I'm finally getting around to posting the story of Eli's birth! For me, childbirth was the most intense, powerful, and thrilling experience of my life so far. It was awesome and wonderful, and I'd definitely do it again. So let me begin at the beginning:
You know from my post that day that I had started having regular and painful contractions at about 1 am on Tuesday, May 20. However, at my doctor's appointment at 1 pm that day, the doctor said that I was only dilated to 2 cm, and it could still be days before I gave birth. We opted not to accept any interventions at that point, and so we came home hoping things would progress on their own.
My contractions continued to be regular and painful all day, and I used a technique called the "belly lift" from the book Back Labor No More. (I did not read this book, so I'm not recommending it, but the technique is also mentioned in the Hypnobabies program that I did.) Basically, the belly lift is just pulling back on your belly during a contraction. In the womb, a baby is tilted forward toward your belly button. So pulling back on your belly right about at the belly button puts the baby in a more vertical position and helps him descend and press directly on the cervix. It is also supposed to help turn a baby who is facing the wrong direction. So for most of my contractions that day, I pulled in on my belly hoping to get him to press down on my cervix and make it open!
Since my contractions were already frequent and intense, I didn't notice a vast increase in frequency or intensity of contractions for most of the day. I even managed to take a short nap in the early evening. By late evening, though, it was getting pretty bad. Even then, though, I wasn't sure whether they were actually getting worse or if I was just getting tired and worn out. Justin was amazing in massaging my back, helping me relax, and even timing contractions for me once they got too bad for me to time myself. Then at about 11 pm, I started to shake, almost like I was cold, but I wasn't. I just was having these tremors that really scared me - I felt like I was losing control of my body! I didn't know what was happening! So I managed to take that for about a half hour before I started to emotionally just lose it. So Justin timed my contractions then, 3 minutes apart, and we finally decided to go to the hospital. I had been reluctant to go to the hospital all evening because I was afraid they were just going to tell me "You're at 3 cm." and I knew that I would take whatever interventions they offered me at that point. I had been hoping that my water would break, which would be a clear indication that it was time to go. Thankfully, we didn't wait until that happened, you'll see why later... But by this time I had had enough, and Justin could tell that I needed to go. So we made all the preparations (The car was already packed because we were planning on that day being IT!) and left, arriving at the emergency room right at midnight.
I am surprised at how calm I was through all the check-in and everything. I guess it was pretty surreal, like this wasn't actually happening. Plus, I was pretty focused on getting through the contractions. And I was still scared that I hadn't made any progress. The emergency room attendant rang the birthing center, and they sent a nurse down with a wheelchair to get me. This was the first time I had ever ridden in a wheelchair! The nurse even commented at how calm I was, and I was talking and laughing between contractions. I could tell that she was thinking "There's no way this girl is ready to give birth..." In fact, later several of the nurses told me that when I first came in, they thought I couldn't be progressed very far because I wasn't freaking out and I was able to carry on conversations and smile and stuff. Thankfully, they were wrong!
They took me to a triage room and started hooking me up to the monitors, but before they hooked them up, they checked my cervix for dilation. The nurse seemed really surprised when she exclaimed "She's at 7!" Seven?! Yippeeeeeeeee! I couldn't believe it. The best I was hoping for was like 5! Seven meant the baby was coming, and pretty soon too! (I guess the belly lift worked! Not to mention ALL the prayers!!!)
So they didn't even bother hooking me to monitors in triage. They just took us to our labor & delivery room, and we got settled in there. By the time we got into our room, it was about 12:30 am. They gave me the IV for the antibiotics for the Group B Strep, and I have to admit that I was all worried about the IV for nothing. It hurt a little when she put it in, but then I totally forgot about it. I had much bigger fish to fry. The antibiotics did burn in my arm going in, but even then it wasn't that big a deal. The next 1 1/2 hours were pretty much the same, getting through worsening contractions. Justin was again a lifesaver. He would help me focus and relax and breathe through the contractions. (I didn't do the "hee hee hoo hoo" breathing stuff. Just breathed deeply through my mouth.) For me, contractions weren't really all that bad. I mean, they were incredibly painful, but they were so short that you just have to focus on getting through it and you know it'll be over in just a few more seconds. They did start coming pretty fast, though. Justin read me some Psalms, and that helped too.
