Monday, September 17, 2012

One Birth, Two Stories

We decided that we would each write about our experience of E's birth separately. The first story is from A, the second from me. 

Waiting for Ever
After two weeks of waking up with one or two contractions a night, both of us were impatient and tired of feeling like the baby would never come.  We were at home together Friday night, when T suggested we get frozen yogurt – for the second time that day, she admitted.  A friend of ours, Kate, went with us and was going to pick our dog up that night, as she volunteered to keep him at her house for the first week or so after the baby came.  Obviously, we were hoping she would arrive soon.  How soon, we didn’t realize, because T was sitting at the table after eating her frozen yogurt and got this funny look on her face, and announced, “I think my water might have just broken.”

It took Kate and me a second to register what T had just said, but then I felt pieces of excitement bubble up through the doubt.  Kate picked up Manni, and T and I called the birth center to find out what they wanted us to do. 

The midwife called back a few minutes later, telling us to come in for some testing to confirm that T’s water had broken.  After completing a few of their ways to test for amniotic fluid, with a puzzled tone, the midwife told us she was going to say that T’s water had not, in fact, broken, BUT that she wasn’t actually convinced of it.  She advised us to go home and get some rest and check up with the midwife on call the following day if things were still gushing.  So at 10:30 that night, we went home and climbed into bed.  Surprisingly, we both fell straight asleep – maybe our bodies knew things we didn’t. 

Sometime around one am, I felt T rubbing my arm to wake me up.  I called my parents to tell them to begin their two hour drive down; T’s labor had officially begun. 

I felt surprisingly calm about the whole thing, which was unexpected.  We got up and did all the things that it seems people do when they’re in labor – T took a shower, we went on a walk, we hung out together and watched one of our favorite movies, so on and so forth.  My parents arrived a couple hours later and T was handling her contractions well.  My dad promptly retired to the guest room to catch some sleep, and a little while later, my mom joined him.  Around five am, our enthusiasm for labor was replaced by tiredness so we also tried to get some shut-eye.  Contractions were in T’s back and it was hard for her to lie in bed, so I’d push my knuckles into her lower back during them, and we’d sleep when the contraction would abate.  We spent about an hour this way, until lying in bed was no longer possible for T. 

As the sun peeked over the mountains, I thought to myself, “Our daughter is going to arrive today.”  It was an unfathomable idea, that finally that baby in T’s belly would come to meet us.  That soon T’s pregnancy would be over.  We stood together on the cusp of a life-altering experience. 

The hours of the morning passed us by, as T’s contractions grew closer together and more intense.  We used seemingly the whole house as our tools for labor, changing positions and moving about our home, waiting for Everleigh. 

I called the midwife mid-morning, to see when she wanted us to come to the center.  She spoke with me and then with T, and since we lived so close, she advised us to just stay home as long as T was handling the contractions, or until her water broke or she felt like she had to push. 

Just after eleven am, T’s contractions went from manageable to overwhelming as she experienced a set of intensely close and difficult contractions, right atop one another.  I don’t know that I’ll ever forget it – she was leaned over the couch onto her body pillow, tears streaming down her face as contractions crashed over her.  I’m unaccustomed to a T who isn’t in control, and seeing her unable to ride the contractions out really hurt me.  I couldn’t fix it, I felt like T was alone and adrift and there was nothing I could do.  Nothing, except call the birth center and tell them we were coming in NOW, NOW we are coming. 

In moments, my parents and I jumped into action.  Dad got the car started and loaded up, I was still on the phone with the birth center trying to convince the answering service that yeah, my wife really was in labor and we really were coming in.  My mom followed us around, picking up all the bits and pieces we were about to forget and after a contraction ended I ushered T into the car.  We drove the extremely short distance to the birth center and headed inside.  T had to stop for a contraction in the hallway before we finally made it into our room. 

The nurse wanted to check T’s progress.  She told us that T was 100% effaced… but just one centimeter dilated.  My heart broke.  We were so tired.  T was exhausted, and had been laboring for nearly twelve hours already and to only be one centimeter dilated… I think we both felt like Evie was never going to come out. 

Somehow, we distracted ourselves with settling into the room and continuing to labor.  During T’s labor, time wasn’t marked in minutes or hours, it was marked in contractions and expletives and progress made and popsicles consumed and the darkening sky.  It felt like eternity; it felt like a moment. 

