I started and stopped and started this for months. It's a small novel (novella), so take a minute, grab yourself a snack and a drink, and get ready to settle in for a while!
note: I am primarily telling this story for two reasons - to give glory to God, and to let people know out there that good birth experiences do happen. I don't know at all why mine was as easy as it was, with just a few complications to speak of. I also don't know why some people have really awful birth experiences for no apparent reason. All I know is that God is the one who sustains us all when modern medicine can't, and he created those people who made modern medicine and gave them the inherent skills, talents, and strength so we are sustained through this ordeal.
Tuesday, March 4
It was 2 days until my schedule induction date. My due date was February 24, and baby girl was "late." I was feeling pretty bummed that we'd have to induce most likely, as only dilation and no detectable contractions had started. Neither John nor I actually expected to go into labor before the 6th, so we decided to make the next day, March 5, fun and memorable, getting a bite to eat at a local restaurant we've been wanting to try, then chilling at the house together while we just waited. To help with the waiting and take advantage of our dwindling time as a kid-free couple, we decided to have our friends, Christie and Aaron, over for dinner and a board game that night, which meant that I needed to clean a lot, run errands, cook a little bit (thanks to another friend, Bethany, we already had a main course), and then pick up John from school. I moved around a ton that day, having to sit down at least twice to catch my breath just from cleaning!
Another friend of mine told me that drinking red raspberry leaf tea would help get labor going. I did a little research and saw that it had worked for many, many people, so whilst shopping I picked some of that up and had it after dinner while we played a game with our friends. Actually, John asked me if I was going to drink it, and I said "I want to...but I also want to go out to lunch tomorrow."
Yes, my priorities lay there simply because I didn't believe I'd go into labor without some high-octane drugs. Two cups of that plus a body tired from running all day lead to me conking out on the couch while watching the 10:00 p.m. news.
Wednesday, March 5 - very early morning
When I woke up from dozing on the couch, it was almost 12:45, so I got up to get myself ready for bed. After leaving the bathroom for some reason I can't remember, I felt the most definite beginning of my water breaking. We scrambled to get a few loose things into our go-bag, and I decided to call the doctor since I thought that was what I was supposed to what to do. Sorry - my adreniline trumped my memory at that point. Doc called me back, asked if I had any contractions (no), and told me to wait a couple of hours. I was to head to the hospital if the two hours had passed or if my contractions got to be 10 minutes apart. Given that I had yet to have even 1 contraction worth noting, John and I went to bed to hopefully catch some last shut-eye.
I couldn't sleep, felt what would have been a .5-level contraction on the 0-10 pain scale, and relaxed in the living room until 3:00 hit. I then woke John up, he took a shower and got a few more things together, and we were out the door at 4:00 a.m. And I did follow our nurse educator's advice and had some toast prior to leaving. It was worth it!
Wednesday, March 5 - still before dawn
We landed at the hospital and were escorted to the women's services center (i.e. labor and delivery). I said "No, thank you" to being escorted in a wheelchair, which I regretted after what was a significantly longer than I expected walk from the ER, particularly because it didn't benefit me in the way of labor progression. After briefly checking in (PRE-REGISTER, FUTURE PREGNANT PEOPLE!), they brought me to my room, got my blood tested, hooked me up with an IV insert, and had me gt into a glamorous hospital gown. After doing a few walks up and down the halls, John and I headed back to the room to rest. He was thankfully able to sleep there for most of the morning while I, waiting for something, anything to happen, barely got my eyes to close.
The nursing staff brought me water, popsicles, jello, ginger ale, apple juice, and sympathy. Eventually the doctor came in to assess where I was at. 3-4 cm, he found, but no contractions to be felt.
As an aside, I do believe that Suzy head-butted me several times and, therefore, accomplished more than any single contraction could.
The doc prescribed for me to get pitocin going so we could progress labor along, lest we bring on an infection to the baby or placenta. John and I went on one last walk up and down the quiet women center's corridors, hoping at least one contraction would happen (it didn't). Pitocin was administered at 7:00, and I started getting contractions after about 15 or so minutes.
