This post is hard for me to sit down and write, not just because I now have very little time in which I can use both of my hands simultaneously, but because so much has happened that the idea of trying to summarize or catch up is extremely daunting. I do the same thing with my journaling (which I stopped doing when I moved to Virginia Beach and now have no idea where to even start considering all that's happened since then).
First of all, I wasn't finished with my pregnancy blogs...there were other topics I wanted to cover, like...well, I don't remember them now, probably because they are insignificant in retrospect. Let's just have a birth story instead! It's visually documented pretty well on Laura's blog, so I'll provide the narrative and a couple of other pics.
My last day of work was July 31. I was planning on taking 1 week vacation the week of August 3 then starting maternity leave this week. I figured that gave me 2 weeks to prep for Hannah and also do a little last minute relaxing. That first day (Monday, August 3) was pretty productive, and I woke up at 7:30 the next day looking forward to another productive day. After emptying my bladder, I spread out my yoga mat to do my morning stretches and as I was touching my toes, liquid ran down my legs. I cursed my weakened bladder and vowed to do more kegels as I rushed back to the bathroom. Nothing happened while sitting, but when I stood up and pulled up my shorts, more liquid. Dang it! Sat back down. Nothing again. Stood up again, more liquid. My shorts were soaked by this time so I left them on the floor and jumped into the shower to inspect this liquid that kept spontaneously leaking from my netherlands. I yelled for Eric and asked if he thought I was repeatedly peeing myself or if my water was breaking. We used the five senses and determined that it was not very urine-like in nature, but I wasn't ready to jump to conclusions. After all, our bodies are primarily water, right? So this could be any number of things. I called Libby to run it by her and she seemed pretty certain that it was not any number of things but was indeed my water breaking. That fact caused some other waterworks....It's too early!!!!!!!!!
We called the midwife who wanted to know how far apart the contractions were and was unsatisfied with our answer: no contractions to speak of. She told us to pay attention to the contractions so we'd have some numbers for her next time she called, but there was too much to do to sit down and count contractions. Eric set to work cleaning out the basement so we could live down here when we got back from the hospital (otherwise I'd have to continue walking up and down 2 flights of stairs every time I had to pee), and I set to work packing our bags (which I was supposed to have packed already), finishing up laundry, and organizing and other last minute must do's. Mom and Laura both showed up that morning to help out and keep me sane. Crunch time.
At 3:00 that afternoon I was still not in labor. The midwife asked us to meet her at the hospital at 4:00. I was getting worried because I know that once the water breaks, the clock starts ticking. Most practices agree that the baby needs to be out of there in about 24 hours, whether I push her out or they cut her out. Since I had no intention of being induced or having a c-section or doing anything else remotely unnatural, I was starting to get a little nervous and frustrated with my body for not working properly.
The drive to the hospital was totally anti climatic. We all walked to the car nonchalantly. I wasn't sweating or panting or cursing or anything; I just got in the car like I always do. Once there, we sauntered up to the 16th floor, registered, and moved into our delivery room which had a great view and was way bigger than the one I saw when we toured the hospital. I was hooked up to the monitors which confirmed that the baby's heart rate was fine and that I was indeed not in labor. Sigh. The four of us hung out, ordered Thai food, watched some TV, thought about playing a game, and eventually resorted to a dance party. Laura put on some Black Eyed Peas and I did some awkward wanna-be belly dancing moves in an effort to shake the baby down and "Get it Started." The dancing didn't start labor, but it did lighten my mood which by this time was pretty sour. I hate hospitals and had every intention of spending as little time there as possible. My body's decision to burst the water bag before it was ready to start labor was a huge wrinkle in that plan.
By 11:00 I was cranky and tired and ready for bed. I announced that I was going to go to sleep for the night and then resume Project Have a Baby in the morning after a night of rest because I'd be much better equipped to deal with it then. Eric and I curled up on the very small bed and started taking cat naps. Laura read the entire Bradley Method book (a feat Eric and I didn't even accomplish), and my mom passed out on the pull-out chair. My midwife came in around 1:30 a.m. to talk about inducing me. She explained what I already knew and feared and then left me to think about my decision. Basically, she said that we could do it now, or we could do it later. When put like that, I opted for the first option which would get us out of the hospital faster. I cried and asked if she was sure it was even my water that broke (again thinking that any number of bodily fluids could be seeping from my vagina in spite of the alkalinity test Laura had brought home from work with her, the results of which ruled out the option of this mystery fluid being urine).
So at about 2:00 a.m., I was hooked up to the Pitocin drop and the monitors. I already had an IV for the antibiotics I had to get to prevent Hannah from picking up that GBS bacteria while floating around in there without her protective bag of waters. All of this was business of being hooked up to machines was exactly what I DIDN'T want. Suffice it to say that by this point I was a firm believer in that old adage about how the best laid plans always fall to crap.
