In just a few short weeks we're going to start with all the *new* birth stories around here, so I thought this might a good moment to share the stories of our other children's births. I don't know about you, but I love
reading birth stories. As I'm getting closer to 40 weeks, I find myself thinking of the boys' birth a lot.
I hope you don't mind this being long...it's for two births, afterall!
Ian and James' Birth Story
Saturday, February 9th we stayed in bed until about 10 and finally got up to start the day. M-- was in the living room reading, and I was in the kitchen getting a glass of water to drink. In my drowsy morning state I overfilled the cup, and water spilled down counter and onto the floor. I bent down to wipe up the floor, and when I stood back up I heard a strange muffled popping noise. Warm, thick clear liquid started streaming out of the leg of my pajama pants, and I yelled out something that made M-- come into the room. "I think my water just broke...." It was about 10:20.
I stood there for a while, M-- watching me, and we were both so excited. My doctor was worried about going past term, so on Monday we had scheduled a time to induce labor. Both of us were very unhappy at the possibility of induction, so for a short while my water breaking was the happiest of news. We laughed a lot, because for a while we couldn't decide what to do...should we clean it up? Should I eat the bowl of cereal I'd poured? Would contractions start?
M-- cleaned up, I sat down in my wet pants (gush, gush, gush) to eat my bowl of cereal, and contractions did NOT start. I took a shower (making sure to shave!), got ready for the day, we packed, M-- took a shower, and still no contractions. In the meantime I was soaking dozens of pads with amniotic fluid, and whenever I'd stand from sitting down I'd usually soak my pants.
We checked the books we have, and they seemed to say we'd be safe waiting several hours for contractions to start. Chris, M--'s close friend from grad school, called, and he was the first to know. Then my SILs stopped by to deliver a present (sheep bookends), and we swore them to secrecy (didn't want the grandparents to know--they'd worry). It was a lovely warm day, so we went for a walk all around our neighborhood, all the time smiling and happily anticipating labor. Every once in a while I'd stop and say "gush gush gush" as I felt more amniotic fluid come out.
M-- was afraid I'd use up all my energy from walking, so we went home and ordered Chinese food. Spicy cashew chicken from Hui's. I'd been worrying a little about not having contractions, but the fortune inside the fortune cookie said: "Nature, time, and patience are the three great physicians." We took a nap after lunch, during which I had some very mild contractions, and after lunch we went for another walk.
I don't remember much of what happened that evening...I think we mostly just sat around waiting for contractions to get more serious. By 10 that evening it had been 12 hours since my water broke, and my contractions were weak but 4-5 minutes apart. We decided it was time to call Dr. L-- and head in to the hospital. (He thinks my water broke that evening, by the way--we didn't want the "labor clock" to start ticking until I was actually having contractions.)
By 11 we were at the hospital, and we made the mistake of parking in the daytime parking garage. I sat through one contraction in the Subaru, then we grabbed all our stuff (I had the pillows, M-- had the bags, the cooler of food, the cameras) and walked all the way around the hospital to the emergency entrance. Once I was there I didn't want to sit down, so they reluctantly let me walk up to labor and delivery.
In labor and delivery room 2, we met our labor nurse Emily. She already had my birth plan (yay!), and we got all set up for the evening. After getting a non-stress test done (both babies were reactive), a dilation check (4cm, 90% effaced), and my first dose of antibiotics (group b strep) M-- and I went down a floor to walk the halls. When a contraction hit I'd lean against the wall, and I'd take sip of water every time we went past the drinking fountain. An hour later we did another test strip, and I think by then I was at 5cm. After that it gets a bit blurry for me--I started having hard contractions at about 2 or 3 that morning, and (like all the books said) I withdrew and concentrated on getting through the contractions. Emily let us try out a birthing ball, but it wasn't very comfortable. In the end, I liked positions where I'd lean forward. I knelt on a pillow and leaned forward to a chair, I knelt on a lowered portion of the bed, I stood and rocked back and forth while leaning on a counter--and with each contraction M-- pushed a cold washcloth into my forehead and (if I was being monitored) held my hand. For some reason the pressure of the cold washcloth combined with concentrating on my own moaning sounds seemed to distract me from the intensity of each contraction. I should mention here that the contractions were intense, but not really painful. They were more like very uncomfortable pressure than they were pain.
The next time I was measured I was 7cm dilated, then 8cm dilated. I thought the last two centimeters (transition) would be more intense, but really it wasn't any different than the previous hours. My contractions started coupling off and on, but even between those long ones it was possible to relax. I remember drifting off to sleep at one point. All the books said I'd go through a period of self-doubt where I wasn't sure I could make it without drugs, but that didn't happen. I'd lost all sense of time by then (though I do remember M-- opening the shades to show me the early morning light). Contractions being more intense and closer together didn't seem to matter--I couldn't comprehend how long it was all taking anyway.
