I was really busy on the day that I went into labor, March 30, two days after our due date. I started my morning off early with a bagel breakfast sandwich and then hopped into the car to drive up to Fallbrook to take care of some things for work – signing an evaluation, picking up a paycheck, getting my union t-shirt, and ensuring that direct deposit was set up correctly. After sitting and socializing with a couple of teacher friends in the lounge for awhile, I drove down to Rancho Bernardo to visit my chiropractor for a quick adjustment and some acupressure to help bring my energy downwards to get ready for labor and delivery. Then, I headed to Carmel Mountain Ranch to buy a baby book at Barnes and Noble and to have lunch at In-N-Out before heading to my ob’s office for our weekly doctor’s appointment. The appointment was relatively uneventful – we were past our due date, so the doctor did a quick measurement (3 cm. dilated, 70% effaced, at -2 station), swept my membranes, and had us schedule an upcoming non-stress test for Friday so that we could check to make sure that all was still well with the baby. When David and I got home, we stopped in over at the neighbors’ house for a quick visit and to invite them to have dinner with us since we were making leftover meatloaf sandwiches and had extra meatloaf. It was while I was there that my back started to hurt and I started to experience some cramping, but I didn’t think much of it since I’d had the appointment that afternoon with no real progress.
When we got home, the cramps had gotten stronger. Assuming they were the result of having my membranes swept and nothing more, I took a hot shower, took a Tylenol, and moved to the couch to relax for awhile. By the time I was starting dinner, around 5ish, the contractions and backpain were pretty regular, but coming around 7 minutes or so. I contented myself with trying to relax as much as possible. After dinner, we went for a walk around the block with our neighbors and then came home to watch American Idol at 8. By 8:30, the contractions were strong enough that I decided to start timing them and I realized that they were coming around every 3 minutes and lasting between 1 and 2 minutes long apiece. D and I were going to watch the new V episode at 10, but around 9:45ish I made the executive decision that we both needed to try to get some sleep if possible since we had a long night ahead. We decided that we’d try to hold out at home as long as possible and, when I felt like we needed to go to the hospital, he’d get up to take me (we were aiming for 8am). I couldn’t sleep and the contractions kept getting stronger… around 2:30 (after another warm shower, some jello and toast, a ton of water, and hours of trying to stay relaxed, I woke David up. I really felt like I was starting to get to the point where travel would be extremely uncomfortable or downright painful, especially since we had to drive from Escondido to La Jolla. D took a quick shower, grabbed me a Boppy pillow, Snuggie, and heating pad, and we loaded the bags and headed out. I sent a quick email to my neighbors from the car asking them to take the dogs out and feed them in the morning and called my mom to warn her that, while it was still early, we were going to the hospital and would update her when we knew more.
When we got to the hospital, they hooked me up to a fetal heart monitor and a contraction monitor, which required that I be in a reclined position – this would happen periodically for the next day or so until the baby was born – I only mention it because I was having pretty bad back labor and for me the WORST position to be in by far was on my back. My contractions had slowed down a little bit and were coming close to 5 minutes apart, and they checked my dilation and said that I was about 3 ½ cm dilated. Unfortunately, this meant that they weren’t able to admit me yet. They suggested that, to avoid a drive up to Escondido and then back to La Jolla, I walk around the maternity ward for a couple of hours to try to speed up dilation. David and I spent the next hour and a half walking the corridors and leaning over chairs in the waiting room during contractions, hoping that we’d make some progress. At about 6 I got to the point where I was really starting to get tired and we went back to our triage room so that I could labor kneeling on the bed for awhile – the nurse came in, hooked me back up to the monitors, and came back around 6:30 to check me once more. This time she confirmed that we were at 4 cm, -1 station, and 80% effaced, with contractions coming between 2-4 minutes and she started the process of admitting us and paged my doctor (this was apparently out of the norm for them since he wasn’t the doctor on call, but they said that my file indicated that he wanted to be notified when I was admitted).
Once moved into a labor, delivery and recovery room, we met our new nurse, Mindy. Mindy seemed to have a very dry personality and I didn’t like her very much from the beginning, but tried to reserve judgment. I gave her a copy of my birth plan which she perused – I was asking for as intervention-free of a delivery as possible. I wanted no IV (I got a heparin lock instead and they allowed me to drink water and Gatorade and have ice chips), unmedicated, and completely natural. After reading it, she told me that I should always keep an open mind and said that nobody would think less of me if I decided to get an epidural because lots of first mothers actually need them. This didn’t help me to like her any more… I was mildly concerned that she would try to push her agenda/opinions of childbirth on me when I was in more pain and a weaker mental state, but again I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.
