus on using this kind of pushing as we get closer to the delivery.
After another half hour or so, Dr. T tells me that we are getting closer.
“How much closer?”
“Pretty close. We’re getting there. Not another hour. You’re making great progress.”
“But how close. Like, give me a time, an estimate.”
“Maybe half an hour.”
I fall back, disappointed. “I don’t know if I can do this for another half hour!” I tell him, but everyone encourages me, and when the next contraction builds, I am ready.
As things are progressing, the resident doctor asks if I would like a mirror to see the baby’s head, which is now showing. I grunt, “No thank you.” A bit later, he also asks if I would like to feel the baby’s head, and I respond with the same, “No, thank you.” My cheering squad laughs and remarks at how polite I am during labor. While I refuse his offers at the moment, I am appreciative of the fact that he was considerate enough to ask if I would like those opportunities. But at the time, I am entirely focused only on pushing and do not want any distractions, even if they have to do with the excitement of my impending baby!
It is now approximately 12:30pm. And unbeknownst to me, Mike begins recording the audio of my labor on his iphone and continues to record for an additional hour after the baby is born. So from here on out, I am able to use quotes with confidence, as I have transcribed most of the conversations.
I push three times and ask if it is too late to push a fourth time (as they have told me only to push a fourth time if the contraction has not yet started to descend).
“Save your strength,” Dr. T tells me. “I don’t know how you have as much strength left as it is!”
“Yes, save it for the next one,” Mary tells me. “You’re almost there.”
“You’re really close. Within the next 10 minutes or so,” says Dr. T., knowing I prefer to have a goal in mind.
“You’re a warrior,” says Mike.
“She’s on autopilot,” Mary laughs.
“Remember how when we started this, you were like, ‘I don’t know, I don’t think I can push’? You’re like a machine!” Mike says.
“Look at you,” another nurse who has now arrived says. “You’re doing great!”
“Well, I don’t like it,” I tell my team and everyone laughs.
“If you liked it,” Dr. T says, “you’d shoot your baby across the wall!”
There is more laughing and joking until my next contraction comes. The tone of the room is still incredibly happy.
I push through it for four series, and Dr. T smiles, “You better not ever make her mad! Because she’s got some inner strength waiting to come out!”
At this point, the doctors and nurses discuss bringing me down further and dropping the bed in preparation for…delivery!
After my next contraction, there are more words of encouragement, and my doctor jokes of how we should be playing “Metalica or something while she’s pushing.” Mike suggests Rage Against the Machine, there is excited laughter, and then I am pushing again.
“How are you gonna get the baby out though?” I ask at one point.
“Trust me,” Mary says, “The baby will come out!”
“You have a good baby too,” Dr. T says. “He hasn’t flinched once!”
At this point, things start to move very quickly. The resident doctor reminds me of a few last tips for my pushing—keep my chin down, make sure to breathe out entirely then breathe back in before each round of pushing. He and my OB discuss procedures together, they are moving the bed. I hear a nurse say, “I couldn’t even get a blood pressure reading! She has too many contractions!” The baby nurse moves Mike to another position, so he no longer is seeing the baby’s head. I ask the doctors, “So, I have to get the head out myself?” They laugh and tell me yes, but they will take over once the head is out. They also say they are going to tell me to stop pushing at that point, “because we want it to come out relatively slowly.” The nurse asks me if this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am not sure if it is or not, but it feels as though it is at the time and I tell her, “Yeah…” After a few more rounds of pushing, Dr. T. says, “Okay, the next one, you’re gonna get it. You’re doing so well.”
The resident follows that up with, “The next set of contractions, I think you’re gonna have a baby!”
My contraction begins and is building. “Okay,” Dr. T says. “Get ready to be a mom!”
“And Dad,” Mary chimes in for Mike.
I hear these words. That I am going to be a mom. Mike laughs, and excitement is dripping from the walls. But my mind is still not ready to comprehend this. I know these words should make me feel something more, but all I feel is each contraction, and all I know is that I need to push hard and efficiently so that I can put an end to all this pain. And for that, I need to focus on nothing but the task at hand.
I push twice and the doctors tell me to stop. They speak to each other, I hear a little squirt or suction, then a tiny, tiny cry—“Eh.” That stops me in my mental tracks (but of course, I can barely stop my physical tracks and I quickly ask when I can push again.). There is a baby down there!
