How Daniel Came: A Birth Story

I’ve discovered that, any possible writing skills aside,¬†I’m incapable of writing birth stories with any sort of artistry. This is pretty straightforward and “this happened then this happened” and far too long, but that’s okay. I don’t know that anyone other than me is actually going to read this anyway; if you do read to the end, it means you were actually interested (either in my life, or in birth stories in general) so good on you. There are pictures down there. And maybe once I get the whole thing down on paper I’ll be able to go back and do a revised version some day.

Oh, and as you get toward the end, I’m just telling it like it was and not bothering to clean up (censor) the TMI details, so if you don’t want to read about the gory details of how babies enter this world, proceed with caution! ūüôā

So, the last time I posted was 3 AM on January 28, and as you can see, it was a whole lot of “seriously, so done” whining. And I guess I really¬†was so done, because little did I know that we were just over 12 hours from meeting Baby Daniel!

I went back to sleep after that post and woke up a few hours later. I decided that since I was clearly never having this kid, I might as well make some other plans for the day… so I put on a comfortable dress and made plans to meet up with Mom to go to a fabric store and get supplies for a tied fleece blanket. Ryan was off work (still sick) so I asked him if he’d mind driving me to Mom and Dad’s house. After a little while, we had both of us, Henry, and the hospital bag (just in case — I just basically kept it with me everywhere I went at this point) in the car and were headed across town.

At that point, I was once again having some irregular contractions. This was about the fourth day that I’d had late morning/lunchtime contractions for about an hour, that ended up being nothing, so I didn’t think much about it.

As we approached my parents’ house, Ryan pulled into the Burger King parking lot and said he wanted to get something to eat, and asked what I would like. Despite not having eaten breakfast, I found that I was really not at all hungry. I didn’t feel bad, I just didn’t feel hungry. I also noticed that my contractions were getting a little more painful and weren’t tapering off like they had on previous days, but I still didn’t dare believe that they were “real” because of all the previous false alarms.

When we got to our destination, I got out of the car and discovered that the contractions were painful enough that I wanted to wait a moment before walking into the house. Ryan got Henry inside, and I went inside and sat down in the big chair in the living room. When Mom said hi from the next room, I told her that I actually wasn’t sure that we were making it to the fabric store that day. Until I had said that — and I didn’t know I was going to say it until I’d said it — I hadn’t realized that I’d started to believe it was showtime.

My sister and I had both been in a hurry to be born, so she immediately felt like it was time to load back up and head to the hospital, but after Henry’s 23-hour exit I couldn’t get my head around that idea. I stayed in the chair and began timing the contractions, saying that I wanted to wait until they’d been close and strong for an hour before doing anything. While I was sitting there, my contractions were between 5-10 minutes apart, and while I could still think and talk through them, I didn’t want to walk or anything when they hit. Finally I decided that I might as well text my midwife Kristi and give her a heads up. I guess it was just “that time” because as I was texting her, she called me to check in and schedule the induction for the following day.

When I told her about my contractions, she advised that we get Henry situated and head on down to the hospital. She told me that they’d monitor me for 20 minutes and then check my cervix, and then call her to come over (her office is literally minutes, on foot, from the L&D floor). She assured me that, even if this wasn’t “it,” she wouldn’t send me home since we were at 41 weeks 6 days and planning to induce within 24 hours anyway.

Mom called Meredith (my sister) to come help with Henry so that she could meet us at the hospital, and Ryan and I drove downtown. He pulled into the valet parking at the maternity/emergency entrance, but I was between contractions and told him I could wait in the lobby while he parked. At some point I told him how happy I was that it was daylight — I had really hoped to avoid being admitted in the middle of the night, as I found the hospital really depressing and kind of scary when we’d arrived after midnight for¬†Henry’s delivery. We were both still figuring on a long ordeal, so I told him to just park and come in, and not worry about the bag for now.

