No better way to start of the New Year with an incredible natural birth story! Heather is a personal friend and while her story is a little long, she writes it in letter form to her daughter with the kind of love, humor, and honesty that every birth story needs. Congrats, Heather, on your sweet baby girl!
You were due on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, but the thing I was most thankful for this year was that you didn’t wait that long! I had been hoping you’d come early since…who am I kidding, always (once we had safely passed the full term mark, that is)! I was royally uncomfortable and paranoid about the mandatory 41-week induction imposed by my terrible doctor’s office. Luckily, we never had to cross that bridge.
Friday, November 9, I decided to work from home. Not because I had any indication that you’d be arriving in less than 24 hours, but because I was going to the courthouse to get a ticket dismissed at 9:30am and I did not know how long it would take, nor did I feel like driving up to Goddard for a half day on a beautifully warm Friday afternoon. The weather was as perfect as I could have hoped for for a Virginia November. I walked to the courthouse carrying Harry Potter (#5, I believe) and my purse feeling good. A few blocks away, I tripped on a curb and landed hands and knees on the ground. I banged my right knee pretty well and was royally embarrassed when a girl my age asked if I needed help, but a quick inventory told me everything else was fine, so I picked myself up and went on my way. The waiting area outside the courtroom was crowded and there were only a few uncomfortable looking benches. I sat on the floor, luckily I’d been practicing that for weeks with the Bradley class and was quite comfortable there. About 3 people offered us their seats though, which was nice. One of the women asked when I was due—I told her, “It could be any day now!” (too funny). The previous court session ran late so my cohort started our session late. The courtroom was hot, the seating was long hard wooden benches, and there was no food or drink allowed. I didn’t want to leave to get a drink or go to the bathroom for fear I’d miss my name. One by one the people around me had their names called and the courtroom emptied. Around noon, I was one of two people left—the officer that issued my ticket was out with the flu. The judge moved me to a different courtroom to wait for a different judge to dismiss me. The other judge was listening to a case about a robbery turned sour, which I would have found more interesting if I wasn’t starving and uncomfortable. We finally got things sorted out and I left around 1. I came home, ate, and started trying to work. I had something due by the close of business, but I was very distracted and told myself I’d finish it the next day and it would be fine because then it’d still be out to my group when they got in on Monday. (The best laid plans…)
Adam got home around 6pm. He was scheduled to help with the church youth lock-in and we were supposed to meet at the church at 7pm. He quickly gathered his sleeping bag and PJs and we decided to go to La Madeline for a quick dinner. I had tomato soup and I forget what else. (The only reason I really remember the tomato soup is that when it came up later I thought, “I should not have eaten anything red—the hospital is going to think I’m bleeding internally!”…not that it was an issue). Adam was feeling grumpy about staying the night with the church group so I finally said he was welcome to use me as an excuse to leave when I did and spend the night at home (at the time, it was a fluff excuse but now I am super thankful he did not stay!) I ran to the bathroom on our way out, and returned to the table triumphant because I had seen a very little bit of what I was sure was my mucus plug (gross, I know, but I had been really paranoid for a few weeks that it was a milestone I was going to miss so I was feeling good that I had seen SOMEthing). I texted our doula, Talia, to let her know and she texted me back asking if I was feeling any contractions. I said I was feeling crampy in my back, but nothing more than I’d been feeling the last week or two, and I wasn’t having anything more than the usual Braxton-Hicks in front. In short, nothing painful and nothing regular, as far as I could tell. She said to keep her posted.
Adam and I arrived at the church and left with the group for our walking ghost tour of Alexandria. We got back to the church around 9 and I was ready to head home, but we stuck around until about 9:30 chatting and munching on junk food (I had quite a few cream puffs J). We got home and I got ready for bed immediately and lay down around 10 with a heating pad on my back set to high for the cramps (it had helped immensely the night or two before) and Adam settled in to play a video game in the living room (he had Coke at dinner thinking he’d be up with a bunch of raucous teenagers all night). I was woken up around midnight with serious back cramps despite the heating pad. I got up to go to the bathroom and there was a TON of mucus (again, gross, I know!) but I was still not convinced that I was IN labor, only that labor was imminent. Adam shut off the game and came back to bed with me, but I was too uncomfortable to lie still, even with the heating pad on high. We got up and moved into the living room, debating whether to call Talia. This is where my perception of time gets pretty fuzzy.
