Birth is crazytown. And funkytown. It's funny, it's scary, it's hard, it's amazing, and it's full of the weirdest shit a person might ever experience in their life. I believe that however a person gives birth it will include all those things.
Let this disclaimer be a heads up that sometimes I explain things in graphic terms. I do not, however, show graphic pictures so no worries on that front. And if anyone is doing Hypnobirthing or Hypnobabies, you might want to come back and read this story after you give birth. My tale doesn't include anything too scary and this was my smoothest and best birth experience (all three were unmedicated and I somewhat relied on self-hypnosis techniques for all three births), but at the same time I do tell it like I experienced it using non-hypno terms, so I want you to be able to decide if this is something you want to take in.
Okay, you all may proceed now that you have been adequately warned.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
40 Weeks, 2 Days Pregnant
In the days and weeks leading up to Lily's birth, I found myself in the challenging situation of trying to catch my labor very early on so that I could prevent a highway baby (fast labor history + hemorrhage history = risky combo). Why was this so challenging given that I've done this rodeo two times before? Well, in the last weeks of my pregnancies I find I have early labor symptoms most days, including hours of having timeable contractions. So basically I found myself giving a "heads up" text message to Raj and my mom or sister-in-law (our planned childcare providers) practically every other day at the end. In fact, my parents ended up doing TWO practice spend-the-nights due to some tricky timeable contractions combined with bad snowy/icy weather. Whoops! Hope you guys enjoyed those bonus nights on our futon! I felt like I was always crying preggy wolf and it left me feeling like such a newbie. Shouldn't I know exactly what an early "This is it!" contraction should feel like? It appears I did not. Physically, I was doing well at the end of my pregnancy but mentally I was beginning to get pretty exhausted by the endless, "Maybe today?" question.
Thus, when I woke up on Saturday, March 29, two days past my due date, with a hunch I was in labor, well...I wasn't letting myself get too excited. But at the same time, I had a pretty good feeling about this day - it seemed just different enough from the get go. Thankfully this time I was right!
Since I slept from 9:30 PM - 4 AM, I was actually feeling really quite good so I decided not to fight against the inevitable insomnia that would happen if I tried to go back to sleep. I went to the guest bedroom/nursery to read my e-book: "And When She Was Good" by Laura Lippman. (I recommend it for fans of "Gone Girl.")
6 AM - I decided to take a full-on shower that included hair washing and shaving, just in case things did start to go faster. I also put on make-up because I'm vain enough to want to look somewhat put together in birth pictures. It is so far from my norm to be showered and made-up before 6:30 AM on a Saturday, but I figured it would be easier to get all that done before the kids woke up. At this point I was pretty sure today was going to be the day. Or maybe I was trying to will today into being the day with outlandish behaviors like showering on a Saturday morning.
As I got ready I read through the birth affirmations posted on my mirror. More affirmations were posted on the fridge and above my desk. I posted affirmations for the other two births so it seemed only right to do it a third time. Like many of my somewhat questionable, hippie woo-woo birthing choices, it comes down to "Why not?" If it might help and it can't hurt, then why not?
6:30 AM - I was showered and ready and by now the kids were up and demanding attention. Husband attempted to continue to snooze, but that didn't work out for him when he was awoken by his lovely wife's violent heaving in the master bathroom. #PregnancyIsBeautiful I had caught a whiff of Oliver's diaper that needed changing (he wasn't even close by, I just have super powers of the nose at the beginning and end of pregnancy) and suddenly I was gagging and scrambling to set down the dishes I had just gathered up to bring downstairs so I could run to the bathroom for the usual good-morning-heave-ho. My family is so blasé to these types of antics that Husband continued to lay in bed and the kids continued to play. I was mildly annoyed that they didn't even flinch as I was puking but it was enough to wake Raj up, so win? :)
[Husband: I love waking to the sound of gagging and wretching first thing in the morning...am I alone here?]
7 AM - I told Raj that this *might* be the day which he didn't take seriously at all since I had cried preggy wolf on that topic many times before. To his credit he just nodded and said okay. We spent a leisurely morning together as a family. I found the kids to be unusually snuggly with me. They both just wanted to lie on the couch next to me and did so for long stretches of time - up to 30 minutes. This is not their morning norm!
[Husband: I've witnessed Laura going into labor now twice before and while I knew we were trying to catch this early, I just didn't have the feeling that any of the times were really it thus far, including this morning's signs.]
