Thursday, September 25, 2014

Olivia's Birth Story or Just Because the Doctor Says Birth is Imminent Doesn't Mean Birth is Imminent

This story begins on October 23, 2007, at my 35 week appointment. The doctor I was scheduled to see was not my regular OB, but one of the other doctors in her practice since you never know who will be on call when labor starts. I was getting my Strep B test and a first cervix check. I was reclined on the table and the doctor began her exam. The tone in her voice changed and she sounded surprised and excitable. "You are already 3cm dilated and the baby's head is right there!" Um, okay. What does that mean? "You are going to have this baby sooner rather than later."

Commence freak out. The list of things not ready was quite long. The crib, the clothes, the name. We had a yard sale that upcoming Saturday and a vacation scheduled the weekend after that. Having a baby wasn't in my near term plans. In a rush we get the crib moved into our bedroom, start looking for the baby clothes, and drilling names. The crib was easy, the names fairly straight-forward, but the clothes could not be located. We had moved into our house in April and I thought surely I would get enough boxes unpacked to find the baby clothes by November. I thought wrong.

I successfully make it through the yard sale but still cannot find the baby clothes. I get to work on Monday and share my despair. They generously throw me an impromptu baby shower that same week to bestow on me some baby clothes and I am grateful. But I still wonder where all those previous clothes have gone.

I make it to my next appointment at 36 weeks and see still another doctor in the practice. She confirms the other doctor's opinion that labor is imminent. I ask if it is okay if I go on our planned vacation this coming weekend. She strongly advises that I not leave town. I am disappointed. We were going to take a long weekend with my parents and siblings to Fall Creek Falls right at the peak of fall color. Dave and I discuss it and decide it would be best to stay close to home since our insurance would not cover the hospital closest to the park and, given my previous delivery, the likelihood of making it back to Nashville if I were in labor was not high. I tell my parents we can't go and my mother, in her nervousness, cancels the whole vacation. Sorry, yall.

It is now November. My official due date is Thanksgiving Day on November 22, my real due date is November 24, and Grace was born at 38.5 weeks. I am prepared for birth at any moment. I have warned my boss and co-workers that the doctor is expecting the baby any time. Every twinge is examined. The constant question in my mind is, "Is this labor starting?"

Every day I go to work. Every day I expect labor to start. Every day someone at work asks when I'm going to have the baby.

I get to my 37 week appointment with my regular doctor. She says I am now dilated to 3.5 and am well effaced. I am nervous because I really want to get to 38 weeks so baby has plenty of time to cook.

Every day I go to work. Every day I expect labor to start. Every day someone at work asks when I'm going to have the baby.

I get to my 38 week appointment. Now I am ready and relaxed. We have hit the milestone I have been waiting for. I am 4cm. My doctor asks if I want to be induced. No. I want the pregnancy to continue for as long as necessary. She gives me strict instructions that, based on my previous delivery, I need to go to the hospital as soon as I think I am in labor. I am a little anxious. Labor was imminent three weeks ago. It's really imminent now.

Every day I go to work. Every day I expect labor to start. Every day someone at work asks when I'm going to have the baby.

I get to my 39 week appointment. I am 5cm dilated. It is Thanksgiving week. My doctor asks if I want to be induced. No, and I really, really don't want to be in the hospital over Thanksgiving. I would miss the food and be cared for by people who couldn't get out of working on Thanksgiving. I was not looking forward to it. I was a little apprehensive so the doctor who would be on call over the weekend came to talk to me and reassured me that he would much rather deliver my baby than be stuck all weekend with his extended family. Not sure what that says about him or his family, but it made me feel like I wasn't imposing on him, anyway.

My doctor understands I am not thrilled about delivering over Thanksgiving weekend so she does not push for an immediate induction. She reiterates the instructions about not dallying if I think I am in labor over the long weekend and then strongly recommends that I schedule an induction for the following week if labor does not start spontaneously beforehand. She is concerned about a very precipitous labor and honestly, so am I. I consent to schedule, but I am not very happy about it. If I do not have the baby first, I am scheduled to be at the hospital for induction on November 27th at 7am.

And every day I go to work. Every day I expect labor to start. Every day someone at work asks when I'm going to have the baby.

