Last Wednesday, May 18th, I had planned to blog about how very cranky I was getting. :) I was miserable at work, with the constant (though, of course, well intentioned) questions about why I was still there, hadn't I had the baby yet (have you seen my belly? obviously not), how large I was getting, etc. were starting to get to me. Obviously, I wasn't my usual chipper self, and so I was contemplating taking the rest of the week off as sick days just to get a little rest and relaxation at home with Mike prior to the baby's arrival.
Thus, Tuesday night I went to bed, well, cranky. To add to the fun, I couldn't sleep. I got up at 1am to use the restroom and couldn't fall back to sleep, so I went downstairs with my book so that I wouldn't rouse Mike. I read for a bit, and finally fell asleep on the couch. Around 4, I woke up with a stiff neck, so I got up to go to the bathroom (AGAIN) and went back up to bed. Blessedly, I fell asleep.
I woke up at 6 (SIGH) needing to pee again, but I laid still, trying to stave it off so that I could rest until Hank woke up. Suddenly, I felt a gush of warm liquid run down my legs. If it had been a trickle, I would have worried that I'd just peed my pants (lovely) but I knew right away what this was, although my water never broke by itself with Hank. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom.
Right away, I leapt into crisis mode. What color was it? Well, I couldn't tell. I thought it was clear, and made a mental note. I took care of the issue, and rushed to the bedroom to tell Mike. Hank was just sleepily rousing, and thus chaos ensued. I could already feel the beginnings of some snappy menstrual-like cramping, and knew my time was limited. So, I quickly hopped online to post my vacation messages for work and to this blog :) and settled in to eat breakfast. I knew they wouldn't let me eat at the hospital, and that's one mistake I did not want to repeat this time around. Labor is a marathon; you need to prepare for it by giving your body strength.
I could still feel the contractions over a distracted breakfast, but shortly thereafter, as I was racing around answering a million Hank questions, getting dressed and straightening my hair (yes, I'm crazy) I noticed that I couldn't feel them anymore. UH OH. Well, I figured I'd call my doctor's office (instructions say to call if water breaks) to let them know I'm on the radar screen, and then walk up and down the stairs, etc., in an attempt to get the contractions back on track.
So I call. And they tell me to go to the hospital. I frown. I ask if I shouldn't stay home longer until my contractions are more powerful and frequent, and am told emphatically "no." Since my membranes ruptured, they want me to come in right away. I frown again, but thank them and sign off. Well, being the stubborn gal that I am, I do push their instructions just a hair. I didn't want to rush to the hospital to have them pushing Pitocin on me because I wasn't "progressing quickly enough." I stayed home for another hour and a half to walk up and down the stairs, pace a bit, and actually did some hip circles. Suddenly, I was back in business. They didn't hurt, but they did exist, so I was happy with that. We packed up Hank to head to his grandparents and were on our way. In the car, I continued to have these light and not-timeable contractions. As we dropped Hank off, I noticed that they picked up slightly, but they didn't really hurt; they just increased in uncomfortableness. I could still easily carry on a conversation with Mike in the car, and I do remember the ride fondly.
We arrive, and I instructed Mike to just park far so that I'd have a nice long walk in. We check in at the nurses station, and are led to the initial examination room. Everything is fine and dandy, and I change into the attractive hospital gown. My doctor (out of a practice of four) was the one on duty that day (yay) but she wasn't at the hospital yet, so I was led through a barrage of incoming questions (hadn't I pre-registered? Yes, but this doesn't stop them for asking you 30 minutes worth of questions, which are repeated 2 or 3 times, I swear it) by the charge nurse, and then examined by the resident midwife.
***TMI alert for the rest of the post*** I'll just warn you now. :) Stop reading if you like.
The day prior I had been 2.5-3 cm dilated, and 50% effaced (thinned). Upon arrival, I was 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced. I relaxed a bit, knowing that I was progressing despite the lack of painful contractions. At this point, it was only 10 am or so, and my water had only been broken for four hours.
And yes, the water. The hospital staff was quite obsessed with it. Apparently, my amniotic sac had indeed ruptured (no kidding) but only partially, not completely, and they were all concerned with what it was doing. I wasn't really sure why that mattered, but I humored them. The midwife did this test to assure it was amniotic fluid, and I was left in the exam room for quite a while as she verified it. During this time, I was starting to get more uncomfortable. I was encouraged by this, and eventually grew weary of sitting on that dumb little exam table. I shifted position a bit, and eventually just got off the damn thing and did some squatting and other positons on the floor.
Finally, the nuse and midwife reappeared, and asked me what I was doing. :) I answered with as much dignity as I could muster from down on my hands and knees on the floor. They assured me that they had a birthing room ready for me, and that I could move now. Happily, we moved to a birthing room.
That was around the time that I started getting cranky again. :) But it was all good. I was in the bed, hooked up to the fetal monitor, and feeling pissed. I loathe the fetal monitor, and wanted to take it off, because everything was going fine. But they wouldn't let me, because due to my shifting positions, the monitor kept interrupting, and they needed 30 straight minutes of monitoring before they'd take it off. During this announcement, at least 5 nurses came in to see some sort of "new system" that my labor/delivery nurse was entering me into in the computer, and I just wanted them gone. I was having to breathe through my contractions at that point, and the presence of anybody but Mike was pretty unwelcome.
