On Tuesday, July 24th, we went to the doctor for our regular weekly checkup, non-stress test and growth check. At this appointment, the doctor reminded us, "next week, make sure you schedule an induction - we will let you go two weeks past your due date, but we want to get the induction on the calendar so we're not surprised by it..." We had already found out Isabella was "bigger than most" and she "might have a hard time fitting through my pelvis - either her head or her shoulders..." so we hoped to avoid going past her due date of August 3rd and we definitely didn't want to be induced. So Tuesday night, we tried one of the natural induction methods we'd learned about - good ole' fashioned sex. (Semen helps soften the cervix - and at our appointment, the OB told us I was 1.5 cm dilated - and orgasms release oxytocin - the induction hormone.) I also went to a massage therapist for a pelvic alignment that afternoon, since we'd been told Isabella was in an oblique lie at our 36 week ultrasound.
Wednesday morning rolled around and I had a clear fluid with a little bright red blood in it come out when I went the bathroom. I was thinking, "Could this be my mucous plug? Or bloody show? Or just a result of the cervix being bumped during sex and yesterday's dilation check..." I went to work.
Throughout the day, I continued to spot - this time, it was just brownish. I thought I might have been having mild contractions - there were a couple times when I stood up and had to wait a few seconds before I could walk upright. But it didn't feel like anything serious. I graduated the new employee class I was managing (including buying them a birthday/graduation cake - it was one student's birthday - and the guy at Safeway joked and asked if the cake was for the baby in my belly - ironic?) and I told everyone I probably wouldn't be in the next day - I figured something would happen before the weekend was done. I spent extra time at work getting rid of the stuff on my desk so someone else could use it while I was away. I left work around 6 pm and got home around 6:45.
I told Mark I'd been spotting and that I'd told my coworkers I probably wouldn't see them until October...but that I really thought something would happen by the end of the weekend (not necessarily Wednesday night). Mark was on his way to coach someone at the box and he asked if he should cancel. I said, "No, really, I'm fine. It's probably not gonna happen tonight." So he got us some PF Chang's for dinner (mmm I had honey chicken), we ate and he went to the box to coach. I posted on Facebook that "something might be happening, but I'm not sure" and I got in the bath and read for a while. I was showering off when Mark returned from the box around 9 pm. When I got out of the shower, Mark packed our bag and I laid on the bed. Mark was counting my contractions on his iPhone app. Once he'd gotten home, they became more frequent, but felt very sporadic - there didn't seem to be a pattern and we knew that labor often took hours to become active labor, so we figured it was not steady enough to be "the real thing." We called the doctor just to check (they said to call and we just wanted to let them know that something might be happening - not necessarily that we were ready to come in). They were initially 12 minutes apart for 20 seconds...then 8 minutes for 45 seconds, then they hit 4 minutes for 60 seconds and then they seemed to come even closer - like two minutes...but they weren't consistent, so we still figured it wasn't the real deal.
I was moving around a lot, trying different positions. At one point, I was most comfortable on the toilet (and I had to poo), so I sat there for a while. Then I showered again (because if this was happening, I wanted to be as clean as possible - yeah, priorities, right? Because labor is a clean endeavor - not!). Contractions were intense and close together. Mark suggested I lie back down on the bed because they were the most spaced apart when I was there originally. So I did. I felt nauseous, so Mark grabbed me a bucket. After two or three contractions, I felt a gush of water. I'd thought my water broke. Game faces were on. I somehow got dressed and we were heading out the door. The on-call doctor still hadn't called us back. This was around 11 pm.
I had a contraction in the hallway of our condo as Mark was gathering our stuff. I said, "Hurry up, we need to get to the elevator before I have another contraction. I don't want to wake up everyone on our floor." So we rushed out the door and got to the elevator.
In the parking garage, I waited by the door while Mark pulled the car around. I tried to get on my knees and face the passenger seat while Mark drove and I started another contraction, but that wasn't working, so somehow I flipped around to sit regular (I still had a giant bucket with me in case I puked). I felt another gush (I'd had no clue at that point that that was actually blood). I had one more contraction in the car before we got to the hospital - we only live 1.2 miles from the hospital (I think I asked Mark to run a red light - and I don't remember if he did or not).
We pulled up to the hospital and Mark went in to get me a wheel chair. I had a contraction standing by the car waiting. And felt another gush. Mark wheeled me to labor and delivery (I think I had two contractions on the way and more gushing). In the meantime, our car is still down in front near the security desk - running - with the doors and trunk open.
