Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Birth Story

I went to a St. Paddy's Day party this past Saturday and saw some friends I used to work with. The friends I worked with when I lost the baby. Who covered my classes, wrote lesson plans, found ways for me to get paid for the sick days even though I had used up my allotment for the year, who packed up my room when I had the second loss and missed the end of the school year, who still invite me to all their events even though I haven't worked with them in two years. They are truly wonderful people. The best people I've ever worked with. Why oh why did I leave that job?

But that's not what this post is about. I mention the party because they asked me about the birth and as I was telling the story I realized I'm already forgetting things. Greg corrected me a couple of times or added things I had COMPLETELY forgotten (which is probably for the best). So before I forget all the gory details, I shall attempt to get the story down for posterity's sake.

I had Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks before I gave birth. We even ended up in Labor and Delivery twice because they were so frequent. They weren't really painful, just uncomfortable. So on Christmas Eve, when they went from uncomfortable to painful, I didn't think TOO much of it. I had been running around all day getting ready for Christmas - wrapping presents, baking, doing laundry. I thought I was just overdoing it. I just needed to drink a bunch of water and get off my feet. But when we went to my parents house for dinner, I started keeping my eye on the clock and told the husband not to drink too much just in case. As the night went on, they got more painful and more regular, but I think I was in denial. I kept saying, "I'm sure this isn't it." My family told me afterwards that they could tell that I was actually in pain and that this WAS in fact it. While we were opening presents, I felt like I was in a fog. I kept having to stop and concentrate to get through them. I even had my sister in law do a little trim on my hair. I joked that if I was going to have my baby that night, I wanted my hair to look good in the pictures. I guess I am just THAT vain. And actually, after 32 hours of labor, the only thing that looked good in the pictures was my baby and my hair. But I am jumping ahead...

When Greg and I got home and I decided to call Labor and Delivery because the contractions were 5 to 6 minutes apart. They told me that since my water hadn't broken and I hadn't lost the plug to just stay at home for the time being - take a shower, try to sleep, etc. I did take a shower and I tried to sleep but I couldn't. The pain was too bad. It got progressively worse and worse. When they were about 4 minutes apart, I decided we were going in. By this time, it was 6 o'clock in the morning on Christmas Day. We were so excited because we were going to get a baby for Christmas!

At this point, the contractions were really starting to hurt. Not just hurt, but HURT. I was SURE they would check me right in and out would come a baby a couple of hours later. Ha. The triage nurse checked me and said I was only 1 and a half centimeters dilated!!! I was like....EXCUSE ME? Even though I had lost my plug in the bathroom while changing in to the hospital gown (which, by the way was GUH-ROSS - the plug, not the gown), she was about to send me home or out for a walk. But then I felt a whole bunch of wetness in the nether-region. She checked me and said "Well, your water broke, that's your ticket in." Woo hoo! Again, I was SURE that now that my water had broken, things would start moving along and we would have a baby in a few hours. Ha.

Now let me stop here and say that I didn't really have a birth plan. The only thing I cared about was having a live baby. That was the plan. However that could be accomplished was okay with me. But I did have this feeling like I wanted to go natural as long as I could. I never said I would definitely NOT get an epidural, I never said that I felt that using drugs in labor was EVIL or anything. But I did say I would try to go as long as I could without them. I just felt like, natural childbirth is NATURAL. That's the way women have done it for thousands of years. If they can do it, I can do it. I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, went to the birthing classes, bought a birthing ball. I was ready to give natural childbirth the old college try. Ha.

Approximately 1 hour after checking into our room, I asked for Fentanyl. I didn't want to do the epidural yet because I still wanted to be able to get up. But I was so friggin tired and the pain was keeping me from sleeping. So I thought, one shot of this stuff, I'll sleep a little and then we'll finish up. Let's just say I told myself this THREE times and never got to sleep. The Fentanyl helped dull the pain a LITTLE. All the while, I was doing my breathing and attempting the relaxation techniques, trying different positions, the husband was holding my hand, massaging my back - we were doing all the things we had learned. And I was doing okay.

Then came this hour period (my husband will say it was 10 minutes) of contraction after contraction. NO breaks in between. It was pretty awful. Let's just say this is when I asked (begged) for the epidural. Me, the person who used to pass out in the waiting room before having a blood test, asked someone to stick a needle in my spine (and didn't even flinch when they did it by the way). When the epidural had taken effect, I turned to Greg and said - and WHY did I wait so long to get this? Before the epidural - bad. After the epidural - good. So no more natural childbirth.

They checked me again after the epidural was started. I was only THREE centimeters dilated. It was noon on Christmas, I had been in labor for 20 hours and I was only dilated three centimeters! But I still thought I would have a baby for Christmas. I mean, how could I not right? Ha.

So the next 12 hours are a bit of a blur. They put an oxygen mask on me when the baby's heart rate dropped. They tried pitocin to move things along and then stopped it when the baby's heart rate dropped. There were a few scary moments when my nurses rushed in to move me around when the baby's heart rate dropped for no apparent reason. It always went right back up and they told me not to worry, that lots of babies do this. Not worry? Yeah right. I had my eyes on the monitor ALL DAY. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't pay attention to the TV (we brought some West Wing DVDs). I didn't freak out or vocalize my fears, but I was definitely nervous. I kept thinking - I can't have made it this far to lose him now.

