Friday, July 3, 2009 was Little G's official due date. Originally, it had been the 10th, but way back in my third month, they had changed it to the 3rd based on his size and development.
Unfortunately, the 3rd came and I was nowhere near ready to give birth. Little G's head wasn’t even engaged! So we hung out with friends that day and went shopping for some new clothes for my husband. I was as big as a house, so it was fun to walk around the TJ Maxx and have people comment to me on how big I was and see their faces when I said, ‘yeah, I’m due today!’.
We had an OB appointment on the morning of Monday, July 6 to check on our progress and I was neither dilated nor effaced at that point, but at least the baby’s head had started to move down and engage. We also met with the ultrasound technician and it was pointed out that the fluid in the placenta was low. My OB was going to send us to the hospital right then, but gave us an extra day since Litte G clearly had a lot of liquid in his bladder which had it not been there would have added to the amount in the placenta. That afternoon, we went to our neighbor's house and hung out at the pool. I was able to relax a bit and stretch out by suspending myself between a pool raft and a pool noodle. I felt absolutely weightless in the water, it was awesome!
Later that afternoon, my husband and I packed for the hospital, took a couple more pictures of my big belly, and then went for a really, REALLY long walk around the neighborhood to try and help Little G to move down and engage his head.
That night I had a couple of contractions, but I had been having so many Braxton-Hicks contractions that I wasn’t sure if the ones I was having were real or not. They must have been real because the next afternoon we headed back to the OB’s office and I was 2cm dilated. After yet another visit to the ultrasound room, my OB told us he was sending us to the hospital to be slowly induced. He explained that even though the fluid levels were adequate, the placenta was aging and beginning to stop providing everything the baby needed. Basically, the plan was to insert a small dose of Misoprostyl, which is a prostaglandin similar to Cervadil, around 7:00pm and then another around 1:00am and then to start Pitocin the next morning. He said we might have a baby by the next evening (Wednesday, the 8th) but most likely he would come sometime on July 9th.
My husband and I drove home in a raging thunderstorm and I took a shower and tried to eat some dinner. We headed to the hospital around 6:30pm and when we got there registered downstairs thinking we may even get to come home and do some of our labor at home. Once we got up to the labor and delivery floor we met with a nurse who told me to get out of my clothes and put on the gown and she would come back and put in the IV. I was a little frustrated by this because I had been told I could wear my own clothing and I had requested it in my birth plan. The nurse wasn’t very accommodating and I wasn’t sure how to ask for what I wanted, so I changed into the gown and sat on the bed and waited for her to come back and do the IV. She explained to me that I had to have the IV in as long as I was being monitored and they were going to monitor the baby for an hour before doing anything. In the meantime I just needed to sit tight and wait.
While I was being monitored, the anesthesiologist came in and talked to me about my medical history and my anesthetic options. I explained to him that I preferred a natural delivery and for his part he was pretty open about it. He did really push me to be open minded with my decision and I assured him that I was. He also explained all the side effects of the medication further reminding me of some of the many reasons why I wanted to give birth naturally. We also met the physician’s assistant (PA) on call that day. She was very nice and really helped calm my nerves. She had also had a breast reduction, so it was nice to talk to someone who knew what I was going through as far as my desire to nurse the baby immediately after birth. The PA did a vaginal exam and I was 1.5 cm dilated. She said not to be concerned that it had gone down, but rather that there is a margin of error for all doctors since not everyone has the same sized hands and it isn’t like you can get in there with a tape measure or ruler.
Finally, after waiting the hour that they monitored the baby, I was allowed to eat some dinner, which was great because by that time I was famished! Thankfully, there was a sandwich available for me to have since the cafeteria was closed by that point. My husband and I got up and walked around for a couple of laps around the floor and then we had to go back in the room so they could insert the Misoprostyl. The PA inserted the Misoprostyl which was surprisingly about the size of a grain of sea salt...or as my husband would explain, the size of a kidney stone. Basically, it was teeny tiny. I had to wait for about half an hour to make sure the Misoprostyl stayed up there, but after that we were allowed to walk around. I still had the IV attached to me, so I dragged it around with me on a pole that I kept kicking. Thankfully, the baby monitor was wireless, so I was able to forget about it. My husband and I walked around the nurses’ station twenty times in an effort to keep ourselves busy and to get the baby to move down. Soon it was about 9:45 and we decided to go to bed.
A cot had been brought into the room with some sheets so my husband got to work setting up the bed. The nurse mentioned that it was liable to be a long night and an even longer day so I might want to take some Ambien to help me get my rest through the night. I decided that was a good idea so she left to get the Ambien. It seriously never even crossed my mind that I had spent the last 9 months diligently trying to everything from caffeine to tylenol to wine of my son's system and that I was hoping to have a medication-free birth. I can't believe that at the mere mention of a drug from the nurse, I was so willing to do exactly what she said! We brushed our teeth and I took out my contacts and we got into bed and the nurse brought the Ambien, which I took, and we turned out the lights and tried to get some rest.