It was sweet to have that time with the kids. The cat was also aggressively snuggly. I mentioned this to Raj and he told me a story about a cat in a nursing home who would curl up with residents in the last days before they died. Um...NOT HELPFUL, RAJ! But, as he pointed out (after I pointed out that death wasn't really my end goal here), that it was more that little ones and animals recognize big changes and in my case it was simply the addition of life. And in Raj's defense, he didn't know I was harboring a fear of death in childbirth.
9:30 AM - Our babysitter arrived for a short, last-minute shift that I booked the day before when I realized I was probably still going to be pregnant for a while and that I could use rest any chance I could get. It worked out well because Raj had to do some work for a couple hours so I avoided some bonus solo parenting hours. Raj was mildly annoyed that I didn't want to go hang out at a coffee shop with him while he worked, but when you are 40+ weeks it's just not exactly fun to go sit in a chair for a couple hours. The only comfortable position was standing or lying on my side at that point, so I decided to use the babysitter time to rest in bed and time contractions.
[Husband: I don't know if annoyed would really be the adjective I'd use to describe my emotion. I just like to have company and it seemed like it would be nice to look up from work and see my wife sipping tea/coffee. Kind of like study time in the library back in college. It's not like you were there to talk, just study together, peek up from time to time, look at each other, make a funny face, you know.]
(Poor Raj continues to struggle with independent play, just like his oldest daughter.)
10:00 AM - I gave my mom a "heads up" text and listed out my current symptoms. Funny story - during one of my false labor incidents I accidentally texted the guy who coordinates our monthly cleaning service "contractions 5 minutes apart, keep you posted." LOLOLOL. He had a sense of humor about it and I'm VERY glad there was no "frequent pooing" or "bloody show" info in that text.
11:30 AM - After a couple hours of sporadic contractions I realized that I had been wrong AGAIN and today was not going to be the day. So annoying and this was all getting to be such a big mind game. (My word choice might not have been so polite.) Oh well. At least I hadn't told my parents to come over again. I gave Raj a text to see if he wanted to meet for lunch, figuring we might as well squeeze in a last date before baby came seeing as the sitter was already here and he was game. I threw on some clothes, told the babysitter I was heading out, gave the kids a hug before leaving and then met Raj outside where he was waiting in his car.
12:00 PM - We decided on sushi because lighter food appealed to me and sushi pretty much always seems like a good idea, even when I'm battling mild nausea. And no, I didn't really follow most proper pregnancy food guidelines this pregnancy. I probably had sushi at least five times over the course of this pregnancy. To think I practically had a nervous breakdown after I ate sushi while pregnant with Bella! It is such a stereotypical thing to get so much more lax with each pregnancy.
I decided to make sure to order more spicy stuff, figuring it couldn't hurt to try to nudge baby out. I don't really put much stock into labor induction techniques truly inducing labor after trying them all with Bella and having them not work (she was born at 41 weeks, 1 day). Maybe all those labor induction techniques can give you an edge if you are already just about to go into labor, but I think your body has to be almost there itself. At this point I wasn't willing to invest $$ in evening primrose oil supplements at Whole Foods or an acupuncture session to get baby out since I was just a couple days past 40 weeks, but stuff that was free or that I would partake in anyway? Well, I could do that!
After sushi I told Raj we should take a quick comparison picture since my first bump picture was taken by Lake Minnetonka. As it turned out - my last belly picture was taken there, too!
1 PM - We went home to relieve our sitter. Oliver was already napping and we got Bella set up with the iPad so she could watch a show and then *TMI ALERT* I convinced Raj to take part in one more common labor induction technique. I used him for his prostaglandins. And I will delete this particular time point in the birth-story in the years to come because no child should have to read that in their birth story :) (See also: references to pooping in labor.) (Double also: Thank the powers that be that I NEVER EVER EVER have to have super pregnant sex again. Because NO. NONONONONONO and NO. NO. Also funny - I find it almost pervy that Raj is willing to have sex with a pregnant lady. Like I judge him for that a little. Haaaaa! Okay. Done talking about that. And it's a good thing my parents and in-laws don't read my blog, no?)
[Hmmm, judged for loving her no matter what shape/condition she might be in. Aren't there women out there who like that kind of unconditional love and affection? BTW, it was a bit strange but all in a day's work.]
1:30 - The rest of the afternoon proceeded like usual: Oliver took a long nap, Bella watched a couple shows and then did some quiet coloring by herself, Raj paid some bills, and I lounged and ate way too many jelly beans and mini Cadbury eggs while Toonses, harbinger of - hopefully - life and not death, attempted to sleep on my face. Later Bella joined me and we read some books and cuddled together. During that time my mom checked in with me and I told her I was basically back to no contractions and that I was apparently being a trickster once again.