March 5 - mid-morning...bring forth the fury fire hell-storm earthquakes!
So pitocin is effective, I know, for most people. I did have a friend who was induced and didn't have anything effective happen for over 12 hours, so I also knew that it could mean my body may not react to the drugs. As it is with most medical things, I reacted normally and had contractions at 5-min intervals within about 30-60 minutes. They progressed at that rate for another hour or so, and then...oh then. Then they all of a sudden went to every 3 minutes, then every 2, then sometimes 3 and then 2 and then 1.5 and then 2 and then 2 and then 1.5 and then 3 and then...well, read that all fast; punch yourself in the gut, hips, lower back, and upper thighs every time you read a number; and that's almost how it felt.
The thing was, I knew it wasn't a top-severity contraction each time I got one - here's how I knew:In every room, next to every bed, is a double-screened computer that nurses and doctors use to monitor, look up, and log a patient's medical information. It's super helpful and keeps everything in order. One of the computer's screens monitors both the baby's heart rate and the mom's contractions. When I got there, my contractions were flat-lined and my baby's heart rate was at about 110-115 (more on that later). As I watched that monitor, hoping that some little bleep of a contraction would pop up, I was able to see between 2 and 5 other women's screens next to mine. I assume that these other screens are visible for the nurses and doctors to know what is going on around the area, and they are also in place so moms can have their first comparison pitfall experience of motherhood. While all of the other women on my screen were having regular, 75-90% strength contractions, mine were barely eeking above 50%, and ugh, was it wreaking havoc on my body.It had only been a couple of hours since the contractions got going, but I didn't know how I would be able to make it. I felt like a chump knowing that my contractions weren't as strong as they ought to be, but then I know that the sweats, pain, cramps, and other unmentionable symptoms were just going to get worse. Thankfully John was there, and his sensible logic was as such: I was planning on getting an epidural anyway, so why not get one now instead of needlessly going through this pain. One more trip to the bathroom, several intense contractions, one expertly applied shot (I'm not sure, but the lady may have been the head of anesthesiology), and 30 minutes later, and I was able to truly relax. I say truly, because there is no way your legs wouldn't be relaxed when there was absolutely no sensation left in them. I could still move them, though, which is an important fact for the rest of this story.
Prior to the anesthesia (I think), my new doctor came in - Dr. Lee. The OBGYN team that works with this particular location has a different doctor on call for 24 hours each day of the week, so once the 7:00 a.m. bell rings, a new doc comes in. I was so glad that it was Dr. Lee who was on call. My OBGYN is Dr. George, and I would have been equally happy with her, too, since she had been with me since the very beginning when we started discussing infertility options. Dr. Lee, however, was the kind of doctor that I needed in that moment. He is calm, humorous when needed, lays out all of the information in a way I could understand despite the contractions taking over my being, and in general was the doctor that both John and I appreciated in that moment.
March 5 - early afternoon
We had been relaxing for a while, but I wasn't one of the women who could just fall asleep for a couple of hours while the labor progressed. I had been listening to Suzy's heart rate monitor the entire time, as her heart rate dropped a few times during labor. It was very scary, since she was already at a low rate anyway, and sometimes it would drop close to 90 beats per minute. The first time a couple of nurses rushed into my room, pushed me around on the bed into a different lying position, and moved around my monitors to pick up a better read on the baby. That happened so fast and without any explanation until it was over, which lead to me crying as soon as the nurses left. Later, after the epidural was applied and I had spent an hour or more watching the educational videos that the hospital had prescribed, another substantial drop happened, and the nurse and doctor explained that the doctor would be attaching a monitor directly on Suzy's head for an exact read. That was comforting to know that a better monitor would be able to keep track of this delicate situation, and it was also helpful in that it showed I was about 5-6 cm dilated at that point. They had taken me off of pitocin to do this procedure, but put me back on since I still wasn't contracting on my own.
In addition to this, I needed another dose of epidural since I started to feel the contractions again. One more dose, a reapplication of pitocin, and I went merrily contracting along. Still, since my contractions never got above 50% strength, I figured that everything was moving slowly, and I would most likely need a c-section that evening to prevent the baby or placenta from getting an infection.