Not too long after going to bed I had my first real contraction from the Misoprostyl. It was pretty intense and I ended up getting my husband out of bed to help me get through the contraction. I felt awful that I had woken him up, but I really didn’t like the feel of the contraction and didn’t want to go through it alone. Soon, the contraction was over and we both went back to bed, but not for long because only about 10 minutes later another one came. Around that time the nurses changed over and we were introduced to the night nurse, Suzie*. She was really nice and would become an integral part of the birth of our son. I The next hour or so I continued to have contractions and eventually Suzie came in and she said that if I continued to have contractions like that they wouldn’t be putting in the second dose of Misoprostyl. I misunderstood that to mean that my contractions were delaying the process...never did it even dawn on me that I was actually in labor. I actually thought that it was going to be like this all night long until I got the Pitocin in the morning and ‘really’ started the labor process! I started to ask about my drug options because I was really nervous about getting through the night and into the next day. I was told that since I had taken the Ambien (duh), the baby’s heart rate was flat, meaning he was in a sleep state, so morphine (which is normally an option) wasn’t available to me...my only option was an epidural. I knew I didn’t want an epidural, so we discussed calling our Doula and waiting to make any decisions about drugs until she arrived.
Our Doula arrived around midnight and my contractions were dying down a bit. At one point I remember through the fog and haze my husband and the Doula discussing taking turns watching me as it had the potential to be a long night. I also remember getting up to go to the bathroom...a lot. It must have been the IV of fluids, but I felt like I was in the bathroom at least twice an hour! Not too long after our Doula arrived I went to the bathroom and on my way there I felt something on my leg. I don’t think I had my glasses on, but I looked down and there was a huge blood clot crawling down my inner right thigh the size of a napkin ring. I was a little alarmed so I called my husband over and he cleaned me up. But all of this was still very hazy for me as I was very sleepy from the Ambien (duh). I also remember that sitting on the toilet and grabbing the handicapped bar was very comfortable during the contractions that I inevitably had while going to the bathroom. But the nurse told me that I had to get back in bed so they could monitor the baby. Usually at this point I would have a contraction as I got on the toilet, do my business and then have another one while standing at the sink to wash my hands. They seemed to come very quickly, but only last 30 seconds to a minute, tops.
At some point someone checked my cervix and it was at 3cm. I remember someone saying that the first four centimeters were the hardest, so I felt good that I was already at 3cm. The next couple of hours are a complete blur to me because I was in such a zone of getting through contractions. I vaguely remember our Doula's voice and hands, but I really remember my husband's comforting words and encouragement. At one point I asked him to warm up the rice sock, but the second he came back with it and put it on my back, I asked him to remove it. It was odd to me that something that I generally find so comforting was so repulsive to me in the moments of labor.
Each contraction was very intense and I remember pulling on the hair at the nape of my neck like it was releasing endorphins every time I did it. I was in such a trance, I don’t remember putting my glasses on or taking them off but I must have since I eventually had them on for the birth. I had made a playlist of calming, soothing music that was about 4 hours long, and we played it on the random setting from the moment I started having consistent contractions. It really helped to put me in a trance. I remember methodically grabbing onto the rail at the side of the bed at the start of each contraction and then holding on for dear life like I was in a life raft clinging onto the side of a larger boat. The most amazing thing about the contractions that I never understood before those moments was that once the contraction was over, it was completely over. There was no residual pain. No soreness. Unlike when you have a Charlie Horse and then when it is over your muscle throbs a bit; no, in this case there was no pain at all...it was just like being in bed sleeping...which I think I did in the 1-3 minutes I had between the contractions.
I don’t know how much time passed between cervical checks, but I do know I was consistently contracting at about a rate of one every 1–3 minutes and they were lasting between 20 and 40 seconds each. Finally, Suzie came in and checked my cervix and it was at 7cm. At this point I remember someone saying that the last few centimeters are the hardest, which confused me considering the earlier comment that the 1st four were the hardest! I continued to labor hoping that the next time they checked me I would be at 10cm and could start pushing. The contractions were very intense but even worse was the urge to push. It took everything in me not to push and even so, I am not sure I did a good job. It felt like trying to stop the urge to throw up...once you are in the actual moment, it is pretty hard to stop the automatic reflexes that your body has to do what it wants/needs to do. Our Doula helped my husband give me some breathing exercises to do to help get through the contractions without pushing. Basically, they consisted of me blowing out quick breaths through my mouth like blowing into a balloon...I soon found it was a recipe for hyperventilating!
