(Happy Day 65)
This little peanut turned one year old on Sunday (Sunday, August 30th that is, turns out this one took a bit to write)! It is so hard to believe that it has been a whole year. I'm sure every parent on the face of the earth has said the same thing, but it is. This squishy little thing is now a toddler and for all of the things that were hard about having a newborn, I do miss the squishiness!
To mark the occasion, I thought I would write down for posterity her birth story. It was for the most part a really positive experience for me, and though I know I've already forgotten some of the details (perhaps for the better!) I'd like to recall what I can before it gets edited and compressed further. :)
I woke up around 4:30 a.m. on Friday the 29th of August (the Friday before Labor Day weekend, haha) feeling a little leaky. No big gush, more like a tiny trickle that stayed that way. I told Greg and then we back to bed till we could call the doctor at 8:00. When it was time, I called in and they of course told me to come on in to get checked out. My doctor's office was across the (West Seattle) bridge near downtown Seattle. Unless you absolutely have to, there's no point in battling rush hour trying to get out of West Seattle, during which a fifteen minute drive can easily become an hour drive, so I told them we'd likely wait a little while and be there a little later in the morning around 10:00 or so. To which I'm pretty sure I was told something like, "No problem, just get here when you can." Which in my mind made whatever time was said less than firm. I wasn't feeling any contractions yet and the leakiness seemed all but gone, making me unsure if what I had felt earlier in the morning was my water breaking or not. So we were pretty sure that upon being seen, we'd be told to go back home until things got more exciting. But at the same time, I could tell something was different. Namely, that baby, who we knew from previous checkups was already really low, was now REALLY, REALLY low. It kind of felt like any and all cushion between noggin and cervix was gone. So we decided, just in case I ended up being admitted, we should probably be safe and shower up, finish packing the bag, and get the cat and dog to their respective boarding locations, thereby sparing Greg a frantic trip back to West Seattle and then back in the event it really was time.
10:00 came and went. When I finally looked at my phone, probably approaching 11:00, I had a missed call from the doctor and a message wondering where we were and if everything was ok. :/ Oops. I called back in explaining we were simply still in the process of getting there and that I had taken "when you can" to heart. So they said "Ok, well, when about do you think that will be?" By that time, we were probably shooting for 12:30.
We dropped the dog off at her spot downtown and it was in the process of doing that that I think I started to feel something akin to contractions. Nothing painful maybe more like a faint, squeezy tightness. We finally made it to the office. I had an exam (not with my regular doctor, she was away for the weekend) and if I recall, I was maybe just over two centimeters (I had been at one for a couple of weeks.) During the exam, the doctor said it looked like the amniotic sac was still intact, but she took a swab to check for the presence of fluid, and in the meantime had the nurse take me to be hooked me up to the monitor. I had been into the doctor for a routine check a couple of days prior and they had detected a slightly irregular heartbeat from baby, so I was admitted for some monitoring at that time (everything turned out to be fine.) I was having slight contractions then. My memory is already a little fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure that the nurse that took us to the room for monitoring this time could not get any sound to come out of the heart rate monitor at first. Not that she couldn't find baby's heartbeat, but no sound at all. On the verge of parenthood, reassurance is a nice thing to be forthcoming and when you have to wait for it, well that sucks. Finally she went and got my doctor's nurse who quickly got things up and running. Baby's heartbeat was strong and regular. Phew. I was still having contractions, and they were indeed stronger. And by now, I was starting to be able to really distinguish the squeeze of the strongest ones. But they were still definitely more than five minutes apart and not all that regular.
For whatever reason, it took the doctor FOREVER (ok, maybe a half hour or forty minutes, but come on, it was kind of important news to be kept on the hook for) to get back to us about what she saw on the slide in regards to the fluid. And in the meantime there we sat in that little room with the sound of the doppler CRANKED to max volume so the nurse could hear it from the other room. Just looking nervously at each other. We were pretty convinced based on what the exam showed, the fact I wasn't all that far dilated, and that my contractions weren't coming all that quickly, regularly, or intensely that we would be going back home to wait it out a little longer. Then just like that in came the doctor. There was amniotic fluid present. What had probably happened was a small rupture had occurred up high in the sac. This explained the sudden lack-of-cushion feeling. But the rupture was so small and the amount of fluid leaking out so slight, that baby moving further down blocked the trickle from actually coming out. We were being admitted to the hospital. This was it!