We went up to maternity triage and the nurse at the window asked what brought us there that day. In retrospect I’m sure she meant for me to give her some stats on my contractions, but her question just made my brain flatline. I¬†remember looking at her with kind of a “well, duh” look on my face and answering, “I think I’m having a baby?” Then she asked how far along we were, and when I told her, she went and got a different nurse and had her take over — guess that was alarming? ūüôā

They hooked me up to the monitor and left. It was clear that the maternity department was busy that day, and became more clear as 20 minutes came and went without them returning for the cervix check. As I lay there, my contractions became more painful and were steady at about 6 minutes apart. Finally, at over 40 minutes on the monitor — maybe an hour — Kristi¬†called me to see if I hadn’t gone to the hospital, since she hadn’t heard from triage. I told her we were still waiting, and she said she’d just come over and do it herself. Moments later she arrived, checked the contractions, and then checked my dilation. I was at 6 cm. She then said that she’d like to sweep my membranes to make sure that labor didn’t stop again, and I told her that I was completely okay with whatever she felt was best. She warned me that it could be quite painful, but it really didn’t seem to be especially uncomfortable. Then she asked me to take a 20 minute walk and return to triage, just to make sure the contractions kept going, and to give them a chance to get us a delivery room set up.

Mom had arrived by then, so the three of us took a walk up to the 8th floor, looked inside the “baby zoo” (big window to the nursery), stood around watching the clock for a few minutes, and headed back. By the time we returned to triage, I definitely couldn’t walk through contractions — and they were about 2 minutes apart!

Entering triage, we saw my friend Lisa, who had been the school nurse at the high school I’d worked at, and Wendy, who had been our superheroic nurse for Henry’s birth! Ryan later said that when he saw Wendy standing there, even though she wasn’t going to be our nurse, he felt like everything was going to be okay. We paused to talk to them for a moment, and then went back into our monitoring room to wait while they finished prepping a room.

And we waited… and waited…

I didn’t want to lie down, so I was sitting on the edge of the bed holding onto Ryan’s hands for dear life as strong contractions hit every couple of minutes. After a while, realizing that no one had come to help us yet, Wendy came in and said she’d take care of us while she was waiting for her patient to be ready. She and another nurse did my blood draw to check my anemia levels — my blood was great! — and then Wendy reminded me of the stupidly simple but critically effective technique of relaxing my forehead muscles to ease my stomach/pelvic muscles during contractions. That immediately helped my pain levels, and she helped Ryan support me through the next several contractions. Still, we waited and waited. I began to think that they were going to end up delivering a baby right there in triage!

Finally they came and said the room was ready. They asked if I could walk to my room and I told them that it would be better to have a wheelchair because I’d have to stop every minute. They wheeled me down into our labor/delivery room at about 3:50 PM. Ryan helped me change from my dress and leggings into a hospital gown while the nurse started the jacuzzi. Then she asked about a birth plan, and we had to say that it was still in the car because we’d thought we would have more time! Instead we ended up giving her the immediately important bullet points: no pain medication, would be interested in trying nitrous, jacuzzi for pain management, no family in room¬†except Ryan and Mom until it was all over. The only exercise/birthing ball that they had was enormous, so I tried to prop on it while the tub filled.

Then Ryan helped me into the jacuzzi and got the jets going — immediately felt much better, although the contractions still came strong and close together. I started off half on my knees resting forward, and that felt very good, but my legs started to fall asleep so I shifted and a couple of positions later ended up reclined in the tub much like you would be for a nice bubble bath —¬†not an ideal labor position — except that I was bracing myself against the end of the tub with my legs and clinging onto the grip bar with one hand and Ryan with the other. I felt far too warm, so the nurse brought a big bowl of ice water and washcloths, and I kept a cold washcloth on the back of my neck and on my upper chest, and sometimes on my face, while drinking what may have been crazy amounts of ice water. At some point Ryan got a text that his dad was at the hospital, so I had him send him out to the car to get the bag — mostly because I wanted a rubber band to tie my hair back with! I remembered the forehead trick, and it helped a lot. Then Kristi showed Ryan how to pour water on my stomach in rhythm with the contractions, and even though that sounded silly it helped a lot, too.

After a while — because time really becomes very elastic under these circumstances — I was having a strong contraction and felt my water break. Almost immediately the pain level went from a 9 to about a 12, and I went from “holding on for dear life in grim silence” mode to “couldn’t keep from vocalizing if I’d wanted to” mode. Kristi came and checked the bath water for signs of problems in the amniotic fluid, but it was clear.