I think it was Adam that called her, I may have talked to her, and she decided she’d get dressed and head over. By the time she came (which was a short amount of time, though I don’t know how long), I was in full on labor on my hands and knees with my head in a pot dry heaving. Again, I’m not sure on timing, but I labored on hands and knees in the living room for awhile, intermittently with my head in a pot or bowl throwing up what felt like everything I had eaten all week. We tried leaning on a chair with a pillow for a little while but I was heading back to my hands and knees for every contraction. Adam and Talia were taking turns pushing my hips together to help with the pain and I kept asking them to push harder—they were getting quite the workout! At some point, I tried sitting on the toilet for a contraction or two to open up my hips but it was excruciating, so I was back on my hands and knees. Talia kept suggesting that I get in the shower, but I could barely lean on the chair, much less stand, and I really didn’t want to be wet. Plus I was remembering how awful it was to even sit on the toilet. Finally, she convinced me to just give it a try. Adam put a kneeling pad down in the tub in case I wanted to be on my knees and I made my way to the bathroom. I don’t know how long I was in the shower—maybe 5-10 contractions—but it actually felt amazing. I turned the water up as hot as it went and massaged my lower back during contractions. I made it through all of them myself, which gave Adam and Talia’s arms a little break.
After I got out of the shower we went to the bedroom. I did a lot more throwing up during contractions and I was so tired that I wanted to lie down and sleep between contractions, but after being caught off guard lying down for a couple, I gave up on that! So I stood and swayed with my eyes closed between contractions and hit my hands and knees immediately when one hit. I remember asking Adam and Talia often if they thought this would be your birthday and if they thought I was doing ok. I needed nearly constant reassurance that things were progressing and this wasn’t a false alarm or that I wouldn’t have to keep laboring into the next day (a girl from my birth class had told me earlier in the week that she had had contractions for about 5 hours and then they had stopped—I was terrified that might happen to me! Or that I’d be in labor for over 24 hours or something obscene!)
Around 5:30 or 6 am, I was completely exhausted and SO ready to be done. I was also starting to feel a little like pushing at the height of my contractions. I started asking Adam and Talia whether it was time to go to the hospital. I was paranoid about getting there too early, but I wanted to be done so badly! Talia said she wanted to wait until the contractions were lasting longer or at least more intense or some more show (when she said that, I remember muttering that I thought she just hadn’t seen how much show I was having because I was shocked every time I went to the bathroom and I think I forced Adam to look at some to confirm…poor guy!). Looking back, I think the contractions were much longer than they appeared because I don’t think I could feel them start—I only felt them as they were nearing the peak. I kept asking if it was time until finally Talia asked if I thought it was time. I said I did, but mostly because I WANTED it to be time, not because I knew anything! I was definitely feeling the urge to push at the peak of the contraction, but not all the time. Anyway, somehow the executive decision to head to the hospital was made and we started preparing to leave. Adam took the labor and overnight bags to the car and I made my way very slowly down to the car (we lived on the 3rd floor of an apartment building with no elevator. I had two tennis balls with me to help me through contractions. When one hit, I put the balls against the wall and leaned on them with all my weight. It took about 4 trips to get everything in the car. I hadn’t packed very well and it took awhile to round everything up. Then I made Adam go back upstairs for the birth ball even though I hadn’t used it at all to that point. I was convinced I’d need it in the hospital because they would want to hook me up for monitoring and I didn’t want to be bedridden. Also, I had forgotten to save the OB’s number in one of our phones so he had to go back up and rummage for that.
Finally, we left for the hospital. Sitting in the car was excruciating. I still had my tennis balls to lean on and I had the seat warmer all the way up, but they were barely making a dent in the pain at this point. When we got to the hospital, Adam called the OB on call. It was Dr. Selgado, the doctor we had seen at our first pregnancy appointment and our second favorite doctor at the practice. I was thankful it was her because she had seemed more open to the idea of a natural birth and a doula than some of the other doctors. Adam told her about my contractions and such and she talked to me for a minute but I had to stop talking when my next contraction hit. We walked across the parking lot toward the emergency entrance to the hospital because it was still too early for the normal entrance to be open. I didn’t want to be on my hands and knees on the cold concrete so I was pushing up against the tennis balls on cars and the side of the building as we went. Someone asked if we wanted a wheelchair but I said no because I was paranoid that we were at the hospital too early and that I needed to walk to keep laboring you down. Plus I don’t think I could have stayed seated to save my life. I don’t know how many contractions it took to get inside, it felt like we were stopping every 10 seconds—who knows.
