Originally written and posted in November 2004, once the proverbial newborn dust had settled. This is a LONG and DETAILED account of Bean's arrival, three years ago today. Some people LOVE birth stories and can't get enough of them (that would be me), others may find them too graphic or perhaps even dull. Maybe even self-indulgent! (Which I can accept!) As you can imagine, Bean's birth remains the biggest miracle of my life, and this story is one I could read and relive a million times and never get to the end of it feeling any less thrilled and delighted than the day it actually happened. It's a defining experience of my life. (Of course!)
This is the chronicle of Alex's arrival on October 17, 2004 at 3:06 PM, weighing 6 lbs., 14 oz. and stretching to 20 inches in length.
It all started Thursday, October 14. The day began as usual, and I spent a large portion of late morning and early afternoon out looking at wedding venues with my next door neighbor, Nadine, who was getting married in February or March. We looked at three venues and spoke with the sales people about menus and pricing, and wrapped up the day with a late lunch at The Fickle Pickle in Roswell, where we had some delicious Carribean Clam Chowder, whose recipe I'll be trying to simulate sometime soon. We came home that afternoon and I remember having to go to the bathroom so badly that I could barely say goodbye to Nadine as I jumped out of her car, sprinted to my house and flew to the bathroom. I'd been feeling periody aches in my abdomen and upper thighs for several days prior, and those feelings continued throughout the afternoon and evening. Al came home and we had dinner and watched a little mindless TV, with me on the sofa and Al on the floor, as was our normal pregnancy custom. Then we went to bed.
I awoke shortly after we went to sleep, hot and uncomfortable, with Al snoring (he had a cold), and I moved downstairs to the sofa, where I just lay there, and the periody aches seemed to get worse and worse. They weren't coming and going though, like contractions. This was just constant pain that didn't let up. So, at around 4:00 AM, I got up and went to take some Tylenol, and then stopped off to go to the bathroom, where I noticed that I'd lost at least a little of my mucus plug. The periody pain didn't really let up even after the Tylenol, so I really didn't sleep at all. In the morning, Al got up to get ready for work and I had a little emotional meltdown. Why are you leaving me? ( I had explained about the mucus plug and he had asked questions galore, including, You didn't save it for me to see?) So we had a little emotional chat which concluded when Al decided (ahem) he needed to stay home with me (I did really need him). So, we spent Friday lying around watching TV, and Al ended up going to lunch appointment and back to the office after around noon. I tried to rest, but was just too keyed up to really sleep, and the pain continued. At some point during the day while Al was gone, I lost a considerable second chunk of the mucus plug, again leaving Al dissapointed that he didn't get to see it. I have to laugh thinking about how I actually described it for him in great detail, and he listened, enthralled, and asked tons of very specific questions. He was very INTO the mucus plug!
We went out to dinner that night to a local sports bar where Al had pizza and I had fish and chips and tons of rootbeer. We came home and took some pictures of me (in my pink non-maternity turtleneck) and then of the two of us, cozy and happy, and we made a little video telling Alex we thought she was on her way! Then we went upstairs to go to bed.
At about 1:00 AM I awoke to go to the bathroom, and when I stood up, there was a huge amount of warm fluid that gushed out, so I ran to the bathroom, drippy drip dripping all the way and examined things. The fluid was clear and there was about a half cup of it. So, excited, I woke Al up and said, This is it, honey. It's time! My water just broke! So he got up and we called the doctor's answering service, received our return call from Dr. Smith, who told us to proceed to the hospital, and we methodically got ourselves ready to go. I took a bath, put on my make-up, did my hair, and put on a lovely outfit, finished packing my suitcase, fed the kitty, straightened up the kitchen for Nana, and left for the trip to Northside. I remember that as we left in the car, Stevie Wonder was singing Isn't She Lovely and Al pointed out that it was a nice coincidence, to which I agreed.
We arrived at the hospital all calm and serene, and were checked in and shown to our birthing suite, where we took more pictures (very sunshiney, happy pictures) and shot a little more video. Oh, we were feeling so on top of things and ready to go!
