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 ‚̧

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41?! Still Waiting. Also: Monsters.

As of yesterday, I am 41 weeks pregnant… which I guess means I am now in my 42nd week of pregnancy… thanks, Douglas Adams.

41 weeks pregnant

41 weeks pregnant

I’m still feeling pretty much just fine. I’ve had a little bit more indigestion, and it’s clear that my hips/pelvis are getting a little more stretchy and a little less functional (at least, where function = walking). But I don’t feel especially uncomfortable, exhausted, miserable, anxious, depressed — none of that stuff. It’s funny what a simple conversation and an extension can do for one’s peace of mind.

It seems like my family is really much more tired of waiting than I am. I wish that I knew when it would all happen so that we could stop having this, “Now? Today? Tonight?” anxiety! It is really wearing on everyone. For me, [REDACTED] is already a physical reality; he has gotten more aggressive about his kicking games, for example. But everyone else is just having to sit around waiting to experience him, and I know they’re getting tired of waiting!

We went in for our first (hopefully last) monitoring yesterday afternoon, to make sure it was okay to keep waiting for the baby to choose his own time. We had a non-stress test and an amniotic fluid check. Interesting side note: if you leave the hyphen out of “non-stress” when typing it on an iPhone, you end up scheduling yourself for a monsters test instead.

monsters test

Anyway, we passed the monsters test with flying colors. His heart rate was strong and in the right range, although it sure did vary a lot over the course of half an hour or so!

According to the nurse, I actually had a couple of contractions while we were in there — but I didn’t even feel them. So weird. I have been operating under the assumption that contractions = pain. If that’s not the case — if you can have contractions that you don’t even feel — then have I been having contractions for the past several days? I’ve had several of what I’d identified as strong Braxton-Hicks contractions — a sense of downward pressure without any real pain — and some mild intestinal cramping that I thought was just gas. Maybe I’m not being as contraction-incompetent as I thought!

Then they did the world’s gooiest ultrasound, checking all four quadrants to make sure there was enough amniotic fluid in there. They wanted at least 8 (cubic centimeters, I assume) and I had in the neighborhood of 24.

So, yeah. I’m feeling a trifle inefficient. But other than that… all is well…

My favorite hobby this week is going to a store (or an estate sale, today) and hoping that someone asks me when I’m due, because then I get to say “Last Wednesday” — and the looks on their faces are PRICELESS. Apparently I am “holding up awfully well,” “very upbeat for being as far along as I am,” and “so tiny!” I gotta say: I could get used to being called tiny. The thing is, I fully attribute my general sense of well-being (both physical and emotional) to having some time away from work; I really do love my job, but it has been very stressful this year, and it’s exhausting any year (especially for someone who doesn’t get her “batteries charged” from human interaction).

I don’t have a great deal to say about anything, honestly. I think I am probably not going to update this site again until after the stork shows up; there’s really just not much to say. I am on Facebook, and posting fairly often over there, if you’re eager to know about my daily goings-on. ūüôā

How to Have a Baby

birthing ballRyan and I spent Saturday with eleven other couples learning how to have a baby — or rather, how to watch videos about having babies, I guess. I don’t really think that they said very much that I didn’t know, but there were some good things that took place.

For one thing, I got to try out a birthing ball (which is just a slightly deflated exercise ball) and think I’d like to get one. They’ll provide one at the hospital, but they recommend them in late pregnancy for comfort, and it really did feel good to sit on it. I think I can get an exercise ball at Target or a similar store, at which point it’s just a matter of figuring out how much to inflate it for this particular purpose.

Another REALLY nice thing was that the class — led by a L&D nurse from the hospital where we’ll deliver — made me feel much better about the upcoming experience. I’d left the tour of the L&D wing feeling a little lukewarm about the whole thing, but everything that the actual nurse and class said made me feel much better. Talk about natural childbirth, immediate skin-to-skin and breastfeeding, and varied positions for labor were the default; I had worried that there would be pressure for a more “hospital-y” birth, but it looks like, if anything, the opposite will be true (which is fine with me!) They went out of their way to show us all of the options, including all of the different ways that the bed could be arranged. I’m feeling much better about our decision to use the hospital now that I know that the nurses assume and will support the kind of birth experience that I want.

The best part of the class? Definitely the hand massage. ūüôā I’m inspired to go find some really good hand lotion now… it’s funny how good something so simple can feel — kind of like when someone plays with your hair. They say it’s a rather helpful thing for dads to do during labor.

Because it was such a large class, none of us really interacted with one another. I know that we were all due in the same range of time — I’m guessing all April/May babies.

I’m having a hard time resisting the urge to compare my body to those of other women due at about the same time I am. Twice now I’ve had slightly uncomfortable conversations with women who are due the same week as I am. The gal I spoke to on Saturday was clearly indignant that I was smaller than she was. I guess I ought to enjoy it — I’ve been overweight for some time; it’s been a long time since I’ve felt petite!

This Wednesday, and the following one, we have another class that focuses on natural/non-medical pain relief strategies. ¬†(The hypnobirthing class was super expensive and time-consuming, but I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the basic concepts from reading the book.) I hope that the class has a lot of good information in it and that it is time well-spent. If nothing else, it’s kind of nice to feel as though we have done something to prepare, even if it isn’t the most mind-blowing information in the world. I’m also glad that it’s two short sessions, instead of one marathon class; I was happy to get it over with in one day instead of several evenings, but that was a¬†very¬†long day (especially considering we had to go from it almost directly to an orchestra concert).