When we made it upstairs to triage, it was about 7am and there was a nursing switch so hardly anyone was around it seemed. They wanted to monitor you and me for 20 minutes and give me an exam to make sure I was really in labor. Talia went to the bathroom with me to help me change into a gown and try to pee while Adam did something else. Only one support person was allowed in triage at a time. My body was starting to involuntarily push at the height of the contractions at this point so Talia was helping me to breathe shallowly to try not to push. When Talia got me changed, she and Adam switched and he helped me over to the bed. The nurse had left and I didn’t know what to do so I leaned over the counter and Adam pushed my hips together for a contraction or two. As I was standing over the tile I noticed some faintly pink drips on the floor and so I asked Adam if that was my water breaking. We agreed it probably was and I think he must have told someone because then I was standing over a pad. The nurse came to monitor me but I couldn’t sit still (or at all!) on the bed. She finally agreed that I could be on my hands and knees and she’d try to monitor me that way. She kept asking questions in between contractions but they were coming so fast that I couldn’t really get much in the way of answers out. Finally she gave up and said she’d just go ahead and check my cervix. I was fully dilated! I remember shouting to Talia, who was in the hallway. I had made it!! I hadn’t gotten there too early and I was going to get the natural birth I wanted! We had to move immediately to the labor and delivery room.
As we got ready to move, my labor and delivery nurse came in and said hi in an overly loud and cheery voice. I just said “shhhh!” with my hand out. She was super offended, but I couldn’t deal with the noise. They offered the wheelchair again but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit. I was still hitting my hands and knees every time I had a contraction. Now I was in the hospital gown though so my bum was hanging out for all to see when I bent over. Finally someone yelled that I needed to be covered so Adam and Talia were trying to keep the gown over me while pushing my hips together. We finally made it to my room and I got on my hands and knees on the bed. The nurse that I had scorned tried to hook me up to a monitor to listen to your heartbeat, but it kept slipping during contractions. Adam passed out our birth plan to everyone. The nurse asked if I wanted an IV and I said no. She asked how much water I’d had and I showed her my water bottle and Talia told her how many times it had been filled…two or three I think. In any case, it was good enough for the nurse. I was still trying hard not to push. Talia was helping me breathe shallowly through, but my body was still pushing a little bit. Finally Talia asked the nurse if it was ok if I pushed a little and the nurse said it was fine. She was still trying to get ahold of Dr. Selgado to figure out where she was. I kept pushing on my own with each contraction until I was really starting to feel you move. I told Talia that you were coming and she checked to see and said you weren’t crowning yet but we all knew you would be soon. The nurse gave up calling Dr. Selgado and was trying to call another doctor. A few contractions later I told Talia again that you were coming. This time you were crowning! I was still on my hands and knees and poor Adam and Talia were still having to put pressure on my hips. They were getting a front row seat to all this! The nurse gave up on the 2nd doctor (I don’t know if they just weren’t there or if they were busy or what!) and she called in a midwife who was there. I don’t know when she came or how long she was there. It felt like she was there only 5 minutes, but Adam said it was longer. Anyway I kept pushing at the height of my contractions doing what I felt like doing. I know the midwife was there when your head came out because my contraction was over so I stopped pushing and she told me to give another little push. Out you came! 8:51 am Eastern on November 10, 2012, 12 days early. 7 pounds, 8 ounces, 21 inches. Perfect. I don’t remember you crying really. They passed you up between my legs and I held you as I turned around to lie down. Adam cut your cord. He had tears in his eyes.
I felt like a million bucks. We had done it! The midwife delivered the placenta really quickly and then introduced herself to me and I thanked her for delivering you. Thank goodness she had come! I tore just a little, but the midwife said she’d leave that to Dr. Selgado to stitch. I thanked her some more and then she left. You and I lay together and you breastfed while the nurse prepared things for stitching and tried to contact Dr. Selgado. She also kept checking that my uterus was shrinking, which was horribly painful! It wasn’t shrinking fast enough for her liking and there was some bleeding, so she gave me a shot of Pitocin to speed that along. We took some pictures and talked and laughed and cried and waited. After almost an hour, the nurse had to take you to do your check up. Dr. Selgado STILL had not arrived. You had already had all of your 1 hour procedures and were wrapped up in a blanket and a hat and in Adam’s arms by the time she got there. Talia held my hand while Dr. Selgado stitched me up. After everything, this was the part I was most scared of! Thank goodness Talia was there to keep me calm! After everything, I went to the bathroom and then they put me in a wheelchair to take us up to recovery. I met the triage nurse on our way and proudly showed you off.
I’ve never been more proud of myself or of Adam. We had worked so hard preparing to give birth to you and it was exactly the way we hoped it would be (minus the fact the doctor wasn’t there!).
Happy birthday, dear Julie, Happy birthday to you!