- From the musical Annie
September 11 - 39 weeks, 5 days
9-10 pm – I have a few contractions, maybe three, nothing I can’t talk through. We had friends over and I remember thinking, “Huh, that one felt different,” but still continuing with the conversation.
10-11 pm - Our friends leave and the contractions continue. I time them from 10:30 to 11, just to see what was officially happening. They continue to be irregular, anywhere from 8-10 minutes apart. We call A’s mom and warn her to be on alert and keep the phone on, just in case this is it.
11 pm - I head upstairs to take a shower. I figure either I will be all rosy smelling for the hospital staff or the shower will relax the contractions right out of me (I’ve heard tell). They’re still there, still irregular when we climb into bed at 11:30. Strongly in denial, I tell A that if I can sleep through them, I’d better since we would probably be having a baby sometime tomorrow.
September 12 - 39 weeks, 6 days
Midnight – I get up and get dressed. There is no sleeping through these contractions and they’re coming regularly at 6-8 minutes apart. It was good that I drank a bunch of caffeine with dinner since I won’t be getting much sleep tonight. We give the cat his Prozac, make sure the girls’ bags are packed, get my last minute stuff together.
At this point my assumption is that I’ll be laboring through the night and have the baby sometime in the morning. After all, my contractions are 6-8 minute apart and our instructions are to call when they’re 5 minutes apart. I figure we have a few hours. I am wrong.
1 am - I have 4 contractions in a row that are 2 minutes apart. I’m skeptical that this labor is moving that quickly and that we should call the midwife. I want to wait and see if they lengthen back out again. A asks me, “Do you want to call the midwife or should I?” It’s a good thing he stands firm against my wishy-washiness. Our midwife is already at the hospital and tells us to come on in.
1:30 – My in-laws arrive. My father-in-law meets me as I’m coming out the door and jokes, “I guess you won’t be coming over tomorrow morning!” I growl at him.
A few minutes later my mother-in-law comes over to the car where I’m bent over, breathing and moaning through a contraction (for some reason A had locked the car and then Lucy set off the car alarm. Sorry, neighbors!). She rubs my back and tells me that she loves me. I bite her head off and spit it out.
I should add that my sister-in-law gave me some great advice from her midwife: moan with vowels. So I did a lot of “Ooooooooh”ing and “Ahhhhhh”ing to get through the contractions. The idea is that they’re “open” vowels and encourage you to relax (sort of) and open your pelvis. It keeps you from getting into the pain-fear-tension cycle. It was extremely helpful, although I maintain that the chorus of “fuck, fuck, fuck” that I said last time is vowel-friendly as well.
1:35 – We run into a long, slow train. A told me later that he was getting very nervous because he remembers how I was at the end of my labor with E and L~I wanted silence, no one talking to me, no one touching me~and I was like that now. He was seriously worried about the baby coming in the car. I was mainly focusing on breathing and moaning through the contractions, but when I started feeling cold and shaky, the thought “Am I in transition?” flashed through my mind. It was followed directly by “If this isn’t transition, I’m getting a fucking epidural.”
(Obviously that feeling of “there’s no way I can do this!” meant that I was in transition. If you decide to forgo drugs, remember that. That overwhelming feeling that you can’t make it one second longer means you’re almost done dilating!)
1:45 – Construction. There is construction on every road that takes us through downtown to the hospital. If my contractions hadn’t been 2 minutes apart and the roads incredibly bumpy, it would have been funny (“Look, kids, Parliment! Big Ben!”). As it was, I had one minute of recovery/give A directions time for every one minute long contraction.
We finally arrive at the emergency department and a very nice security guard starts asking if I’m in labor and then eyes me closely and offers valet parking. The ER triage nurses ask how far apart my contractions are and then instruct me DON’T PUSH. We sit for a few minutes waiting for the OB person to come and get us. I remember watching a man, not in any distress, amble up to the triage desk and announce, “I’m feeling short of breath!” and I am so glad I don’t work ER anymore. The OB nurse arrives to bring me upstairs. We’re followed by another pregnant woman who doesn’t look full-term and is probably not in labor. She is walking and chatting with her friends. We quickly leave her in the dust. I learn later that I made everyone nervous with my focusing and “one-cheeking” it. With each contraction I would lift my butt up in the chair; I just couldn’t stay seated. I was trying to make room for a baby to come out, I guess.
