Disclaimer for the general lj friends: Birth stories are typically written by and for women who have or will have given birth, and may contain too many squeemish details for the uninitiated. I posted the much shorter family-friendly version on facebook, but figured most of you all could handle the whole thing. So here it is.
Josephine Elizabeth was born at 6:35 am June 9th, two days before her due date. I labored for about five hours at home, then five more hours at the hospital, all unmedicated.
That's the short version, here's the extended director's cut version:
This ends with photos so let's start with a photo! This was taken on May 31. It's the last known pregnant picture of me, and we took it at the vigil for Dr. George Tiller, hence the "Trust Women" buttons and candles.
On Tuesday June 8th I went to work just like normal, and felt fine all day. I had a very healthy normal pregnancy, and I was convinced I'd go late, so I'd been mentally preparing all week to hit my due date (Friday) with no baby. I had no signs that labor might be coming. I never had a single braxton-hicks contraction, I'd noticed a slight increase in mucus but nothing bloody at all. At my OB appointment the week before I was dilaied to 2-3 cm, 70% effaced.
5 pm: I got home from work and had some quality time with husband Marc. We'd been clingy all week, really appreciating that these could be our last few days as just the two of us. So that night involved staring at each other, talking about our day, and sex. Afterwards we went out to eat at this corner deli, Sugar Sisters, and I had the Mean Sister burger, which is a huge hamburger with chipotle mayo, jalapenos and cheddar jack cheese. Such a good idea, right? Guess I figured there's no harm in just combining as many self-induction methods as possible at this point.
7 pm: We went out to Zoom Dweebies because it was Tea Tuesday when they're open to the public. I wanted some raspberry tea because I've heard it's good for the uterus, but also just wanted some tea. While we were there I started feeling funny, like menstrual-crampy, it wasn't horrible but I wanted to sit down while we were waiting for extra drinks and talking to people. (Don't want to ruin the ending, but I never did make that tea!)
8 pm: Cramps were getting worse, I was feeling weird, I took a long hot shower and told Marc I was going to bed early.
10 pm: I was not sleeping. The cramps were there, along with a nasty backache. I still just figured it was pregnant misery because my back had been sore most previous days. I got up and went downstairs. That's when I noticed feelings "sneaking" up on me... I'd be sitting, and suddenly my middle and lower back muscles would tense up. Then it'd go away. Then it'd start up again. I started noting some times... went to this website that times contractions (www.contractionmaster.com) and lets you hit a button when they start and stop. They were 5-9 minutes apart, and lasted 30-40 seconds. That seemed like a weird trend. I got my yoga ball and tried to sway and make myself feel better, Marc was sleeping upstairs but I just tried to relax and try different positions on the ball.
12 pm: Feeling very bad, I went upstairs to get our little trash can in case I was going to throw up. Marc woke up and was sure I was in labor, I told him I wasn't ready for that assumption yet (looking back though... REALLY?). That's when I got to experience that jalapeno burger for the second time. It had been a lot better going down.
I asked him to rub my back when it hurt, and he did, and in between rubbing he was packing the hospital bag. YES they tell you to pack this when you hit eight months or so but I'd been so sure I'd go late, all I did was make a list of things I wanted to put in the bag. Turns out that was really okay, he did a great job.
1 am: We call mom and dad because they wanted to know when I was in labor (they're a three hour drive away). They asked if we were going to the hospital, and Marc wanted to go, but I had always wanted to labor for as long as possible at home because I read that that's the great way to have a natural childbirth! So we were home, I was in the bed... but feeling much worse. I had been yelling at Marc to rub me, but then yelled at him to stop because his hands were too hot. Then a contraction hit that resulted in me feeling all this fluid between my legs. Marc brought a towel, I examined my underwear and the fluid was clear and didn't smell like urine. I texted dad that my water had broken. He texted back, "Are you going to the hospital?"
2 am: Hobbled out to the car for the hospital birth care center. We parked the car in the parking lot because there were lots of really close spaces, and I didn't want Marc to leave me alone at the front door. I mean really, I had to walk maybe 100 feet? But I barely made it... had to stop for a contraction. We got in, they asked me to fill out a half page form, I filled out 90% of it before another contraction brought me down to the floor. I was laying there on the floor of the lobby and the nurse at the front desk said that was fine, but not very clean, there are couches. Another nurse came to take me to my room. I had two contractions in the hallway, had to stop and lean against Marc, the nurse brought a wheelchair for the rest of the way there. They got me changed into a gown and checked me, and I was at 5 cm, which I didn't think was a huge deal because I'd been at 2-3 the week before at my OB appointment.
