Well, let me start by saying that I am now the earthly-mother of the most beautiful little girl. This is the second morning I've been blessed to wake up with her in my arms, and it's been complete and utter bliss. Sore nipples, yes; much sleep: no! But none of that matters because she is here, born beautifully and as I write this, she is under my right arm, lying on my lap. I can see her shiny mid-brown hair covering the side of her head like luxurious fur, and her flat little intricate ears just...well just attached to the side of her head, I suppose!
Here is how this all came to be. It's a long story...
Last Thursday - 7th January 2010, I was checked by Dr N (not my regular doctor, who was on holiday that week) and found to be softer and about 1cm dilated.
On Friday, in the early morning, I woke a little crampy to find I'd had a bloody show and was losing my plug. This was exciting! I had known for a couple of days that it would be soon, because I'd felt her moving lower and lower in my pelvis, actually moving herself down like a little puppy rooting for milk - twisting her head from side to side. She'd dropped, and I felt different. I'd been hoping we'd last until Monday, when my regular doc would be back - but, it looked unlikely on the Friday!
I started having regular contractions pretty soon after the bloody show. In fact, I emailed my mother and told her about it...about every 5-7 minutes, there'd be another one. We had a nap in the morning, and though contractions continued, they did slow down to about one every ten minutes. In the afternoon, my doula, (and midwife, and friend!) R came over: we drank red raspberry leaf tea and took some maternity photos in various poses. We sat and listened to music, were quiet, spoke about things...generally did the "early labor thing" together.
Now, she might not have waited to come out, had in not been for a rather upsetting Friday evening (which I won't go into here) suffice it to say, that evening was enough to stall everything. Contractions slowed to one every twenty-five/thirty minutes...
Saturday morning came. I felt very emotional still. My mother called, and I cried my heart out over the telephone. We had to get out of the house somehow - far too "caged in" at that stage, with nothing happening. So to cut a long story short, we went everywhere that weekend to see if things would get going again: two Wal-Mart stores, a Target, the MSP International Airport (yes, there was a reason why we went there apart from that - we ha to deliver a friend's son to a plane ride!) and a wrestling match: walked everywhere! Contractions continued - good one - but too far apart to be really productive.
Monday morning arrived, and things changed for the better...
My regular OB had returned from his wonderful Mexican vacation that very day: and I woke up to a little "gush" of pink fluid! It happened again a couple of minutes later, giving me the distinct impression that my water had broken... I called the OB phone nurse and told her - also telling her that I was a VBAC patient and therefore on a "time limit" (the hospital I delivered at only took VBACs between 8am and 5pm - no proper anesthesiologist at the location at night). She told me to come right in, so I called H at work and let him know. He arrived just a little later, and off we went, accompanied by my great friend C!
Naturally, things were not as they seemed... When we arrived, the NP tested the fluid after saying "oh yes! I can see it right there!" and to her surprise, came up with a totally neutral pH strip. It wasn't amniotic fluid after all... She examined me, and found I was at a soft 1-1.5, so not too bad. Then Dr T came in, looking gloriously tanned from his vacation, examined me again and swept/stretched my membranes. Then, we were to walk the hospital for a half hour and come back to get on the monitor.
Amusingly, I'd called R that morning, letting her and my other friend and doula, K, know what we were up to: R's February client's water had broken earlier the same morning! Nevertheless, R and K turned up at the hospital shortly after that, at which point C left, having to get some school work done - with my promise to call her if things started picking up.
So H, R, K and I walked the hospital up and own, quickly, for half an hour - squats and silly walking every now and again, up and down the stairs - all over the place. H was really hungry by now, so we dropped him off at the cafeteria downstairs for a bite to eat, about half way through the half hour. At 11.45, we arrived back up at the OB floor, and waited for the NST machine to be ready. The nurse got us a big red birth ball, which I bounced on in the waiting room.
By this time, I was having regular tightenings again. We got hooked up to the machine; H came back and we sat there and chatted for probably about an hour; the contractions showing up nicely on the monitor. After that, we were shown back to a room, and Dr T came back in.
The plan was this: I was to go home, have a glass of wine and a nice bath to slow the contractions down, then come back at 5am the following morning to be induced or augmented (or whatever) depending on progression. So, we were sent home, and told to try not to come in the middle of the night BUT that if we did, he would be the doc on call and would basically try to pull out all the stops for us...
