Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day and we're rapidly approaching the momentous first birthday, I thought I'd share the story of her birth, which I wrote around a week postpartum.
Be warned: labor and delivery was the most intensely natural thing I have ever done, and I didn't spare any details. If you get squeamish at the mention of bodily fluids, you may not want to read. I'm in favor of keeping it real.
Now, let's continue.
It all started with my 39 week OB appointment on Wednesday the 15th. I went in that morning by myself, and Dr. Meritt did an internal exam. I was 7 cm dilated that morning, but I still wasn't having any labor signs. I was continuing to lose quite a bit of my mucous plug, but that'd been happening for weeks. I wasn't having contractions nor had my water broken, though I was so worried it might happen at any moment and I wouldn't be ready! Dr. Meritt said her comfort level with me walking around so dilated was quickly diminishing. She asked if I'd be willing to be induced later that afternoon or on Thursday. I asked if we could wait until Friday (I don't really know what difference I thought another day would make, except maybe I thought I'd be able to get my free continuing education hours at work that day??). She said she wouldn't be at the hospital on Friday, so I consented to inducing on Thursday morning.
I wrote this email to Cristy after my appointment:
Cristy responded saying personally she'd wait until fully dilated to have her water broken because she perceives less risk of c-section that way. When I talked to her later, she said she hoped that her email hadn't scared me; she wished she had just said, basically, "trust your doctor," which is what I did. =)Hi Cristy,I had a doctor's appointment this morning and I'm 7 cm now...my doctor wants to induce me tomorrow morning! She said she's concerned about an ascending infection since so much of my amniotic sac is exposed, so I'm going to do it. I'm nervous...but it's good to know this is my last day at work so that I can tie up loose ends.She said unless I object, they'll give me a small dose of pitocin and then she'll come to check on me and break my water. What do you think about that?Did I mention I'm nervous?? hahaLove,alli
I went to work at Overton after my doctor's appointment, but didn't see students. Instead I spent the day sending A LOT of emails and making phone calls to cancel my drop-in therapy session for the next morning. I visited the PPCD room and told Sarah, the PPCD teacher, about my appointment, and I also said goodbye to two of my first graders. I hadn't intended to do so, but one of the first grader's teachers stopped by my office and told me his father passed away over the weekend. I wanted to stop by and give him a hug and let him know I was going to have my baby the next morning, so I did. I filled out an SSI questionnaire for a student to potentially receive disability payments. I entered ARD paperwork for this week's ARDs and talked to Alia, the Sp.Ed. resource teacher, about a transfer student. I got two new students the week that I left that I never even met. I wonder how different my caseload will be when I return from maternity leave! Alia and Ms. Hart, the bilingual PPCD teacher, chatted with me about baby stuff and Sp.Ed. stuff, and they also gave me a few presents (clothes and some crocheted hats/blankets). We have gotten SO many handmade hats, shoes, and blankets. It's amazing! I left work around 4 o'clock that afternoon knowing I wouldn't be returning for nine weeks.
I was really nervous about the induction as I left Dr. Meritt's office, but as the day went on, I felt more at peace with it. It was a relief to no longer be playing the waiting game. I knew exactly when my maternity leave would start and had a full day to calmly prepare to really leave. I no longer had to run through hypothetical scenarios in my head (i.e., "if I go into labor on Tuesday or Thursday, call the drop-in student's mom to cancel, call the bus dispatcher to cancel pick-up, etc."). Henry and I had time to go back through our hospital bags, to reconsider what we were taking and organize them better. I was able to go into the hospital well rested and fed, two things that were really important to me. I'm glad things went the way they did. Looking back it's actually a little difficult to remember what I was so nervous about. I think it was letting go of my wish for things to happen naturally and the unknown of how I'd handle labor & delivery.
That night I showered and posted news of the induction on facebook: "Looks like tomorrow will be baby's birthday. I'm going to be induced in the morning! Prayers are appreciated." So many friends responded wishing us well and letting us know they were praying for a safe delivery. That meant so much to me. Feeling that love and support brought me to tears that night, and I'm actually tearing up now thinking about it.
I dried my hair, and then we drove the Baker kids to the church for mutual. I felt tired, and on the way I had some uncomfortable contractions that didn't last. I stopped by Activity Days once we got to the church and gave Hilary her thank you note. Reagan, one of the Primary kids, said my baby bump looked so big. haha. I hadn't stayed for Primary since the end of January, so I guess it'd been a while since she'd seen me. Henry and I went by Madam Mam's on the way home, and I ate chicken fried rice for my last pregnancy dinner. =) We spent the remainder of the evening in bed reading through the Childbirth Prep booklet we got from our class. We practiced the breathing and relaxation techniques together. I read a few more things in the Ina May's Guide to Childbirth book just as a review and to psych myself up. I'm so glad we practiced because we really hadn't before that night. Henry said afterwards that he'd recommend that all husbands go over that with their wives before the big day. Henry really surprised me with how great of a coach he turned out to be. He gave me a blessing of comfort, and then we went to bed.
We were supposed to get to the hospital by 6:30 the next morning, so we got up around 5:45. Even with all of our preparation the night before, we were still running late. I got dressed and put my hair up. I'm trying to remember if I put on any makeup that morning...haha. I think I just moisturized and put on some powder. Henry made me a flax waffle with apple butter on top, and then I drank part of a fruit smoothie. Henry was distracted, probably because of nerves, and I actually had to tell him it was time to leave for the hospital. Thankfully we live right around the corner, so even though we left our apartment at 6:30, we were still only about five minutes late.
