Sunday, March 3
The Birth Tale:
If birth stories are not your thing, you are not hurting my feelings if you skip this one. It's not especially gory or juicy or anything, but it IS about cervix-dilation and placentas and such. If even reading those two phrases makes you shudder and cringe, that might be your sign to move along...
But if you're a birth story junkie like me, here ya go. I've finally got it written and documented.
It was a darkkkk and storrrrrmy night.....
Okay, no. But I don't have a solid way to begin this tale, so we'll just dive in. I was pregnant. VERY pregnant. For most of the end of pregnancy I was convinced my little guy would stay put and not come early... There were just no big signs that he was eager to come out. But then, without warning, a few days before my due date, the contractions started. And stayed. I began paying attention. On Monday the 14th of Jan., I had a dr. appt and they very nearly sent me into the hospital for a slightly elevated blood pressure and some swelling. My doc ended up letting me go home, but said he wanted to see me in 3 more days for me to keep an eye on possible issues with headaches and swelling and such. I went home, relieved but pretty sure this baby had decided this was the week. Just in case, I packed my bags.
On Wednesday, Jan. 16th, after a night of pretty consistent contractions, I started the day SURE that I'd end it in the hospital. But as they often do, right when I began to think I could count on the buggers, the contractions stopped. My next dr. appt was the next day, Thursday the 17th, in the afternoon. I decided that when I went, I'd tell my doc I was ready to just head to the hospital and begin the induction he'd offered me on Monday that I had turned down. I was tired of the poor sleep I'd been getting and tired of the failed anticipations-- the ups and downs of counting minutes and timing contractions. My parents arranged their plans so they could be in town by midnight, and I hastily set up other babysitters to cover the gap from my dr. appt. at 3:30pm til midnight when my parents would arrive. Then I headed to the appointment.
When my doctor checked me, I had made some clear and obvious progress from my Monday appointment, where I'd barely been dilated to a 2. Now, Thursday afternoon, I was a very ready 4, and my doctor was more than happy to call the hospital and see if they could get me in. As much as I was ready to just go and begin this process, the L&D nurses at the hospital ended up telling my doc that they'd put me on the morning call list and would have me come in then. As I headed home, once again NOT having my baby, I decided to let our evening babysitter still take our kiddos, so Joe and I could get one more evening together to wrap up some loose ends and just hold hands and get ready for the coming day. I confess, as ready as I was to just get started in the labor process, I was more than a little but relieved to get one more night with Joe and then to get to tuck in my kiddos for their bedtimes...one more night to give them extra snuggles and kisses on the eve of our life changing.
So the kids hung out with our friend Jessica and her two daughters at their gymnastics practice, and Joe and I went to Target to get a few things, then go to dinner. And somewhere between the doctor's office at 3:00pm and Target at 5:00pm, my contractions started up again. I was shocked at how hard it was, suddenly, to walk my usual way. Holding Joe's arm like we were going to prom, I kept apologizing to him that I had to walk so gingerly and slow through the aisles of Target. I laughed at myself, but it was really different. He didn't mind, and kept telling me to take as long as I needed. We shuffled through our shopping list and then headed to Red Lobster for dinner. During that short drive, Joe asked if maybe we should go ahead and time the contractions that were now getting stronger. I nodded through one and we began. It was soon clear that they were steady and consistent at 10 minutes apart.
At Red Lobster, I remember telling Joe I was so frustrated that these things would start up again NOW-- now that we had a plan in place, were trying to enjoy our last evening of freedom, and were looking forward to some snuggle time with Noah and Lucy. But there they were-- time-able and increasingly painful contractions, all throughout dinner. As soon as we got home, I made a beeline for the tub, willing a hot bath to slow things down and get me through the night so I could sleep and be ready for induction in the morning. Meanwhile, the kids were returned home, we had our bedtime rituals and I did manage some snuggling... but there were big pauses to breathe through pain, too.
