Disclaimer: as always, I try to use discretion with what I share, but this is a birth story. And birth stories include things like blood and pain.
We have a new baby! I’m as shocked as anyone to be up at 4:45 AM just 5 days after my due date, nursing my 3 day old child.
My ideal scenario was simply going into labor on my own. The timing was anyone’s guess, though my guess was that I would carry the baby until at least 41 weeks. Here’s a rough timeline of what happened.
2/4/2015 11:24 AM
I posted this picture to Facebook with the caption: “It’s this little one’s due date! With our family history of going well past the due date, we’re not expecting much activity today. But just in case…here’s today’s unorthodox natural induction attempt: Ikea shopping w a cranky toddler.”
I felt totally normal at this point aside from being challenged by KLC’s ongoing fussy/clingy behavior.
KLC and I went to a play date at a family’s house from the church we’re attending with my sisters in Atlanta. I started feeling some menstrual-like cramping while we were gone and knew something could be starting but also knew that such things come and go. I decided to mention the cramps to my sister Baby K and T later that evening and text my doula Jeni just in case.
T took me to dinner at Scalini’s, which gained notoriety for its eggplant parmesan recipe that is said to induce labor. It just so happened that Scalini’s was in Atlanta only 15 minutes from where we are staying, so T lined up Baby K to babysit KLC so he could take me there for a due date date. KLC had an especially poor bedtime, and we almost gave up on dinner, but we did go out. I was a little bit embarrassed to be going there on my due date and couldn’t believe that I was starting to feel not just cramps but timeable, regular contractions. The eggplant was tasty, but my favorite offering was their garlic rolls. We went to bed wondering what the night would hold and whether we would indeed get our $25 Scalini’s gift card in return for our patronage and evidence of a child born within 48 hours of dining there.
2/5/2015 12:30 AM
In pain and with rising anxiety levels over my half-packed hospital bag, I got out of bed and worked for a couple of hours to get our things ready while trying not to wake KLC. Around 3 AM, I texted my mom and sisters to see who could stay with KLC if that was indeed the day. Unfortunately, going into labor this “early” was complicated as mom and dad had just driven to vacation in Destin, FL, for a few days with my aunt and uncle. They had planned to come to Atlanta for KLC duty as soon as I made the call. Mom and dad have had so much happening lately that we all decided it was best for them to enjoy the vacation. We called GiGi later that morning, and she came to the rescue.
My contractions were around 5 minutes apart and painful, but I decided to try to rest longer. I slept a couple more hours.
Pancake time! I was hungry and had every intention of keeping my belly full until the baby came. T made me chocolate chip pancakes, and then I made myself a peanut butter banana smoothie. The contractions were still coming, my other sister A showed up to keep KLC for the day, and I was anxious to be on my way out the door. Laboring at home with KLC wanting my attention felt too difficult. We drove to the hospital vicinity and went for a walk (to Highland Bakery for pastries…hungry laboring mama) after consulting with the on-call midwife.
At this point, my contractions weren’t that much stronger but I was ready to be checked. I called the midwife who decided it was best for me to go to the midwives’ office to be seen more quickly and to avoid the whole hospital registration process if I wasn’t going to be admitted. I was checked and found to be at 4 cm, very soft, and 90% effaced, which the midwife pronounced as “good early labor.” I felt good about this pronouncement and agreed to a plan of getting lunch (still hungry!) and walking more until things got more intense.
After lunch at the Whole Foods hot bar (one of my favorite things in America), T and I camped out at our friends G & C’s house for a while. I took a 20 minute nap, and we walked in nearby Grant Park for a long time. Eventually, I felt “ready” to go back to the hospital. I texted my doula, texted the midwife, and we left.
At the hospital, I was immediately admitted to a labor & delivery room since I had already been checked that morning and was beyond 3 cm. I got changed, sat on the bed uncomfortably for a 20 minute read-out from the monitors (a requirement when you check in there, followed up only by intermittent monitoring), and then got checked again by Nana, the on-call midwife. 4 cm. Still.
