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She's Here!! Claire Ellen's Birth Story

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

She's Here!! Claire Ellen's Birth Story

Well, she has finally arrived!  And I am going to tell you ALL about it.  :)

WARNING!  Birth stories (mine, at least) are long and involve lots of talk about body parts. 

First, let's take a look at my 39-weeks-pregnant belly and remember what it felt like to be 39 weeks pregnant. 

Towards the end of my pregnancy there was no fear about labor and delivery.  Not even close. Labor pains were like a bright light at the end of the tunnel.  I was much more concerned about the unpleasant sensation of walking around with a bowling ball between my legs and the frequent electric shocks I felt due to ligament pain (which feels like what I imagine a cattle prod to the crotch would feel like).  Add to that the non-stop bathroom trips (no joke - I told Charles I needed toilet paper one night and he said, "No you don't, I just put like 10 rolls in that bathroom" and at that point he realized how much I was actually getting up at night to pee!), the cramping legs and the other assorted pregnancy symptoms I was experiencing and I was not really worried about what actual labor would feel like (and yes, I DID worry about it when I actually went into labor!).

But even though I was looking forward to losing these pregnancy symptoms and meeting my baby, I was also a little bit sad about the idea of not being pregnant.  For all my whining and complaining, I really like being pregnant.  I like feeling my baby moving around and I loved my big pregnant belly (although I missed my abs - not so much the way they looked, but the actual functionality of them - imagine how much more difficult it is to get out of bed without stomach muscles!).

On to the birth story.  . 

We went in to the Birthing Center on Wednesday for a routine appointment (39 weeks) and decided that I would come in the next day to see if we could maybe try some induction techniques to get this party started.  

The reason we wanted to have some control over her arrival time is because I am Group B Strep +.  This is a normal thing for about 10% of pregnant women (don't quote me on that number) but can be dangerous to the baby if not treated.  GBS+ mothers need to get a dose of antiobiotics every four hours when they are laboring and me being a second time mom AND living at least 45 minutes away from the center (without traffic), it seemed a good idea to be at the center when things started if possible (labor can go a lot faster for the second baby, and my first labor was relatively short...maybe 5 hours once the Pitocin started, so we had reason to believe this one would be quick as well).

So, early Thursday morning Charles and I kissed Jack goodbye (his last kiss as an only child - yes, I may have shed a tear or two over this; in fact, I had spent almost every night wondering if this would be the last time I fell asleep with him as an only child but that Wednesday night I knew it actually would be, and it was bittersweet) and left him in Memaw's capable hands and loaded up in the car for our big adventure.

I was a little bit afraid of the whole labor-induction deal, so I had brewed myself a strong cup of organic Raspberry Leaf tea that I was pounding on the way to the center (raspberry leaf tea = natural labor inducer).  I guess I was hoping that I'd show up at the center and they'd tell me I was already in labor and dilated to 6 centimeters and would be pushing soon. Ha! 

When I got to the center I was NOT dilated to 6 centimeters...still hanging out around 3ish.  Darn.

There were two midwives there (both fabulous).  The first order of business was antibiotics.  Which, unfortunately, require an IV.  Boo.  Also unfortunate?  My veins weren't interested in cooperating.  I sat on the table (the only "medical" looking thing in the whole center, which is actually an exquisitely decorated house that is over 100 years old in an equally quaint little historic neighborhood in downtown Dallas) and looked out the window while the midwife poked around for my uncooperative vein. I felt myself getting hotter and hotter...and feeling wimpier and wimpier.  I finally asked for some water and ended up on the couch where, after I took a mental chill pill, the vein materialized and the IV was in.  Yay. 

So that left us with the next issue...where to sit while the IV was dripping.  I couldn't sit in the chair I was SUPPOSED to sit in, the one with the little hangar above it for the bag to hang from.  Oh no.  You know why?  Because the day before, when I was waiting to be seen for my appoinment...I broke it.  That's right.  I was sitting in it and my pregnant ass apparently exceeded the maximum weight limit because that darn chair straight-up crumpled under my weight!  Ha!  In the end I sat in the non-broken chair and my loving husband held the bag for me (don't feel too sorry for him, it only took about 15 minutes to empty).