My increased discomfort was clear, so the midwife came back in to re-examine me. I was already 6 cm dilated and 90% effaced. Things were really cooking. I was nearing transition, the hardest part of labor. Thus, they asked me if I wanted any pain relief. I said no, not at that time, which tied in nicely to them trying to give me IV fluids. I didn't want them, and they rightly reminded me that if I did change my mind and want the epidural, I needed at least a bag of fluids into me, which can take up to an hour. I told them that I understood that, but I was assuming the risk. They were very good about it, and didn't push the fluids again.
Meanwhile, I was continuing to hate the fetal monitor, and was tiring of getting tangled in the cords every time I tried to manuever. They still wouldn't let me take it off, but the nurse offered up a birthing ball, which I gratefully accepted. I sat on there for about 20 or 30 minutes, and by this point, I was needing to use my total focus to breathe through the contractions when they came. They didn't feel that long to me, maybe 30 seconds, but when I timed them, I realized that they were a full minute. A minute just really isn't that long, blessedly enough.
Soon, I tired of the birthing ball and just wanted to get in bed. I was starting to get the shakes, and I knew that was a sign of the Dreaded Transition. I did lie on my sides, and switched frequently, so I just went with it. I had prepared a special birth playlist on my iPod, and a recording of the rosary, but I ended up not using any of that stuff. The good old fashioned relaxation breathing got me through most of it, and then I moved on to moaning. Vocalizing really does help. I thought I'd be self-conscious about making noise, but in that moment, I totally wasn't. I just squeezed Mike's hand and moaned through them. Pretty soon, my doctor arrived, all perky. She's only slightly older than me, and has 2 young children. The first thing she said was:
"No epidural, huh?" with a teasing smile that said "what are you thinking, girlfriend?!" but it made me laugh. She examined me, and sure enough, I was at 8 cm and 100% effaced. I was almost there.
She encouraged me and left the room, and I just did my moaning thing, telling myself all the while that I was almost done. I did think about the epidural for a fleeting moment, but then I realized something: I had refused the fluids, and by the time they could get the quota into me, I'd be ready to deliver. Basically, I was screwed. :)
I was both chagrined and relieved. So, I pressed on. I had read that the urge to push is "unmistakable" so I kept waiting for that, but honestly, I never felt it. I did feel some pressure, but it wasn't what I'd call unmistakable, I was just finally at the point of dreading my contractions, moaning my little heart out until they were over, and ready to be done.
I reported my pressure feeling to the nurse, and the doctor came back in. I was 10 cm; "complete" and ready to push.
Well. I'll tell you like it is, I don't really hold back on here. I had read that pushing will relieve the pain. Unfortunately, I did not have that experience. :) Pushing HURT. Honestly, it was the toughest part, even more so than transition. I was on my side, and doctor told me to push from that position if I liked, so I did.
Big fat failure.
It HURT. And so I held back. She kept telling me that I had to push through the pain so that I could end it sooner, but that simply wasn't enough motivation for me. In contrast to my last birth, I could feel everything this time, and I could feel the baby's head in the birth canal. I knew I wasn't pushing hard enough, but hot damn, it sucked. :) I just wanted to be out of pain.
Finally, my doctor encouraged me to roll onto my back so that I could get my legs and pelvis wider, and she and the nurse really hit hard on the "pushing through pain as hard as I can" thing. The contraction came, and I just remember crying and chanting "I CAN'T I CAN'T I CAN'T I CAN'T." Because it really felt like I couldn't. I'd push a bit, it would hurt like a bad word I won't even insinuate, and when I stopped I could feel the baby's head slide back down into my pelvis. For full disclosure, it felt like having the largest bowel movement in the known world, and as you can imagine, that doesn't feel very good at all. We went though a couple of contractions like this, and I really didn't know how I could do it. With Hank, I had pushed for 3 hours (that did suck worse, it is true) and this time it was maybe 15 minutes later. And already, the doctor was telling me that she could see the baby's head. This was good.
On the next contraction, I did my usual holding back thing (maybe I could just stay that way forever? I was willing, but I don't know if everybody else was) but there was progress, and my doctor hurriedly got on her scrub suit thing for the delivery. I heard my nurse call the newborn nursery and ask for somebody to come because "we're having a baby in birthing room 5!" and I knew I had to do it. There was no choice at this point.
The contraction came, and I braced myself. I pushed, to the boisterous encouragement of my doctor and nurse. I pulled the last thing out of my bag of tricks to get through, the most primitive urge of all: I screamed. Loud, and long and hard. Probably scaring the shit out of every pregnant woman on the floor. And I pushed. And I felt the burning "ring of fire" that I knew meant the baby's head was crowning. So I pushed harder, and well. It sucked, BAD. But I kept pushing, and I felt the baby's head finally pass through my perineum, and then the rush of relief as the doctor gently pulled the baby's shoulders and body free.
My eyes were squeezed closed for maximum screaming effort, and so I finally opened them for the first look at Baby CL. I remember that moment so vividly with Hank, seeing his little face held up for the first time, and the doctor announcing "It's a Henry!"
I opened my eyes. And saw the doctor deposit a little ball of goop right onto my belly. It was Baby CL, who was facing away from me, and covered with an unexpected amount of vernix. He or she didn't like the delivery anymore then I did, and lots of wailing was going on. Excitedly, I asked:
"Is it a boy or a girl?!"
And the doctor said:
"I'm not positive. Well, I need to check."
That's really what she said. She was busy with afterbirth stuff, and the vernix was obstructing the view a bit.
So, she checked. And finally, the big annoucement. :) Baby CL is a...
Anne Therese, born just shy of 2pm on the afternoon of May 18th, 2011, weighing 7 lbs 14 ozs.
She's absolutely wonderful, and gave me one of the most transforming experiences of my life. I know that I'll never forget a single moment.