During the afternoon, we labored in the giant birth tub together.  We labored in bed, on piles of pillows, sitting backwards on the toilet, leaning our bodies together, sitting on the birth ball, everything we could think of to help T get comfortable.  After we got out of the tub, T’s labor gave us a short reprieve and let us nap together in bed for ten minutes or so.  Those ten minutes of sleep were the most wondrous minutes I think I’d ever felt. 

The midwife encouraged T to get out of bed and sit upright, help the baby move down and keep her labor progressing.  T dragged herself out of bed to sit on the ball, and the moment she did, her water broke.  I threw a celebration party in my head, knowing that things were moving along, but T was reserved about announcing her water broke.  She looked fragile in that moment, concern creasing her forehead as she anticipated the increase in intensity.  I wanted to hold her and tell her that everything was going to be fine, but T was busy focusing. 

I think in that moment, something changed.  I don’t know exactly what, but it felt to me that T’s focus changed, her drive increased.  She knew that baby was getting ready to come out. 

Before much longer, T was feeling the urge to bear down and push.  The midwife wanted to check her, make sure her cervix was completely dilated.  Bad news: she was not fully dilated.  We couldn’t understand how T had been laboring for so long and was ready to push, but her body wasn’t.  For the next hour, the midwife told T to breathe through the contractions without pushing.  It looked like torture.  I watched as T’s abdomen tightened down rhythmically.  I looked into her eyes as her body begged her to push and she fought it with every ounce of her strength.  I held her hand and I told her that I believed in her; I knew she could do it. 

Finally the midwife came back in to see how T was doing.  The horrifying news was that no progress had been made over that hour.  The midwife gave us a few options: take some narcotics, which would relieve T of her urge to push and allow her a break, or she could keep breathing through the contractions and see if that did anything, or she could allow the midwife to try and stretch her cervix over the baby’s head during a contraction. 

We decided to let the midwife stretch T’s cervix during the next contraction.  She was able to successfully stretch the cervix another centimeter, and another half, and finally one side of the cervix was off Evie’s head.  The midwife worked and worked, trying to get that cervix to stretch over.  After a few contractions, all that was left was what the midwife referred to as a “knot” of cervix that wouldn’t move.  She told T that she could try pushing a few contractions, see if that would do anything.  She left the room to let T try. 

T’s mom and I helped T get into a squatting position, because that’s one position we’d already decided T wanted to try pushing in.  After a few contractions, T decided this wasn’t ideal, so back onto the bed we went. 

Our midwife came back in to see how we were doing.  After doing a check, she announced that although the cervix hadn’t moved off E's head, T was bringing the baby down with it.  She said that it wasn’t ideal, but that if T could push the baby down despite the bit of cervix, that she should just keep pushing.  This was the beginning of the end, and now T finally had something she could actively DO. 

T lay back and pushed like a Mack truck.  Everyone in the room was awed with how powerful her pushes were, how quickly she moved the baby down even with the cervix hampering her efforts. 

Before we knew it, the midwife was exclaiming that she could see the baby’s hair. 

I watched over my wife as she moved our daughter millimeter by millimeter into the world.  I carefully wiped her face and her underarms and the pits behind her knees with a cool cloth as her complexion purpled with sheer effort.  I stroked her hair, and held her leg, and told her that I could see Evie’s head.  I watched my daughter crown, and I watched T work at slowly birthing her head, and I watched E’s slippery grey body slide out. Outside of myself, I watched from above the room as life as we knew it changed. 

Tears dripped off my cheeks as the midwife lay our baby on T’s body and cut her umbilical cord.  Her cord was really short, so we waited while the cord was cut and the midwife and nurse rubbed the baby’s body down and tickled her feet to get her crying.  Evie blinked her eyes a few times and gave a small cough before she really opened up her lungs and let out a good wail.  She cried as T finally got to pull her up onto her chest, and as T and Evie were wrapped up in warm blankets I sat back and took a good look at my new family. 

There really isn’t any way to describe the emotions crowding my heart at that moment.  I was overwhelmed with love, with amazement at T’s strength, with gratefulness for a healthy wife and a healthy daughter, with disbelief that our daughter had finally arrived, and a million other thoughts floating around these central ones. 

In some ways, I still can’t believe our child is here.  I knew I would love her, but what I didn’t know was how intense my love for her would be, nor how fast it would grow.  I feel differently about her than I’ve ever felt about anyone before, which I wasn’t sure would happen.  I wondered if I would love her like I loved our foster children – but there simply isn’t anything comparable.  She may not have grown in me, but the moment she was born, I knew her.  I am filled with overwhelming love for her and my love for T has only continued to blossom.  I am so excited to step into this new life. 

