Next week is Baby Week on Discovery Health. Behind every baby is an unbelievable story. This is so true. Every birth story is remarkable in its own way. Even though it would seem that my births were straightforward vaginal deliveries, the fact that my first baby was nine pounds, eight ounces was a surprise and a tremendous effort. Check out this preview video and more amazing birth stories on TV for Baby Week on Discovery Health Sunday-Friday, June 14-19 at 8P ET/PT. Can you imagine not knowing that you're pregnant until you have labor? Or not knowing that you are having twins? I gotta check out these shows. Also check out the other BlogHer birth stories featured on Discovery Health.
Now for Adam's story...
It was completely by luck that my husband Doug took this photograph of my insanely huge belly the night before Adam was born. Just looking at my tired face and painful red stretch marks reminds me that I'm done having children! I hadn't previously posted this photo on the Internet, because I was too embarrassed. Certainly not your picture perfect pregnancy. But then I thought that people might actually be interested in what a nine pound, eight ounce baby looks like before they are born. Of course I didn't know this going into labor, all indications pointed to a normal-sized baby. My weight gain, measurements and blood sugar readings were within the normal range throughout the pregnancy.
Adam was due on November 3rd, 2000. During my last OB visit a week before on October 27th, I was 2 cm dilated and my doctor asked me, "When do you want to have this baby?"
I asked, "I get to decide?"
"Yes, you decide. It's all up here," he replied pointing to his head.
Both Doug and I felt that Halloween would not be a good birthday (Adam begs to differ). Then I decided that November 1st would be a good date, easy to remember. At this point, I was still working full time despite my swollen ankles and huge waddle. Instead of taking any time off before the birth, I wanted to maximize my time off after the birth. On October 31st, I apparently did not seriously heed my decision to have the baby on November 1st, so I failed to check in my software code before leaving work.
At 2am that night, I awoke to contractions. I watched the clock to see how far apart they were. At first it was 6-8 minutes, and by 2:30am, it was 5 and then 4 minutes. At this point, I woke up Doug and spoke those clichéd words, "It's time." Apparently, this did not provoke panic and a mad rush to the hospital since first labors usually take a while. Doug simply got up and took a shower. I was kind of like, "What the heck? I'm in labor and you're taking a shower?" But it proved to be a wise choice given the day and night to follow.
We packed "the bag" and put extra towels on the car seat in case my water broke on the way. By 4:30am, we headed out into the eerily quiet night. I remember thinking - is this real or is this the Twilight Zone? And, we don't have a name for the baby yet! The hospital didn't even look awake, but they took us in after we pressed the intercom, just like they said they would during our birthing classes.
The nurse checked me and found that I was 4 cm dilated. She asked what I was during my last check up and decided, "OK, we'll take you." I thought, "What!! You were going to turn me away while I'm in labor??" My contractions were consistently 3-4 minutes apart. Hmmph!
By 8am, there was not much progress, so the doctor decided to break my water. It took a couple of nicks, but finally there was a flood of amniotic fluid that splashed on the floor despite all the pads that were put in place. I was shocked at the amount of water that came out! After that, the contractions were decidedly more painful, but I could still tough them out. My mother had a completely natural childbirth with me, but it lasted 24 hours and required forceps. I wasn't necessarily opposed to drugs, but I wanted to go as long as I could without them. A girlfriend told me to tattoo "epidural" on my forehead so that I could still point to it if I couldn't speak.
The next 8 hours went by in a blur. They wanted to put me on pitocin to speed up my dilation, so a nurse made a big production about putting the IV in. She brought over warm wet towels and jabbed the top of my hand for a good 10 minutes before getting it in. It still hurt after she put it in, but not nearly as much as the contractions, so I didn't complain. I made my calls to work, family and friends and tried to forget that I stupidly failed to check in my code the day before. We tried to get some rest during this time, so the shades were drawn and the room was dark.
Another nursing shift started and my new nurse was much more engaged and competent. She took one look at my IV and said it looked all wrong. She yanked it out and put in a new one in less than one minute. And it finally stopped hurting! Fantastic. She also wanted me to try different positions to help the labor along, or try taking a shower or a bath. I wanted none of that, I just wanted to lie on my back and rest between contractions. She was fine with that and didn't push me beyond my comfort zone.