Dr. Lee administred the monitor and then explained to me that, in the case that the baby wasn't moving quickly enough, he would use forceps if necessary. He said he didn't care to use the vacuum, which was a huge plus for me, since that's not at all what I wanted. I figured, though, that our baby's head was big, and she would need a little help getting out. If that didn't work, though, we'd be heading to a c-section, to which I had been slowly resolving myself.
March 5 - mid-afternoon (about 3:00)
Suzy's heart rate dropped again - below 90 if I remember correctly. I buzzed for the nurse as soon as it did. She came and checked me out, called in Dr. Lee, and they told me that the contraction I had caused the lower heart rate and that I was, lo and behold, at 10 cm! Bring on the baby!
Well, not quite yet. Our hospital does 2 things that I really like. 1: labor, delivery, recovery, postpartum all happens in one room. No walking here or rolling there. 2: they let you "labor down" so that the baby gets fully engaged to be pushed instead of you doing a kind of pre-pushing that your body and baby would already do for you.
So, I waited for about 40 min until the nurse came in. My current nurse was leaving her shift, for which I was a bit sad. She kept me company all day and talked me through the epidural, the heart rate drops, and the general tediousity (made-up word) of the day. Mary was her name, I think, and she did all sorts of loving and no rough-housing. It was her first day back to labor and delivery after a long break to raise her kids. And she was awesome.
In came the next staff - incredible people. Nina and Jenny. Jenny is from Africa - likely the eastern and mid-to-southern side of Africa - and she was a joy! With her delightful African accent (it truly was musical to listen to), she talked me through the pushing because, let me tell you, that's exactly what I needed. Nina, the medical tech, moved in and out like a bit of a ninja for a while, bringing in supplies for the impending push.
Due to my two doses of epidural, I felt no pain whatsoever. Also due to those doses, I couldn't feel my legs! As Jenny said matter-of-factly, "you're legs are dead!" She and Nina held both of them up, and we did some "practice" pushes (as they deemed them) for about 20 minutes. Jenny didn't count down the seconds when I started pushing, but just kept saying, "Ok - ready? Push push push push push!" until she quit saying that. I never knew when it was going to end, so how many seconds they were, I don't know. After that first push, both Nina's and Jenny's eyes lit up. "Wow!" they said, "You did great!" I was encouraged by that but really had no clue what I was doing. Not only could I not feel my legs, I couldn't feel my butt, my hips, my pelvis, or anything below my belly button! They literally had to describe everything to me because I didn't know whether or not I was pushing!
Since I couldn't even feel the baby coming out of me (the one clear benefit I see to not doing an epidural, or at least as strong of a dose as what I had), I relied entirely on their verbal direction:March 5 - 3:35ish
Push push push push push!These words totally helped, yet I really didn't know whether I was actually progressing or if they were saying this just to keep me going. John was able to go around to the front and watch the baby come out of me. It was...other-worldly, based on his expression. He was mesmerized, amazed, perhaps a bit mystified and excited, too. I kept asking, "is she coming? is she moving forward?" and the nurses and John all said yes! - she is right there! I said "Really, I can't tell!" "You can't tell?" "No - every time I push, I don't feel her move, so I can't tell how far ahead she is." Well she's right there - she's crowning!" "She is?!" I couldn't believe it. It seemed like she should have already been out, so I figured she wasn't going anywhere. Nurse Jenny asked, "would you like to feel her head?" "NO!!!" I said in a sacred and anxious shudder. What if I smooshed her head? What if threw up because it was so weird feeling? What about that soft spot? "Here," Jenny said, "Give me your hand and I'll put it on her head. You won't hurt her." I slowly moved my hand toward Jenny's, she lowered it down to where Suzy was, and I felt the little hairs on her little head. I then recoiled, because surely something bad would have happened if I left it there! Jenny then called Dr. Lee to come in and get this little girl out of me.
Push down and out - like you're going to the bathroom!
Here she comes! She's really moving!
Ok - stop! Great job - you are doing great!