They called Dr. L--, and when he arrived I was 10cm dilated with just a little lip. He must have massaged that out, because he said I could start pushing. The nurses changed shifts then, so Emily left and Joanna joined us. She was a bit of a pushing cheerleader (c'mon! 4 more seconds! goooood! curl toward those babies! beautiful! beautiful!), but when pushing really got going that was actually helpful.
When they said I could start pushing I was a little confused, since I'd expected to feel a real urge to push and instead there was nothing. My contractions started spacing themselves out, too. I suspect my body was giving me somewhat of a break, but I guess they don't pay attention to that in hospitals. So sometimes I'd push, sometimes I wouldn't. By this time it was difficult to tell when I was having a contraction--there was just a lot of pressure all of the time. M—and Joanna helped me hold my legs back in position, and all the time I felt a little out of it. Between pushes I zoned out almost completely, and even modest me could have cared less about who was seeing me or helping me push my legs way back into the air. I'd feel a vague building of pressure, tell them I had to push, and then they'd grab my legs and I'd roll forward.
Once baby A started crowning and I could feel a little bit of his or her head, they moved us into the operating room. M-- had to wear a hair net, scrubs, and booties, and there were bright lights and nurses everywhere. They put me on a narrow operating table with the old fashioned stirrups, and I remember complaining loudly that I was flat on my back. I told them I couldn't push that way, so they raised my head up a little and every time I wanted to push M-- and Joanna would pull back my legs while another nurse helped raise my head into a curl. The anesthesiologist arrived and introduced himself--he kindly acknowledged my birth plan and said he was there just in case he was needed. I pushed every time I felt a contraction, sometimes three pushes and sometimes five. Dr. L-- sat at the end of the operating table and always calmly asked for one more push. The nurses were all cheering me on, and M-- was whispering encouragement in my ear. Between contractions he'd wipe down my face with a cold washcloth and offer me sips of water. I kept my eyes closed almost the whole time. They had been doing electronic fetal monitoring ever since transition started, then they had blood pressure and heart monitoring on me, and sometimes they seemed more intent on getting a reading than on actually helping me push. They seemed to be worried about baby A's heartbeat, which worried me--but M-- would whisper in my ear the second his heartbeat showed up normal. I felt the baby's head and kept on pushing.
The pressure of baby A's head was incredibly intense by this point, and Dr. L-- was massaging my perineum ("massage away," I said). He said it would be just a few more pushes before the baby was out, so he gave me a pedundal block (a local numbing agent injected into my vaginal area) in preparation for baby B's breech birth. The shot worked quickly, and I lost some of the sensation of where to push. Dr. L-- made up for that by making a very uncomfortable pinch-like pressure in the area of my perineum, and I focused on pushing toward that sensation.
I don't remember the last pushes very well, but I remember a very strange suction-like sensation as baby A's shoulders and body were pulled out of me. 10:14. I remember feeling a rip just before his head came out, but his body came out right afterward and Dr. L-- asked M-- to announce the sex. M-- told me we had boys, and then he cut the cord (with great gusto, from what I could see). I could hear baby A crying, but because I was on my back I couldn't see him. Dr. L--, bless him, put the baby on my stomach for a few short moments and let me look at him and touch him. Then he was put in a warmer to the left of me, where I could still see him, and Dr. L-- focused on getting baby B.
The breech extraction of baby B was uncomfortable for me and very tense for the doctors. I just turned my head and tried to focus on baby A. I could feel a yanking, pulling sensation, and I knew something was stuck. This part was painful, I guess, but by then I didn't really care. They started pushing on the baby's head through my abdomen and pulling on his already-delivered feet. His arm was up along his head and his shoulders got stuck coming out. From what I remember, there was suddenly a big gush and another suction-like sensation, and baby B was out. 10:17. Silence at first, but then a cough. M-- says he was blue and unmoving at first but pinked up well. M-- cut his cord, too.
Later they told me I'd pushed for three and a half hours, but it felt so much shorter. Both babies had high 1 and 5 minute apgar scores. While the nurses wiped them down and the doctors checked their hearts, M-- looked over them and I delivered the placenta (which wasn't as big as I thought it would be). M-- was thrilled to see the babies recognized his voice and looked toward him when he spoke. The pediatric surgeon said the babies seemed healthy as could be and could room-in with us, and the nurses asked if the babies had names yet. I suggested the first should be Ian Stuart and the second should be James Aidan--M-- thought so too, so it was set. M-- went around taking photos, and eventually I was stitched up (eek--quite a tear) and ready to move back to our labor room.
Back in our room Joanna showed me how to breastfeed Ian while M-- bonded with James. They were both so alert and active during those first few hours. We spent three hours with them before transferring up to the mom and baby ward, and it was wonderful. After an hour or so of time on our own (during which both of them breastfed like pros), Joanna measured, weighed, and gave eye ointment to the babies. Ian was 8 pounds even, 21.5 inches. James was 7 pounds even, 20.5 inches. Both of them were (are) too beautiful to believe.
If you're still here at the end of the story, thanks for reading! Please share yours!