So off we went! R and K went to their appointment in Mason City and H and I went to a Chinese restaurant there in the same town for lunch, making sure the contractions didn't suddenly turn into anything crazy.
Well, we sat in the restaurant and ate lunch, contrax coming every 5 minutes! They were enough to make one realize that actually, this was in no way "false" labor - this was the real deal. Would I last until morning? We drove past the HyVee liquor store on the way out of town, and I picked up a little mini-bottle of White Zinfandel in a brown paper bag, feeling naughty!
When we got home it was probably shortly after 4pm. I ran the bath, and popped a bath bomb from Lush in there - cocoa/shea butter (I'd been saving it for he third trimester!). I put on my chocolate face mask (sent to me by my lovely friend S) and poured the wine into a glass. There I sat for about an hour, with chocolate all over my face, and wine...luxury! It did seem to calm the contractions somewhat - not make them go away, but rather, space them apart perhaps a couple of minutes more, and dampen them slightly.
Here is the last picture of me, in my "weekly pose" at 40 weeks that night...
I got out of the bath and drank some hot chocolate; made some birthing music CD's (which came in very handy) and then watched some television with H, which was nice. More hot chocolate and a little snack later, H headed to bed. I recorded another CD and then, despite waves every 5 minutes and full-on laboring on the birth ball, thought I had better try to sleep - or at least doze.
Impossible, as it turned out! Dozing wasn't going to happen at all - the waves were far too powerful and in the end, I got back out of bed just before 2am because I'd tried everything to get rest, and simply found myself having to move through contractions on my hands and knees swaying on the bed - I couldn't hold still! Actually I was a bit annoyed at that stage: I really felt tired - my body was tired and I knew it. I couldn't sleep though, so I didn't have a choice: had to get up and just go with the flow.
I ran another bath, and got in for some water-based relief. There I sat for just over an hour, at which point I got out and moved to the birth ball, moodily emailing my mother:
"Okay then! Tried to sleep but contractions are way too strong. So here I am on my birth ball. I got annoyed with the contractions - they made me angry because I wanted to sleep but they were too intense. I'm still SO tired but, they are coming on like every 2-3 minutes and they are hardcore!"
Naturally she had a sensible reply to that, and called me shortly afterward, but I was bound and determined to last until 4.30 at least, by which time we'd be going to the hospital ER entrance to be checked in for our "induction" which, it would turn out, wouldn't need to be induced! I emailed her again at 3.45am:
"About 2.5 minutes apart right now, lasting about 50 seconds to a minute of peak. I am only counting the peak of the contraction - is that right?"
So once again she had a very good reply to that, and called me. I called R at about 4.15am - and she was at the birth of her other client, but had sent K over to the hospital instead: ah, the irony! K is lovely though, so everything was fine! H woke up at that point, and we got ready to go. He wasn't quite in "labor land" yet at that point, and wondered if I'd had chance to put the dogs out for a pee ("No H, the contractions are coming too close together!") or got my stuff together ("No H, I can't really move right now!) and then why I was taking so long to get ready and couldn't put my socks on ("I need help H - I can't bend over right now!"). Bless his heart, he got the picture after a few minutes and became a pillar of strength, leading me through the snow on the way to the car, carrying everything and supporting me beautifully.
The car ride was interesting. Every time a wave would come, I'd lift myself off the seat so that I felt able to completely relax my birthing muscles and the muscles in my abdomen. Thankfully it didn't take as long as I thought it was going to. We arrived at the ER entrance and H got a wheelchair, which he popped me into (slowly). We were greeted by a smiling K, holding R's laptop (for pictures after the birth) - it was good to know she was there as well! They checked me in; I signed some papers between contractions and then security let us into the hospital and led us up to "The Baby Place" on the 3rd floor, where I got room number 308.
They asked me about 100 questions, or so it seemed, upon check in. Twice about circumcision, were she to turn out to be a boy I answered "no, definitely not!" without even turning to H - we'd talked about it before, and in laborland, I could barely stand to think of the cord being cut, let alone anything else! I had a heplock put in my arm, ready for the (imaginary) pitocin and then we decided that since I was already in active labor, we would indeed not start the pictocin, but let me labor down and see what happened.