After the doctors give me the go-ahead to push once more, I do, and instantly hear a more distinct baby cry.
“56,” a nurse declares. (The time is 12:56pm) The crowd is elated!
My doctor instantly puts the baby on my belly. A nurse brings him up closer to my face and I am suddenly holding my baby boy in my arms! I am holding my baby! I am holding my baby! He is alive and squirming, he is red and slimy, and I am in pure joy and disbelief. “Oh, what a beautiful baby!” The baby nurse exclaims. “Hey, beautiful,” she says to him.
“You did it!” says Mary.
“Great job!…Great job,” the doctors tell me.
“You wanna cut the cord?” Dr. T. asks Mike.
The doctors hand Mike a pair of scissors. “Put it right between your fingers.”
As Mike cuts the cord, which I barely notice, I ask Mary, “What do I do now?” She laughs. “You be a mommy now!”
As I read these words transcribed from the audio of that day, I cannot help but think of how simple and perfect they are. All my preparation, all of my planning, all of the eating the right thing, taking the right vitamins, avoiding certain activities, buying baby items, decorating a nursery, having back pain, acid reflux, feeling my baby kick me in the ribs, feeling my water break, breathing through each painful contraction, pushing out of me a 7 pound 13 oz baby—all of this is over. I don’t “do” any of it anymore. Now, my task is to do what I have been preparing for all this time. To be a mommy.
I look at my baby, and between exclamations of “Oh, my God!” I smile at him and simply say, “hey, there…”
My doctor comments on how our baby, although a week early, was “not small” and “plenty ready…You had a term baby.” Mike is laughing and crying, and now the baby, at the nurse’s jiggling and coaxing, is also crying. “That’s it. Now we’re getting it. We finally got a good cry so we can keep him here with us.”
Mike points out, “He’s so squirmy!”
“You’ve always been squirmy,” I tell the baby.
“He’s looking at you,” Laura says.
I look into my baby’s eyes and tell him what I’ve been saying to him for months in the womb. “I love you…”
“He’s pretty calm,” Mike observes.
“I know! You did such a good job!” I tell the baby.
“He’s like, it’s cool being here with Mom.”
As the doctors finish their part of the process, Mike and I continue staring at our baby. Mike tells the baby how we were just singing to him the previous night and apologizes for his cold hands on our baby’s warm body. The baby lifts his whole head up already to look around, his eyes very wide and alert. He stretches his body and looks at his dad. I start breastfeeding (although he won’t really get into this until about half an hour later), and after the nurse takes his temperature, she says he is warm enough to stay on my chest for a while before they examine him.
Before this moment, I had not known if I would want the baby immediately placed on me, or if I would like him “cleaned up” a bit first. But I am grateful to the doctors who, knowing I had requested to keep the baby on me as much as possible in my birthing preferences, simply gave me the baby with no questions asked. The moment I first feel my baby, not even ten seconds after he is born, on my bare chest, is one of the best moments in my life.
When the doctors are finished, my OB congratulates me with a kiss. “You did fantastic! Okay? You couldn’t have done better.”
“Your prediction was right of like how fast it would be,” I say. “I mean, the pushing of course took a while...”
“The pushing took—average, well, below average really,” He encourages me. “Normally it would have been like 3 hours, if it, he, came at all. But you pushed fantastically. I’ll see you some time tomorrow. Baby looks great. Nice sized baby. And everything went perfect! Okay?” I thank him and he leaves. It is not until listening to the audio recording of his last speech that I wonder what exactly he meant when he says it normally would have been 3 hours of pushing, “if it, he, came at all.” It worries me to think that he might have been implying if pushing had taken much longer, I would have ended up having a c-section. [And at my postpartum visit, my OB does tell me that, in fact, I would have had a c-section if I had not pushed with as much strength and determination as I did, and most women would have ended up with one. "That baby was not going to come out that way if it hadn't been for you not giving up." I cannot believe this and when I ask why, he simply says, "It was a very tight squeeze." This disturbs me that there was a chance I could have had a c-section simply because of this reason, and that my OB probably was thinking I would end up with one...]
But these thoughts do not cross my mind at the time. It has been a long day, and there is much more to come. We immediately are given menus to order lunch, Mike’s parents come into the delivery room to congratulate us and meet their grandson. We are moved to the Maternity floor, have more visitors that night, and I barely sleep for the next few nights (and weeks) as I am amazed at the new little life in my life.
