Happy 2nd Birthday sweet girl! In honor of your special day, I share the beginning of your story…
Oh childbirth. What an amazing rite of passage.
This is our story, Poppy’s and mine. This IS a birth story, so consider yourself forewarned.
If you’re a guy or otherwise not interested in the nitty gritty, here’s the basic version:
I was pregnant for several months. One day, contractions started, and Chris and I went to the hospital where, after a few hours, Poppy was born. She was healthy; I was healthy. All was well.
And, if that’s not enough for you, here’s the rest of the story (written shortly after birth with a few current updates and thoughts)…
I feel so blessed to have the birth story that I do with Poppy. After having such a wonderful pregnancy, I was sure my luck was going to wear out when it came to labor and delivery.
I had my first internal exam at 37w5d, and Dr. Andrews said I was 80% effaced and 1 cm dilated. She said that was a great place to be at my gestation. That was also when I felt confident to say that I had indeed been feeling some very minor Braxton hick’s contractions. Early on in my 38th week, I had one night where I was woken up every two hours with a BH contraction. They weren’t too painful at all, but they woke me up. They didn’t continue through the next day, at least not with any regularity. I didn’t really feel any different, though I was getting weary with work that week. I was looking forward to my Thursday (38w5d) appointment so I could leave work early. At that appointment, Dr. Andrews walked in and asked, “Is tonight your night?” She was very lighthearted and reported that I was 2 cm dilated, 100% effaced, and would not be pregnant by Valentine’s Day (more than two weeks away!). However, she also let us know that she was on call all weekend should we need her.
We left the appointment feeling great; and while we were out, we decided to wash the car. I vacuumed it out, too, and then we went home for our normal evening together. I had no inclination about anything, feeling no different at all. I had some spotting and cramping, but I assumed it was from the internal exam, which is what had happened the previous week, too. We went to bed, probably between 9:00-10:00 PM, and I was awoken around 11:30 PM with what I thought was a BH contraction. I fell back asleep, only to be awoken again about an hour later. I can’t remember if I told Chris about the first contraction, but I’m pretty sure he woke up with me for the one around midnight. Then, I had a third contraction a little after 1:00 AM on January 28. From then on, the contractions came at 1:30 ish, 1:50 ish, and 2:25. When my next one came at 2:40 AM, we decided to start timing them. The one at 2:40 AM lasted 1:26. They then came as follows:
2:51 AM – 1:16 || 3:01 AM – 1:28 || 3:20 AM – 1:20 || 3:27 AM – 1:20 || 3:37 AM – 2:08 || 3:45 AM –1:00 || 3:52 AM – 1:21 || 3:59 AM – 1:02 || 4:07 AM – 1:15 || 4:14 AM – 1:08 || 4:21 AM – 0:58 || 4:27 AM – 0:40 || 4:31 AM – 0:40 || 4:34 AM – 1:25 || 4:40 AM – 1:06 || 4:46 AM – 1:40 || 4:54 AM – 0:40 || 5:05 AM – 1:00 || 5:10 AM – 1:08 || 5:17 AM – 1:08 || 5:24 AM – 1:13 || 5:30 AM – 0:48 || 5:34 AM – 0:33 || 5:39 AM – 1:22 || 5:46 AM – 1:35 || 5:51 AM – 0:32 || 5:56 AM – 1:41 || 6:01 AM – 1:19 || 6:07 AM – 1:20 || 6:11 AM – 1:11
And my next one came at 6:15 AM, but we were no longer tracking them since we had arrived at the hospital by then.
But, to back up and fill in the gaps: after the three contractions in the 1:00 AM hour, we decided it was pointless to try to go back to sleep. We found the information from the doctor’s office to try to refresh our memories on what we were to do once I was in labor. Then, we just killed time. Chris finished packing the hospital bag; we watched an episode of The Office on Hulu.com; Chris set up the baby bed; I took a shower to get more comfortable, etc.
Around 4:00 AM, I logged on to my work email to let my boss know that I wouldn’t be at work that morning. I remember writing him that I didn’t know if I would be at the hospital or not but that I definitely wasn’t going to make it to work by 8:00 AM. I also set my out-of-office assistant, just in case. Most of the time, I breathed and labored through contractions standing up but bent over onto something (the desk, table, bed, etc.) swaying my hips. Mostly it was very effective, and I felt really good about my pain tolerance.
