On Wednesday evening, August 8th, I wasn't feeling well when I got home from work. We rushed right back out the door almost as soon as we arrived to take Junior to his swim class. After getting home around 7:20pm or so we had a quick dinner (Ric.e Kr.ispies for Junior with a banana, and bean and cheese quesadillas for Mr. Amen and me). I still wasn't feeling quite myself so I went to lay down at 8pm. I quickly fell asleep and stayed there for the rest of the night.
Around 2am, I woke up having mild contractions. No big deal, I thought, I had been having contractions for weeks. Junior cried for me, so I went in his room to lay down with him until he went back to sleep. At about 2:40am, I crawled out of his bed and wandered out into the kitchen. I couldn't sleep so I checked the blogs, did some online reading and then headed back to bed around 3:30am. The contractions were not very strong and were only coming every 20 minutes or so. I figured they'd pitter out eventually, like they'd done so many times already.
We got up and got ready for the day at our usual time. I was still having contractions and told Mr. Amen that I thought I was potentially in early labor. His response, classic Mr. Amen, "OK, well tonight then we really need to clean up our room and dust in there." I politely told him, "I don't know if there will be a 'tonight'. Honey, I don't think you're listening to me, I said, I think I'm in labor. Today could be the day."
I dropped Junior off at daycare and headed back to our house. My mom was coming to pick me up at 8am to take me to the hospital for my scheduled non-stress test and ultrasound. For some reason, my family doesn't trust me to be alone at the end of a pregnancy. They have this strange fear that I won't call them in time or that I'll drive myself to the hospital saying I didn't think I was in "real" labor. They know me well.
My mom arrived at the house right on time and took one look at me and pronounced me in labor, with a quick, "You look terrible, you're in labor." We left for the hospital and they were running far behind so we had the ultrasound first. Baby girl was being quite uncooperative and waited to show off her mad breathing skillz until the last 30 seconds of the test. They weren't ready for me in the non-stress room yet, so we went to sit in the waiting room. While we were there I was having more contractions, maybe every 12-15 minutes. They were getting more intense and my mom thought it would be funny to take a picture of me during one and send it to my sister and dad, telling them that she thought I was in labor. She thought it would also be a good warning to my sister to re-evaluate her life plans (she has mentioned AI to have a baby next year and she isn't married). The picture was truly horrifying - I looked like a manatee passing a bowling ball.
Anyhow, they finally got me in for the non-stress test. This test, if you aren't familiar, consists of mom sitting in a recliner with two monitors on her belly - one listening to the baby's heart beat, the other measuring mom's contractions. There's also a little button mom is supposed to push when baby kicks. Non-stress...just sit back and relax. While I was sitting there I had several contractions probably 8-10 minutes apart and I was hoping they would see that I was in labor and keep me. When the nurse came in, I said, "I'm having pretty good contractions." She shrugged and said, "Not too impressive, but we'll see what the doctor says." The on-call doctor from my practice came in and looked at the strip and said I could leave. I said, "But I'm having good contractions." She responded that they weren't that good and that I could always come back if they got closer together or worse. I told her that I really thought I was in labor and asked when I should come back exactly. She said when they are 5 minutes apart or if I am really uncomfortable. I asked, "even if I have a history of dilating quickly? I am a VBAC." She sort of laughed at me and said to come back when they're worse and sent me away.
Of course, here in Michigan, where we've had a sweltering summer of
weather in the 90s without a break, it was rainy and in the 60s. I was
sweating though, so my breezy cotton skirt and tank top were just fine
with me. My mom and I left and went to an outdoor mall to shop for nursing pajamas (yes, I waited until the last minute...I had three nursing night gowns, but they all shrunk). While we were in the store I would have to stop walking and talking with each contraction; my mom was dutifully timing them on her watch. She didn't say anything about how far apart they were unless I asked...they were still 8-10 minutes apart, but getting stronger.
While we were shopping, I saw night gowns that reminded me of my grandmothers, both of whom are deceased. I couldn't control myself and started crying. Ridiculous because neither of them were particularly good grandmothers, not affectionate or caring, but still I cried because I missed them.
We went to lunch and when we got there my mom said it was my "last meal." I found that funny, thinking it was probably false labor and would stall out any minute.
