I’ve decided to go a slightly different direction for this final post in Claire’s Birth Story series: a timeline with descriptions. I’m so glad that I wrote down the times and details when it was still fresh in my mind, because I can hardly remember any specifics now!
10:00am — Admitted to labor & delivery at 4cm dilated.
The contractions continued to stay consistent at 2-3 minutes apart, each lasting 1 minute. (Note that the frequency of labor contractions is measured by the time between the start of each contraction, not the length of time between the end of one and the beginning of another. So in reality, I only had about 1-2 minutes between each contraction to breathe easy and rest.)
The nurse who had checked my NST results had mentioned that my contractions were strong for where I was in the labor process, and boy was she right! Each contraction seemed to grow stronger and stronger, and soon I was moaning through the waves of pain and feeling sorry for whoever was rooming in the vicinity.
J was at a loss as to what he can do to help, because as much as I wanted his support and to be able to hold and squeeze his hand, whenever a contraction started I did not want anything touching me. So whenever a contraction started and I started to breathe heavily again, he would take my hand and encourage me to squeeze it…only to be met with a “GET! AWAY! FROM! ME!!!!”
It was also at this time that my father visited. (My parents could not visit at the same time because of the store. My mother would visit later that day.) I felt bad for him — I really did. I’m sure it distressed him greatly to see his eldest daughter writhing and moaning in pain, and as I always like to look strong and well put-together in front of him, I felt sorry that he could not see me later, when the epidural had kicked in. He left after staying only for 15 minutes, and I can’t say that I blamed him.
During my short admittance questionnaire, the nurse had asked me if I had planned on getting an epidural, and my answer was a resounding YES! ASAP! However, the anesthesiologist preferred that I be as hydrated as possible so they wanted an entire bag of IV fluid inside me first. So as I continued to endure one contraction after the next, I kept looking over to see how much saline solution was left in the bag.
An hour and fifteen minutes later, it was empty. I barked at J to go get a nurse.
“I’m ready for the epidural now!” I told her.
“Great. Let me replace the bag with a new one, and as soon as the anesthesiologist is finished administering the epidural next door he will come over here.”
“Isn’t there another anesthesiologist?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, he’s at an emergency c-section at the moment.”
Frickity frick frick! I told myself that I could wait another 15 minutes or so, but it wasn’t for another 45 minutes that the anesthesiologist would arrive.
12:00pm — The anesthesiologist arrives to administer the epidural, 5cm dilated
The anesthesiologist entered the room and I said a short prayer of thanks under my breath. He described the procedure and asked if I had any questions, had me sign some forms, and kicked J out from the room.
(Apparently, most hospitals no longer allow dads to stay in the room while the epidural is administered due to the high instance of men fainting from watching the procedure.)
The nurse who was assisting asked me to sit on the side of the bed, legs dangling down, and curl my back down as much as possible while imagining the bones of my spine slowly separating to make room for the needle.
The only problem was, I’m a fairly petite person with a short torso to match and a huge belly. My belly was in the way of my being able to fully curl my back.
In addition, you know how some people’s spines are fully visible with the bones sticking out? Mine is the exact opposite of that, and the anesthesiologist confessed to having some trouble finding the space between the bones.
He would administer a local anesthetic, and as the numbness set in he’d insert the giant epidural needle. I was to hold completely still and say something if I felt any pain (aside from the giant needle being inserted to my spine, that is). Soon I’d feel a lightening bolt of pain shooting up and down just left of my spine…and the anesthesiologist would stop and start over.
This happened five times.
I honestly didn’t blame the guy. My body was making his job difficult, and all I could think about was the blissful pain-free existence that the epidural would bring.
On the sixth try, I felt a tingly sensation just right of my spine instead of the shooting pain on the left. The doctor then told me that my right leg would feel warm soon…and as soon as I felt the temperature rise I felt the oncoming contraction start to dissipate right away. Success!
The anesthesiologist handed me a button connected to a wire and instructed me to press the button if I started to feel uncomfortable again. What he had given me is a walking epidural, with the catheter that delivers the drugs kept in place. I can potentially walk around (I didn’t — my lazy arse stayed in bed the whole time) and control my level of pain with the button.
I felt human again.
2:30pm — 6-7cm dilated, water broken
After I received the epidural, things got kind of…well, boring. You could see the contractions continuing to come on the monitors, but I honestly did not feel anything and I felt like I was just sitting up in bed. Soon, J and I were joined by my mother, my sister, and my sister-in-law, and we chatted away while watching reruns of Scrubs on my laptop.
At 2:30pm, the on-call doctor from my OB practice arrived to check on my progress. (There are three OBs at this practice, with one being on-call at the hospital at all times. I had made sure to have appointments with all three throughout my pregnancy so that I would be comfortable with all of them.) She checked to discover that I was 6-7cm dilated, and announced that it was time to break my water.
Manually breaking the water was exactly like what I had read: the doctor inserts a long skinny rod that resembles a crocheting needle, moves it around until the water breaks. It was not uncomfortable at all; all I felt was a sudden gush of liquid flowing out from between my legs. After a nurse cleaned me up, it was as if nothing had happened at all.
4:30pm — 7cm dilated, pitocin started
My OB returned two hours later to see that I had not progressed much at all, and so recommended pitocin to get things moving.
