Wednesday, February 04, 2009

My Birth Story

Kate is a week old today. I plan to write an update of how that week has gone very soon, but first I wanted to record our birth story, before I forget the details of that special birth-day. This is a long post (with a few graphic details toward the end) that few people will be interested in, I imagine, save for close friends and family, and maybe a few pregnant ladies that stumble upon this blog. That said, here is our story...

My due date was Friday, January 23, which came and went uneventfully. All weekend, we hoped labor would start, since our doctor was the one on call that weekend and we were simply quite eager to have her! We were scheduled to be induced on Thursday, January 29, and had our 40.5 week prenatal checkup scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. At our 39.5 week checkup, I had been 60% effaced but only one centimeter dilated.

Sunday night, I had a huge nesting burst and made my special cranberry oatmeal white chocolate chunk cookies to take into my office the next day (if I wasn’t in the hospital by morning!) so we were hopeful the surge of energy meant labor was imminent. I did, in fact, start having frequent yet painless contractions later that night, but they continued throughout the next day without any increase in regularity or pain, so we just kept a “watch and wait” stance.

Tuesday, January 27, Middle Tennessee had a big ice storm, and my boss had told me to stay home if there was any doubt about the roads (since work is an hour from the hospital, and we didn’t want to have me facing that risk if I were to go into labor). So, I stayed home from work on Tuesday, feeling guilty about not being in the office and wishing labor would start. The painless contractions continued, finally increasing to “moderately uncomfortable” level around 4:00 pm. As I had off and on since Sunday night, I recorded the times and sometimes the duration of my contractions, but they leveled off around 5-7 minutes apart. We had been trying *everything* purported to jumpstart labor—walking, fresh pineapple, spicy food, etc. I was craving some Applebee’s nachos, and while I usually don’t eat jalapeños, we decided to go out to eat and “smoke her out” with extra jalapeños on my nachos. The dish as they brought it to me had only one slice of jalapeño on it, so our waiter (who looked like he could be a bouncer!) good-naturedly brought us a whole cup full of them to help us in our plight.

We had thrown my hospital bag (which I’d had packed since December 28!) in the car, in case we needed to go straight from Applebee’s to the hospital, and were a bit undecided after the discomfort seemed to increase throughout dinner and our post-dinner stop at Hobby Lobby (I had aspirations of doing at least one more scrapbook spread before having the baby, and needed a certain pattern of paper.) Matt leads his Roundtable Pulpit Bible study on Tuesday nights, so we decided to take me home to watch and wait some more while he went off to Starbucks for the study. Feeling tired and even more uncomfortable when we got home, I set the scrapbooking stuff aside and lay in bed doing Sudoku, marking the times and durations of my contractions in the margin of the book. They were still at 5-7 minutes apart (with the occasional 2 or 4 thrown in—totally irregular) and I consulted What to Expect When You’re Expecting for the millionth time, noticing now that it said contractions may never get totally regular at 5 minutes apart or less, so if they are 5-7 minutes apart and last 20-60 seconds each (which mine were), you should go to the hospital.

So, when Matt got home, we debated what to do, finally contacting the doctor on call, who said ideally we’d wait til they were 3-5 minutes apart, but that if we were worried about the weather (it was supposed to start snowing sometime in the night) we could go ahead and go and let them monitor me a while. I really didn’t want to go only to be sent home again, and the contractions were decreasing with activity rather than increasing (as the book—and a few websites and my mother—said they should). So, I went to bed around 11:30. I had trouble falling asleep, and got up around 12:30 with heartburn-induced vomiting. Back in bed, the contractions began to get actually painful, extending around my abdomen to my lower back. After 45 minutes or so of this, unable to sleep from the pain, I called out to Matt, who was awake in the family room. (He’s a night owl anyway, but especially could not sleep given the situation that night!) He sat with me in bed for a little while, and we determined the contractions were steadily coming about five minutes apart. “Well…let’s go!” we said, high-fiving one another, and jumping up to gather our things.

In the 10-15 minutes it took us to get everything together, the contractions increased in frequency to 2-3 minutes apart, and Matt helped me breathe through them on the short ride to the hospital, about two miles away. We checked in at 2:15 am, and were taken to our room, from which we called our parents and Matt text messaged just about everyone we knew. (I told him this could/should wait til morning or til the birth itself, but I’ll admit it was interesting to see who woke up, saw their phone, and responded at 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning. I waited til 7:15 to call my boss and let him know my leave had begun.) The nurse checked me, and determined I was 90% effaced and three centimeters dilated. I was hooked to the fetal heartbeat and contraction monitors, and left to suffer through my contractions for a few hours. They increased in severity, with the pain in my lower back especially misery-inducing.