After lunch was over, my contractions were a good 7-8 minutes apart and still getting stronger. I called Mr. Amen, who was going to meet me at our doctor's office for my 39 week appointment, and asked him to stop at the house and bring our labor bag...just in case. While I was on the phone with him, my mom saw a friend from her church and said, "It's good to see you, but I can't talk, my daughter is in labor." I was totally embarrassed, because I still thought I was being overly dramatic and that there was no way I was in labor. I mean, I had just gotten sent away from the hospital.
We arrived at the doctor's office and sat down in the waiting room. Mr. Amen arrived a few minutes late, but we waited another half hour before seeing the doctor. In the examining room I was telling Mr. Amen about my crying episode at the store and started crying all over again. The doctor walked in and asked Mr. Amen what he had said or done to me to make me cry (he was joking); then he said he's have to send me out the back way because he didn't want me crying through his waiting room frightening the other patients. It made me laugh. I said that I thought I was in early labor and he went to check me but I was having a contraction (he could see my stomach all balled up) so he gave me a minute or two for it to pass then he checked me. I was at 4-5cm and he asked when was the last time I had an ultrasound or non-stress test. I told him I was just at the hospital and they didn't believe that I was in labor and had sent me away. He said, "well, they shouldn't have sent you away. You are in labor and a VBAC so we have to have you on the monitors. Go straight to the hospital, I will call them to let them know you are coming." Our baby was coming!!
We were really excited and couldn't believe it was here. I threw my skirt back on and we quickly went out to get my mom. We stopped at the bathroom again on our way out and I gave my mom my purse to take home. I called daycare to let them know that my mom would be picking up Junior and my husband called work to let them know he wasn't coming back. I called my dad and my brother and sister to let them know we were in labor and headed to the hospital. I also called our doula, Bonnie, and told her we were going to the hospital. She lives about an hour away from the hospital and I had put her on alert before the doctor appointment so she could be ready to leave if we needed her.
We arrived at the hospital at 2:15pm and were getting settled in our Labor, Delivery and Recovery room. Mr. Amen took a picture of me in front of the clock and I was smiling, but as soon as the flash went off, I doubled over with a contraction. It took forever to get changed and through the admittance questions. Our doula, Bonnie, arrived at about 3:15 or 3:30 and she and Mr. Amen were a fantastic support team. The doctor (the same one who had sent me home earlier) finally came in at 4pm to check me and break my water. I was in the middle of a contraction when she said what she was going to do so I just agreed. My husband and Bonnie said that they thought I had talked to Dr. Greene (my doctor) about not having my water broken. I said "yes" because I was still in the middle of a contraction and couldn't really focus. Bonnie and Mr. Amen were pushing on my back in a strange way saying, "you talked about this with Dr. Greene, didn't you?" Finally, the contraction was over and I snapped out of it, "yes, I told Dr. Greene I didn't want my water broken. I want to have it break on its own." The doctor seemed irritated and said she would just check me instead. I was 6cm dilated and 80% effaced. After she was done checking me she said, "This is where your labor stalled out last time. I'll come back at 6 to check you again to see if you've made any progress. Don't get your hopes up." Ahhh...the bedside manner...if only every doctor could be so kind and compassionate.
From 4pm to 5pm, I was up out of bed doing lunges during contractions, leaning over the birthing ball, which was perched on the hospital bed, and on all fours in the hospital bed rocking back and forth. At one point, Bonnie was doing "dimple presses" on my lower back during a contraction and when it was over, asked if it was helping. I said it made the contraction pain worse, but that I liked it because the pain meant it was doing more. She just laughed and said I was cute...she didn't know what to do with a crazy person like me.