They asked if I'd be wanting medication and I honestly had no idea, I'd been really wanting to go natural but now I wasn't so sure. So the nurse said she'd "put in the order" for the epidural, which meant the paperwork would be all set, and I could get it fast whenever I wanted it. The anesthesiologist came in and told me all about the epidural and its side effects, and in the meantime the nurse ran me a hot bath. The anesthesiologist was so nice, pausing while I had a contraction and then continuing his speech when I could listen. And then at the end he said, "But don't worry about all this if you don't want an epidural. Lots of women do this without one. You might not need it, and that's fine, you won't hurt my feelings. You can do this without one." I sort of looked at Marc and some nurses for confidence, like, does anyone else think I can do this? Everyone looked pretty encouraging, and I felt like I was in a good safe place with open options, so I said no drugs yet.
They did ask if there was anything else in particular they should know about my birth plan. I just asked that no one cut me. I really did not want an episiotomy, and they said that made sense, they don't do them as a routine thing anyhow. Yay.
The warm bath was AMAZING, not only did it make the contractions a little more bearable but in between contractions I felt nothing, they were just gone and I was resting completely in another world. Marc was helping me breathe. I soaked and dealt and rode out each one. The nurse told me just to count down, she said that when I could feel the peak that was a signal that it'd all be gone in a few deep breaths. Incidently, every book I'd read and class I'd taken had gone out the window by now, if it hadn't been for Marc and the nurse coaching me to breathe I would have lost it. I had our Bradley Method book, our Lamaze class instructions, a list of "affirmations" I'd printed from various online sources... forget it. Whatever Marc and that nurse told me was what I did and I couldn't think of anything else. Also, half my labor bag was pointless... the massager, the gatorade, snacks, music. We never touched them.
Eventually the warm bath was not amazing, in fact I didn't think it was doing a damn thing. The "peak" of each contraction was more like a plateau, I couldn't take a few deep breaths and blow it out because it kept going! I had to move around a lot to get comfortable and gear up for each one, I was digging into marc because I needed something to hold on to, the nurse said she felt like I was maybe in transition and I believed her because I felt like there was no relief. There was blood in the water, obviously something was moving along, and I wanted out of the tub.
4 am or so... who really knows? They checked me. I was dilated to nine! The nurse said I was doing a great job, she'd had a baby and was "screaming" by this point, which I suddenly realized I could do too, but she said low moaning noises might be more helpful, and they were. When I was almost to ten I had this small lip of cervix they said I wouldn't be able to push past, and my doctor wasn't there anyway. I told the nurse I was not waiting for any doctor, when I wanted to push I was going to push, and quite frankly I felt like pushing now, I was grunting and wanting to sit up or squat or SOMETHING, just get this baby out! So I did whatever I wanted. When the doctor finally came around she checked me and said the lip had mostly gone away, I could go ahead and push, and then the nurse gave me careful instructions and started really filling me in on the details of pushing and what noises to make and how to make it really effective and coaching me through it... I'd been sorta pushing on my own but she'd held back on telling me how to really bear down. Sneaky! So now I pushed.
FOR A LONG TIME. I mean seriously, it was 1.5-2 hours of pushing and it was hard. I tried being on all fours but hated it and ended up alternating between squatting, with Marc and the nurse supporting me by the arms, and laying back on the vertical part of the bed holding my legs back at the knees. I'd get a contraction and a lot of times the first push didn't feel like it was doing much, but I could get 3-4 pushes in during a contraction, I'd hold my breath and bear down and feel fluid coming out. So 3/4 of my pushes felt "right", then I'd sit back and try to rest, then have to kind of re-learn how to push. But it was working... after what felt like forever they said we were starting to see the head.
Here's what I saw: a table of instruments, a few feet from the foot of my bed. A gallery of residents and nurses standing or sitting behind the table, cheering me on and telling me I was doing great. My OB, standing there with her arms crossed and commenting to nurses like she was observing an SAT test session or something. Marc on my left side being awesome, I don't remember him ever eating or sitting or going to the bathroom. The nurse on my right side also being awesome, giving instructions, supporting me. And I mean physically supporting, every contraction she and Marc would help haul me up to a squat so I could really make some progress. They brought a mirror out so I could see myself. It was blurry because I wasn't wearing my glasses, but I was okay with that because I honestly wasn't sure I wanted to see all the messy details. In between contractions Marc would give me sips of ice water, i was so thirsty and my mouth was so dry and there was no fixing it.
My mom and sister got there at 6 am. Well, Mom got there... I actually don't remember my sister getting there! But go them for arriving right on time. I imagine the scene must have been pretty shocking, considering it wasn't built up gradually for them at all, just instant crazy!
I was so frustrated, I was screaming and crying that this was impossible. Everyone kept telling me I was so close, we could see the head, but no one was budging or moving past that table, no one would catch a baby, which I figured meant they were lying about the close part! I couldn't rest between contractions because the only thing that felt remotely okay was pushing, I couldn't adjust my legs or stretch them out because there was a BABY IN MY VAGINA, I was screaming at Marc that this was a horrible idea and there was no way a head was going to fit through there.