3:30 PM - I woke up Oliver with the promise that we were going to head outside soon for a walk since it was finally a warmer day. Before leaving we all snacked on some freshly cut pineapple. (Walking and pineapple just happen to be common labor induction techniques #3 and #4...)
4:45 PM - We got home, I made some guacamole to go with our dinner and then we all headed upstairs to give the kids a 'fun bath'.
5:15 PM - I had a contraction that seemed stronger than the previous ones. And then several minutes later it happened again. I was texting my blog-friend-turned-real-friend Blue Jean Amy (who had been kept disturbingly up to date my entire pregnancy so she is more aware of my bodily functions than anyone else in this world) and I felt the need to report these last two contractions.
5:30 PM - Bathtime ended and we went back downstairs to make vegetarian nachos, which had sounded appetizing initially but now I suddenly found myself without any appetite.
5:45 PM - My back was hurting and I said "Ooh, that hurt a little" after the next contraction. Raj eyed me and my quiet moaning and groaning ways and he said he thought this might be it. I still figured I was being psychosomatic...and I also didn't want to get my hopes up again. Raj encouraged me to send my mom a quick text to keep her in the loop. I felt like this was premature but did as he asked.
[Husband: I knew right away. It's weird, it's like a part of my brain turned on and I was ready, as I knew I had seen these very signs before. I knew that today was going to be it so I grabbed the video camera to pack it. It was something about the way she was shifting her weight and moving her hips. It was like a signature.]
5:50 PM - I went upstairs to rest and start timing contractions while the kids and Raj ate dinner (the nacho smell was making me nauseous).
6:10 PM - I texted my mom again to let her know that things continued to feel like real labor, but that I wanted to give it another 30 minutes before having her come.
6:30 PM - Now that I had experienced over an hour of regular-ish contractions (although they seemed to vary between 5-7 minutes apart and occasionally just 2-3 minutes), I was fairly convinced this was it. Real labor. Maybe? At this point I did ask my mom and dad to come. Even if this turned out to be false labor it was beginning to seem like I should get to the hospital. But lordy, I was going to feel like a real poophead if my parents had to spend another night at my house for nothing. I finished the last of the packing and took another quick shower and refreshed my make-up.
7 PM - I called the midwife/labor & delivery to let them know I was coming. I felt sort of foolish since I was still obviously completely functional and chipper on the phone.
7:05 PM - Raj took a little video of the kids and me.
7:10 PM - My parents arrived.
7:15 PM - A selfie on our way out the door.
7:20 PM - I had to choke back tears as I finished saying goodbye to the kids and my parents. Actually, I did cry a little once I was out of sight from the kids. It's a big deal to head to the hospital to have your baby and my fears around childbirth meant this goodbye felt extra loaded. But once we were in the car I decided to shake off those fears and just focus on the moment. I popped in my headphones and started listening to Hypnobabies. I think I only practiced my Hypnobabies stuff once during this entire pregnancy, but I figured my diligent practice everyday for months during Oliver's pregnancy would count towards this pregnancy and carry me through :)
7:35 PM - "Um...Raj? I haven't had any contractions. Maybe I'm not in labor." And then I had a contraction. Oh yeah. I'm in labor. I think.
7:45 PM - We arrived at hospital and I gave a loud groan as I had a contraction while getting out of the car. Then I noticed a young couple walking out to their car near us in the parking ramp. Oh, hi there! Don't mind the hulking pregnant lady! Walking into the hospital was smooth and easy since it was still visiting hours (they lock all doors but the Emergency Department after 9 or 10 PM). For a third time I have managed to not have to walk through the hospital or take the elevator during a busy time while in labor and I am a million bazillion times thankful for that. (I arrived at 10:30 PM on a Monday with Bella and 7:30 AM on a Friday with Oliver.)
8 pm - Triage. My least favorite part. Well, that's not true. Transition. Pushing. Those probably qualify as least favorite parts of the labor and birthing process, but those seem non-negotiable in a way that triage doesn't. Triage is one of those things you have to deal with if you birth at a hospital. Were I not prone to hemorrhage I would have probably considered home birth very seriously, but...anyway. I got changed into a gown and climbed up on the bed and completed a 20-minute non-stress test. It revealed I was having regular contractions every three minutes. The nurse also took my vitals and asked a bunch of questions, including what and when I last ate. Ooh, that was a little awkward. "Ummmm..a bunch of candy at 2 pm? Oh yeah, and a couple chips with guacamole at 5 pm." Look at the dietitian carefully fuel her labor with optimal nutrition! Incidentally, this was the only birth where I didn't force down a granola bar or small snack in early labor because I KNEW it would just come back up. So a jelly-bean-fueled delivery it was and that worked out fine.