A nurse came in to check me and set about testing for amniotic fluid, which turned out NOT to be present at all. I was neither significantly dilated or effaced. Things were starting to unravel concerning our perfect arrival! No one thought I was in labor! Yet the monitor was showing some mild and evenly spaced contractions (I think they were 10 minutes apart) and they were mildly painful, so I kept taking Tylenol and both Al and I napped off and on - me in the bed, and Al on the windowseat/bed. Dr. Arias arrived in the early morning hours and I went for an ultrasound (just downstairs) to check the levels of amniotic fluid. It was determined that those levels were normal (so still they were convinced I had not broken my water) and the baby was now predicted to be 7 lbs. 12 oz.
Everyone was beginning to speak quite convincedly about our being sent home, and sure enough, we were discharged and sent home around noonish on Saturday, with me very sad, peeved, getting more hurty, and thinking we should not be leaving! We stopped by Steak & Shake on the way home and got burgers and fries, and ate them in our customary positions as we watched football and I stewed and fretted. I was having pretty noticeable contractions about every 15 minutes or so, and I remember going upstairs to bed and napping for a couple of hours at 15 minute intervals. I also spoke with my Mom off and on to keep her posted on developments, and she left the beach and went home to Easley so she'd be closer when the time came.
After lunch and my nap, Al went outside did several hours worth of yard work to prepare for Nana's arrival. I bounced on my birthing ball, talked on the phone to my friend Kim, and watched a little more football. By the time Al came inside, my contractions had started to hurt much more significantly. He left to go pick up Chinese food, and upon his return, I was, I guess, in active, painful, miserable labor. Several times I tried getting into a nice warm tub, thinking that would help, but alas, it didn't. As we attempted to eat Chinese food (I didn't get far. I was just hurting too badly, but I remember wishing I could eat because I knew it might be a very long time before I could again. And it was. Nearly 24 hours, actually.) Al decided to start timing contractions. They started at about 7 minutes apart and about 40 seconds long, and over the course of the next gutwrenching 4 or 5 hours, they finally got to 5 or 6 minutes apart and 60 to 70 seconds in length, as he timed them and I got in and out of the tub, crawled on my hands and knees with my chest and head on the birth ball, moaned, OOOOOOh for crying out loud a lot, said the occasional swear word, cried, worried I'd never make it to the hospital in the CAR (sitting UP and unable to writhe or get on all fours or anything!), told Al I wasn't going to be able to stand this much longer without drugs, and tried my best to just hang in there. Al continued timing and I felt a little confused? wondering? about what exactly his plan was and how he could be so stern about waiting for the contractions to be just perfect before we called the doctor. I was hurting so much, and when each contraction started I would just feel panicky like maybe this one was going to... iI don't know, not kill me but maybe cause me to faint? Finally, once I had accomplished the 5 minutes apart contractions of 60 second duration for a full HOUR, Al called the doctor's answering service and Dr. Arias called back and said we could go to the hospital.
This time things were REALLY different. Forget the hair, forget the makeup. It was all I could do to get dressed (I kept having to stop what I was doing and get down on all fours to breathe and concentrate through contractions, then get back up and finish doing what I was doing.) I remember being completely terrified at this point about how I was going to manage the contractions in the car.
But we got in the car anyway (I think it was 11:30 PM). And lo and behold, Stevie was singing Isn't She Lovely again! So off we went for round two at the hospital, this time not cheerful. AT ALL. We must have gone fast, because I only had three or four contractions in the car and it's about an 18 mile drive. No pictures were taken, no video shot, and clinging to the hope that upon my arrival I would be relieved of the horrible pain. Quite literally like being ripped open, with extra sharp pain in my lower back, yet none ever on the top part of my womb. I remember thinking briefly that labor was not at all what I expected, really.
Upon our arrival at the hospital, the nurse at the greeting/check-in station took one look at me and said, Those are three minutes apart, honey, I can see it in your face. I'll get you in a room now and Dad can come back later and take care of the paperwork. So off we went to our second birthing suite, where, upon our arrival, I fell to my knees to breathe through another contraction, and my nurse, Lilly, said, Yep, you are a keeper! You know when they start with the hands and knees thing that they are well on their way to having babies! (or something like that!) So, she called Dr. Arias immediately, while I was donning my lovely gown in the bathroom between contractions. Lilly came back in and settled me into bed then checked me, finding me ONLY AT A ONE and 70% effaced. Are you kidding me??? I was sure the baby had to be literally hanging out of me by this point! How would i make it thru the rest of this process?) and helped me breathe better through the contractions and look into her eyes and concentrate. She was good at that and very positive and affirming. Shortly thereafter, she administered a dose of fentanyl (IV) and promised I could have two more doses as needed and then I could have my epidural.
