(Although I don't specifically mention a mucus plug in this birth story, as I had been losing chunks of it the entire week leading up to the actual birth day, there are still plenty of references to pregnancy and birth-related lovelies that I suppose might make you throw up a little bit if you're not cool with that kind of stuff.)
Three days past my due date, I woke up on Saturday morning, September 25, at 7:15. I got up to empty my very-cramped-by-baby bladder. On my walk across our bedroom, I had a pretty good contraction. Over the next 10 minutes, I had a couple more. Still sleepy, I climbed back in bed, cuddled up next to Eric, and fell back asleep. We both woke up about 8:00 when we heard Gabriela awake and wanting her morning cup of milk.
Contractions were rather strong and coming every 3-5 minutes apart. I thought it might be important to finish packing my bags for the hospital and rounding up everything Gabriela would need over the next couple days while she stayed with friends. While I packed, I suggested that Eric go ahead and get his shower while Gabriela was sleeping. In between gathering things, I crawled onto the bed, assumed something close to a fetal position, and breathed through my contractions.
At some point among my running around, I noticed Eric sitting at the computer looking up game times for the Iowa State, Iowa, and Georgia football games. I "gently" suggested that was probably not the most useful activity at the moment. After he responded with something about “well if you’re going to be in labor all day”, I told him, “Well, if things continue like this we’re going to have a baby by lunch.” He laughed at me. (Note to future husbands of laboring women: If you intend to have more children in the future, never, ever laugh at your laboring wife when she says something like this. Now is not the time to be questioning her! And no, I didn't actually punch Eric in the groin...but the thought did cross my mind. ;) )
A little after 9:30, Gabriela woke up for the day and Eric got her ready to go and took her over to our friends’ home. As they got ready to leave, I made my way down to the Jacuzzi tub in the basement. Contractions were getting very close together and more intense and all I wanted was to curl up in warm water with my Hypnobirthing scripts and relax.
Just before leaving with Gabs, Eric asked if I needed anything. After he called my midwife to give her a heads-up that I was in labor, I suggested that he bring a bucket and put near the tub. I threw up three times during transition when I was in labor with Gabriela, and I felt like I would probably do the same thing again. And knowing that I would probably see again anything I put in my mouth, I purposely didn’t eat that morning; I just sipped on a Powerade.
The tub was so fantastic! I was able to really reach a point of deep relaxation. And while I was a little uncomfortable, I wouldn’t describe my labor as painful. (This completely reinforces my desire to have a waterbirth one day!)
Eric was back home shortly after 10:00, and, after I assured him there was really nothing I needed him to do for me, he went to work loading the car and gathering a few last things on my packing list. I told him we would need to go to the hospital pretty soon. To which he responded skeptically, “Already?” (In his defense, he knew I didn’t want to arrive at the hospital until the birth was very near. And I was in labor for about 23 hours total the first time, we arrived at the hospital 7 cm dilated, and still had 5 hours before Gabriela was born. He also adds that I seemed comfortable enough that he really didn’t think I was very far along in the process. But still, note to future husbands of laboring women: Unless you are prepared to personally deliver a baby, don't question your wife's judgement on when it's time to go.)
About 10:45, I got out of the tub and threw up (glad I thought about that bucket!) a couple times. I was going back and forth between being really hot and really cold. Eric was a trooper as I ordered him to get out the box fan and turn it on high in front of me. And then turn it off. And then, oh-for-the-love-of-everything-good-and-holy-turn-that-fan-on-I’m-burning-up!
My mind was going back and forth between a totally relaxed hypnotic state and reviewing everything from my recent doula training. I knew I was going through transition, so I was probably somewhere in the 7-8 cm range. Although part of me was questioning that given that I had only been in labor for 3 ½ hours!
At 11:00, I told Eric I needed to get ready to go and asked him to help me back out of the tub so I could go upstairs and get dressed. He told me to stay put and he’d just bring my clothes down to me. Which was probably a good idea, since contractions were one on top of another and I could only really walk in the 30 seconds or so between them. (It would have taken me a long time to get upstairs, get changed, and get back downstairs and into the car. Lilian probably would have been born in the living room . . . and that would have required some serious carpet cleaning.)
After dressing, I made my way to the car and gave Eric the go ahead to start driving once a particularly strong contraction had passed. (Why do contractions always get stronger when you’re uncomfortably seated in a vehicle?) I “gently” suggested that he get us to the hospital quickly and oh-my-gosh-don’t-hit-any-bumps. He called my midwife again to let her know we were en route to the hospital. She said she would leave her house and head that way too.
About 7 minutes later, Eric dropped me off at the front entrance to the hospital. I told him to go park and then come meet me. He suggested I sit on the bench and wait for him, but I knew I would be making a very slow journey to the OB department (as I could only walk in between contractions). I assured him he would catch me before I made it to the OB reception desk!