Thanksgiving comes and goes and coincidentally my neighbor, who was not due until the middle of December, gives birth on Thanksgiving Day.

Here I am not in labor on Thanksgiving Day
I show up to work on Monday and nobody can believe it, least of all, me. It has been five long weeks of expectant waiting where just about every moment has been scrutinized for signs of labor that did not come. Labor was supposed to be imminent a month ago. I cancelled a rare vacation because I was supposed to have a baby. Instead I spent a month stressed out and waiting. I go to bed that night hoping labor will start on its own. It doesn't.

The morning of November 27th and 40 weeks and three days of pregnancy comes, but I'm not in a hurry to get to the hospital. I know traffic will be bad and I am not looking forward to induction. I am nervous about the pitocin and if I will be able to handle the pain which is supposed to be so much worse with it.

We had talked to Grace about what would happen when I go to the hospital. My in-laws were coming over and after some amount of time, they would take her over to their house. They arrive in the morning and we go into Grace's room to tell her good-bye. I ask her if she remembers what is happening. She says, "Grandma, Dee-da come over and you go to the ospital" Then she bursts into tears. Sigh. And on that note, we leave.

The traffic is bad as expected and we slowly make our way into town. On the way we decide to finalize our name choices: Olivia Rose if it's a girl, and Samuel David if it's a boy. For the entire pregnancy I thought I was having a boy. Convinced, I'm not sure why, until the night before the scheduled induction when I sat thinking about the pregnancy and how people always say that girl pregnancies and boy pregnancies are completely different and how that is funny since this pregnancy has been almost exactly like Grace's except this is a boy. Oh wait. If it has been exactly the same...maybe I'm having a girl? Yes. I think this is a girl. It dawned on me at the last possible moment.

We arrive at the hospital and make our way to Labor and Delivery. This is so anti-climatic and I feel a little defeated. I am brought to my room and it is well after 8am, so I'm late. Who cares? The nurses set me up with the IV and the blood pressure cuff and the belts and the monitors. The nurse exclaims that I am having a contraction. "Can't you feel that?" No. They get everything set up and then we wait on my doctor to arrive.

My doctor comes into the room and says, "You're here. I was wondering if you were going to come." Yes I came. She wants to do one last exam before we get this show on the road. Six centimeters. She tells me she is going to attend to a few things and then come back and break my water. I use this opportunity to take my trusty Pepcid. She comes back, explains the process, shows me a horrible crochet needle looking thing, and then does the deed. She turns on the pitocin to its lowest setting and then we wait for something to happen. It's 9am. I am not sure how I am going to react to the pitocin, but I am pretty determined to go natural since we are expecting a fast labor.

My parents had come to the hospital to keep us company during labor. Now that everything had been squared away, they came into my room. We chatted about whatever and waited for the contractions to start. Fairly soon they did. Hello, back labor, old friend. Daddy liked watching the machines because the machines are where the action is, obviously. He kept up with the timing, but I didn't pay attention and don't remember now.

I found that I could bear the contractions pretty well as long as I was sitting straight up in bed and not reclining at all. The problem with that position is the monitor belts slide down out of place and the machines cannot pick up the readings. Thus began a game with the nurse. I would sit as straight as possible, letting the belts slide. The nurse would come into the room and explain the monitors were not picking up any readings and tell me to lie back. I would slightly recline so the readings would transmit. The nurse would leave the room. I would then sit as straight as possible again. We replayed this scene several times. My mother thought I was being belligerent. I was just trying to stay comfortable.

The contractions are becoming stronger and closer together. I decide I want to go to the bathroom and my parents decide that I am uncomfortable enough that visiting hours should be suspended. It is around 10am.

They exit to the waiting room and I am disconnected from all the machines. I make my way into the bathroom and sit down on the toilet. This feels so much better. I am not attached to machines and my hips feel open as I sit. I don't really want to get back up. I sit there for awhile and the nurse becomes concerned, "You better not deliver that baby on that toilet! You need to get back in the bed!" Sigh. My temporary escape has ended. I shuffle back to the bed to be reconnected and the contractions are in earnest now. One after another after another. I sit as tall as I can in bed and my feet are involuntarily shaking as I move through transition. My nurse recognizes what is happening and tells me I will be ready to push soon and to tell her when I feel the urge.

