I was due on August 24th but the due date came and went. I started to worry that labor would have to be induced and Pitocin was the thing I most wanted to avoid.
It seemed like every day that passed made it more unlikely that I would go into labor on my own. I had never felt a single contraction. On the night of Saturday August 29th my parents and I went out for ice cream. I had pistachio almond ice cream and sat outside enjoying a beautiful night. After we had been eating our ice cream for about 15 minutes I felt a little cramp. I felt one more right before we left to go home and I wondered if something was happening. I didn’t say anything to anybody because I thought it was too good to be true. Around 2 a.m. I saw “bloody show” and knew that it meant I was going into labor so I told my husband and my Mom. I started to get really excited but I went back to bed and managed to sleep until 8 a.m.
When I woke up I was disappointed that the contractions hadn’t picked up in frequency or intensity. I was convinced that it had been a false alarm and I wasn’t in labor after all. My mom, husband and I decided to take a walk in the hope that it would get labor moving a bit. I didn’t feel any contractions once we got started and I was getting more and more discouraged as we walked. I was worried that labor had stopped. When we got home the three of us played a game of cards and finally the contractions got stronger and stronger. In the afternoon I asked my husband to start timing the contractions so we could see if I was making any progress. They started off around 8 to 10 minutes apart, then sped up to 5 to 8 minutes apart and stayed that way for hours. When they started to be uncomfortable I had to take breaks from the card game, leaning back against the couch, closing my eyes and taking deep breaths. My husband often didn’t notice that a contraction was starting (concentrating on the card game I guess) so I started hitting him with a pillow to tell him when to start timing. I was excited that labor was finally getting stronger and looking forward to going to the hospital. In the afternoon we decided to order from our favorite pizza place. I didn’t see any reason not to eat if I was hungry (although I regretted that later). I felt frustrated that it wasn’t time to the hospital yet. Each time a contraction was longer than 3 minutes after the previous one I was annoyed. The midwife had told us to wait to come to the birth center until the contractions had been 3 minutes apart for an hour.
Late in the evening I started to get really uncomfortable. The contractions were pretty strong but they were still too far apart to go to the hospital. Eventually we decided to call the midwife and tell her I was in labor and ask whether it was time to come. I felt pretty calm when I called and I explained that the contractions were still 5 to 8 minutes apart and had been that way for 8 hours or so. She told me that I should wait another hour and then go ahead and go to the hospital. I think she thought it was still too early to go because the contractions were still so irregular but she could tell I wanted to go soon.
Immediately after I hung up the phone with the midwife I had a really strong contraction. Then I had two more strong contractions with only a second or two of break between them. I was scared because things were changing really fast and it sure felt like transition. We decided to leave for the hospital because we figured it was a different scenario now. While everybody got their stuff together I realized I was between contractions so I grabbed my pillow and went downstairs. We live in a second floor apartment with outdoor stairs and I was worried about walking down them during a contraction. I figured as long as I had an opportunity to go out between contractions I was taking it so I left. For a minute apparently nobody knew where I went but they figured it out. I didn’t really think about not having told anyone I was going to the car.
When we arrived at the birthing center we went to the back entrance. I told the nurse right away that I wanted to use the tub as soon as possible. I was convinced that being submerged in water would help me manage the pain so I wouldn’t need an epidural. She told me to change into a gown and then she would come back and check me. She also told me that the midwife had not arrived yet. The nurse was very calm and easy going and at the time I felt annoyed that she didn’t seem to see the situation as urgent. After I changed, she came back in and started getting me hooked up to the monitors. I had to have at least 20 minutes of continuous monitoring before they could let me walk around without monitoring as I had requested. After I was hooked up she checked my progress. I was disappointed when she told me I was only at 6 cm. A contraction started as she was finishing the exam and the next thing I knew I felt a gush and the nurse said that my water had broken. I never even saw the amniotic fluid because I had my eyes squeezed shut and was breathing through the contraction. Later Ilearned that I went from 6 cm to 8 cm while she was checking me. She said there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, which made me worried the baby was in distress. At first she said it was fine and everything would be ok.