A little after 2 am – We arrive on the OB floor and it’s decided that I don’t need a triage room and they wheel me directly to a labor and delivery room. It’s my one minute respite from contractions so I climb into bed and gesture for A to undress me. My nurse comes in and hooks up the baby to the monitor and checks me. Suddenly there are 2 more nurses in the room and they are breaking down the bed and pulling out all their delivery supplies. My nurse told me later that all she felt was the bulging amniotic sack and she was worried that it would break and I would deliver immediately. It didn’t help when I told her that I felt like I had to poop with each contraction.
I grunt, “Beta strep positive” at her because I still expect to get an IV and a half-hour infusion of antibiotics before I deliver. Obviously, I’m out of my mind.
My midwife appears. I immediately ask for an epidural and she looks surprised, but says okay and tells someone to call anesthesia. She checks me and then says consolingly, “Oh honey, you’re not going to make it. You can push with your next contraction.” She tells the nurse I’m 9 cm and 0 station. I start pushing. This is the part of the story where I have to sing the praises of my midwife. One of my huge regrets with E and L’s birth is the pushing stage. My OB wanted me to push for X number of seconds at a time and I could never do it. I remember apologizing for my pushing and generally feeling crappy about the job I was doing. It was not like that this time. She used her fingers to guide me where to push and reminded me to keep my chin on my chest. Otherwise, I was left to push when I wanted to and for as long as I wanted. I felt empowered and I will always be grateful to her for that. No one was counting and everyone was encouraging in a non-overbearing way. I felt supported and guided, not bossed around. The midwife and nurses were there to help me, but I was delivering this baby. I cannot overstate how awesome this feeling was.
After a few pushes, my midwife says, “Oh, this baby has a lot of hair!” and I ask to see. They pull out the mirror and I love being able to watch. I think it was the culmination of the empowerment I felt. I push a couple more times, more forcefully, I think, because I could see my progress, and then I feel that blasted ring of fire. Damn, that hurts.
2:20 am – the nurse asks, “Do you want to break her water?” and suddenly I hear a very audible POP! and fluid gushes down my legs. Everyone laughs at the irony. Well, I don’t laugh, but I can appreciate the irony in retrospect. Later I asked A if he heard my water break, too, and he did. Apparently it’s a pretty loud sound.
2:30 am - The exact time of her birth. I finally get her head out and this is the only place where the midwife tells me I have to keep pushing~she had to get her shoulder out. I push and out she pops. It is amazing how the pain is instantly gone and the relief just washes over me. Someone asks, “What do you have, Dad?” and A told me later that he thought, “Well, those look like testicles but there’s no penis. Why are they putting me on the spot?” It turns out that it’s just swollen labia and we have our third little girl. I hear them asking A if it’s a boy or girl and I think, “I don’t care. I don’t care because it’s over!” I am so glad to not be in labor that for a minute I really didn’t care to know the sex.
Someone says, “That’s a BIG baby!” and I am holding her on my chest and saying hello. She’s moving and crying so I am immediately relieved. They warm her up with blankets and suction her a couple times. The amniotic fluid was clear, but she did poop right as she was coming out (terminal meconium) and needed just a little help clearing her lungs. I eagerly hand her over because I’m dying to know how much she weighs. A takes a picture of the scale reading 10 lbs 1 oz and I crow about how I was right! (There’s little I love more in life than being right. I’m petty that way.) They give her some blow-by oxygen, just to pink her up a little. Initial Apgars are 8 and 9.
I have a second degree tear, the same as I did with E and L. My midwife is massaging my stomach, advising me that she’s “going to have to be mean” and finally has the nurse give me a shot of pitocin. She sews me up while C is having her stuff done: bracelets, weight, length, etc.
