After going to bed on 7/31/2009, Evvie was VERY active in utero. She usually kicked some at bedtime, but tonight, she was kicking and moving way more than normal.
At 3:00 am on 8/1/2009, I woke up to go to the bathroom. Given that I was 38 weeks pregnant, a nightly bathroom trip wasn’t unheard of. Typically, though, I went around 2:00 or 5:00 am, so 3:00 was a little different. When I finished using the restroom, I felt a small surge of fluid and thought “hmm…that’s odd, I thought I was finished”. I thought *maybe* labor was starting but didn’t want to get too excited. I put on a panty liner and walked toward the bedroom, when another small gush of fluid came out and the panty liner was clearly not enough. I changed into another panty liner (which was all I had upstairs) and went to Evvie’s room and got a prefold cloth diaper and used that instead. I went back into the bedroom and told Scott “I think my water broke.” He said “Seriously?” and I had another surge of fluid. Yes, seriously. I tried to go to bed and sleep some more since it was so early in the morning, but contractions started coming at about 2 minutes apart lasting 40 seconds or so. They weren’t too strong yet, but because they were so close together, I couldn’t sleep. I felt pretty icky after my water broke, so I decided to take a shower. I washed my hair and shaved my legs and stood under the water for a long time. Then I got out, got another diaper (I had soaked the first one through already) and went to lay in bed. Scott coached me through the contractions using visualizations and techniques we had learned in our Bradley class. (Scott says: I had been worried I was not going to be able to keep talking long enough during the contractions and that I would run out of things to say. Or that I would keep using the same couple of visualizations over and over for such a long time that Jenni would gripe at me, “Say something ELSE!” In reality, Jenni was such a natural at finding her rhythm and relaxing through the pain, I didn’t have to do nearly as much coaching as I thought.) Scott timed the contractions using his iPod Touch and they were still about the same as they had been before. He got me some water and around 5:00 am he called our Doula, Kelly. She advised us to call our doctor, so he did that as well. Since my water had broken, the on call doctor didn’t want me to labor at home longer than 8 hours, so she advised us to come in at 11:00 am. Around this time, my contractions started to spread out some, so I was able to nap in between them. At some point (around 7:00 maybe?) I threw up and we called Kelly again. She asked to speak with me and listened to me have a short contraction (I was disappointed – this was the shortest, weakest one I’d had yet, and it was the one she listened to!) and advised me to use slow, deep breaths during the contractions. She listened to another one and said I was doing very well with the breathing. She asked what I thought of the contractions and my response was “These are serious.” She also advised that I try to eat small bites of food and drink water, so Scott made me some oatmeal, which I ate a few small bites of.
I brushed my teeth and got dressed in comfy pants and one of Scott’s XL college t-shirts and we went downstairs where Scott could make me some more food. This time he made toast with margarine. I sat on the exercise ball through several contractions and texted and called friends and family in between them. I still needed Scott to help me through the contractions either by massaging my back or by talking me through them. We timed them, but they were erratic – sometimes lasting 30 seconds, one lasting 2 minutes, and anywhere from 90 seconds to 3 minutes apart. (Scott says: Somewhere around now, Jenni moved to laying on the floor on her side. Intensity was certainly picking up, but we were still taking our time and not in a hurry.) We called Kelly hourly at this point, and at 10:30 am Scott called Jenn (our Bradley instructor, assistant doula, and photographer!) to come over while he packed up to go to the hospital. We planned to leave at 11:00 am, but we waited for me to go to the bathroom, then waited out a couple of contractions, so we wound up leaving around 11:20 am. In the car, I turned completely inward and began to manage the contractions on my own. Scott has since told me that he couldn’t tell when I was having a contraction and when I wasn’t, so he wasn’t able to help me, which was OK – I was handling them well. His job was to drive smoothly and safely. The remaining timeline was recorded by Jenn, otherwise I would have absolutely no idea when anything happened.
The car ride wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated, and since it was a Saturday, it only took us 20 minutes to get there. Once we got there, Jenn suggested we walk around some before checking in, just in case things slowed down, then we could leave and go to a hotel nearby instead of checking in just as labor slowed down. I didn’t really want to walk, but thought the advice was good, so we started walking outside. It was too hot and I needed to go to the bathroom, so we went inside. I went to the bathroom as quickly as possible so I could stand up during contractions – those that I had on the toilet were the hardest, and I didn’t like them one bit. Scott and I walked around the lobby area for a short time, and I started to feel queasy, so I sat down and pointed to our makeshift puke bucket. Scott didn’t know what I was pointing at, so I pointed more fervently. He quickly understood when I started coughing. He got it to me in time, when I vomited bile. At this point, I just wanted to lay down, so I laid on the floor of the lobby. Jenn (I think?) gave me a pillow and at that point Kelly showed up. She joked about this being the place we were going to give birth and encouraged me to go upstairs and check in. I was so thankful. Labor was not slowing down; it was progressing at a good pace.
