What a week!

First, I want to extend my thanks and gratitude to all of you who have offered your well wishes and congratulations over the past several days.  There is nothing like having your closest friends and family share in the joy of an event as life-altering and wonderful as this one.  Second, I wanted to share our birth story with everyone (and I know a few pregnant ladies who read this and may find this information helpful).  If the story is disjointed or incoherent, please realize I have slept probably 10 hours since Saturday night.  

On Saturday June 21st, we enjoyed our typical weekend walk around town to the Farmer’s Market, library, waterfront, etc.  In the evening, we settled in at the house to watch a really horrible movie that we had rented from Blockbuster.  I was tired and not really into the movie, so I decided to go to bed before the movie had ended.  I crawled into bed around 11PM.  Within minutes of getting under the covers, I had a contraction that was so strong, I was sort of in disbelief that out of nowhere I would have such intense pain.  Pain isn’t even the right word (a point I will return to later in the story).  I have a term for these pains—I call it “torso vice,” meaning that the sensation could be compared with what it would hypothetically feel like to have your torso in a vice.  I got up out of bed and told Rob that I had a strong contraction.  Maybe 2 minutes later, I had another one.  I knew that we would be going to the hospital, and I also knew that we wouldn’t be waiting the normal amount of time to make our departure.  I tried to lay back in bed and wait out the 1 hour minimum time period that you’re supposed to wait before going to the hospital.  But the contractions were picking up—within just a couple of contractions, the intensity was unbearable and I couldn’t get comfortable.  We called the midwife.  She said that because I hadn’t been experiencing the contractions for very long, I should wait and see if they would go away.  I knew that they would not, and in fact, I had to hand the phone over to Rob because the next contraction came on and I could not carry on a conversation with the midwife.  We timed the next few contractions and they were about a minute apart.  I was admittedly beside myself because I didn’t think I could wait an hour and I was actually getting worried about not making it to the hospital on time (and it’s only 5 minutes from the house).  During one contraction, my water broke so we decided to call the midwife back.  Rob called and the midwife gave us the OK to come in.  Getting dressed was a Herculean task.  Walking down the stairs to get into the car was also difficult.  We parked in the parking garage, and from there, the walk to Labor & Delivery was a very long hike down multiple hospital corridors, up some stairs, an elevator ride to whatever floor Labor & Delivery is on, and then down another corridor.  We got buzzed into Labor & Delivery, and I had to sign some paperwork to get admitted.  I could barely sign my name, and I’m pretty sure if a handwriting expert was asked to analyze my signature and compare it with my non-labor signature, they would swear it was a different person.  We were greeted by our nurse, and she led us into our room.  She asked if I would be using pain medications.  I said no.  Then she asked if I preferred to labor in my own clothes or in the hospital gown.  I told her I needed to throw up and I did.  All of this time, I felt like my mind was sequestered in some remote part of my brain, and that the only thing guiding my actions was my body.  After I threw up, I remember thinking “Throwing up is a sign that you’re in transition—-we learned this in childbirth class.”  After I threw up, I stripped off all of my clothes and again, my sequestered mind said “A loss of modesty characterizes transition—we learned this in childbirth class.”  My midwife arrived and examined me.   My cervix was completely effaced and I was dilated to 8 cm.  What this meant to me was that the birth of our child was pretty much imminent.  However, this thought only occurred to me in that remote portion of my mind that had been tucked away—I remained focused on the very tangible sensations that were occurring in my body.  The nurse drew me a bath, and I stepped into the warmth.  The water was very helpful in relaxing me, although the contractions were still very intense and getting closer together.  The contractions I was feeling at that time, while extremely unpleasant, are better characterized as intense than as painful.  The intensity is something that takes over every part of you—-lights are distracting, sounds are distracting, being talked to is distracting, listening to people talk is distracting.  I remember being completely distracted when they would periodically place the external fetal monitor on my belly to check the baby’s heartrate.  And at one point, I told Rob to shush when he said I was doing a good job.  Distraction is oddly not a good thing when you’re in transition—bringing all of your focus to the sensations you are experiencing is an unavoidable aspect of this part of labor.  I found that rocking my hips in the tub was helpful—I breathed rhythmically through each contraction and in my head, I counted with each breath, knowing that the contractions would only last 60-90 seconds, and if I could get to 30 or 45 seconds, I would be halfway through that contraction.  Rob would apply cold wash clothes to my forehead, which was so nice.  He offered me water in between each contraction, and somehow I had the wherewithal to say “Water please” and then “Thank you” for each sip.  I knew in the back of my mind that transition is usually only 5-20 contractions, and I kept a mental note of how many had elapsed (in that remote, sequestered part of my mind), knowing that I would be that much closer to the end with each of those contractions.  