I was reading a birth story the other day and I realized that my mind kept drifting and filling in what the narrator was saying with my own children’s birth stories, which I have never written out. I still remember lots of details from both of those days, and I wanted to get them down before they fade, or before I add another one to the mix. First up is Jayce.
My sweet boy arrived on a Wednesday afternoon after a relatively uneventful pregnancy.
Okay, it wasn’t entirely uneventful. What I meant to say was after a healthy pregnancy, because it was actually extremely eventful.
We found out we were pregnant in August, in our last year of living in Scotland. We were so absolutely delighted about the baby’s impending arrival, planned to have him in Edinburgh the following May, and then move to the states when he was about six weeks old or so after Chris graduated from his PhD program.
In January we changed our plans. Chris was all set to submit his thesis early, already had a job lined up for the fall semester in the US, and we realized that I would still be able to collect my maternity leave pay even if I wasn’t currently living in Scotland. The possibility of buying a house, car, and setting up our lives BEFORE the baby arrived instead of when he was a newborn was too good of an opportunity to ignore. We moved home about ten weeks later, when I was thirty weeks along, just a week shy of when I wouldn’t be allowed to fly internationally. Whew!
I had a good and healthy pregnancy with Jayce and we spent those final nine weeks getting all of the things done. In three weekends I had three baby showers in three different cities. On the fourth weekend we went to Illinois for the weekend, looked at twenty-one houses in two days, viewed one home three times, and put in a contract on it before we left town. We built cribs, strollers, and gliders, and washed clothes, blankets, bibs, and burp cloths. We were ready.
Also, I was healthy, and Jayce was healthy, but I got a good dose of the bad stuff.
My feet swelled so badly that it prompted the doctor to say, “Well…it’s not the worst that I’ve ever seen…but…be sure you’re putting your feet up every night…” I could barely wear shoes. You could push your finger into my feet and it would leave a dent…like play dough. I had large play dough feet.
I also had all of the other “the baby is safe but you are incredibly uncomfortable” stuff. I started to type it all out but got annoyed at back reading through it. Needless to say I was ready to get this show on the road. I was done with pregnancy and ready for baby.
We had a doctor’s appointment on Jayce’s due date. Our doctor’s office is actually in the hospital, so I went with my bags packed, although Chris didn’t seem to catch on to this.
Dr: Well, since you are full term you can either wait for him to come, and we would induce if he doesn’t arrive on his own by 41 weeks. Or if there is a specific doctor that you want to deliver him we can see what day she is available and schedule you for induction then…”
Me: Can we do it today?
Dr: Well no, I’m afraid we can’t today…
Me: Can we do it tomorrow?
Dr: Uh…yes. Dr So and So is on tomorrow, have you met her yet?
Me: Uh, no, but does help women get their babies out of their bodies? Then yes, she sounds great. Let’s do it.
We went for a good dinner that night. We watched a movie and I painted my nails, knowing that I wouldn’t be doing that again for a while. We slept a little and were up at 4:30 to get showers and head to the hospital to check in at 6.
As we walked into the building that morning it was so obvious what we were there for. I was huge, super pregnant but also super swollen, rocking back and forth from one foot to the other and trying to make forward progress. Chris was carrying the diaper bag, my purse, pillow, nursing pillow, and probably an over night bag. As we walked, we noticed another couple with a similar setup headed towards the door from the other side of the parking lot. I pointed them out to Chris and told him to speed up. I didn’t want them to beat us into the maternity ward, and I didn’t want to arrive at the same time and have to exchange birth-day chit chat with them.
“Sooooo I think I know what you’re here for! Ha ha! Yes..so…boy or girl? Yeah, ours is a boy. And what are you going to name her? Awww that’s sweet. Is this your first? Yeah…us too….“
Nope. It was early, I hadn’t had breakfast, I was over that conversation, and I kind of just didn’t want to share my “about to be life-altering day” with someone else’s. And my sciatic nerve really hurt, so that should be factored in to my grumpiness.
Luckily we beat them to the door by a mile. A full 10 seconds!! And then we got to stand there with them waiting for the elevator, and then in the elevator, and then again at the desk to check into the maternity ward.
It was pretty awkward. But luckily we were in our room and out of our misery pretty quickly.
Once we got into the room we were buzzing. Chris had the video camera out documenting our fancy labor room, we were chatting and smiling, checking it all out, plugging in the radio, turning on the tv. A nurse popped in, gave me a robe, and told me to get changed and into the bed, and they would come start the iv and Pitocin to get things rolling. I remember asking her if it was okay if I kept my sports bra on, and she paused for a second.
No, because if something goes wrong and you end up in surgery, then the doctor will have to cut it off of you, so you’d better just change out of it now.
There was an immediate shift in the mood of the room. Suddenly everything seemed very medical. Surgery, cutting off of clothing, IVs, the possibility of something going wrong. I changed, got into bed, and we got started. I was already fully effaced and a few centimeters dilated, so we began the waiting process.