We walked to the elevators and I had a contraction or two on the way. When I would have a contraction, I would lean my head against my forearm on the wall, and Scott would rub my back. Slowly we made it to the elevator and up to the 3rd floor, where we had to check in - after a few more contractions, one in the elevator, several in the hallway on the way to L&D. (Scott says: It was a good thing we had so many people with us, because we brought so much stuff to the hospital! Yoga ball, pillows, soft-sided cooler with juice and ice cubes of Gatorade and chicken broth, an iPod docking station, another bag of dry foods, a duffle bag with clothes and other odds and ends.) I had to fill out some paperwork and was barely “with it” enough to do that, but we made it through. At this point, it was around 12:45 pm. There were no rooms available but one was being cleaned, so they sent us to a “waiting room” which was actually a hallway with chairs in it and a family or two hanging out. Kelly asked if I wanted to sit on my yoga ball, and I definitely did, so I sat with my back to the families and went back into my own world. Kelly suggested I go to the bathroom and I told her I didn’t like to labor on the toilet. She said that that meant it was the best place for me to be because it was getting the baby into a good position. So, I went to the toilet, and Scott joined me in the room. He kept telling me I was doing a good job and would occasionally remind me to relax my shoulders or my face or wherever he noticed I was tense. This was very helpful and I was able to do as he said.
At 1:25, we were finally in a room. I changed into a robe I had brought from home instead of the hospital gown. Dr. Carrie Lawson – the on call doc for Dr. Tchabo – came in and checked me (this was my first internal check through my entire pregnancy) and I was at 5 cm and 100% effaced. I was so relieved because I was worried she’d tell me I was only at 2 cm or something and after all that work I would have been seriously disappointed. As it was, 5 cm sounded great to me! My contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart and 1 minute long and steady. The doctor looked over my birth plan and said everything was fine and that I would need a Heplock. The nurse (Sarah) came in and introduced herself. She was really nice and totally amenable to the birth plan too. I started to relax a little about having a hospital birth. She tried to put the Heplock in my right arm (the side where all the other wires, etc, would be for the monitors), but failed the first time. I really don’t like needles, and they were even harder to deal with while managing contractions. I needed Scott to help me through it, so I stared into his eyes and I think held his hand while she tried the other arm. I had to ask her to wait through the contraction I was having before sticking me, and she complied, but I remember thinking that she wasn’t very observant. The doctor agreed to intermittent monitoring, and so the nurse also strapped those on to me (also not paying attention to my contractions).
I labored on my right side in bed for a while, and Scott went to the cafeteria to get lunch. I asked for the monitors to be removed, and they were. At around 3:10 pm, Kelly convinced me to labor on the toilet, which brought on very intense and powerful contractions. I had a lot of bloody show and Kelly estimated I was probably around 7 cm at this point. I started feeling a fullness in my bottom and I pushed, completely involuntarily, once or twice on the toilet. Once I knew what pushing felt like, I was more capable of breathing through that type of contraction to wait until I was fully dilated so that I could push. Not pushing was certainly difficult, though! Scott came back from lunch around this time, and I was put back on the monitor in bed. I was very very warm, so Kelly and Scott applied cool washcloths to my face and neck, and I kept eating ice chips. I also became very verbal around this point – saying “ooh, ooh” or “ow ow ow ow” during contractions. Kelly advised me to use this type of vowel sound that kept my throat open rather than closing it off because if you keep your throat open, your cervix will be freer to open. At 3:45 I really started having the urge to push, but I had not been checked again, so I had to blow through the contractions. They were really intense and painful and I couldn’t resist pushing entirely. The nurse and doctor were called to let them know I was pushing, and at 3:55 Dr. Lawson checked me again. I was at 9 cm and, according to Jenn’s notes, I was having lots of double peak contractions, even one or two triple peaks. I had no idea at the time – I just knew they were strong. Kelly and Scott alternated putting pressure on my left hip/back area – the same place that had been hurting me during pregnancy and that had lead me to the chiropractor. The pressure helped, but it did not eliminate that back pain. I can’t imagine what it would have been like had I not been receiving therapy for it for months! I think it was around this time that I had the one fleeting thought of “an epidural might be nice” but then another contraction came and I had to focus, and I never thought about artificial pain relief again.