My doctor's office was connected to the hospital, so for me it was as simple as hopping in a wheel chair and all Greg had to do was hop the car from one parking garage to another a little later. (This is where we experienced extreme gratitude for following intuition and being ready to go.) It was kind of surreal and left me with pink cheeks getting the knowing looks from people we passed in the corridors on the way over. Me, hugely pregnant being pushed in a wheel chair with my (probably really nervous looking) husband right there at my side. I hate situations that warrant my receiving special attention or treatment. I always experience some degree of feeling awkward and uncomfortable. And doesn't it seem silly that you have to enter and exit the hospital sitting down no matter what the circumstances? Come on, in the case of labor, walking in would be way more appropriate and useful! And indeed, after getting checked and monitored for awhile (during which Greg moved the car, brought up our bag and finally got lunch. It was late afternoon by this point and we were both starving, but luckily, I again followed intuition and only had a few bites) we were sent out to walk around for an hour or two. This was in part because things were still progressing pretty slowly and in part because all the delivery rooms were full.
The hospital was right next to Seattle University's campus, so we decided to stroll around there. It's a really beautiful campus with gorgeous landscaping, so it actually made for a nice way to kill time. Greg and I got to just be together in that peaceful little pocket of space in the middle of the busy city in a peaceful little pocket of time in the middle of a crazy long day leading up to the birth of our baby. As we walked I started to feel the contractions more and more until finally I had to stop walking during them. Still not painful, but a tight squeezing. And by the way I am totally taking credit for the fact that our meandering included Seattle-style hills that would leave non-nine month pregnant people huffing and puffing. We were starting to get a little anxious to get settled into a room, so we headed back in. It took a bit longer, and then there was finally one ready. We met our nurse (who was fantastic) and got our things put down. I got changed and we went through all the preliminaries and then we waited for the doctor to come do an exam. I believe Greg ate some form of dinner at some point. All in all, I was still feeling pretty calm, though the nerves were definitely there, as we faced the great unknown of the rest of labor and delivery.
We had written up a birth plan that involved trying to avoid any sort of pain medication if possible, and of course c-section unless medically necessary. And we were very fortunate that our hospital was extremely supportive of a minimal intervention approach. That is to say that they provide tools to help women labor in the way that works best for them and lines up with their stated wishes, and while this can definitely include pain control, in can definitely not too. By this point in my journey to mommyhood I had reconciled my vision of the ideal labor and delivery with the fact that as long as I had a healthy baby at the end of it all, everything would be ok. I would not be upset if things didn't go as planned. At this point in labor, I was encouraged that the pain was still very manageable, so I was still determined to try my hardest to have a natural birth.
The doctor finally came (it was a busy evening in L&D!). He did an exam, after which he asked, "Are you sure your water broke?" Uh, yeah. Or so I was told. That's why I'm here. I think I was still only somewhere around three centimeters, so in order to get things moving, he went ahead and broke my amniotic sac the rest of the way and then left us to it. It was probably 8:00 or 8:30 by this point. After all the walking around we'd done, I wanted to rest a little, so I settled into bed and we turned on some football (again, it was Labor Day, so the college season was just kicking off. Greg is normally a fan, though he was a little distracted this particular evening. And because I've come to associate a football game on the television with relaxing with the husband, I find it soothing). Plus, as it turns out the gush of water breaking is not a once and done event. That stuff keeps coming. File that under "Things They Don't Tell You." Plus I had to receive intravenous antibiotics due to testing positive for mrsa at some point. Plus all of the monitoring. So even though I had envisioned a more mobile labor, staying in, on or at least around the bed seemed like the best course of action.
And get moving things did. Within probably an hour and a half, my contractions went from the squeezing sensation, to painful. I went from proclaiming "I feel this one!" at the stronger ones to having to stop, focus and breathe through all of them. When I'm in a slightly awkward situation I try to put myself and others at ease by tapping into my sense of humor (as it were) and making small talk. And for the first few hours that's what I did with Greg and our nurse, but my witty banter trailed off. All of the football games ended somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00 and by then I wasn't really into the distraction of television anymore anyway.