I had David settle down to get a little bit more rest for awhile and I rested the best I could in the LDR room. We spent a little bit of time making some quick phone calls to family members in between contractions to let them know that we were in the hospital, and my mom and dad showed up around 9ish. They would end up staying in the room all the way through the end of our delivery, watching and participating in the entire process… and at the end of the day, both David and I were totally okay with that.
My mom went to work with her “doula bag” trying to distract and relax me while David and my dad went to go get breakfast. My mom rubbed my hands and feet and then gave me a facial with some scented oils. She had brought a black eye mask from the gift shop downstairs, which ended up being SUCH a blessing to me and one of the most helpful things that I had throughout the day. When the men came back from the cafeteria, David and I decided to go walking the halls again to help things along. I was starting to realize that touch was too much stimulation for me during contractions and I didn’t want him or anyone to touch me at all when I was having them, so he walked with me and helped coach me and then held my hand between contractions. At one point we stopped on the outside courtyard balcony and, exhausted, I told David that I could understand why women got epidurals… so that they could rest! We got back to the room at around 11 and my mom left to go get lunch.
This was about when Mindy came back and announced that we needed to do another cervical check. “Don’t get your hopes up,” she cautioned me. “I’m guessing from your reactions that you’re still pretty close to 4 cm dilated and haven’t changed very much, but I need to check to update the doctor.” She performed the check and I watched her face change from skepticism to surprise. “Hmmm…” she mused, “you’re actually about 7 cm right now!” She looked at me and smiled for the first time. “You’re not going to have a problem doing this naturally.” My whole opinion of her changed – it was the vote of confidence I needed after 28 hours without sleep. That was the last thought that I had of any sort of medication.
They hooked me up to the monitors again to check on the baby for about 20 minutes, but the 20 minutes turned into 45 – apparently there was a problem with my lab work. Considering those resultsand my elevated blood pressure during labor, they were considering administering magnesium sulfate, which I was opposed to due to the effects on mother and baby’s central nervous systems… thankfully, my doctor came in (yes, he came to the hospital on his day off to deliver our baby), decided to avoid the intervention, and offered to break my water to speed things along. Although I hadn’t planned on doing this initially, I was coherent enough to realize that it was going to help accelerate my labor and I agreed to do it.
From the moment my water broke, my labor changed. Transition is a whole new ballgame. I experienced extreme sensitivity to touch, light, smell and sound (all of a sudden, the smell of the lotion on my face from the facial earlier needed to be GONE and I was constantly, albeit politely, shushing everyone when they started to speak to me or to each other). Also, I suddenly felt ridiculously hot in a room that was 67 degrees – I was wearing only a hospital gown, but my husband, mom and dad were putting ice packs on me and using cold wet washcloths to cool my face and neck. I was nauseous (but never sick). I found that I really needed to focus internally to get through each contraction, and since my contractions were starting to piggy-back on one another, that meant that I needed as much silent support as possible from my support team. The room was almost dead quiet except for the sounds of NCIS (my dad and husband had it on across the room as background noise), feet shuffling, and breathing. My contractions were getting longer and stronger and David and my mom were acutely aware of this as they watched the contraction monitor (I had one contraction alone that lasted over 30 minutes, peaking over and over again without ever coming down). I was definitely in what is termed as Laborland in Birthing From Within. I was internally focused, relatively calm, trying to get through each contraction as it came… I can see how it would have looked like sleep to an observer and it is true that I may have dozed briefly during contractions, but I believe that it was really more of a meditation than sleep – I was escaping into myself, if that makes sense.
Also, the minutia was suddenly very important – my husband jokes now that he’s going to buy Burt’s Bees lip balm, pull off the labels, and re-market it as contraction relief, because it became vitally important to me while in labor. Not only did I need for it to be reapplied very often, but I distinctly remember that at one point I heard the tube fall to the floor from the nightstand and insisted that everyone look to find it. Imagine my delivery nurse crawling around on the floor trying to find my lip balm underneath my bed… yes, it WAS that ridiculous. Then, as they pulled it out in triumph, I grunted, “Oh good… I didn’t want to have to tell you where in my bag to find my two back-ups.” I had brought a birthing ball, and I tried kneeling on my knees on a pillow on the floor and leaning over it, bending over the bed, standing, walking, all fours (I even had them warm up the water in the shower, though I never made it there)… nothing was working for me from a pain management standpoint aside from sitting straight up in bed, which was not only impossible due to the fetal heart and contraction monitors, but also was not helping my labor to progress (the baby can’t move into the birth canal if all of your weight is on it).
