And Then there was Michael

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Michael was born late in the evening on Saturday November 29th.  Even though he was my third baby and my body presumably “already knew what to do,” it was the longest labor yet, due to it being the first one to not start off with an induction.

But first I need to back up a little bit.

When I went to the doctor for my 39 week appointment, Michael was still high and I was not dilated at all.  This was a bummer.  Even with my very first pregnancy I had already been a few centimeters dilated at this point, so I was really disappointed to hear that I was basically making no progress despite seemingly constant Braxton Hicks contractions and lots of discomfort. It was the Monday before Thanksgiving, and we settled with the fact that this baby was probably going to come on or after his due date.

The morning that I went into labor, I woke up at 4:30 and couldn’t fall back asleep.  Of course I should have known that I would go into labor that day though, right?  You never start one of the longest and most physically difficult days of your life feeling well-rested. 🙂 Around 6 am I gave up on trying to get back to sleep and got out of bed, thinking that I could at least get a jump start on some Black Friday deals since it was the day after Thanksgiving. I did some online shopping until everyone else woke up and we hung around the house and had a low key morning.

That afternoon we went to the Keith’s for a belated Thanksgiving dinner.  I was having contractions throughout that evening, and though they weren’t painful I was having lots of them.  Just before dinner I pulled Chris aside to let him know what was going on.  I probably would have told him sooner if we hadn’t been visiting, and if I wasn’t doing that “wait…am I just over thinking this/jumping to conclusions/panicking pre-emptively” thing that you go through when trying to decide whether or not it is really happening.

After dinner the contractions were still coming, although still not regular or painful.  I decided to go lay down for a little bit, knowing that if it was false labor than the contractions might calm down if I got horizontal, and if this was real labor than I could at least get a nap before things really got going.

I laid down upstairs at the Keith’s but didn’t fall asleep.  The contractions kept coming.

We decided to come home, get the kids to bed, pack our bags, and make sure that whatever sleep we got that night was in the comfort of our own bed.

I slept a little but contracted all night.  I tried to keep track on the contractions counter on my phone, but it was an imperfect system.  There were lots, they were irregular, I kept dozing. I forgot to stop the timer several times, and Chris slept through my tossing and turning.

Around 3:30 am I got up and moved to the rocker.  We weren’t entirely sure what to do because the contractions were still so irregular.  Some were 7 minutes apart and some were 3 minutes apart.  I obviously wasn’t about to push out a baby in the next hour, but we truthfully had no idea how quickly I would move through the stages of labor and be ready to push.

With both Jayce and Hannah I had been induced.  I walked into the hospital, started Pitocin, and the contractions and dilation came steadily.  The doctor had said that since this was my third pregnancy and “my body already knew what to do,” everything would likely happen very quickly.  But then again I was laboring naturally, which my body had not done before.  And since this was the first time that my body had done that part on it’s own, things actually might move slowly.

These unknowns wouldn’t be a problem except that we live about 40 minutes away from the hospital.  The plan was for Andy to come to the house and stay with the kids while we went on to the hospital, but he lives about 45-60 minutes away, and we obviously would need to wait for him to get to the house before we could leave.  We called the doctor, explained our situation, and she decided that we should come on to the hospital. This was around 5 am.

When we got to the hospital I spent an hour in triage.  There was much doubt from my husband and a few nurses as to whether or not I was in active labor, but an hour later they realized that I was dilating with these contractions, and I was transferred to a room.

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For my first two pregnancies I had been confined to the bed for all of my labor because I was on Pitocin, which kind of sucks.  This time I wasn’t induced and I was so happy to be (relatively) unhooked for those first few hours in our hospital room.  I wasn’t on Pitocin or and epidural drip so I could still move around and get up to walk to the bathroom, and I was really happy about that small victory.

I had my usual difficulties with the iv from the beginning, with a few tried and failed attempts from the nurse on my veins before they called someone from the lab up to work their magic.  Then I was free to relax and let the labor happen.  I ate a popsicle, and then another, and then let a third melt without being opened.  (It was grape. Disgusting.) The TV was on and we were watching some special about Magic Johnson and HIV.  I was sitting up in bed and had several big contractions right on top of one another, and since Michael was still sitting high the weight of his body with the contractions was crushing uncomfortably into my ribs.  I decided to recline the bed and try to relax on my side while the contractions came.  I was suddenly exhausted and fell quickly to sleep.