At 2 am, they checked me again, and I was at 9 cm! They said "We'd better call the doctor and tell him to get ready!" That's when the action really started. About 2 minutes after the nurse left the room, I had another strong contraction, my water broke, and the baby came down FAST!!! I've heard people refer to it as a "water slide" when the water breaking carries the baby all the way down the birth canal. :) I mean, he came fast. I was pushing by the end of the contraction. When I was able to catch my breath, I told Justin "My water just broke, and I'M PUSHING!" I've never seen the man move so fast. He was in the hallway yelling for the nurses, and suddenly my room was a bustle of activity.
The nurses were getting everything set up for the delivery, and they just kept telling me "DON'T PUSH!" Um, yeah right. How in the world am I not going to push?! "Just breathe," they would say. And really as long as I focused on breathing, it was slightly easier not to push. It took probably 10 or 15 minutes for the doctor to arrive, and I tell ya, that was the hardest part about the whole deal. The baby is REALLY ready to come out, and I'm having to try NOT to push! I think they were all just scared of me delivering before the doctor got there since there was so much trauma about anticipating a big baby who wouldn't fit. Thankfully, the doctor arrived and as they were getting the scrubs on him, he said "What are you breathing for!? PUSH!" I took me a couple of contractions to figure out how to push, and actually once it came down to doing it, I was scared. I mean, what if the baby really didn't fit?! But there really wasn't any other option, so I got down to business.
I had actually intended to try to deliver the baby in a squatting position, working with gravity instead of pushing against it lying down. But with the way my limbs were shaking, I didn't think I'd even be able to squat, and I just wanted the baby out - I didn't care how! Justin remembered what I wanted, though, and got them to at least tilt the back of my bed up so I was more in an upright position. I highly recommend this - it was much easier to push sitting upright instead of lying flat on my back. So I pushed for about 10 minutes, and out he came! At one point, they put an oxygen mask on me, and I think this was because I had only partially delivered the head, and the baby needed the extra oxygen until the next contraction when I could finish delivering the head. But that was only a minute until the next contraction, and the rest of the head came on out! I think I heard the doctor say that the cord was wrapped around his neck, but later he said that was normal and no problem. Then with the next contraction, I delivered the shoulders and out he came at 2:24 am! (As a side note, pushing the baby out did not hurt at all. Just intense pressure. I guess my body was so numb by then that it didn't hurt one bit.)
Hearing my baby cry was the most surreal experience of my life. They put him on my belly and it was like the Twilight Zone. This is my son, who I just pushed out of my body. Justin cried, but I was just in disbelief. I couldn't believe that it had actually happened exactly the way we hoped it would! We asked the doctor to wait to clamp the cord until it stopped pulsating so the baby could get all the good oxygen and nutrients in the blood that was there. It only took a minute though, then the doctor clamped the cord and Justin cut it. I held the sweet boy on my belly for about 15 minutes before they took him to weigh and measure him and do whatever else they do to newborns. His Agpar scores were 8 and 9, which are very good. Yay for a drug-free birth! We only had time to get in one round of antibiotics, which really isn't enough. But they kept a close eye on him and he tested negative the next day for the infection. So praise God for that!
Then came the unpleasant business of repairing my tear. And oh, what a tear it was! The doctor said it looked "like a bomb went off down there." Justin remembers him saying that the baby "tore me a new one." The doctor said that it was his shoulders that tore me so badly, not his head. He said that the tears weren't deep, but they were just long and a lot of them. It literally took him 45 minutes to stitch me up! That was a pretty long 45 minutes, especially since my sweet baby was laying over in the warmer 5 feet from me instead of cuddling in my arms! But I had asked them to use a local anesthetic to repair my tear, so I wasn't in any pain. He finally finished, though, and he seemed pretty proud of his work. The nurses assured me that as bad as my tear was, my recovery would still be a lot easier than if I had had a c-section.
The nurses all told me how proud they were of me for the way I gave birth - they were impressed that I did it unmedicated and stayed so calm. I thought it was nice of them to tell me that. Then I finally got to hold my sweet boy and nurse him. Still Twilight Zone. It took me several days before it finally became real that I had had a baby.
My physical recovery has been great, very little pain and bleeding. I am so thankful for that, since the emotional and mental part of motherhood has been so difficult. But I am incredibly thankful for my birth experience - it was as close to ideal as I could hope for! I can honestly say that giving birth was wonderful and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I feel the same way about pregnancy too. Maybe I can sign up to be a surrogate mother - carry and birth other people's babies and then THEY have to take care of them once they're born! :)
Wow, this turned out to be really long. But now you have all the details... I'm glad to have them written down before I start to forget them, too!