On Friday, January 27, as many of my students were participating in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., we welcomed our little baby girl into the world. I couldn’t have planned a more perfect labor, but the irony is that none of my pre-planning was actually needed! She showed up approximately thirty minutes after we arrived at the hospital and was delivered by nurses because no one else got there fast enough. Here’s our story!
While I never actually created a written birth plan, I knew I wanted:
– No IV drugs or epidurals. I didn’t want to create ambiguity in any issues with my baby. Is an elevated temperature caused by the epidural, or from another infection? Is the “drunken” baby’s responses caused by narcotics or something else? Also, the idea of a giant needle in my spine freaks me out. Epidurals often slow down labor – not the goal here!
– Positive pain management techniques:
- Most important: warm bathtub for labor. I haven’t taken a real bath since last year when my bathtub water drained through my kitchen ceiling (hence the need for our unfinished renovations) and I didn’t get a tub for Spartacus. I REALLY wanted a tub.
- yoga mat for alternative laboring positions
- tennis balls for lower back massage
- essential oils and diffuser
- iPod and speaker for pump-up or relaxing music
– Possibly test out the new nitrous oxide gas added to the labor and delivery recently at our hospital (same stuff that dentists use!). Benefits: not intravenous so no instant drugged baby, controlled by the patient, not so strong that I can’t make my own decisions. Drawbacks: they do need a saline lock IV as backup, so can’t do gas THEN tub – gotta go the other way. They don’t have to hook up the IV to anything, it’s just protocol.
I told my students one reason I wanted a natural birth was because I spent my drug money on my shower tile in my bathroom renovation. Several looked really sorry for me, and I reassured them that the drug-free birth was intentional, and not to start a GoFundMe page to give Mrs. H a pain-free labor.
I had read the books recommended to me – Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel. I had practiced (and made Hubster practice) saying things like, “Let’s wait an hour before we try that,” and “I’d rather not get in bed, thank you.” My giant hospital bag was packed. The only thing I DIDN’T have ready was my sub plans; I had so convinced myself that there was no way she’d be born early that I planned to start my maternity leave on January 30, my actual due date. I had met with my sub several times and I knew we’d figure everything out, but it just didn’t seem imminent enough to get everything put together.
The whole point of this explanation is to say that when labor actually happened it didn’t go quite the way I expected.
5:30 AM I woke up Friday morning to go to the bathroom and experienced a period-like cramp. I went back to bed and watched the clock for an hour; they continued about 10-15 minutes apart.
6:30 AM Woke up Hubster to tell him I thought I might be in labor, and then called my sub – who didn’t answer. Went right to voicemail. This wasn’t in my plan!
6:45 AM We tracked down cell number for my sub’s husband, a classmate of my Hubster, who did answer and promised his wife’s arrival ASAP.
8:05 AM We arrived at school to check in with my sub, swap keys, and make sure she was good for the day at least.
8:30 AM Cramps were now about six minutes apart; we drove north to my in-laws’ home. They live about 5 minutes from the hospital, so it seemed a safer place to labor than our house 35 minutes away.
8:45 AM I called my doctor’s office to let them know I was having contractions roughly 3 minutes apart; they asked how long they lasted and I estimated less than a minute, and told them they “weren’t horrible.” I knew “increasing in intensity” was a sign to go to hospital, so I was ready for that question. The nurse said she’d notify L&D that we’d be in sometime this morning, and to head over when contractions felt longer, more intense, or closer together.
9:00 AM We ate pancakes and eggs with Spartacus, who had spent the night with Grammy and Papa; my Natural Hospital Birth book had said that in early labor it’s not a bad idea to eat something protein-rich and easy to digest to prep the body for a long labor. My sister-in-law planned to stop by after her shift at Starbucks with coffee for everyone.
9:15 AM I can’t really talk anymore through contractions but I can still listen, and I encouraged my mother-in-law and husband to keep talking to me to distract. I asked how long it will take Aunt B to get here with coffee; my MIL tells Hubster to take me to the hospital now. We said goodbye to Spartacus and headed to the car. I took a big travel mug of mint tea my mother-in-law sent with me.
9:30 AM We pulled up to hospital; it’s snowing and we realized we didn’t actually know where the labor and delivery entrance was (yet another example of how much more prepared parents are for the first baby than the second). We drove around until we found it, then debated dropping me off while he parked. I thought I had read they had valet, but I wasn’t sure. I told Hubster I could walk as long as he carried the bag. Contractions are about two minutes apart.