Around 5:00 am, the nurse checked me again and soonafter came to inform us they were sending us home because I had not dilated any further. We were quite distressed--me because the contractions were so painful and close together already, and Matt because the snowfall was imminent, and he didn’t want us to be on the road in hazardous conditions, possibly unable to get back to the hospital safely. Matt got “crisp” with the nurse and insisted we talk to the doctor before going home. She went and checked with the doctor, and they agreed to monitor us for a couple more hours and see if we dilated any more. I could not be given an epidural until we were officially admitted, so I had to rely on breathing techniques for those couple hours, though breathing and Matt’s “focus on my voice” technique were becoming less effective as the pain increased. We listened to our “baby mix” of special songs (including “Wonder,” by Natalie Merchant, “You’ll be in my Heart,” by Phil Collins, “Let Mercy Lead,” by Rich Mullins, and others) and as I had long suspected, singing through contractions actually did help. It's worth mentioning that the snow did start falling--and sticking--during this time. (Ironically, it was 65 degrees out on our due date five days earlier.)

At 7:00 am, the nurse came to check me again, and declared I was four centimeters dilated. I still wonder if she just took mercy on us and estimated generously, but nonetheless, I was quickly admitted and given my IV, and the anesthesiologist was called to give me my epidural. She came around 9:00 am, and I enjoyed sweet relief from there on out. I was tired from the sleepless night, and the tingly numbness of the epidural simulated that great, super-sleepy sensation one feels when dozing off while reading. I spent the next several hours in and out of sleep, my abdomen and legs so numb that the nurse (a new shift, with the wonderful Cheryl) had to physically pull my thigh out for me, and I could barely feel any pressure when she checked my cervix. I was 6-7 centimeters by 11:00 am, and Cheryl estimated I’d be pushing at noon. Honestly, I was enjoying my sleep so much, I hoped it would be later than that, and indeed, at noon, I was just 8-9 centimeters, and the doctor came to break my water. He found that Kate had pooed already, so I had meconium staining and was told she’d need to be whisked off for respiratory checks right away, rather than getting to breast feed immediately. (Disappointing, but of course her health was priority #1.)

Around 1:15 pm, people came to break down the end of my bed and get all the equipment ready for delivery. Cheryl gave me an “in and out catheter” to empty my bladder. I barely woke up. I kept sleeping until 1:30, when Cheryl and Matt each took a leg and instructed me on when to push. I even dozed off between pushes, I think! Though I’d heard it can be hard to push correctly when you can’t feel anything, I seemed to do pretty well, and the doctor came in with an entourage of nurses around 1:45. He decided to use a vacuum extractor almost immediately, it seemed, and soon declared I’d need an episiotomy too. Supposedly this was because Kate’s head was rather large for my vagina. The vacuum kept popping off, however, (making a frightening noise as if her head were popping off!) because her head full of dark hair prevented a good suction. So, he brought out the forceps, and somewhere in there did the episiotomy. (I didn’t know when it happened, and didn’t want to know! Matt says he turned away when he saw the big scissors come out.) Our regular doctor had assured us she used such interventions quite sparingly, so I don’t know if she would have deemed them necessary as well, but that’s water under the bridge now.

At 2:07 pm, after approximately 37 minutes of pushing, out came Katharine Barry Kelley, weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces, and measuring 20 ½ inches in length. They took her directly to an exam table/warming tray across the room, where Matt cut her cord and watched as they checked her over. She let out a lusty cry about halfway to the table, and I cried, “Oh, sweetie!” or something to that effect. I could barely see her, given that I was lying almost flat, with a sheet piled up on my belly, but I could see she was a very attractive baby! I cried with joy.

As the doctor delivered the placenta and stitched up my third degree episiotomy (meaning the cut/tear went into the rectal muscle, but not all the way through to the rectum, which would be fourth degree) Matt brought the digital camera over to me, to show me a photo of her. “She’s beautiful!” I said. I got to hold her for a few minutes, but then they had to take her away to the nursery for a full respiratory check, due to the meconium. Matt got to go with her, and they were gone about an hour, leaving me alone except for the occasional nurse who would come in to check my bleeding. That part was sad, as I eagerly awaited her return. We got to breastfeed when they brought her back around 3:15, and then all the grandparents came in to meet their first grandchild. Kate “roomed in” with us in the postpartum ward, so we were rarely away from her for the rest of our hospital stay, and we enjoyed getting accustomed to life as a family of three. We love her madly, and will treasure January 28, 2009 forever as one of the most important days of our entire lives.

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