Around 10pm (we had just about given up on having the baby for Christmas), my nurse told me it was time to push. Yay! After 30 hours of labor, I finally got to DO something and the end was near! It was my nurse, Greg and me. They held my legs. I pushed. I felt great. Things were progressing. Greg even got to take a peek at the top of his head starting to show through. The epidural made me comfortable but I could still feel the contractions so I knew when to push. My nurse was fabulous. She and Greg were cheering me along and supporting me. This was the best hour of the whole labor experience.

And then it all went bad. The monitor starting beeping LOUDLY. HIs heart rate was dropping again. Only really low this time. The doors bursts open and doctors and nurses rush in. They turned on all the lights. They all stood at the foot of the bed and around me, pushing my legs back, telling me to push the hardest I ever pushed. I'm thinking, I HAVE BEEN. I could hear the monitor beeping this whole time and it was the worst sound - like a knife in my heart. The doctor decided to try to vaccuum him out. I had to push while she was doing this. I officially started to lose it at this point. I was crying and pushing and praying. I kept looking at Greg and he was so calm. Telling me I'm doing great, its going to be okay. He kept me from have a total breakdown. Because I just really started to feel like, it wasn't going to happen. For nine months I had kept the fear at bay, focused on the positive, slowly but surely relaxed and let my guard down a bit and now, at the very end, something scary was happening. Something was going wrong. Again. And I was so afraid of losing him. It was a truly horrible few minutes.

At some point, his heart rate stabilized. I can't remember when. It may have been before the doctor told me she thought we needed to do a c-section or after. But I VIVIDLY remember saying "Do whatever you have to do to get my baby out alive." And I kept asking one of the nurses 'Is he okay now?" Since the danger had past, they probably thought I was being a bit dramatic. But I was done waiting and trying to remain calm and feeling scared. I just wanted him OUT.

The c-section was a bit of a blur too. Mind you, I had been awake for over 48 hours at this point. But I do know that I did NOT like it. No duh right? I mean, it was worth it. I'd do it again. I'd do it a hundred more times. I would have done ANYTHING to get my baby out and into my arms. But, honestly, I found it very disturbing. The whole being awake while your opened up thing. Especially after Greg and the baby left and they were finishing me up. I felt very alone. And nauseous. And cold. And scared. They had to bring in a second surgeon to help. Apparently they thought they nicked my bladder and there was "lots of cleaning up to do." I could hear them talking behind the drape but they weren't telling me anything directly so I was scared. Afterwards when I was in recovery the doctor told me that "this was not your average c-section." Awesome. She said that because I had been in labor for so long (over 30 hours) and the baby had started to descend into the birth canal, it was harder to get him out and clean me up.

But now let's backtrack to the good stuff. The moment I will never forget. I heard him cry before I actually saw him. He cried as soon as they got him out. The most wonderful sound I have ever heard. I remember thinking - that's a good strong cry. HE'S OKAY. He's alive. WE MADE IT.

A nurse swept him up and past me over to a table. They asked Greg what his name was and he said we didn't know yet. He looked over at me like "Well?", but he knew what name I really wanted. We had gone in with two or three possibilities, but wanted to wait to decide until we saw the baby. He told me he looked at the baby, saw his red cheeks and his angry-looking little face (I'd be angry too after what he went through to get out of there) and knew that Finley was perfect.

They measured and weighed him. I remember thinking - 6 pounds 15 ounces? That's not very big. I gained 50 pounds and he measured big at every ultrasound AND after trying to vacuum him out, the doctor said she thought maybe he was too big to come out that way. Hence the c-section. Obviously this was not the case. They told me later that he was sunny side up and after 30 hours of labor he was probably just too tired to get out that way. This also explains the HORRENDOUS back labor I had.

They wrapped him up and brought him over to me. He was so adorable. His face was all squished and red. He did look like a cute little angry Irishman. I got to touch his cheeks and tell him that he was beautiful and that I loved him. I just felt such wonder. I was looking at MY baby. It was surreal. And amazing. Not amazing like, "your new hair cut is amazing" or "this lasagna is amazing." But amazing like, nothing in my life can ever match this moment. Amazing like, this beautiful little person was just inside of me and now here he is looking at me. Unfortunately, I also felt terribly nauseous and was thinking to myself - don't puke on your baby. Just don't puke on the baby. After a few minutes they said they had to take him to the nursery. It took a few hours to get me finished up, into recovery, and then to our room. Our nurse said we could leave the baby in the nursery so we could get some sleep, but there was no way we weren't having him with us. I had only gotten a few moments with him in the three hours since he had been born and I needed him with me.

***Okay, I started writing this post a month ago and finally came back to finish it. And after re-reading it, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I feel like maybe I was focusing the story too much on how hard it was. But I mean, who really cares about how hard it was getting him here? Yes, 32 hours of labor was hard. Yes, there were scary moments. No, having a c-section was not ideal. I would much rather have pushed him out and had him immediately placed on my chest with Greg standing next to us for a beautiful, calm, non-puky, family bonding moment. But that's not how it turned out. Such is life. The whole three year process of trying to have a baby was hard. The pregnancy was hard. Birthing him was hard. Life can be difficult. But so what? He is here. He is healthy and beautiful. And I am very aware that some people don't have that. Some people are still where I was a year ago. Some people would do anything to get to have 32 hours of labor and a c-section. That's how I felt a year ago. The hard stuff about the birth is the stuff I had trouble remembering and for some reason felt the need to get down on paper before I forgot it. The wonderful moments like hearing him cry and seeing him for the first time are burned in my memory. Those are mental pictures and sounds that I will never forget.


  1. What a beautiful birth story, I am so glad your son is alive and healthy. You really give me hope for what's to come.

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  4. Incredible story, well done.

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