At 4:23, Dr. Lawson came back and declared that I was ready to push (I had declared this a while ago, and was practically begging them to let me push!). For the first push, Dr. Lawson held up my cervix to see if the baby’s head would drop, and at 4:25 I officially pushed for the first time. The doctor seemed surprised to say that I was a good pusher. I wasn’t so confident. Pushing was new territory – I had learned to cope with the contractions and could handle them. Pushing was a totally new experience.
At 4:25 the doctor left and Kelly and nurse Sarah attempted to put up the squatting labor bar. And then they thought they had it wrong, so they turned it around. And then they fidgeted with it some more and turned it back around. (Scott says: And then they thought they had it wrong, so they turned it around. And then they fidgeted with it some more and turned it back around. Finally, we all decided this must be right, because the other way looked even more wrong than this looked.) This was all very distracting to me. Finally, the labor bar was in place and the bed was positioned properly. Despite the labor bar being advertised on the hospital tour, our nurse said she had only put it up one other time in her 10 years at the hospital. Kelly sat at the foot of the bed and held a hand mirror so she could see how I was progressing. I had had a few more pushes and Kelly kept telling me what a good job I was doing.
I was pretty uncomfortable in the position I was in – I was sitting on the bed and would stand up on the drop-foot part of the bed and push against the labor bar during contractions. I wanted something to lean on in between pushes and Kelly suggested Scott sit behind me, so he did and I sat between his legs and was able to lean back on his chest when I wasn’t pushing. This made it more comfortable for me, but as I said earlier, pushing was a whole new ball game, and I didn’t like it one bit. I finally told Kelly “I’m so scared!” and saying it made it easier for me to focus on the job at hand. Scared didn’t begin to describe it – I was absolutely terrified. Scott has since asked what I was scared of, and I can’t put my finger on it. For one thing, I was worried, despite being told what a good pusher I was, that I was doing it wrong because I felt like I was only going to the bathroom – not pushing out baby. But, I don’t think that was all of it – I think I felt a little alone and without direction. The books all talk about labor pain management, they don’t spend a lot of time on the pushing part. I think Kelly told me it was OK to be scared and that I was doing a great job. During the next few pushes, I started making very guttural, animalistic noises – very loudly. After a few of these, Kelly suggested that my throat would be sore if I kept up this way, and so I tried to push without the noises. I would push for what I’m sure was a few seconds (that seemed like minutes…or days) and at the end would let out a roar. These pushes became much more effective, and Kelly told me I could touch my baby if I wanted. I tentatively placed a finger inside and sure enough, I could feel a bit of her head! I asked Kelly “How much longer?” and she, frustratingly ;), said “I don’t know.” Kelly recommended I pull against the bar instead of pushing against it, and again, this helped my pushes be more effective. All during this time, I was very hot and Scott and Jenn kept applying cold wash cloths to my face and neck between contractions and feeding me ice chips (I think).
Somewhere between 5:10 and 5:15 pm, I let out a mega-roar of a noise and pushed with all of my might. I began to understand the idea of “ring of fire” – an apt description of crowning, for sure! At 5:15, Dr. Lawson came back in and asked if this was the position I intended to give birth in. I was confused – was I not in the process of giving birth? So I said “yes” and the doctor took over Kelly’s position at the end of the bed. She asked if I wanted a perineal massage and I think I said yes. She then proceeded to run her finger around Evvie’s head as I pushed. This was SO PAINFUL. I think I said “ow ow ow” during those pushes. Sometime around this time, Kelly thought to ask for a mirror so Scott and I could watch as she emerged. They got it up just in the nick of time – I gave another push and her head was out – and it seems to me that her body just came out with it, but I may have had to push for that too. In any event, her body emerging was the most wonderful feeling! And at 5:22 pm, Evelyn Lily arrived. I barely saw it on the mirror – I was too relieved to not have to push anymore!
Dr. Lawson placed Evvie on my belly and they began to rub her. She was a little gray (Scott says: she was extremely gray for the first 10 seconds or so) and wasn’t yet crying. I didn’t really worry too much – just a fleeting thought of, “shouldn’t she be crying?!” before she did. I was able to hold her and kept saying, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” It was all I could think. Dr. Lawson, as per our birth plan, let her cord finish pulsing before it was time to cut the cord. I asked Scott, “Do you want to do it?” and he replied, “I guess so”. And he did. (Scott says: It was thick and tough and took a few snips to cut all the way through. I was also worried I might somehow slip and cut her, so I was probably being extra-cautious.)
Soon after the birth, someone asked me about our next child and I replied "I think we'll adopt the next one". At that moment, no one, including me, was sure whether I was joking. A few hours later, though, I knew that I was and that I'd gladly carry and deliver another child, when the time comes.