Then things really kicked into high gear. The contractions were¬†so intense, and there was no break between them¬†— they were literally back-to-back. Even though I’d mentioned the nitrous to the nurse and Kristi several times, there was literally no time for me to use it as you’re supposed to use it between contractions to help you relax. (Probably just as well since¬†it never arrived in my room!)

At one point, Kristi and the nurse came in to the bathroom to check on me, and Kristi told the nurse that she thought I was pushing involuntarily. I hadn’t realized that was what was happening, but when she said so I instantly realized it was the case. With every contraction my stomach muscles (well, not really stomach muscles, but I’m not sure what else to call them) were convulsing and doing things without my intent or control over them. I could look down and see my belly trembling and rolling in the second part of every contraction.

(By the way, I have to pause here to say how different this part of labor was from Henry’s. I was so completely out of my head with Henry’s labor¬†(password is HGB). In 2013, I’d had my contacts out, so was completely blind, and was in a total meditative state. I’d been transported and disconnected by exhaustion, hunger, and pain management. This time, I’d started out the process midday, with makeup on and contacts in, and a night’s sleep behind me. I still experienced periods during Daniel’s labor when I wasn’t entirely focused on reality, but I was totally aware of everything and could see what was taking place. What a difference!)

Baby’s heartrate had dipped during that contraction, so Kristi told me that I had to get out of the tub between contractions. I wanted to tell her at this point “There¬†is no ‘between’ contractions” at this point, but the only thing I could say was “nooo,” so she and Ryan thought I was resisting leaving the tub. I wasn’t; I was ready to get out. I just couldn’t talk! She firmly told me that I was too getting out of the tub, and as soon as the current contraction faded she and Ryan grabbed me by both arms and hauled me upright. I got one leg over the side of the tub, had to wait through a contraction, and then got the other leg out before the next one peaked.

Then she told me that I was going to have my next contraction on the toilet. As soon as I could move, they helped me turn and sit on the toilet. Almost immediately another contraction hit, and it was a whole different beast. I honest-to-gosh thought I was defecating, only it was the world’s most horrifyingly painful poop — I had a distinct impression of being split in half up my body, complete with a visualization of a dark, bright-edged fissure cracking up from my groin to my shoulders. I believed that I was screaming, but Ryan later told me that I hadn’t been, so I guess I was just screaming in my head or something.

The nurse and Kristi told me that my next contraction was either going to be kneeling at the bed, or sitting on a birthing stool. I couldn’t answer, so Ryan said “bed” because it was the first thing they’d suggested. But as we left the bathroom, the birthing stool was closer, and that’s where I landed. They told Ryan to get behind me and support me in a slight recline, and then there was another moment of splitting in half, and then Kristi was grabbing my hand and helping me touch something that I realized must be the top of my baby’s head. Then another one of the horrible moments, followed by a sudden lessening of the pain, and then she had my hand again, and now I could feel that the entire head was out. Kristi told me “one more,” (as if I had any control over this process at this point — my body was in autopilot!) and then there was that amazing slithering twisting feeling and suddenly there was a crying baby in my arms. And just like that, the pain was gone and I felt amazing — wiped out and shaky like I’d just had a good workout, but still amazing.

There was a lot of blood — evidently upright births tend to be bloodier — and the $6 sports bra I’d worn was completely destroyed with it. Daniel was perfect. Kristi began to tell me something about the placenta, but then I had another practically inconsequential contraction and the damned thing just fell out of me. At that point they went ahead and clamped the cord, which was really no delay at all — this may be why Daniel ended up not having any jaundice, it turns out. Everything was happening on a tray right next to me as I still sat on the birthing stool, so I could see the umbilical cord and the blood they retained for testing, and I got to see the placenta as well.

Despite Daniel being 13 days “overdue,” my placenta was “beautiful”, there was no meconium in the ample amniotic fluid, and Daniel was perfectly healthy. On the flip side, my “probably 8 pounds at most” baby weighed 9 lb 6 oz, was 22 inches long, and had a head circumference of 15.75 centimeters — height and head size both in the 99.9th percentile!

I was helped to the bed and made comfortable, and Kristi examined me for tearing. She told me that I was pretty torn up down there, but that it was a multitude of minor abrasions with two slightly worse tears at front and back, and that if I were okay with it she would recommend not suturing. I was definitely on board with that, and was later glad we made that call as my recovery in that particular regard was much faster and less uncomfortable than it had been the first time around (which had included stitches).

