Sunday, August 26, 2012
Stella's Birth Story
Stella's due date was August 21st, but Tom and I had a feeling that she might come a little early. My own birthday was on the 15th, and the whole day, I kept thinking "I hope she doesn't come today!". It will sound selfish - (maybe because it is) - but I just don't like the idea of having shared birthdays in the family. I think everyone (uhh, myself included...) should get to have their own special day. I didn't end up going into labor that day, which was nice, since it meant Tom and I actually got to go out to dinner alone for once while my mom babysat. But as we were getting into bed that night, slightly after midnight, I said, "okay - my birthday's over. Baby can come now." Then I stopped, and corrected myself, "Actually....no. The baby can come in the morning, after I've had a good night's sleep!"
Well, she must have heard me, because she decided to do just that! The next morning, I woke up around 6:30, I believe because I was having a contraction. I wasn't sure yet if it was the real deal or just Braxton-Hicks, so I went down to use the bathroom. I had another contraction of two. Realizing from the intensity that it was probably the start of labor, and I wasn't going to get back to sleep anyways, I decided to just take a shower and wait for Tom to come down to get ready for work (I could already hear his alarm going off) so we could figure out what to do. That lazy bum just kept hitting the snooze button, though! I decided to get as much stuff done as I could, before the contractions got debilitating. In record time, I showered (AND blow-dried my hair!), brushed my teeth, put on makeup for the day (!), and mostly finished packing a hospital bag for me and a "staying with grandparents" bag for Sly. At 7:10, I was heading back up to the bedroom to get dressed, when I found Tom standing very groggily beside the bed, having just finally woken up. "Call work, and tell them you're not coming in today", I said as I walked in. He snapped awake then! "The baby's coming?!" Yep.
I started assigning tasks to him - helping me get Sly up and ready, making calls to the doula, the midwife, and my dad (who would be watching Sly). I had figured we'd have a little more time before we needed to leave for the hospital, but the contractions were already coming on pretty strong and close (3-4 minutes apart!). I know that can happen with second babies. It finally hit me and I said, "We have to go to the hospital NOW! We don't have time to wait for my dad to get here! Call him back and tell him to pick up Sly at the hospital!"
Even though this all happened during morning rush hour AND the hospital we had to go to was downtown, we still managed to make it there in fifteen minutes - one thing that's awesome about living where we do.
Once we were out of the car and getting checked in at the hospital, Sly got to witness Mommy having some contractions, and experiencing obvious pain. This was, understandably, pretty upsetting for him. I definitely had not planned for him to still be around when I was that far along! Tom had to start distracting him each time a contraction began. My dad didn't arrive until we were already in the labor and delivery room (and he courteously stayed outside the door). When we told Sly he had to leave with Pap, he burst into tears and seemed very concerned and scared. He's had enough experience with hospitals to know that they are not a place he wants to leave his Mommy!
The midwife who was on call that day happened to be the very one I was hoping I'd end up with - she's the most senior one in the practice, and always seems very confident and reassuring. She checked me, and I was dilated four centimeters. After only an hour and a half since starting any contractions, this was definitely moving along more quickly than the first time.
I asked for a birth ball - that had been my saving grace during my labor with Sly. Our doula, Bethany arrived in pretty good time, considering that she had had to fight through rush hour traffic as well. I soon stationed her and Tom into the roles I needed them each to fill. While I sat on the ball, Bethany was on a stool behind me, ready to press on my lower back/pelvis each time a contraction came on. Tom was at my side, instructed to rub my leg in a very specific intended-to-be-calming manner (and it took him about an hour to finally understand exactly what I wanted!), as a way to help distract me from the pain.
I have to say, I think I handled the next few hours pretty well. Each time a contraction hit me, I was able to just get "in the zone", relaxing my body and letting my mind wander to what it would. In the time between the contractions, sometimes I would just rest, almost falling asleep. At other times, I would join in the on-going conversation between Tom and Bethany (which they, of course, paused each time I was having contractions and needed their attention!). We were all just sharing stories and catching up on each other's lives since we last saw her two years ago, when Sly came along.
