Can you say procrastination? I’ve been meaning to write this all out now for almost three months. For a while I was preoccupied with getting it perfect. I was, after all, a journalism major. It needs to be poetic, eloquent, verbose, right? For another while, I was just darn busy learning to be a mama. Now, on the brink of going back to work, I can put it off no longer. So, here it is. Nothing fancy, no big words. Just a quick little story (full of poor grammar – I plead mommy-brain) about the scariest and most exciting day in my life so far.
Friday, April 15, 2011: My water broke at about 5:30 am, just as I was finishing my morning shower. It was just like you see on television – a gush and splash on the shower floor (probably too much information but it’s my blog and I’ll be graphic if I want to). The first words of my mouth: “JOE!!! JOE!!! JOE!!!”(I’m sure that was much appreciated as he was sound asleep).
Rewind to few days earlier: I had a great week at work with most of my time spent prepping for my upcoming maternity leave. Even though I was positive I was going work up to (and I thought well-past) my due date, I completed a spreadsheet Wednesday showing a status and notes related to all the tasks for my upcoming events. Let’s call it work-nesting. I went to my 37-week appointment at Bellingham OB/GYN Wednesday afternoon. After checking me, my doctor forecasted (literally…he said: “I’m the weatherman and I predict…”) that I’d deliver right around my due date of May 5th. That evening I headed to a business dinner at Anthony’s Hearthfire which turned out to be a surprise baby shower thrown by my co-workers.
Thursday was uneventful. Oh, except that it snowed. Hard. In mid-April.
Back to Friday morning: I called the Childbirth Center and they suggested that we start making our way to the hospital. So, I did what anyone in labor would do: got back in the shower to shave my legs. We took our time getting ready, doing some of the things that probably should have been done weeks beforehand: packing an overnight bag, putting the carseat in the car, dusting, vacuuming, washing the dishes, walking the dog (you think I’m kidding but I’m not). I wasn’t having any pain at this point so we took our time getting to the hospital and arrived there around 7:30 am. I was checked and they quickly determined that yes, I was indeed in labor. At this point, I burst into tears. On our drive in, I was in complete denial that this was actually happening. The realization that I was going to give birth sometime that day was a little too much to handle. Since I still wasn’t in any pain, they gave us the option to leave the hospital, with instructions to be back by 1 pm.
We didn’t feel right driving all the way back home, so we headed to Boulevard Park for a stroll on Taylor Dock. Did I mention that it had snowed Thursday? Well, Friday it was warm and sunny. Our walk was brief. I began to feel the contractions and soon got to the point of needing to stop at every bench to take a breather. After a quick stop at The Bagelry to pick up some food (priorities, right?!), we returned to the Childbirth Center around 12:30 pm and were admitted to a room.
We had taken a six-session Hypnobirthing course as I intended to have a natural, drug-free childbirth. We (well, I) had written a simple, straightforward birth plan that requested that we not be offered pain medication. If I wanted it, I would ask…
…it didn’t take me long to ask. (I feel obliged to add a side note that the Hypnobirthing course was completely worthwhile – the relaxation, visualization and breathing techniques we learned were extremely helpful throughout the entire birthing process and helped me remain calm when things did not go as planned.)
Something in me knew that I wasn’t going to make it without the epidural. As I described to Joe as we discussed the epidural versus no-epidural decision, if I knew exactly when my labor would end, I may have been able to handle it. In a marathon, you know you’re going to be in pain but you also know how long the pain will last. Once you hit 26.2 miles you can stop, you can lay down, you can drink a beer. If you could have told me where the finish line was and exactly how long it was going to take to get there, we may have had a deal.
I was a bit of a pincushion for the nurses who apologized up and down about having to stick me so many times. I guess I have some pretty hard-to-find veins. All that heroin during my college years really did a number on me (I kid, I kid). After six pokes, they finally were able to put in my IV.
What a difference the epidural makes. I wonder how many women profess their love to the anesthesiologist. I bet he receives a lot of thank you cards and fancy gift baskets.
