You know those annoying people who keep sending you photos of their babies? Now I can see why. As the parent, you think your kid is the cutest thing EVER to land on this planet. Never mind that newborns are usually not that attractive and make me think of Benjamin Button. I even said to my partner when I was still pregnant that I didn't want to share any photos of our baby until he or she was at least three months old so s/he could be sort of cute. Ha! I've shared photos of our little one from the day she was born and thought she was beautiful from the moment I saw her.
Also, as promised, and largely so I'll remember it, I wanted to share my birth story. It isn't for everyone, so don't feel obligated if you aren't interested. :-)
I should preface this with my assumptions going into birth:
1. I thought I was super tolerant to high levels of pain. I have a friend who swore a torn ACL was more painful than childbirth (not that she had experienced either). I tore my ACL and went skiing on it again, thinking it was fine. After my ACL surgery, I didn't take pain meds, either, thinking I'd be fine. I thought physical pain just didn't usually bother me that much.
2. I wanted an all-natural, pain medication-free, augmentation/induction-free birth. I figured if animals could do it, I could do it, too.
Well! As in my previous post, nature laughed at me. They tell you in birth classes to have a birth plan but that it's most important to just be flexible and go with the flow, and I'm glad I did.
As I said in my last post, I was sure my baby would come early. Instead, my contractions didn't start until I was almost 41 weeks pregnant (a week late). Trying to avoid chemical induction with pitocin (synthetic oxytocin), I started on all of the old wives' tales. Pineapple core? Ate it. Evening primrose oil? Took it. And so on. To no avail. At all. My baby was not to be rushed! Finally, on Tuesday, May 22nd, at forty weeks and six days of pregnancy, I felt my first contraction. It felt like someone was pushing down on my stomach, followed by mild cramping in my pelvis. I hadn't had any Braxton Hicks (practice contractions), but I still felt these were the real thing. Maybe wishful thinking, given my pregnancy seemed never-ending. But I was encouraged. If these were contractions, I could totally get through them.
The contractions came and went, and I had a relatively normal, busy day. By evening, they were picking up in both intensity and regularity, and they were a lot more painful than I expected. I consider my labor beginning around 8:30pm because that's when the contractions became intensely painful and more regular. My partner and I went to Trader Joe's to stock up on snacks, and I had to stop in the aisles when one would come. (It's funny-- we'd stocked up on snacks weeks earlier for the hospital, but we kind of ate them all... Oops.)
We went to bed early, but I couldn't sleep through the contractions. Thank goodness I had my yoga ball, as I discovered the only way I could get through the contractions was if I bounced on the ball and breathed through them. Lying in bed was the most painful position to endure a contraction, so I ended up just sitting on the ball and putting my head down on a pile of pillows on the bed so that when the contractions came, I could sit up and bounce/breathe through them.
My midwives had instructed me to call when the contractions were five minutes apart, lasting a minute, for an hour. Well, nature continued to laugh at me, as my contractions were lasting up to two minutes (ouch) but came in seven- to twelve-minute intervals.
Finally, around 2:30am, they came in six-minute intervals, and I called my midwives. I'd forgotten that they were supposed to be averaging five minutes apart for an entire hour. Darn. Time to wait some more. My partner had been sleeping until then, and he finally woke up. He kindly ran a hot bath for me and started getting our stuff ready for the hospital, and lying in a hot bath was the best feeling after over five hours of bouncing on that yoga ball. The pain was pretty excruciating-- and a surprise, since I wasn't expecting the pain to be unmanageable. (Friend who claimed a torn ACL was more painful than childbirth (cough cough, Yenda, cough cough), you were dead wrong.)
It seemed like forever, as it took another four hours for the contractions to finally qualify for five minutes apart, lasting a minute, for an hour. We left the house shortly after 6:30am, and I insisted on sitting on the yoga ball in the back of my minivan so I could bounce on the way to the hospital. This strikes me as quite funny now, but I'd been growing more and more weary of the sharp pains of contractions. My partner wasn't sure I'd be safe on the highway, but we did it anyway, and we were fine. Having the yoga ball was great-- it also cushioned me from the bumps in the road, and I was able to bounce and breathe through the contractions when they came.