So the best thing in the world happened... I saw my doctor move to the other side of the instrument table. Right nurse was having me stare at her to push and that was great. I felt progress. I also felt bad things... too much stretching, too much baby, who knows. But at this point it was all just happening. I was still screaming that I couldn't do it, but deep down inside, I knew I was going to do it anyway. It just wasn't even me at that point, my body was finding the energy to push whether I liked it or not.
They say that the moment your baby is in your arms is this incredible bonding "forget everything that happened" sort of moment... not so much for me. I was staring into the eyes of this nurse, knowing I was down to very few pushes, when suddenly she was there. The whole baby - head, shoulders, body, was just out and everyone was moving so fast, she was in my arms immediately and I was stunned. She was blue-gray, slimy, screaming, and STRONG, trying to push her head up with her arms and neck muscles which is so crazy! My thoughts from the moment are actually really scattered, I remembered thinking I was supposed to react, say hi to her, act happy? But instead my thoughts were along the lines of "I wish this umbilical cord wasn't attached to me" and "I wish I could lay back and stretch my legs" and "I wish this nasty sheet of weird fluids wasn't between my feet".
The nurse actually moved her around on me so she could find a breast, and she latched on and started nursing. I didn't know if my breasts were producing anything but figured the reflex was worth something, so we nursed on both sides. My OB and a resident had swooped in to stitch me up, and there was a lot of pulling I felt even though they'd numbed me. I still don't really know the extent of the tears, I was told there was one in particular on the sidewall that was "long and zig-zag, but not deep", never did tell me how many stitches I'd gotten. They asked if I wanted pain meds, I think they offered morphine! I was so stunned I think Marc had to tell them I'd take it. I figured if I had to be numbed for the stitches, might as well get whatever they had.
Also while they were stitching me Marc asked to see the placenta and apparently got quite a tour, the nurse showed him all the parts of what was attached to what, the amniotic sac, the cord, etc and he was just amazed and told everybody about it later. I can't imagine they have many dads ask for that!
After 45 minutes or so they took her and wrapped her up, Marc held her, my mom held her, and she was just staring at everyone with these huge gray eyes. She was wide awake for two hours, taking in the world, seeing her family, getting to look more human. They asked what her name was and I was like, "Oh hell, she needs a name! Does she look like Josephine?" Marc said yes. We'd had other candidate names but that one was towards the top, and it just seemed to fit.
8 am: I couldn't sleep for some reason, I was just still so amazed. Some nurses came around to help me get up and go to the bathroom... I got up okay, but in the bathroom everything went black in front of me and they had to carry me back to bed. I slept later in the morning, while they were re-arranging my room and moving medical equipment out, at least three people were working but I was dead to the world. After lunch I called the nurse again because I really had to pee, so they helped me to the bathroom, but I couldn't pee. Maybe too much swelling, they said. I was so uncomfortable I agreed to get a catheter put in, and they said they drained an amazing amount of urine, something like three times what a normal person would consider "full bladder". That catheter was horrible and they took it back out, even though I was nervous I'd still need it... turns out I didn't, three hours later we tried again and I was able to go to the bathroom using some little tricks they had, like blowing bubbles into a cup of water through a straw, that's just enough effort on your stomach muscles to help your bladder empty. Yay. It gave me confidence that maybe the rest of my recovery would be quick, you know, it's a sensitive area but it's also a high-circulation, designed for childbirth area. I'd be okay.
Josie was amazing. She'd latch on and nurse like a pro, and I couldn't stop looking at her face. I'd turn and she was there, just so perfect, I'd start crying. We had some visitors... my friends pam and mike and andrea, both grandpas, my sister and brother-in-law, and of course my mom. Everyone was amazed at how alert she was, how strong she was, how long her toes were! At night Marc slept on the little couch in the room and handled burping and diaper changes, and giving her to me for feeding. We went home the next day.
So that's her story! Afterwards I felt sore from the stitches, but also sore in my back and shoulders, like I'd been working construction jobs or something. I'm pretty sure it was from hauling myself up to squat all that time. Marc eventually told me his back was killing him too, because I'd been PULLING on him. The nurses had helped him out, cracking jokes and teasing him about not being capable of all this himself, just to keep him from freaking out and worrying about me. In the end we were one happy family. We had our moment hours later after the visitors and doctors had all left, I was holding a sleepy Josie and Marc had his arms around me in the hospital bed and we just stared at each other, with nothing to say, and we had everything we could possibly want.
Our baby in the hospital:
Here's these long toes!
She's got lots of airplane-related wardrobe items :) I work in the aircraft industry and actually earned my pilot's license while pregnant with her, she's got about 25 hours of left seat time as a fetus.
And finally, our family: