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Dear Victor,

This is your birth story.

May 7 dawned bright and beautiful as May days tend to do in this part of California. I was lying in bed watching the sun touch the blinds and sighed, thinking that I really needed to get going to get to work, but once again I was feeling nauseated and my stomach was upset. I stayed in bed a little longer, hoping that my stomach would settle down before I finally made myself get up and get into the shower. I felt better under the water, but once I was out and went downstairs to write an email to boss to let him know I was going to be late, I was feeling icky again.

Daddy talked me into staying home instead, so I curled up for a little while and he made breakfast. We talked for a little, then he came up with a plan for our day: we'd get dressed and go to the store, put together a picnic and go sit in the sun in the park. Then we'd stock up on everything we still needed for labor and groceries and come home to have dinner and watch our Tuesday night shows.

So we did exactly that.

We spent a lovely afternoon in the park, curled up on the grass after lunch, quietly talking about you and what we'd do when your labor started. We also talked about some hopes and dreams for you and for us and did a lot of cuddling to take advantage of this quiet time together. Around three or four, we left to finish the shopping and came home laden with yummy things to cook for the week and energy foods for labor, which we were expecting "any day now". Little did we know that "any day now" would turn into "tonight." All day I had what I'd come to think of as my "usual" contractions: irregular, mild contractions that had slowly dilated me to 2.5cm over the past two weeks. These contractions always happened when I was walking, and stopped for the most part when I sat still, except for the odd twinge. As a result, I did not realize that the twinges I was feeling were in fact, early labor.

Because I walked so much and exercised diligently throughout pregnancy, early labor just sort of snuck right by me.

After our shows in the evening, I started to feel a little bit uncomfortable as I was getting ready for bed. Daddy had gone down to check out something on the computer and I was trying to settle down, when I had to get up to use the toilet. When I stood up, I felt a little liquid trickle down but I thought it was just some urine leaking out since I had to pee pretty badly. I went to the bathroom and said goodnight to your dad and returned to the bedroom to settle in for the night. However, as I lay there thinking about this, that and the other thing, the idea that I ought to find something to use as a focal point for labor took hold of me, so I got up to get one of my teddy bears down from above the dresser. As I was walking around the bedroom, I felt another trickle of liquid, this time it splashed onto the floor. There wasn't much, but it definitely wasn't pee. I went out to tell Daddy about it, then put a pad on in case I leaked more and got into bed, thinking it was just a leak and that I'd call the doctor about it in the morning.

This was just before midnight, so I was feeling pretty tired and wanted to get some sleep. I got all curled up and comfy with my arms around Jenny bear and tried to go to sleep. I was dozing off, when I felt a cramp start. It felt just like a menstrual cramp, a mild one at that, but my stomach was starting to bother me and I was having trouble staying comfortable. The cramp died down and Daddy came in soon after. I told him about the cramp and we chatted a little about random things for a while before turning out the lights. Daddy went right to sleep, but I couldn't drift off and then another cramp started. I got up into "froggy" position, from our Bradley classes and that helped, so I stayed like that for a while. I had four or five "cramps" between midnight and one o'clock in the morning and in that time I started to feel like I was sick to my stomach. I got up to use the toilet at least twice, the second time it was diarrhea and I was starting to feel like I did when I had food poisoning a couple of years ago.

I began to think I was sick -- not in labor, because my stomach hurt a lot and I started to vomit. My body got rid of everything I'd eaten that day, and quite explosively too. I was having contractions at the same time, but still wasn't sure if I was in labor or not, because I thought I was ill. Then I noticed the blood in the toilet, and knew that this was labor. I was scared though, because the pain seemed a lot worse than it should be for early labor, which is the first stage of labor. I also kept bleeding, and Daddy was getting worried. I got into the shower around one-thirty to clean up and to help relax me. The contractions continued and I had more diarrhea. Dad was timing each contraction, and they were about ten minutes apart and getting pretty strong. At one point he was counting the seconds for each one until I yelled at him to be quiet. Between contractions, we talked about whether or not to call the doctor. Just before 2 am, we decided that we should and Daddy helped me out of the shower and into my robe.

He went off to get the phone to call the doctor. I was sitting on the toilet feeling like I needed to poop again, but I couldn't and I was in pain too. There was a lot of pressure in my lower back and my stomach was twisting. I thought I was sick, but more likely, this was just your head beginning to make its way out!

Just after 2, we talked to the doctor and he told us to come to the hospital. Daddy went off to find a number for a cab and to call our doula, while I padded out to the couch to try froggy again, hoping it would help with the pain. The position didn't really help though, and I was screaming through that contraction when Daddy came back upstairs. At that point, I thought that this was still early labor and that I had to do six to ten more hours of this level of effort and pain and that prospect was quite scary, hence I tensed up and that made it hurt worse. The contraction I had on the couch was really intense and I was so scared that I flew up and paced around trying to "get away" from the pain. I couldn't the calm place that I'd been to during our childbirth classes because I was so frightened.

I tried sitting on the toilet again but that wasn't comfy either and finally I tried leaning against the tub, then squatting using the tub for support. I remember suddenly feeling hot and sweaty and watching the sweat drip off my nose into the tub and thinking again that I couldn't do it. I couldn't keep going for hours.

Then Daddy was standing in the hallway with all our bags, saying that the cab had arrived and the doula was on the way. Then he blinked at me and realized all I had on was my open robe and dropped everything to get my nightie. He tossed it over my head and was all ready to go again, but I was barefoot! I couldn't say much and gasped out "Shoes! Shoes! Hurry!" I knew another contraction was coming and I needed to get down the stairs before it started.

Daddy came running with my sandals and I managed to get them on my feet and make it down the stairs and out to the cab before that contraction arrived. My hands were shaking as I tried to open the door but I got in on all fours and was trying to turn around when the next contraction started. Being on all fours hurt too much, so I knelt on the seat, facing the back of the cab. Daddy got into the front and we were off, the cabby driving like a maniac to the hospital only 5 minutes away. I hung on for dear life in the back, breathing as deeply as I could through the contractions. I vaguely remember Daddy telling the cabby that he didn't have to drive fast, and then we were there and I was crawling out of the cab and trying to walk up the entrance ramp to the hospital.

I had four contractions on my way up to the maternity floor: one on the entrance ramp, where I leaned against a big old pot of plants and breathed. Two nurses coming off shift walked by and encouraged me, saying "You can do it honey." Inside just past security, I was walking toward the elevator when this homeless guy from downtown that I've seen on the 40 bus before came cruising toward us in his wheelchair and started babbling something my way. A big contraction hit and I squatted, using one of the lobby chairs for support. Daddy waved off the homeless guy and we finally made it into the elevator. Upstairs, I leaned on the security desk for the third contraction and then waddled around the corner to the maternity check-in desk where I had the fourth contraction, squatting again.

The nurse at check-in had me sign some form -- my signature was a big old illegible scrawl because I could barely hold the pen. They sent me over to triage and the nurse in triage was being all chipper and taking her own sweet time asking me questions when the check-in nurse popped her head around the corner and said: "There's blood on the floor, check her NOW." Here's where I started being difficult, because the contractions were coming pretty quickly and I was having trouble moving. The nurse was trying to get me up onto a bed so she could check me and I was saying "I can't, I can't." I did finally manage to get onto the bed and turn around and when she checked me she declared in her chipper way: "Oh! She's complete!"

Things started to move fast then -- out of nowhere a bunch of people materialized to wheel me into an LDR room. Daddy was running along after them still asking "What does complete mean?" I think I told him it meant I could push, though it could have been one of the nurses who said that. In the LDR room, I had to switch beds, and that was hard, but then we were settled in and before I knew it, Dr. Girard, the doctor on call from our OB office that night, was there and he was telling me I could push on my next contraction.

I was still a bit out of it and being difficult and kept telling people what I wanted and didn't want. The nurses tried to put the fetal monitor belt and a gown on me at one point. I threw the gown off and wouldn't let them put the belt on so the poor nurse had a hard time finding your heartbeat. They did finally find it though and you were at a healthy 154 bpm. Because everything happened so fast, there was no time for an IV or anything like that. Dr. Girard asked me if we'd planned a natural childbirth and I think both Daddy and I chorused "Yes" at the same time.

Soon the next contraction started and the nurse and Daddy helped me to get up into pushing position despite my protests that I didn't want to push in the classic sit position. Dr. Girard said that it had "worked really well for the last lady" and wouldn't let me squat, so I wound up pushing in the sit, which was incredibly uncomfortable.

It took me about two contractions to get the hang of pushing, it really does feel like pooping, but that felt "wrong" to me at first, until Dr. Girard told me that that was right. Daddy peeked down below at one point and exclaimed that he could see your hair already. When your head popped out, you were already screaming. It only took four or five contractions and about twenty pushes to get you out. When Dr. Girard told me to do little pushes, I was able to get enough control to do that. I didn't tear thanks to half a bottle of mineral oil and some hefty massage by the doctor. All the stretching was really intense, but it didn't hurt as much as I'd expected it to. It just lasted longer than I thought it would.

Finally all of you arrived and you were put on my chest, squirmy, screaming and covered with goop. Goop or no, I thought you were the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen, from the top of your perfect little red-haired head, to the bottoms of your itty bitty feet.

Over the next two hours or so, I got a little bit of bonding time with you, then had to give you over to the nurse who put you under a heat lamp: I was shaking so hard from the hormone release that I couldn't keep you warm. Our doula missed the delivery, but she was invaluable right afterward, massaging my trembling limbs and then helping you to latch on for your first feeding.

At last they let us go to our room and we settled in for some well-deserved rest. Daddy had to leave because of the visiting hours, but you were here at last and now we were a family.

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