These contractions still hurt like crazy, but I am in a much better place mentally than last time. I know I am almost done. I know it will not last forever. I know that I can do it. Honestly these contractions with pitocin don't feel much different than the ones without it. I am not sure if it is because I have a low dose or if it is because my body crashes itself into labor as if I were on pitocin. Whatever it is, I am relieved there is not a level of pain beyond what I had previously experienced.

Finally the pushing instinct washes over me and I tell the nurse. She immediately preps the room and comes to my side. My doctor takes her place at the foot of the bed with the resident who will actually deliver the baby. We had discussed it previously and I don't mind and, in some ways, I feel obligated to show it is possible to birth without anesthesia.

I again am instructed to take a semi-reclined position where all the pressure is on my hips. I hate this position. The nurse takes one leg and Dave takes the other and the nurse begins counting for me to push on demand. I immediately ignore that nonsense. I feel experienced and am hoping to redeem my reputation as a bad pusher. I look at the clock. It is about 1020. I think to myself that I need to hold back a little so Grace, who was born at 10:31, won't have to share a birth time as well as a birthday number, the 27th, with the new baby.

When the urge strikes, I push and feel the baby move. Then I push again. OUCH! The baby descends. I am not a bad pusher anymore, but the feeling is agony. I don't remember it hurting this badly when Grace was born. I feel like I am going to split wide open. I panic and pull back from the pain. I completely lose the urge to push. I am laying there through a few contractions, waiting for something to happen. I just want this to go away. I am shocked because I thought I had been through this before, but this feels a thousand times worse than when Grace was born. The baby is just about crowning and I am not pushing nearly hard enough because it just hurts so much.

The nurse sees what is going on and she leans down towards me and says, "You can do this. You are almost finished. You cannot pull back from the pain. You have to push through the pain and then you will be done"

I think to myself, "Push through the pain." I have to calm myself and wait for the urge to push to return. I tell the doctor that my urge to push is gone. The doctor ups the pitocin. I'm not sure that makes a difference. I just need to calm down. After another few minutes, I try again. I push and every last ounce of my being wants to pull back, but I resist. I feel like I am being torn asunder, but I push anyway. And then all of a sudden the head is out and then the shoulders and then it's over. It's a girl! Time of birth: 10:44am. She is crying loudly. They take her and clean her up and weigh her. 7lbs, 8oz and 18in. The same length as Grace, but over a pound heavier. Total time of labor from rupture to birth: One hour and 45 minutes.

While they are cleaning her up, I deliver the placenta and ask the resident to explain the placenta to me. I figure growing that thing made me horribly sick for months so I wanted to see it. I'm pretty sure Dave and the resident thought I was nuts, but she explained form and function to my satisfaction. After the placenta, I had to get stitched, a 2nd degree tear right where the OB from Grace's delivery had cut, but no new episiotomy since this OB keeps up with the research. Later I figure out the reason Olivia's crowning was so shocking to me is because I had been numbed during Grace's. Sigh.

Finally all the business had been attended and they bring me Olivia. I hold her and attempt to latch her on to nurse. She's an absolute pro and I feel experienced and confident.

After a few minutes, my parents come in to visit. Baby is admired and passed around the room. After what seems like a very short amount of time, the nurse announces it is time for me to get ready to move to recovery. When Grace was born, everything happened in one room so being moved from room to room was a new experience. Everyone leaves and the nurse helps me with the glamorous postbirth business and then I am wheeled out of the room before 11:45. I feel like we are being rushed and it doesn't make me happy. I know they want the room open for the next patient who might need it, but I also feel like since I only used it for a handful of hours, much less than the average, they should be a little more lenient on the schedule. But no, so we are off and Olivia is brought to the nursery while I get situated in the new room.

We get to the new room and I expect Baby soon after, but she is not coming. After some short amount of time, I send Dave to investigate why she hasn't been brought to my room yet. He returns and tells me everything is fine, but they gave her a bath and her temperature dropped so they will not release her from the nursery until her temperature normalizes. I immediately send Dave back to the nursery to keep her company and to take a picture so I can look at her. He leaves and comes back fairly quickly. I expect that this means the baby is being brought to the room. No, he just wants to show me the pictures. I look and send him back. Olivia is wide awake in these pictures and I don't want her to be by herself.