Wishing on a Blue Moon
My entire pregnancy, I had been convinced she wouldn’t be here until after her due date - until I started noticing changes in my body.  I had been waking up with contractions that were more crampy than Braxton-Hicks, my skin became really oily, insomnia seemed to be back, and the dog was following me around looking worried and sitting on my feet.  I know none of this really means anything, but I felt like things were starting to change. After a few days, it was obvious this was just the new norm, I was still pregnant, and our little one seemed content to wait.

It was the day before Evie’s due date, August 31st.  Even though I was trying to positive about still being pregnant, I was disappointed that we weren’t going to be able to tell our little girl she was born under the Blue Moon.  It was silly, but I really liked the idea and it was disappointing when it became obvious she was going to keep us waiting.  I was texting with my mom about feeling conflicted and she suggested writing a blog, which was a great idea.  Getting it all written down helped me remember that I believe babies will come when they are ready most of the time. She just wasn’t ready.

With my ideals in mind, I left my last day of work and headed to my appointment with the midwife. The midwife of the day was Judy.  It was the first time I had met her, but a friend of mine had her for Centering and said she was fantastic.  I immediately liked her (this can be said about almost everyone at the Birth Center).  It was another uneventful appointment, but at the end she offered to do a cervical exam.  I skeptically asked if it would really tell her anything and she said “No,” but explained that if I was starting to dilate she could sweep the membrane and it may help get things moving along. I declined and decided if I was still pregnant at our next Centering class I would let Fran do the sweep.

I immediately regretted my decision, emotionally, if not logically. I came home and moped around a bit.  I was feeling very stressed about being on maternity leave and still being pregnant.  What would happen if she waited another week and I had to go back to work and she was only 7 weeks old?  8 weeks seem so much more acceptable than 7.  A came home and I just couldn’t handle it anymore; I broke down and cried.  I was so ready to be done with pregnancy and I felt so guilty for feeling that way.  I was also hungry, which is never a good thing when I am already emotional. I calmed down enough to feel like being around friends may help me get out of my funk, so A started texting people to find a dinner date.

We met our friend Kate for dinner and went to get frozen yogurt. It was a nice night so we sat outside to eat our dessert.  We stay and talked for a while after we had finished eating.  The moon was big and beautiful, I stopped paying attention to the conversation and just watched the moon and enjoyed the night.  I felt much more at peace than I had all day. Then I was startled back to the reality. I looked at A and told her that I thought my water had broken, not a lot, but something was going on down there.  I went inside to the bathroom and confirmed that there was some kind of fluid, but there definitely wasn’t a lot. My contractions had also changed to the crampy type that had been waking me up. We got in the car and took Kate back to hers.  She followed us home to pick up the dog so we wouldn’t have to worry about him while Evie was brand new. 

We called the Birth Center and talked to Maya, and she said to go ahead and come in so she could run some tests to see if it was amniotic fluid or not. Unfortunately all of the tests came back inconclusive. She said she wasn’t convinced it wasn’t my water, but she was going to call it a very watery mucus plug. She sent us home, told us to get some sleep, and said if labor hadn’t started and it was still watery to call back in the morning.

I was amazed we were actually able to fall asleep, but it was very short-lived.  After about two hours I woke up with contractions. I got up to go to the bathroom and checked the time on my phone when I got back.  It was 12:30am. Another contraction started so I started the contraction counter app on my phone.  They were still pretty mild, but coming every five minutes so I woke A up. After about half an hour they were getting closer together and more intense and we decided it was time to call A’s parents so they could drive down from Phoenix. I took and shower and braided my hair and then A suggested going for a walk.

It was about 2:30am and we set out in the moonlight, it was so bright we didn’t even need a flashlight. After having to stop for a few contractions I decided I really didn’t want to be walking anymore. We started timing the contractions again and they had slowed to 7 minutes apart, but were still getting stronger.  We got home and I decided to have some soup while I still had an appetite and we put our favorite romantic movie on, Imagine Me and You. After a while A’s parents, Sue and Mike, got to our house, I felt sort of bad we had called them so soon since it was now obvious it was going to be a while.

We started another movie, Coyote Ugly (we decided it was a Piper Perabo kind of night). A’s parents went to the guest room to get some rest and we decided it didn’t sound like a bad idea.  I could feel the contractions in my back so A put pressure on my sacrum.  I was able to sleep just a little between contractions.  After about an hour I was feeling restless and got out of bed.  A made me some tea and we finished our movie. The contractions were still only about 5 minutes apart, every once and a while there would be a really intense one and they would space out for a little while. The whole time I had been losing bits of the mucus plug and while everyone else was eating breakfast, the rest of it came out. It made for great breakfast conversation.

