Caleb: Monday night
I was four days overdue and on bedrest. I had walked, I had my ankles massaged, and I was even going to the chiropractor to try a little "alignment." Jon and I finally decided on one of the (ahem) more common techniques to start labor...and it seemed to work! That night, my contractions started. I stayed awake with a digital watch, timing and recording my contractions. Contractions were only minutes apart, but not painful at all.
James: Saturday night
I was just over 38 weeks pregnant. Following my doctor's recommendation, I had been using a breast pump when I could in order to get my dilation and effacement going before labor began. Pumping usually caused contractions, and this evening was no exception. I didn't worry about timing, and I went to bed. Contractions were very far apart, one every couple of hours.
Caleb: TuesdayMy mom showed up (she got pulled over for speeding and actually got to use the "my daughter is in labor" excuse) and walked me silly! We went everywhere! As long as I was walking, my contractions were regular, but any time I stopped, they stopped. I was so tired!
Contractions continued to come slow and steady, one every couple of hours.
Caleb: WednesdayContractions had slowed, though I had stayed awake through the night with them. A sonogram revealed that my amniotic fluid was not replenishing itself, and I was instructed to head to the hospital for induction. I was scared: it was the first time I'd ever been admitted to a hospital! And it was odd walking in to Labor and Delivery with absolutely no signs of being in labor. Even my belly wasn't the typical, overdue, about-to-pop belly the nurses would have expected. Despite our instructions to get to the hospital by 3pm, we weren't actually checked until until well after that, and didn't start the induction process until 8pm. We started with Cervadil, which caused Caleb's heart rate to become very erratic. So that was pulled, but I continued with natural contractions for the rest of the night. Thus began the constant worry over Caleb's heart rate, and another sleepless night.
Contractions continued at a steady pace, and picked up slowly. One hour apart in the morning, a half-hour apart by lunch, and ten minutes apart by mid-afternoon. I still did not track them or write them down, and took a nap instead! I remember how tired I'd been the first time, and didn't want to repeat that mistake. When Jon got home from a lunch meeting, his eyes bugged out when I told him how close the contractions were coming. He had already sneakily had my mom call that morning so I could tell her to come, but I had told her that things were going slowly and not to worry about it. This time, though, we decided it was time to let my mom know to come on. Contractions continued every 10 minutes. I headed to my ladies' Bunko group that night just like normal, and told my friend Debbie (who was to watch Caleb when we went to the hospital) that it would be a quiet night, and I'd probably see her the next day.
Caleb: Thursday (Thanksgiving Day!)
After a night of contractions, I was devastated to find out that we had made no progress. I cried. I was so tired. The nurses started the pitocin. The whole family was there for Thanksgiving (though we'd pushed the big meal to Friday), and Karen D became my super-great birthing coach. Everyone kind of went in shifts, but she talked me through the worst of the contractions. They started coming in wave after wave. I couldn't refocus after one contraction to prepare for the next. And yet, despite the pain, I was drifting into sleep at any break. Finally I decided on the epidural. My choice going into the hospital had been to have an all-natural birth unless it became so painful that I wasn't aware of what was going on. That moment had come, and I was never so happy to see a dr. as when I saw that anesthesiologist. At that point I was dilated to 6cm. Throughout the whole day there was constant worry about Caleb's heart rate. I was given an oxygen mask.
At 9:15 it was time to push. My Dr. showed up (she was the on-call dr for the holiday, and came and went all through the day) and away we went. I was surprised that the dr. laid me pretty flat on my back--something I'd read was a big no-no, but there really was no other option when my legs had no feeling in them. I started pushing, but I didn't feel like I was pushing hard enough. Everyone had their eyes on the monitor as we watched the rise and fall of contractions. For some reason I could feel a slight pressure at each contraction, so I at least had an idea of when they were coming. Then I heard a nurse say, "We've got mec." Meconium was coming out with the amniotic fluid, a sign that the baby was in distress. Things ratcheted into high gear, I was given the epesiotomy of all epesiotomies, and Dr. K used a vacuum to get Caleb out. 9:32pm and he was born!
He was whisked away to the "french fry warmer" where a neonatal specialist was there to check him out. We had concerns that he would have a cleft palate, so my first thought was not to count his fingers and toes, but to look at his mouth. The room was packed with the normal drs and nurses, but also the NICU drs and nurses. Caleb was declared healthy, and I said aloud, "Oh Jon, he IS cute!" because honestly--well, Jon and I are so different from each other, that some combinations of our features could come out pretty wonky.
By the time the nurses had done everything, the dr has sewn me back up, and Jon and I had our quiet alone time with our firstborn, my mom was knocking on the door: "Um, it's 11:00 at night, and some of us would like to see the baby and go to bed." Will do! The whole family piled in, we took pictures galore, and thus ended Thursday. That night would be another sleepless night as we learned our little newborn.