I labored for another couple of hours at the hospital, going for walks in the hall and trying a few laying-in-the-bed techniques suggested by my doula. I was checked again. 4 cm. Still.
Nana, Jeni, and I had a sit-down conversation about what to do next. They strongly encouraged me to go home. Or go somewhere for a change of pace. They even suggested going to a movie. We agreed to go get dinner and go rest at G & C’s house again. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to sleep with how painful my contractions were growing, and I no longer had the hunger level or even desire to eat from earlier in the day.
We decided to drive home to see KLC before her bedtime and to say hi to GiGi who had arrived from Tennessee to take over KLC’s care. I was feeling pretty discouraged at that point, knowing in the back of my mind that a woman can stall at painful-but-not-progressing labor for a long time. I wasn’t a very fun person to be around and mostly just wandered the house not talking much as my sisters, two brothers-in-law, and mother-in-law prepared a crab cake dinner.
KLC of course was very excited to see us and almost immediately asked for “milkie time.” I have probably mentioned here that our desire for her to be totally weaned before the baby came wasn’t matched by my willpower to see that goal through. Nursing was still a part of bedtime or naptime routines that I conducted on my own, and it was still a very special bond for us, even though the hormones of pregnancy had all but dried up my supply. It was nearing bedtime when she was asking for the milk that night, but I didn’t want to lay down with her while having contractions for very long. I decided to let her nurse for just a couple of minutes on the couch. After a couple of minutes on one side, we switched sides. Just a few seconds into the second side, I was yelping in pain.
T took KLC down to our space in the basement to put her to bed, and I kept having more and more painful contractions. GiGi and both of my sisters were put into action, massaging my back. Eventually I said, “SOMEONE GO GET THOMAS AND TAKE OVER THE BEDTIME ROUTINE!!!”
We texted G & C on our way back to the hospital that we probably weren’t coming to their house after all. I was completely nauseous and only holding off vomiting by inhaling peppermint essential oil constantly. We arrived back at Atlanta Medical Center at 8:40, which was significant because the main entrance closed at 8:30. We had to find our way through the emergency entrance and through the basement maze of the hospital, all while contracting violently. I stopped for a contraction just outside the door and ended up falling to my knees and then crawling in. A wheelchair, you say? No! Sitting more sounded terribly painful when T offered to find one. (I also remembered my friend J crawling into the hospital for her precipitous delivery of their second. My delivery wasn’t what you would call precipitous, but I was feeling solidarity with my fellow laboring mothers.)
At labor and delivery check-in, we were getting some “why did you guys leave anyway?” from the nurses, and I once again fell to my hands and knees to get through a contraction. Then I vomited on the floor. (Hey, you were the one that decided to read a birth story.) Apparently another couple was checking in behind us and looking at me with alarm as I crawled to my L&D room.
I told my doula and Thomas that I wanted an epidural stat if I hadn’t progressed. She encouraged me to try laboring in water first, either the shower or the birthing tub, which needed midwife approval to be set up. First I had to go on the monitor for another 20 minutes, which again required sitting still on the bed to get the baby’s heart rate and my contraction intensity. Twenty minutes became 30 unbearable minutes of 2-minute-apart crazy contractions that I could only get through by breathing, curling my toes, and sheer will power. The doula repeatedly reminded me not to panic.
Nana still hadn’t come to check me when I was done with the monitor because she was attending another birth. Jeni offered that I should get in the shower. I got in the warm shower and stayed there, alternating positions standing and on a birth ball for the next hour plus. I was encouraged as I went in the shower because Jeni and Whitney (the apprentice doula/actually a certifying homebirth midwife) made comments about how I wasn’t going to be able to use the tub because it takes a full hour to set up and fill after the midwife gave the go ahead. I really wanted to labor in the tub, but knowing that they thought there was an end in sight really helped.