At 5pm, I was in so much pain. I had gone completely natural up to this point. I had had an epidural from almost the first moment the pitocin started with my son. I hadn't really experienced labor pain, so I didn't know how rough it would get. This time, I didn't have pitocin because labor was going great all on its own, but I also didn't have any pain medicine. I started to say that I didn't think I could do this anymore. With each contraction, I just said, "No, no, no, no, no, no" over and over again. Even though, in my head, I realized I was in transition, I couldn't stop myself from asking for something to take the edge off the pain. The doctor had to check me before I could have anything. She said I was at 8cm dilated and 100% effaced. I was offered IV pain medicine or an epidural. I asked for the IV medicine because I didn't think I could sit still for the epidural and even though the pain was terrible, I was actually enjoying the feeling of going through labor. I wanted to experience it so badly, I just needed something to take the bite off the top off the contractions. The doctor said that if I wanted an epidural, I had to have it now, there wouldn't be another chance. I hesitated for a brief moment, and the thought ran through my mind that I didn't want to disappoint Mr. Amen after all the hard work he had done to ease my pain. I refused the epidural and instead opted for the IV medicine. It seems like it took forever for it to arrive and I just remember asking what what taking so long for the medicine to get there. I probably got the medicine at 5:40pm or so...and I don't think it did any good at all. The contractions continued to be just as painful as before they administered the medicine...so maybe that means that they were actually much worse and I didn't feel them getting worse. I really believe though that the medicine didn't have any effect on me until after I delivered.
Moments before 6pm, Mr. Amen asked the doula how we'd know when I was ready to push. Our doula said that I would start "singing a different song with each contraction." Just as she finished saying that a contraction started and instead of my incessant whining about the pain, there was just a low gutteral growl. Mr. Amen was shocked and Bonnie said, "See, I told you. A different song." The nurse quickly checked me and said that I had a tiny lip of cervix left and to not to push yet. She was telling me to pant, she was giving me a pant, pant, blow pattern to follow (hee, hee, whoooooo). I was so out of it, I was doing a blow, blow, pant pattern. I knew I was doing it wrong, but I just couldn't concentrate. Bonnie had a warm compress pressed up against my bottom. I remember thinking that it felt really good to have some pressure from the outside there. The doctor came in to check me and my water broke as she did so. There was meconium in the fluid, which means the baby had pooped already. They told me not to push so they could page the neo-natalogist to check the baby immediately after birth.
They had me turn onto my back and put my feet in the stirrups. I remember them trying to get the absorbent mats underneath me and them asking me to lift my bottom up off the bed to do so. I remember thinking it was so bizarre to have all these strangers in the room and I didn't even care that they were seeing parts of me that only my husband and doctor have ever seen - but at that point, I was beyond all attempts at modesty. I started pushing with each contraction. Luckily none of the nurses or doctor asked me to do the whole hold-your-breath-while-we-count-to-10-really-slowly thing. I had already told my doula that that wasn't going to work for me. I knew I would just wind up with a splitting headache and passing out if I had to hold my breath. With each push I just gave a low growl and let the air out. As I was pushing, my doula told me that she could see "an apple's worth of the baby's head." The only thought going through my mind when she said that was, "a crappy diabetic apple or a regular apple?" And that, my friends, is how gestational diabetes affected me. I just wanted to know what serving size we were talking about. Anyhow, it was encouraging to know that my pushing was effective because I felt like I didn't know what I was doing. My doula grabbed our camera and asked Mr. Amen if I wanted her to take pictures of the delivery. He said, "no, she does not want pictures of this." And he was right...I did not want pictures of that.
The doctor said I was going to tear, so she did an episiotomy. I had been scared for so long about the pain of the actual delivery, I was surprised by how much that part didn't hurt. There was no "ring of fire" pain or burning...in fact, I didn't even realize the baby's head was out until they told me. The nurse and Mr. Amen repositioned me and pulled my knees way back and told me to push one more time. With that push I delivered the shoulders and the baby slid out (a sensation I will never forget). The doctor placed the baby on my stomach and I opened my eyes to see flailing arms and legs and to hearing my baby screaming. I was surprised to see her there and all I said was, "there's a baby on me, there's a baby on me!"
Alice was born at 6:21pm after being at the hospital for about 4 hours. She weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz., and was 20 1/4 inches long.
We had asked for delayed cord clamping, but the doctor wanted to cut the cord right away to give the baby to the neo-natalogist to be checked out. Mr. Amen cut the cord and the baby was carted off. The doctor delivered the placenta and then took her time stitching me up (ouch!!). I had asked specifically to see the placenta (because I wanted to...I don't know why), but I didn't get to do that, the doctor discarded it immediately. Once they got baby all cleaned up they brought her over to me so I could nurse her.
I was up off the bed within a couple hours to take a shower, feeling pretty fantastic.
That's the story of how our little girl came into this world. It's been a whirlwind since then and I have several posts in the works about all the thoughts, emotions and challenges we've met so far.