I went back to sleep then and woke up at 5:00 a.m. feeling energized and refreshed and ready to get it started. The contractions were showing up more regularly but weren't painful. Little more than an hour later they had escalated to excruciating (or what I thought at the time was excruciating but what I later learned was still just the beginning). I tried to find a comfortable position and ended up settling for the least offensive one as comfort isn't in the labor vocabulary. I found myself on all fours on the floor draped over a birthing ball with Eric pushing on my hips during contractions. Laura kept me hydrated, sprayed me with a calming lavender spray, and instructed me to inhale (instructions which I ignored more and more as the pain increased). By this point, the midwife was there all the time. Eventually I felt the need to lay down and attempted to curl up into a ball on my side on the bed, but the ball in my stomach made curling up impossible and the pain of the contractions made the position not nearly as comfortable as I had hoped. I stayed anyway because the contractions were coming so close together by this point that I didn't have time to change positions between them and being caught moving around rather than focusing on breathing in the midst of a contraction was far worse than just dealing with the position I'd ended up in.
So I was on my left side in the bed, left hand gripping the bed rails, right hand gripping my mom's shoulder. Eric stood on my right side and lifted my right leg into the air, a sign that I took to mean that this was about to get started. Laura stood behind me and was the perfect relaxation/yoga coach. I focused on breathing, mostly just exhaling because it provided a small amount of respite while inhaling did nothing. For some time I'd been doing my very tribal low "ohhhhhhh's," both because it felt good and because my prenatal yoga teacher and childbirth instructor said it would help direct the baby into the birth canal. Once Eric started holding my leg, a team of people quietly arrived on the scene, and my midwife told me to start pushing. Although I concentrated on pushing only with my vaginal muscles, the butt muscles ended up mixed in that and there were 3 different occasions on which I felt myself pooping on the table. Fortunately I'd had an enema earlier (another "natural" method of encouraging labor to start) so there wasn't much, not that I cared anyway. By this point in the game, modesty is a fleeing memory.
I felt like her head was in the birth canal forever, and I dreaded the whole "ring of fire" thing that some of the less positive birth stories like to dwell on. Especially since I knew that that was the point when I would most want to push but most needed not to in order to avoid tearing. Two things happened: 1) that time came but I wasn't sure it had come because it felt more like an intense pressure than a ring of fire (kind of like when you are extremely constipated and the poo is right there but refusing to come out--that times like 100), and 2) I no longer cared about tearing my vagina to shreds so long as that baby got the hell out of there as quickly as humanly possible. So in spite of not feeling a contraction (I was told to only push on the contractions), I pushed her head out and tore not my perineum, but my labia. Fun. Her shoulders came next and once they were through, the rest of her just fell out as quickly as it happens on TV and with as much relief. They put her on my heaving, sweaty chest and I used the remainder of my energy to ensure her shaking purple body didn't roll off my shaking, pasty-white body.
When the cord stopped pulsing, Eric cut it and then the nurses took Hannah over to clean her up and check her out. Grammy went with her and sang Girls Just Wanna Have Fun to try to calm her down. At some point, I birthed the placenta but I don't know if it was before or after the cord cutting. My guess is after. It was huge. We have pics for those of you who are not weak in the knees and wanna take a look. Then the midwife set to work stitching me up. She assured me that it was not a bad tear, only a first degree, and that I only had 15 stitches whereas she usually loses count of the number of stitches. Eric later assured me that I'd been dealt a false dose of reassurance because he saw it and it looked bad and he was pretty sure we'd never be able to have sex again.
Hannah was born at 8:33 a.m. on Wednesday, August 5. She weighed 8 pounds, 2.2. ounces and was 19 inches long. I was in active labor for about 3 hours and was pushing for 26 minutes. While stories of 17, 36, 48, and even 72 hour labors (Libby!) threaten to make my measly 3 hours sound petty, and while previous blog posts of mine naively stated that "it couldn't be THAT bad," I'd like to assure you that this was not the cake walk I'd anticipated and that the whole experience was incredibly humbling. I did manage to make it through with no pain medications, but there was a point where I cursed myself for this and I screamed that I was over my pride and would take the drugs now. Fortunately everyone ignored me so all those naysayers who assured me I would not be able to do it without the drugs have been proven wrong, but just barely, and not through any willpower of my own because I seriously would have put the epidural in myself if I saw one laying nearby, but I'm glad I didn't. I'm glad I felt it, and in the end, although it was by far the most intense pain I've ever felt, it was very temporary and very worth it, and I wouldn't have done it any other way.
I was weak and exhausted the rest of that day and had major cramps in my uterus which was attempting to contract itself back to its pre-baby size. The cramps were the worst when I tried to walk around, but they pretty much subsided the next day. My stitches made sitting down sting for a couple of days (and they still sting a little), but nothing too terrible. The nurses offered me Motrin and even Percosets for the pain which made me laugh. Seriously? I just pushed that 8 pound 2.2 ounce baby out of my vagina with no pain medication and you think I can't handle some uterine cramps?? PUH-lease!! Keep your Motrin.
We had to stay in the hospital until Friday because the hospital pediatricians require 48 hours to monitor babies born to moms with GBS, and although I was eager to get home, I appreciated having absolutely nothing to do except lay in bed and learn how to breastfeed my new baby. Eric stayed with us, curled up in that little bed with wifey and baby for 2 days (see picture above).
And now that we're home (homecoming pictured above also--mom snapped the one of me smiling outside with Hannah in my arms as I got out of the car), there's so much more to write!! But this post is waaaaay long enough so I'll let you digest before I start in on my new life as a new mom.