Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The whole l.o.n.g. story

Settle in, dear reader. This is a long tale.

Felix’s birth story really starts on May 14th, 2008, when my water broke as I was walking with my friend, her daughter and Elliot. We hustled back to my friend's house and she kept Elliot while her husband drove me to the hospital. Jay met me there. We waited, they did “the test” and confirmed that it was amniotic fluid. I was told I likely wasn’t going to be going home without my baby, and that if I didn’t go into labour that I was going to be on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy.

They hooked me up to an IV for antibiotics to prevent uterine infection and gave me steroid shots to help mature the baby’s lungs in case of early and unpreventable labour. So I spent 5 days in the hospital. After the first 48 hours, the IV came out and I continued the antibiotics orally for another 48 hours. On day 4, they let me come home on a day pass. Jay and Elliot were scrubbing the floors when I walked through the door. I curled up on the couch with Elliot and we read books. That afternoon, Jay dug the second hand wheelchair he’d purchased from a yard sale on a whim the year before out of the basement and we went for a walk in the sunshine.

I went back to the hospital after Elliot went to bed that night. The next morning, they did an ultrasound to determine how much amniotic fluid was surrounding the baby. It was my 3rd ultrasound since going into the hospital. Again, I was asked if I wanted to know Boo’s sex. Somehow, I held my ground and kept it a surprise! Since I hadn’t leaked any more fluid or had any contractions and since there was plenty of fluid left, I was released from the hospital and sent home on “modified bed rest”. I could get up to go to the bathroom and things like that, but no sex (yeah, because at 31 weeks pregnant, that was high on my to-do list!) and no heavy lifting or long walks.

Thankfully, we still had a nanny in place for Elliot, since I was supposed to have a month left at work and Jay had gone back to work as well. So our wonderful, temporary nanny got to keep her position until the end of June, when I was finally allowed off bedrest. Everyone thought that as soon as the bedrest ended, I’d go into labour. But as the days past, it was proven to not be the case. My first due date went by. Then the second. Then the third.

Sunday night, July 27th, I had contractions every 10 minutes for almost 2 hours. I went to bed thinking that this might finally be it!! But, either I slept through them or they stopped, and nothing happened. I was disappointed.

Monday morning, I dropped Elliot off a friend's house and her husband drove me to my doctor’s appointment. I was planning to have the doctor strip my membranes if possible. Since I’d been 2 cm dilated for 3 weeks already but not effaced, I was getting discouraged. According to my dates, I was 5 days overdue – according to my doctor, I was already 9 days overdue, so we talked about induction. My doctor wanted me to meet with the induction clinic the next day, after I had an ultrasound to check on fluid levels and make sure Boo was ok.

When Dr. L examined me in her office, she said I was 2-3 cm and I was starting to get stretchy, but still quite thick. I was disappointed and asked if there had been any effacement. She replied that I was maybe 40% thinned. She asked if I wanted her to strip my membranes, and I told her to go for it! It was not comfortable but it was tolerable. I felt a bit of cramping and had discharge afterwards.

I called for my ride after my appointment. Elliot and I had a slow walk home from our friend's house in the rain and he splashed in all the puddles he could find. (Our usual 10 minute walk took half an hour!) I put him down for his nap and finished some things around the house and returned phone calls. I called my naturopath’s office to ask if there were any herbs I could be taking to help speed things along and avoid the induction. The receptionist said she would call back the next day with information. I finally lay down on the couch for a nap around noon. I didn’t get any sleep as the cats went crazy – meowing and scratching the furniture, and the phone kept ringing. Just as I started to drift off, Elliot woke up from his nap.

I realized that the whole time I was on the couch, I’d been having mild contractions every 10 minutes. I was hopeful, but trying not to get my hopes up. I got Elliot up and gave him some lunch. We hung out in the house, reading books and rolling balls back and forth to each other on the floor. I drank the last of my raspberry leaf tea. We went for a walk around the block.

When we got back, I rested for a bit and then decided to clean up all the toys that were lying around the house. My contractions started to get closer together (8-9 minutes) and they were getting uncomfortable. I had to stop a few times while picking up toys. I lay down on the couch around 5 and we watched some TV. I was watching the clock, thinking that maybe I should call Jay and get him to leave work early. I decided not to, as the contractions were still manageable and he would be home by 6:30.