He caught up with me about 50 feet from the OB receptionist. As I rounded the corner, the receptionist asked if I was Emily; my midwife had already called and they were expecting me. We had pre-registered, so there wasn’t much to do except verify a couple things. While she finished getting me into the system, the telephone rang, she answered it, and I was hit by an especially intense contraction. I squatted down, rested my head on the front of her desk, and let out a low groan as I tried to take myself back into a relaxed state. The nice receptionist seemed to not notice that the woman in front of her was very near giving birth as she chatted away on the phone. Eric was getting impatient with her, but calmly rubbed my shoulders. About that time, a nurse came out, saw me, and told us to come on back. She asked if I needed a wheelchair, but I assured her I could walk myself…just not in the middle of a contraction. We walked down the hall to my room, stopping twice more as I worked through contractions.
As soon as we walked in the room, I felt like I really needed to empty my bladder and my bowels. I went in the bathroom and got comfy on the toilet while Eric handled some admission details in the room with the nurses. It was about 11:30 now. Besides clearing out my system, I passed a pretty good size clot of blood (which I did in labor with Gabs once I was fully dilated) so I knew I was getting close. A few minutes later, Eric brought in a hospital gown and helped me get changed and make my way out into the room.
My Group B Strep test at 37 weeks had come back positive, so (after much research and consideration) we had decided I would take a single dose of antibiotics when I arrived at the hospital to help protect the baby from infection. I therefore needed an IV for the antibiotics, so we got that started.
The nurses had spoken with my midwife and she was on her way, but meanwhile the doctor on duty (I believe she is a resident) asked if she could check me. It was about 11:50 now. As I crawled up onto the bed, I felt a gush as my water broke. She checked my cervix and said I was about an 8, fully effaced, and at 0-station. A nurse checked the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler and found her to be tolerating labor well.
The nurses asked if I wanted to sit in the rocker or have them bring in the birthing ball. I told them I really just felt like I wanted to sit on the toilet. (When in labor with Gabriela, the toilet was the only place I could get comfortable and relax – I think I spent about 5 hours laboring on the toilet!)
It was just a minute or two before 12:00 now. Eric accompanied me into the bathroom and let me rest my head against him while he rubbed my head and shoulders. No sooner than we got in there though, I had a contraction and suddenly felt a huge amount of pressure and knew that baby was ready to come! I announced to Eric, “Pressure . . . I feel lots of pressure. Go! Tell them!” He threw the bathroom door open and said to the nurses, “She’s feeling lots of pressure!”
Two nurses rushed into the bathroom and said, “Okay then, we need to get you back to the bed. Put your knees together and let’s walk back to the bed!” Eric and the two nurses supported me as we scampered across the room.
There was a flurry of activity as nurses tried to prepare the room, Eric got the video camera set up and started, and the doctor on call rushed back in. As I laid on my side, a nurse took a glance and said, “Oh, yeah, we’ve got a baby. A baby with a head full of dark hair!”
I laid back and took a deep breath to let my entire body relax. As the doctor positioned herself at the end of the bed, I mumbled to her that I wanted to protect my perineum. She nodded and said that she had read my birth plan. But baby’s head was already out at that moment, so I think it was sort of a moot point. This is the point when Eric said to me softly, "The baby's head is out . . . but I guess maybe you know that." Nodding, "Yes, I can feel it." (If you had something that large passing from your bottom-region, you'd probably be aware of it as well. But thank you for making sure I knew I was presently delivering.)
After her head passed through, there was a brief few-second pause at her shoulders before she was fully delivered at 12:04 (hitting my lunchtime prediction perfectly!) Baby let out a series of hearty cries and let her presence be known. As soon as she was lifted up and placed on my bare chest, she immediately relaxed her body and didn’t make another sound. It was as if she already knew her mama and knew that she was in a safe place. My heart swelled and I couldn’t stop grinning. I looked up at Eric who was beaming by my side and gave me a big kiss. Nurses placed warm blankets over us while they suctioned out baby’s mouth and checked her out briefly. A little later they clamped her umbilical cord and Eric made the cut.
And then my midwife walked in the room. Eric grinned and said, “Hey, you’re just in time!” After a brief glance at the new baby and declaring, “She looks just like her big sister,” she helped the delivering doctor collect the umbilical cord blood (as we decided to bank it) and deliver the placenta.
Upon reviewing the video that was recording from a bedside table over my left shoulder, we see that I had just settled in bed as the record button was pressed. Less than two minutes into the video, you hear baby’s first cry! So we were probably about 3 minutes away from baby being delivered on the toilet.
(Part II of Lilian's Birth Story coming soon...)