Nana arrived around the time I started feeling different, “pushy” urges in the shower. I was starting to think I might need to call homebirth midwife Whitney into the shower to catch this baby. I managed to come out of the shower and get on the bed for Nana to check me. She was elated to announce, “9 and a half centimeters with an anterior lip!!” She called for the birth tub to be brought in and filled.
I turned over onto my hands and knees and continued to feel pushing urges, which Jeni and Nana encouraged, reminding me not to scream but to keep my voice in the lower ranges. The contractions spaced out at this point, and I let my body do what it was going to do. This was very different from my last labor when I had to look at the monitor to see when I was having a contraction and when to try to push.
I moved from hands-and-knees to draping my torso over the upright back of the hospital bed for support. Eventually I began to feel even more pressure and a burning sensation around the time Nana said I could get in the tub because there was enough water. Um, no, not moving at this point, sorry! Nana encouraged me to take the pushing slowly to prevent tearing. Once the head was out (I didn’t really realize what exactly was happening), I was encouraged to push more because there was some concern about the baby’s color. The doula later told me that the baby opened one eye at this point, looked around, and blew a bubble with its mouth.
The baby arrived, and I couldn’t believe it. How in the world did that just happen with zero interventions? And, WHAT, it’s a boy? I thought girl the whole time! We still didn’t have a boy name picked out.
Baby boy pinked up quickly, and we had a solid couple of hours in recovery with him before anyone weighed or examined him. I did not tear (HOORAY), but I had more bleeding than Nana wanted to see, so I got a shot of pitocin in my thigh and one unit of cytotec to encourage uterine contractions and to stop the bleeding. Eventually, I took advantage of the warm tub of water and had a nice postpartum bath in the birthing pool. Having that relaxing, warm bath afterwards partially made up for not being able to get in it during labor. With how quickly things escalated upon my return to the hospital, I was grateful for the massive relief I did get with the shower and didn’t dwell on the birthing pool too much.
- Born at 11:16 PM on Thursday, February 5, 2015
- Weighed 9 lb 4 oz
- Measured 20.5″ long* and 36 cm head circumference
- Walked 12, 791 steps on labor day
*At our follow-up pediatrician appointment on his 4th day of life, he measured 21.5″, which we thought sounded more accurate given that KLC was 22″ and 9lb 5oz when she was born.
Family of Four
We texted our families around 1 AM to let them know that the baby was a boy and all were healthy. We had a steady stream of visitors in the hospital on Friday including one cute big sister. We gave our boy a name officially around 6 PM Friday evening after debating two names all day. We will call him his nickname, which starts with X, and will refer to him on the blog here as Baby X.
I am not sure I have had enough time to reflect well on what has transpired with Baby X’s birth, but I want to try since I’ve been an infrequent blogger/recorder of memories lately. It is now a full week past my due date, and it is my sixth day as a mom of two. I look back in awe at what occurred the day he was born. Labor was very painful, but I am so very proud of what I accomplished. I would not have made it without the help T gave, never leaving my side all day. My doula and Nana the midwife were an incredible birth team and gave me invaluable advice and encouragement.
On the Sunday before Baby X came, the sermon at Westside Pres was from Proverbs about planning. God’s Word never fails to surprise me with its encouragement. The pastor talked about how planning for our lives in the short term or long term helps us but it also humbles us and causes us to once again see our need for Christ. Everything in the sermon was so relevant as a mom about to pop, making and remaking my plans for the birth’s logistics and my coping mechanisms. But the point he made that hit me where it hurts in a good way is that planning necessarily calls us to action. We plan so we can do. At that point, just a few days before the birth, I was feeling pretty apprehensive about the whole thing. In the sermon, the pastor reminded us that being called to action by God is not an overbearing mandate but is His grace to us. What we are called to do is what makes us come alive.
In giving birth again and entering a new phase of motherhood, I am more fully who God made me to be. I feel my inadequacies keenly, but I know on Whom to call for help.
We love you, Baby X. Welcome to the world.