From there, it was into the holding pen for a cervix check and game plan.  This time I was seen by Cherie, the midwife who owns the center and who has 30 years experience birthing babies.  I was about 3 centimeters dilated, 70% effaced.  The baby's head was putting a lot of pressure on my cervix (and everywhere else in the general vicinity) and my water was *this* close to breaking. We talked about some options and decided to use a cream (no, I can't remember what it was called) that would be applied to my cervix in hopes of getting it to soften and to start some contractions.

The cream application was painless enough.  Cherie told me to stay put for an hour and to let her know if I felt any cramping.  Well, after about 20 minutes on my back I felt cramping all right...but it was hard to tell if it was just the general misery of being 39 weeks pregnant and laying on my back, or actual cervix-getting-to-work cramping.  I played some solitaire (thank you, iPhone) and chatted with Charles.  I finally rolled over onto my side and worked on beating my best score while Charles slept and snored - yes, he took a nap - next to me. 

Solitaire wasn't all I did.  I took pictures of my surroundings and made them pretty with my Instagram app, too!  Here is the lamp I spent a lot of time staring at while I was on my back:

And here is the comforter I was laying on:

After an hour I did notice some cramping, but it was so minimal - like very light period cramps - it was hard to imagine they were actually doing anything.

Cherie sent us on a 20 minute walk in the park next door (even though it was July, in Texas, and we are in the middle of breaking a record for most-days-in-a-row-over-100-degrees, it felt great to be outside and walking around).  It was a really great diversion.  We could almost pretend like I wasn't about to have a baby and we were just enjoying a nice walk in the park!

After our walk we went back inside for another cervix check (yay...).  I had dilated a bit more and as she was poking around down there, I felt a popping sensation and then a whoosh of water broke, and it actually felt just like a water balloon had popped inside of me!  This was 11:30 AM.

I whipped out my bag of Depends (yeahhhh...embarassing to buy those bad boys) and ended up having to change into my going-home pants because my skirt was soaked with amniotic fluid (if this is TMI, I recommend you stop reading because you know it's only going to get worse).  And with Depends on and a smile of my face (still not hurting!), we went out on another walk. 

This time, I felt things happening.  The contractions felt more like heavy cramping and back aches than I had expected.  Maybe it's because the contractions I experienced with Jack (which were a result of Pitocin) were so much more painful, or maybe it's because I was led to believe that labor actually looks and feels like it does in the movies - with women bent over shrieking in pain - but I was pleasantly surprised at how manageable this was.  The contractions were intensifying, but they felt like a combination of period cramps and a seriously achy back after a day at the barn - not the sharp pains I was expecting.  As we walked around (me wondering if everyone in the park could see my Depends under my pants, haha!), the birthing assistant, Debbie, would come out routinely to check on the baby's heartbeat with a little handheld Doppler.

When we walked back in to the center they hooked me up to a monitoring strip to monitor both contractions and the baby's heartbeat.  I played more solitaire and talked to Charles while Debbie checked on me periodically, assuring me that these contractions were doing some serious work and encouraging me by telling me that they were strong contractions and she was surprised I could talk through them.  This made me feel GREAT because I had a feeling they were going to get worse and I thought to myself how crappy it would feel to know that if I was already struggling.   

I spent about 20 minutes in bed hooked up to this device before we were sent out on another walk.  It was getting hotter but I honestly don't recall being uncomfortable outside.  Instead, I was just grateful for all of the activity...there was a hospital laundry service across from the park and we listened in on the conversations the workers were having (one person was talking about how someone he knew sang "Amazing Grace" on her deathbed and I could tell by looking at the other employees' faces that they didn't believe him - ha!).  A mom played with her toddler on the swings.  A couple of old guys were playing chess (checkers?) at a picnic table in the shade.  There was a lot going on, all of these people carrying on with their normal lives while I was in labor.  Bizarre.

Charles was so awesome.  He was telling me some story about how if you open and close your car door five times in a row it will make the car the same temperature as it is outside and we were talking about this phenomenon (I had heard something similar) when I all of a sudden started to get a little bit scared.