Being induced is kind of a strange thing, particularly in light of what you often hear about or see in movies. I think of a woman wandering around her house in mild to moderate pain, her husband generally nearby feeding her ice chips and writing down the start and stop times for contractions, calling the doctor and telling them how far apart the contractions are, her water breaking and them charging out the door to the hospital, her grimacing through the pain, him rushing around. We were just sitting in the hospital room, doing nothing. Chris was on his computer. I was just laying there. Andy and Patsy came and hung out in our room for a little bit. Sports Center was on, but muted. The Sports Center Top Ten (or whatever it is called) was on, and there had just been one of those baseball games where the pitcher accidentally hits a bird and it looks like it explodes. I watched that re-play so many times that day.
I wanted an epidural for labor, but I didn’t want it started until I needed it. Women seem to be bonded by their birthing experiences and I wanted to know what labor pain felt like. It was a nice bonus to know that I didn’t have to endure labor pain for my whole labor if I didn’t want to. 🙂 The nurse told me that there were five women ahead of me on the list to receive epidurals, and it might be a good idea to “secure my place in line,” because at this point they wouldn’t be getting to me for around 2.5 hours. So I did. I was having regular contractions and they were starting to get mildly painful so it didn’t’ seem like a bad idea.
The anesthesiologist came in sooner than expected, but at that time I was really feeling the contractions, so it was okay. But the epidural went terribly.
One of the main things that you hear about epidurals is how important it is that you hold very still because of the risk of paralyzation. So it was pretty scary for all of us when I jumped, big time.
The guy numbed my back, Chris and a nurse stood on each side of me to keep my shoulders steady. He told me that it was important that I gave him feedback to make sure that the needle was going straight into the middle of my back, and not in one direction or the other. (This is not great, by the way. I was already really freaked out and was doing my best to distant myself from my current situation, but instead I needed to pull back and be involved.)
He started, I felt pressure on my left side, and I told him so. Suddenly I felt like someone had quickly and firmly jammed their finger into the left side of my back and I yelled out, “LEFT!” and lurched forward, as you do in a situation like that.
No one moved or said a word. The anesthesiologist said quietly but firmly, “You cannot move.” I whimpered something about how he had been too much on the left, but conceded and curled around my belly for him to try again. As he was doing so I had a huge contraction, one arm was burning from my IV and the other was being squeezed by the blood pressure monitor. I distinctly remember thinking that I had never been in more pain (or anxiety) than at that moment, but that I could not respond to any of it, so I held my breath. Eventually it was over.
I went back to my room. The contractions continued to come, but I noticed quickly that the worst part of each contraction was less painful than they had been before the epidural started. Eventually I barely felt them, and then I was completely numb.
With the numbness comes, of course, the inability to move the lower part of your body. I got really uncomfortable and restless in my position of lying slightly tilted to the left and asked Chris and Andy to help shift me so that I was sitting more straight up. That was much more comfortable, they left the room to get a drink, Patsy was sewing a few burp cloths in the corner while I stared out the window.
While the guys were gone I started getting dizzy, really dizzy, and felt like I was about to faint. I buzzed the nurse who arrived just as Chris and Andy came back in the room. My blood pressure had dropped, a lot, and she swiftly put the bed down and me on my side. She checked me and the baby’s stats again, and gave me a shot of something. At this point the blood pressure monitor was going constantly. As soon as it would release from giving a reading, it would start back up, squeezing my arm again. I kept fading in and out, so I’m not sure what else happened. I remember starting to fade out at one point and becoming aware that Chris had left, or so I thought. I snapped my eyes open and he was sitting beside the bed, holding my hand. I said, “Don’t let go of my hand. Don’t leave.” He nodded, a concerned look on his face, and I was out again.
It turns out that when I had sat straight up in bed, instead of to the side, it put tons of pressure on the main blood vessel to runs to the placenta and my blood pressure was suffering because of it. Not great, but eventually it leveled back out and I became more alert. But still scary.
We waited a bit longer. We had been at the hospital for about nine hours, and at some point in that time period my water broke. I remember going, “Uhhh…something is happening!! Something is happening!!” It turns out that the something was a good thing.
Not long after that the nurse came in to check me, and declared, surprised, that I was fully dilated and she was going to get the doctor. Chris and I looked at each other excitedly and asked, “So, it’s time to push?” It was. Actually she scolded us a little bit, because we were having a little “Ohmygosh we’re going to have the baby/ It’s time to push, I’m so excited” chatter, and she was like, “Yeah, that’s fine, but there is still a long way to go and a lot of work before you get to celebrate.” I’m not really sure why that nurse thought that she needed put a lid on our mini celebration, but we gave each other an appropriate “What is this lady’s deal?” sort of look, and then got ready to push.
The doctor came in and introduced herself, since this was the first time that we had met her. I remember she was particularly interested in the fact that we had just moved from Scotland and Chris was chatting with her about it, and that I was particularly uninterested in that conversation. It was time to get this show on the road.
I started pushing and I pushed for a long time. At one point I threw up, and this was after arguing with the nurse about whether or not I would be able to throw up since I was basically laying down on my back. It seemed unreasonable, but turns out that I could. I tried resting (actually I tried to nap) in between my contractions because I was so exhausted, but it doesn’t really work like that. I pushed for an hour and a half and then he was out.
He was wailing when they put him on my chest. He had red lips and a cone head, the result of an hour in the birth canal. He had dark hair and I wondered if it might be curly like his dad’s, but it wasn’t, it was just wet. I remember staring at him in disbelief because he looked exactly EXACTLY like my newborn hospital picture. He was our baby, and he was here.