At noontime, I agreed to have some Numorphan, the first step in drug relief. It was not long afterwards, that I woke up needing to throw up. And then I threw up again an hour later. And again after that. By 5pm, it was do or die time for the epidural block, so I finally agreed. I can honestly say, that my most painful wait in my life is the time between deciding to have the epidural and the time the anesthesiologist shows up. At this point, you have given up on the fact that you can withstand the pain, and the contractions are that much more unbearable.
The epidural block did not provide the instant relief that I was expecting. Sure things felt numb, but pain of the contractions still came right through. The doctor explained that it was the pressure, and not the pain that I was feeling. Pressure, pain, either way, the contractions were still quite intense. My anesthetic dosage was adjusted and finally by the time I was fully dilated, I could finally say that the pain was gone. The pressure was still strong, but it was dull.
At 8pm, 18 hours after my labor started, I was finally ready to push. I remember that a girlfriend told me that you need to push like you're making the biggest dump of your life. So I pushed like hell. The first hour of pushing didn't amount to much; changing positions didn't help either. And I was still throwing up during this process. The baby was also not quite rotated to the right position.
During the second hour of pushing, my doctor said, "You know, this is a really big baby, eight or nine pounds. You're going to have to think about a cesarean." Eight or nine pounds, really??? No one told me this!! And cesarean? Heck, I've been through 20 hours of labor and you want me to recover from that and a C-section? No thank you.
By the third hour of pushing, I definitely could not speak anymore. The doctor asked a few more times whether I wanted a C-section before the baby crowned, but I must have shaken my head no. I don't remember replying yes or no, but Doug said that I emphatically did not want it. The vitals for both the baby and me were fine. I was completely exhausted, but I was determined to GET. THAT. BABY. OUT. I did actually sleep between contractions, just like they show in the videos. And in between sleeping, I was throwing up. I was really thirsty and the the nurses offered me water or ice chips, but I knew that it would just make me throw up more. By the time the baby head started to show, they asked whether I wanted to see in a mirror. No thank you ma'am!! I couldn't even watch the birth videos during the birthing classes let alone my own va-jay-jay being stretched to ungodly proportions. Doug was thankfully not as squeamish and watched the whole thing unfold.
By the end, I had an entire cheering squad of doctors and nurses including the anesthesiologist. And finally, after nearly three hours, the baby's head crowned. Before his head came out, I was given an episiotomy, which thankfully I had no idea. I pushed and pushed and pushed until his head came out. I pushed and pushed and pushed some more, but his body was definitely stuck. Finally his shoulder peeked out and the doctor reached under his arm and pulled the rest of his body out. It was 10:46pm on November 1st, nearly 21 hours of labor with 3 hours of pushing. Unfortunately, I incurred a large tear with that last pull, but what a relief when he finally came out. Whew! (Just writing this story gives me the cramps). The doctors offered Doug to cut the umbilical cord and he asked, "Do I need gloves or anything?"
When they weighed him, we were shocked that he came it at nine pounds, eight ounces. And he measured 22 inches long! Not a fat baby, just huge all around, perfectly proportioned at 95th percentile height and weight. He was definitely cooked enough. When they first put him on my chest, I was surprised at how heavy he was. My first thought was that he looked just like my father. I was so relieved that the birth was over, I figured that I could finally have something to drink, so I asked for some ice chips. But my body wasn't quite ready and after 15 minutes, I threw up again. I lost count of how many times I threw up in total, it was around 8 or 9 times.
The first time they propped me up to nurse my baby, I felt wow, this is a weird sensation and then I felt faint. They quickly whisked him away and laid me back down. My blood pressure was around 80/40, but they felt it was fine. I felt like I was barely alive. At this point, the delivery nurse (3rd shift by this point), told me that she had been delivering babies for 22 years and she has never seen the incredible determination that I showed that night. Never once did I complain or show any signs of giving up. She was extremely impressed that I delivered that sized baby as my first. I was thinking, "What? Not all first deliveries are like this?" Apparently I had braced myself for the worst and made it through with flying colors.
The next day, I felt much better, but I still felt quite weak trying to walk around. My delivery was indeed difficult, but I was thankful that I didn't have to contend with the recovery for a cesarean as well. And of course I forgot enough of the experience to have a second child.
[Author's note: You know that I've finally embraced "mommyblogging" when I post a birth story... I may even try to get Dova's birth story up for the "Labor Day" meme]