Around 10:30am we decided to call the midwife on call because they were finally only 3-4 minutes apart and that was when we were told to call.  Judy was the midwife on call and she was at the hospital with a woman who was already pushing. She talked to A and then to me. After telling her we lived really close to the birth center she recommended staying home until I was ready to push, my water broke, or I wasn’t able to handle the contractions any more. This was a bit discouraging.  I really wanted to be told we were getting really close and to come in right away. 

After about another hour something changed and I had 3 strong contractions really close together.  I got completely overwhelmed and started crying.  So A decided it was time to go.  She called the answering service and told them to let the midwife know we were ready to go to the birth center.  A and her parents started packing the car. A few minutes later A got a call from the hospital, they had a message from Judy: “Come in.”  As soon as the next contraction was over we went to the car. My contractions had slowed down now, so we made it to the birth center between contractions. 

The nurse (also named Judy) checked me and told me the good news was that I was completely effaced, but only one centimeter dilated.  I had been in labor for 11 hours and I was only one centimeter.  I know that I threw up at some point.  After a few more contraction, I asked the nurse to fill up the tub. A and I got in.  It was so deep, I felt like I was going to float away. I hooked my arms under A’s legs and we stayed that way for a while. The water definitely helped with the intensity of the contractions and I started dozing off between them. The water started getting cold and my hands were very water-logged, much to my dismay.  I turned around so A was keeping my feet down instead and we added more hot water.  I had someone get me a dry washcloth to dry my hands and I tried keeping my hands dry for a while.

After a while things were intense enough that the water wasn’t enough to make it bearable; the contractions were longer and stronger.  Sleeping between them wasn’t making things any easier, I would wake up and it would be too had to relax, but I was so exhausted. During a particularly strong one I hit the tub and yelled; the midwife heard and came in.  She checked me again and I was only to 4cm. She said my bag of waters was bulging and during the next contraction she could feel me dilate to 5cm.  I think it was around 3pm.  Judy wanted me to get out of the tub to get something to eat and drink and go to the bathroom.  This sounded like the worst idea in the world to me. After a few more contractions I finally gave in.  A and I had been holding hands under water and her waterlogged hands bothered me so much that I just wanted to be dry again.  I stood up and immediately regretted my decision.  I had moved too fast and going from the weightlessness of water to standing gave me a very strong contraction. Luckily it was short and I very slowly tried again.  Someone wrapped me in a thick sheet and they helped to me walk to the toilet.

I sat backwards on it and leaned against A. My mother-in-law, Sue, got me a popsicle and fed me bites everyone once and a while.  I liked the toilet because there were bars on the wall I could grab during contractions. The birth classes we had taken focused on completely relaxing, but I had stopped being able to do that hours before. I found that if I was able to grab something with my hands I was able to relax my core better. I had also given up on keeping my face relaxed. If I pursed my lips and focused on blowing the contractions away I was able to take longer, deeper breaths. A asked if she could run and use the bathroom, but a contraction was starting so I asked her to stay. A little later Sue took over standing behind me and A got to take a short break to use the bathroom and grab some food.

The edge of the seat was digging into my legs and I finally gave up on the position.  I hobbled to the bed and tried lying down again.  I had a lot of back pain during the next contraction, it made me cry out and Judy jumped on the bed and put pressure on my sacrum. After it was over she checked me again and said I was to 7cm but that her head was behind my pubic bone so I needed to have some contractions while I was leaning back.  They put a pad on the birth ball and put the rocking chair behind it for A to sit on. I asked for some socks because my feet were cold. During the first contraction in this position my water broke.  I had heard so many stories about contractions getting stronger after the water breaks that I was afraid, but the exact opposite happened. They became manageable, they were still intense, but I could handle them a bit better.  Unfortunately I needed a new pair of socks, so A gave me hers.

It didn’t take long before they became overwhelming again and were one on top of the other. I got back on the bed and but barely made it before the next one. It came with another gush of fluid, my socks were wet again and we were out of socks. I was having a hard time; I was hot, then cold and shaking. They wrapped my wet feet in warm towels and fanned my face.  Judy said it was transition, which gave me a little bit of hope. After a few more contractions I got a little bit of a break and fell asleep.