8:20 PM - The midwife on duty, Amy, was a favorite of mine from over the years so I was glad she would be attending my birth. This was going to be the first time that I had previously met the person who would be delivering my baby (though I didn't mind not knowing the providers for Bella's and Oliver's births). Amy checked me and pronounced me at 3 cm, 80%, which was EXACTLY the same as what I had been a few days ago at my 40 week appointment. Hmmm... Given the lack of progress and no super obvious signs of being in labor, Amy implied that there was a good chance we would end up heading home but I could walk the halls in the meantime to see if I progressed. She said she would check me again at 9:30 PM.
[Husband: I felt like saying something because it definitely seemed like the midwife thought we came in prematurely but what would I say? 'No, I know. I've seen this twice before. I know her signs.' So I went along and thought, she'll see, we'll be having this baby before midnight.]
8:25-8:50 Walking the halls was a brand new experience for me, as was the possible "threat" of being sent home. For Bella's birth I purposefully labored at home for quite a while and arrived at 6 cm and she was delivered 3 hours later. For Oliver's birth I purposefully went fairly early and arrived at the hospital at 4 cm and he was delivered 2 hours later. For this birth I managed to get there VERY early, which was always my goal, but the threat of being sent home threw me a bit. However, at this point I was pretty convinced I was in labor, especially with the way each contraction seemed more pronounced than the last. But I did what I was told and walked the halls (and felt completely awkward doing it) while listening to my Hypnobabies track. I also made several stops in the bathroom by the charge nurse to pee. Mostly I wished I could be in a room so I could settle in and get going on my labor. At this point I was having that feeling of "I don't want to do this." I wanted to fast forward several hours. I texted that sentiment to both my sister and my friend Amy.
8:50 PM - Contractions were starting to feel quite strong and I was over being in the halls. It just felt way too public. So I labored in the triage room. Raj took some video, which I wasn't even really aware of at the time. I was aware that his counter pressure on my back was kind of lame and now I know why - haha! Since Raj could see how much labor had picked up and I voiced the same thought, we decided to ask that I be checked sooner in hopes of moving into a labor & delivery room instead of the teeny triage room.
[There is a video here that doesn't show up on smart phones and feed readers so you might want to click over to the actual blog post.]
9 PM - Amy, the midwife, came back to check me again: still 3 cm and 80%! This surprised me and I wondered if I would have to keep wandering the halls. I had a feeling my cervix was staying on lockdown until I was in a place I felt comfortable letting go. Amy observed a couple contractions and saw how they had changed in the past hour so between that and her knowing my history of fast labors, we were allowed to be admitted. Yay! I was so glad to finally have the chance to get settled and get the show on the road.
[Husband: Now I was 100% sure. Laura was having to concentrate, focus and breathe through the contractions. I knew that once she got to her room she would relax and things would progress more quickly so I tried to be nice but assertive that we needed to get her to her room now. Amy, the midwife, still seemed like she was humoring us a bit but said she'd request the room.]
9:20 - We had a brief wait while they prepared a delivery room and then we took a long walk down the hall to the room where the big event would take place. I immediately felt much less confined in the larger room. I wanted to try out the tub right away, but both the midwife and the nurse encouraged me to wait for a bit since it can stall labor. So I did some contractions leaning over the bed and also leaning on a birthing ball that was set up on the bed. Neither felt that great, but contractions were still relatively manageable so it was fine. While I worked through a few contractions, Raj set things up: he put Hypnobabies on in the background, got ice and washcloths from the nurse for putting on my forehead to help with labor pains, and also worked with the nurse to cover the clock (a big distraction in my delivery with Bella). The nurse checked on the baby during a contraction using a doppler and set up my IV so I could get my pitocin after giving birth. Pitocin is more commonly known for inducing labor, but it's also used to contract the uterus and decrease blood loss after birth.
9:55 - Amy stopped in to see how I was doing. I was sure some progress had been made now that I was in a more comfortable space so when she offered to check me again, I agreed. Sure enough I had progressed a bit, although it was less than I would have expected: I was now 4 cm and 90 % effaced. However, I wasn't really going to sweat the "slow" (for me) progress. One of my biggest fears for this delivery was not making it to the hospital in time for the birth so the fact that I arrived comfortably early meant a big worry had already gone away. This helped me just to relax into the experience and go along with whatever timing was going to happen. I requested again to get into the tub and even though it was still "early" in labor, they went with my request and started filling it up.