We get to labor and delivery and they check me in (I have a contraction at the desk as I'm giving them insurance paperwork). They get me into a room and I take off my clothes/put on their gown. At this point, I'm facing the bed in a kind-of-all-fours position. I hear Mark say "Is that normal?" and am not sure what he's talking about - it was the blood in my pants/underwear - that I didn't even know about. Two nurses tried repeatedly to get a hep lock on me. They asked if I wanted an epidural and I said no. Then I had more contractions and I said "I don't know! Maybe I do. I think I do!" The nurses finally got my hep-lock on after three tries (I still have bruises on both hands/wrists from their attempts). It didn't help that I was squirming through contractions while they were poking me. My doctor was busy delivering someone else, so a resident came in - the nurses were worried about the blood. The resident said it could be that I dilated too fast and told them to watch my blood loss.
Meanwhile, I'm still suffering through the contractions. In my "down" time, I say "I'm not really sure I want the epidural. I'd wanted to deliver naturally, but I'm not sure I can do it." One of the nurses, Dominique, said, "you totally can do this." I asked her if she'd ever delivered naturally - she said she had three kids and delivered her last without drugs. I asked if it would hurt any more than it already did. She told me I could do it and it'd feel a lot better once I started pushing. So I said, "OK, hold off on the epidural."
So...one of the first things they did once I was all hooked up to my hep lock was check to see how dilated I was. 6-7 cm, they said. Then we got a call from the security guy - our car was still in front of the hospital. Running. Doors open, trunk open. They said we had to move it. I said to Mark, "You can't go." He asked "Is there a valet - can't security move our car?" Nurses said "No" and looked at him like he was nuts (I'm imagining the look because I have no idea what is going on around me at this point other than Mark is going to leave!). So, Mark said, "I'll be right back, baby." And he left. I had two or three contractions while he was gone. I apologized to the nurse for the language I was using.
I had no idea what time it is anymore...but I'd guess that was around midnight or 12:30am? My OB - Dr. Porter - eventually did come in. She looked angry. Maybe she was tired. Maybe she had a ton of deliveries that night. It seemed that way, anyway. She looked at me, smiled, and said "You're doing great. I'll be back." and that was it.
As I was having contractions, I needed/wanted something to hold on to. They wouldn't let me get on all fours, which was where I wanted to be for some reason (although in the moment, I wasn't even sure I could get through them on all fours or how I'd even get into that position), so through the first contractions, I put my arm around Mark's neck and literally hung off him while squeezing the shit out of his neck. It probably felt like a choke-hold. Mark said afterward that he'd pull back on me when I did it - kind of pulling me upright. While choking him with one arm, I pushed myself up with my left arm (the arm with the hep-lock on it). Somehow, this made the contractions more bearable (although it was a LOT of work).
I was shaking/shivering a lot, but I wasn't cold. I kept telling Mark I wanted to puke (but I never did). Occasionally I felt dizzy. My nurse kept reminding me to breathe and find a focus point (I was basically staring at ceiling or wall fixtures. Sometimes, I'd look into the bathroom. But Mark would help me breathe (he'd breathe with me) and he'd count my breaths - telling me I only had to get through xx breaths (it was around 10) before the contraction was over. It helped a lot. I moaned gutturally a lot. But the reminders to breathe and focus were just what I needed.
At some point (I don't remember this), Mark asked if I wanted him to put on our music that we'd brought. I said, "I don't know. I don't care. No, you can't leave me!" But he did put the music on and I remember feeling better with the music on. It gave me something different to think about especially between contractions. During it all, I did say a couple times, "I like this song."
Mark knew I didn't really want to be doing this all while lying back (although I have to admit that I do not know if another position would've helped). I did have an external fetal monitor on (I didn't pay any attention to it or to the hep lock in my left arm). Since Mark knew I preferred to be on all fours (or so I thought) or that I'd want to try other positions, he asked for the birthing bar. It took like four requests before they brought it. Once they brought that, I used my right arm to pull myself up on that while pushing myself up on my left arm. For some reason, that's how I needed to ride out the contractions.
There was a point where between contractions (which was probably only four minutes), I found myself resting to the point of almost falling asleep. That was interesting.
At another point, Mark was updating my status (he said he was trying to tell Cindy Shoen that this was the real deal) and I told him, "Stop that. I need you here!" He said, "but I was just trying to update Aunt Cindy!" I said, "No. Not now. It can wait. I need you - all of you. Now."