I was a bit concerned, because I had read that pitocin can lead to fetal distress and increase the risk of requiring a c-section, so I voiced my opinion. However, the doctor explained that at 7cm, that risk is very minimal and that they will start me on a very low dose.
I agreed, and minutes later a nurse arrived with the pitocin and added it to my IV drip. It was as simple as that.
7:00pm — 7-8cm dilated, pictocin increased
The doctor returned at 7pm to check on my progress and I had barely dilated another centimeter. Since the baby had not reacted adversely to the pitocin, the doctor decided to up the dose.
It was at around this time that J started a Facebook poll to see if the baby would be born that night or the next morning; or more specifically, “Will the baby be a September or October baby?”
We asked the doctor for her opinion, and she replied that since I am a first time mother, my labor will most likely progress slowly and the baby will be born October 1. I was a bit bummed to hear that, because I preferred to have a September baby instead (for the sole reason of my liking odd numbers better than even numbers).
By this time, I was starting to get pretty tired so I decided to take a nap…
8:30pm — almost fully dilated (rim)
I was awoken an hour and a half later by my doctor, who was preparing to head on home for the night (“Don’t worry — I only live five minutes away!” she reassured me) and wanted to make sure I was doing okay.
“You’re almost fully dilated!” she exclaimed. “Well I guess I’m not going home…which works out just fine! You have a rim on your right side, so let’s wait a bit for that to go away.”
She explained that women do not always dilate evenly, and that is what had happened in my case. She had me lie on my right side to help the rim subside, and that is how I remained for another half an hour or so.
9:10pm — fully dilated
When the doctor returned, I was fully dilated. “Do you feel any pressure in your pelvic region?” the doctor asked. Actually, now that she mentioned it, I was starting to feel like I needed to poop with each coming contraction. “Let’s get everything prepared,” she said.
Then she looked on over to J and added, “Daddy, we still don’t know if we’ll have a September or October baby yet.”
The doctor left the room to change into a gown, and the nurse began to get everything ready for delivery by adding a “catching” table to the end of my bed, turning on the warming lamps above the initial examination and cleaning station, setting out other equipment, etc.
9:20pm — one “practice” push
When the nurse was done preparing the room for delivery, she asked me if I wanted to practice pushing. Since I had not taken any childbirth classes, I really didn’t know what to expect, or how to push. (All I knew from girlfriends was that I needed to push like I’m taking a dump.)
“Tuck your chin close to your chest, pull up your legs by pulling on your knees, and push like you’re making a bowel movement. You will push three times with each contraction. Each push will last 10 seconds, then take a quick breath, and push again. Remember to make each inhalation between the pushes as short as possible — you don’t want the baby to move back up!”
Originally, I had wanted J by my head as I pushed because I didn’t want him to see all that gore. However, the nurse encouraged him to hold my other leg up from a position that allowed him to see everything and I found myself not protesting.
When the next contraction came (once again, I didn’t feel any pain…just a feeling like I needed to take a crap), I pushed just as the nurse had described. She exclaimed, “Whoa! The baby’s making her way down! I don’t think you need any more practices.”
9:30pm — start pushing
The doctor finally arrived again and we were ready to roll! She positioned herself at the foot of the bed, with the nurse on my left side and J at my right. When the next contraction started, I started to push…
I know I might get flamed for saying this, but I didn’t find pushing that hard. For me, the hardest part was holding my breath for 10 seconds straight while exerting pressure.
I pushed through 4 contractions for a total of 12 pushes. I felt the doctor massaging my perineum and slowly guiding my labia to the sides. I had no idea if the baby was even moving — the pushing was that easy for me!
As I started the last set of pushes I started to feel immense pressure. During the 11th push I suddenly felt that pressure “pop,” and I’m guessing this is the point where the baby’s head cleared. As I pushed one last time the doctor said, “Jenny, look down and see your daughter!” as she pulled her out.
9:35pm — Claire is born!
The baby was barely out of my body when I heard strong wailing. Was that…my DAUGHTER? They handed J a pair of scissors to cut the umbilical cord, and placed the baby on my chest.
I’m sorry to say that the first thought that entered my mind as my daughter was placed on my chest was “Eww.” She was slimy, covered in…stuff, and was bloody. Her nose was squashed and she had a really bad conehead. She was also screaming her little head off which made me feel helpless and defeated.
They then whisked her away to wipe her clean and perform tests. This was all done in the same room so I was able to watch…however, I was in a daze at this point and could only look up at the ceiling.
In the meantime, the doctor delivered the placenta (which I didn’t even feel) and started to stitch me up. I asked what the damage was, and the doctor replied that I had one second-degree tear and a couple of very minor tears. She spent about 15 minutes stitching me up while the nurses continued to attend to Claire.
The nurses informed us that our baby was 19″ long and weighed 6lb 7oz. She did not require breathing assistance of any kind — which they told us that many babies her size need — and performed a 9/9 on her APGARs.
As soon as the baby was diapered and swaddled, they handed her to J to hold while I continued to be stitched up. I lied in bed watching my husband with our daughter for the first time. He wiped away the tears that fell from his eyes and stared in amazement at her.
When the doctor announced that she had finished, the nurses wiped me clean and J came over with Claire, placing her on my chest.
“Hi baby,” I whispered to her. “I’m your mommy. You were in my belly for almost ten months. I’m so happy to meet you…”
(Almost) 4 Weeks Later:
It’s amazing how they change so fast, isn’t it? I am slowly growing to love my daughter with all my heart.