(Those of you who have had children before have probably figured out I am WAY too relaxed about my timeline and should be moving SIGNIFICANTLY faster than I was…poor Hubster was just following my direction and like me, was clueless to the dire nature of the circumstances. This was our first real labor, after all)
9:45 AM Parked, hobbled to entrance, checked in with the security guy at the front desk who called for the required wheelchair to take me up. As I breathed through a contraction (like very painful period cramps – worst of my life, but still NOT freaking me out), he tells us how he used to work for the sheriff’s department and has received training to deliver babies just in case. Hubster assures him this won’t be necessary.
9:55 AM They wheeled me up to a room in triage and I changed into a hospital gown, but kept my socks and slippers on. A nurse did a cervix check – 5 cm dilated. This reassures me we didn’t come in too early and wouldn’t be sent home. I told the nurse that I started contractions at 5:30, and she says, “Oh, so we’re still early then.” Hubster took over answering questions at this point as I grabbed a bucket to throw up my over-easy eggs I had just eaten. As they run to check on a room, I called out that I would like the suite with the big tub please!
10:00 AM I walked (I can’t believe I was still walking at this point) down the hall to the labor and delivery suite. One nurse inserted a saline lock in case I go for the nitrous oxide while a second begins to fill the labor tub that I wanted. Because I told them I wanted to be able to move in labor, I am hooked up to the wireless monitors to do the required twenty-minute “strip” before switching to intermittent fetal monitoring. Hubster patiently rubbed my back through a contraction, and I throw up more eggs. My sweetheart husband asks if I would like my toothbrush to get the vomit taste out of my mouth.
10:10 AM I tell the nurse I need to go to the bathroom. She asked if she should check my cervix again and I say no – I know in my fuzzy pained brain that it couldn’t possibly be the baby yet – I’m only 5 cm. I hobble to bathroom without assistance.
10:15 AM I vaguely hear Hubster telling the nurses this is the same progression as with my first labor with Spartacus – throw up, announce the need to poop (no shame or dignity in labor), and fifteen minutes later baby #1 was born. One of the two nurses comes into the bathroom, looks at me, (gently) orders me to stand up, and checks my cervix. As she calls out for everyone’s benefit, “You’re there, let’s get you to the bed,” my water breaks in a rush. My immediate thought was if I just ruined my new slippers.
10:20 AM One nurse helps me toward the hospital bed and I think I babbled something about my labor tub not being filled yet. The other nurse radioed for my midwife to get here “STAT” (it’s so funny to hear that word not on a TV show) and called for the delivery table. I remember asking what a delivery table was. Hubster tells me we had one with Spartacus but I wasn’t in any state to have noticed. The nurse holding my hand tells me to get into the bed. I keep thinking about my birthing seminar where they told us, “The bed is the enemy. You don’t HAVE to get into the bed.” I tell her no. Later Hubster told me I sounded exactly like our two-year-old: “NO!”
10:25 AM The nurse, with Hubster’s support, finally convinces me that she doesn’t need me in the bed, flipped over in the stirrups – she just needs me on a safe surface to deliver the baby. Once I finally understand this, I clamor up on the bed on all fours and bury my face into the pillow. At this point the only people in the room are the two nurses and my husband and me.
10:30 AM One nurse tells me I can push, and I am in disbelief. I do push – I have no other choice – but the very, very small rational part of my brain cannot believe this is happening. I keep having this impression that this is too easy; I can’t believe I was thinking that as I was pushing a person out of my body.
10:35 AM Our little girl is born, and the nurses pass her underneath me, cord still attached (I’m still on all fours). Hubster tells me she’s perfect; I am still in a state of shock. As I maneuvered myself to lay on the bed, clutching my goopy and perfect infant, I realize that – for a second labor – there was no doctor present and two nurses had just delivered my baby (again).
10:45 AM At some point in the next half our I lose my gross amniotic-fluid-covered socks (the slippers made it!) and my hospital gown; a nurse hooks me up to a bag of pitocin to deliver the placenta; a doctor gives me litocaine and a few stitches (little girl came up with her hand by her face, which isn’t what 10 cm are meant for); and my precious little girl finds her way to nurse. My husband brings me my travel mug of mint tea – STILL WARM – and my midwife arrives to chuckle at “how easy I make it look” – breastfeeding and sipping mint tea. She points out I am even wearing pearl earrings, and takes our first picture of our baby girl:
|We’ve seen a lot of this “stink face” the last few days!|
When everyone cleared out and we get our hour of family time, my Hubster and I are still in shock. We arrived at the hospital at 10 and half an hour later we had a kid. I realized as they take off the fetal monitor strips that I wasn’t in the room long enough to get a full twenty minute diagnostic. My midwife told me that I apparently have “a very high pain tolerance” and strongly suggested that with any future children I should begin to drive to the hospital about as soon as my contractions start, now that I’ve had two children with less than 15 minutes of pushing.