Eventually I decided I needed to not be sitting anymore and turned around to be on my knees while resting my upper body on the back of the semi-upright bed. I had taken a yoga for labor and delivery class where the best positions for keeping things moving along were discussed and the crouching, kneeling ones seemed to be the winners, anything to open up the pelvis and utilize gravity to get that baby down and out. That's how I stayed for the next couple of hours with Greg kindly rubbing my back until I'm sure his hands and arms were about to fall off. Things had gotten quite painful. Not just the contractions, but the pressure of baby descending. I remember asking how strong the contractions looked compared to how they felt. The pain made me nauseous and I threw up a couple of times. This is why I was very glad I listened to intuition and only ate a couple of bites of lunch.
I think the doctor maybe came in once after his initial exam (like I said, it was a busy night in L&D). I remember being anxious for him to come back and check to see how far dilated I was. I needed some kind of reassurance that I was making progress in order to be certain I could carry on. I knew I wouldn't last forever. But something was telling me it was too late to go in for pain medication. I was getting really tired of being on my knees, however changing positions seemed like such a monumental task. After awhile our nurse who had been reaching underneath me to get to my belly to check baby's heart rate started to struggle to get a long enough read to be confident baby was doing alright (and it would soon become apparent why!) so she asked me to flip over. Moving was as hard I thought it would be. I was tired and holding myself up while feeling so much pain and discomfort was the worst. As I flipped over and tried to find some position that was tolerable I suddenly felt a sensation that I automatically had the words for because I'd read the description so many times. It was the "ring of fire" feeling of baby crowning. And through the pain came the sudden urge to push. I told the nurse and she checked me and I remember her words crystal clear. "Oh my gosh, that baby is right there! I see her head! I have to go get the doctor in here!" Hearing that was actually such a relief. So there had been progress! All of it apparently! I immediately started begging to push and she immediately started telling me to wait for the doctor. She ran out and came back a few moments later and a few moments after that the doctor appeared.
I managed to get settled on my left side. I was leery of being on my back as I had gathered that was one of the worst positions for tearing. As it turned out, this might not have been the best choice.
The doctor took a look and was reviewing all the vitals. I remember waiting for him to tell me to start pushing. When he didn't say anything I finally asked if it was ok now. "Yes. If you feel ready. Just listen to your body and push with the contractions." Um, yep. I. Am. READY. And so I started. I quickly discovered I was a screamer. Everything was so intense at this point that I was actually having a hard time feeling the stop and start of the contractions and had to keep asking when to go for it. But when I was, I was screaming. I'm sure it was quite unsettling for Greg, probably not so much the doctor and nurse, but that shit helps.
And so it went for the next hour or so, the entire time on my left side because as before, changing positions at any point just seemed too hard. I kept asking for progress reports. There was much commentary about baby's blonde hair (it wasn't until it was all over and she was dried off we realized it was actually red.) Eventually her head came free. The doctor asked me if I wanted to look down and see baby and touch her little noggin. I remember thinking very clearly "Not right now. I'm BUSY!" My eyes were pretty well clamped shut, I had long since given up on any external focal points. I took a quick glance and that was all I could muster. It was probably another half hour of pushing and pleading to know if I was making progress. Then suddenly with one push that I distinctly remember wasn't one of the best efforts I'd given, at 3:14 a.m., she was born.
Straight onto my chest she went and it was love at first sight for me. Greg cut the cord. She was crying loudly. All those endorphins felt so good. I had done it! I was one proud mama. Proud of my beautiful, healthy, big, little baby. Proud of myself, proud of my strong, supportive husband.
Baby weighed in at 8 pounds 15 ounces. And I got mad props for naturally delivering a nearly 9 pound baby. We realized her hair was actually red. We decided that the name we'd tentatively chosen, Ida Evelyn was a go. She nursed for the first time. I was so happy that I could finally, after all those months rest comfortably on my back.
After an hour or so, it was time for me to get up for the first time after delivery and use the restroom. As soon as I reached the edge of the bed and had my feet on the ground I felt what I thought at first was a muscle cramp somewhere in the vicinity of my uppermost left leg/buttocks. I got moving and it didn't get better, only intensified. I tried and couldn't go to the bathroom, it was too painful. Laying back down only made it a little better. The nurse did a quick check, but didn't see anything amiss. I had had some very minor tearing that the doctor had repaired, but nothing serious at all. The nurse got me pain medication and said we'd wait a little while and try the bathroom again before resorting to a catheter. I had developed postpartum chills, so when I wasn't holding baby my teeth were chattering and I was shaking pretty badly too. I felt the medicine kick in, but it did nothing to alleviate the ache that when I wasn't distracted with baby brought tears to my eyes and left me whimpering. The nurse looked again. This time she said she was seeing swelling and went to get the doctor. I am fairly certain the first time he examined me, he brushed it off with "Well you just delivered a 9 pound baby."
