As I sit here typing, Elijah is already 1 week old. I cannot believe how fast time goes. I am already getting weepy about how he is growing up too fast! (I'm sure postpartum emotions play a role in that!). I really want to get his birth story down while it is still fresh in my mind as it was the most incredible day of my life. It is also going to be the longest post ever. Rather than break it into pieces, I'm going to put it all here....feel free to skim or read it all! But I want to get it all down and always be able to remember every part.
I guess it really started on Thursday the 8th. I was having some period-like cramps throughout the day. I stayed pretty busy at work, but when I got home they really got to me and I laid down most of the afternoon and evening. I wasn't sure what they were because they were pretty consistently there. I tried to time them a bit, but it was hard to tell when they started and stopped. That night I dreamt about my water breaking and going into labor all night. When I was up 45 times going to the bathroom, I briefly considered calling into work, but decided against it.
So Friday the 9th I went into work. By then I was starting to feel pretty miserable. My teaching assistant said she could see it on my face and I have never looked like that before. That was pretty telling to me. I tried to time the what I was beginning to realize were probably contractions, but again I couldn't because it was pretty steady and hard to tell when they started and stopped. Waves would be more painful than others, but difficult to time. I also wasn't even sure if they were contractions or just Braxton Hicks. It is also difficult to time contractions when you are playing Memory with preschoolers! I said to my teaching assistant, "I don't know if I'm being wussy and should just stay here or if I'm being stupid and should go home?". She voted for go home based on how I apparently looked. My friend Bridget sees my kids on Friday afternoons and was going to be in the building all afternoon, so I decided that since my class could be well cared for without putting anyone out too much, I would go home at lunch. Of course everyone was all excited when I left, but I said I might be back Monday if I felt better over the weekend (since my plan had been to work until he came)! I just didn't want to get all excited and then look silly if he hung around on the inside for another week and a half!
I went home and wasn't even really hungry. I laid down in bed right away. In an odd coincidence, Adam's job for the second half of the day was cancelled, so he got home about the same time I did. I think I ate a banana he brought me (which ended up being my last food until the next morning). I again tried to time the contractions, thought they were maybe 7 minutes apart, but decided to take a nap about 11:50. At about 12:20 I woke up and felt this "pop" two times deep in my body. In an instant I thought, "That was odd. It didn't feel like a kick. Could it be my water breaking?" and then I immediately felt the gush. I leapt out of bed (None got on the bed!? I guess I am a fast leaper!) and ran to the bathroom. My clothes were soaked and it got on the floor. Now, I've heard stories of women peeing themselves and thinking it was their water breaking because at that point in pregnancy, who knows. But I was confident it was my water breaking. There is no way there was that much pee inside me when I went to the bathroom right before my nap. I texted Adam from upstairs "My water broke!" and he came flying up!
I couldn't believe it! I had just been telling my co-workers that morning that there was no need to worry about my water breaking at school because only 15% of women have their water break before active labor. Good thing I went home! My students would have been awfully surprised by my water breaking in the middle of teaching them!
At that point I tried to lay down and time the contractions because I knew they would ask if I called the doctor office, but I really couldn't and they were more painful. I called the office and they said to definitely head in to Labor & Delivery. I asked if I could shower first and she said "a quick one". So Adam and I both showered and packed the last minute items in our hospital bags. It felt so surreal. This was it! No question about it. This wasn't just going in for suspected contractions! My water broke so that meant I was having a baby in the next 24 hours! We took a picture of 39 +4 and then headed out.
When we got to the hospital about 2:30, we got all checked in and I wore the gown and got hooked up to the monitors. They did the test to see if my water really broke. I told Adam if they said "no" I was going to ask them to run the test again because I was so sure. Sure enough, 10 minutes later (at 3:20) the nurse came back and said that was it. We were going to have a baby! I was having slightly more intense contractions, but nothing I couldn't talk through still.
They checked me about 4:00 and I was at almost 4 cm and almost 90%. Once we knew this was *it*, I changed into my birthing skirt (there will be a separate post about that) and asked for the wireless monitors. I was sitting on the birthing ball and had just finished telling Adam it was way too small when the nurse came in and noticed the same thing. So they got me a bigger one without even needing to ask. The whole time everyone was so supportive. Every nurse we had was great, but the one who was with us from 7:00 until the morning was an angel. The doctor on call was one from my practice I didn't know and she was so fabulous the whole night. We showed them our birth plan and they said everything was absolutely no problem. They totally respected us wanting to do this med free and didn't push it or ask if I wanted an epidural later. They even advocated for us to any new people such as reminding them no Erythromycin for Elijah and getting a nausea patch later when I didn't remember to ask.