The nurses change my bedding and then we’re left alone together. I nurse C and after a bit of encouragement, she latches on and sucks a dozen times. Woo-hoo for the full-term baby with a suck reflex! Because she’s LGA (large for gestational age), they have to check her blood sugar a few times. It’s low once and I’m encouraged to nurse her frequently.
After a couple hours, I’m cleared to take a shower. Upon standing, I have that bizarre feeling of all my organs moving back into place after being shoved who-knows-where for the last few months. I hear A calling out as I’m in the bathroom, “Hey, I’m only holding one baby here! Where’s the other one?” We make this joke multiple times over the next day and we’re still doing it. It doesn’t stop being funny to us.
5:30 am – We’re moved to a recovery room. The nurses found out that I am also a nurse in that hospital and changed my room assignment to the “nicer” unit. It’s not quite the brotherhood of police officers, but we do take care of each other. Our new nurse makes the appropriate cooing noises about how cute C is (even though she’s quite swollen and bruised) and we doze a while before the day starts.
Wednesday is full of lots of phone calls and re-telling of the birth story. Since our pediatrician doesn’t come to this hospital, we see a doctor on the hospital peds service. They draw some labs on C to rule out sepsis, because her white blood cell count is high, even though the chance of infection is low. Infants that become sick with beta strep have a 10-20% mortality rate and that is not something I want to mess around with. I watch her carefully for signs of sepsis, but she continues to nurse well and starts peeing/pooping with aplomb.
Later that day E and L come to visit. They are so! excited! to meet their new baby sister. They crawl all over my bed and hold and kiss her. C starts to cry when L is holding her and oh, you should have seen her face fall. “She’s mad at me!” she sobbed and didn’t want to hold her again. This has happened one more time since then and I’m trying to be careful to only have her hold the baby when the baby is happy or sleeping. Poor kid. I miss my big girls so much and A misses me and C. It’s hard to be split as a family and I am starting to see the appeal of a homebirth with my own shower, my family around me, and my own bed. I can’t wait to get home and away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital. The separation from my family sucks.
That night A is home with the girls and I am trying to remember how to take care of an infant. I quickly remember why we never used the hospital bassinett~it doesn’t work. C and I snuggle close and doze in between nursings. I don’t know how NOT to cosleep with a newborn! At home, the crib attached to our bed is being used as a storage device for diapers and wipes, not to house an infant. She is sleeping right next to me and is content.
Her 24-hour post birth weight has dropped to 9 lbs 9 oz. Five days later, she’ll be up to 9 lbs 13 oz at the pediatrician’s office.
This recovery has been so much better than with E and L. I wasn’t as freaked out by my post-partum body as before. I am not as sore (although my pelvis is still separated and that’s annoying). Monday, 5 days post-birth, I did laundry, took E and L to their first dentist appointment, took C to her pediatrician appointment, went grocery shopping, and made dinner. I’m tired, but it’s not the same as before or even the same exhaustion of a full-term pregnancy.
Mood wise, I vacillate between feelings of euphoria at our family (3 girls! how freaking cool!) and despair at the thought of A going back to work (3 girls! what the hell am I going to do?!). Sunday we were all ready to go to church and A and I both thought the other one had the keys and we ended up locked out of our house. I was so upset. It required such an effort to get all of us up and ready that to mess it up with something so careless was very demoralizing. I think I will have to cut back my standards (again!) or else go out of my mind. I had periods of time where I couldn’t keep up when I had 2 kids, what makes me think I’ll do better with three? Today L asked if I’d snuggle her on the couch and I folded the laundry first. I need to get my priorities in line if I’m going to make this work. Snuggle daughter > laundry. Got it.
For the record, this was an awesome birth. It would have been nice to get the
antibiotics in, but everything else was great. Besides the oft quoted “healthy mom, healthy baby” that came out of it,
I felt respected and cared for by the hospital staff. It definitely meets Moxie’s standards of a good birth.