At 6pm, I started supper for Elliot. We were having fajitas. The can opener ceased up – I was getting really frustrated and the contractions were starting to hurt and get much closer together. I finally opened the can of refried beans by repeatedly biting the can opener all around the edges of the can. I got Elliot in his chair and sat down at my computer while he ate. At 6:30, I had the first really painful contraction where I needed to vocalize with the pain.

I didn’t want to make much noise, as Elliot got very concerned when someone was hurt. So I said “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh – Elliot, can you say ‘Ahhhhhhhh’ with Mommy?” He replied, “Sing, mommy. Sing ‘Hush Little Mermaid’” Luckily the contraction ended there and I had the song on the computer, so we played that. Just then Jay walked through the door and I practically knocked him down with my enthusiasm that he was home. I filled him in on my contractions getting closer together and asked him to call Karen, our doula. I chatted with her for a while to explain what was happening and to make a plan – she was just sitting down to supper but would call me in an hour and we would reevaluate. I was going to lie down to see get some rest and see if anything changed. The contractions were averaging 6 minutes apart at his point. Jay took over making sure Elliot had his supper, and he gave his father and stepmother a call to see if they could come over to help with bedtime and stay the night with Elliot.

We also called my mother – I left her a message asking if she wanted to hop in her car and drive 4 hours to come spend some time with Elliot as we were pretty sure I was in labour for real. Mom called back a few minutes later and said she would leave early in the morning and come over. This worked well, since Jay's dad and stepmom both had to work in the morning. Mom asked why I wasn’t already en route to the hospital when I told her my contractions were 6 minutes apart. I told her I still had lots of time.

I went to lay down around 7 while Jay played with Elliot and then started the bath. I heard Jay's parents arrive around 7:30, but they stayed downstairs and Jay finished the bath. While I was laying down, I started to feel pain in my lower back and upper thighs with each one and that concerned me as it was what indicated back labour with Elliot, and it didn’t start up with him until I was at least 5 cm dilated. Karen called and I told her things were ramping up. She said she would be there within the hour.

After his bath, Elliot wanted a story and I had just finished a contraction so he snuggled with me on the bed and we read. Jay tucked Elliot in just as another one hit me. By this time, the contractions were much closer together – 5 minutes for sure – and I had to vocalize through them.

After Elliot was in bed, Jay was able to come in and support me during contractions. I found it comfortable to sit on the edge of the bed and lean backwards onto the bed as far as I could without falling over. When Jay was there, he would press on my sacrum. Since I had been feeling nauseous, Jay had brought a bowl upstairs with us when I first went to lie down. Luckily, he had, since I then started throwing up my very light supper of yogurt and toast (there was no way I felt up to eating fajitas!) This is when I felt certain it wasn’t false labour. (Not sure why I waited that long to be so sure it was real!)

Jay went back downstairs to check in with his dad and give them some instructions. Then he came back upstairs and started packing his bag for the hospital. Finally, Karen arrived around 8:30. Jay says my whole body relaxed the second she walked into the room. All I know is the contractions suddenly got a whole lot stronger and closer together!

They both supported me very well - I stood and clung to Jay with each one and Karen pressed hard on my sacrum. Karen suggested I try labouring in a hands and knees position to take the pressure off of my back, so we stacked some pillows on the bed (after I threw up some more) and I positioned myself the best I could. Karen did counter pressure on my hips with the contractions. I felt a sliding movement inside and there was a sudden burst of pressure between my legs. I expected my water to break and was worried about my sheets because Jay's parents were spending the night, but nothing happened. In this position, the contractions lasted longer but slowed down a bit. I heard Karen quietly ask Jay if all our bags were packed and ready to go. She said she would take them out to the car and that we should probably go get me checked out since the contractions were coming every 1-2 minutes.

Finally we were ready to go to the hospital. I decided to pee first, but was scared of having contractions on the toilet because of the pain, but I made it through. (And did indeed have one while sitting there.) We had to stop twice for contractions while going down the stairs.

