Even though the birth was fairly uneventful (and for this I am truly grateful), I feel I need to record it before I forget details. And someone, somewhere, might be interested.
So on Monday, April 3rd, I went to my scheduled appointment with my obstetrician. I hadn’t expected to go to this appointment, simply because I thought I would have the baby before my due date (April 2). She measured my cervix and found that it was only slightly more dilated than it had been a week before—despite the hours of regular, sometimes hard contractions I had had off and on during the week. In fact, I had only gotten four hours of sleep Sunday night because contractions had kept me up. As they got more intense around 5:00 a.m., I panicked and packed the last-minute items for the hospital bag. I also located the card with LDS Hospital’s labor and delivery number so I could call before leaving home. Then, around 7:30 a.m., the contractions stopped. Grrr!
Still, I half thought that my doctor would examine me and tell me to go straight to labor and delivery, do not pass Go, do not collect $100. No such luck. I went home and spent much of the day napping to make up for my terrible night’s sleep the day before.
The thing was, ever since my appointment, I’d been very slowly leaking a clear fluid. It was such a small amount that I wasn’t totally sure I wasn’t imagining it. After all, if my water had broken, there would be more of it, wouldn’t there? And if my water had broken, labor would follow soon after, wouldn’t it?
Around dinner time, I started noticing slightly more of it, so I called the hospital just to ease my mind. They said that it was probably just some mucous, but I should watch it for another hour or so, and if I really thought it was amniotic fluid, I should come in and have it tested. We ate dinner and watched Prison Break. About two hours later, I finally decided I’d better go and make sure my water hadn’t broken. It wouldn’t hurt to check, at any rate.
So Jon Boy added a change of clothes to the hospital bag, and we slowly picked out some CDs and movies, you know, just in case we ended up staying. We also brought my laptop so he could let people know if the baby came. Even though I had promised my family that I would call when we left for the hospital, I didn’t call them. I figured we’d probably be back.
We drove to the hospital, calmly chatting about nothing. I had pictured this drive for so long, but it (oddly enough) had always involved either gushing from unmentionable places or painful contractions—or both. I actually felt silly walking into LDS Hospital and saying to the guy at the front desk that I thought my bag of waters had broken and had been advised to have it checked.
“Do you need a wheelchair?” he asked, almost jokingly. I assured him I didn’t.
Labor and delivery checked me into a room and gave me one of those awful hospital gowns to change into. I asked the nurse what would happen if they found the fluid was amniotic fluid after all. She told me that if it was, I wasn’t going anywhere. We would have to decide whether to wait for labor to start on its own or whether I should be induced.
Did you know that it takes three different tests to identify amniotic fluid? There’s a visual check for pooling, a chemical test, and a test that involves putting some on a slide, waiting for it to dry, and seeing if it makes distinctive “ferning” patterns. I had no idea. The first two tests were positive, and when they came back after taking the slide out, they were hooking me up to fetal monitors and inserting an IV, just in case I needed it later. I guess that means the third test was conclusive. (Funny side trip: I watched the screen and asked the nurse what it would look like if I had a contraction. She said, “Actually, it looks like you’re having one right now.” I totally couldn’t feel it. Odd.)
The next two and a half hours were really boring. I think we talked and watched late shows and waited for something to happen. At midnight, they came back in and asked if I wanted to start a Pitocin drip to get labor started. They said they’d start slow and see if that would jump start things or if they’d need to give me more.
By about 12:30, I was having strong contractions every 2-3 minutes. A lot of it was back labor, so the nurse showed Jon Boy how to push on my knee and my back to help with the pain. That was good for about two hours, until it started just making things worse. Turns out the breathing exercises that seemed so silly in the childbirth education classes helped a lot.
At 2:30, the nurse asked if I wanted an epidural. She said she didn’t want to push me either way, and she said I seemed to be handling things all right, but if I wanted one, I could have one. I said I wasn’t sure and I’d like to know how far along I was (in other words, how much longer I’d have to keep up the “handling it well” guise).