Fast forward through a few pain-free hours: I was slowly starting to feel the contractions again, but this time only in my back. The nurse checked me and told us she thought baby was turned posterior, meaning her face was towards my front when it should be towards my back, but she wasn’t sure. My doctor also came in, consulted my chart and began to hint at augmenting my labor with Pitocin. I forgot to mention that I was matched with quite possibly the best labor and delivery nurse on the planet. I think she could see the look on my face when the doctor mentioned Pitocin and from then on we tried every trick in the book to hurry my labor along. I switched positions every half-hour and soon I reached the magic 10 centimeter mark. At some point, the anesthesiologist came back in to increase my epidural. That worked for oh, about 10 minutes. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
And so the pushing began at about 9 pm. Joe counted, I pushed. Joe counted, I pushed. Joe counted, I pushed. This went on for oh, a long time. Each time the doctor came in he would say: “I think she’ll be here soon…I think you’re going to have a tax-day baby…I think it’ll only be a little bit more now.”
At around 11:30 pm, the doctor’s tune changed. While the baby was not showing any signs of distress, I had been pushing for just under three hours without much progress. My energy level was still okay (thank you running and swimming), however we were all getting concerned since baby girl seemed to be in an awkward position. He said he’d give us a little more time and then would return to discuss our options.
Can you say motivation? Joe and I worked hard over the next 20 minutes to move that baby – him counting, me pushing (at this point, I was quite sure I had burst just about every blood vessel in my face pushing so hard).
We were much closer once the doctor returned, but not close enough. He laid out the options and detailed the pros and cons of each one: forceps, vacuum extraction or cesarean section. After a quick discussion, we agreed to go with his recommendation. He would give the vacuum extraction three tries and if it did not work, I would be rushed to an emergency c-section. (By the way, I really had no clue about what a vacuum extraction involved prior to the doctor’s discussion with us. I’m thankful I didn’t have access to Google while in the delivery room.)
The funny thing is that, in that moment, I would have done anything to make sure baby arrived safely. Quite honestly, if the doctor had told me he needed to chop off my right hand in order to get her out, it I would have agreed. Whatever it would take to make sure she was okay.
The next bit was a bit of a blur. I remember faces, lots of faces, all staring at me with looks of both encouragement and concern. Joe’s face. Dr. Mallory’s face. Dr. Mallory singing “Happy Birthday.” Bright lights. Shiny tools. The baby bassinet corner of the room. Lots of people. People to help with the baby. People to help take me to surgery. The nurse who had been with us all day, changed into plain clothes because her shift had ended, checking in with us before she left.
Tries number one and two with the vacuum did not work. Finally, with try number three, a little tearing and a lot of screaming, Lyla Rose Spencer came into the world. There aren’t words to describe the instant wave of relief that washed over me when it was over.
They quickly took her over to the bassinett for an examination. Her poor little shoulder had been stuck and her left arm below her elbow was unresponsive. She also had quite the gash and swelling on her scalp from the vacuum. They wrapped her up and handed her to Joe who took her over to me so I could hold her for a couple of minutes.
I have to say that I was pretty nonchalant about my pregnancy. I was, of course, happy to be expecting but my thoughts leaned mostly towards feelings of insecurity about my ability to be a good mommy, worry about how my life and relationship with Joe would change, and, of course, anxiety about money. I can only describe the first time I laid eyes on Lyla as love at first sight. I never knew how quickly and how deeply I would fall in love with this tiny little creature.
Lyla was taken to the nursery for observation and to be checked by the on-call pediatrician. Do you know one of the scariest feelings ever? To have given birth with all of the noise, the lights and commotion and then, just one short hour later, to be sitting in silence without a baby in the room with you. Luckily, my family was there. While Joe stayed with Lyla in the nursery, my mom, mother-in-law, and sister sat with me in the room and kept me company.
It was soon determined that she needed to stay in the nursery overnight. So both sets of grandparents-to-be headed home to get some sleep and Beth stayed with me in the room. A couple hours later, her condition improved and she was brought in to room with us and stayed with us for the remainder of our time in the hospital.
They monitored the swelling on Lyla’s scalp and determined that her arm was the result of a condition called Erb’s Palsy (basically due to trauma in childbirth) and it would likely heal on its own (it did).
I cannot say enough good things about the nurses and physicians at the Childbirth Center. Our experience there was wonderful and everyone went above and beyond to make us feel comfortable.
Fast forward to almost three months later: Lyla is a wiggly, smiley, happy little baby. She is the love of my life.