After being in Labor & Delivery for a total of about an hour, my midwife checked me again and reported that I was about 9.5 cm dilated and that I could give little pushes if I wanted to, and to just follow what my body was telling me to do.  I wasn’t really sure how to push at first.  It’s not really a skill you can just practice.  I was pushing somewhat tentatively while in the tub.  Finally, my midwife suggested I get out to try different positions that might be more effective at pushing the baby out.  I was reluctant to get out of the warm water, but once I was out, I was so glad that she encouraged me to try something different.  At this point, the details are fuzzy for me because my eyes were shut the whole time and I was so out of it, I can’t really remember what order I did everything in.  I used the squat bar for a while, and at this point, I could really feel the pressure of the baby coming down and I was able to push with greater efficiency.  I pushed while on my knees and grasping the back of the bed.  I was using such force with my arms during the pushes that I was pulling the mattress off the bed and Rob had to hold it down while I pushed.  I pushed while laying in the bed and grabbing a towel that had been tied around the squat bar.  The contractions were one right on top of another at this point with practically no break in between.  I remember feeling so exhausted and wondering whether I would have enough energy to really get the baby out.  I also remember thinking (in that remote part of my mind) that pushing was far more work than I ever imagined.  Finally, my midwife had me grab my knees and pull back on my legs and push—she thought I was making the most progress this way.  I remember Rob saying he could see a head with hair on it.  The remote part of my mind was excited about this, but I couldn’t verbalize or express this excitement in any way because I was so focused on the work I had to do to make the contractions stop.  I felt the baby start to crown and the so-called “ring of fire,” which yes, did hurt, but for some reason the burning sensation was completely superseded by the intensity of the labor at that point.  Ordinarily, the pushing process is guided with care at this point to allow the tissues to stretch and accommodate the baby.  Unfortunately, the baby’s heartrate started to drop significantly at this point, and I sensed the room quickly fill up with a number of worried doctors who were all insisting that I push the baby out immediately.  They gave me oxygen to help the baby out under those conditions, and I was so consumed with the intensity of the labor that I practically tore the oxygen mask and other monitors off my body as I tried desperately to get beyond the pain of the contractions.  I understood (in the remote part of my mind) the urgency of the situation, so with one push, I released Holden out into the world after 2 hours of pushing.  I ended up sustaining a third degree tear (Google it if you wish) in addition to the episiotomy that was cut to help facilitate Holden’s arrival.  They put Holden immediately on my chest and I remember looking at him and thinking how completely unreal the whole situation was.  Someone in the room asked, “Do you know what you had?” and Rob responded “A boy!”  I hadn’t wondered whether it was a boy when he was born because I always had the sense that it was a boy.  When I first looked at his face, I knew I was looking at Holden!  I watched Rob cut the cord, and even though the pain and intensity of the contractions was immediately gone, I still felt like an observer that was somehow disconnected from the events around me.  Slowly, I started to re-gain my presence of mind and feel more in touch with what was happening.  I was given a shot of pitocin to get my uterus to contract as I was still bleeding more than they wanted.  Two surgeons came in to repair my tears, while Rob walked around the delivery room with Holden.  After I delivered and got my sutures, I was instructed to get up to use the bathroom.  I felt really short of breath, and when I mentioned this to my nurse and the midwife, they checked my pulse and blood pressure while I was standing.  Pulse was 187!  Blood pressure was low at 87/46.  They decided to give me IV fluids for dehydration.  Once I was squared away, I was able to cuddle with Holden again and look at my sweet baby’s face.  I could not (and still can’t) believe that he is my son.  He is so precious and perfect.  When I first saw him, I thought immediately that he looks like his papa, and also like his great grandpa Horst.  He has his grandpa Friesel’s coloring, with the dark hair and tan skin.  He is a mellow fellow and is usually content just being cuddled and talked to.  We were in the hospital from 1:00AM Sunday through 6:30PM Wednesday.  I will talk about our recovery in another blog post, as that was an adventure by itself.  

June 28th, 2008 9:02 pm

Thanks for sharing your birthing story. This is a subject of great anxiety and mystery to me despite having attended several (at least 4) typical OB facilitated hospital births. I like to hear that it can be done w/o meds. Tears and episiotomies happen either way (not to discount their severity). Do you think the membrane stripping partly accounts for the brevity of your labor? I am in awe of you. Congrats on your amazing little boy! You guys are a good looking trio! :)

Kelly G
June 30th, 2008 7:45 am

I am so glad you shared your story. Thank you. I have been obsessing about birthing options and it is nice to hear a story from someone I know who has had a natural birth not more than a decade ago. :) You go girl! I can only hope to be so strong. By the pics you make it look easy (although I know its far from that). Congrats again on your healthy and happy fam.

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