As far as I am aware, I only had 4 or 5 of those contractions before the nurse came back and checked my cervix. The last contraction before she checked my cervix, our Doula suggested that I look my husband in the eyes and focus on him through the contraction. I clearly remember looking at him intently and it is a visual memory that I won’t soon forget. **I should insert here that my husband looked this story over when I first wrote it and corrected me that this meaningful, incredible, memorable moment...actually happened when I was pushing our son out just before the final push...so much for "clearly remembering" :)**
Suzie came in and checked my cervix and said that I was almost at 10 centimeters and that it should only take a few more contractions to get there. At that moment I remembered the book I had read a few weeks earlier in preparation for labor titled, ‘Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth’. In that book, there were a few references to women who had large, 10 pound babies and who were close to being at 10 centimeters. The midwife in those cases had held the flap/lip open while the mother pushed, and it resulted in the baby’s head pushing through the cervix and the mother being ready to start pushing the baby out. I asked Suzie if we could try this technique and she said yes! The first contraction that I tried the technique, I didn’t get very far because I let out a large grunt and therefore exerted too much energy through my voice rather than through my uterus. A couple of minutes later I had another contraction and I pushed very, very hard and Little G's head pushed through the cervix and I was ready to start pushing him out into the world.
Around this time, a nurse, not sure who, said that I was so close to having the baby that they needed to get the table...meaning the table with all the instruments. It took about 20 minutes for all of the stuff to be brought in and all the while I was struggling to not push...it was the hardest part of the delivery. The table was brought in and I guess that is when all the other medical professionals showed up too. I remember the mirror being wheeled in and I was surprised at how large it was...almost like a rolling bulletin board in a classroom. I had been expecting a handheld mirror, so I thought it was awesome to have such a large mirror. Finally the doctor arrived and it was time to push. I had a couple of contractions where I pushed and I remember my husband telling me that you could see Little G's head coming. I remember the nurse telling me to keep pushing for a few moments after I thought I couldn’t push anymore and somehow my body responded and did it. And I remember that it only took about 5 or 6 contractions, total, before Little G's head was out. I got to reach down and feel his head and it was warm and wet and fuzzy. On my next contraction I birthed the shoulders of our baby and he was born into the world at 4:50 a.m.; 20 minutes after I started pushing. I remember what it was like to feel his body come through the birth canal. What an amazing, pure experience that was. It felt like I was pushing out the largest poo of my life and I didn’t even care one bit if I ended up going on the table. I just wanted to get him out of me...but not in a way where I felt threatened by his presence in me, but rather I wanted to reach our goal of him living outside of my womb.
As they caught Little G, they suctioned out his nose and did a few things with him and then he was placed on my chest.
It felt like it took them forever to put him on my chest and in those moments I don’t remember hearing him crying. I remember asking our Doula and my husband if he was ok and someone answering me that he was beautiful. Then they put him on my chest and I think he was crying by then. He grabbed my finger with his tiny hand and it was absolutely amazing. He was still attached to me with his umbilical cord which was cut while he was on me but I didn’t even really notice it since my newborn son was on my chest.
After a few moments of bonding, they took Little G across the room and my husband stayed with him while they did the routine things like his eye drops and vitamin k shot and our Doula stayed by my side for all of the post-partum business that had to be done.
Then they brought Little G back over to me again so I could try to breast feed him.
Either just before that or at about the same time I delivered my placenta which I barely remember doing. But we had wanted to see the placenta, so they put it in a plastic bucket and brought it around for us to see it. When else in your life do you get to see an organ and after nine months of growing this thing, that some call the tree of life, I wanted to see it and marvel at this great organ that had nourished our baby.
The Doctor who delivered Little G (who wasn't my OB) and another nurse were very roughly cleaning me up and I was rather alarmed at how rough they were being because it was quite uncomfortable. So, eventually I said, ‘what are they doing down there?’ No sooner had I asked that and another nurse said, ‘she didn’t have an epidural, so you might want to use a local.’ The OB had no idea I had gone natural!! Even with the local, it was a pretty uncomfortable experience…plus, Little G wasn’t near me anymore and my husband was with him. Our Doula was great because I kept asking how much longer ‘this’ was going to go on and she kept assuring me they were almost done. I had a couple small tears from the birth, but nothing major. Still, they needed to be stitched up, so that took some time.
The only other major thing I remember after that was that the nurses all wanted to know how big he was. They weighed him downstairs on the nursery floor, so they were all waiting to hear what the verdict was. Finally, my husband came back in and told us all that he had been 10lbs 5oz. They all thought it was great that I had birthed a child so large.
The birth of our son was the most intensely amazing moment of my life. To be able to feel my child come into the world is an experience that I would never ever ever give up. Little G and I worked together for nine months to make sure he was nourished and healthy, and I couldn’t imagine having gone through that entire nine month period of closeness to ‘hand off’ the experience at the end. Although my original decision to birth him naturally was based on my desire to breastfeed him as soon as possible after birth and be assured that he not be groggy, in the end I decided I wanted to birth him naturally because I thought I could do it and I wanted to do it. Now, with the experience behind us, I can say that the most important reason why I birthed our child naturally was so that I could physically feel him enter the world. There isn’t any other experience like it and I am incredibly blessed to have been able to experience it myself.