When I woke up I felt like pushing.  Judy checked and I was only 8cm so I was not allowed to push. I writhed and screamed and did everything I could not to push.  Every once and a while, when I felt completely out of control, Judy would tell me to just push a little and then blow through the rest.  After an hour or so of this she checked me again; I hadn't made any progress. I couldn't believe it.  She said we had three options: keep doing what we were doing and see if I made any progress, take some pain meds so I could sleep and not feel the need to push, or let her try to push the cervix over the baby’s head during a contraction while I was pushing. I couldn't decide and asked A what I should do.  She said we should try the third option. I knew it was the right option, but I was terrified.  I had just started a contraction and Judy said we would do it during the next one and I told her to go ahead.  She got me to 9cm, and then one side was completely gone.  She said there was just a knot of it left on one side, not even a lip, just a knot. I turned onto my side, hoping gravity would help, but the knot wouldn’t go away.  She told me if I felt like I had to push, I could try pushing for a little while, but only if I had to, not if I just wanted to. Then she left.

I had planned on pushing while squatting, so that is what I wanted to try.  A and my mom would lift me into the rocking chair between the contractions.  I was so exhausted that this wasn’t working. I couldn’t relax well on the rocking chair, so I got back into bed on my side.  A got into bed and supported my leg that was against the bed while my mom supported the one in the air. After a few more, Judy came back and checked.  With some surprise in her voice she said that the knot was still there, but I was making progress pushing, my cervix was just coming down with the baby’s head.  I got the go-ahead to continue pushing.  Since I was so tired, I kept my eyes closed and relaxed between.  After about 30 minutes I happened to open them and realized I couldn’t focus on anything.  I freaked out a bit and Judy told me to stop pushing with my face and had someone get a cool washcloth to put over my eyes.  This was harder than it seemed, and soon I was being told to push harder and I was back to pushing with my face. I decided that I didn’t care, my face would recover. 

Soon Judy was able to see the head and told us she had hair.  I almost laughed. I had been so convinced she would have a full head of dark hair like I did that I was worried she wouldn’t. I had this image in my mind that went with the little being growing inside of me, how would I feel if she looked different? Judy told us we would get to meet her before long and this gave me a new burst of energy.  Judy coached me to push more effectively and made sure I kept breathing. Everyone got really excited as they could start to see the progress and we got close to crowning. As she crowned, Judy was calling out instructions on when and how hard to push and she used warm oil and warm cloths to help me not tear.  With a feeling of relief, her head came out, and a few short pushes later, the rest of her followed. It was 7:37pm.

 They put her on my belly, but wouldn’t let me move her because her cord was too short. I reached down and felt her head while a new nurse wiped her off and tried to get her to cry. She finally started crying and I could feel them messing with the cord.  She had pooped right after she was born so they had to clean that off of me. Once her cord was cut I pulled her on my chest and the nurse finished cleaning her off and put a silly hat on her head.  While I tried to calm her down and get her to breastfeed, a lot of other things happened but I didn’t pay much attention.  I know they almost gave me a shot of Pitocin to deliver the placenta, but then I finally had some more contractions and was able to deliver it. Everyone kept trying to get me to put ice on my eyes, but I wanted to be able to see even if I was cross-eyed.  Judy told me I had some minor tears, but only one needed stitches.  She said lidocaine would hurt more than the actual stitches so she wasn’t going to use it, I really didn’t care. A and I just kept looking at our perfect little daughter. 

Eventually I realized A hadn’t been able to catch her or cut the cord like we had planned, so that meant she still hadn’t been able to hold her. I think she was waiting for me to ask, so I did.  They were so beautiful together. She took E’s hat off and we just took in our beautiful little girl. Eventually we let the grandparents take turns holding her. My dad went to get everyone some food and we got to have some time as a family of three while everyone else ate at a table just outside of the room. I ate some of A’s fries, but she wasn’t eating any.  I kept trying to get her to, but her stomach was upset. 

We decided we should put some clothes on E; she protested and the nurse thought this was a good time to get all of her stats. A took the diaper back off and let them do an exam.  She was 7lbs, 6ozs and 20.5” long. She also gave us some paperwork to fill out. After a little bit, everyone left for the night.  We had to stay for at least 4 hours for observation. We decided to go to sleep and figure out what to do when we woke up.

Just before 11:30pm we were woken up by E’s cry.  She had been sleeping on A’s chest. This time she was much more interested in nursing so I sat with her in the rocking chair and A got our things together and filled out the papers. The nurse came in to do our discharge paperwork and exam. By 12:30am we were back at home; it had been a crazy 24 hours.  

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