So, with the drugs working and me feeling much happier, Al headed off to sleep on his window seat, and I napped briefly, until (waaaaaaaaaay too soon) the drugs ceased to work and the contractions started to hurt horribly again, and I had to breathe through them again and continually go to the bathroom (thanks to all the fluids I was getting IV , which was quite complicated with the IV and monitors, etc. We continued with that pattern (get another dose of pain reliever, rest briefly, start hurting again, get up to go potty, breathe through contractions, ask for more pain relief) as the new shift of nurses came on and the sun slowly rose on another day.
With the new day arrived Dr. Yvette Smith, a doctor from our ob/gyn practice whom we'd never met and were quite surprised by. She was very low key and I liked her immediately. I remember thinking she looked like Shirley from What's Happenin' (I didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture, which I sincerely regret) but didn't have her personality at all (which you'll recognize was a huge blessing if you ever watched What's Happenin') The nurses had been looking at my contractions overnight, and the drugs had slowed them down to 10 minutes or more apart. Several speculated that I was still not in active later and would likely be sent home again. This had left me feeling devastated, hopeless and well, at the end of my rope, and Al was getting madder by the minute (between snoring naps, of course).
But in came Dr. Smith, who checked me and pronounced me 4 cm dilated and fully effaced! THANK YOU GOD! Dr. Smith ruptured my membranes (nice warm clear fluid) and said, Now THAT was a NICE exam! You are doing GREAT! All I could think at that point was, I'm not crazy I'm not crazy this really is labor and I've survived it! and Dr. Smith ordered up my epidural, and I breathed relievedly through a few more contractions, the TALL anesthesiologist arrived and gave me the epidural, which didn't hurt at all, (I suppose if you did one on me NOW, I would think it was painful, but everything is relative), in fact I laughed and joked through the whole thing, and by about 10 or 11 AM, I was lying in bed, pain free, totally happy and at peace, feeling like I had a HEEE-YUGE bottom (sortof like novacaine makes your lips feel), and making a few phone calls.
I called my friend Carole, who planned on coming by later, and then started putting on make-up and fixing my hair. I was supposed to be sleeping, but who could sleep?
Well, Al could.
Later, Carole and Niki arrived and we all sat there talking and laughing after a brief emotional greeting. At this point, Diane had taken over as my nurse, and I loved her. She was also very down to earth and funny, and had been a midwife for 20 years, so she was very calm and seemed to be instinctual about the whole labor/delivery process, which I love, because I'm instinctual too, and her instincts seemed to be in synch with mine.
We did have one slight scare (though it really didn't scare me - I just knew everything was okay for some reason) as the baby's heartrate was not reacting correctly during the contractions and the nurses came in and attached a fetal scalp monitor on the baby's head. I was upset because I didn't want the first time the baby was touched to be painful, and I didn't want her hurt, but they insisted and told me she would hardly feel it (But how would they know?), so I acquiesced. Diane was in and out while Carole, Niki, Al and I chatted away, and at about 2:30 PM, I started noticing rectal pressure and announced that I supposed I would be pushing soon. Diane said, Good. I'm not checking you yet because I don't really want to know how ready you are to push. I want to let the baby come down on her own for awhile. My thoughts exactly! So we kept chatting, and I kept feeling ALL THE PRESSURE DOWN THERE YEEEOWZA but no pain, and for some reason, I just continued to wait like it was no big deal.
Mom (Nana) arrived (all calm but perky!)and we continued laughing and talking and taking video until Diane came in with Dr. Smith who checked me, announced, Baby's right there. There's a lot of molding. She's probably going to have a nice cone, but don't worry, it will smooth out. Alright, let's go! So I tried one push with Nana still in the room. Nana sat through just one push and then headed out the door.