It was starting to hurt!  Not so bad I couldn't talk through it or had to stop walking, but bad enough that I didn't really want to talk through my contractions and they were strong enough to where I could place my hand on my belly and feel it harden like a rock.

This time, when we walked back in to the center, we stayed there.  Debbie asked if I wanted a bath.  It was close to 1:30 and I was due for my second round of antibiotics and the bath sounded like an AWESOME place to spend some time hooked up to an IV.

We filled the tub up to the brim with hot water and O-M-G did it ever feel good to sink down into that tub!  Debbie mentioned it might slow down my contractions but if that happened, I didn't notice...they were coming a lot stronger now!  Charles told me was going to go get a sandwich.  At first I said OK but then thought twice and told him to stay (eat one of the 10 granola bars I had packed!!).  As I sat in that tub I started to think "Oh shit...things are starting to get really uncomfortable, and really fast!").  I was still able to talk through my contractions but I really didn't want to. 

At this time, Cherie came in to check on me and do a bathtub cervix check.  It all kind of goes blurry here.  I remember feeling a lot of pressure (like you would imagine a bowling ball sitting on your pelvic floor would feel) and not qute believing her when she said it was about time to push and I was dilated to almost 10 (whaaaaaat!!!!).  I climbed out of the bathtub and moved to the toilet and here is where my panic mode set in.

All of a sudden the pressure was intense and IT HURT.  All I could think of and feel was this insane pressure that would NOT. GO. AWAY.  But despite this, when Cherie told me I was ready to have this baby, I just could not wrap my head around it.

Maybe it was fear of the actual process (this HURT, people, and I hadn't even started pushing yet!!), maybe it was shock (how could I be ready to have this baby already??), or maybe it was just fear of the unknown (with Jack, I had an epidural and had to go on what other people told me - but I couldn't feel anything), but I can safely say that at this point in time all of my brave laboring and minimally-painful contractions went out the window and I FREAKED the "F" OUT!!

I don't remember if I started crying, but I was crying in my head.  I know I was telling everyone around me I was scared and I couldn't do this.  I actually believed it myself.  How could I push this kid out when it hurt this bad already?  There was no way.  She was going to get stuck, I was sure of it!

In what feels like a dream now, I somehow made it to the bed and onto the actual mattress.  All of a sudden people were materializing out of nowhere...Debbie, who had been there all along, was by my side, Cherie was at the end of the bed with another midwife behind her and someone with a camera (when labor had started I had told Charles "NO CROTCH SHOTS!!") stood at the foot of the bed taking pictures and not once did I even think to worry about how many crotch shots she was getting.  And, of course, Charles was in bed with me by my side the entire time. 

I actually thought I was going to die when I started pushing.  It was the most insane, out-of-this-world intense, painful thing I have ever experienced.  I really thought I was dying.  I am pretty sure I yelled this to everyone.  I know for sure I yelled at everyone that she was stuck and to GET. HER. OUT.

Three thoughts were crossing my mind, repeatedly, as this was all going on.

1. Everyone who told me it feels good to push and that pushing is the easy part LIED!!  They all lied to me.  This was the worst part.  This part SUCKED!!

2. I am not ever having another child as long as I live.

3. I was going to die. The baby was stuck and they were going to have to transport me to the hospital and I was going to ride in the front seat of someone's car with this baby's head half out of me in this incredible pain and I was going to die.

And then the contraction subsided and I was level-headed and joined everyone back in reality for a moment and regrouped.  And then the next contraction came and there I was again, thinking I was dying.

They asked if I wanted a mirror.  I said "NO".  They asked if I wanted to reach down and touch her head.  I said "NO" again (in hindsight, this would have really helped because then I would have maybe believed them all when they were telling me she was NOT stuck and she was coming out and I just needed to push a little more).  In my alternate--reality mind, I was trying to push but I wasn't making any progress.  It still hurt like a motha.

I don't really remember what Charles was doing.  He was by my side and that's all that mattered. 