It was also funny when we got to the hospital. We would be walking down the hall when a contraction would come, and my husband would hand me the yoga ball, and I'd sit and bounce wherever we were (right in front of the front door to the hospital, in the middle of a busy corridor, etc.) until it passed. When we got to the birthing center, my optimistic self thought I'd be dilated ten centimeters and ready to push the baby out. Imagine my great surprise and disappointment when they said I was two centimeters dilated.
Fortunately, they admitted us anyway, rather than sending us home (I loved our hospital's birthing center), and we got the last of the six birthing rooms. I'd hoped for one of the two rooms with a birthing tub or at least one of the two rooms with a shower-- but we got one of the little rooms with neither. And when you get the last room, you're just happy to have a room at all, so we didn't mind.
The nice thing about our hospital was that we could stay in the same room for everything-- pre-birth, actual birth, post-birth. I wonder why other hospitals move people around so much. In any case, my "high tolerance of pain" had disappeared, and it felt like Charley horse sharp pains every time I got a contraction, and I was utterly exhausted. I really didn't want an epidural (have you SEEN those needles? Egad! And they go in your spine?! No, thanks!), so the nurse suggested I try Demerol to "take the edge off" and give me a chance to get some rest. I remembered that the cervix usually dilates around a centimeter per hour, so it looked like I had another eight hours of contractions to get through before I would be able to push. I waved the little white flag of defeat and said I'd take the Demerol. I didn't know anything about it, and usually, I like to know what I'm putting in my body, but at that point, I just wanted to sleep more than anything else.
It did take the edge off, and I was able to rest a little, but I was still woken up by my contractions, and finally, when the nurse said the anesthesiologist was giving another woman an epidural and would be leaving the birth center soon-- and that it could take hours for him or another one to return-- I succumbed and said I just needed to sleep for a little bit. At that point, I would have done anything for even fifteen minutes of uninterrupted sleep.
I said I would take the epidural but really didn't want pitocin, and it turns out the Demerol actually slowed down my contractions so much that both my nurse and midwife said I'd have to have pitocin to get my contractions going again anyway. I was embarrassed and felt like I was letting my husband and myself down, having had this birth plan that was free of all pain meds and augmentations, but the baby's heart rate was good and strong all day and night, so I just let go of my plans and made peace with doing whatever it took to get this little baby out properly.
As it turned out, I think I made the right decisions. I ended up sleeping the ENTIRE day and night. (Did I mention I hadn't slept more than a few hours the night before the contractions started? I guess I was really tired, not having slept for a couple of nights and not having eaten anything for about 36 hours...) I was dilated to 10 cm by 8pm, but my midwives wanted to let me labor down (allow the baby to descend naturally into the pelvis on his/her own) until I felt the need to push. Turns out that didn't happen until four hours later, and the baby had moved down into a +3 or +4 position (3 or 4 cm below the pelvic floor). I pushed for an hour, and baby Aria was born. To us, she is perfect and the most beautiful thing on the planet.
Here she is again, a few hours after she was born, after having her first bath:
So, the short version of my labor was that we went to the hospital around 7am, I slept all day and most of the night, pushed for an hour, and got my perfect little girl around 4am. It wasn't what I had written in my birth plan, but it was a good experience. Not knowing whether we were having a boy or a girl was great motivation to get us through the birth-- and now that I have a little girl, I can admit I had secretly (and not so secretly) hoped I'd have a girl. Also, my midwives told me that if I'd been with a traditional OB, I would most likely have ended up with a C-section because I progressed so slowly, so I'm grateful that they were patient with me and my little one and allowed us to have our birth at our own pace.
So far, Aria has proven to be a dream baby. She's sweet and mellow and just like she was in utero-- calm. Also, she takes her time, just like she was born eight days after her due date, and she is patient. I love this little girl so much, it's mind-blowing, and I'd do anything for her. I'd hoped she'd be more like her sweet, mellow and patient father than like me (mischievous, fearless, hyper and talkative as a child), and so far, I think my wish has come true. Fingers crossed she stays this way.