Well, after that one push, Diane got the room all set up for our baby's birth! Meanwhile the epidural stopped working, so that had to be reconnected, and then we got ready for delivery! I was very much in my own head at the time, concentrating on what was to come and gearing myself up for it (It's time now. It's time. Can I do this?) I don't think I was scared, really. I was just VERY excited and focused. Al was beside me, patting my shoulder or arm, and I don't think we talked much if at all as we watched the preparations. We just waited together and got ready!
At the ready command, I assumed the stirrup position, with Diane holding my right leg and Al holding my left leg and me with my hands behind my thighs (Not really as embarrassing as I thought it would be, but definitely a vulnerable feeling). And I pushed. No one counted for me, (if I had a baby again, I would request counting) so I didn't know how long I would be pushing each time. My mind kept racing, Howlonghasitbeenwhencanistopandbreatheheynoone'sstoppingmeiwonderifmyfaceisblue
faceughineedtobreathemylungsareexploding and then I'd accidentally let out my breath because those pushes were loooooooooooong and I couldn't hold my breath anymore, and everyone said, Oh you were doing so well. Next time try to hold your breath until we tell you to stop! I started another push and the same thing happened (it was so loooooong - I thought they were forgetting to tell me to stop!) and still no counting, and al was still patting and looking down there and Dr. Smith was Johnny Bench and Diane was holding my leg and they asked me, Can you feel when the contractions start? No, not really. I said, so we had to watch the monitor to see when it was time to push again, which is still funny to me for some reason, even now. I pushed through another contraction and they watched the baby's heartbeat and started saying she's not liking the pushing and We need to get this baby out soon by whatever means necessary.(After three pushes? Puh-lease!)
So, I thought to myself, NO WAY I'M LETTING MY BABY GET SUCTIONED OUT. I WILL PUSH PUSH PUSH UNTIL I EXPLODE FIRST! so I really pushed and I mean HARD, and my face contorted and felt like my whole body must have turned purple or worse. and I pushed, and pushed and pushed and grunted and concentrated and focused and man oh man it didn't hurt a bit down there but it was WORK. And I think I did that through one more contraction and Dr. Smith said, Okay stop pushing. But I didn't hear her over the frantic pushing and then Diane said, Stop pushing! and Al patted me, Stop pushing honey! and I said, Why stop pushing (pant pant)? and they all said, Because her head is out! So Dr. Smith suctioned her little nose and mouth out as I sat up to look down at my new baby's head and saw that one tiny beautiful ear - Oh it was the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen - and squealed, Oooo look at her little ear! (crying) and everyone laughed. Then it was time to push out her shoulders (no problem) and they were all praising me and telling me what a great job I'd done, and Diane told me to put my hands down there and I got to pull my precious, perfect, surprisingly clean, beautiful baby the rest of the way out and lift her up to my chest and hold her there, all warm and safe, as Diane dried her off.
Soon Diane took her over to the warmer and the nursery staff (whose names I can't remember, sadly) assessed her and worked to suction her out as I worried about her (she was fine, of course) and asked questions and was reassured that Sick babies don't cry like this! (she was screaming!!! I couldn't believe that was normal, but it was, particularly for her, come to find out). Al shot some video of Alex being cleaned up. After the nursery staff finished the preliminary assessment, my little daughter came back to me all wrapped up in blankets, and we tried breastfeeding a bit. She was alert and interested in the breast and even mouthed it a little but didn't latch or suck on that attempt.
We just looked at each other and fell in love, and Al recorded it all. Nana was back by then and asked questions and talked to the nurses and exclaimed over how beautiful Alex was. The nursery staff returned for Alex's first bath and more assessments and measurements and then they took Alex up to the nursery to do some further tests on her blood type, etc. (Because I am Rh negative.) I was so sad to have her leave me, but everyone said I'd have her back in a short time and it seemed I didn't have much choice. Then it was my turn to get cleaned up and put on the weird little mesh undies and stuff. I was running a fever, so had IV antibiotics and
tylenol and Percoset for the pain. I also got some crackers and juice which I remember thinking were DELICIOUS because I was SO HUNGRY! I hadn't eaten in 24 hours and my last food had been half of an eggroll.
Then we were moved up to the floor and Alex came to us in our tiny little room, and we were a FAMILY.