It was finally around 5:45 AM that we called the doctor’s office to speak to the answering service. I let the lady know that I thought I was in labor, and she said she would let the doctor know. Dr. Andrews called me back at 6:00 AM, and I was so embarrassed to have to breathe through a contraction with her on the phone. She told me to head to the hospital and that she would let them know I was coming. Chris loaded the car while I continued to labor, and we left the house at 6:30 AM. By then, I was becoming quite tired after having been up all night. We were at the hospital probably only 10 minutes later or so.
I don’t really think I had a “this is it” moment. Maybe because I was hesitant to get my hopes up if it wasn’t the real thing; maybe I was just too tired; or maybe I was relaxed enough to just let everything happen without over-thinking it (if you know me at all, you know this last option would be miraculous if true!).
When I got to the hospital, triage had me change into a gown and get into bed to monitor baby’s heartbeat and my contractions. Writing that sentence was so easy. However, this was part of the hardest part! I didn’t want to talk to anyone; I didn’t want to lie in bed; I didn’t want any monitors on me; and I had to stop while changing clothes a few times for contractions to pass!
It didn’t take them long before they assured me that I would be staying at the hospital (dilated to a 3) and let me walk into my labor and delivery room. Soon after, the doctor came to check on me. She asked if I was getting an epidural, and I said that I was hoping to avoid it. I loved that no one second-guessed me. If they had, I may have buckled. Dr. Andrews really soothed me and helped me to relax, looking me straight in the eyes and telling me to breath and relax my shoulders. She checked me and determined I was already almost 7 cm dilated. Then, she left, and I continued laboring.
I was in a lot of pain as they hooked me up to the fetal heart rate and contraction monitors because I had to lie down on my back. It hurt my back, and it was so hard to work through the contractions in that position. I began to doubt my ability to go medication-free when my movement was constricted. I was also so tired and weak feeling (note to self and others – eat and drink when you can, even if you don’t think you need to!). The nurse and student nurse had some trouble putting in my saline lock IV. I was pretty dehydrated, so my veins weren’t very “plump.” It hurt quite a bit – the IV was a welcome distraction from the contractions and vice versa!
Our plan was to call our parents once we knew we would be staying at the hospital, but we had no cell service in the labor and delivery room. So, I think it was about 9:30 AM before I gave Chris the go-ahead to go get our bags from the car and call our parents. I was a little hesitant about letting him leave me, but it worked out well. I sat completely upright in bed, bracing on the bedrails and breathing through each contraction. I think it was then that I really started to relax. I think I just moved into a routine, and I was pretty focused (and pretty tired). I didn’t do much but try to stay relaxed and breath (hee hee hee ho). I surprised myself by wanting to stay in bed, but I think I just felt too alone and exposed to get up without Chris there with me.
Thankfully Chris got back in short order, and it wasn’t long before the contractions began to get worse. Chris tried to sooth me by touching me or rubbing my back, but it didn’t feel good to me. I think that it distracted me from staying focused. The nurse asked if I wanted to get out of bed and try the birthing ball. I really didn’t want to move, but I didn’t want to lose out on my chance to labor in all different ways. I think I got out of bed too late for the birthing ball, though. It hurt too much to sit on it.
I could tell that the contractions were getting harder because I could no longer maintain my previous breathing pattern (looking back, I am pretty sure I was in transition then). I switched to quicker one in and one out breaths, trying to focus on not breathing too quickly. Because sitting didn’t work, I called Chris to me, and I lay on his shoulder, and we swayed back and forth. Moving my hips felt so good, but it had to be precisely one way. Chris tried to widen his stance to hold me up better, but that brought him down too low, and I couldn’t handle it. He also tried to move only his hips instead of completely swaying with me. That didn’t work either. So, Chris worked quite hard! It was during this standing and swaying that I felt the urge to push.
At first I thought, oh wow! We must be close. Because of stories I had heard from other women, I figured that when I told the nurse that I wanted to push, she would tell me to wait, call the doctor, get me back in bed, etc. But instead, she nonchalantly said, “Okay. Do what you feel like you have to do.” So I began bearing down through the contractions, and Chris basically had to hold me up. It didn’t necessarily feel good to push, but it did feel like a relief.