We sat down in the registration waiting room for only a minute or two before a nice woman named Mary came to check us in. We presented our IDs and insurance cards and initialed away on consent forms. Mary commented that we seemed really calm, and I did feel calm. I wasn't thinking too much about what was about to happen.
Another hospital worker came and escorted us up to Labor and Delivery. Things were busy, busy at the nurses' station as they were about to change shifts. The nurse who took us back to our room said I looked familiar. I told her that we'd been there last Thursday/Friday with our false alarm. She said she thought she'd seen me at her child's school, and I told her I do work for the school district. At that point I was starting to get nervous though so I didn't continue that conversation.
We had an RN and an RN in training (or maybe just a new hire), Danette and Amber, tending to us in our L&D room. I loved Danette. She was an awesome nurse, which I'd guess is why she was training someone else. Things took a little longer than I expected to get started because she'd explain everything to Amber, but that was okay. Henry and I were just chilling in the room while they quietly talked to one another. We actually had time to look over the breastfeeding powerpoint notes before things got started, which I was really happy about. Henry got the music on my iPhone set up. Amber placed my IV on the first try, and they ran some sugar water (at least I think that's what it was). They also monitored baby's heart rate and my contractions for awhile. I was having fairly strong contractions on my own--some I felt, some I didn't--about 10 minutes apart. They checked me and I was still about 7 cm dilated.
A little before 8 AM they started the pitocin. I'm not sure what the numbers meant, but I think they told me they started at 2 with the pitocin. The contractions picked up, but were manageable to breathe through just with the deep inhale/exhale. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Meritt arrived to break my water, so it's hard to say how much of my labor contractions were due to the pitocin or if it was really the breaking of waters that did it. I guess that's neither here nor there. I expected it to hurt or at least be uncomfortable when she broke my water, but it didn't. I barely felt the puncture; I just felt lots of warm, gushing fluid afterward.
The nurses left the room, and the contractions picked up quickly both in intensity and frequency. I told Henry I didn't want to continue to lie on the hospital bed. My butt was getting sore, and I wanted to try some of the different laboring positions. I didn't end up moving around too much because the contractions were so strong. I got in the rocking chair and did much of my laboring sitting upright. I also tried to stand up with Henry's support, but I quickly returned to sitting because I didn't feel safe when the contractions came. Henry was right there close to me the whole time. I had my headphones in with my relaxation music playing (mostly Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Paul Cardall piano, Primary lullaby songs, and Enya) the whole time, but Henry would turn the volume down when I wasn't having a contraction so that I could hear him. They came about three minutes apart, and it took all of my focus to get through them without freaking out. Henry made sure I was looking him in the eyes, I held his hand tightly, my music was turned up loud, and we did the breathing hee-hee-hee-who's together. My lower back hurt with the contractions so he also massaged me there. Despite his superb coaching I still started to freak out a time or two. I think at some point the nurses came in and increased the pitocin to 4, but that's the highest it got. The contractions rushed over my entire body. It was really intense, but thankfully they did not last for more than a minute.
I started to think with each contraction that I wasn't sure how many more times I could stand to breathe through the pain, and I voiced this to Henry. The next time Danette came in he asked her about the possibility of an epidural, and she suggested she check my dilation. I got back on the bed when I wasn't having a contraction. She said I was fully dilated at that point, so I could start pushing with the contraction. I think I started feeling the urge to push while in the chair. It felt like really low pressure, like I needed to have a BM. Danette told me that it would feel much better to be able to push with each contraction and that could not have been more true. The contractions continued to be intense, but now I felt like I had a way to fight through them. I really have no idea how long I was in this transition/pushing stage or laboring for that matter; I just know I felt such relief to actually be able to do something. Danette called Dr. Meritt's office and told her she needed to come over to the hospital (her office is right across the street). A little while later she came into the room with the surgical tech person. It took a few tries to coordinate my breathing with the pushing, but I got it down and started pushing with all my might with each contraction. I imagined the top of my uterus pushing the baby farther down each time, and between contractions, I said positive affirmations like, "I can do this!
I am doing it!" I tried to keep telling myself positive things throughout the entire process, and I think it helped.
Pretty soon Dr. Meritt told me she could see Elle's head . She and the surgical tech were pouring on lots of olive oil, and Dr. M was supporting my perineum. It felt like she was stretching it out. With each push I let out a low, guttural sound. I remember feeling the burning sensation when the baby was crowning, and I think that's when Dr. M told me to stop pushing. I was able to pause--I think Henry had me do candle blows--but somehow I ended up with a second degree tear anyway. I don't know when that happened, and the truth is, I don't really care. I would've done anything at that point to get Miss Elle out! And just moments later, I pushed and of course she did come out!
She was placed on my stomach immediately (sometime during the pushing stage, Henry did a great job of reminding the staff of my wishes for skin-to-skin contact and to let the cord pulsate before clamping). The umbilical cord was shorter than I expected, so she couldn't reach all the way up to my chest. Holding my daughter for the first time was amazing. She let out a good cry. She was a perfectly healthy, slippery little thing with her arms flailing around. I don't remember, but Henry said the first words from my mouth were, "She's beautiful!" Then I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh, she's a real baby!" Until I actually saw her it was difficult to imagine her as a real, living, breathing tiny human, but the moment I did, reality hit me. She was beautiful. Is beautiful. She will be forever and always. Henry and I are in love.