By now, things in my mind were a little blurry. The room lights were dim. There was a birth ball - the same red birth ball from before. I got hooked up to the monitor though, because our first nurse, who was there until 7am, wanted me on continuously. I was hoping that would change... So I labored there on the bed. K took some of the birthing things out of the bag: the little CD player, our Gaia Goddess, and set them up. We played music - but not the Bob Marley for some reason (I'll have to play that when we get home). That was great, and very soothing. I wore my sarong given to me by D (from Crete!) - there was a small frown from the staff, who had expected me to don a gown. K asked them if they wanted a copy of my birth plan. Apparently, they had already seen it...
Now around 6.45am, our nurse came in and introduced our new nurse, S. This is when things started to really get going. S was a nurse from the neighboring town - same healthcare system - different hospital. The hospital S came from did VBACs very frequently compared to this one, and all day and night because they were a bigger facility! Fabulous, thought I - and I was right!
Immediately we went over the birth choices we'd made for Isobella and I and H. She went off to call Dr T, who had not arrived yet for the day, to confirm the options, and then came back to us shortly afterward and said that yes; he'd confirmed everything we'd told her. So hey presto, I was allowed off the monitor and this is when the birthing started to actually make sense for me!
Happily, I asked for a bath. K went to run it, and I got my monitoring straps an my sarong off, and there I was, naked as the day I was born, in the bath, laboring through waves, the music drifting in through the open bathroom door...my eyes half closed. The warm water surrounded Isobella in my belly, and I knew things were progressing nicely. The nurse, S, came in like a true midwife every now and again with her portable Doppler and listened through contractions to Bella's heartbeat which remained beautiful and strong!
I think I was in there for about an hour and a half or so. Then, Dr T arrived and I got out to be examined. I was at a 4! Fantastic news - everyone was very pleased indeed! At that point we made the decision to break my waters, and so that as done with a little hook. I continued laboring on the birth ball, and every now and again, some water would come out: her head was so low that between contractions, she'd plug up the "exit" like a cork, which was quite funny really! The waves were long and strong, and powerful but by this time, the accompanying cramping low down that had accented the contractions since Friday had gone somewhat, which was nice - I found the lower cramping annoying!
We had a lovely view out of the window onto frost and snow covered lakes and trees - so we opened up the blinds and let Mother Nature shine through...
Things progressed nicely until 11am - I dilated to 6cm, then bout 7 with stretching from S. At some point soon after that though, my tiredness started to catch up with me. Nicely in transition, I decided to lie on the bed and try to snooze my way through a few contractions. This was working quite nicely actually - but only for one of us - the other one involved - Bella - was not having such a great time of it. She didn't like me laying down - her heart tones dipped to about 80 all the time, so then, we tried some other positions. All fours was not working for me any more at all - so in the end, the only way I was able to labor was standing up, supported by someone.
That didn't seem to work very well either though, because the thing about transition is this: you really can't stand up very well! Legs and arms turn to jelly, and it's very hard indeed to maintain any muscle tone at all - and with good reason: you need to relax everything to let your body take over and push the baby out! So, though I tried standing for over an hour, holding onto K an H, the situation became very difficult to handle. The problem was that while trying to hold my legs rigidly to support my laboring body, I couldn't relax my birthing muscles or my abdominal muscles, or my cervix properly at all. If I chose to hang off my jelly arms, and make them rigid, I might have less of a problem, but then my legs would give way and I'd fall into my supporting person...
So, though we tried, and checked me at probably just before 12 and then just before 1, I had made very little cervical progress. My tiredness had hit a delirious level as well: the combination just wasn't working: my blood pressure was to high - somewhere around 150/103 for the whole time. Something had to be done - *shock, horror* - something medical!
So I asked for something to take the edge off. Now, my birth team were amazing and knew I was also in transition on top of everything, so I did have to ask a couple of times, and then they made sure I wanted to know about the meds, to which I replied "yes." I knew all I needed was something to tone it down a little so progress could be made - I only had 3cm to go, and knew if I could just relax a little, that bit of cervix would move like butter. It wouldn't be a problem. On the other hand, with the situation as it was, I would be approaching a situation in which high blood pressure and no cervical change would lead to more intervention than I'd be comfortable with - and that, without pain medication. Getting back in the bath at this stage wasn't an option because of the blood pressure, the heartbeat problems and the stage of my labor given the circumstances of Josie's birth.