I could tell that we were getting to the end when the pain started to get really unbearable – I would be sitting or in some sort of somewhat moderately comfortable position, in the zone, and all of a sudden I wouldn’t be able to find anything to help and I’d be jumping up, moving around, trying different things, anything to survive the next few seconds. David says I also sang the “Pain Song” during these times – I just repeated the word pain over and over again softly on different pitches so that it sounded like I was singing a song. I remember a few curse words escaping, but I think I also apologized for each of them (I apparently have impeccable manners while in transition, and kept on thanking people and apologizing to them… weird). I remember that there was suddenly a very strong urge to bear down and that I all of a sudden had an overwhelming need to apply deodorant (no joke – they brought it to me minutes before I started pushing so that I could put it on). Mindy came back to check my dilation and said that we were at 9 ½ cm and that we might actually try to “push around the little bit of cervix” that was left – she called for the doctor to let him know that we were getting ready to push.
I had to push for about an hour. David helped my holding my left leg and supporting my head while Mindy did the same on my right. My contractions were coming very close together – a minute and a half at most – and every single time I had one, I pushed three times for a count of 10 each. David was holding back his laughter so hard for part of this because Mindy would tell me to hold my breath, close my eyes, and push for a count of ten each time. She started by saying, “Okay, here we go! Push, 2, 3… 10,” but as he started to get pushed through the birth canal, her counts kept on getting longer… “Okay, here we go! We’re going to push all the way through and don’t stop pushing. Ready? Okay… 2, 3… 10.” There were a couple of times that David giggled a little bit at this – I looked at him but couldn’t focus to ask why… but in retrospect, I remember thinking that the ten seconds was so much longer than 10 each time.
Then, suddenly, it was Do-Not-Push Time and my bed became a Transformer. The end came off, leg stirrups came up, plastic coverings were everywhere and a tray of sharp looking medical instruments was in the room. My doctor made a joke about the plastic bag attached to the bottom of the bed. He said, “get the baby in here and you get three points” and asked if we were into basketball… I almost laughed. Such an inane question at such an odd time, but it definitely took my mind off of what was happening.
Then the nurse wheeled out a mirror (I had asked to have the option to see) and placed it so that I could see the baby’s head, which was such a miracle to observe and a major motivator to me. When I saw his hair, I knew that we were almost there and it was only moments before I would be able to hold my son. I pushed and half of his head emerged. A second push, and the rest came out, and finally his body came through and was placed on my chest immediately, wrapped in blankets, so that David and I could have the first moments with our beautiful baby boy. I remember what he looked like in those first moments very vividly – as his nose and mouth were suctioned, he didn’t cry… he just looked so incredible and I was immediately in love and held him close to myself and my husband. Alexander was born at 5:04 on March 31, 2010 and (as far as his biased mother can tell, anyway) was perfect in every way.
My doctor, nurse, and our entire labor and delivery experience was amazing. My doctor was so dedicated to my birthplan and to allowing me to have everything that I wanted in our labor and delivery that he canceled his golf plans for the day and came down to deliver our child. He allowed me to have my intervention-free childbirth with only a couple of minor hiccups – they broke my water, I was put on an IV at the very end during the pushing phase, and they insisted on placing an oxygen mask on my chest to help me through the last few moments (although they didn’t make me wear it). Also, the staff waited on all of the procedures that we asked to be delayed – as a result, the birth weight was probably a little off, since Xander managed to pass his first meconium before being placed on the scale some time later. He officially weighed in at 8 lbs. 15 oz. and was measured 22 inches long with a 14 inch head circumference and 14 inch chest. His apgar scores were 8 and 9, he latches to nurse like a champ, and he was already regaining some of his birth weight at his 3-day-old pediatrician appointment. My husband, mother, and father were there from start to finish for me and did everything that I could have asked them to do and more – and David and I will have 6-day-old Xander here with us tomorrow to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary on April 6, 2010.
And that’s our story!