The last picture until he was born!
After that I was definitely not in any picture mode.
About 4:00 it was really starting to be painful. The contractions were coming pretty frequently and I couldn't talk through them. I may have sent a text using explicit language about how much it hurt. At about 5:00 it really kicked in and the contractions started coming more and more frequently. From about 5:00 on, the only way I could get through the contractions was to have Adam rub my lower back and push on my hips. I don't really remember much about 5:00-9:45 except horrible pain and Adam rubbing my hips and back. At 6:45 I was checked and was 6 cm, 100% and 0 station. I was happy that I had made 2 cm progress in that time because it made me feel like the contractions were really doing something. About that time the contractions were one on top of the other and were lasting around 3 minutes. Sometimes I would get a 30 second break before the next one, but most of the time by the time it ended, the next one would start. I did ask the nurse at one point if there were any other options for pain relief besides the epidural and she told me about one drug (I don't remember the name). I asked about side effects and she said it can make you feel tipsy like a few shots of tequila. I do not like that feeling, so I decided against it. I spent some time on the birthing ball, but most of the time standing up, rocking, and leaning on the table. I was in a zone and just leaned and rocked while Adam rubbed my back and pushed on my hips. I was also in a zone moaning to get through each one. I do believe I got rather loud. I don't really know. Adam was truly amazing throughout the whole process. I couldn't have asked for a better coach. Even though his hands were ready to fall off after pushing on my hips for 5 hours, he kept it up and didn't complain at all. I'm so lucky!
At 9:00ish I was 9 cm and about 9:30 I started really really feeling the urge to push. She checked me and I was complete (10cm) and ready to go. At that point everyone said this baby was coming within the hour. I tried pushing in a variety of positions and I was able to see the top of his head. When we checked in they asked if I wanted the mirror and I said I wasn't sure. But when it came down to it, having the mirror was super motivating. At about 10:50, my contractions seemed to be slowing down, so I agreed to try some Pitocin (the smallest amount) to get things going again. I'd had the heplock put it, but up until this point nothing actually attached to it. My contractions really started to pick up again and I kept pushing. I was starting to feel a little discouraged because I didn't *feel* like I was making progress. The nurse assured me that I was pushing really well and it can take up to 3 hours sometimes. I asked for her to count for me while pushing because it really helped me focus and concentrate on what I was doing. I also remember saying that I thought the whole point of not having an epidural was to have more effective pushing. My nurse pointed out that was true and could I imagine if I'd had the epidural what it would have been like.
Continuing to push in a variety of positions, they told me it seemed like his head was having a hard time "making the turn". I still don't really understand anatomy enough to know what that means! The doctor said it seemed like he might be facing the wrong way: occiput posterior or "sunny side up". (Later we did learn that was the case. And he wouldn't have made it out by pushing.) She said that it was really good that I had labored moving around and standing up, but we should try pushing in positions to get him to turn like side lying and all fours. Side lying was PAINFUL, but I tried it on both sides to get him to turn. I continued to try pushing in recline, squatting and all fours. As it got closer to midnight, I was really starting to feel discouraged .They assured me there was still time, it hadn't even been 3 hours yet, and I was doing great.
I am so glad that we took the Bradley classes because not only did we learn a ton about childbirth, pregnancy and a pregnant woman's body, but we learned so many strategies that got us through a rough active labor and 3 hours of pushing totally med free. Adam was a confident supportive coach who was able to guide me to try different things. He knew what would be supportive to me and what wouldn't. I had resources to fall back on even when I wasn't really logically thinking, such as abdominal breathing, moaning, and staying upright.