S went through the options: we could inject narcotics into my heplock (which at this point was still a heplock, with nothing in it at all!) - but, since my labor was so progressed, they would probably not have much of an effect. I did not want an epidural - that I knew for sure. The other option then, was an intrathecal morphine block. This basically was a very small morphine injection in similar place they would put an epidural - with some advantages. The intrathecal would take the discomfort from jagged, to smooth-edged but would not "take the pain away" - I would not be numb, would be able to walk about and there would be little risk of overdose (which can sometimes be a risk in epidural). Also, there'd be no effect on Isobella from the morphine. It sounded good. I said "yes please: I'd like one of those!"
So after a few contractions, the anesthesiologist came in. I don't like big needles - especially ones in my spine - so the only reason I opted for anything near that area was that the needle would be withdrawn and I wouldn’t have to tolerate a catheter in my back! In and out! He was lovely, the anesthesiologist: I sat there completely without shame, naked on a towel on the bed, as he enthusiastically explained what he was going to do, and then, as he inserted everything once again. It was all over in a matter of probably two minutes - but did take about fifteen minutes to get going properly.
Now ten minutes after the anesthesiologist left, I began feeling in control once again. Isobella was tolerating my sitting on the edge of the bed, breathing through contractions, without losing heartbeats. My blood pressure went down steadily - everyone was breathing their individual sighs of relief, as was I. Actually I was really pleased because the spinal morphine was doing just what it had to - I could still feel everything, still had to breathe and focus through the waves - still felt myself opening up my cervix changing and things "happening" down there. The anesthetic properties stopped just right at the bottom of my uterus, which I thought fantastic! I know some women love the numbness an epidural brings, but I honestly would have cried, had that been an effect of an anesthetic: I wanted to feel my baby: and my body working together to bring her into the world!
At this point, K and H began to laugh at me - apparently I was "back" and according to H afterward, sounded "high" - so he thought they'd shot something into my bloodstream as well: not so! I was high - elated on birth hormones, unbelievably tired but also relieved that my Isobella was looking steady again. I found myself able to talk and smile in between contractions again, but, yes, simultaneously feeling very drowsy - a feeling I let myself sink into under warm blankets, on my side, on the bed. I hadn't slept since 7.30am the previous morning - Monday morning. It was Tuesday afternoon at 1.25pm...
So S brought me blankets, I laid on my side and we listened to Isobella, and breathed through the waves beautifully. I felt everything working wonderfully. In the end, given the anesthetic, I was hooked to a saline line and told to close my eyes and rest because there'd be work to later on. Little did they know...
A little while later they also did introduce pitocin at a level of 2...the very lowest. Maybe a half hour later they went to 4. They never did have chance to check me again... That pitocin really didn't do much: I was dilating more than anyone knew already...
I have to guess here, but I would say that at about 2.30pm, I began feeling a little pushy. There were a few contractions I really felt something happening - I just breathed through them, laying on my side. Then all of a sudden, at about 2.37, I got a contraction that felt very different - something was moving down and pressing on a new area - and actually it felt really good - not bad at all!
The next contraction I will never, ever forget. I now know the difference between the "urge to push" and what Ina May would refer to as the "Fetal Ejection Reflex" - where your body reflexively pushes without your input! That was the beginning of incredible...
It must have been 2.40 or so when it happened. I was still deep in laborland, on my side, in a little trance between contractions when all of a sudden, a wave built that turned into something completely different: my body, bearing down without my consent or prior knowledge! I bent double all of a sudden - like one would in a sneeze (though only the very first sneeze of one's life would have that kind of a surprise effect!) and felt Isobella's head descend down and through the birth canal... Wow - that was truly cool!
I also could feel everything and it wasn't bad at all! It was fascinating! Nevertheless I suddenly thought "wow - I am well on the way to having this child under these warm blankets without anyone knowing about it!" and said:
"Umm: my body just pushed without me pushing." (Or something to that effect)
Nobody moved - K and H just kind of went "oh, how neat!" - So I had to say once again:
"No seriously, can someone help me please - this baby is coming out now!"
So then they both took off briefly toward the door and in came S - all about the action. She raised the level of the bed up, and everything was made ready for delivery. Gowns were put on; gloves were snapped and got the camera. H stood by the bed, looking quite excited while I babbled on about how amazing the contraction and pushing had been! The covers were taken off the lower half of my body - I got to keep one on the top though, which was nice. I flopped my right leg over and rested the left one - just laid there on my side, sitting up a bit, which felt fine and right.
Another wave built and I said "here comes another one!" - sure enough, I made a funny face involuntarily (again, a bit like a sneeze), bent double and felt her descend once again. In between waves and pushes, I tried to describe to K and H what I was feeling, and how amazing it was. I asked them to tell me when the head was there because I wanted to feel it. K smiled, holding the camera and very assuredly said "oh, you have some time yet!" Once again, little did anyone know...
Dr T wasn't there yet, but did arrive fairly shortly afterward. I had some more pushing, and I think S asked if I wanted to see in a mirror. I said "yes!" and one was set up, which was fascinating to look at during pushes because at that stage, you're so totally into the labor and at the apex of bliss, pushing - all the colors got brighter and my vision seemed clearer and sharper. Dr T snapped his gloves on, exclaiming how brilliant the situation was and looking extremely pleased! I was pleased too, and made it known! The brighter lights above the bed were switched on, along with an apology for switching them on. It was okay though - I saw everything better and then after delivery we turned them right off.
A couple of pushes later, I was told to feel the head - which felt like a wrinkly doggie's neck! All her skin was pushed up and was wet and warm. I couldn't feel a skull at all - it was all really soft!
Then, I pushed again, and felt her crowning. I said "ah - now this is the ring of fire! Now I know what everyone's talking about: it's not as bad as I thought!" - Because remember, I could still feel everything. The whole process was just fascinating! I felt totally fearless! Dr T confirmed what I was saying and then poured mineral oil all over the place for less "friction" and did a little stretching, which was a bit uncomfortable but tolerable. I grimaced through that, I think! Anyhow, with the next wave someone said "this is the one - you can push her head out!" and I made sure I darn well did, I can tell you - I let my body push ad then gave it a helping hand at the end, and *flopf* - out came her whole head, her chin facing down, all blue! I could see her entire face and chubby cheeks in the mirror and it was one of the most amazing and strange moments of my life! Dr T said "oh! There is a little cord around the neck" - which is normal and didn't worry me. He slipped it over easily, and then took a look at her shoulders.
It was either the next push or the one afterward (I must look at that birth video Kate made!) that Dr T said something like "woah, okay hold on" because he was kind of manipulating Bella's body around. Her chest was bigger than her head! I couldn't, however, for very long - and pushed deliberately along with my body. Out she slipped, like a sea creature - swooping down into Dr T's hands!
Immediately she was placed on the blanket covering my top half. My arms came up and I held on to her. Someone flopped some baby blankets on her, and I used one to wipe her head off. She was squawking like a little bird - short squawks - and spit up a bit. Her movements were great - her color soon picked up, and they did suction her a bit to get rid of some gunk, which simultaneously annoyed her a bit, but did stop her making yucky puking noises, which I think made her feel better. I wiped her over a little bit, and then looked at H, who had his arms by his side and was just dripping tears onto the bed. I'm sure I said something like "look - isn't she gorgeous - look what we made!" but again, I'd have to check the birth video!
Someone said "here, I'll get you some fresh blankets" and more were brought. Isobella was just so beautiful; I could scarcely believe my eyes. She also resembled Josie - a sister had been brought into the world, safe and sound! Her head was barely molded from the journey into the world - it had been such a short journey. I remember thinking how big she was! I wanted to know, but first, wanted to show her where food came from, so, I put her to the breast and she rooted a bit and did latch on just for a few seconds. She was so strong - so healthy - the picture of life! Oh, I fell in love. I know H fell in love. I passed him to her, encouraging her, and he held her and just melted. The atmosphere in the room was electric. Dr T was elated; I was on a huge high; H's heart was alight and everything was just wonderful!
We weighed her: 7lb 15oz. 2.59pm was the moment of birth! 21 inches - nice, long baby! 12.75 inch head and 13 in body - just pure fabulousness all over - oh...the love, the love everywhere! It was the most amazing experience of my life! It was just absolutely beautiful!
So, here she is. There's so much more to tell, and I will tell it as soon as I can - but - for now, let me just leave you with some pictures of her...the rainbow, arrived!
Here's Dr T, Isobella and I this morning before discharge...he'd better not retire for a while!