I am grateful that all of our prayers have been answered regarding our baby. My pregnancy was perfect, as my doctor reiterates at my 6 week postpartum visit. I had no complications, I felt great, and I enjoyed every moment of it. In fact, I was one of the unusual people who was not ready to give up being pregnant when my time came, as I loved the experience so much. My labor and delivery were relatively short, and in hindsight, I am glad it all happened exactly as it did. Our baby is born healthy (9 out of 10 on the apgar test), strong (not only is he picking his head up his first day of birth, but he is supporting his own weight in standing this day, as well), and happy (he is smiling within 24 hours). It truly all happened in perfect timing and I thank God for that.
While I write this at my two-month delivery anniversary, recalling my emotions at the time of our baby’s birth, I almost feel as though I am a different person looking back at an experience with the advantage of knowing the future. While D. is now a feisty, interactive, cooing little guy, and I am a diaper changing, baby-singing, nail clipping professional, I still see myself that first day of D’s life, and I feel the wonder and excitement of it all. Having no idea where this baby would take me. Having no idea what my life would be like, how I would feel in one day, one week, one month. It is a feeling that still brings tears to my eyes as I revel in the newness of his life.
Of course, being only two months into life as a parent, is still, being only two months into life as a parent! The birth is here, but there are more milestones to come than I can possibly imagine. And there are so many things I do not know about our son and about being a parent. I am excited that while the pregnancy journey this blog has been following has come to a close, the most challenging and rewarding journey of navigating through our son’s life has barely begun.
I thank all of you who have read this blog, who have prayed for us, who have left messages of support, who have been there for us all along the way. It has been very meaningful to have the opportunity to immortalize and share nine of the best months of my life. You have made this a more special experience for me and for that, I am truly grateful.
When we step through the elevator doors, we are greeted by an empty waiting room, followed by an empty front desk. We recall during our tour of the Labor and Delivery floor, the nurse informing us that at night, there may be no one sitting at the desk, and to be sure to call out for someone, so we do this. A woman comes to the desk and we give her my name. “Oh, yes, Dr. T. has called you in already and you have pre-registered, so you’re all set. Lucy will show you to your room.”
Lucy, our night nurse, opens a door and tells me to follow her. She asks some questions about my water breaking and I inform her I am 100% positive it has broken. Since this happened two hours earlier, I still am very uncomfortable and relieved to find my way into my room quickly.
My labor and delivery room is very large, and every room is private. There is a bed in one area, a baby warmer in another, several chairs, many wooden cabinets, hard wood floors, large windows, and a bathroom. Immediately, I am given a gown and told to change in the bathroom, where Lucy confirms yes, my “membranes” have definitely “ruptured.” She helps me to the bed, attempts to make me comfortable, asks some medical questions, draws some blood, and places a fetal monitor around my belly, and a blood pressure band around my arm.
By now, our doula, Laura, has joined us in our room. It feels nice to have another person in the room to support us. It is around 4:30am at this point, and I am thirsty. I foolishly did not drink before I entered the hospital. I ask the nurse if I can have some water and she looks at me with a mocking smile. “Honey, has anyone told you how things work in the hospital?”
I am annoyed she responds like this, but through my contractions, I tell her, I am aware I cannot eat, but I am just asking for water. Noticing my doula sitting with her birthing ball, she asks if I have a birthing plan. I tell her, yes, I have “birthing preferences.”
“What I tell women who bring in birthing plans is to right away, toss them out the window.”
I remain soft-spoken and kind. “My birthing preferences are not very extreme. My doctor’s seen them and said they’re very reasonable. It’s less than one page.”
She goes on to inform me how I cannot drink, I cannot eat, I must stay on the fetal monitor and if I need to go to the bathroom, I must inform her, so she can unhook the monitor (she is not happy later when Mike or Laura unhooks something to allow me to get up). I am not happy at how my experience is beginning, but I do accept the ice chips they allow, which conveniently melt into, God forbid, water, and I have a few bites of a sherbet-like treat which they also allow.
Lucy confirms I am in labor, having real contractions very frequently, from less than 1 minute to approximately 3 minutes apart, but inconsistently. A resident doctor comes in soon after and informs me I am 2 cm dilated. I am disappointed I am not further along than this. She asks me on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being regular menstrual cramping pain, and 10 being excruciating pain, where my pain level is. I tell her perhaps at a level 2 at this point. I want to leave plenty of room for things to get worse!