About 12:30, the doctor checked again during a push. Then she started "the talk". Though we could see his head while pushing, he hadn't made any progress in the last two hours. She said he wasn't in distress and I could try pushing another hour if I wanted, but might want to think about a c-section. It seemed like his head just wasn't able to make it through and she even wondered how much of his head we were seeing or if it was just the swollen top of his head. He wasn't even close enough to try forceps or the vacuum (which freaked me out anyway). I was so tired and discouraged at that point. Knowing I had worked that hard and made no progress in the last two hours really made the decision easy. I turned to Adam to see what he thought because I wanted to make sure I wasn't just "giving up" because I was tired and he agreed. We didn't want to push another hour and risk sending him into distress and just wearing me out even more. If progress wasn't happening when I was working so hard, the answer seemed clear. So at that point we decided to move forward with the c-section. I asked the doctor if we could have a gentle c-section and have him skin to skin right after and still try to nurse within the hour and she said definitely, as long as everything went well. On one hand, I couldn't believe after going through the entire thing med free I was going to have a c-section, but on the other, I knew it was right.
Next came the worst hour ever. Though we had decided on the c-section, my body didn't know that. They turned off the Pitocin, but I was still contracting hard. And I couldn't help but push through the contractions. That's when I started to get more overwhelmed emotionally and kept saying I just wanted it to stop. My nurse continued to be there for me and reassure me and make sure that things were moving quickly. She even called the anesthesiologist at one point to make sure he was on the way when it didn't seem like he was. They finally wheeled me down to the operating room. Adam waited in the room next door while they prepped me. At that point I was feeling really good about the decision (the tough emotions came a couple days later). The doctor even checked me as I laid on the operating room table to make sure all that pushing in the last hour hadn't been the trick to get him to move. No luck.
In the operating room, my body continued to tell me to push as the anesthesiologist was prepping me for the spinal block. It was just terrible trying to sit still for that while contracting. My doctor held on to me on one side while the nurse held on to me on the other side while I moaned and cried through the contractions while trying not to move. Apparently next door Adam could hear everything and was worried about how I sounded by that point. Poor Adam. Last they had me lay down on the table with my legs straight out. I was crying that I couldn't do it because it was too painful. But there was something about your legs remembering the last position they were in, so they needed to be straight otherwise when I came out of it, they would want to be bent. So they held down my legs while I cried until the medicine took effect.
But once it took effect? Sweet, glorious relief! It was incredible. Adam came in the operating room and thought I was drugged up because I was suddenly chatty and joking around. The nurse assured him that I wasn't drugged, I just wasn't in pain anymore! Adam sat by my head and they started the c-section. It is such an odd feeling to feel like they are poking and prodding at your belly, but to know they are really cutting your insides completely open. I asked, "Whatcha doing over there?" at one point and she told me they were just getting ready to cut into my uterus. When they started to pull him out, Adam peeked around the curtain and saw them pulling him out at 1:35 am on May 10.
And then he cried. And my heart exploded and came back together twice the size it was before, filled with love for this little guy I hadn't even seen yet. I started to cry immediately. They were commenting that he was really big and had really big feet. They brought him to the table and weighed him and surprised everyone when he was only 7 pounds 10 ounces. Adam got to touch him and take some pictures of him there. He had the opportunity to cut what was left of the cord, but he politely declined. My doctor immediately reminded everyone that I wanted him skin to skin and they brought him to Adam who got to hold him and then laid him on my chest. I was able to hold him against my chest for quite some time. He was slipping a bit, so we made him more comfortable and he settled right in. He was warm and snuggly and I was head over heels in love. When it was time to start finishing me up, Adam got to go in the recovery room with Elijah. They took his length and did the Vitamin K shot. Adam got to be right with him and when he touched him, Eli grabbed his finger and held on tightly. They finished me up and then wheeled me in. I got to have him right away again and we were able to try nursing the first time less than an hour after he was born.
After hanging out in recovery for about 2 hours (now 4:00 am), our new family of 3 headed to our room. My family was able to join us and come meet the newest member of our family. My parents had been waiting in the waiting room since about 6:00 pm and my sister arrived (from Egypt!!) about 8:00. My labor had been so rough, so I didn't want to see anyone, so they had all just been waiting there hanging out, having a picnic and playing 20 questions. Apparently when they found out about the c-section, they took a nap in my dad's car since they knew it would be a couple hours. My poor sister had traveled 20 hours and then waited all that time in the waiting room! But we were happy Elijah had listened and waited for her!
We headed to bed about 5:00 am. But I couldn't sleep. After all of that excitement and emotion, I laid in bed and texted people the story and stared at our new little miracle!