The next thing I knew, the nurse was next to my ear telling me that because there was so much meconium in the amniotic fluid I couldn’t get in the tub. She also told me that I would have to have the baby monitor running continuously to make sure the baby wasn’t in distress and that they would have to bring in a team from respiratory services to stand by while I pushed. I was disappointed (the only things I really wanted for labor were a tub, freedom to move around, and privacy) but also too busy with the contractions to think about it much. Looking back on it I’m surprised I wasn’t more worried about the baby’s welfare but I couldn’t focus on anything except the moment. By this point I felt like I was in my own world. Everything outside of my own head sounded really far away. Luckily my labor nurse knew this and would get right next to my ear whenever she needed to tell me something. I truly appreciate that she didn’t ignore me even though I was out of it and that she was so aware of my needs.
The baby’s heart rate was dipping occasionally and they wanted me to wear an oxygen mask. I remember they kept asking me to take slow deep breaths to try to get more oxygen to the baby but I couldn’t seem to do that. When they put the oxygen mask on me I pushed it away because it smelled awful. I also felt claustrophobic with something over my face. Of course, I didn’t explain all of that at the time, I just grunted and pushed it away. My mom ended up holding the mask in front of my face so that I was getting the oxygen but didn’t have to wear the mask on my face. I started to feel nauseous and managed to tell everyone that I might be sick. A little while later I announced that I was going to be sick but then I threw up all over before my mom could get the basin in place. (And that is why I couldn’t enjoy my favorite pizza for months afterward.)
At some point the nurse asked me if I was feeling the urge to push. I was surprised to realize that I was. After that, everything became a blur. I knew I was supposed to use low tones and focus my energy on the push but I couldn’t help but shout with the pain. I’m sure the midwife and nurse were updating us on the baby’s progress but I don’t think I heard any of that. I was inside my own head by myself.
I remember it was very quiet when the baby was born. I was frozen for a minute or two just feeling the absence of pain. The baby didn’t cry and nobody was saying anything. My husband told me later that as soon as she was born the nurse cut the cord and the baby was whisked across the room to the respiratory services team. Eventually I asked if the baby was ok and why she wasn’t crying. The midwife said the baby was fine. My husband told me later that he raised his eyebrows at her as if to say “Really?” and she nodded very calmly to tell him that she was sure the baby was fine. Next I asked if it was a boy or a girl. We had been told at the ultrasound that we were having a girl but there was always a chance they were wrong. The midwife and the nurse realized that they hadn’t looked to see in all of the rush. Finally someone was able to see the baby on the warming table and announced we had a little girl!
The baby still wasn’t crying but she seemed to be doing ok. She was pink and moving around and I could tell by their faces and movements that the respiratory services team was pretty calm by then. I learned later that the baby’s 1-minute APGAR score was 2 (out of 10) but that her 5-minute APGAR was up to 9 (minus 1 point for not crying). It turned out she didn’t cry until after we got home from the hospital so it’s hard to fault her for just being chill.
After maybe 10 minutes the nurse brought the baby over to me and I finally got to hold her. It still felt like a dream at that point. She had such a pretty little face and big wide dark blue eyes. Almost immediately I began to feel dizzy (apparently I was losing a lot of blood) and I told them that I thought someone should take the baby. The nurses put the head of my bed down and the midwife ordered Pitocin (doh!) and they gave me a shot of it followed by an IV drip of fluids and Pitocin. I remember thinking that this was just as painful as labor had been but a lot more annoying. Wasn’t I supposed to be done with the pain? They gave me some painkillers but they didn’t do much.
I’m not sure how long it took but I began to feel better and the Pitocin was doing its job so the nurses lifted the head of my bed again. I finally got to hold the baby again and the nurse asked her name. We told them she was Lily-Anne. Lily-Anne was just calmly looking up at me as though she was thinking, “So you’re my mom? Cool.” She still wasn’t crying but she was making little noises that were so cute. She sounded like a little monkey. The nurse took a moment to tell me that she was really impressed with how well I did and that I was amazing. I told her that I was proud I had not need to ask for an epidural and she said “Oh honey, there wouldn’t have been any time to give you an epidural even if you had asked for one.” (doh! number two) Later the nurse took her over to the warming table where she weighed and measured her and took her footprints. Lily-Anne was born on August 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm, only an hour and a half after we arrived at the hospital! She was 20 inches long and weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces. She only had 54 minutes of her first birthday but I think she had a good time all the same.