OK, at this point, it's probably around 1:30 and 2:15 am...I can't finish just now, Isabella is waking up....but next up comes the urge to push :o)
I looked at the clock only to count the seconds to know that the contractions were peaking/ending - and Mark helped narrate that, too. He really was great about it all. I honestly couldn't have done it without him. Well, I guess I could've, but I'd have been a shit ton more scared and I'd probably have passed out.
So, around 2 or 2:15?? I tell Mark - I have an urge to push during the contraction...I have to push! (By the way, once everything was "under control" in our room, our nurse left us and told us to buzz her when I felt the urge to push. That freaked me out a little - that they expected me to just do this without supervision - but after she left I didn't even notice. Mark kept things under control.) So, Mark buzzed the nurse and told her I felt the urge to push. Dominique came back in and said, "Do you feel the urge only during contractions, or also between them?" I said "Only during contractions." She said "It's not time to push yet,. then. You can't push until you feel the urge during and between contractions. You're not fully dilated until you feel that. If you push now, you'll be trying to push her into an undilated birth canal." She told us to page her again when I had the urge to push between contractions, as well.
I think I lasted about 15 minutes before I told Mark, "I have the urge to push. I can't NOT push during these. I don't like this." So Mark paged the nurse again and this time the other nurse came to our room. She checked me and said I was fully dilated and it was time to start pushing. She told me that she and Mark would hold my knees back for me and I needed to bear down and push three times during each contraction. I tried that a few times and the nurse said my pelvis wasn't opening far enough. Mark asked if I could squat. She said no - she wanted me to try another position, where I'd lie back more and she and Mark would hold my foot and my knee and Mark would help push me upright to squeeze Isabella out. I didn't like the idea of that at all - I did NOT want to be on my back. I really wanted to do a half squat or a full squat or whatever. After all, those are the positions we learned about that really open up your pelvis. We had no choice, so I complied.
At this point, Mark thinks it was only about seven contractions before Dr. Porter arrived and Isabella was crowning. Pushing was scary when I felt the "ring of fire." Yeah, it burned, but I specifically FELT the skin on the top area of my vagina (around the clitoris) tearing. I wasn't sure if anything else was tearing, but I FELT that. I started to cry between contractions. At least, I felt like I was crying. Mark said I really wasn't. But he could tell it hurt.
Once Dr. Porter arrived, I think I pushed through three contractions (three pushes each) and Isabella came sliding out. Dr. Porter put her on my chest - skin to skin. She rooted for a breast. She latched on. It was awesome. The placenta was delivered within minutes of Isabella. Then I was stitched up.
I asked Dr. Porter if I'd torn. She said yes. She said I tore on the top and the bottom and on both labia. She also said second degree tear. She said none of the tears were deep enough to affect other organs (like the urethra, etc.), so that was a good thing. As she was sewing me up (she did give me a local) when she got to the tear at the top, I squirmed and nearly died. I still had Isabella on my chest. I said "Get her off me! Get her off me!" I was so afraid I'd squirm and she'd fall off me. So they took her and started doing all their tests on her. Dr. Porter looked at me impatiently and I said, "That really hurts!" She said "There are a lot of nerve endings up there. I have one more stitch." So I sat as still as I could while she finished. Then I apologized for squirming so much and thanked everyone for their help during Isabella's birth.
The nurses helped me to the bathroom to change into a clean hospital gown and to teach me how to clean myself after going to the bathroom. It looked like a massacre in there after we were done. Then the nurse wheeled me and Mark wheeled Isabella (in her little portable crib) to our mother/baby room. Isabella was with us through the whole hospital stay (except for 30 minutes while we were in our "taking care of baby" class). It was phenomenal. Tyler Lofquist came to visit his baby sister. Windy L. Schneider visited and - thank you so much - brought us dinner and snacks and champagne. Jennifer Lofquist and Andrew Lee also visited and brought us two really cute books - one of which Mark read to Isabella that day. Samantha Wharton Bell sent flowers that made our room so pretty and smelled lovely, as well.
As soon as we got out of the hospital, we went to see Josie at the Northern Virginia Lactation Center. She is a godsend. I was doing ok feeding Isabella in the hospital, but Josie verified that Isabella was getting milk (colostrum, really) and a good latch. She taught us some good tricks and told us how to keep Isabella awake while breastfeeding - in the hospital, she'd latch and suck for about 15 minutes, then fall asleep. We learned how to get her to really feed...
And now, we're home. I'm recovering still (hard to sit, a little tender when walking) and we're all learning how to be a family. Breastfeeding seems to be going well - we'll see tomorrow when we have our first pediatrician appointment.
[written four days postpartum]
Have a birth story you want to share? Send us an email at email@example.com!