I couldn't get up to go to the bathroom, so ended up with a catheter. The pain remained the same. Eventually the nurse checked again and saw even more swelling and again went to get the doctor. This time he got on board with the fact that something was really wrong and determined I had a hematoma or a ruptured blood vessel that was still actively bleeding. Probably due to the pressure from pushing on my left side the whole time. It was decided the best course of action was to try to stop it. While a hematoma isn't necessarily dangerous and will eventually resolve on its own, the blood loss can lead to shock in the meantime. Within the hour I was headed across the hall to the operating room normally used for c-sections. As they wheeled me over I remember seeing a baby incubator sitting in the hallway and just being so grateful that the issue that had arisen was with me and that baby was well and resting snuggly with her daddy.
I knew going in that I was getting an epidural for the procedure and boy, was I totally ok with that. I had achieved a natural labor and delivery. That had been my goal. Check. I had known that the pain of childbirth would eventually come to an end. This, not so much. And as soon as it was up and running, there was instant relief from the pain. Somehow I don't think I fully appreciated that with an epidural, at least a full-fledged one, you are completely numb from the waste down and as such can't move your legs. I think every woman has every right to do giving birth however she wants and needs. But, I think not having physical control over my body nor being able to feel what was going on down there would not have worked well for me in the delivery room. But given these circumstances, it was WONDERFUL.
I think the procedure lasted a half hour or so and then I was headed back to the delivery room. Baby was sleeping in her bassinet and daddy was getting a little rest too when I returned. All was well. I rested too.
As it turned out, that wasn't the end of it though. An exam later determined that the procedure to close the vessel hadn't worked. So a little later in the day I had to go for a laparoscopic try at it. That did work. And I got to see my circulatory system down there blown up on a really big high def monitor. So that was special.
In between all this, there was plenty of baby snuggling and feeding and resting. Even some football watching. We called our families and close friends to let them in on the good news. After the first procedure it was determined that I would be in bed and off solid food for at least 24 hours. The no food part was really rough. And after having managed the natural birth, I was bummed that I was ending up completely immobile. Being told I have to take it easy is never an easy pill for me to swallow. But I was just so happy to have my healthy baby girl in my arms.
It was early evening before we finally made it into the recovery room. It wasn't a restful night for all the reasons a hospital is not the place to go to get rest (all those little lights when the lights are off, all the beeping, the nurses coming and going to check on this and that, unbearably itchy automatic squeezy blood clot preventer cuffs on my legs inflating and deflating every five minutes, for Greg a mattress he described as straight out of a Chinese prison). And I chose to keep Ida snuggled next to me, which probably also kept me from falling too deeply asleep, but was the sweetest thing. She'd had a big day and I just thought she might want her mommy close.
The next morning I couldn't get the all clear to eat soon enough and when I did, I think we ordered the entire breakfast menu. We eventually found out that as suspected, we wouldn't be going home till the next day. I had to receive iron due to blood loss from the hematoma. And I hadn't even gotten out of bed yet and it was late morning at this point. The thought of getting it all together sounded pretty daunting, so even though we weren't looking forward to another night in the hospital, it was a relief that we could spend the day just resting. Eventually I did get up and moving which was rather scary at first, as I felt like I had totally lost communication with my lower half and that it had subsequently wandered off and gotten hit by a bus. The swelling and bruising from the hematoma were pretty unreal. But with each subsequent effort things got a little easier and I eventually realized that even though it might feel like it, I wasn't going to come to pieces. Of course the effects of the epidural were long gone, but I was managing my pain with ibuprofen at this point and it was definitely tolerable. Nothing compared to what I had felt initially.
Ida was good to go, so it was just about getting Mommy set. Finally, early the next afternoon I was discharged, It was Labor Day Monday so we didn't have to worry about traffic or any of that getting home. But we still took our sweet time. I finally had a shower. Greg ferreted things out to the car. It was going on 8:00 before we finally walked out. Somehow I escaped the wheelchair ride, which despite my discomfort, after the long stint in bed, I was actually glad for. Baby slept the whole way home. We arrived safe and sound and got settled in. We were desperate for some rest. We planned on getting Ida sleeping in her crib right away, but that first night we decided we would all curl up together on the pull out couch in the basement. And we snoozed as a happy new family.
The End :)