Lucy tells me to relax and wait. It may be a while.
As Mike is unpacking a few of our belongings, I see the cord blood banking kit. I mention to the nurse how we are banking the cord blood and she says, “You should have told me that sooner. I have to draw your maternal blood for it and I could have done that when I drew your blood when you first came in. But I’ll do it again now.”
“Well, it was listed on my birthing preferences sheet, so see—there was a point to having it!”
She nods good naturedly, “That’s true. Okay, let me see your birthing plan.”
I tell her I call it simply “birthing preferences” not a plan, and she says she likes this terminology and will use it herself. She looks at my preferences, agrees they are reasonable, and says she will make a copy and put it in my chart. She seems much less uptight now, and even tells me, “If your water hadn’t broken and you’d labored at home for the early stages, then you could have drunk and eaten as much as you’d liked. I’m sorry that you had to come in this early…I could tell you that I would never know if you ate or drank when I’m not in the room, but…”
I take this as a sign that she is more sympathetic than she originally portrayed.
For the next few hours, I labor in the room. Mike and Laura are supportive as I use my yogic experience to breathe through each contraction. We gossip about the nurse, they fill my ice chip cup with water as I request, we talk about the surreal quality of what is happening, and watch as the sun rises above the city.
Around 6:30am, my OB stops by. He has a surgery this morning so I am lucky enough to be able to see him several times. When he enters the room, I feel so much joy to see a familiar face. He is kind, he is knowledgeable, and he is not only my doctor, but I feel he is my advocate. He examines me and says I am still at 2cm, even though my contractions now feel much more painful. “But you’re still smiling!” he observes as I rest between contractions.
“I wasn’t a minute ago!”
He tells Lucy that I do not need to be on the fetal monitor constantly, and that I should be able to walk around if I feel like it (which is written on my birthing preferences). I ask him if I can drink water and he quickly gives me a canned explanation of why hospitals do not allow laboring women to drink or eat—a higher risk of asphyxiation if one throws up etc. but then he tells me I may drink water if I’d like. “Just take small sips. Don’t guzzle it.”
After he leaves, I feel more empowered and more comfortable in the hospital. I am so grateful that he has spoken up for my wishes and the nurses will not question him. They are small wishes, but at the moment, they feel enormous, and I feel grateful.
At 7am, there is a change of nurses; Lucy leaves and Mary is now my nurse. Mary is a kind Irish woman who goes out of her way to make me comfortable. She brings with her a young blonde student nurse, and she asks me if I am comfortable with her assisting. I say I am fine with her participating.
As my pain is increasing quite rapidly, I decide I’ll take a shower as my first main coping technique. Laura asks our nurse if there is a stool or chair I can have in the shower, and Mary brings a short stool. She also finds an extra towel to place on top of it, which I appreciate and would not have thought of myself.
For the next 45 minutes or so, I labor in the shower. I try sitting on the stool, standing up straight, standing with my hands against the side of the shower. I sit on my knees and put my arms across the stool. I stand over the stool with my hands on it. I try as many positions as I can, and I am in extreme pain.
I breathe deeply through each contraction, close my eyes, and tune out everything else. Mike stands next to the shower and offers me help in any way I want it. He relays messages for me, he prays for me, he changes the temperature of the water to warmer, colder, warmer, colder. I squeeze his hand. I do not want any distractions—something I thought that I would want. I have even brought along dvds of Arrested Development and 30 Rock, thinking watching comedy will help distract the pain of labor. But I do not want to be distracted. I want to focus on nothing but breathing through each contraction and finishing it.
I dread the feeling of the beginning of a contraction because I know it is going to get much worse before it gets better. At the end of each contraction, I feel weak, faint, feverish, sweaty. I feel like I am going to throw up, and I feel like I just have thrown up. I whine to Mike that I am not getting much break between contractions since often one begins just as another is ending. I tell him I am not enjoying this at all and I think I am going to ask for an epidural. He says okay, and asks if I really want one. I say I think I do, but I worry I am not far enough dilated.
After several more contractions, I tell him, yes, I definitely want an epidural. He stands by me through a few more contractions and then he goes out to tell our doula. I feel bad that she will not witness an unmedicated birth, but I know she will support me in whatever decision I make.
Mike returns and helps me out of the shower. I tell him and Laura that I want to make sure I am far enough dilated before getting an epidural, but to find our nurse to get the process started. Mary returns to us, and tells me she will find the resident to check my dilation.
It is approximately 9am when the resident informs me I am almost 5 cm dilated! We are all thrilled that I have dilated this much since the last exam. I feel relieved to have made it to active labor before getting an epidural, as I do not want it to slow down my labor.
The anesthesiologist arrives within 15 minutes, and I follow her instructions implicitly so as to make the procedure move as smoothly and quickly as possible. Mike and Laura are encouraging as I sit still through the uncomfortable process. When it is complete, I start losing the sensation in my feet, then legs, then butt, and soon I feel my uterus harden, but I do not feel pain. “I’m having a contraction now, aren’t I?” I ask, smiling. “I can’t feel the pain!” It is amazing to have this reprieve!
Around 9:30, my OB returns, smiles and says, “So you decided to get the epidural!”
“Yes, I did!” I smile back.
He examines me and informs me I am now 6 cm dilated, so things are progressing quickly. He returns to his office, and will join me later. Then, about 20 minutes after having received the epidural, very soon after my OB has left, I observe that I now can feel my feet.
“That’s normal,” Mary tells me.
Not long after this, I begin to feel my legs, then my butt, and before I know it, I am feeling my contractions again, and they are more intense than before the epidural. “That is not normal,” Mary tells me. I am breathing through each contraction as I was before, closing my eyes, focusing, tuning out my surroundings. Laura tells me to think of the relaxing beach. I visualize the ocean from Mike’s and my babymoon to Antigua and I focus on the waves. I keep telling Mike and Laura that I feel sick and each time, they offer me a pink plastic pan to throw up in, as I am certain I will vomit; I have been certain of this since before even entering labor, as my stomach has always been my weak point, but thankfully, I never end up using it.
I also feel a cold liquid down my back, which is not the mental effect of the drug, but rather an actual liquid leaking. The anesthesiologist returns, apologizes, and fixes whatever the culprit is. However, nothing changes with the pain of my contractions. They are even more intense than before.
Around 10:30, Mary tells me, “I’m going to call the resident to check you out again. You may be dilating so quickly that it’s not working. But you should not be feeling your contractions like this.”
The resident returns and examines me. He is very fast and says, “Well, she’s fully dilated!”
I look at him quizzically. “As in, I’m 10 cm dilated?”
“Yup! You’re ready to go!”
Mary, Laura, Mike and I almost laugh in disbelief. An hour ago, I was 6cm dilated and now I am “ready to go!” My OB was correct in his guess from the previous week that when I do go into active labor, I will most likely dilate very quickly. The resident tells me he will contact Dr. T. who will be here shortly (his office is a few minutes away).
As we wait for my OB to arrive, Mary explains my fast dilation is why the epidural has not worked. I still do not understand this reasoning entirely, but I ask if there is anything they can do to now make it work.
“You don’t want to get anything more at this point, because you want to be able to feel your contractions a little bit when you’re pushing,” Mary tells me.
“Don’t worry—I will definitely feel my contractions!”
“Sometimes, they can ‘top off’ the epidural before you start pushing, but I’m not sure your doctor will have you do that.”
As I wait for my OB to arrive, I begin feeling more excited as I know our son is not far away, more pain from the intense contractions, and more anxiety over the part of labor I have feared the most—pushing.
When Dr. T. arrives, he examines me, then confirms, “Yes, you’re 10 cm dilated!”
He can clearly see that the epidural is not working and he asks if I’d like them to “top it off.” I give him a hearty “yes”, and the nurse calls the anesthesiologist back who administers another small dose.
“Do you feel any relief?” Dr. T. asks me.
“Not really,” I tell him. “Maybe my contractions are shorter?” I am desperate to find something it is helping with. “I don’t know though.”
“Hm,” he says. At this point, I realize there is nothing more anyone is going to be able to do for my pain. I am going to have this baby with no help from medication. Later, one of my friends will joke with me that I failed at having a natural childbirth, and I failed at having a medicated birth! Or conversely, I can view the experience as having a forced-success at the type of birth I’d originally wanted!
My OB walks toward the door and speaks to Mary on his way out. “You can have her start pushing,” he says. “It’s probably going to be a while.” Then he leaves.
Mary comes to my bedside and tells me, “Okay! You’re ready to start pushing!”
“What?” I say. “Can’t I wait a little while?”
“Why would you want to wait, honey?”
“If I wait longer until the baby is more ready, then maybe I won’t have to push for as long?”
“No, your baby is ready. Dr. T. said it’s time for you to start pushing.”
“But I don’t know how to push. I’m really not ready…”
“You’re ready. You can do it,” she encourages me.
Mike and Laura are equally as encouraging. I can sense the utter excitement emanating from my husband—he knows it will be a matter of minutes, or a matter of hours, before we will be holding our baby now. He knows that I am scared, that I am in pain, but he knows that I will get through it—I have to get through it. And I will be healthy and I will be okay. So he is excited. I know these things, as well. And so, I have no choice but to start pushing. Because once I have gotten through the delivery, my pushing and my pain will all be a memory. And the pain and fear a memory holds will not be as bad as the moment.
And so I start pushing. And the next phase begins!
So I will post my detailed birthing story in a few parts. If you would like to read a shorter version, check this post out instead.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009:
Today, I diligently work at my “to do” list and finally feel that I have completed the majority of “necessary” tasks. I then meet with my friend for lunch at Cosi. We have been trying to get together for a while, but have been unable to make our schedules work. We decide we must get together soon, as I only have one week before my due date! Mike also calls me from work to tell me his coworkers have thrown him a surprise Baby Shower! We are both touched by this, and think it good timing, although cutting it close a week before my due date (we don't know how close we really come...).
When Mike comes home from work Tuesday night, he takes my 39 week belly shots (and I finally take one of him!). Then we meet with our agent from H & R Block to finalize our taxes (it has been a saga with them, as we’ve visited their office 2 other times prior to this). When we arrive home, it is almost 10pm. There is one piece we must put out in the mail, but everything else has been filed electronically. I am so relieved to have completed our taxes, albeit last minute.
Mike also informs me that he no longer feels sick. On Easter Sunday evening (my birthday this year), Mike starts feeling like he is coming down with a cold. He and I are both very upset about this, as we don’t know when I’ll go into labor and do not want him to be sick when we have our newborn. On Monday, he definitely has a cold. He takes airborne and we pray hard. So we are both ecstatic when he says he feels his cold is gone already Tuesday evening. We thank God and feel another sense of relief! The rest of my week is fairly planned out. I have a hair appointment on Wednesday morning, and a lunch date with a friend in the afternoon. On Thursday, I am meeting with two more friends, then have an informal photo-shoot with an artist friend on Friday (photos of me pregnant, but also of Mike and me, which we don’t have yet). Then comes our weekend. We have no plans for the first time in as long as I can remember, so we will spend quality time together, as it may be the last weekend we have as a family of two. Even though my doctor has told me he doesn’t think I will make my next appointment with him on Monday, I feel I will at least wait until Sunday to go into labor.
However, I also know that if I were to go into labor tonight, Mike and I are about as ready as we will be. At long last, there is nothing else left that we have to do, only things that we want to do. We are both healthy, our taxes are done, the baby room is ready, shelves are fairly organized, carseat bases are in, we just got the cosleeper set up…We could have this baby now… Which is good to know, because something unusual is going on with this baby now…
All evening, the baby has been kicking and moving like never before. It feels as though he is hurling himself against the sides of my uterus. He is banging with full force, and not just a leg or a shoulder, but his whole body seems to be shifting and moving. I also am experiencing a lot of cervical pain as he bangs around. I still have what I think are Braxton Hicks contractions, but they are more intense now. It is hard to walk around when I am having them, and before I go to bed, I notice another medical clue that my labor may be coming. Something is definitely up…
Then at 12:30am, I head to bed. Around 1:15am, I get up to go to the bathroom. I go back to bed. Then around 2am, I wake up again, feeling as though I need to go to the bathroom. It is dark and I step out of bed and…
My water breaks…!
Now, a few weeks ago, at the advice of one friend, I put a small waterproof mattress pad under the sheets on my side of the bed. And after I receive my “I don’t think you’ll make it to your appointment next week” news from my OB, Monday and this night, I also put a towel on top of my sheets—again at the advice of a friend whose water broke in the middle of the night.