And the contractions stopped.  Like completely stopped.  It was the strangest thing.

Up until this point the nurse and doctor would come in periodically and talk to me, check me, and ask if I wanted to get my request in for an epidural or if I was interested in some Pitocin to speed up the process.

I wasn’t.

Much to Chris’ unhappy dismay, who would stand between them with his hand on his chin, attempting to prod me with wide open eyes and subtle (or not) nodding, I didn’t really see any need to rush things along.  The baby wasn’t in any sort of distress, his heart rate was great, I was fine, and I didn’t really see any reason to interfere with what seemed to be moving steadily in the right direction.

Also, epidurals are wonderful at dulling/numbing the most excruciating pain of your life.  They also are, from my perspective, absolutely awful to endure.  Every part of the epidural process is both painful and terrifying, and once it is working it makes me feel frustrated and claustrophobic in my own body.  I have had two bad experiences with epidurals, and actually met with an anesthesiologist during this pregnancy to talk through what has happened before in an attempt to have a better experience with this delivery.  All of that to say I am grateful for the reduction in my pain, but I definitely don’t want it any sooner than absolutely necessary.

At this point I had to give my team (including my labor partner husband) a little speech that went something like this.

No, I STILL do not want an epidural.  I’m not in pain.  I am currently in no pain.  Like a zero on the pain scale.  So I definitely don’t need an epidural.  I don’t want to be completely numb if I’m not in any pain. (I was trying to be very clear here.)

In addition to my non-pain, I felt like my contractions had slowed down.  They didn’t seem to be as often or as strong as they were before, which the nurse confirmed, and was a real bummer.  Even if I wasn’t trying to speed things up with medicine, I did want to be making progress towards baby!!  So we decided that I would walk.

Ahh, the good old maternity ward hallways.  They have large and sturdy railings along every wall because they know that the people walking through those halls will need them, and boy did I!  My body was chilling out and relaxing while I was laying down in my bed, but once I was up and walking around the contractions started coming on hard and fast.  They were long-lasting and strong, too much to walk through, so I would pause and hold onto the railing while Chris would do a quick check on his phone of the score of the UL vs UK game.

We did a few laps and then went back to the room to hook back up to the monitors and see what was happening with the contractions.  It had worked!! They were registering, big ones, and we were all happy.  But then they started to taper off again, so back to the hallway we went.  More walking, more big contractions, back to the room, and then they started slowing down again.  At this point I was physically exhausted and mentally drained, and decided that I would take a little Pitocin to help move things along.

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I got the Pitocin.  I started to have more and bigger contractions, I started to dilate, at some point they broke my water, at some point I sobbed through an epidural.  But we were moving towards baby instead of treading water and for that I was very happy.

Christine arrived to snap some pictures and Chris left to go eat.  A few hours later mom arrived.  I continued to make progress and to dilate.  At this point I had lost track of what time it was and how fast everything was moving, I just was happy that things were moving at all.  The contractions were coming hard at this point and they hurt.  I had a less-strong than normal epidural and I imagine that it took the edge off, but at the end the contractions were still so strong that I had to close my eyes, remind myself to breathe, and take them on as best as I could.

At one point I suddenly became extremely aggravated and over the whole thing and ready to push.  I wonder, looking back, if this was my body’s way of telling me that it was time to just do it.  I called the nurse in and told her that I couldn’t stay on my side for another second and could she help me roll to the other side.  But then I just wanted to sit up, and then I asked if she could check me again.  I remember thinking that I shouldn’t be so visibly agitated, but also remember how she was really good-natured and actually slightly more cheerful even though I was more grumpy.

The nurses chatted and they decided that it was time to push.

The team came in and got everything ready, they gave me an oxygen mask, the doctor came in, I pushed maybe three times, and he was out and in my arms.  My sweet Michael.

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We had just moved countries, we had built a house, we had his crib set up in the nursery, and his pack n play in our room.  We had spent months wondering if things would be ready before he arrived, but in the end we were ready for him, and he was here.