10 PM - I put on my bikini top and got into the nice warm tub. Now I just needed a glass of wine and it would be vacation! Haaaa. I wasn't sure if I would like laboring in a warm tub or not since I'm generally aversive to warm temperatures and things like hot showers or baths when I'm nauseous. And nauseous I was, just like with all my other births. Happily, the tub felt relaxing. Well, to be clear it felt relaxing between contractions. During the contractions it was nice to lean over the cool edge or even rock on all fours while the nurse applied counter pressure to my back and Raj put the cold washcloth on my forehead.
[Husband: At this point my excitement was building because I could see that the contractions were intense and I had a role in trying to help Laura get through each one, which she did a great job of. What was a bit odd was that after each one, she was just like normal, talking, present, etc. no million mile stares like with Bella or Ollie, so I was wondering if we were going to have a longer labor this time.]
10:05 PM - The midwife left to answer a page.
10:15 pm - I had the urge to pee so the nurse helped me out of the tub. On the very short walk to the bathroom (we are talking 10 steps tops) I had two more contractions. Clearly I had reached the part of labor where the slightest movement sent my body into a contraction. I sat down to pee and was annoyed by the "hat" the nurse had put in the toilet to measure my urine output. It was giving me weird pee anxiety to have that there. And then suddenly I felt very, very nauseous and I realized I would soon throw up. I mentioned this and the nurse handed me the very scary blue emesis bag. I have a major aversion to things like puke bowls and tiny little receptacles for puking so I knew I would have a problem with that emesis bag. However, I wasn't sure if I was "allowed" to puke in anything else. So I very politely asked it it would be okay if I puked in the trash can. Raj, not a rule follower like me, said "Hon! It doesn't matter! Just puke in the trash can" and he picked it up to hold it in front of me. I turned to the nurse and asked again if it was okay. She was a little taken aback (probably because what laboring weirdo pauses before they puke to get special permission?) and said something like "Well, we prefer you to use the bag but it's fine." With permission granted, I gracefully (ha, no) vomited pretty violently into the garbage can. Hello transition! I half expected my water to break with the vomiting since that happened with Oliver. Since I have always thrown up in transition with every birth, Raj recognized it for what it was pretty quickly. I also had my suspicions that I was now pretty far along in my labor except I was feeling more 'with it' so I wasn't convinced. When Raj mentioned his suspicions that I was going through transition to the nurse, she was very much NOT convinced. "Well, let's not label anything. It is what it is." Since the midwife was still gone, Raj mentioned that maybe she should be paged to come back.
[Husband: Now the assertive part of me was getting a bit annoyed. I was acting as Laura's doula or assistant. This was the third time I had been through this with her. I knew what was happening and I was pissed that the nurse wasn't really listening/believing that I was calling this right. In fact, I find that, as the husband, you're treated a bit like a second-class citizen in these settings, which I get and try to roll with but when my wife's and baby's safety are at risk, I get a little edgy so I said "You should get Amy on the phone and tell her she should make her way back down here, she's in transition."]
10:25 - I made my way out of the bathroom and back to the tub but movement was now getting very challenging. The contractions were really ramping up now and my body started doing that shaking thing that it did during my other two births. I don't know if the trembling comes from adrenaline or if it's just a nervous reaction. Contractions began to feel very long and so much stronger. I felt like each one was going on for at least two minutes and mentioned that in between contractions, but Raj said he didn't think they were more than a minute. At this point I was very vocal with each contraction and doing my "typical" low, gutteral roar/groan noises. The contractions were so long that I was running out of roaring power by the end of each one and my throat was getting so dry. (My throat was super sore and scratchy the next day - just like with my other births.) One nice thing about this birth experience was that I was feeling distinct periods of rest in between contractions. With Oliver's birth and also with the end of Bella's birth, I found that there wasn't a rest in between contractions, they seemed to pile on top of each other. This time, however, the contractions were more "textbook" like. They came in waves and when they were over I was calm and lucid and even joking.
