I typed this up as a note for my facebook, but I thought I'd post it here in case any ladies wanted to read it.
Throughout most of Friday I had been working around the house and on the computer, with more energy I'd had in several weeks. I was kind of shocked by how much I was getting done, but the thought of going into labor hadn't crossed my mind. Upon reviewing my earliest ultrasound (an 8 week ultrasound) my doctor had arrived upon April 9th as the expected due date. We felt the date was closer to the first of April. So, I quite surprised when my water broke at 6:15 on March 19th, as I was making pie crust for our quiche dinner. David had just come home from work and it was our plan to eat dinner and head over to Our Farm for the equinox bonfire, where we burn our Christmas trees each year.
After soaking several towels and realizing that the fluid was never going to stop leaking, I put a large pad on and went for a walk with David, Daniel, and Lilly. I hoped this would bring on the contractions and speed the process up. No such luck. In the meantime Beth (our labor assistant) had arrived at our house When we returned she helped David pack for our trip to the hospital. Around 8:00 we decided to go on up to Our Farm for the bonfire. We stayed until 10:30, when I started feeling my belly get really tight.
When I got back to the house I took a shower went to bed. After lying there for 20 minutes, I felt the first big contraction. I got up and David and I moved to the couch where we went through about 15 contractions. It was pretty easy to relax through them. I could talk in between and it didn't feel that bad. I decided I wanted to get back in the shower and have the hot water beat on my lower back. David was timing the contractions and they were 2 1/2 minutes apart for thirty minutes. He decided it was time to leave and go to the hospital.
We got into the truck at 12:30 am and I leaned the seat back and got on my hands and knees. I felt very nauseous while the truck was moving. I started to worry about what would happen upon arriving at the hospital. We had called earlier, only to find that my doctor was on leave and an ex-military doctor was on call that night. I was trying to put these fears out of my mind. I was aware that anxiety and fear could prolong labor and accentuate pain. It was the longest 30 mile car ride ever. I'm told we arrived at around 1:00. We were escorted upstairs to the birth center into room OB3, where we stayed until Monday. Flaget Memorial is a 52- bed hospital in Bardstown, Kentucky. I was one of the only 2 women giving birth that weekend.
When I my water broke, I called the hospital to let them know. They informed me that the results of my Strep B test had not come back yet, and suggested that I have an antibiotic in the form of an IV when I arrived at the hospital. I had researched this a little and had already decided that I was ok with getting the antibiotic. So, the first thing the nursing staff did was try and find a vein for an IV. Four sticks, some digging around in my arm with a needle, and an hour later I was hooked up to the antibiotics. The fetal monitor got strapped on me and the blood pressure cuff was on a 5 minute cycle (it was cuff my arm every 5 minutes). This process would have not been much fun for a normal person, much less a person having contractions. They did a vaginal exam and determined that I was 4 cm dilated. By this time, the contractions had slowed to 4-5 minutes apart. It became very clear to us that we could have stayed home for another hour or so. Running the antibiotic into me only took 20 minutes and then I was free. I got up out of their bed and did not return until about 30 minutes before I pushed Adaline out.
At first I moved around a lot and tried a ton of different positions. I would lean on David or Beth whenever I felt pain. I tried to remember to breathe deeply and relax. Then I started to realize some problems with the techniques we had learned about how to deal with labor pain. The nausea never really left me, so someone rubbing on me to help me relax just made me want to throw up. I didn't really want to be touched. I couldn't really control the pain by moving into different positions, because every time I tried to sit or lay down my bottom hurt. It literally felt like the baby was in my butt. I found great relief on the toilet because the hole in the middle allowed me to sit without putting pressure on my bottom. David and Beth would take turns sitting in the bathroom with me, giving me vocal encouragement (since I wouldn't allow them to touch me). I would move around, and whenever I felt a particularly painful contraction I'd run back to the toilet.
A vaginal exam at 5:00 am showed I was dilated to 7 cm. Finding a place that isn't as painful is nice and provided some much needed relief after the stress of arriving at the hospital. David started to remind me that staying in a position that provided relief meant I wasn't making as much progress as I could be. When I would get into the shower I felt relaxed even though the contractions there seemed much more painful and intense. I could visualize the ocean (where Ada was conceived) as I heard the water running. Everywhere else, no matter what I did, I felt like I just couldn't go on any longer.
During this time I started to bleed more than I had before. I had been told there wouldn't be that much blood during labor, but it was a lot more than I thought. When you haven't menstruated in 9 months it's weird to see so much blood coming out of your body. Towards the end of these contractions I started feeling the urge to bear down, without really realizing it. I had it in my head that I just needed to have a bowel movement and I couldn't get it out. At some point I realized that this was just how it feels when the baby is making its way down. At the peak of each contraction I would say to David, " I just can't do this anymore" and he would say, "Yes you can, you are doing it." Then both of us would nod off between contractions, as we had been awake for over 24 hours. At one point we walked over and looked out the windows at the sunrise.