So when I stand up and realize my water has broken, I grab the towel and head to the bathroom. I turn on the light, turn off the background noise fan, and call to Mike.
“Mike. Mike—get up. I think my water broke,” I say in weary voice.
He gets up and appears at the bathroom door. “Really? Are you sure?” It is dark in the apartment, cool.
“I think so.”
I can tell Mike is getting that giddy-middle-of-the-night excitement. I have a controlled adrenaline pumping through my tired veins also.
I get into the shower and tell him to call the doctor’s office to leave a message for him to call us back. “When he calls back, let me know and I’ll talk to him.”
I stand in the shower and hear Mike on the phone. “She thinks her water just broke…39 weeks…Our number is 914…”
While I am standing in the shower, my mind is pacing. It is not racing. It is slow; it is alert, but it is tired. I tell Mike this is not how I wanted it to happen. I did not want to have my water break so early on. I wanted to labor at home for a while first (my OB said to go to the hospital if my water broke and they would evaluate me then). I did not want to go into labor in the middle of the night on less than 90 minutes sleep. I did not want to go into labor a week early. I wanted to savor one more week of being pregnant…one final quiet weekend with my husband…
But our baby knows what he is doing, and this is the time. So whether it fits my plan or not, this is the night.
My OB calls back quickly, and I tell him I think my water broke.
“You think your water broke?”
“Yeah. I think so...”
“What is it like? Is it a gush or a trickle?”
“Um…I guess both…” I give him some details.
He sounds sleepy and tells me I need to go to the hospital.
“Okay,” I say disappointed, but knowing this is what he will say. We’ve been over this before.
I hang up and tell Mike what the OB says. Earlier on Tuesday, I had called Mike at work on his cell phone and he did not pick up. He called me back a bit later, and I reminded him, “You know, you really should pick up your cell phone if I call you. The doctor said I could go into labor any time, and I’m only a week until my due date.”
“You’re right!” he had said. “I was in a meeting before, but I should pick up anyway. Everyone understands. I’ll definitely pick up if you call no matter what I’m doing.”
But he will never need to receive this call from me! I tell him to get his things together for the hospital. He has not packed anything yet, so he quickly gathers a change of clothes, his toothbrush. I only have one or two things to pack last minute from my list, so after doing that, I turn on my laptop. I email my friends to cancel plans for this week, as well as my family to cancel my hair appointment for me (they don’t have an answering machine at the salon). I grab the envelope for our taxes and put way too many stamps on the outside (I am not sure how many the thick envelope will need), so we can safely drop it in the mailbox on our way. I tell Mike to give our bird extra food and water in additional dishes. I update this blog and my facebook status with a sentence or two, and take another shower and get dressed.
I am feeling more of what, again, I think must be Braxton Hicks contractions. They are mildly painful, but not enough for me to think I might actually be in labor already.
It is now 3:30am, and we are ready to leave. We walk out of our apartment and lock the door. It is dark outside. And raining. The street is quiet and peaceful. It reminds me of when we must catch a 5am flight to go on a vacation. The world is sleeping, and while we are sleepy ourselves, we are excited. The excitement of knowing something very very big and unfamiliar is about to occur.
On the way to the hospital, I call my mother and tell her the news. I am uncertain of when I should call her, as just that night, around 10pm, she sends me this email after I ask her when I should call if I go into labor:
So call our home phone and leave a message. Don't leave a message, but you can call our cell if we don't answer at home. We would get that as a missed call with your number so we'd call you when we found it or when we got home and got the message. Call during the nite if it's that fast, but I'd think it'd be a daytime call first that you are in labor or an early morning one that you're in labor and then sometime that you are going to or are at the hospital. And of course the news! whenever!
When I read the email Tuesday night, I am tired and rushing through it and don’t entirely understand what she is saying. So I decide I will call at 3:45am and tell her regardless. She sounds alert and excited on the phone. At this point, I am having real contractions, but they are erratic—happening every three minutes, then every minute, then barely subsiding before merging into another one, then five minutes of break… We arrive at the maternity building of the hospital, park, and walk in the rain to the front door. It opens and the security officer asks no questions as he usually does, but simply says, “Second floor,” and pushes the elevator button for us.
We step in and take the ride to the Labor & Delivery Floor, where we will remain for the next ten hours or so, where I will experience pain and exhaustion and elation and incredulity, where the real adventure begins...where our lives really will change forever...