At this point, Joe and I just wanted to make it til my parents arrived at midnight. We settled in to watch TV, and I was able to doze for about 1.5 hours curled up next to Joe. I'd groggily wake every 7-13 minutes when a new contraction would start, and murmur that I was having one. He'd mark the time on his iTouch and I'd go back to sleep. Finally, FINALLY my parents arrived, 1:00am, and Joe trudged upstairs to try to get some sleep while I talked things over with my folks and told them I might not make it til the morning. I fell asleep about 1:30am. I slept fitfully for 2 hours or so, waking with each contraction and half-consciously riding the wave of pain til I could doze off again. By about 3:20am, I could tell, even half-asleep, that they were ramping up in strength, turning a corner into something more serious. I was not going to be able to sleep again. I quietly got up and began those last-minute things to get ready: fresh comfy clothes, hair combed and bandanna put on, adding toiletries to the hospital bag, checking the packing list one more time, adding a little thing here, another one there, getting my shoes on... All between pretty painful contractions, coming about 6-7 minutes apart. All while trying to delay the inevitable and let my poor Joe sleep a little bit longer. When I couldn't wait any longer, I woke Joe and woke my dad. They groggily answered the call to action and Joe and I were on the road to the hospital by 4:00am.
As we took the 20-minute drive (though I think Joe made it in 12!), the sitting-down-can't-move-much car contractions REALLY REALLY hurt. I turned to Joe and told him that though it felt like I was copping out, I think I'd decided to go ahead and ask for the epidural as soon as I got there. In my mind, you got to the hospital and gave it a good span of time for things to get going before you gave in to the epidural... but I was hurting. I was ready now.
We arrived and shuffled slowly and haltingly to the L&D floor. I maintained my composure through the check-in questions, which seemed to take HOURS, but really only took maybe 5 minutes. Finally we were led to a room and I could stop pretending I wasn't hurting. 4:27-- last time I was going to look like this:
I was all too ready to get gowned up and checked... I knew as soon as we got that nonsense out of the way, I could ask for an epidural and we could relax for a minute.
The nurse came in and the first thing she did was check my progress- I was a 6-almost-7.
I'd NEVER made it this far on my own before. No WONDER it hurt! The nurse laughed and said I was NOT being a baby to be ready for an epidural already. She promised to hurry though the check-in questions and procedures so we could get one ordered. I guess she was hurrying, but with an IV to be put in, blood pressure to be taken, and a trillion medical history questions to be asked and answered through VERY painful and frequent contractions, it took AGES to get the anesthesia order placed. An hour after settling into the hospital room, she makes the call. I am dying and SO READY. The next 15 minutes spent waiting for the epidural cart were the longest, and I began to employ Joe in some relief techniques with each contraction. It felt FAR better to be standing up than sitting or lying down, and the most effective pain management was for Joe to stand behind me grasping one of my shoulders hard while digging his knuckles into the small of my back. I'd push away from him and we had this finely balanced pressure push/pull for the duration of the contraction where all I could do was mutter, "To the left." or "harder".... And then the contraction would fade, he would let go, and I would have a couple of minutes to rest and wait and try not to watch the clock.
5:45 am, and we finally heard the blessed cheerful voice of the anesthesiologist lady as she rolled in the room on a wave of hope and promise of relief. The worst part of epidurals is having to hold completely still during the process, though you are writhing in unbearable contraction pain. I found that moaning into a pillow helped. The nurse was an incredible coach during those 10 minutes, too, and I distractedly wondered if I could hire her to be my doula next time... she just KNEW how to coach and what tone of voice to use for breathing and coping. Somehow I made it to the end of the procedure without jarring the needles loose.
The anesthesiologist started the epidural with a good strong initial dose, so it was barely 5 minutes before I began feeling a significant lessening of the pain. By 6:00am I was feeling GREAT. And TIRED. The nurse and the anesthesiologist rolled out of the room and the nurse turned the lights low, telling us to get some rest. Joe was only too happy to comply, and after asking if I was okay if he slept a bit, he reclined the guest chair and was out like a light.
From 6:00am-6:45am, it is a blissful quiet time of pain-free relief. I dozed a bit between text messaging friends/loved ones and between the blood pressure cuff going off at regular intervals to keep tabs on my stats. I was too tired to think ahead too far... not even really wondering when everything would escalate to a birth... Just ready to rest until then.
Around 6:45, two things happened at the same time. First, I began to notice my contractions a bit again. Second, the nurse came in and told me she was not happy with the baby's heart rate with each contraction. I woke up enough to begin noticing the same thing-- we waited for the next contraction, which I felt coming on, and sure enough-- at the crest of it, baby's heart rate dropped quite a bit. Sadly, I was not surprised. Noah did the same thing and ended up a C-section. Lucy did the same thing and only got out in the nick of time before my OB was set to call for a repeat C-section. Obviously my babies don't handle stress well. Ha.