If you recall back earlier in this far-too-long post, we entered our labor and delivery room at 3:50 PM, prepared for another lengthy ordeal. I quickly lost track of time after that, so I was pretty much flabbergasted to learn that Daniel had been born at 5:18 PM — less than ninety minutes afterward! While Henry’s 23-hour labor had been a true marathon, Daniel’s was a brutal sprint… and believe¬†me, I recommend the latter!

It’s an awfully good thing that I had planned for a second unmedicated birth, as there simply was not any time to administer any pain medication. Ultimately, the only thing I ever had was some¬†over-the-counter ibuprofen later that night. The worst side effects I experienced were unrelated to the actual birth; my hand remained sore and bruised for several days where they’d had to draw blood for the anemia check, and my cough worsened to a point where it was causing me pain “in my aggrieved region” and ramping up to bronchitis, so Kristi prescribed some codeine cough syrup that made me feel so stoned that I never took any but the first dose. I felt like my physical healing went more quickly than the first time around, although I did have some setbacks related to parenting a Junior Hulk toddler and have had to take it easier than I’d like to.

Maybe the hardest thing has been that Ryan had to use up half of his “paternity leave” on being sick before the actual birth, and my parents have been saddled with a house situation that had to be addressed right now, and that on top of the “second birth is no big deal” thing has kind of resulted in me being emotionally and literally¬†on my own a lot. I think that’s slowed down my emotional recovery, although now by¬†3 weeks out I am beginning to feel more myself. It is kind of sucky, though! I haven’t had any coworkers/work friends¬†contact me directly to ask how I’m doing, which is kind of depressing but not especially surprising, and my social life has deteriorated to the point that the only people who act like friends are the lovely ladies of my book club, half of whom have had or are about to have second or third babies at the same approximate time as I did! So they get it. Bringing a newborn home to a toddler, especially one as passionate as Henry, is h-a-r-d, and now that I’ve been both I think 2nd time moms may need more support than first-timers!

I am glad, though, that Daniel is my second baby. He is much clingier and needier, and I am able to relax and not worry about that in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to the first time around. It’s good to know that things are okay and that I don’t have to respond to the baby within the first two seconds that he cries — especially given that this is liable to be the exact same moment that the toddler is shrieking and the dog is demanding to go outside! Haha.

Channeling my inner “16 and pregnant” here, I guess — everyone says I look 15 in this picture, which is pretty great considering I’m 35!

Bright eyes ‚̧

39!!!

Yesterday, remarkably, marked the day when I was 39 weeks pregnant. (!!!) It was also my last day at work for the school year, which was very odd. It is hard to relinquish control, but I know that once [REDACTED] is here I should fully “find my zen” about letting go of work for a while. Or, y’know, just be too tired and overwhelmed to think about it. ūüôā

Tuesday was my last day with students — Wednesday was set aside for SATs — and it was a tough one in some ways, because I just started feeling significantly less comfortable on that day. Nothing that says “you’re in labor” or anything, but everything was just so much more difficult — especially standing and walking. Many more Braxton-Hicks on Tuesday, and I found myself getting out of breath and needing to go to the restroom more frequently than before. I am glad that I made the decision to bug out a week before my due date; I think I am physically done, even if my mind is still plugged in (which, let’s face it, it isn’t really).

According to R, my belly has also changed shape and seems bigger. Probably [REDACTED] is getting all settled and everything. He’s definitely head-down and spends most of his time with his back to my left side and at least one leg stretched out as far to my right side as he can get it. I feel toes pretty regularly under my right breast, and sometimes all the way over to my side. Sometimes he flips around and I can feel what seems to be his bottom below my sternum.

Every day for the past few days, I am half-convinced that I’ll be having a baby within 24 hours. The other half-convincedment is that he’ll stick around in there until May, just to use up as much of my sick leave as possible. ūüėõ This afternoon I have another doctor’s appointment, so maybe the dilation/effacement news will shed some light on that — probably not, though. R keeps wishing there was a more concrete calendar for this sort of thing, but it just doesn’t work that way…

So, Sunday evening, I went out in our front yard with our dog, Paisley. Paisley has very good yard boundaries, is reasonably good about obeying even when she’s caught up in the moment, and knows/likes cats. But waaaaay down the block, some cat walks across someone’s yard and somehow ticked Paisley off, and off she went like a rocket. I obviously had no chance of catching her, and neither did the 10-year-old boy she shot past who took off after her. I’ve never seen her go after a cat like that. She vanished around the block, but I’m guessing she came to a street (she’s VERY well trained about not going into roads) because after a second, she came back with her tail between her legs.