I didn't sleep much that night, and about 3am I sat up in bed. I'd been having contractions for awhile now. I really didn't want to go to the hospital early like last time. And yet...there was such security in having someone else take over. As I sat there in the quiet, I wished my water would break so I'd have a real reason to go to the hospital. Jon asked me about my contractions, and I told him calmly that they were about 5 minutes apart now. Which, technically, was when the dr. had wanted us to check into the hospital, but the contractions were so painless that there was no way I was ready to go to the hospital. We talked it over for a bit and decided that we would start getting ready to go, but we'd take our time and see how things went. We both took showers and finished putting things in bags. My mom woke up and figured something was up, so she started getting ready without our even talking to her. I texted Debbie to let her know that it was time.
When Debbie arrived around 4am, all our things were ready to go to the hospital. Our bags were packed, and most of it was in the van already. But...it just didn't seem like it was time. I was desperately trying to avoid what had happened with Caleb's birth, and I didn't want to get to the hospital only dilated to a 2. I wanted to avoid Pitocin if at all possible, and getting there early could cause the dr to get impatient and opt for Pitocin. So we waited. I kept an eye on the clock. A little before 5, I was finally hit with a contraction that took my breath away. Without a word of discussion, we all gathered the final things and headed to the van. By 5:15 we were in Labor and Delivery. When I walked into the hospital room, tears sprang to my eyes. Tears of relief. I had felt the burden of "going it alone" and was glad to hand the monitoring and expertise over to the nurses and dr. By 6am I was checked in and found out I was dilated to 7cm. SEVEN. Then the tears flowed for real. I'd done it! I stayed home until I really needed to come. I couldn't believe it. And I couldn't believe how (relatively) painless the contractions were. They came every 5 to 10 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to recover, even if they were painful. Jon was my strong man, letting me hang on to him as I made it through each contraction.
I started walking. And walking. And walking. I was thankful for no IVs or poles to carry around. I'd go back to the room to rest and get hooked up to the monitor to see how James's heart rate was doing. Every time I rested, my contractions slowed, so I'd pull myself up again and we'd walk some more. Slowly I dilated. When I got to 9cm, I decided I couldn't do it any more. I wanted to lay down, let my contractions settle a bit, take a nap, and then I'd be ready. The nurse said that it was when a mother feels like she can't do it any more is when it's getting close to time. When the doctor heard my grand idea, she smiled and said, "You can do that, but that baby will still be in there. Or you can have this baby now." Fine...the nurse hooked me up to a wireless monitor so she could watch my contractions while I walked. The monitor base was set up in a different room than mine, so we could no longer watch the endless trail of humps across the page. The nurse said I could not go to the bathroom any more, and to let her know immediately when I had the urge to push. The doctor couldn't believe that I was still talking and smiling between contractions. I couldn't either, really. Compared to the first time I did this, it was hard to believe I was so far along!
As I was leaning on Jon through a contraction, he suggested I squat a little...to assume the position, so to speak. When I did that, I had the oddest feeling of needing to go to the bathroom. I stood up quickly and we called for the nurse. She checked me out, and I was almost to a 10. She suggested I lay down on the bed and give a very small push to see if she could clear the last bit away. A group of student nurses and a med student file into the room (I'd asked if they wanted to join us for the big moment). The head nurse explained that this was an unusual occurrence. This woman, she said with dramatic effect, is doing it all natural. No drugs. Then she turned to me.
One. small. push.
Oh my gosh. Holy cow. I have to push. Right now. I mean really push. PUSH. PUSH!!!
The nurse started talking quickly. "Don't push any more. Let's call the dr and get her in here first. Stop pushing now. Let's wait for the doctor."
The nursing students gathered around, entreating me to do the impossible, to stop pushing this being out into the world that had occupied my body for 9 months.
I heard my mom at my side, "Push honey! Mothers have been having babies without doctors for years! Push!" I pushed.
I can't begin to describe to you the power that was behind those pushes. I yelled like an Amazon woman. And I really wanted the dr to show up. The nurses had me flat on my back, and I knew I didn't want to be there.
Suddenly I saw the eyes of my dr looking at me steadily. She calmly directed the nurses to resituate the bed so I was closer to a sitting position. She explained how I was to push. Between contractions I said, "What am I doing wrong? I just know I'm going to have black eyes from this crazy pushing!" She smiled and said, "Sorry honey, that's just part of it! You're doing fine."
Between contractions, all eyes were on me. With the monitor in another room, the nurses could only rely on me to know when contractions were coming and going.
The doctor said that there was too much pressure at the top of the cervix, and that I was about to have a nasty tear, so she gave me a small epesiotomy with a local anesthetic. And not too much longer after that--only 15 minutes or so of pushing--little James was born at 11:15am. Our tiny baby James who would change our lives just as Caleb had done.
Comparing the two birth stories, the second was by far the easier birth. I know there were several contributing factors, but I do believe that the natural birth was what helped the most. With no Pitocin, the contractions were much more manageable, which allowed me to go without the epidural, which allowed me to be in a more upright position and push harder than I thought possible. And okay, maybe the fact that James was only 5lbs 12oz helped, too. :) I don't regret my choices with the first birth--I can't change the fact that I had low amniotic fluid and needed to be induced--but I do hate the sick feeling I got just thinking about the whole event. I'm thankful that this second time around has left me with a much better taste in my mouth.
The rest of the story of Caleb's life is all through this blog. And James's stories will be added as time goes on!