I had brought my iPod and the speakers for it. I am only a little ashamed to admit that I own almost the entire catalogue of Enya's music. It's the perfect thing to listen to at a time when you need to relax. So I had Tom play through all the albums during the course of the labor. I think we ended up listening to eight Enya albums by the time it was all over - even the Christmas one. I specifically remember "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" playing sometime a little before Stella was born.
When we had first arrived at the hospital, Tom predicted that she would be born by noon. Given the "fast and furious" start to things, I didn't disagree. But after a couple hours laboring on the ball, I'd noticed that things were definitely slowly down. The midwife came to check me again, and I was dilated to seven centimeters. She said that usually, the water has broken by then, and that this is why things were slower. When the amniotic sac is pressing on the cervix, it's much gentler than a baby's head. The same thing had happened when I was laboring with Sly. The nurses joked that my body must just make extra-tough amniotic sacs. As I had done during my first labor, I finally asked the midwife to break my water herself to help speed things along.
Once she had done that, things got intense pretty quickly. Sitting on the ball was no longer working for me. I ended up kneeling over the raised head of the bed. I can't say this position was comfortable at all, but I don't think anything would have been. I'm pretty sure this is when I hit the phase they call "transition." Basically, the contractions were much more painful, and even in the space between contractions, I still felt terrible. No more steady, quiet breathing to get through them. I started whimpering and whining my way through. I was feeling really hot, so Bethany kept bringing cold washcloths for my forehead. At one point, I complained, "I'm so hot!", and Tom and her just pulled off my entire hospital gown, leaving me completely unclad. It wasn't my intention, but it felt better, so I let it go.
It was at this point that I started asking myself, "WHY did I choose natural birth, again? Why didn't I want any drugs? How many other women these days understand how much this hurts?" ...Well, too late now!
I'd say this "transition" phase only lasted a short while. My conception of time during the labor isn't very strong, but maybe just fifteen minutes? I could soon tell it was getting close to pushing time. All during this pregnancy, I'd been thinking I would want to deliver the baby on hands and knees. I was "forced" to deliver Sly in the traditional lying-on-the-back with knees in the air position, since I was bed-bound at the end of the labor due to preclampsia. You always read about how that's one of the worst and most unnatural positions to give birth. But this time around, the hands and knees thing was just NOT what my body wanted. The midwife had me try out side-lying, which was also absolutely terrible. I eventually settled on that same position lying on my back, though. I'm not sure if it was just the familiarity of it, or what. I have to say, though, it seems to have several advantages over some other birthing positions. Most importantly, you don't have to support any of your own weight on your legs or knees. You therefore get a little bit of rest in between pushes. And the nurses/doula can hold up your knees for you, so you don't have to worry about it. Plus, they can bring you the awesome mirror on a stand so that you can actually get a view of just what is happening down there. I found that really motivating while I was pushing ("Ok, there's the head, I'm going to make sure it comes down a little more this time").
According to our doula, the whole pushing phase was about fifteen minutes. It took a little while to work the baby down. Once her head was ready to come out, though, it only took two pushes - this is, without a doubt, THE most excruciating feeling ever. As soon as I felt it again, I remembered. But at least it goes quick. And once the head's out, the body just slides right out as well.
So then, suddenly, there she was. A tiny, wet, black-haired little girl, shuddering and crying on my chest. Tom was crying pretty hard too. I was just filled with adrenaline, shaking, and staring hard into Tom's eyes, trying to communicate somehow the depth of unexplainable emotion I was feeling. This was 1:38 pm. Her Apgar scores were perfect. I think everything went, really, as well as it could have.
We didn't know yet, for sure, what we would call her. Stella had always been pretty high on the list. Once everyone had left us, and it was just the three of us in the room, we tried out all the names we had talked about during the pregnancy, and decided that was the one.
And by the evening of her birth, I was already able to say, "yes, that was all worth it. The nine long, often miserable months of pregnancy...the agonizing pains of labor...it was worth it to get her." Seven hours of labor, only the last hour of which was really that bad. And what do I get for it? A lifetime (hopefully) with my baby, my daughter. A new human soul brought into the world, and to live ever after in eternity. How awesome.