There were a few mantras that I kept repeating in my head that really helped me during this birth. Actually some of them helped me even prior to the birth to combat the anxiety I had surrounding the actual event of childbirth. The mantras were "the only way out is through" and "this simply must be borne" (labor pun! womp, womp) and "this is the last time." Obviously the last one only works for some women, but the other two were pretty critical. Once I was moved to the delivery room I found I was able to put aside the thought of "I don't want to do this" and instead embraced that I was doing it and this was happening. During Oliver's birth I felt completely overcome once the contractions ramped up. I had a strong, strong desire to run away from my body and to flee the scene, but, of course, you can't. This is one time in your life (or three times in my case) where you simply have to do it. You have to move forward, you can't back away, this is IT. You are living it and you must live it. So for this birth I was able to keep that thought in the forefront of my mind. I was here, I was in it, I must live through it. No sense wasting brain space on wanting to escape or not do it. Better to dive into it, let it happen and see it through. And I think, no, I know, that attitude made a difference in how I experienced this birth. I let the contractions roll over me and take over and I coped using the best known techniques for me (mostly the cold washcloth on my forehead, but counter pressure on my back was great this time, too) and then when the contraction was over I took a break. I felt like I was still in my body, which was different from the more "out of body" type experiences with my other two births. Consequently, the thought of an epidural didn't even occur to me during this birth since overall it just didn't seem as intense (though, to be clear, it was still a very! intense! thing!)
Of course, the fact I was being pretty calm and chill was probably why the nurse wasn't taking Raj too seriously about how close I was to delivery!
10:35 PM - As I labored on all fours in the tub, I found myself wanting to push my body forward during each contraction, to the point where I was smashing my forehead into the cool cloth Raj was holding there. I think this allowed me a sort of a counter to all the pressure going in the other direction in my lower body. I also found myself clutching Raj's shirt and arms, which I hadn't done during the other births. (I distinctly remember a visual of clutching on to Raj's ubiquitous William & Mary sweatshirt.) I realized at one point mid-contraction that I had grabbed the nurse's arm by accident and quickly switched to Raj's arm. I'm sure she gets held onto all the time, but I felt more comfortable leaving a possible bruise on my husband than the very kind nurse! I asked out loud how some women just quietly labor in silence and then calmly pluck their babies out of their vaginas. HOW??!?
[Husband: At this point, my brain recalled the very distinct sound in Laura's 'vocalizations' (for lack of a better descriptor) and it told me we were getting close. I looked at the nurse very squarely and said with deliberate calm but with intensity, 'we need Amy to be here...NOW.' She got up and called her again.]
10:38 PM - I was starting to feel pressure to push, which after giving birth twice I now can recognize as a strong urge to poo. I crossed my fingers I wasn't about to take a big poo and that what I was feeling was indeed the baby.
[Husband: Laura, ever the polite person, apologized in advance in case she pooped. I said, 'hon, don't worry about that, just focus on relaxing and letting your body do what it needs to."]
10:40 PM - The midwife returned to the room and after observing a contraction she noted there was a major difference from when she left 40 minutes ago. She wanted to check me (and I was very curious, too) so I carefully lumbered out of the tub with the nurse's and Raj's assistance and headed to the bed. I had a few contractions before I could get into a position to be checked.
10:50 PM - A check revealed me to be 8 cm (so that's 4 cm in an hour), but my cervix was "very soft." Amy mentioned that my bag of waters was in front of baby's head and it was likely causing a lot of pressure. She suggested breaking the bag of waters manually. I had my waters broken manually late in labor with Bella and it helped spur the last bit of labor along, so I was all for this plan. I warned the midwife that the baby was probably going to come immediately after my water broke. I'm not sure what had me so convinced of that, but it honestly felt like a given. The nurse and midwife seemed to agree that this last bit was going to go fast as they began suiting up all hazmat-style.
10:55 PM - After breaking my water (which was thankfully clear and free of meconium), I felt a nice release of pressure. Amy had me do a strange sort of position which apparently helps the baby descend in an ideal fashion. Basically I flipped my left leg over my right and hung my left leg over the edge of the bed. At this point I felt another surge of intensity and I knew there would be no water birth as there was no possible way I could move from the bed at this point. This baby was going to be born on dry land in a hospital bed like his or her siblings. Thankfully I had no problems letting go of giving birth in the water. All along I had considered water birth just a possibility and not something that had to happen. Amy asked if I was feeling pressure and I certainly was feeling a very strong urge to poo so I said that I was. She asked how I wanted to deliver and on a whim I picked hands and knees. I can't say why I picked that position since I felt so self-conscious during Oliver's birth given the fact that my bum was so on display in that position. This time? Meh, didn't care and it just seemed the easiest position to choose in that moment.