Jay helped put my shoes on and his stepmom came out of the living room to ask how I was doing and if there was anything I needed. I don’t remember what I said to her – I know it was short but polite. I didn’t really say much at all and really let Jay do the talking. I know for sure I scared the crap out of them - they didn't expect me to be in full labour when they got there! We made it outside, but had to stop at the bottom of the front steps and again on the side of the road before I could get in the car.

We arrived at the hospital by 9:30 and eventually made it into the admitting room – I had to stop several times. Contractions were very intense while I sat in the chair and Jay had to find my health card in my wallet and sign the paperwork for me. We went upstairs to the Early Labour Assessment Unit. The Unit was full, so they had us wait in the EL lounge, a large room with several beds.

The nurse came to check on me. I was clinging to Jay during all my contractions. I heard her ask them how long I’d been hurting like this and if I wanted anything for pain. She knew my doula and didn’t expect me to want meds and so she quickly got on with the examination. When she said how far along I was, I missed the number but felt the change in both Jay and Karen. When the nurse left, they asked me if I’d heard – and excitedly told me I was already 7 cm dilated and fully effaced. I felt triumphant.

The nurse had gone to find us a room. Before she left, she said that if it came to it, I could deliver in that lounge. It wasn’t ideal, but it was equipped for it. I didn’t care at that point! They did find us a room and we slowly made our way down the hall. We were in Birth Unit #8. My room nurse was very young. I found out afterwards that she was very new to the Unit and so that was why many other nurses kept coming in to check on me, too.

My nurse needed to take some blood and that was very hard for me. I was still standing for all my contractions and they were getting more intense. I told her she better hurry, as they were so close together, but I did have at least one contraction with the needle in my arm. Another nurse came with paperwork for me to read over and sign. She went over the highlights with me – it was all routine stuff that I remembered from Elliot’s birth, but I kept contracting so I couldn’t focus too much. I scrawled my initials to say I’d read it.

I kept standing and clinging to Jay. Karen went to get us some water and to retrieve our bags from the car. She hand fed Jay a granola bar while we stood there – he hadn’t had a chance to eat supper.

My doctor arrived at 11, I was amused to notice she was still in the street clothes she wore at my appointment that morning. She checked me when I said I wanted to push and was feeling lots of pressure in my bum. Turns out I was 9.5 cm and had a tiny bit of cervix left. She asked if I wanted her to break my water. I looked to Karen for advice and she encouraged me, as I was so far along and it still hadn’t broken. During the next contraction, at 11:15pm, my dr broke my water and a few contractions later, she pushed the lip of cervix over the baby’s head. Karen said afterwards that a bit of the baby’s head was visible at that point. I asked to have my shoes removed and the nurses laughed as they sprang into action and took off my sandals, pants and underwear. My dr said she needed to get gloved and gowned because I was ready to push. I remember watching her walk away and saying “But I’m pushing now!” and I did start to push involuntarily.

Jay and Karen helped me turn onto my side, as it was a better position for the baby until my dr returned. I was screaming into Jay’s ear “I’m pushing” with each contraction. Finally, she came back and I started pushing for real at 11:25pm.

I was very vocal with my pushing, screaming and grunting. I had my head thrown backwards. My nurse encouraged me to focus and try not to be so loud – Jay says I rolled my eyes as I told her I would try but that I didn’t think it was possible and that it worked for me!

Karen told me later that one of the other nurses also started to say something about my pushing methods, but my dr interrupted her and said “It’s working for her – let her be. She’ll have a sore throat tomorrow though!”.

I felt the ring of fire as his head crowned. Man, that hurt! I remember it with Elliot, and it swear it wasn’t that intense. My dr told me the head was out and I needed to stop pushing. Suddenly, I had nurses holding my legs back as far as they would go and was told to PUSH! Finally, I felt his body slide out of me. It was 11:41pm. Jay says I got a crazy look in my eyes as I was staring at the ceiling, panting. Everyone was congratulating me, but I was upset because I had only heard a tiny wet baby gurgle, and no crying yet. I asked Jay if we had a boy or a girl. He asked if I wanted to know right away and I demanded to know. He left my head to go check and came back to say it was a boy. Felix Raphael, 9lbs 4oz, 20.25 inches long.