The nurse had come to do another vaginal exam shortly after the 6:00 am, and I said no. She was very nice, but she was there to inform me that the doctor wanted her to do exams every 30 minutes. Again, I said no. She had monitored the heart rate when I arrived, and then once more for about 10 minutes, but I took it off as I did not want to be stuck next to the bed. She asked me to sign some paperwork that stated that I was refusing treatment of both the vaginal exams and fetal heart rate monitoring. We put it in the stack of paperwork that we'd been given earlier. (We filled it all out after her birth and turned it in to the nurses desk- preregistration was apparently pointless.) I did let them do one more exam (total of 3). At 8:00 I was still at 7cm.
David picked up the workbook from our Bradley Method class and started going down the list of positions we had learned. We knew that three hours without progress was ok, but we were both afraid that it would send up some red flag to the cut-happy doctor, so we both knew it was time to get a move on. As we moved into each position, I started feeling the urge to bear down a lot more. A mental switch took place. I stopped thinking that I couldn't do it anymore and started thinking it was time to get this baby out. I could feel that each time I pushed, the baby was closer to coming out. We were using the squat bar in the shower and I put my fingers inside to feel the baby's head. As soon as I felt her head I knew that I didn't have that much further to go. I felt a great sense of relief while pushing. After so many hours of labor it finally felt like I was getting something done. I guess I finally realized that there was going to be an end result, and it wasn't just going to hurt forever.
I told David to go and get the nurse and my mom. Deborah (the new, day shift nurse I had met 3 days before I went into labor) got the doctor and my mom came in and fed me ice chips. I had consumed fluids against hospital policy the entire time I was in labor, but ice chips were helpful because I was hot. They made me move from the shower up to the bed, stating that the doctor was too old to bend down and catch the baby on the shower floor. The doctor suddenly appeared, for the first time in the 9 hours I had been at the hospital. He had me squat on the bed and hold on to the squat bar. He elevated the bed until my knees were at the same level as his head. He told me to try to breathe through some of the contractions and not to push so hard. He said to try as hard as I could not to push on every other contraction. This was to keep me from tearing as much and to help prevent hemorrhoids. Then he told the nurse to come and get him when the head was starting to crown, and he left the room.
David brought a woodcut of a fish that hangs in our bedroom at home and placed it in front of the television screen in the hospital room. I used this as a focal point as I was trying to breathe through the contractions. I just said over and over again to myself, "I can do anything for 60 seconds." By the time I had said that 6 times, the peak of the contraction would be over and the pain would get less intense. I felt like I was starting to think more clearly than I had been in several hours. I had a rush of adrenaline that made me realize that the contraction was going to end and I would get a break until the next one. I started thinking of the situation as a challenge. It felt like a sporting event, kind of like boxing, with the way there was a routine for each contraction: "okay, here it comes"; deep breathing; "I can do anything for 60 seconds"; loud scream; "okay, okay, its going away; cold rag; water; ice chips. Repeat. This was all accompanied by vocal encouragement from my mom and David and me just staring intently at the fish.
Finally, the Deborah went to get the doctor and he came back in. He was there with me for the last 8 contractions. He asked David if he wanted to catch the baby and cut the cord. David said yes and put on a pair of latex gloves. They coached me through those last few contractions, but it was pretty much the same as it had been. My vagina started to feel like someone had stretched the skin as thin as it could possibly go and I was getting a tattoo around the edges. The stinging, burning sensation of the baby's head coming out didn't hurt nearly as much as the contractions during transition. The doctor said that if I leaned back in the bed and held my knees up by my head the baby would "pop right out." I held one knee and my mom held the other one. We went through two more contractions and I felt the baby literally pop out, very quickly. When she came out, it felt slippery and I felt like I was falling. It was that feeling you get when a dream wakes you up because you are about to slip and fall. She was born at 10:42 am. David caught her and gave her to me immediately.
She was blue and white with black hair, for the first few breaths anyway. She went from blue to purple to red pretty quickly. The white was the vernix that was still all over her body because she had come a little early. At some point, someone said "she" and I realized we had a baby girl. It was strange to me that I didn't ask or look for myself to find out. She stayed with me until after I delivered the placenta and the doctor started giving me local anesthetic for the stitches I needed. David took her and the nurse started bathing her. She weighed and measured her: 6lbs 11oz, 19 inches.David thought she was being too rough with her and told the nurse that he wanted to bathe her. He wiped the some of the vernix off of her, and gave her back to me as my stitching was being finished up. Everyone cleared out of the room and left us alone to nurse and be together as a family. Adaline didn't have any eye ointment or shots, so she was never swept away from us into the nursery. The three of us slept on a down mattress cover that we had brought from home on the floor of the hospital room for the next two nights.
Overall, we feel like we had a pretty good experience. Things were a little rocky when we first got to the hospital, but other than that the staff pretty much just left us alone to do our thing. They let us have the lights off and the radio on the whole time we where there, we got to stay in the same room the whole time, and they were pretty good about following our birth plan. They clamped the cord a little sooner than we would have liked, but that was pretty much the only sacrifice we had to make. Yes, natural childbirth does hurt- a lot. But, its pretty easy to forget the pain as soon as you have an adorable baby to look at. I'd do it again.
Holly and David
Adaline (3/20/10), and Charlie (1/26/12- 4/10/12) and our identical twins Callie and Wendy (01/04/13)