10:58 PM - I began pushing with the next contraction and could feel a substantial movement in my body followed by the very distinct (and frankly, very awful) ring of fire sensation. Everything in my body said to PUSH THAT BABY OUT IMMEDIATELY, but Amy told me, "Laura, I need you to wait for the next contraction before you push again. You won't tear if you wait for the contraction." I whimpered in pain and tried to deal with waiting but after 10 seconds passed without a contraction (it felt like at least 5 minutes) I decided I couldn't do it. My face was smashed in the pillow of the elevated head of the bed and for the first time in all my births I really, REALLY could not fight off the urge to push. All the other times I pushed only because they said I could. This time I couldn't NOT push. There was a head and limbs and a BABY stuck in my vagina and IT DID NOT FEEL GOOD. I swear I could feel the angles of bones and everything. I wanted it out (in that moment the baby felt more like an "it" than my precious spawn) and didn't give two hoots about the tearing. I could deal with some tearing and had recovered from two previous tears without much trouble. What I could not deal with was THAT MUCH BABY in my vagina. So I started cheating and doing little pushes (I do believe I thought maybe I could sneak that in and not have anyone notice - haha). After a minute of pseudo-sneaky pushes and no new contraction I basically thought f-it and pushed baby out the rest of the way and felt the sweet relief of the immediate release of pressure as the baby and the remainder of the water left my body. I did get a minor second degree tear since I didn't wait for a contraction to push, but you know what? No regrets. Absolutely none. I would do the same thing all over again and I will never forget the sweet relief of having that baby come out of me.
11 PM - The baby is out!
I heard cheering as I lay with my face down in the pillow and simply rested for a moment with my bum hanging out as the centerpiece for the party taking place behind me. Someone (Raj?) announced it was a girl. I felt no surprise about this fact and while I was happy to have a baby girl, it honestly felt like a neutral sort of observation. It held as much weight for me in that moment as the fact she had a full head of hair. Maybe this neutral reaction was because I felt pretty strongly all along that she was a girl (based on the longer nausea, higher heart rate, and then at the end the predicted smaller size) but I think it was more to do with the fact that giving birth is just so huge, especially when it comes on and happens so fast like it does for me, that my brain simply cannot process other major things. Besides, I was truly excited about either option and didn't have a strong preference either way.
[Husband: It was me who announced that it was a girl. Amy held the baby up and said, 'Dad, can you tell us what you have?' I was excited to see the baby but Laura had kind of collapsed forward so I wanted to check her, too so I kind of looked over quickly and didn't see a penis so I called it out as being a girl.]
Mostly what I felt in the moments after birth was relief. Physical relief obviously, but a good deal of mental relief. In those immediate post birth moments I was just feeling so glad that the birth part was over (though there was still the placenta delivery and hemorrhage prevention to come) and that the baby was alive and well. I felt euphoric with relief.
11:02 PM - I had to carefully maneuver myself over the baby and the umbilical cord to recline in the bed (umbilical cords are the creepiest, aren't they?) and they placed her on my chest.
[Husband: yeah, I looked when Bella was coming/came out and, you know, I just didn't need to do that again. Not that there's anything gross or weird about it, it's just that I like thinking about that area more from a recreational perspective as opposed to a functional perspective.]
11:05 PM - Lily was a little on the mellow side, resulting in lower apgar scores than either of my other kids (6 initially and a 7 five minutes later) so they rushed a bit to have Raj cut the cord once it stopped pulsing. The pediatric nurse suctioned her nose and that did perk her up a bit but just to be on the safe side, they brought her to the warming table to give her a thorough check. Raj went to stand by the warming table. Meanwhile the midwife had started the protocol for managed third stage of labor which included some gentle pulling on the placenta (she waited for the initial cues that my body was ready to deliver it) and they also started up the IV pitocin which I would continue to get for the next 12 hours (one liter super fast and then a second liter slowly). The placenta passed easily, but the (inevitable for me, it seems) heavy bleeding began so she also inserted cytotec into my rectum to further clamp down my uterus (that was a painful moment). I also got extra uterine massage (pressing down hard on the uterus) and a short while later the final piece of my higher-than-usual managed third stage was when the midwife manually reached inside my uterus to remove some clots. Like she REACHED HER WHOLE HAND AND ARM IN AND SCRAPED IT AROUND MY UTERUS. Like I was a farm animal. That was...unpleasant. But not as big of a deal as I would have imagined such an experience to be, especially when one considers I had no pain medication. (Raj had no idea this happened since he was over at the warming table with the baby. He is very glad to have missed that once-in-a-lifetime visual.)
[Husband: Yep, didn't feel like I missed out on anything there.]
11:15 PM - Raj had a few moments of skin-to-skin with the baby after she checked out just fine.