In retrospect, it was finally at this point that the nurse thinks my water broke. It didn’t occur to me until well after Poppy had arrived that I didn’t even know when or if it had broken. There was definitely no gushing for me, and all those days spent sitting on a towel-lined trash bag in my car became laughable.
After my water broke, I really thought I needed to use the restroom. Because the nurse didn’t seem to think I was as close to delivering as I thought I was, I decided it was safe to sit on the toilet (it felt good – relieved some pressure). But when the nurse saw I was on the toilet, she hurried in and checked me internally. That’s when she started to “panic” a bit, and hurried me into bed while calling for the student nurse to get the doctor over to my room. It didn’t seem like much time before the doctor was there, and Chris said she came in out of breath! They got me into position and asked me to push so they could see what was happening.
Then, everything kind of blurred together. At some point, the room filled with people, and they told me to push. I just closed my eyes and pushed as hard as I could, holding on to my legs. I think it was the second contraction that they encouraged me to push harder and longer, and I think that was when she crowned. One nurse told me to open my eyes and look at baby’s head, but I refused. For one, I didn’t really want to; and for two, I couldn’t imagine spending any extra effort – I wanted to stay focused! It was then no time at all before she was out and a nurse told me to open my eyes and look at my baby!
The first thing I noticed was baby’s big blue hands. Then, they announced that she was a girl! Poppy was here! I looked up at Chris and said something like, “of course!” So many people thought we were having a boy. They laid her right on my tummy, and she was beautiful.
She was born at 10:37 AM on January 28, 2011. Six pounds and one ounce. Nineteen and three-quarters inches long. God’s precious gift to us!
I had a weird experience though – I think I thought I would recognize her, and I didn’t (obviously). It kind of threw me for a loop but made me quickly remember that she is a brand new human being! I had never seen her before – no one had!
“For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.” Psalm 139:13-18
I was hooked up to pitocin so I would continue contracting, and it wasn’t long before it was all over. Poppy lay with me for a long time. One nurse tried to take her from me, and I asked if I could keep her because by that time Dr. Andrews had informed me that I had a second-degree tear and needed to be stitched up. The needles hurt, and I felt some tugging, but the stitches were a non-issue.
We actually spent a fair amount of time in the delivery room after Poppy was born. Daddy gave her her first bath, and I ate the best food of my life. Seriously, I was so hungry that they probably could have fed me spam, and I would have loved it. Instead, I got this really tasty pasta and veggie dish. Poor Chris was a champ at letting me fill up first, even though he was also hungry!
Poppy wasn’t warming up very easily and it took us a while to realize that was because I wasn’t warm at all! (I definitely went through the post-delivery shakes that you hear about). Thankfully, she didn’t have to spend too much time under the warmer before we were good to go. We settled in to our mother/baby room, and looked forward to some privacy and getting to know this sweet new baby!
Reflecting on my first-time, hospital, medication-free birth leaves me feeling so blessed. Though there are so many horror stories out there about unnecessary inductions and interventions, I had a really great experience, and there is very little that I would change. Actually, there are only
two three four things I would change: first, I would have liked to avoid the IV. It wasn’t a huge deal to have it, and they did end up giving me some fluids because I was dehydrated, but I believe that there are other ways to achieve the same results. Secondly, I really am bothered that they gave me Pitocin after she was born. This was not something I knew to discuss with Dr. Andrews before-hand, and she never brought it up. I think it was completely unnecessary and seemed to be something they just did. Some women absolutely need extra care if there are big risks of hemorrhaging, but I don’t believe I was one of them. Third, I wish I had been able to push following my own timeline and not be told when to push. I believe this is why I tore. And finally, I think it’s obvious that lying down to deliver a baby is a little counterproductive. It’s definitely one of those “this is just how it’s done” decisions that is super convenient for the doctor and not so convenient for the mama. Oh well.
I want to emphasize though how extremely blessed we are. Poppy was born healthy, and I absolutely know that is nothing to take for granted. I had a good team supporting me, and I am pretty much thrilled with the end result.
Consider this a stone of remembrance. God is good.