Then Sunday night, our cat d’Artagnan suddenly discovered that his new favorite place to hide (i.e., under the crib) had a second story. Up until that point, he had shown no interest in the actual crib itself — just the dust-ruffled “cave” underneath it. d’Artagnan is a very timid “scaredy-cat” and doesn’t know that he’s physically capable of jumping very high (seriously) so he just stood there for a few minutes, captivated… he stood up on his hind legs so he could peer in (not propped against the crib, mind you, just meerkat-ing it) and then made a very half-hearted attempt to jump in that ended up with him running into the side of the crib about halfway up.

Thing is, he’s not only timid and sheltered — he’s also a strictly indoors cat without the foggiest idea how to take care of himself. But naturally, the Night of the Crazy Animals wasn’t over yet… so when I wake up the next morning and d’Artagnan doesn’t follow any of his unbreakable morning routines (following the dog downstairs for a morning treat, chasing me into the bathroom to put in my contacts) I knew something was wrong. Turns out he’d somehow slipped out the front door the night before. I won’t go into the details of the panicked bathrobe-clad 5 AM search of the neighborhood, except to say that we found him trapped in our neighbor’s side yard, yowling, and had to dig him out underneath the fence because it was locked up. It had been well below 30 degrees that night and rainy… and we live near bad roads, in coyote country… I am so glad he found someplace nearby and safe to be. R and I were just sick after that but both had to go to work anyway… d’Artagnan, meanwhile, spent the next couple of days strutting around the house looking smug…

Anyway, everyone told me that our animals were acting crazy because I was going to go into labor that day. But I didn’t. And then that evening, our district’s substitute coordinator made an error and called my long-term substitute to let him know that I had had the baby. Apparently she knew something I didn’t know…? Being slightly superstitious, I thought maybe I’d end up having the kiddo on Tuesday after all of that, but it didn’t happen.

[REDACTED] can definitely hear things (Paisley just started barking at some neighbor kids and the baby — well, let’s just say I can visualize him doing a miniature version of his father flinching and trying to get the dog to shut up) and reacts to food and drink pretty quickly, especially if the drink is very cold and/or sugary. Like, a Coke doesn’t do anything, but a fruit smoothie does. He’s surprisingly active given how little room he has in there. Lots of very visible rolling and shifting, although I have yet to experience the “discernable outline of body part” thing that some people see.

I guess that, for all that I feel quite pregnant, I don’t look quite as big as people expect me to — and frankly, I always thought I’d be the “big all over” type, so I’m smaller than I anticipated as well. When people ask me when I’m due, and I say the 25th, they keep thinking I mean the 25th of May! Then they’re shocked when I clarify that I’m due next week. Funny, because we’re pretty certain that [REDACTED] is going to be a pretty long baby. I guess he just tucks up well.

Okay, I have some things to do around the house, including finishing thank you notes, so I had best get off the computer and get to work… plus, it’s cold in here (programmable thermostat hasn’t yet been told that I’m not at work) so I need to get moving to get warm. ūüôā Will keep y’all posted… who knows, next post might have baby pictures…

New Babies and the Waiting Game

As I write this, the little guy is doing the boogie in my belly. It’s so funny to watch my abdomen rocking and rolling… As much as I’m anticipating having some control over my own body again, I think I’ll probably miss this aspect of pregnancy.

On Thursday, I got to hold my friend B’s eight-day-old baby boy. Talk about extraordinary… and terrifying… It’s simultaneously very hard to believe that people start out so very small, and that there is such a big person inside me right now. I felt like neither he nor I really knew what we were doing; he wasn’t at all sure where his arm was supposed to go, and — probably complicated by the fact that I have no lap to speak of at the moment — I had the worst time finding a way to hold him that felt right.

What an extraordinary thing. So soft and tiny and new and uncertain. What a gift to get to spend a few minutes with him and realize that I’m going to have my own here, within the next few weeks…

My goodness.