Come to find out that I was still just over 3 cm dilated, the same as I had been at the doctor’s appointment Monday morning. The nurse helpfully told me I was completely effaced, though. Thanks, I thought, that makes me feel so much better.
In the middle of the next contraction, it became amazingly easy to make up my mind about that epidural. The anesthesiologist came in within minutes. I had been told that he would spend 15 minutes with me explaining the procedure and the risks involved before giving me forms to sign. The conversation actually went something like this:
Anesthesiologist: “Mumble mumble mumble?”
Anesthesiologist: “Mumble risks mumble epidural?”
Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you.”
Anesthesiologist: “Do you understand the risks associated with an epidural?”
Me: “Oh. Yes.” (Contraction.)
Anesthesiologist: “Mumble mumble mumble.”
Anesthesiologist: “Mumble sign mumble mumble.” (He thrusts a form into my hand.)
Me: (A bit dazed) “Where do I sign?”
Anesthesiologist: “Mumble top mumble.”
Me: “Huh?” (Notice a pattern here? Jon Boy says I was mumbling too, but at least I had an excuse.)
At this point, the nurse explained where to sign. She’d also begun translating for me after about the third “Huh?”
Anesthesiologist: “Roll over onto your side.”
Me: I roll over.
Anesthesiologist: “Now, don’t move.”
Me: *Groans* “Can you wait until the contraction is over?”
Anesthesiologist: “Oh, sure.” (As if it hadn’t occurred to him that it might be hard for me to concentrate on not moving in the midst of a contraction. Also, I swear he couldn’t tell that I was having them, despite the fact that I was doing my breathing exercises, grasping the side of the bed, and closing my eyes. Sheesh, this guy’s bedside manner was stellar. I can’t complain too much, though, because he gave me the epidural quickly and painlessly once we finally got past the pesky communication part.)
Less than five minutes later, I began to feel much better. Soon after that, they stopped the Pitocin because the epidural hadn’t slowed things down at all, and they figured my body would be able to handle things on its own. It did.
By 4:30, I was completely dilated and ready to push. (Four and a half hours! Way to go, body!) The thing was, the nurse told me that I should wait an hour for the baby to begin moving down the birth canal on his own so that the pushing part would be easier on me. She suggested Jon Boy and I take a nap, and she turned down the lights.
As if I could sleep. My baby boy was so close! So I listened to his heart beeping merrily on the monitor and focused on not pushing when the contractions came. I wondered what he’d look like. I wondered if Jon Boy was sleeping. I watched the clock and waited.
Finally, at 5:30, the nurse came back and told me I could try pushing. Yay! I had to stop again at about 6:20 because the doctor hadn’t arrived yet and the nurse didn’t want to have to deliver the baby herself. During this time, the epidural was wearing off, but I didn’t mind. I wanted to feel those contractions so I could push like She-Ra and bring the baby into the world. I honestly felt very powerful as I pushed. With every push, my baby was a little closer to being born!
The doctor arrived, and at 6:33 a.m., out came the baby. He cried right away, and very soon after birth, he looked properly pink and baby-like. I thought he was beautiful, and I felt absolutely exhausted. I don’t really remember much from the first little while after he was born. I know I was wheeled into the recovery room, and I tried breastfeeding soon afterwards. I got a few stitches for some small tears. Jon Boy and I decided within minutes of his birth that our baby looked like a Liam, and soon after that, we decided on Gareth as his middle name. He had Jon Boy’s nose.
I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with him so quickly. Sometime that first day, Jon Boy told me that he felt, when he looked at Liam, that he was just right for us, that he fit perfectly. That’s about how I felt. It’s logically uncomprehensible to me that I can so fervently love a person who just eats, sleeps, and poops, and who caused me considerable pain not long ago. Still, I find myself not minding at all when he cries at 3:00 a.m. to be fed, or when he squirts poop all over my hand and his clothes during a diaper change, or when he refuses to nurse unless I’m pacing. He’s beautiful, and he’s ours.
And if you read all the way to the end, you get a gold star.