So we tried the usual-- roll to one side, sit up a bit more, etc. With each contraction, which I was now feeling quite clearly, I listened for the drop in heart rate. It happened every time. Nurse kept her cheerful face on, but definitely wasn't happy with how it was going. She said it looked like they were going to need to break my water soon-- that it was probably a cord issue and that often the water breaking relieved that pressure/issue. The problem was, I was being put through a 4-hour course of antibiotics for my Group-B strep situation, and I'd only been hooked up to the IV for 2 hours. Still--- the benefits of breaking my water earlier than 4 hours far outweighed the benefits of a full dosage of antibiotics, so she called the resident OB to come check me and talk about our plan.
Meanwhile, I was no longer able to ignore the contractions. With each one, the intensity and pain got worse until I had to ask the nurse if there was anything we could do. Until that point, I'd had the "pain button"-- a clicker I could click on my own about every 15 minutes to "up the juice"... and I'd taken advantage of that at 6:45 and 7:00. By 7:10 or so, I was not doing well. It HURT. So the nurse called anesthesia and a male anesthesiologist came in to check my situation out. From about 7:15-7:30, he messed with my levels and meds, and would wait out each contraction with me, asking if that one was any better. I think I felt SOME of the edge get taken off, but mostly I was WANTING it to be better and telling him, "Maybe? Maybe that one was better?" But in all honesty, I don't think things improved all that much. I was feeling most everything. I began to sweat and get shaky and it was VERY hard to get through a contraction (coming every 1.5 minutes or so) without vocalizing/moaning/gasping. In hindsight, I was obviously beginning "transition"- the progress to the final stages of labor. But I didn't know it at the time, and neither did he. So we kept chasing the pain, trying to get ahold of it and anchor it down with the right dose of epi-juice.
Somewhere in here, the nurse checked my cervical progress and I was an 8-- "bags are bulging," she said-- and said all we had to do was wait for the resident OB to come do the actual breaking of my water. When the resident finally came in, around 7:30am, I'd progressed to a 9 and it was no trouble at all to get my water broken. There was an excess of blood at this time, worth mentioning to me, but nothing that seemed to scare anyone. Even if it had been something scary, I swear at this point that I would not have heard them say it. It was all I could do to not lose my mind with each contraction. The anesthesiologist had left once I'd told him MAYBE they were getting better (lying to him and to myself, I think) so it was all up to me. I was NOT prepared. I reached a level where I could feel myself turning feral--- eyes rolling back, moans and hissed swear words seeping out... Unable to believe this was really happening. The edge of madness. I'd not prepped for a natural birth so I simply did not have the focus and tricks in place to manage these things with more dignity.
Luckily, once my water was broken, the baby's heart rate went back to perfect and stayed there, so no one had to hurry us along this end process. I was grateful he decided to cooperate, because once the pain got so bad, I simply could no longer concentrate on his heart rate and whether or not it was doing well. I was just trying not to fall apart every 1.5 minutes. The time was approx. 7:45am, and somehow in between the hard contractions I got enough of a pain break that I was managing to text and joke back and forth with a few dear friends. (One friend even predicted with razor-sharp accuracy that since I was already dilated to a 9 by 7:15, I'd have a baby in my arms by 9:00am. Smart girl, that one.) Looking back at those text conversations, it's clear now that the two things overwhelming me in addition to the pain were that I was SO HUNGRY and SO TIRED. So so so tired. Not even from laboring yet--- just from the compounded bad sleep of the previous week and the missed sleep of that night. I was so exhausted and unprepared for the levels of natural childbirth pain I was feeling. Looking back, I think I maybe ended up having only about 25% relief from that epidural when it was needed most.