That afternoon we had the 38-week doctor’s appointment. They had to redo the Strep Group B swab test due to a lab screw-up, and then checked to see how things were coming along. I’m at about 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Doc said that the softness and thinness of the cervix was much more in line with someone who had given birth before, although the dilation was typical for a first pregnancy. He also said that the head was pressing on the cervix (although he also said something that seemed to indicate that the baby isn’t completely dropped?) so I’m not really sure what those two pieces of information mean together.

We listened to the heartbeat; Ryan asked if I, too, knew that the heart rate was just above 120bpm before the doctor said so. I hadn’t been paying attention, but I know I could have — hooray for band babies. ūüôā

Anyway, the doctor says that he can’t imagine we’ll be waiting three weeks (due date was two weeks from Thursday). I guess we’ll be meeting this little guy — and learning how to hold him — pretty darn soon!

37

Well, today I am 37 weeks pregnant. I have a baby-sized baby inside of me. He’s heavy. One of these dumb websites tells me he’s as long as a piece of Swiss chard. Why do all of the baby-size comparisons have to be to things we eat? I don’t want to have eaten my baby.

I can’t seem to get a good self-portrait of myself for these weekly posts, probably because I’m trying to take them using a timer app on my cell phone in a classroom with bad lighting. When we first got pregnant, Ryan wanted to take my picture every single day so that we could make an animated gif of my expansion. But then he started his new job and sorta forgot about taking pictures, so I’ve just been trying to take them myself, with pretty limited results. This one was so bad that I decided tohellwithit and gave it the Use Software to Turn a 21st Century Photograph Into a Terrible Photo from the Early 1980s treatment (aka Instagram, although in this case I used Pixlr). It actually improved the photo, which just goes to show you how bad it was.

37 weeks

I currently have rock-hard abs. Or rock-hard fetus. Something like that. Anyway, it’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a quarter bounce off my abdomen. I’m actually pretty sure you could do that now. Wait — is that a thing? Or am I thinking of making your bed to military standards? That’s probably what I’m thinking of. Oh well.

Tomorrow is my Strep B test, which sounds completely lovely, as does any procedure in which the words “swab,” “sample,” “vagina,” and “anus” appear in the same sentence. I imagine that they’ll take the opportunity to check my cervix while I have my knickers off — or at least, it seems like they’d want to be doing that, given that the kiddo is technically full-term and plenty of people give birth at 37 weeks. That said, I’d be shocked to learn that any progress has been made toward infant evacuation. If I’ve had any Braxton Hicks contractions, they’ve been mild enough to be mistaken for gas or minor twinges.

More uncomfortable by far are my son’s long legs. What’s up with pregnancy diagrams, anyway? They’re all from the side — I can’t find a single one that looks at the uterus (with a kid in it) from the front. This is what all these pregnancy websites want you to think of when they say someone is 37 weeks pregnant:

37 week diagram from side

But they’re missing out on the real story, which looks something a bit more like this:

37 weeks pregnant from the front

(If I had the time or skills, I’d animate that so that you could see those legs shoving as hard as they can against ribs and side, constantly…)

What I’m trying to say here is, Kermie isn’t a placid little curled up ball of baby in there — although he has gotten calmer as he’s run out of room. He has really one and only one hobby, and that’s attempting to stretch my right ribcage out as far as humanly possible before his birthday.

I¬†do have some very nice “look, I’m bulbous” photographs to share, but I need a little more time to curate them before sharing here. Like,¬†real¬†photographs, not iPhone crappery. I suppose I ought to take some time to figure out how so many people can take clear photos on their iPhones; mine are never as good as I want them to be. Anyway, here is one picture, taken on Easter, that doesn’t necessarily show off my bulbousness (that dress camouflaged rather than emphasized my shape) but which includes baby’s not-really-namesake, so that’s cute.

Kate, Ryan, Kermie - 36.5 weeks

Easter (March 31, 2013)

I like the word “bulbous.” I grow somewhat weary of¬†being bulbous…

As I write, my friend B is — well, if things have gone according to schedule, she’s recovering from the delivery of their second baby… Very excited for her… Can’t wait to find out whether it’s a little brother or sister…

I think that’s enough for now. Not very inspired. Got to go to a staff meeting now and then grade a bunch of tests. See y’all later.