Olivia under the blasted heat lamp

I am as anxious as I can be and feel like I am crawling the walls. I know that she is safe and all is well, but I want her! I want to hold her and nurse her and talk to her and she is down the hall under a heat lamp. Dave returns. "Are they bringing her?" "Not yet." "Go back." We repeat this process over and over.

Compounding my anxiousness is the fact that Grace is still not at the hospital. After her sister was born, we called to announce the news and request her presence, but they hadn't arrived yet. For whatever reason, there were a hundred reasons why they kept getting delayed. I was stuck in this hospital room with neither of my babies and I was going out of my mind, alert and agitated.

And this is how I spent Olivia's first afternoon. Waiting for one baby to be released from custody over a stupid bath and waiting for the other baby to get to the hospital because her grandparents were not in a hurry to get there. It was not a fun day. I wasn't alone; my parents were there and I think my brother visited, but I was not a happy camper.

Finally, finally, the nursery deigns to allow the baby to see her mother at about four in the afternoon. Of course, by that point, Olivia was sound asleep. I was grateful to finally have her and disappointed she was asleep. All that magical newborn alertness was lost in service to an unnecessary bath.

They kept her under that stupid lamp for FOUR hours. If it was me now instead of me then, I would have demanded they release her to me since, by mere coincidence, my body temperature is the exact temperature they were trying to raise her's to, but I was compliant and simmered in my juices all day long instead.

Soon after Olivia was back in my room, Grace finally arrived with her grandparents at around 5pm. Just in time for the two year old to be hungry for supper so she stayed less than an hour. Maybe 30-45 minutes, if I recall correctly. Why Grace was kept away all day and brought to visit just in time for the witching hour, I will never understand, but we did have a few minutes together. Grace immediately adored her sister and was very proud to be a big sister.

After five weeks of expecting labor at any moment, a reluctant induction, a pretty quick delivery, and an afternoon of waiting, we were finally all together.

N.B: The missing baby clothes were located in the middle of December underneath a bunch of Christmas ornaments because that is a totally logical place to store baby clothes.


The Sojourner said...

Did this eat my comment? I am too lazy to type it up again so I'll wait and come back later to see if it shows up.

Jenny said...

I'm afraid it ate your comment. Come back! Try again! :)

The Sojourner said...

Retyped, as near as I can remember:

Yay, another birth story!

I legitimately LOLed at the OB who would rather deliver a baby than spend a whole weekend with his extended family.

I read at least 2 blog posts in the last week that claimed that with natural/non-Pit labor, you get breaks between contractions during which the pain completely goes away and you can rest. I read those and was like, "Wait, we get breaks? Is there some kind of union you have to join for this?" I've never had Pit, so I wouldn't know, but my super-fast back labor was SO much more painful than I had been led to believe it would be by the hippie childbirth blogs--the pain did get *less* between contractions, but not enough that I could really catch my breath before we went back to dear-God-we're-all-going-to-die levels.

(I still hope to avoid epidurals in the future. Giant needles in the spine are on my "NOPE NOPE NOPE" list.)

Jenny said...

I have heard that rumor about breaks in between as well, but for me, I have not experienced it once my contractions get established. In my last labor, I remember having a contraction and then having the pain completely go away, but I think that happened once? twice? Not exactly sure. I have never really timed my contractions because once I have had enough to think that maybe we should time them, there is nothing to time really. It's just contraction-contraction-contraction-contraction.

I'm with you on that whole avoiding the needle in the spine thing. I'll just have my contractions over here, thank you very much.

The Sojourner said...

I think mine were irregular at first, but I don't really know since I didn't time them, just went and took a shower to see if they'd go away. They did not, and as I was getting dressed afterwards I had to keep stopping and leaning on the towel rod and breathing--then I'd look at my watch and be all, "Wait, it's only been two minutes? That can't be right." That was within an hour of the very first, "Owww, man, what did I do to my back?" moment.

Jenny said...

That's interesting about you having back labor too. It makes me wonder if there is a connection. Not that back labor == fast labor, but that fast labor == back labor.

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