By 8:15, the nurse took pity on me and checked me again. I was a 10. My OB was called and the nurse asked me if I wanted to go ahead and try some pushing. She asked it so casually, like in her mind it wasn't because it was TIME to push, but rather because it might give me some relief from the transitioning and pressure I'd been feeling. I said a resounding YES and she coached Joe and me into pushing position. I don't know why, though, but being shifted into the legs-up position suddenly crammed my baby into my ribs, and I could NOT get any deep breaths. Yet the nurse was coaching me, "Take a BIG DEEP breath and holditdolditholditholdit.......and...... let it go. And okay, ANOTHER DEEP BREATH and holditdolditholditholdit...." Etc. But I could not get any kind of deep breath. Much less hold it hold it hold it. It SUCKED. Finally after three halfhearted pushes in that position, she helped me shift to a side position, and that helped. I was able to give it some good effort for the next two or three contractions. After a total of maybe 6 contractions, I felt a significant shift in my pushing and suddenly the pressure was like WHOA, guys. I needed my doctor. RIGHT NOW. The nurse cheerfully agreed and told me to hang on (what???!). Luckily, he breezed in right at that moment, but it threw me into total despair to see him still in street clothes. The nurse was holding me off and all I wanted was to PUSH THIS BABY OUT, and it was agony watching him toss his scrubs on and get sanitized and ready. In truth, it probably only took him 4 minutes, and the cart was in the room and ready for him, but it was an eternity with the pressure I felt. The only thing worse than that waiting just then was next being told to get from my side-pushing position to roll back on my back. REALLY? With an 8-lb baby in the way? Agony. But somehow we manged to get me there, and my doc got in position... and with a few good pushes and maybe a yell or two, baby was out. No messing around, it really WAS time for him to be born, and everything happened just in time.
And there he was. Quinn Atticus. No delay whatsoever between his trajectory out and him being immediately rerouted to my arms. (Even Lucy had a "blanket wrapping" pause before I got her. Not this time.) Joe cut the cord, then got put on camera duty by an already-aware-and-bossy me, not wanting to miss a moment. The nurse followed closely behind with Quinn's blanket and hat and there we were--- Mama and son meeting for the first time, EVERY bit of the labor pain completely forgotten as I felt the squish and warmth of this floppy new tiny baby of mine in my arms.
The afterbirth processes were really simple--- not much more pain to endure, even with some stitching. (I truly believe the epidural took hold from the bottom of my pelvis down my legs--- I didn't feel Quinn's head at the point of delivery, and didn't feel the stitches in full force... But I felt them a little, and felt ALL the uterine pains.) It turned out that all that blood from earlier was because I'd had a placental abruption (where the placenta begins to detach from the wall of the uterus, something that can be VERY scary in earlier pregnancy but was not a big worry in my case because it happened sometime after active labor started.)
Really, from the point Quinn was placed in my arms, all pain was forgotten, I was no longer hungry, and I could have stayed awake for hours yet. It was exhilarating. A rush. And a joy. I could not believe I'd done it with so little pain medication, and could not believe how hard it was, yet how quickly it had gone. Mostly, I could not believe that this new little one was all mine to begin to get to know.
Quinn was born on January 18, 2013, at 8:38am after I'd been in the hospital for only 4 hours. He weighed 7 lbs. 8 oz, was 20.25 inches long, and came out with a full head of dark hair, dark eyes, and a calm, quiet stare for miles. He barely cried. Within an hour he was bathed and measured and swaddled snugly and we were able to settle into a lovely hospital stay as we took that quiet, still, peaceful time to get to know our new little man.
I always wondered what it was like for moms and dads of the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. kids... did it ever become routine? Was it ever like, "Well, here's another one..."?
I can tell you with authority, no it does not. Having Quinn in my arms that first day and getting to know him in the subsequent weeks feels as huge, as new, and as special as when we met Noah. And Lucy. He is not "just another one".... he is monumental and remarkable and life-changing, and I am overjoyed that this is the truth of a third child. In all honesty, it tempts me to keep having more... to keep proving this truth. (Well, and to keep having miraculously marvelous kids in our life... :))
For now, we'll stick with the three, and give Quinn plenty of time to begin to know our world here in the little white house. It is more than enough.
Next up, an iPhoto blitz of photos from those first few days... the kids meeting their brother, the little new details... the whiling away of a now-much-slower life with a newborn.... I'll spare us all the over-writing, which I'm good at, and let the photos tell their own story. It'll be a nice change. :)
(Thanks to Joe for taking at least half these photos. You're my hero in a thousand ways, love, this being one of them.)
Posted by Emily S. at 5:37 PM