I noticed there were a lot more people in the room and that they had whisked Felix away without Jay cutting the cord. I don’t know who told me, but I found out his shoulders had gotten stuck and he needed help being born. My dr pulled one shoulder out before the other could be born. Also, the cord had been wrapped around his neck twice, and she had to carefully free him before starting to work on the shoulders. I still hadn’t heard any cries and kept asking if he was ok and why wasn’t he crying. Both Karen and Jay said they could see him and he looked ok and then we heard cries and I almost cried with relief. Finally, a nurse brought him over to me, all wrapped up in warm blankets. I don’t remember when I took off my shirt, but it was gone by this point.

My dr told me we were waiting for the placenta. I had been given a shot of oxytocin in my hip to help it release. She kept gently tugging on the cord, but nothing was happening. Looking at the cord, Jay said there was a huge knot in it. Apparently, Felix was one active boy! We had unwrapped Felix and he had been nuzzling at my breast but didn’t actually nurse. When things started to get intense, Jay took Felix for a bit. The nurse asked if she should call for an OB consult. My dr said we’d wait a bit longer, but it was coming up on the 30 minute mark, which wasn’t good. She said there was a finally trickle of blood, which indicated the placenta was starting to release. I tried pushing a bit more, but nothing happened and they called for the OB.

The OB (a youngish man) arrived and they explained the situation and he also tried having me push while he gentle tugged the cord. He did a quick internal and said he agreed that it felt like it was starting to separate, but since it had been so long our best options at this point was to try a manual extraction. Since I hadn’t had any pain meds and didn’t have an IV, they would have to give me phentanol for the pain. This was a one time thing – if they couldn’t remove it in the room, they would have to take me for surgery and give me an epidural or spinal tap. I said absolutely not and asked if we could wait 10-15 more minutes to see if it came out before going to the other options. He agreed. I felt like pushing a bit, so he pressed down really hard on my abdomen using a circular motion while I pushed and screamed a bit and it finally slid out.

The placenta was huge. Everyone commented on it. My dr checked it over extra carefully, due to me retaining pieces of placenta after Elliot’s birth, resulting in me needing a D&C procedure at 7 weeks post partum. She said it looked great. The paperwork I read later said it weighed 907g.

My dr then started repairing the 2nd degree tear. She used some local freezing, but it still hurt. Finally she was done and I snuggled with Felix some more. They brought me something to eat, and then I got up to pee and shower. Finally, our room on the Newborn Unit was ready, so they wheeled us up and got us settled into a ward. I was disappointed, because I thought I had signed for a private room, but they must have all been full. The ward had four beds, and three, including mine, were full.

Jay stayed until 3am, but then he took a cab home to relieve his parents and so he could be there to help Elliot ease into the transition the next morning.

They came to give Felix his first bath at 3:30. I finally got a good look at him with my glasses on as they unwrapped him. He was perfect.

One of the nurses commented to Jay the next day about how amazing I was. She said she had worked on the birth unit for the past 9 years and had recently transferred up to the newborn unit. She said she could tell by Felix’s brow shape that he’d had a difficult presentation for birth which for first time moms would have most likely resulted in a c-section. She said that the fact that I had made it through 100% unmedicated was amazing, especially when you factored in the shoulder dystocia, and that she was my biggest fan!. Not sure exactly what she was talking about – probably the pale divot on his forehead that may have looked like he was pressed firmly up against my hip bone or something during labour. The divot that turned into a prominent hemangioma birthmark that should disappear as he gets older.

I’m so pleased to have had the birth that I wanted. Looking back over it, I feel so strong and empowered. Look what I did!!!!!

Felix Raphael
July 28, 2008
9lbs 4 oz
20.25 inches
100% med free!

in the hospital, one day old...

Three months old...

Chicken pox at 7 months old...

Splashing fun at one year old...


the cantons said...

Thanks for the detailed story Aimee, I love reading full brith stories, takes my breath away every time.

-amanda c.

bethsix said...

Beautiful. That chicken pox picture HURTS to look at. Wow.

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