11:20 PM - Lily was brought back to me and she started nursing with a strong little suck. Go baby, go! I gazed down at her, still feeling a bit dazed from it all, and just stared at her face and little hands. Meanwhile I was getting stitched up which is never much fun, but also not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The most painful part of that is when you get the numbing shots before they start stitching. There were also lots of blood pressure checks to keep tabs on me and my blood loss.
But this time I felt fairly blissed out as I bonded with my new baby in spite of all the work being done on me. Yes, there was a lot of annoying shit happening between someone putting medicine up my rectum and the blood pressure cuff painfully squeezing my right arm again and again while my left arm was attached to an IV drip. Somehow I was supposed to hold my baby and initiate nursing with these two compromised arms, which was no easy task. But this time around it was really okay; that annoying shit was for the greater good. My primary goal was to minimize blood loss however possible, so I was basically like, "Bring it on! Give me all the pitocin and cytotec you got and give it to me however you want! Up the pooper? Sounds fab!"
11:25 PM - This was the point where it occurred to me that I should be doing that crazy placenta business. (If you recall I had decided to try out the bizarre but apparently helpful move of putting a piece of placenta in between my cheeks and gums as a way to stop postpartum bleeding. Read the linked post for more info.) I asked the midwife to cut me off a little piece. "How big?" she asked. Um...dime sized? Or something? I had no idea what to compare it to. Raj and a nurse found some ice to put the wee placenta piece on and then it was rinsed off. And then came the moment where I put it in my mouth....
12 PM - At some point all the necessary repairs to my lady bits were taken care of and Lily was weighed and measured (8 lbs, 5 oz, 20 inches and 14.25 cm head). The midwife finished and congratulated us and left to check on her other patients and the pediatric nurse was done too. The nurse stayed to continue taking vitals and monitoring me but mostly all the excitement had quieted down. We settled in for the (non-restful) night in the hospital room. Nights in the hospital are lame, but the truth of the matter was that I wouldn't have slept a wink even if I'd been home. The amount of adrenaline coursing through my body after giving birth means I'm ramped up and just want to talk and think about what just happened. This is the opposite of my normal reaction to stress, which is extreme sleepiness. Raj, on the other hand, also goes opposite from his usual ways and he full on passed out on the fold-out bench bed. So I was left to lay in my bed and shout things on twitter about how excited I was :)
The Next Day - Now while nights in the hospital are fairly pesky with all the visits and interruptions, the daytimes were rather relaxing - that is one advantage compared to a birthing center or a home birth. I got to order room service and watch cable! WHEE! This was the first time I ever found myself really enjoying a hospital visit and found it to be a pseudo-vacation. I had heard of women who felt that way, but couldn't imagine feeling it myself. Apparently the tipping point for that to happen for me is 3 kids :)
Later that morning Lily got to meet her Big Brother Oliver and Big Sister Bella, who were so very excited to meet her.
And it was then that I realized we had turned the page to the next chapter to start life as a family of five.
Honestly it all still seems so surreal. All of it. From even getting pregnant in the first place to the delivery to the fact I have a little bundle of sweet baby sleeping next to me as I type this. How incredible it all is and how mind boggling that our bodies can grow babies and then have that baby come out of us. But even though life doesn't feel quite real right now, I have an overwhelming sense of completeness with this baby. I feel like my birth experience with Lily was such an awesome way to end my childbearing years. I'm so happy with how her birth turned out and feel very grateful that it went better than I could have expected. It's like I took all the things I learned from the first two and was able to apply it for this last one. This was my best and easiest (RELATIVE term, obviously!) birth experience. But the most important part is that we are so happy to have Lily join our family.
[Husband: Laura is such an incredibly strong and beautiful woman. I'm amazed at her in normal life but to see her give birth humbles me completely. She has given birth to and raised three beautiful children and from her they learn to emulate her patience and enduring love. I'm truly a better man because of my family. I know at the end of each and every day that they are my life, they define me. They make me feel worthwhile. Like I'm important. Like I've done something good. I used to search for that in work but the most liberating thing for me is knowing work is nothing compared to my family. I could work for twenty years and it would never give me even a small fraction of the satisfaction and joy that my family has given me in just the last six months. Work probably won't exhaust or frustrate me as much either but family time is all about those little moments...when you see your kids hug each other and you know that you played a part in helping them learn to be good to one another or you see your wife bring life into this world and you have new hope that the world can be a kind, loving place where your kids can grow up safe and happy.]
THE END to the very last birth story I will ever tell. I really mean it this time :)