I do remember pushing and then feeling the hugest relief ever...and sitting up and seeing that her head was out!!  The rest of her, however, was not.  Cherie told Charles to "catch" and he hesitated - I think he was a little bit unsure of what to do but I DID NOT CARE what he did as long as he got her out!!  I am pretty sure I said something of this effect to him.  I don't know what happened next, but between the two of us, we got her out.

She didn't even cry!  They put her right on my chest and covered her in warm towels and heated rice socks.  She was sticky, slimy and wiggly.  And it was love at first sight.

Unlike the hospital, they didn't take her away from me.  I didn't listen to my baby crying as she was poked and prodded and had goop rubbed into her eyes.  Instead, I got to cuddle with her and nurse her and love on her.  And I remember so clearly how I felt when she looked into my eyes for the first time and I realized that she was processing all of this and recognizing me for the first time.  Just like I had wondered for nine months what she'd look like and was finally finding out, she was placing my face with the voice she had been hearing for the last nine months.  It was a beautiful moment.

The next 30 minutes or so were a little unpleasant.  I had to get some stitches and to be honest, I was just plain tired of people messing with my vagina.  Luckily for me, Charles had a massive cramp in his hip around this time - this was a great diversion.  The whole thing was so surreal...I almost felt like I was a little bit in shock.

But look at what I got!

It's ridiculous now that I think about it, but once I was all stitched up and had my little girl safe and sound in my arms, I kept apologizing for being such a baby (of all things!) to Cherie and Debbie and Charles.  I felt like such a wuss, and I was apologizing - profusely - for being such a wimp and for carrying on like I did when I was pushing.  They assured me I was not screaming and it was all in my head, and explained that everyone thinks they are screaming when they really aren't screaming at all.  I don't know if this is true or not.  I am pretty sure I was loud and crying out (I did, after all, think I was dying...) but the point is, I can't believe that I was apologizing for being a wimp when I was pushing a kid out!  There's nothing wimpy about that.  Drugs or no drugs, c-section or vag, there is NOTHING wimpy about having a baby, no matter how it comes out.

After an hour or so Claire and I climbed into the bath and Charles and I washed her hair while she nursed (we kind of failed at this, I'm embarassed to admit how much soap we missed when rinsing...whoops).  I literally felt like I was glowing from inside and out.  I am not good enough with words to describe the emotions I was experiencing so I won't even try.  Suffice it to say I felt like I couldn't get any higher...I felt like I had climbed Mt. Everest, created the World's Greatest Creation, and won the lottery all in one afternoon.  I felt like a champion...I felt like a WARRIOR! 

Right away Claire nursed like a champ.  Within minutes I knew I was in better shape than I had been after Jack was born (I was able to pee ALL BY MYSELF after Claire was born...with Jack, I needed a nurse's assistance just to get out of bed for the first 24 hours!).  We felt like Claire had been part of our lives for a long time, not just a couple of hours.  She just fit right in, right away.  Charles and I knew immediately that we had made the right decision to have this baby at the Birth & Women's center rather than at a hospital. 

A couple of hours after she was born, I was sittig up in bed eating Potbelly (chicken salad with extra pickles on skinny wheat, YUM) with both of my babies next to me.  To say Jack was infatuated with his new sister would be an understatement.  He didn't want to leave her side.  I wish I had kept track of how many times he said "Baby Claire came out of Mama's tummy!" and "Baby Claire is cute!"  I think holding my two children together for the first time may have been one of the greatest moments of my life.

There's more...this birth story could go on for longer than I've already drawn it out...but I'm going to end it here.  Because I have literally been working on this for weeks - a sentence here, a paragraph there - and I am afraid I'll never find the time to finish it if I don't just end it, already.  And here's hoping I will remember all of the little details I left out so I can recite this to Claire ever year on July 21st!  :)

I will end this story with these (Claire, about 18 hours old, and Jack giving his sister a kiss the other morning in our new house - more on that later...)

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At August 21, 2012 at 9:48 AM , Blogger Jamie said...

Love this!! No matter how that baby comes out, it definitely is NOT easy!

At August 21, 2012 at 10:01 AM , Blogger Carrie said...

Nope! Even for someone who has an "easy" labor comparatively speaking (like I did) - it's still hard!


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