Dr. Lee, a couple more nurses, a bunch of meds and a bilirubin table came in to the room. The doctor had me push once, I think, and maybe a second time, too. He then told me that he was going to "make a little room" to help the baby come out. I looked at Nurse Jenny and said, "He's going to do an episiotomy." She nodded, I felt a bit bummed (at first - more on that in a second), and after the procedure, we were ready to go again. After a little more pushing, she was about half way out and let out a huge wail! John noted that she was crying before she even got all the way out, but one more push/pull secured her entry in to the great big world.
They plopped her on my chest for one brief moment. There she was, squinty-eyed, crying, arms and legs splayed as long as they could be. What were my first thoughts?
"Shh, shh - Oh, it's ok!"
"She has my mouth!"
"Is she cold?"
"Her nails...how can her nails be so long?!"This little girl was so tiny in the grand scheme of things but a big girl nonetheless: 8 lb., 3 oz., 21.5 in, and a 99th percentile-size head. More room was, indeed, needed to get her out, yet she was such a cute and loud bundle! They had John cut the cord and put her on the table to get measured, have her vitals checked, and get that dose of vitamin K. While the doc finished my delivery and stitched me up (and while another nurse that came in helped me with a little post-push nausea), the nurse that was working on Suzy had her all swaddled, held her up high, and declared "looks like Daddy!" John took some pictures of her wee little self while she was on the table, shed a tear when she cried after she got her vitamin K shot, and got to hold her first! :)
"How did that nail get ripped?"
"...she has my hands...and my feet. Poor kid."
"Yes, nurse, you can clean her up!"
They helped me get Suzy latched and she sucked really well, though she went for way longer than intended (an hour and a half total!). Then, one of the best things we did, we sent her to the nursery for the night, aside from feeding times. They brought her in whenever she was hungry - about every 3 hours or so, and we got the last semi-decent sleep we would get for a while.
The next morning, my almost year-long OB-GYN came in and checked me out. She was really excited and comment about how that little girl came just a day early (so to speak)! John went and got our daughter, yet to be named, from the nursery so we could hang out while he went back to our apartment and did a few things.
Compared to the previous day, nurses came in only when requested and on much further-distanced intervals. Also, it was no longer about the pregnant lady and all about the little baby who grunted and peeped! She was cute indeed, and she was pretty content most of the day with just some intermittent fussing.
I did have one friend bring me some snacks and supplies from Target, namely a nursing tank top because I was so ill-prepared for that! She kept me company for a short while before John got back (with a Very Up-Beet smoothie from Jamba Juice!). We stared at our daughter, talked about random other things, and tried to hash out a name. We also had a celebratory dinner that the hospital provides and watched some movie that I can't remember (and I don't remember it being that entertaining, either). I had some cheese ravioli, and John had salmon, I think. We also had some great desserts that came with that, too. After that, we searched the internet for name inspiration because the 5 names we came in with just weren't sticking.
That night was a still ok - trying to figure out how to get Suzy latched again and mystified why nursing was so painful. We got sleep in when we could, though we did send Suzy back to the nursery for some peace and quiet. They gave her a pacifier because she was rather fussy, which we later determined was the best thing for her to have!
After another check-up for me and Suzy, a [hardcore, no time for whimpering, this is how it's done in my country] nurse came in to help me figure out breastfeeding (to little avail - the lactation consultant was never retrieved for me at that time), and a pediatrician came in to check Suzy's vitals, etc. Everything looked good, and we were scheduled for a mid-day check out. A photographer came in and took newborn pictures of the baby and of us as a family (!), which turned out great. The only issue with that was that Suzy had scratches on her face, and, due to her skilled finger-sucking ability, gave the camera the bird a couple of times.
We still were trying to figure out a name, and we turned in all our discharge paperwork without one! Finally, a half hour before we left, we looked at each other and said, "Suzanna? - yeah." We confirmed that it would be with a "z", no extra "h", and Suzy, with a "y" and no "ie", would be her name. John retrieved the paperwork, filled in the name, and we headed home as a family of 3 - we thank God for that!